Sunday, 29 October 2017

Baking with Betty Crocker - Spooky Spider Cookies

We were lucky enough to be chosen to take part in a new Insiders UK and Betty Crocker campaign.

We got our pack through last week and it contained lots of different goodies:

- Chocolate chip cookies mix
- velvety vanilla cake mix
- chocolate fudge brownies mix
- gooey salted caramel brownies mix
- vanilla icing
- recipe cards, campaign booklet and money off coupons :)

I decided to give the cookie mix a whirl with H

It's probably the easiest of the mixes - you pour the mix into a bowl add 2-3 teaspoons of water and mix - in around 2-3 minutes it mixes up into an easy dough.

H  (aged 4) was able to mix it together with very little assistance from me.

Once the dough was formed we split it into 8 roughly the same size balls which we put onto a baking tray and flattened with a spoon to make the cookies. H needed a bit more help with this as the dough was a tad tacky. We made sure to leave lots of space on the tray.

The cookies baked in around 15 minutes at gas mark 4 (the instructions said 10-12 minutes on gas mark 5 but I know my oven tends to the higher temp). Despite giving them plenty of room on the tray the cookies did slightly merge together when they cooked - but this was easy resolved by cutting them slightly with a knife when we got them out of the oven.

As it's Halloween I decided we would gt creative and decorate our cookies. I had some chocolate coins and some strawberry laces in the cupboard. I cut the laces up and H and I placed 4 laces folded in half on the cookie and added one of the chocolate coins on top - I then popped them back on the baking tray and popped them into the still hot oven for 5 mins.We got them out and H helped to smear the melted coins with a spoon over the laces to make a spider body, We added small pea sized bits of the vanilla icing to make eyes and used some cut off bits of laces to make smiley faces and finish the eyes. We left them cool for an hour on a wire rack.

Whilst they cooled the cookies firmed up and became more crunchy and then it was time to try them:)

They were really crunchy and tasty and not too chocolatey.

The mix made up 8 cookies around 7 cm in size and the whole process from mixing, to baking to decorating took around 30 minutes.

Overall we really enjoyed trying out this mix and and look forward to trying out some of the other mixes in the pack

Friday, 20 October 2017

New Ink :)

Today I got a new tattoo :)

My new humming bird tattoo - freshly done

My previous tattoo's have been for me but this one was different - this one was for my friend Barb.

When I was 17 I got on a plane and flew to the USA to meet some people I had been talking to online for the last 5 years (mIRC anyone remember those days?).

I stayed with Barb who had become a close friend through the chat rooms - I actually stayed with her and her husband at their large ranch style home just outside of Nashville Tennessee, and another 21  people came down to stay over the 3 weeks I was there to meet me (they were all Americans). Most stayed for the weekend or a few days with us as my friends property had several bedrooms and bathrooms plus a couple of acres of land surrounding it for camping and RV's and TN is hawt!

I don't sleep well and neither did Barb so we would sit on her porch on her rockers in the early morning and evening and watching the humming birds come and go at her feeders - most of the time there was noone else around at these times - we didnt need to talk we could just chill in each others company and enjoy being outside in nature.

I had an amazing time with her - I got to travel and do a lot of fun things out there - DollyWood, Graceland, The Smokey Mountains :)

When I got home we made plans for me to go visit again but family and then Uni got in the way. We still stayed in touch online and by post sending postcards and even talking on the phone (anyone who has the misfortune of having to call me knows I hate phone calls but when it's a call at 2am from ya buddy in Nashville then it's way more fun especially when they are singing songs to you), she was there for me when my nan was diagnosed with brain tumors, when I was going through my OCD diagnosis, when I was in an abusive relationship and I like to think I was there for her too when her son got shot in a drive by, when her dog had to be put to sleep.

So I was really upset when she contacted me to tell me she had cancer of the esophagus - she hadn't said anything about being unwell but had had the symptoms for a while - she told me they had caught it in time, and she was having treatment and she wasn't worried and they managed to get rid of it.

Unfortunately, the cancer came back within 12 months of being "clear" and she wasnt able to beat it. I really wanted to go for her funeral but I couldn't make it - I sent a card and ordered flowers but I am gutted I didnt say goodbye properly.

I've never been popular or had many friends and I can count on one hand the friends who I could be myself with and who were supportive of me as a teenager and young adult, Barb was there for me at some really difficult times in my life and I wanted something to remember her and our time together by. She loved the humming birds so that's why I chose to have this design - they also remind me of Barb she was small but humming with energy just like the ones I saw on her porch.

The placement of the tattoo is significant to me - it's over a scar left by the abusive ex and it's turned something I was ashamed of and hated seeing into something I can look at and smile.

Friday, 13 October 2017

My little demon called OCD

As this week was mental health day I thought I would post about my experience of  OCD.

It started with the need to say a prayer every night before going to sleep when I was about 10 - if I didn’t say the prayer then something terrible would happen to my friends, my family, my pets or me. I KNEW that it was my responsibility to say this prayer. It started really brief

“please keep everyone safe”

Then developed into:

“ Please make sure nothing bad happens to my family, my friends, my pets or my house, please make sure we don’t have a fire, or a burglar comes, or we get sick or are in a car crash or get hurt in any way, please make sure people don’t die because they are old”

And it had to be said every night without interruption.

Then the rules changed – it had to be said but it had to be said 3 times. If a car went past or if someone made a noise I had to start again.

It sounds stupid right? I didn’t even believe in God (still don't) but I couldn’t risk anything awful happening. When I tried skipping it I couldn’t breathe, it felt like someone was squeezing my chest, I saw flickering black dots, I sweated, my stomach cramped and I felt like I was going to throw up, I couldn’t sleep, all that I could think was I have to say the prayer I have to finish it or something terrible will happen, I’d physically shake.
It was okay though I could manage it. I just had to say the words in my head and the pressure would be off and I could carry  on and get to sleep.

The thoughts though behind it weren’t satisfied. Walking to school one day and I saw 3 red cars in a row and it was like someone had poured itching powder over me. My skin was crawling, I was on high alert because something terrible was going to happen I knew that the only way to stop it from happening was to go back home, go into the house and close the door and start the trip again. 

This started an almost obsession with car colours. Different colours and patterns of colours meant different things:
3 red cars in a row? – Go home, start again
3 black cars in a row? – Go home and stay home do not leave the house DANGER
1 red 2 green cars? – do not drink during the day
2 silver cars 1 red car? – do not use a blue pen

Crazier and crazier but if I didn’t obey the rules then bad things would happen – I knew they would, we would get burned alive in our sleep, or run over by a train or catch a fatal illness. The dread brought out physical symptoms, headaches, pain in my limbs, pain in my jaw, blurry vision, trouble breathing, dizziness.

I also knew it was a secret – no one could know about it – if people knew and knew the rules then the rules would change and the rituals wouldn't  work. As time went on the rituals became much more  embedded and it became harder to hide them. 

As well as having my rituals to perform I also developed a fear of becoming contaminated - school is a great place  to learn things to really mess with your head! Dust is made up of people's dead skin, you breath it in and you have bits of their skin contaminating your body! Flushing the toilet creates a vortex shooting micro-organisms and water droplets containing urine and feces into the air which you then breath in getting contaminated! Someone coughs or breathes near your food it's got to be binned as it's contaminated. The list goes  on.  It pretty much started ruling my life dictating what I could and  couldn't do.  I struggled with high school my weird behaviour and rituals didn't win me any friends, I didn't want to spend time with other people because they could cause me to become contaminated. I spent a lot of time talking to people online who lived in the USA  and Australia - I felt safe there - we could talk but they weren't going to sneeze on me, cough or leave bits of their skin near me. I managed to pass my exams and get into Uni.

 Uni was a turning point. 

A Dr there diagnosed  me with moderate OCD and referred me to a counsellor -  I didn't actually end up seeing the counsellor due to some other issues but when I got back to Cardiff my  Dr here told me I could attend a CBT course or start on SSRI for anxiety. I opted for the CBT course and they put me on an SSRI to help manage the symptoms whilst I waited. There was a fairly long wait to get on the CBT course but luckily a cancellation space opened up,which was really good as I refused to take the anxiety meds because I had a fear of getting poisoned (kinda stupid when you think about it -someone is deathly afraid of weird things going into their body and you give them weird things to put in their body!)

The CBT course was aimed at treating the symptoms I experienced by examining why I needed to do certain things. It helped me a lot and although it didn't address the root cause of the OCD it helped me develop new coping strategies and work arounds so that I didn't need to complete my rituals.

I read a lot on some forums I am on - people say they have been cured of OCD. I really wish I could say that but I haven't - I still have crazy thoughts and I still find myself doing things that make no sense to anyone else but do to me, but OCD no longer controls my life. It's currently a niggle in the back of my head, a little voice,a whisper rather than a screaming roar and that's okay.

In my day to day life I struggle with moving on from a task - if I have something to do then I have to complete it before  I can start something else - at skate practice and the gym I find it difficult if I cant complete an exercise and struggle if the coach or PT wants us to move on to something else - if I am eating a meal I have to eat it by sections each section has to be completed before I can eat the next, I like to eat sweets etc by colour and size, I still dislike people being in my personal space, touching my food or my belongings, I shower at least 2 times a  day.

I find it very difficult to speak to people about any of this. OCD is seen  as a joke  - you get comments like "wow I wish I had OCD then my house would be clean haha" - its almost acceptable to make these comments  yet would they go up to someone who was quadriplegic and say wow I wish I was quadriplegic then people would have to give me a seat on the bus, or to someone with anorexia - wow your so lucky I wish I had an eating disorder so I can lose this last 50lbs! People think it's just about washing your hands a lot or double checking your door is  locked - they dont understand that it is a compulsion and that if you dont do the things your head tells you to do then you cannot function and if you do the things your head tells you to do you still cant function. It can ruin your health, your relationships, your employment and education opportunities. It saps the energy out of you and turns things that should bring you joy and happiness into an endless rotation of doubt and fear.