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.
    • This month I am making a wonderful leaf garland, inspired by Hannah at Seeds and Stitches
    • I am embroidering fabrics in preparation for Christmas presents. If you are like me and like to hand make your Christmas presents, start now so you don’t put pressure on yourself.
  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…

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.

Mathematical Mindfulness (making book birds)

As you may know this is my year of taking time out and living slow in order to mend.

At times this makes life a little lonely and isolated unless I make the effort to travel and push my anxiety. So today I did just that, I volunteered for my favourite people/ place/ festival/ oraganisation: Wise Words Festival. If you don’t know what they do check them out. They are an extraordinary festival run by people with enormous hearts and passion for change through the arts.

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Anyway, I go every year, whether working or as a guest, and always get involved. Last year I worked collaboratively with them on a number of projects :

This year I’m unable to work to my usual capacity but want to be a part of the goings on, so I decided to volunteer as an artist and maker instead.

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Today we met at my beloved Cowshed Studios to add the ever-increasing flock of book birds that migrate to the festival each year to roost in the trees. I’ve always loved them as a feature and thought they looked like the most complicated things to make. Little did I know how easy they are to create. If you have an hour to spend and a free pair of hands you can make them too. Warning though, its hugely addictive and you may take to your bookshelves, so make sure the books you use are ones you’ll never want to read again.

All there is to it is paper-folding, much less complicated than origami, and a lot of repetition as you need to fold each and every page. You only have to turn to Pinterest to see all the ways you can repurpose and up-cycle old books. I just searched ‘book folding patterns’ to discover all of the marvellous things people create.  I managed 4 books today using simple folds. Here are some pictures of my efforts.

Being a creative I chose a book of mathematics to transform first. I did end up getting caught in some of the pages as I was folding.

The best thing about this activity is not the result but the process of making. It is manual, easy, and repetitive (like a nice set of sums!). Before long it become calming and meditative, productive and relaxing. I could spend hours folding and chatting.

Why not give it a go yourself with an old book. All you have to do is pick a type of fold and repeat with every page in the book till it’s wings unfurl and a new bird has hatched.

If you are in the Canterbury area you could volunteer too, just follow this link to find out how…

 

 

A recipe for bath bombs 🛀 💥 

So this a few weeks ago I had a craft session with my friend Helen. She came up with the idea of creating our own ‘kindness advent calendars’ instead of buying cheap (or overpriced) supermarket ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love the nostalgia of an advent calendar but this seemed like fun and had more purpose. You can see what we did here.

So on day three I dipped into my lucky dip of tasks and chocolate and drew this:

I thought everyone would expect me to give a cake recipe, and I nearly did but I couldn’t decide on just one as my favourite. So I thought I’d share my bath bomb recipe instead. They make great gifts, so get stuck in and make some of you own using my base recipe as a starter, then add your own flare!

To make ‘Lush’ style bath bombs you’ll need: 

  • A bowl for mixing
  • A whisk for blending
  • Measuring cups for measuring ingredients
  • Silicone moulds for shaping
  • A spray bottle for water
  • A saucepan for melting scent and oil

I like to get everything out before I start so I’m prepared, just like when baking.

The base recipe:

  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 a cup of citric acid
  • 1/2 a cup of Epsom Salts
  • 2 tbsp of oil (coconut, olive, almond etc.)
  • 2 tsp of scent (essential oils preferably)
  • Purified or filtered water
  • Extras like dried flowers, glitter or colouring

The method:

I’ve put together an easy to follow YouTube tutorial here.

Or you can follow these steps:

  1. Measure the dry ingredients into your bowl and give them a good whisk to bland and get rid of lumps
  2. In the saucepan melt or heat your oil. Add your essential oils right at the last-minute so you don’t burn off the scent.
  3. Give the oil and fragrance a good mix before adding it into the dry mixture
  4. Give the mixture a good mix till it starts to clump together
  5. Add any extras such as glitter or dried flowers. You could also colour them with regular food colouring. (Don’t worry you won’t get dyed by it as it is so dilute once it’s dissolved in a bath.)
  6. Spray a couple of sprays at a time over your mixture. Don’t go overboard or you’ll start it fizzing and it’ll be too wet
  7. Test that the mixture holds together by squeezing it with your hand.
  8. If it’s holding together pack it tightly into your silicone mould.
  9. Smooth off the top and leave for at least 24 hours before taking out the mould.
  10. Gift-wrap or enjoy your bath bomb

Tips:

  • I always use essential oils over fragrance as they have more depth and benefits. They are expensive but I think worth it
  • Silicone works well as it peels off the moulds
  • Use simple moulds or the bomb may crumble
  • You could also make them inside cookie cutters that are simple.
  • When using dried flowers less is more. They’re lovely but too many floating in the bath gets a bit yucky
  • I’m the reverse with glitter as I love the stuff and you can never have enough!

So that’s it. I’d love to see some of your creations. What scent combinations would you use? Please ask questions or make suggestions by leaving a comment.

Some days are for warmth…

So today I woke up feeling pretty horrid. New meds are making me sleep for nearly 10 hours a night, and then groggy the next day. I guess this beats the 4 hours average I’ve had for the past few months.

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I’ve begun a new kinder morning routine. It mainly is about not rushing:

Wake Up | Check my journal (not phone) | Feed and let the dogs out | Enjoy coffee / breakfast | Put myself first with yoga or mindfulness | Get ready | Walk the dogs | Check the post | Plan meals and actions for the day

In today’s journal I had scheduled a Weight Watchers meeting, crafts with a friend, followed by a show at the theatre. After sleeping past the Weight Watchers meeting time, and walking the dogs, falling over in the mud, and nearly passing out I knew I wasn’t up to much. In the panic of pain and fatigue I cancelled everything.

Then I realised I did really want to see people and that I needed company and inspiration. I don’t know about you but I am constantly in battle with myself for shared time and alone time? So today I back tracked and rewrote the day. I’m sticking to 3 things at the moment so my new plan was:

  • Drive to the Cowshed to pick up craft materials
  • Meet with Helen, to eat her home made soup and chat and maybe craft
  • Make chickpea blondies

So I did all these things instead of a disaster it was wonderful. Driving through the autumn landscape in no hurry meant seeing the countryside in all it’s glory. Then getting home it’s all warm and cosy and the dogs were waiting.

Helen arrived with a box full of crafts, and her delicious homemade squash soup (I’ll endeavour to get the recipe). We chatted about life, and ideas, and drank coffee. We both, being spoonies, decide to keep the craft simple and make our own ‘advent calendars’. It was Helen’s idea as a way to be kind to ourselves. I provided the labels to write them on and we both came up with ideas for an action a day that would be treating or nourishing ourselves.

Thats all there is to it really. We wrote on luggage labels and decorated them with stickers. I ended up doing 31 to take me all the way to New Year, and have a whole month of adventures. The idea is to pick one each day to do. If it is completely impossible with your schedule we decided we would be allowed to swap one but you should then make time to fit in the discarded one so all the tasks are at least attempted throughout the month. I’ve decided to do mine with the food bank advent idea. In this I put an item of food into a box each day to donate to the local food bank.

Finally I made ‘chickpea blondies’ as a quick sweet treat, they sound odd but they are amazing. I found the recipe here. They are great for lazy days and you literally shove everything in the blender and bake. Oh and then eat of course, still warm from the pan with oozing bitter chocolate.

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What do you do to stay warm once the weather turns colder and the nights are shorter?

 

 

Never stop

 Today’s post is more of a diary entry. It’s a big test day to try to get back to some kind of normality and spend time on my own. It began with a sleep over at my dear friend Beth’s house where I was spoiled by having dinner cooked, playing with all the toys and coffee in bed! 

It was followed by a meeting at the council to get my benefits in place. Easy peasy, and followed up with a quick coffee and toast before returning home. I made a few candles for an order I have on. I was exhausted already so I napped and watched crap TV and tried the anxiety meds in the daytime. I usually take them at night to help me sleep so this was another test.

The next thing I knew I was woken up to Emma knocking on the door. She whisked me away to the next meeting with the community mental health team. A bit of a waste of time in terms of help and info but at least I know where it is! Plus I got to spend time with Emma in the car chatting (one of my favourite things).

So home again to a bath, dinner and more candles. I’ve started to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. Not sure what to think yet as its a lot about how fantastic the technique is but little about the actual doing, I love the idea of being ruthless though. Purge here I come. 


I’ve also been keeping a gratitude diary. The three things I’m grateful for today are:

  1. Friends as they have literally saved my life and continue to make me smile
  2. Duvets
  3. My cat ‘Little Bear’ who has been at my side all day