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…

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.

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

Blink and you’ll miss it.

The sun barely shines in the bright cold sky. The cold creeps in every gap and forgotten tuck-in.

The bonfire burns old whilst the smoke writes the memories across the sky. Warming the sun bleached snow as it melts into clear furrows.

The land sighs as it sleeps, turns over, seeing the Sun isn’t shining she goes back to her dreams. The excitement and magic melts away, the only day you wish the sun took leave.

In a day the stream flows. Playing it’s cool melody on the slowly warming rocks. The pond might be frozen but it’s path is too risky to find out.

With fingers wrapped in gloves that make them too cumbersome. Take off the gloves, use your hands briefly before they freeze and become just as clumsy.

The crow carries the sound of winter on its breath, Its black heart never dies.Only chased away by birds of song, shrill and tinkling, dancing in the fragile sun.

All that’s left of the snow is the snagged fleece in brambles; fake snow that sparkles with dew. My fingers bleed on it’s purity as I snatch it from the branches.

Pines that defy the cold breathe their sent into the warming air. Something is afoot, but blink and you’ll miss it.

 

Hawthorn (Maytree)

4a0e7533ff001e9a569f98d8f5bf6115

She awoke.

It was so dark she didn’t know if she was really there.

She inhaled.

Her face full of the metallic earth, all mud, and rain, and rot.

She twitched.

Her fingers grasped the crisp mulch that seeped into her clothes.

She rose.

It was so dark her eyes could only make out shades of black and blue.

She felt.

Her hand reached up to her matted hair and pulled at a leaf.

She blinked.

The shadows became giants, then trees so tall they scraped the sky.

She noticed.

How much more she could see if she stopped and waited.

She discovered.

The moon shone between the holes in the canopy providing just enough.

She moved.

Clambering to her feet she stretched her damp limbs.

She listened.

Around her the world was slow but more noisy than she ever knew.

She considered.

The path ahead was her way out, why she had come here; to die.

She turned.

The path back from where she came still remained.

She paused.

As she did her eye caught sight of a tree; clusters of flowers as bright as the stars.

She was drawn.

It seemed to become the night sky, full of hope in the dark.

She neared.

And walked with open arms into the mass of branches discovering thorns sharp and true.

She cried.

Each snare snatched at her clothes and tore at her skin, but she pushed forward.

She persisted.

Feeling something ok was on the other side, knowing it was something different.

She emerged.

On the other side of the hawthorn there was a path she hadn’t seen before.

She bravely walked.

With leaves in her hair, the moon in her eyes, and blood on her skin.

She began.

A new life on a path she didn’t know but one that could never be the one she’d trod before.

Cleanse

So as you may or may not know I’m not religious or atheist or agnostic, I just am. I’m moderately spiritual and hold belief in nature, energy and the elements. At times of crisis we need something more to see us through and I have found great solace in slowing down and finding synchronicity with the world. I’ve spent lots of time walking and thinking and observing.

The last few days I have been really on edge, and not surprisingly this syncs with the waning moon. The moon is a huge influence on me and I feel drawn to her power.

Today we had a day of cooking, then walking up at ‘The Devil’s Kneading Trough’ in Wye’s Nature Reserve. After a heady and heartfelt ramble through the forest we were treated to the most beautiful sunset. It marked the perfect ending of one phase and a willingness to start the next. We’d had a fire in the garden earlier in the afternoon and we sat in quiet awe on the hillside with woodsmoke in our hair and talked about feeling present.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-18-40-03

Checking my moon app it said today is ‘a day of creative thinking, it’s holy and magical, but sometimes it lasts just a few minutes. It is the first day of a lunar month, the beginning of a new moon cycle. This is a very clean (pure) day.’

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset

Back home I fed the fire more until it was so dark I couldn’t see what I was doing. I decided to honour the new cycle by making a smudge stick to fully cleanse the house. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while and today was the perfect day. I found a tutorial here but to be honest its very easy. It does explain their background in Native American Culture so is worth a look.

Processed with VSCO with c2 preset

Mine is mostly the traditional sage, with a little rosemary, thyme and lavender thrown in.

Processed with VSCO with c2 presetI bound it in twine and lit it with one of my homemade candles before wandering through the entire house allowing the smoke to chase away the dark. Little Bear approved, she followed everywhere meowing.

Processed with VSCO with c3 presetI now feel like a proper witch tee hee. It matches my moon glyph tattoos and here it is with the new moon symbol.

Walking

The trouble with walking so far is getting back.

Every gate I open has to be closed in case I set the beasts free.

Every footprint retrod in a different way.

All the effort with none of the anticipation.

A glance to check only my shadow follows.

The world is big and I am small.

The day has turned tail with me.

I’m back to the safe and known,

I’m back to something new and unknown.

Just breathe

They say just breathe.

I do,  counting in and out until I can’t breathe.

 

She said she colours in when alone, she does half.

It’s not good enough so she stops.

 

They say do stuff for yourself, I try,

I achieve nothing but tiredness.

 

I tell myself seek beauty.

I walk, it makes the world an uglier place.

 

He said it was dead.

It died when I thought it was alive

 

We’re at the hospital waiting for the grown up to decide.

They don’t come, it’s only us.

 

I see comedy to find a smile.

There’s  only tears,  I tremble.

 

I listen to an old song to feel.

It breaks me all over again, press repeat.

 

The radio instructs me walk to clear my head.

Alone on the path, my head is more full than ever.

 

He says he’s tired of explaining.

Who to? You only told me and yourself lies.

Pull your socks up, the glass is half full, this is the worst it’ll be, be positive, eat better, exercise more, make a plan, breathe, be kind, be compassionate

.

I do all these things and am back to the start. Just breathe.

A Year

Inside it was damp and stank like the garage, too many winters had passed.

It was full of snail shells, skeleton leaves and the big chest freezer.

 

You saw something in there, a hideaway, where I saw old,

You pushed your way through years of uncollected belongings.

 

You pulled out forgotten items of no use and found a purpose,

You began to make the unloved beautiful again.

 

That Spring you flung open the windows and let sunlight warm the darkest corner,

You dared to build from what others said was rubbish.

 

 

That Summer I grew things and tended them for it felt OK to dream,

We ate them greedily whilst sitting on an old palette bench in the sunshine.

 

The year grew on and we marched amongst the red apples and purple berries.

The fruits began to fall, their bitter decay intoxicating and vile.

 

As Winter came and the light dimmed you became distant and cruel,

We had a fire to keep and searched for solace amongst its flames.

 

The nights grew longer and the black filled our hearts.

Little by little the dream became frostbitten and bare.

 

One day you were not in the garden, or the house or anywhere.

I searched but only found more emptiness.

 

Brambles and ivy crept through the garden and into my heart,

I clawed at them to be rewarded with their thorns embedded in my skin.

 

With one last attempt to keep warm and see the winter through I lit the fire.

This time it was inside, the house and inside myself.

 

It raged and burnt in glory, its sharp tongues licked but provided no warmth.

For days it burnt with choking black smoke.

 

Inside it is charred and hollow, inside me is charred and hollow,

I’m waiting for you to clear the ashes and let them become the earth again.