Weather Changes and Autumn as a Spoonie

Welcome Autumn and my favourite time of the year. I adore September and October with their golden afternoons, the abundance of foods, and the cosier evenings. I don’t know about you but I don’t fair well in the heat, it exhausts me and the sun irritates my skin. Neither do I do well in the cold and damp, it makes my joints ache and my mood dip. Autumn, however, seems perfect. I love a crisp but sunny morning, or an afternoon wrapped up warm for a gentle walk.  But something else happens in Autumn that leaves us spoonies floored and I’m not sure quite what it is. I’ve thought through a few of my theories here to try and come up with a Spoonie’s Guide to Autumn.

Weather Changes

So every time a season changes we find ourselves having to adapt. I find at these changing points I’m forever saying ‘we’re just not used to this heat/ cold/ darker nights/ humidity/ damp’ (the list goes on). Yes us Brits like to talk/ moan incessantly about the weather, but I’m sure there’s more to it, especially for us hypersensitive beings. And it seems there is actually proof of this.

Auto Immune I remember my clinic lead, Professor Fortune, telling me that changes in season affect bodies on a cellular level and it seems there is some proof. The BBC has a couple of brilliant articles on this. The first looks at facts behind the myths such as:

  • Rain gives you rheumatism – the answer is maybe but theres no conclusive evidence, its more likely power of the mind.
  • Falling air pressure is a pain in the head – I’m migraine queen aka the human barometer so I swear this is true and one study from Japan seems to suggest its true

The second article is much more focused on an in depth study on how temperature change affects our genes and immunology. In brief an international team of researchers conducted a study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to look at how this happens. They “found genes involved with immunity – the body’s defence against infection – were more active in cold months. And while this helps fight off viruses such as flu, it may trigger or worsen conditions, such as arthritis, where the body attacks itself, they say.” 

The study examined how this happens on a genetic level and found that when looking at genes “a quarter showed clear signs of seasonal variation”. The genes that were of most interest included ones associated with immunity and inflammation. Interestingly it wasn’t the degree of cold that was initiating the changes but the temperature changes themselves as ‘During cold, winter months – December to February for people living north of the equator and June to August for those in the southern hemisphere – these genes were more active. When they studied people living close to the equator, where the temperatures are fairly high all year round, they noticed a different pattern. Immunity and inflammation was linked to the rainy season, when diseases such as malaria are more rife.” A change is temperature is all that is needed to trigger flare ups as it directly affect the cells and ‘that increase in inflammation could now be a risk factor for diseases of modern life’ Prof John Todd, Study author. Big stuff hey?

Viruses and other factors are also linked to an increase in symptoms and flare ups for Spoonies. Many reasons have been given to why this season is prime cold and flu season. Maybe it is because we stay indoors more, have more close contact with each other or beginning of university and schools terms mean more people mixing. One thing is for certain and thats for those, like me, who take immuno-suppressants the exposure to viruses, infection and bacteria is a headache all in itself. Immuno-suppresants mean that, surprise surprise, our immune systems are suppressed and do not work as well in fighting things off. So don’t be offended if you have a cold and I  instantly grab for the hand gel. Getting a cold or virus also can trigger a flare up, even if we don’t fully develop the original cold. I get far less colds than other people but my body knows if I’ve come into contact with one. Unfortunately my immune system just cannot tell the difference between the things its supposed to be attacking and my own body. At the recent Behçets Syndrome Society conference in Bristol, Professor Fortune said that she has a date in October circled on the calendar every year for when they have to open up loads of emergency appointment slots as so many of us flare.

So how can we deal with all of this? My answer is be prepared as you can and a little acceptance.

The Nature Communications study above concluded that as well as a genetic change “diseases and other factors, such as nutrition and stress, could affect how genes function.” So lets build some of these into the survival guide.

How to embrace and survive Autumn

Autumn Activities – Try some of these spoonie friendly adventures to help with wellbeing

  1. Get outdoors. Take a visit to somewhere you can take in all the beauty of nature and how dramatically its changing at this time of year. Do what you can, you don’t have to hike for miles across farmland and forests to appreciate the changing landscape. You could take a car ride, visit a city park or sit in the last of the warm sunny days in your garden. Boosting vitamin d levels at this time of year can really help with the impending winter blues too.
  2. Get crafty. There are so many things that are nice to make as we want to spend more time being cosy indoors.
    • I am embroidering fabrics in preparation for Christmas presents I am making
  3. Get Cosy and warm and hermit without guilt. Get out blankets and hot water bottles ready for colder evenings. Give them a wash and some care before they do into their full winter sofa bound days. Enjoy activities that are away from screens (save those Netflix binges for sick days). Non screen time is much better for you and there are things that can occupy you. I’ve just found a new love for jigsaw puzzles!
  4. An Autumn Feast – Wow there’s food aplenty at this time of year, especially after a long hot summer, heres how to make the most of it. Enjoy homegrown fruits and vegetables. If you’re like me and have a garden then at the moment you’re probably overrun by crops such as tomatoes. When I’ve had the energy I have been picking them in droves and jarring them as passata. A basic recipe can be found here and its easily adapted to include herbs and spices you’ve grown too.
    1. Get to a local food festival and treat yourself to something scrummy. Food festivals re great at finding a huge variety of foods and you’re more likely to come across diet friendly snacks too. Ive been to two in the past three weeks including a chilli festival!
    2. Go on a forage. From September onwards, you can pick a huge amount for free from forests and hedgerows. Pick fruits such as elderberries, blackberries, rose hips and more. I turned my elders into a vitamin c boost spiced syrup and my hips and chillies into a spiced jelly. Theres also other treasures to be found like sloes, bullaces, crab apples, cob nuts, sweet chestnuts, mushrooms and fungi… just remember to only harvest them if you are 100% sure you know what they are!

Autumn is transition, change and drama. In slow living it’s the time to prepare for what’s ahead. Don’t rush it, save your spoons, enjoy the beauty and prepare for the winter ahead.

To find out more about things mentioned in this post visit…

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Spoonie Solutions

Hands up who has #spoonie problems? Me too, I probably whine about them a lot. You’ll know this if you follow my ig stories! So what’s this #spooniesolutions all about? Well it’s turning the hashtag #spoonieproblems on it’s head. Before you cry in protest its not because the problems are not valid, quite the opposite in fact. They matter so much, and need to be highlighted. #spooniesolutions is all about identifying the problems and shouting about them. Then I want to attempt to discover some answers.

This all came about after a combination of discussions, and a personal review of my blog and Instagram. I had a big appointment recently in which I found that, as expected, I have an area of hyperperfusion in my brain. In the appointment I took it in my stride, but as the results sank in I felt very upset. Part of me wanted to jump for joy that I have a positive (as in something showing up not a feel good) result, and part of me was scared and in shock. It explains a lot including migraine, and serious mental health issues, confusion and fatigue. But it broke my heart to think that it is active in the blood vessels in my brain. For my own sanity I had to recognise my upset (spoonie problem) but find a way to deal with it (spoonie solution). For the first week I cried and it still makes me cry now. But I am getting there.

I’m in a position now in which I can reflect on how I’ve survived through the past few years. Yes that’s dramatic but it has been survival. I can hand on heart say that it’s been through living life slowly and taking time to nurture myself by being creative and living a more simple life. I want the solutions to #spoonieproblems to reflect this but also offer a range of approaches that I hope will be useful to me and anyone else that is out there and reading. They’ll include practical advice, campaigning for change, and most importantly opening up the issue for discussion.

As a veteran spoonie I feel qualified to address the issues from an insider’s perspective. But to ensure that the solutions given are thorough and actually useful I will be consulting with other spoonies via the comments here, Instagram and in real life. I will also include resources from medical practitioners, other websites (such as The Mighty), apps (such as HealthUnlocked) and relevant organisations.

I have a few solution guides planned including travel and holidays (vacations), everyday travel, work and benefits, and hobbies. All of these will include parts of my personal story and anecdotes. But I will approach how to deal with them by being creative and living slow.

Please don’t be shy, I’d love to help your share your story and looked at spoonie problems together. Let me know in the comments, via social media or email.

Look forward to hearing from you…

How to make plastic bottle planter | Gardening on a budget

Since my life style change, including being unable to work, and being ‘on benefits’ I have been forced to slow down and re-evaluate spending and consumerism. Yes it’s a challenge, but I have made some delightful discoveries along the way. I’ve always enjoyed gardening and growing my own vegetables and plants. In fact my plant addiction is a little out of control. But I’ve got to the point where I don’t have the money to spend on a lavish garden or a house full of the latest plants. I also want to make the garden work for me and feed me.

Being creative, and little bit crafty, I’ve managed to garden this year on a minuscule budget. Most of this has been by refusing to buy new accessories and tools for the garden such as pots, propagators and netting. Instead I’ve decided to make my own using what most people would class as rubbish. This has tied nicely with my war on waste ( you can read about it here), and has forced me to recycle things from around the house in order to grow my plants.

My first tutorial ( I’m going to attempt a series) is how to make a plastic planter from an old bottle. For those who don’t know this is EarthDay, a day dedicated to making us aware of environmental issues and care for our planet. This year, like we have seen in many parts of the media, the focus is on the war on plastic. So I’ve made for you a guide on how to make recycled bottle planters. The tutorial is for a basic hanging planter but you can make variations to suit your needs.

Instructions for a recycled plastic bottle planter

You will need: A plastic bottle, scissors and string or wool

In addition to this you could also use lollipop sticks as labels, pretty tape to decorate the bottles, a , pokey stick to help make holes, and a craft knife if you prefer cutting this way.

Oh and don’t forget your need some soil and some seeds or seedlings.

Step one Remove any labels, so far these are usually not recyclable, boo! Draw a line around the circumference of the bottle about halfway down. Then draw a tab coming out of the line so this will become your hanger.

Step two Cut around line until you get to the tap and then cut out so it becomes all part of the lower part of the bottle. Then separate the two halves.

Step three With the cap still on the bottle carefully push your scissors or pokey all through the bottle cap to make a hole big enough for the string. Then thread your string through the hole you have just made so half is on the inside of the bottle and half is on the outside. Tie a knot so the string can’t pull all the way through the cap. You will also need to make a hole in the tab if you want to hang your planter by using string.

Step four Put some water into the bottom half of the bottle. Turn the top of the bottle upside down and placed into the base with the cap facing down so the string on the outside dips into the water.

Step five Fill the upturned bottle top with soil and plant your seeds or seedlings.

Step six Thread string through the tab to hang your planter. Alternatively you could staple the tab to a fence or shed. Now the plant pot is finished keep it in a sunny place.

The plant pot is self watering as the string soaks up water the plant needs just like roots would. You just have to keep an eye that there is water in the bottom half of the bottle and top it up as needed.

Variations

  • Add another half cut bottle to the top to make a minute to greenhouse. When you do this the bottles become their own microclimates.
  • As the bottom is flat and so should stand up if you want use the planter on a tabletop or windowsill.
  • I decided to decorate some of mine using Washi Tape to make them more colourful.

These are so simple to make and you can make them with children, as long as you supervise the use of scissors and a sharp knife. I made a ton of these as plastic bottles seem to be in abundance and they’ve worked perfectly for growing peas broad beans and sweet peas. I’m also trying out some ginger root, turmeric root and lemon seeds see if they will grow too.

I’ve made a handy printout sheet that shows this tutorial in brief. Please feel free to use and share it.

So hope you enjoyed this tutorial I’m planning to make some more and my next one will be on other ways to use plastic. And I also will do tutorials to recycle paper and glass, alongside growing vegetables from the leftover scraps. Let me know in the comments how you get on with your planters.

People are rubbish. A guide to reducing personal waste.

We really are, we create nothing but waste. First of all pop over to People are Rubbish on Instagram to see just how bad we are! Rubbish tells a story, one in which we are the villains…

Last year I began ‘slow living’ with the goal of simplifying life, buying less and better quality. As an extension of this I began a personal war on waste. Then just before the new year the BBC’s series Blue Planet was released and the fish swimming in our plastic waste broke our hearts. If you missed it you should watch it here.

It is very clear we have to make a change to the way in which we live and consume. When even a Tory PM declares a need for drastic change on an environmental issue there must be a crisis. “May’s speech, unveiling a much-heralded 25-year plan for the environment in England drawn up by Michael Gove’s environment department with input from pressure groups, focused heavily on plastic waste, which she called “one of the great environmental scourges of our time”. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/10/theresa-may-proposes-plastic-free-supermarket-aisles-in-green-strategy

I don’t want to waste time here giving any more reasons to change. But if you need one watch this turtle mama.

Ok, ok statistics and preaching over. What we need to do is take personal responsibility and make changes now. I am going to share with you a few easy starters that I’ve found have worked to help you get started.

Clothing

Step one is to fall in love with what you already have in your closet. Make a capsule wardrobe thatl works and go with it.

As you may have seen in a previous blog post I’ve been using the Cladwell app. You basically create your wardrobe from a combination of their items and uploading your own. From this is gives you a choice of daily outfits. Sign up to cladwell here. Use the code wolfatmydoor.

If you do need to buy something it has a great section to recommend what to buy to fit in with the clothes you already have. Over the last year I have strived to buy less and invested in pieces from quality and ethical brands such as People Tree. Their prices cost slightly more but it’s worth it. Their fair trade organic clothing is ethical and beautifully made and oh yeah it lasts.

After a month or two you have a good Marie Kondo style clear out. You are left with items you actually wear. Here are three easy things you can do with the clothes you decide to part with instead of filling landfill:

  • Sell good items on your local Facebook sites. Just click the marketplace button on the app and snap your clothes for some extra cash
  • Dye existing clothes to refresh them or create something new Dylon does an excellent washing machine dye in a pot with everything included
  • Use the fabrics to create something new. I’ve cut up t-shirts to make macrame plant hangers or draft excluders. Check out my Pinterest board for ideas

Personal care

Ok so my favourite find this year is Who Gives a Crap toilet paper.

I love everything about them. They are wrapped in beautiful PAPER wrapping so zero plastic. They’re made of good stuff and they raise millions for Water Aid. Oh and you can subscribe to a delivery so you never run out. It comes in a big cardboard box so you need to store it. Buying like this saves money too and it’s cheaper then buying at the supermarket. Want more money off? Here’s a fiver to spend with them.

I also invested in a Tulip cup to stop using tampons and pads. Let me know if you are going to order as I have an offer for a free gift.

There’s loads of small things you can do like swapping from detergent to washing eggs. Get yourself some old fashioned washable handkerchiefs instead of using packet tissues. And lastly I’ve changed to bamboo toothbrushes to save on plastic. You can purchase them on amazon.

Food and Drink

Coffee cups have been hot in the press this week with a tax on disposable cups being introduced. You can pop into most bargain stores and grab a reusable cup to take out your coffee from kitchen to car. Even better invest in a slightly more fancy KeepCup cup. You can get a super fancy cup from them. You can even design your own and buy one of their reusable straws. If you sign up to an account you can get 15% off your first order with them by using the code uksubscribe15

Another tip for the kitchen is to start using glass and Silicone products. Jars are fab for storing stuff and free if you re use jars you get with other products. Silicone is great for all sorts of products such as baking tray liners to replace tinfoil.

Finally the war on supermarkets. First of all there’s some great ideas like having plastic free aisles. You can put pressure on supermarkets and the government by signing this petition.

Supermarkets are not doing enough. I got my Tesco delivery this week and asked for no bags. I ordered all loose fruit and veg to avoid all the plastic. I also love their paper veg bags as they fit the compost bin perfectly. I was so frustrated to find the entire order full of those tiny plastic bags you get on the produce aisles! They’re so tiny and thin they’re not even reusable. Come on Tesco use your brain, no bags means NO BAGS. I just found out that my local farmers market is very local so I’m turning off my delivery subscription and changing my shop, sorry Tesco.

So that’s where I’m up to with my own war. Next on the list are:

  1. Shopping bags and making my own cloth bags for veg items.🥕🍅🥑
  2. Beauty products – recommendations please 💄💋
  3. Medications – this really bothers me as it creates a ton of waste each month. I don’t have a solution do you?💊💊💊
  4. Nespresso pods – I am a Nespresso junkie. They get me through the day but the waste is bothersome. Nespresso recycle their own pods but I don’t often get them as they are so expensive. Anyone got any ideas on other brand pods?☕️☕️

I hope you enjoyed reading my guide. Please remember to say hello and share your war on waste ideas below.

To find out more on reducing waste visit http://www.goingzerowaste.com

All opinions are my own. None of these are paid recommendations but genuine reviews with money off, where I could find it, to help you out.

Capsule my life

As a spoonie I waste so much flipping time staring (hopelessly?) into my closet every day. I’m too tired to see all the clothes and too tired to rummage. I don’t have a whole lot of money so cant afford new things.

I often don’t want to wear things because they hurt my skin or make me uncomfortable. I can’t get rid of them because they look so lovely. 

As you know I love an app so when I found Cladwell I thought I’d give it a whirl as it could just reclaim the spoon of energy spent in front of the wardrobe each morning.

They say: Get daily outfit recommendations, track your outfits, discover the right items, and buy fewer things, all without taking a single photo.

I say: The uploading and choosing wardrobe items was a huge task, I’m not going to lie. I had to get help. But I was determined and did it! Apparently I have a lot of clothes. 118 items including shoes. So I googled the average and some site somewhere told me the average for a woman is 103. So I’m not doing too badly hey? Just a little over average…

They say: What To Wear. Every day, Outfits for iOS will send you outfit ideas based on what you currently own, what the weather is like, and how often you wear an item. Swipe through the options, and log one for the day.

I say: Since starting I’ve really enjoyed the outfits its chosen everyday. You still get a choice and can swap items in and out. Everyday I’ve worn something weather appropriate. I’ve worn new combos of clothes that I’ve never previously paired. In fact I have 11,000+ combos to try. Maybe my wardrobe is on the large side…

They say: What To Keep. Outfits for iOS keeps track of the items you wear the most, so you can treasure what you love, and get rid of what you don’t. Feel great about cutting the clutter while looking great.

I say: So yes the app costs money after the free trial but I hope to be wearing my existing wardrobe lots more, being excited about old clothes and seeing them as new. This fits my slow living goal perfectly. I already wore a pair of boots that I haven’t put on for over 5 years but can’t part with. I’m hoping I wont be spending on clothes for a while so lets see if it saves money. I also hope at the end of it to reduce my wardrobe by seeing what I don’t actually wear. and maybe sell a few items on.

 

 

They say: What To Add. Don’t go shopping without a plan. Before you visit your favorite stores, Outfits for iOS shows you which types of items go best with the clothes you already own. Cladwell doesn’t sell clothes. We help you buy better stuff, and less of it.

I say: we’ll see!

In the meantime heres my link so you can get a free trial

Click the monthly subscription and put wolfatmydoor in the promo code section.

Facebook-Cover-Image-Outfits

 

How to find joy

  1. Walk with a dog, more people talk to you than if you walk alone
  2. Use the ‘golden hour’ to take a photo and marvel at your skills 
  3. Wake up just to see the sun rise and do step two. You’re allowed to go back to 
  4. Laugh really really hard till it hurts. Friends and YouTube videos help
  5. Make someone cake for no reason and share their joy 
  6. Show a child ‘wonder’ and watch their joy, it’s infectious 
  7. For slow burning joy plant some seeds and feel joyful each time you see them grow a little bigger, and think ‘I made that happen’ 
  8. Light a fire, indoors or out, and spend time roasting parts of your body till they go red. Decide it’s probably bad for you so sit and stare and getting lost in the flames 
  9. Eat cheese and don’t feel bad
  10. Climb as high as you can to get a really good view

All is full of love…

Sometimes we need to take time to remember “All Is Full Of Love”
You’ll be given love

You’ll be taken care of

You’ll be given love

You have to trust it
Maybe not from the sources

You have poured yours

Maybe not from the directions

You are staring at
Twist your head around

It’s all around you

All is full of love

All around you
All is full of love

You just ain’t receiving

All is full of love

Your phone is off the hook

All is full of love

Your doors are all shut

All is full of love!
All is full of love

All is full of love

All is full of love

All is full of love

All is full of love

The Jigsaw

Last night I dreamt of a jigsaw puzzle. It was double sided and so large that it wouldn’t fit the table. I kept trying to find paper or card for it to rest on in sections so that they were preserved whilst I focused on another section. Then I found bigger table to move it to but it would fill this one too. It expanded faster than I could manage. 

Everytime I attempted it I couldn’t remember which side I was working on. Then I’d complete a large section and feel good and a sense of achievement. Like a taunt, I could almost glimpse the larger beast. But then I’d realise another section had fallen apart as I neglected it to focus on the current one.

All this was going on whilst others were in and out of the picture. Some people came to help and got sections complete with me. Others came and their insesent chatter and advice hindered the process. All this was trying to be achieved whilst pleasing these people and juggling the pieces. I had to serve dinner, casually chat to people. Even the task of doing something for myself got in the way. I didn’t have time for anything for me and felt isolated and alone. 

I couldn’t tell what the bigger picture was. As I completed small parts people’s faces would appear and sometimes the people around me would know the story behind who they were. This bit I loved and it kept me going.

I got to the point where the jigsaw was so frustrating that it was easier to give up and live in the moment. To ignore it in favour of activities that I could enjoy that made me feel hapoy. But then it became the huge unfinished project. The big box of broken pieces and failure hidden under the table, threatening to explode from its box as it grew.

This morning I googled jigsaws in dreams and found they symbolise the different aspects of our life coming together. That you should take a closer look to see if all the parts actually fit and come together in the right places. Do they all belong?

This couldn’t be more apt as this week I’ve shredded my life once again and asked so many questions. Do I live in the moment because it’s easier and there’s less disappointment? Do I plan for the future, because everytime I do chance and disaster dictate anyway. Am I a hedonist who is so fearful of failure and pain I miss the bigger picture? 

I’m not sure I’m doing any of this right, and it all feels out of  control. Apparently life is exciting like a puzzle, because we don’t know what it looks like in its entirety. I just feel a little lost and would like a peek at the box lid please? Otherwise how do I know if all the pieces belong and whether I like the picture at all? 

Narrow Margins

I can’t ever get this song out of my head. The words, oh the words, they say my all thoughts. The melody gets me in the pit everytime.

“Narrow Margins”
I can’t live this way

Breaking all my rules again

Choking on my gin

You push ’til I give in

‘Til the loser always wins
Somehow with his beckoning

Bruising with his threads

Confusing what he says

But I won’t live that way

Though I kind of want to anyway

Kind of want to play

With all the pretty and the pure

Well I return to the earth

I return to the dust

No more beauty by the pound

And this I do not trust
‘Cause nothing forgives

Rules and narrow margins

In our lives

It’s rules and narrow margins

But I will slip by
I can’t find the time

I don’t know the future

I couldn’t bring that past back

I waste what little time I have
But I swear I almost touched it

Yet it slipped between my fingers

Sent shivers down my spine

Cut a splinter in my mind
But it wasn’t nothing, again

These rules and narrow margins

But our life

Is rules and narrow margins

But I will slip by
Rules and narrow margins

Rules and narrow margins

But I will slip by
Half Moon Run

Shabby Wisteria

Planted with hope and a twenty year wait,

Then pastel and fierce for only a blink of a year.

Beauty that flourishes then sleeps till next

Wise branches that lean with a mutual love.
The season turns loudly to spring

And the soft grand display begins. 

A mask of beauty shouting from the walls,

Glory in which the inhabitants hide behind.
Slowly it climbs and it reaches for sun,

Stealing the light as it casts it’s shade.

Delicate and twisted boughs that some say damage,

Buy look again; they twine not grip, the strength is within.
Notoriously difficult to tame and left

To spread beyond it’s borders.

A fragile dance between conquerer and artist,

This year it could have bloomed better with just a little care.
New people come and go behind its wall.

It’s fragile existence is in their hands,

Each time it drops it’s shabby confetti,

But it promises you to always bloom after the darkest winter.