Friday, 13 June 2014

Stupid Anxiety

So I think I've had problems with anxiety since I was about 21. That was a while ago, incidentally. I'm on the doorstep of 30 these days. It didn't cross my mind that what I was experiencing WAS anxiety until quite recently.

I've been mulling over the fact that my anxiety is probably worse than what is considered normal for maybe a year. Not seriously. Just in a sort of "oh, well this makes me a bit more upset than I think it should" sort of way.

Today I was reading a blog. The author was detailing her borderline personality disorder. Some of what she described sounded sort of familiar to me, so out of some kind of morbid curiosity I popped over to an outside source she linked to in her blog to read a bit further. The page she linked to had further links to articles about panic and anxiety disorders.

That was when things got really fucking familiar.

Sweaty hands? Check.
Fear? Check.
Inability to relax? Check.
Constant worry? Check.
Shortness of breath? Check.
Rapid heartbeat? Check.
Poor concentration? Check.
Numbness/tingling? Check.
Fear of dying? Check.
Feeling of choking? Check.
Inability to fall sleep? Check.
Irritability? Check.

I quickly filled in a short "are you anxious?" type test on the site and lo and behold - "Based upon your responses to this anxiety screening measure, it appears that you may be suffering from moderate anxiety, symptoms that might typically qualify you for the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder."

Yeah. I worked that part out on my own. The question is, what exactly am I meant to do about it? I only realised how poor the NHS provisions in my area are for this kind of thing recently. I know I'm not anxious enough to need medication. NHS counselling around here seems to be non existent. I certainly can't afford non-NHS counselling.

Advice from anyone with experience in this arena would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Tiger Loaf Saga

I don't know exactly what possessed me last night.

I suddenly HAD to find a recipe for tiger bread. Like my life depended on it.

The internet has a lot to say about tiger bread. Quite a lot of recipes suggest sesame oil for the crust, but I don't have any! Actually I do, but it's the very strongly flavoured toasted variety. I'm assuming that a recipe requiring 3 tablespoons of the stuff does not mean the toasted kind. Any recipe that has 3 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil would be something akin to a chemical weapon. Seriously... I made a salad dressing with one teaspoon of it and I nearly died. Ok, I exaggerate, but it was bad. Couldn't taste anything else all day.

I digress...

After I realised the whole sesame oil option was not available to me without taking a trip out, I kept searching. There are about a million different versions out there if you look hard enough. I finally settled for this one by The Pink Whisk. Mostly because I have all of the ingredients. Most of them, anyway. I'm a risk-taker, so instead of rice flour as indicated, I used semolina. Not because I think it's better, just because it's what I have. I saw other recipes using corn flour, and someone in the comments said they had some success with semolina so I figured why the hell not!

So obviously the first step was to make a basic white loaf. Here it is before its first rise. It wasn't quite as elastic at this stage as I think it should have been. If I make another, I'll add a splash more liquid and knead for a bit longer.

And here it is after its first rise! Looking pretty good so far, but you can see from the surface that it could have used a bit more kneading.

All shaped up, as per instructions on The Pink Whisk and ready for a second rise!

Here it is half way through its second rise, with a healthy layer of tiger-bread-coating.

Aaaaaand.... voila!

The verdict?

It's yummy. Really yummy. The crust is so crunchy. However... the glaze is a little sweet. The supermarket version is more savoury, almost spicy. This is a really really really good bread... but it's not the tiger bread I was looking for.

So what's next?

I'll be trying again very soon. Tomorrow probably. And I'm going to try adding a tiny spot of cayenne pepper to the glaze to give it the slight spiciness I've been craving.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Tenner a week Poor-As-Shit Summer Challenge

Does it still count as a "Challenge" when you literally have no other choice?

Uni is out for the summer. Other personal circumstances have changed. The bank balance is dwindling further with every bill that comes out and there's nothing going back in apart from child benefit and for the moment at least, tax credits. Eventually Hubs will get some statutory sick pay too (a pittance, at best), but I know from experience that it could take weeks.

For the moment, my in-laws are covering the rent. If they weren't we'd be in serious trouble. As it is, we're only in moderate trouble.

The cupboards are jammed with food. The freezer is also jammed with food.

But the rest of the bills need to be paid, and that means not spending a single unnecessary penny.

Usually, every couple of weeks my Granny comes over and gives Crazy Baby £20 or so "pocket money" so for the last few weeks I've been living off that and avoiding taking anything from the actual bank account at all where possible. So that's around a tenner a week in cash for all the stuff we need. Considering I can barely get the freezer door shut, I think we can do it.

What will my tenner actually get?

2 loafs
8 pints of milk
A bag of oranges
A punnet of strawberries
Plus, that leaves £3.50 for other essentials like cheese, eggs and toilet roll that we won't need every week.

Over the coming weeks I'll devise a meal plan of sorts and keep a track of our spending. It will probably be terminally boring to read, but hey ho!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Resurfacing body image issues.

There's a lot of stuff going on right now, in fact there's been a lot of stuff going on all year so far, so I've taken a break from blogging. I'm sure noone noticed! I usually steer clear of personal stuff on my blog. This isn't a place for me to whinge and moan. Lately though, I've found something popping up that I think is important to talk about.

In adulthood I've never been particularly happy with my weight. Some periods have been better than others but on the whole I've been very aware of being a few stone overweight and it's hard for me to be happy with that. I've never aspired to be a size 8, but of late I've been more like an 18 and I think I look repulsive.

In March I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. It's a quick, common, simple procedure and most people are in and out of hospital in a couple of days but since I'm the most unlucky person to have ever lived, there were complications. Obviously. My liver function declined almost straight after surgery, and kept declining for almost a week. I was allowed to leave hospital eventually, but more blood tests showed my liver function was still deranged and I was re-admitted a few days later. I was yellow and jaundiced all over. The assumption was that a gall stone had popped out during surgery and lodged itself in my liver duct, but they couldn't find anything so I was allowed home with pain killers to heal up.

Usually, the stone would have just passed through into my bowel by itself. It didn't (remember that bad luck I talked about?). Instead it got jammed. It hurt like hell. I got even sicker and more yellow and had to haul ass to A&E. A second MRI and an ultrasound found it this time and after a couple of nights in hospital I was sent home to await an appointment to have it removed endoscopically. A week later it was out and I slowly got better.

That should have been the end of that.

By the time I was discharged from hospital for the last time, I had barely eaten in two weeks. And from then, I was in agony almost all the time. I was throwing up almost all the time. I was tired and weak and alone with a 2 year old. Eating wasn't even possible, and had it been possible I wouldn't have wanted anything anyway. As a consequence I lost 17 lbs. Under normal circumstances I'd be thrilled with a 17 lb weight loss.

I though that once I got better I could get back to normal. It's been more than a month and all I can think about is maintaining the 17 lbs. The loss has brought me within a stone and a half of my highest NHS recommended "healthy" weight. People have invariably greeted me with cries of "Wow, you look amazing! Did you lose weight?" It's hard not to feel validated in the face of statements like that.

I didn't realise I'd been avoiding food until this week. At first it was hard to go back to eating normally for a few reasons: I mostly didn't feel very hungry because of the pain, when I did eat everything tasted weird, I still had the overwhelming fear of being sick again because of my meds and cooking seemed like a monumental effort. Cooking is STILL a monumental effort, so when I've actually eaten it's mostly been prepacked crap.

On top of my medical problems, I'm going through a very emotionally exhausting time elsewhere in my life that I definitely won't discuss here.

The part that scares me a bit is that even although food tastes fine again and I'm off the meds that made me sick, I've been sort of kidding myself on that I don't feel that hungry. My rumbling belly quickly shows me up for the liar I am though. I've been weighing myself every day "just to check" and this morning, despite being ravenous I decided to make myself a coffee instead of breakfast. I didn't even drink the whole coffee. My rational self can see that this has the potential to go very badly wrong if I don't get a grip on it, and I'm happy that the rational part of me is still there and can see it.

But people have noticed that I look better. I've noticed that I look better. My clothes all fit better. I'm nowhere near my goal weight yet. I'm too exhausted.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Day 1 Below the Line

So far we've raised £70! Yay! I set a pretty conservative target of £100, so here's hoping we smash it and smash it good!

So here's what I ate today. Breakfast was a bowl of carefully measured Smart Price cornflakes with carefully measured milk and a cuppa (10p total). I was pretty hungry within about an hour of having breakfast, which was a bit of a bummer, but I soldiered on til Lunch...

...Which was a toastie with a single slice of Smart Price cheese and some slightly suspect square sliced ham. And of course a cuppa. (not pictured, 3 rich tea biscuits) Totalling 35p

I fared a bit better after lunch, hunger-wise but when dinner time came I was definitely ready for it. I had an exam this afternoon and was totally wiped when I got in so I went for the path of least resistance: dry toast, 2 scrambled eggs and tap water. Total for that? 36p

I'm pretty hungry just now, to the point where it hurts a bit, but then... I had gallbladder surgery last week and I've been starving and sore ever since, so I'm sure that's probably a big contributing factor. Hopefully that'll get better as the week goes on.

Meanwhile, my planned snacks for the rest of the night are, 1 chocolate mousse, 1 cup of tea, 4 bourbon biscuits, which will cost me 18p

Which all brings my total for the day up to 99p. Eek. Pretty close to the line today, and I'm still bloody hungry.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

One sleep til Live Below the Line!

This is almost all of our shopping for the week - I forgot to unpack the Aldi bag so I missed a dozen eggs, a packet of instant macaroni, some ham and a tub of sunflower spread.

We had to do some tweaking on the fly when it turned out our local Aldi was almost empty, the eggs were reduced and the carrots were heavier than expected. So here's the final breakdown.

12 free range eggs: £1.78 (a seriously good find - they were reduced to 89p/6pack)
Instant macaroni: 39p
Sunflower spread: 69p
Sliced ham: 65p
Tot: £3.51

Value corn flakes: 31p
Value rich tea biscuits: 23p
Value bourbon creams: 43p
Value chicken stock cubes: 20p
40 teabags: 70p
Funsize apples: £1
Funsize pears: £1
Tot: £3.87

Smart price baked beans x2: 48p
Smart price tinned tomatoes: 31p
Smart price cooking bacon: 81p
Smart price white potatoes 1kg: 69p
Great Scot lentils 100g x2: 90p
Smart price sliced cheese: £1.09
Smart price penne pasta: 29p
Loose carrots: 23p
Loose onion: 13p
Smart price brown bread x2: 90p
Smart price chocolate mousse x2: 36p
4 pints semi skimmed milk: £1
Tot: £7.19

Store cupboard:
Sugar 150g: 20p
Salt: 1p
Pepper: 9p
Tot: 30p

So that's £14.87 altogether for 3 of us, leaving a couple of pennies spare incase I feel the need to delve into the spice rack.


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Tweaking, tweaking, tweaking.

Been breaking my head all day (in between bouts of studying and y'know, parenting) over this damn shopping list.

I'm very very glad there are 3 of us, because the extra money has been very useful.

I swapped penne for spaghetti, checked and compared the prices with Tesco and Aldi, had stern words with myself about how much we would really be eating throughout the week and this is the final product of all my blood, sweat and tears.

You probably can't make it out from my crappy photo, so here's what we'll be buying to feed 3 people for 5 days for £1 a day each.

First stop is Aldi, where we will pick up:

2 bags funsize apples: £1.78
500g Sunflower spread: 69p
2 boxes of 6 medium free range eggs: £1.90
Sliced ham 113g: 65p
Instant macaroni: 39p
Total: £5.41

Next stop is Tesco, where we'll grab:

Everyday value chicken stock cubes: 20p
Everyday value rich tea biscuits: 23p
Everyday value cornflakes: 31p
40pk teabags: 70p
Total: £1.44

Lastly, before we go home we'll pop into Asda to get:

Smart price brown bread x2: 90p
Smart price dry spaghetti:  20p
Great Scot red lentils 100g x2: 90p
Smart price chopped tomatoes: 31p
Smart Price baked beans x2: 48p
Semi skimmed milk 4pint: £1
Smart price sliced mild cheddar: £1.09
Smart price chocolate mousse 4pk x2: 36p
Cooking bacon: 81p
1 onion: 17p *depending on weight*
1 carrot: 8p *depending on weight*
Smart price small white potatoes 1kg: 69p
Smart price frozen mixed veg 1kg: 77p
Total: £7.77

That all comes to £14.62, which leaves 38p for salt/pepper/sugar. I worked those out as follows:

  • Salt: 1p for as much as we like from a 25p/1kg bag (seriously, there's no way we could get though as much as 1p worth of the salt we have, it was just that cheap!)
  • Pepper: 9p for 5g from a 100g tub.
  • Sugar: 26p for 200g from 500g bag, for tea only.
So there it is. All in all that's £14.98! 

As for the things I've decided not to include in the budget: Full fat milk for the kiddo will not be included in the budget. I will also let him eat all the fruit we currently have in the house if he wants it - half a bag of apples, half a bag of raisins, a mango and a punnet of kiwi fruit. That might seem a bit of a cheat to some, but I'm not chucking it all away, and the poor kid didn't choose to participate of his own free will.