Telly Tuesday.

Telly Tuesday.

I had as much go in me this morning as a bottle of flat pop. I just about managed to get dressed before midday, and then make the bed.

Mostly I watched telly, ranging from Garage Rescue, Gardeners World, and something about catching criminals with Dom Littlewood.

I wrote a few more scary stories, and then had lunch. I spent ages trying to upload yesterday’s blog before putting my trainers on to get some fresh air.

I walked around the garden in surprise as nothing seemed to be damaged in yesterday’s storm. All the panes of glass were covered in sand and dust and dirt, but nothing had broken. Nor had the stems of the pampas grasses.

I spent about twenty minutes in the small greenhouse watering some, but not all of the seedlings. The lower temperatures Jean less water is needed. Then I spent a good hour doing gentle pruning of the tomato vines. The vines are still producing fruit, and continue to ripen, so although I reduced the plants to around half their size, I still have at least another week or so worth of tomatoes to come.

I must make a gardening schedule for the next few days, as I have a mass of seedlings ready to be planted into individual pots. I don’t want to spend my whole daily gardening hour just transplanting them, nor do I want to spend it solely pruning and tidying; plus I need to sow things that can be grown in October ready for this month’s gardening blog. I know Mark will have to dig the borders for me and lift the heavy trays.

I need also to ask Mark to pull up the Jewel Jade aubergines as they have finished, and he needs pick his super hot green chillies to make a sauce with.

When I had done my hour of gardening, we went for my baseline walk. I haven’t done it for a few days, and it’s really shocking how quickly my energy levels fade, just by missing two or three days. Halfway around the block, I got chatting to one of my neighbour’s from when I lived at a bungalow in the terrace not far from her detached bungalow. Her sweet collie decided I really needed to play frisbee with her, so I threw it for her a couple of times on the quiet road.

When I returned home, I set to work uploading this week’s unseeing camera challenge, which is entitled Exposure. The brief asks to upload a creative shot that is their overexposed or underexposed, rather than being perfectly exposed.

I wasn’t being lazy by not taking my camera out to capture this image, because I already had over and under exposed images that I had taken by accident in the past, and I haven’t got around to editing them to put them right. I’m lazy in that respect, as I don’t like Photoshopping, I’d rather get it correct in-camera to start with.

I had taken a picture from a field in St Davids, that overlooks Carfai Bay. I had put my infra red filter on the lens and shot directly into the sun. Then later when it gets converted to B&W, the filter picks up a lot more shades of grey making for a better and more interesting photo. I hadn’t watched the You Tube tutorials before I did it, and hadn’t a clue about shutter speeds or F Stops etc. The result was a black and red image that was both under and overexposed. Perfect for this week’s challenge.

We had supper, then I sat down to watch Bake Off, followed by a re-run of Jason Manford and Michael McIntyre Live at the Apollo. Before falling blissfully into bed at 10pm

Today, my face is still hurting from laughing at the telly.
I’m positive I’ve not done as much as I should have; and wasted far to much time watching telly.

I’m grateful for rest days, but feel better for going for my walks.

Until tomorrow,
Love Amanda

 

 

 

 

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Munchie Monday.

I had a really good night sleep, apart from dreaming about crashing our Motor Home as I was going too fast down Solva hill, which was apparently off the boardwalk pier in Broadhaven, that obviously doesn’t exist. I was trying to outrun the tide that was chasing me. This is what happens when I read gentle books before bed…

Oh and Broadhaven was in Birmingham not Pembrokeshire. I had to go up Tower Hill (Haverfordwest) to get through Birmingham’s roundabouts. I wish I was making it up.

I was really scared as the tide was as dark as the sky, I had already accidentally run Mark over and left mum behind with the luggage. I was quite happy to wake up.

I had a lazy morning, doing a few bits of housework, before having lunch and then getting everything together to make some marshmallow brownies.

There were apparently, only four easy steps to chocolate cake perfection, and supposedly it would only take 35 minutes to prepare.

I suppose if I was a Bake Off contestant it would only take that time. But my creative blogger/photographer side, wanted to get involved and therefore I spent extra time buggering about making things look pretty to add images to this message.

Brownies are really easy to make from scratch. The recipe I used was from the Baked and Delicious collection.

Step one says melt the chocolate and butter together over a pan of simmering water. Simple. Nowhere does it say get a stool to stand on to reach the weighing scales from a cupboard you can’t reach. Then still can’t reach so have to ask Mark anyway. Wait for him to move stool as he’s tall enough get scales, let him go sit back down, then call him back to reach the sieve and whisk and spatula.

Surely step one should be, get everything weighed first, and put into handy bowls to make sure you don’t forget something like the cocoa powder, that I nearly did.

Step one and a half. Find a bowl big enough to hold three and three quarter large bars of crushed (oh yes don’t forget to crush it) chocolate, and most of a pack of cubed (more knife work) unsalted butter. (The handy ingredients list tells you how to prepare stuff, that’s not in the method!

Nearly step two, Boil the kettle whilst simultaneously crushing chocolate or cubing butter, pour hot water into big saucepan, ask someone to crush chocolate as by this time you are bored. Balance second biggest bowl you own on said saucepan (you’ll need the biggest for everything else,) and tip in crushed chocolate. Attempt to put in cubed butter, and realise, too late, the bowl is too small. Pretend to look like this is totally normal and part of the plan while your partner says “Ten minutes bakers. Ten minutes.”

 

A centimetre away from step two, put measured sugar in giant mixing bowl. Pull everything out of pan drawer to find missing attachment for hand blender that turns into an electric whisk that you remember you own. Still put cubes of butter into meltingly bowl of chocolate.

Become suddenly reassured and impressed that everything is melting nicely in the bowl and your getting a lovely rich tasty smell wafting in the kitchen, and all the chocolate and butter is in the bowl with room to spare just about.

Step two, take bowl that was slightly overhanging the saucepan so is now flipping boiling, off the heat and allow to cool on worktop then go run fingers under cold tap, as there was no way to lift it off with a tea towel as it was too slippy. Then fix the electric hand whisk attachment and crack three eggs into a pretty well of soft dark drown sugar. Do a happy dance as there’s no egg shell in the mix.

Step two and a bit, spend what feels like four hours trying to whisk eggs and sugar into a thick creamy consistency. Ask second chef to take over as you need to wee. Come back, to kitchen to see that even five minutes later the mixture still isn’t leaving trails like it’s supposed to when the beaters are removed.

Step two and a half, curse a bit, take over the whisking, start to get a bit worried when electric whisk motor gets vey hot and smells like a hot engine.

End of step two, switch to manual old fashioned whisk, and instantly cream consistency complete with trails will appear.

Step three, add vanilla essence to creamy mix, then using a spatula or metal spoon fold in the now properly cooled chocolate butter stuff. Combine until it marbles, think about taking a photo as it looks pretty, change mind in case something goes wrong and continue folding in until a lovely even coffee coloured mixture appears.

Step three and a half, have a massive hot flush, take off half your clothes and put oven on to warm up, to bake, not because you have now gone freezing and need the heat. Calm down and gently sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture folding slowly and deliberately until it’s all combined.

Step four, look at the time and decide you can’t do this in 35 minutes as it’s taken an hour to get this far. Finally put your raisins and snipped, yes snipped, marshmallows (oh you forgot that did you? It says in the ingredients list use a scissors to snip the marshmallows,) into the now beautiful smelling mixture and try to fold them in.

Step four and a half ask second chef, who is now saying “Two minutes Baker, Two minutes.” to fold in last two ingredients as your bloody knackered. While they do this, look at your baking tin and register that it’s too small. Gently, bang your head on the counter repeatedly, before pulling out every baking dish you own to find something more suitable.

Not step five, as that doesn’t exist, take over from other person to give final check of uncooked brownie ingredients and marvel at the fact it actually looks, feels and smells like it’s meant to. Attempt to lift bowl to pour mixture into baking dish, find out it’s too heavy and call chef back. Get him to fill dish and spread mixture evenly, while you re-read the steps and discover it says spoon the mixture into the dish to ensure its even. Curse under your breath, don’t tell chef that you did last bit wrong. Get chef to place dish in oven, after you’ve carried it, very wobbly, across the kitchen and almost drop it.

Get a long drink of something cool (water for me, how exciting….) and sit down to review your photos, then message your chef mum, and chef brother, as well as Aunty and other brother about your baking antics. Because obviously you have nothing better to do on a stormy autumn day. Like the washing up.

I did do the washing up, and later I helped Mark make a Sunday dinner as we didn’t have it yesterday. The brownies are surprisingly good. Although I think I may have slightly over baked them. It was my first time of every making them. They are not as good as my sister-in-law’s, but they were not a disaster so I am happy.

After doing yet more washing up, I settled down to write this. And then reworked my scary stories, as the writing competition judge has announced that the 140 characters also includes the spaces between words and spaces between grammar and punctuation marks.

‘I have brownies if anyone wants to visit!

Today, I am positive, it’s easier to buy brownie mix or buy brownies already made, but they will not taste as good as Homemade.

I’m equally positive my sister-in-law is a brownie genius.

I am sure I will make them again, just not for a while, and minus marshmallow and raisins.

I hope someone visits us to help eat them as with all the sugar and fat in them, it won’t do me any good. The thing is I love baking, but I don’t want to eat all the calories.

Fingers crossed that Storm Ophelia doesn’t wreck my greenhouse.

Tomorrow I plan to do my photography and writing, as well as check on the greenhouse and go for a walk. I didn’t walk today, but I did do my balance exercises I got from physiotherapy.

Until then,
Stay safe, and eat cake,
Love Amanda xx

PS if you like my blog, then you will love this link to a very talented lady who has the same crappy cancer as me. http://instagram.com/sharrenmarie
http://instagram.com/sharrenmarie

 

 

 

 

 

The Weekend!

Saturday.

Saturday was enjoyable. However, due to a really bad nights sleep on Friday night, I didn’t get going until 10:30am. I still wanted to make my nut roast and marshmallow brownies, so after getting dressed and having breakfast, I started on the cooking.

I was trying to think how long it had been since I had made a but roast. I don’t think I have ever made it since Mark and I got together. So it’s over fifteen years. I am sure I used to make it when I first moved to Neyland, though I used to make it a lot more when in my teenager and twenties years.

Making it is so simple. For a really basic recipe I follow The Cranks Vegetarian Cookbook. All you need, is nuts, bread, butter, an onion, herbs and spices, some yeast extract and a stock cube.

Grind the nuts and bread until they are fine, sauté the onion in the butter, make the stock mix everything together in a mixing bowl, transfer to the oven and bake. It says to bake at Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes, but I left mine in for longer. I also used a silicon dish instead of a Pyrex. However, the best dish to put it in is an earthenware one – I usually use this, but as I was only doing a small bake (4-6) portion, I didn’t use it, but wish I had.

The nut roast was okay, but I don’t think it was my best one. I will try making it again in a few weeks as almonds are really good for my heart.

We washed most of the dishes and ate a quick sandwich when the roast was cooking. We finished clearing up , and Mark suggested that I water the seedlings early as the wind was picking up, making it unsafe to go in the greenhouse any later.

As the weather is predicted to be very stormy on Monday, we were keen to put the Motor Home in storage, as although its parked on our drive, it is sideways onto a hill. So we went for a quick spin to Milford to see Mark’s parents and show them the Pandamobile, before taking it to the compound.

It was around four thirty when we got back, I had lost my baking mojo, and was feeling the effects of a bad night’s sleep. So I finished collecting what I think will be my last tomatoes from the greenhouse, came in, washed my hands and face, then looked for what clothes I would wear tomorrow.

We had supper, then I had a bath. I was so chuffed to get in and out of it. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to bath. For the last eighteen months I’ve had sitting down showers. I still don’t have enough strength in my tummy or leg muscles to get in and out gracefully, or without help, nor do I have any temperature sensors on my feet, (the water didn’t feel that hot till I sat down!) or much sensation, so my balance was rubbish.

Later, I watched the two episodes of Stella I had recorded in the last fortnight, then I went to bed.

 

Sunday.

 

Sunday was one of the most enjoyable days, I have had so far this year. A day that would not have been possible without some very special ladies. Unfortunately, two ladies who I love dearly were not able to make it due to ill health or other commitments.

I started the day by getting up on time – achievement all on its own sometimes – I had breakfast and got dressed, then took my makeup bag and over to mum’s to get ready in her house,

My hair looked a mess, so whilst mum had a shower, I washed my hair in her other bathroom. I spent ages trying to decide, if I should go for fringe or spiky look. In the end I brushed it flat, in the hope it would stay tidy. I still refuse to put any kind of styling products on my head. I helped mum choose her clothes then I went downstairs to do my make up.

Mum came down a few minutes later and while I was still faffing about with mascara (I can never do my eyeliner or mascara tidily.) she made us stuffed jacket potatoes for lunch.

Then, as I searched through Google Maps for directions, she washed up, then went upstairs to put on her makeup.

We left the house at around one thirty, to drive to Plas Hyfred Hotel in Narberth. There I was meeting four of my work colleagues for an afternoon Cream Tea.

At first I felt really emotional, even though I see two of the ladies regularly, as these two had arranged it as my Birthday Treat, but soon we were all laughing and joking and gossiping, as woman do. We had some really random, funny, rude, even mildly embarrassing conversations. We had a blast.

The Cream Tea itself was tasty. Hot drinks served in white china and food on elegant silver cake stands. Three stands between us six.

On the first tier of the stand were mixed finger sandwiches stacked on skewers, meaning everyone had exactly the same portions.. They were cheese, tomato and lettuce, egg and cress, plus ham and mustard. Next to the in between the skewed sarnies, were bowls of coleslaw and bowls of very thin carrot crisps.

The middle tier held a number of tiny cakes. We had a cherry crumble pie, a Manchester Tart, a Walnut and Date cake, a sponge with jam on top (I gave that one to mum even though she had one on her stand.) and a lovely lemon curd cake that looked similar to a custard slice but wasn’t.

Once you had got through all that, the top tier had mini scones jam and cream, and a few more cakes like the middle tier.

The sugar rush kept us going until, suddenly we realised it was six thirty. The handsome bar man tried to talk us into having an evening meal then staying the night. At (£79.00 per room, we gave that a miss.)

We took some photos and got the bar man to take a group shot, before parting company, and agreeing to do it all again, next time hiring a minibus so that people could take advantage of cocktail hour, that the poor man had tried to talk us into too,

I phoned Mark on the way home asking if he could bring my evening meds to mum’s and pick me up as I had to collect all my stuff from hers, as I needed to take my meds before food and it got too late, mum started complaining I should bring them with me, when I go out. Yes I probably should, but I didn’t expect to be still with everyone for four and a half hours. I’m glad I was, but I just thought I would be home by six.

I had brought a mini quiche to mum’s for lunch, but hadn’t eaten it, so she put it in the oven for me, and made a beef burger and chips for herself. Mark arrived just as it was coming out of the oven. I ate it quickly, followed by my meds.

An hour later I was back home, raiding the fridge for a small snack of nut roast, pineapple cottage cheese, sultanas and some mini savoury eggs. Followed by a ginger biscuit, a hot chocolate and my night meds.

I got into bed at 10pm. Utterly exhausted, but extremely happy and relaxed.

Today I felt truly privileged to have amazing and thoughtful friends.

I was spoiled rotten, and it felt like old times when I worked alongside them, and we went out for team/birthday/Christmas lunches. I felt part of a group again. I felt normal.

I am positive we will meet up again soon. Maybe even with different people from work too. A smaller group is less overwhelming, especially as I had practically solitary confinement during chemotherapy.

Until tomorrow,
Remember, no matter how long you haven’t seen someone, a true friend will always remain just that, and it will be like you have never been away from them, no matter how much time has passed.

Love Amanda xx

 

 

Fleeing Friday.

Today was another rest day. I have a big treat to look forward to on Sunday, thanks to my amazing friends, so I am taking time to chill over today and Saturday.

I spent the morning doing light housework, then we went to see about storing the motor home for winter at a secure dedicated compound. I thought we would only be about half an hour, but as the compound is run by the first person to ever employ me when I moved to Neyland, we ended up chatting and being there for an hour and a half. Although when I worked for Mr Coy before, it was an office assistant I. His meat factory not a storage unit, and caravan/camper compound.

Although we have ample parking on the drive, our bungalow is situated on top of a steep hill, and the winds come straight off the estuary. The street itself then acts like a tunnel meaning 40-50 MPH gales are common, and even in the 30MPH winds we had over the last few days, the motor home rocks to and fro. There’s no danger of it getting blown over I don’t think, but it won’t do the springs, suspension or paint work much good, if it’s hit by flying debris. Additionally, our drive is on a slope too, and although we can start the motor regularly m it’s not ideal putting so much stress on the front tires and brakes. Nor the gearbox.

I was late taking my lunchtime meds, and instead of a quick sandwich, I decide I wanted a Mediterranean fresh veg and egg stir fry so it was nearly 2:00pm when I finally had food.

For pudding, I had bought a bag of marshmallows, (only allowing myself two a day) but they were not nice, so instead I spent an inordinate amount of time going through my folders of Baked and Delicious magazines to find a recipe for some Rocky Roads. I couldn’t find the recipe, so I must of read – and made it – from either a supermarket magazine, or a cookery webpage that I no longer have. I did however find a scrummy looking recipe for marshmallow brownies instead.

I already planned to make a nut roast tomorrow, (not made one in years,) so I instantly made the decision to make the brownies too. Even if it takes most of the day I’m determined to do this.

I didn’t need to do anything in the greenhouse today, and I doubt that I need to do anything other than check the seedlings for water tomorrow,(the ones on the staging not the borders,) which should only take about ten minutes.

Mark will have to help me lift the nut roast into the oven as the dish I always use is heavy enough when it’s empty. He may also be required to help lift the mixing bowl for the brownies.

As I was taking ages to look for the recipes, Mark decided to help, and kept calling out “How about this….” Or “mmmm this looks nice.” None of the things he was on about had marshmallows in them…

I did promise though, that if the brownies turn out nice, then next time I will try the Sardinia Wedding Biscuits as they are made with Marzipan which he loves. As does mum, so I will make her some too if she likes them.

Not long after we went grocery shopping; we needed our weekly fridge refill, as well as staples like potatoes and bread. I also needed, baking parchment, unsalted butter, flour, brown sugar, extra eggs, raisins and cocoa powder.

Just like salt, we never buy sugar, as we don’t use it on our foods. Once we bought some sugar and it took ages to use, as it’s only other people who have it in their tea/coffee that use it. Sadly, they had been using sugar that was three years past its use by date.

Obviously, when I do my baking I buy sugar, but the last time I baked was pumpkin scones last November, using a fresh bag of sugar we bought as loads of people visited me when I had my cancer diagnosis. We are still on the same bag…

We got back around 4:30pm did some “adult exercising” before I went in the shower and then ate supper.

We couldn’t find much to hold our interest on the telly, so Mark watched an old episode of Time Team, whilst I spoke on the phone for over an hour with mum.

I then took my iPad to bed, to write this blog after spending an hour or so reading on the kindle.

Today, I didn’t go out the greenhouse or go for my walk, as the weather was too wild.

But I’m positive I will check the plants in the morning.

I’m really looking forward to my cooking and baking.

I’m really excited about seeing my friends on Sunday.

Until tomorrow,
Look for the good things.
Love Amanda xx

 

Thursday’s Blog.

When I first started to write this blog, I said that some days would probably be boring, but I would always be honest about what I have or have not achieved. Today I achieved not a lot.

My plan was to clean the bathroom and dust they other bedroom. Mark on the other hand decided to go into the attic to move the freeview ariel as for some reason since the electricians have been here the telly in the bedroom’s signal keeps breaking up. It meant there was no point me trying to clean the bathroom as he needed to climb up and down the ladder. I also had to hold the ladder steady while he did this several times.

In between this I read the Heart Failure book, (Only about twenty pages left now,) and I made a list of everything I need to finish this week. Although I’m still tired and get fatigue, I think I might be finding my flow, and learning my limitations.

From next week, I’m going to monitor them a bit more. For example, I’m doing more for myself as well as helping with the housework. I try and walk a set route everyday, as well as find time for my writing course, photography and greenhouse gardening. As winter approaches I won’t be going to the greenhouses for an hour a day, as the plants should just be overwintering and only need to be checked,and occasionally watered. (The fact that the greenhouse borders are set into our garden soil anyway means that plant roots usually find their own water in wet winters anyway.) But I still need to maintain my fitness level, so that I can do as much in the greenhouse in Spring as I can now.

I’m hoping that the circuit training class I talked about yesterday will be enough to maintain the fitness. I’ve also got my knitting which will help keep my arm muscles strong I only ever knit squares or scarves. My greatest achievement was a patchwork blanket, that fits a double bed. I’ve got lots more squares, so maybe this winter I can make another.

Then when I wasn’t reading or holding the ladder, I was checking social media and emails. I found a link to another student only competition (with my writing course) where we have to write a spooky story in only 140 characters. I’m assuming they mean 140 keystrokes not 140 people! Depending on your vocabulary and succinctness, grammar and writing style 140 characters can be anything between 19 to 25 actual words. It’s hard to not use a sentence with too many commas, fully stops or other punctuation marks. A story with a beginning, middle and end. I’ve written a few ideas down, and a complete story in 19 words, but it’s a little disjointed so I need to work on it more, though there’s only ten days left, and you can only submit one entry.

I felt more motivated after a bowl of pasta for lunch, and went for my walk after I had cleaned the kitchen. I then pottered in the greenhouse for about forty minutes.

I had to rub out all the pencilled names of plants on the plastic labels, as I’m probably too much of a skinflint to by new ones each year. Also I don’t believe in being wasteful and throwing out plastic that’s never going to be recycled, because this county doesn’t accept this type of plastic material at its recycling centres. Before coming in to get changed ready to go to my nephew’s birthday celebrations. Anyway it was pleasant sat in the warmth of the greenhouse, with the smell of tomato vines, doing menial work, whilst my brain got down to the task of creating imaginative very short spooky stories. I must have worked it too hard though, as suddenly, I had the worst Déjà Vu ever. It felt like it lasted for ages. It unsettled me. Followed closely behind the Déjà Vu was a flashback to the night of my first cancer admission. Well there’s a horror story, I thought, as I got up shakily to go change my clothes.

The birthday cake was delicious, a homemade masterpiece by my sister-in-law’s stepmother. I should have taken a picture for you. She runs her own cake making business, if you live in pembrokeshire, she’s the lady you need. The cake was a simple round sponge, made to look like the ocean; but on the top of the cake was a 3D structure made entirely out of more sponge and icing. She called it Malcolm the Mackerel. The fish’s head was breaking the water, and so was it’s tail; represented my nephew’s summer job of being a skippers mate on chartered fishing cruises. Inside the cake was several layers of sponge and buttercream. Light, airy, moist and very very toothsome

We got home about 8:20pm, I washed and changed, watched the final episode of Russia with Simon Reeves, then went to bed.

Today, I am truly happy to celebrate birthdays with my family.

Lucky, and privileged to still be here to celebrate with them.

Slightly scared of my future,

Hating the unexpected flashbacks,

But trying to find positive ways to deal with them. Writing helps. Especially this blog. I’ve tried a diary but I think it’s the feedback I get from you, my lovely readers, that helps with my mental health. Not that I want sympathy, nor to be the centre of attention, I mean when you respond to my writing it makes me feel less alone in  dealing with the negative, in a more positive light.

Thank you.
Until tomorrow,
Keep shining.
Love Amanda xx

 

 

Managing Monday.

Managing Moday.

Today, after not going to sleep until 1:45am, I still managed to get up and dressed etc before 9;30am.

I phoned the hospital to rearrange a Bowel Clinic appointment that clashed with my Heart Failure Clinic. There was 15 minutes between the two, but one’s in Withybush and one’s South Pembs; so there was no chance of attending them both. Next I made the bed and did the ironing, then spent ages looking for my pin badges to put pack on my baseball hat that I take on holidays. I’m still missing my Greek badge, but it will turn up when I least expect it. I’m not sure where it’s got to though as all the rest where in one place.

It was still not noon so I found my macro lens and went outside in the warm October sunshine, to see if there was anything that caught my eye for the photo challenge. I did not expect to find it immediately after stepping out the back door.

It had rained overnight, and the almost Army Green strappy leaves of the Gladioli held water droplets, that sparkled like diamonds in the October light. Many of the participants on the course have captured macro images like this, so I wasn’t too keen to emulate that style. Instead, I used my shortness to my advantage and stooped low so that my eyes were almost level with the leaf.

I took a few shots from different directions, then walked around to the front of the house to see what I could capture there. Only I was reviewing my images at the same time. I stopped suddenly at the path between the bungalow and the shed; a dark spot, perfect for viewing LCD screens. I couldn’t believe my eyes!

One of my raindrop shots looked incredible (Well to me anyway.) I had a super sharp image of the leaf, with a blurred background. On the leaf were several large raindrops plus a few smaller ones. However at eye level, hanging precariously, was a water droplet reflecting the lower greenery perfectly. Because of the angle I had been at, it looked like a tiny planet, maybe even Plant Earth, holding all life but, it too, would soon be consumed by the sun, or lost in deep space.

I went back inside and found Mark having a up of tea and using the laptop. I said. “I think I might have learned something on the Nikon camera course. What do you think of this picture?” He thought it was good too.

I’m not going to have the best image on this assignment by any means. But I am really curious to see what people say about my photo. I’m happy with it, and it covers what the tutor asked for, so what will be, will be.

We had the leftover turkey sandwiches for lunch, and I rested for a while reading about Stress and Anxiety combating techniques proven to be useful by the Heart Failure specialists. Apparently, I have to remain as stress free as possible and reduce my adrenaline levels. They say the techniques are meant to lower the levels even more than when you are sleeping. They recommend listening to music, reading, sharing quiet time with children and grandchildren, siting in a warm bath and daydreaming, as well as sitting in the garden or stroking a cat or dog.

For deep relaxation they suggest yoga and the like, as well as going to lay down on your bed a few hours after eating a meal and emptying you mind and just concentrate on your breathing for ten minutes. Though my altogether favourite suggestion they make is to write a worry list. All it involves is writing down every single thing that worries you. Then cross out everything you cannot change, at all. Next cross out everything you can’t act on until tomorrow/after your results/ or someone else’s bit has been sorted. For these last two actions as you cross out a worry, say to it “Your no longer a problem.” Finally your left with an actual problem list. Grade them from one to however many you have, in order of importance and then work on each one in turn. You may not solve all of them in the same day, but you will be acting on something to stop you worrying about it.

I tried this method, and found most of the things I am worrying about I cannot change. Like my health conditions. Nor can I foresee the future, so worrying about my employment, changing jobs, going part time or possibly retirement cannot be an issue until Occupational Health have made their decisions. they are no longer a worry. So the only thing I have to worry about today is, will I be strong enough to do my walk, can I do ,an hour in the greenhouse, and how many chores can I complete. Really the only important one today was my walk.

After resting I did an hour and a half in the greenhouse. We were waiting for the Gas man, so couldn’t leave the house. Gower Gas Care Man arrived at 4:00pm, just as the weather was changing, and I had no option but to come in. The living room was upside down again, as he needed access to the boiler,which is in the airing cupboard, which is in the living room of all places. (Am still questioning who designed this bungalow…) We had to empty the shelves, so there’s a bag of towels, duvets and whatnots in a recycling bag in the spare room. We had to move the chair from the airing cupboard doors to allow He was dismantling the gas fire when I got in, so I took my iPad into the bedroom to start writing this blog.

My friend R and her dog knocked on the door to give us Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher story Night School. There may be a battle between Mark and I on who will read it first. I might let him have it first if he promises to be nice to me.

When Gas man left, we put the room back together then went for a walk. On the way back we chatted to next door, and suddenly the new neighbours popped up from nowhere. I was too cold to hang around chatting for ages, so I made my excuses and went home.

We made supper, that included a rainbow of veg, then I had a shower. Then I watched a history program called World War Two Treasure Hunters that’ was presented by Sugsy from Madness.

After it finished, I went to bed to read for an hour. I need to be at Warfarin Clinic by 9:00am so I’m hoping I will sleep.

Today, I am chuffed I have got so much done.

I’m looking forward to meeting up,with my friend A, for a coffee at lunchtime tomorrow.

I’m positive I will try these coping techniques when I get anxious about things.

I’m equally positive that I am very capable of daydreaming, sitting in the garden, reading, listening to music and playing with fluffy animals.

Until tomorrow,
Find your flow.
Love Amanda.

 

 

 

Say Hello Sunday.

Phew, today has been tiring, but in a good way!

I got up early as yesterday evening, my brother messaged me to say he and his daughters would be visiting around 10am. They wanted to bring over my belated birthday gift. I love seeing family, so I tried to have an early night last night. Unfortunately, my body and mind thought otherwise.

I was up and dressed and ready for the day when they arrived. We had drinks, snacks and sweets before the girls went to raid the tomatoes left in the greenhouse, and explore the campervan. We have decided to all meet for chips on the beach soon, so we can take them for a spin.

They gave me a lovely lightweight but sturdy thermal picnic basket, ideal for days out.

The family left just before midday with bags of sweets and tomatoes. We were doing a roast turkey breast for the evening meal so settled for a sandwich for lunch. We washed the dishes, went to the garden centre, then I went for my ten minute walk which took nearly thirteen minutes as I came over with fatigue. Mark offered to get the car, but I was determined to walk back up the street.

When we got to our gates we met up with a gent who lives near us who is in the metal detecting group Mark belongs to, so we stood in the sunshine talking about different things. My next door neighbours came out to their front garden, so I went to say hello, leaving Mark and his friend to talk. Then our new neighbours from opposite us came out of their home for a walk, so they came over to join us. It was like a little party. Everyone smiling and laughing in the sun.

After an hour we all went our separate ways, and I went into the greenhouse to water the seedlings. Only it had already been done for me. I assumed it was Mark so I thanked him, but he said he hadn’t done it. So it was one of my lovely nieces.

Mark was busy taking the other kitchen cupboard off the wall as he wanted to paint the wall and celling near the new extractor fan, and seal up the old vent.

As my fatigue had really kicked in I was freezing. I didn’t want the heating on as it was 17 degrees inside, and I am not on income related benefits so I don’t want to have a massive gas bill just before Christmas, so I put my padded gilet over my fleece and my Scarlets Rugby bobble hat on. Besides, according to Mark it wasn’t cold in the house.

I rested by being totally lazy, sitting in my favourite armchair by the window, and played some match three games. I made myself a hot chocolate to drink and made Mark a coffee.

Mark prepared the evening meal. The most I managed to do was put sweetcorn fingers and peas in the steamer and make the gravy.

I did however do the washing up as I felt lots better. Then after digging out my camera close up macro filters, I took some test shots for the unseeing photo challenge. Then realised that although a close up of the chemo damage to my finger nails is interesting, it’s not an outside photo and it’s an outdoors photos group; I tried some night photography instead but it started to rain.

It was only 7:45pm, when I put the camera away and the drug that interferes with my sleep pattern kicked in giving me lots of energy. I’m trying to fight this (I can’t change my medication times, I did ask,) so I sat down to try and concentrate on my Heart Failure Activity plan and finish the booklet by my appointment on Wednesday.

After two minutes, I lost concentration and phoned mum instead. We had a chat, then I went back to my activity plan, that thankfully I finally completed. For me my heart failure is so frustrating, I get really annoyed that I can’t do the things I used to do, or I can do some activities, but only for really short periods.

I read some of the booklet, but it depressed me. I didn’t want to be reminded that I need to take things slower, or not do things like carry the very youngest members of the family, or lift heavy stuff or push a full food trolley. I pushed the trolley yesterday as I was fed up of the stares from people that I was using a walking stick to balance. Luckily, the trolley only had a few bits in, so it was too heavy, but it could explain my tiredness today.

At 10:00pm I got into bed with my kindle to read. Tomorrow the gas people are coming to do the annual boiler and fire check up.

I’m hoping tomorrow is a nice day so I can take a macro photo outside. Then I plan to go in the greenhouse for an hour to transplant seeding with the compost we bought today. Then go for my walk.

Today I am grateful for seeing the family.

I’m glad we have nice people in our neighbourhood.

I’m positive that I will get a good photo even if it takes me most of the day to do it.

Until then,
Remember, even baby steps carry a vast distance.
Love Amanda xx

 

Saturday Surprise.

Today, was busy. After completing my usual morning routine, including looking at social media that decided to give me a reminder of this time last year by asking me did I want to share my memories, where I had written “My fringe just fell off.” And lots of people had replied.

After being distracted by that, I finally got around to yesterday’s job of dusting our bedroom. It wasn’t too bad, but the amount of books I had cluttered on my bedside table to read, looked in danger of creating a landslide at any given time.

The cookery books went back in their storage box under the bed, my diaries for the last few years were stacked in date order, the puzzle books were put next to them, fiction books were put in order that I want to read them, and my kindle was placed on the top next to the radio alarm clock, because sometimes I need a different genre to read.

I was just cleaning the sink in the bathroom (I dust using hot water and disinfectant, as I hate spray polish,or anything that comes in a compressed can, like hairspray, deodorant or air fresheners) after using it for the bedroom when a courier knocked on the door with a huge box, that Mark carried for me.

Earlier this week Thompson and Morgan nominated me their blogger of the month, and they said they were sending me a goody bag as a prize. I was expecting maybe a few packs of seeds or maybe a mini watering can, but the box was too big for that.

Although I couldn’t wait to dive into the package, I made myself eat lunch first. I had a really tasty salad that consisted of a Gala Apple, Sultanas, and Ham mixed with curried mayonnaise. I ate this with some bread, no butter.

I washed up. Then I opened my box. I was sent 11 things, and they are valued at at least £50. Plus being a gardener, I thought they were all really exciting. There was nothing I didn’t like,we want or need.

For my gardening readers,this is what I received:

1 Teal,Burgon and Ball Gubbins Tray.
2 Packs of Burgon and Ball copper plant labels.
1 Pack of Burgon and Ball silver Daisy bulb markers.
1 Pack of Bosmere flower cane toppers.
1 Kent and Stowe bypass secateurs.
1 Secrets and Potager Herb scissors and cleaning comb. (five blades on scissors).
1 125 litre pack of T&M vermiculite.
1T&M pack containing 4 hanging flower pouches, 1 watering spout that attaches to 500-2000ml empty pop bottles to water plants with and a pack of mixed feed and water retaining crystals.
2 Royal Mini Garden Plant Butlers.*

If I added the second to last item as individual things it would be 16 items in all.

*The plant Butlers were a new thing to me. I had to google them and the company to understand what they were. They are a self watering plant pot holder for indoor plants or herbs. Ideal if you forget to water things or are going on holiday.

After lunch, I sent an email to a school friend that I have t seen in 20 years. Her older sister lives nearby us, and she put us back in touch with each other. We never fell out, just that my friend is really brainy and she went off to university, and we lost contact after a few years.

Next I dug out my T&M Spring 2018 seed catalogue as I had a letter from them recently asking to take a look and contact them for any samples I would like to trial for them next year. However, I didn’t have time to go through it as we were off to see my friend in hospital. So I took the catalogue and a pen and paper with me to do that on the way.

We needed to go Boots to pick up some decongestant for Mark so by the time we walked from the Carpark to the shop and then to the hospital I had done my daily walking distance so I mentally crossed that off my to do list.

My friend was in good spirits when we saw her, even though she is waiting transfer to another hospital for a stent procedure. We left after an hour and I bumped into another lady I hadn’t seen since July, so we spent time chatting in the hospital foyer too.

As we were out, we decided to do our food shopping, so we made our way to the supermarket that we used to shop in a long time ago, and even though there is more choice the prices, although not dear, are more than we pay in our usual one for exact or similar products. Also the shop took ages to walk around as its so much bigger, and I couldn’t be bothered to look down all the aisles, so we only got the things written on our list. Maybe, if I hadn’t been so busy this morning, I could have taken more time to peruse the shelves.

We had a cheeky McDonald’s for tea as for some reason the last few days I’ve been craving a cheese burger. The last time I had a cheese burger was over eight months ago when I was on steroids for my chemotherapy and I was constantly hungry.

Upon our return, we put the shopping away, then I phoned mum to see how she was. She said she was bored and lonely, and had spent the day cleaning. I felt bad as we had driven through her town on the way to and from the hospital, but as we had frozen stuff in the car we didn’t call in. I will try and visit her soon. The trouble is I can’t walk to the bus stop yet to go see her, and although Mark will take me to visit her, I don’t think he would take me every day.

Mum does voluntary work most weekdays so I value our Thursday’s together. She often drives over to see us, but not usually on weekends. Even though she knows she can visit at any time.

Later, I went for a shower then ate some buttered crackers and a bowl of cereal and half a bar of chocolate. Not really what I planned on doing. The eating but I mean.

Now I’m in bed. Before writing this I read a chapter of The Keeper of Lost Things. I wanted to continue reading it as It’s so gripping. Yet, I wouldn’t have got this blog done as I can easily get lost in the make-believe worlds of books, and before I know it I look at the clock to discover its 3:00am.

So I’ll sign off for now as the main character is calling to me….

Today, I am happy to report my friend is hopefully on the way to a speedy recovery.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow might bring. (Did I mention I’m going to the garden centre to buy compost and onion sets?)

I’m ecstatic about my gardening goodies I got.

I’m positive that I will see mum soon.

Until tomorrow,
Find the positives.
Love Amanda X

Friendship Friday.

Today has been based on friendships. New and old. Firstly I welcomed new followers to my blogs, and I just want to say thank you, to you, for continuing to follow me.

Next I saw a message from our niece that contained a link that a local business was offering cancer patients a free complementary massage in their Spa rooms. Because of my heart condition and also because of the heart failure, it’s not possible for me to take up this offer, but I send the link to some of local cancer friends.

When I was up and dressed,I planned a list of the things I liked to complete today. Mark went to visit one of our friends as they have recently had a serious operation, and being housebound, they were in need of some company.

My next job was to telephone Macmillan as they are holding a six week programme designed to help people like me deal with living with cancer. Each weekly session lasts for around two hours so it’s not too long a day. The lady who I spoke to said she would send me an email application form.

I started off my activities by bleaching the loo (my life is so exciting…) washing the breakfast dishes and making the bed. I was saved from more chores by a text from a lady who I used to work with (she changed jobs) asking if she could visit.

She most definitely could. This lady was one of two friends who supported me by visiting me at the day unit while I was having the chemotherapy treatment. This is something I will never forget. We agreed on a time, I ate an early lunch, and text Mark to say please pick up some cakes as well as the newspaper on the way home.

My friend was already here by the time Mark got home, so he hid in the kitchen while we had a gossip. We then had a wonder around the garden,many when she left, it was with a bag of tomatoes.

I had a little rest before going for my daily walk. It was warmer than it looked so in hindsight I could have managed with a smaller coat. When I got back I took my coat off and went to do an hour in the greenhouse. I ran out of compost, so I planted some foxgloves and violas from the cold frame into their final planting position in tubs outside.

Mark visited me briefly in the greenhouse to say he had a text from one of my cancer support workers. Shockingly, she is currently in hospital,after suffering a heart attack and she wants to apologise for not being in touch to see how I’ve been. Even when she is unwell she thinks of other people first. Without question we plan to visit her and reply to her text by asking when’s the best time. We will visit her tomorrow afternoon.

The weather turned colder, and my gardening hour was up, so I came in and logged onto my emails to see what I had. The Macmillan form was there, so I completed that before helping Mark with supper. We have teamwork nailed!

I peel the potatoes, he cuts them into chips, he opens the can of beans, I pour the beans into saucepan. I put the oven on he puts the tray with food in it. (Battered Pollock.) I cook the beans, he gets the hot tray out the oven. I dish up beans and chips, he gets the cutlery and condiments. I wash up, he dries up. I wipe the units down he puts the kettle on.

I phoned mum after we did the dishes and then sat down to write this blog. My evening plans are to play with my leaf photography project, then read in bed. I’m trying to sort my sleep patterns as I have a really busy few weeks coming up.

I did more on my list than I thought I would, but am frustrated I have not done my writing course for a week. I’m hoping to rectify this over the weekend.

Until tomorrow,
Keep friendships going.
Love Amanda xx

 

Thursday In It’s Entirety.

Today, I keep thinking it’s Wednesday, and as I didn’t do anything with mum like I normally do on a Thursday, I’m even more lost.

I felt really well when I got up this morning. The slight queasiness and fatigue has left, so knew I could get more done than I have in the last 48 hours.

Mark went off to get a haircut, while I set about getting up, having breakfast and dusting the living room once again. Even though we cleaned it yesterday because if all the drilling the dust that was in the air settled overnight to create a new black layer of dirt.

After dusting the living room,I moved onto the hall, by which time Mark was back and was putting the kitchen cupboards back on the walls.

After the dusting, I sorted out a massive vacuum pack bag of scarves. A combination of ones I had knitted, ones I had bought, ones family and friends had bought and many that Mark’s mum has knitted for me over the years. Some went in the washing machine to be freshened up, some went in the bin (the ones I knitted, where there were holes, dropped stitches or runs in the wool,) some fleece ones ended up in the charity bag. Who needs so many scarves? I still have far to many, but these are relatively brand new, and I like them.

There was still time before lunch to do something so I synced the Garmin to the laptop. You can also sync it to the phone but my battery on the mobile was flat again. Garmin had recently added an update,now there were new features for me to explore. I ended up being an hour and a half on the laptop changing my morning alarm time (Garmin vibrates annoying on your wrist and sounds like a demented fly. There’s no actual sound just the vibration noise.) I added my new weight which was 1.5kg more than it was in April. I’m not worried as this is muscle not fat, I can still wear my size 8 hipster jeans. At least I hope it’s muscle. I can certainly lift things better like a 4 pint milk bottle that I couldn’t do before.

I set some fitness goals, which should be interesting, as my fitness levels are low. My planned goals are to walk an hour a week. By that I have programmed it to record my walks (which is different to the steps*it records as you press a function icon for walk and it records the time, distance, average heart rate and calories burned.) where I will walk for ten minutes every day over a week to reach my goal. Obviously, it will hit my goal in six days rather than seven, but if I have a tired day and only manage a five minute walk then I have the extra day to reach my goal. Frustratingly, it doesn’t let you set minutes only whole hours.

* It still records steps on the walk as my overall steps of the day. It also relays how many steps it thinks you should do in a day. If you reach them it increases the number of them the following day. Unfortunately, mine has been decreasing my steps daily for the last few months as since the heart failure I am failing to achieve the target.

My second goal is to cycle for an hour (using a different function icon, and choosing indoor bike on the laptop to specify it,) over a period of one month. This may seem like a pointless goal to someone people, but as I can only manage two minutes at a time on the bike every four days, it’s going to be a while before I smash this goal.

Apart from setting goals, I spent a good half hour studying my sleep patterns it records. I’m Impressed that as soon as I go to sleep I go into a deep sleep for an hour or so, then spend a few hours in light sleep then back to deep. Some nights I sleep deeper for longer. Or more periods of deeper sleep throughout the night. It also shows if I wake up and get out of bed to go to the loo. It said I woke and walked last night, and there were thirty steps on the tracker when I got up this morning, but I have no recollection of going for a wee at 4:15am. I hope I haven’t started sleepwalking!

The Garmin also tracks bodily movements when your sleeping and I think I burn more calories at night moving about than I do in the day. No wonder I wake up tired. I asked Mark do I really move about that much at night and he said ‘Yes. Your a pain in the arse.” Charming!

The last new feature I looked at was called insights, this let me compare all of my details to people who were the same sex and age range as me. All this worrying that I am unfit was put into perspective as oddly enough, I’m not the worst. Admittedly I was very low in the graph, but I wasn’t last. Most people peaked at 15 thousand steps a day, some were doing double or triple that. So my average steps are okay, but hopefully I can improve. As I suspected though m I’m great at sleeping. A regular twelve hour sleep puts me bear the top of the scale.

We ate lunch whilst watching the first episode of Russia with Simon Reeve. I had no real concept of how large the old Soviet Union was, nor how big Russia still is today. I had now idea that it’s 1/12th of the earths landmass, nor that it’s forests were larger than the Amazon. It has a lake the size of Wales. Russia has everything from absolutely stunningly beautiful wildernesses to busy cities with thriving tourist destinations and casinos. It also has many social concerns such as deforestation, alcoholism, poverty and corruption.

I watched the third episode of Stella that I recorded as Mark continued his battle of the cupboards in the kitchen.

After Mark had finished the cupboards we went for a short walk. I was wearing my coat with its hood up, while a neighbour’s sister, who was walking in the opposite direction, wore a jumper and a pair of shorts. I found the day windy, she obviously didn’t.

When we got back, I changed into my old coat and went to potter in the greenhouse for an hour. Later I came in and helped make supper. Then once supper was over I checked my emails and found one for the unseeing photography challenge that starts with The Outdoor Photography Group.

This week’s task is cryptically called Lenses. I read the brief, and I learned a lot about different lenses and what they do. For example I know the difference between a fish eye lens and a wide aperture one, but not have best to use them to use them. It clearly explained the viewing range of different lenses compared to the human eye, and I think this is the first time I’ve truly understood focal lengths. It was the most easily explained technical stuff I’ve ever enjoyed reading.

The tutor who is an absolute professional, included images he has taken using different lenses. They were stunning. I was intimidated. I logged onto the faceboook page to see what other students were saying, to be greeted by images of the first challenge already uploaded by some truly creative and inspiring students. I was even more intimidated. A few photos down, I found a written post by a lady living in Spain who said she thinks she’s out of her league here. I replied to her saying me too. Another lady from Cumbria joined in. However, a kindly American gent said the group is ultra friendly and we should all just have a go. After all we don’t get judged by anyone, it’s just an opportunity to share your work and be inspired by others and inspire others. Ha! Most pictures so far were of exotic wildlife. Does anyone have a real tiger I can borrow for the day?

So I have a normal kit lens and I have a telephoto lens, I have a fish eye filter that attaches to both. I have six days left to take and upload a picture. Oh and of course it’s called Outside Photography meaning I will no doubt need an umbrella. I think Mark will be taking me to the woods after all.

On the subject of messages from people, when I wrote yesterday’s blog after I uploaded it on my faceboook feed I scrolled down my page and noticed a link from Macmillan to upload a photo and write a short message about how your living and moving on with cancer. I upload an image from my stay at Broad Haven and I left a little message, ending with the fact I had seen their new advert and wrote about it in my blog. I included a link to my blog, as I didn’t want them to think I was slating them, as really I was cross at C4. So imagine how surprised and slightly ill at ease I was when I had an apology from Macmillan. I mean it wasn’t their fault I had found it difficult to watch. I’ve included a screenshot of our brief conversation for you, as it shows you better what I mean.

Once my social media antics were compete, we washed the dishes and I went for a shower.

We then watched the second part of Russia with Simon Reeve before going to bed to sleep.

Today I have been, humbled, astounded, elated, intimidated, grateful, happy, ill at ease, excited, exercised, learned, laughed and loved.

I am positive I’m living life after cancer, with I hope a zest for all things.

Until tomorrow,
Feel the emotions.
Love Amanda.

PS Don’t imagine for one second that I don’t ever feel sad, scared, or lonely because I do. I’m sad about many things, but I try to find the positive each day. Today was a good day, I hope yours has too.