28 December 2011

Tempting Fate

Finally the end of 2011 is in sight, but I’m filled with both relief and dread. I wish I could say, next year can only get better, but I said that at the end of 2010 and the universe apparently took it as a challenge.

In 2010:
We’d been trying to conceive for a heart-breaking 18 months, but we were looking to start treatment in the new year.  After six years my husband’s job assessment came back, much lower than expected so we faced a long process of appeals. I was sent to a medical assessment where the doctor lied about my illness and as a result lost my Incapacity Benefit. In general we felt beaten down and out of luck.

In 2011:
We’ve now been trying to conceive for 2 ½ years. The treatment did actually work and we did get pregnant – but it was ectopic and ruptured. I lost 4 litres of blood and came close to dying. I was also diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, and have been through a multitude of tests. As a result of either the blood loss, losing the pregnancy or the hyperthyroidism an awful lot of my hair fell out - it’s growing back but will probably take more than a year to get back to normal. Then they thought my thyroid problem may actually be cancer (It wasn’t. Phew!). At the same time my lovely cat had a stroke. Strokes aren’t as severe in cats (though quite distressing to witness!) and it turns out he also has hyperthyroidism. Mr Goldfish is still going through his job’s appeals process but it doesn’t look promising. We did win the appeal about my Incapacity Benefit, which is a huge relief. I know I’ll lose it again in the near future when they switch me over to the new system, but this reprieve gives us room to breathe.

So while we’ve had a few turns of good luck I can’t help thinking loosing the pregnancy, nearly dying, the cancer scare, and thinking our cat was going to die - make this year the winner in our personal Worst Year Competition. The thought of next year continuing the downward trend is a rather terrifying prospect, so I’m feeling a bit superstitious.

25 December 2011

Silent Sunday

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Silejavascript:void(0)nt Sunday

24 December 2011

My Christmas List

While I love Christmas and all spending time with family, it's also a week and a half of uninterrupted time off!  Which means it's a brilliant time to finish all those things I've not quite gotten around to. Things I'd like to do over the Christmas holidays:
  1. Get rid of the 160 survey emails clogging my inbox
  2. Finish my cross-stitch bi-corn
  3. Get the new kitchen dresser finished and filled
  4. Repair my favourite blanket
  5. Get the netbook set-up properly
  6. Sort out the contacts and addresses on my phone
  7. Consolidate google accounts
  8. Archive old email, blog posts & back-up websites
  9. Reorganise Twitter

I expect this list will be added to extensively over the next 24 hours.

18 December 2011

Dear Diary

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So this is it, our final cycle of the Clomid; we’ll find out if it's worked just a few days after Christmas. It’s easy to guess what’s at the top of my Christmas wishlist this year, but unfortunately that’s not been very helpful when people ask for gift ideas. As it’s difficult to arrange doctor’s appointments over the holiday period we’ve already asked our GP for a referral back to the IVF clinic.

We’ve made it to the end of the year, the end of the Clomid and the end of my very dear diary. Early in our journey I started to use my 2009-2010 Moleskine Diary for charting.  I started monitoring my cycle length in 2008, as soon as I stopped taking Depo injections for contraception.  Then we started recording Basel temperatures a few months before we started trying in June 2009 (though eventually we moved on to the ovulation tests). All these key dates are recorded in my diary; even days we were trying were carefully marked.

I never imagined I’d still be on this journey as the pages of my little book run out.

It seems somewhat symbolic that my notebook runs out now. Either this cycle will work and our journey will finally be over – or we’ll be taking a new path with the IVF clinic.

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

Step Down Sunday – Christmas Wrapping

Step Down Sunday This week’s Step Down Sunday was nearly late, as I was so wrapped up with presents last night! I adore Christmas, but you have only to see a bin bag full of torn wrapping paper on Christmas morning to realise it’s a bit wasteful.  But as always Step Down Sunday isn’t about giving up our well loved traditions; it’s about finding new sustainable ways to do them.

One big problem with wrapping paper is that there are several reasons it often can’t be recycled (recyclenow.com):
  • It often has metallic foil, glitter or added plastics
  • Some wrapping paper is very thin so doesn’t hold many good quality fibres
  • And then there is the all the sticky tape!
First we started looking for recycled gift wrap that didn’t include these additives...but we didn’t find much. The John Lewis website claimed to have some, but when we inspected the packaging in person there was no mention of it being recycled. We decided to go back to basics and buy plain kraft paper that could be recycled (and isn’t dyed). We found Flexocare Kraft Paper at The Range and our local post office. I was quite impressed, it’s made from 100% recycled material and just a £1 a roll. It comes in two widths, so we bought several rolls of the 500mm wide (6m long) and just a couple of 750mm wide rolls for those extra large presents (2.5m roll). I quite like it plain, but if you find it a bit drab you can always decorate the paper yourself.
Kraft Paper Christmas Wrapping
Unfortunately we have a huge supply of curling ribbon, so while it’s not eco-friendly we are going to use up the ribbon we already have. In the future we hope to switch to raffia ribbon or recycled string as a sustainable alternative.

It was only while I was searching for other eco-friendly craft supplies, that I discovered there is such a thing as eco-friendly sticky tape. Cellulose tape is made from a wood pulp, so it is bio-degradeable. Turns out that unlike the US, here in the UK we have easy access to eco-friendly sticky tape – Sellotape! They even get their wood pulp from suppliers with extensive reforestation programs. (Treehugger)
The pulp is made using a process, which is elemental chlorine free and does not harm the environment. At the Sellotape factory, the hot melt coating technology we employ minimises the use of solvents. Any solvents that are used are processed through our Thermal Oxidiser and recycled with the resultant heat being used in our drying ovens.
Recyclable Gift Bag
In The Range we also found recyclable gift bags! I’m not hugely fond of gift bags, but through our extended family they do get used over and over. So while made from virgin material, these pretty bags from Tom Smith can be used several times before being recycled.
Fabric Gift Bags
Finally I made some fabric gift wrappers. I found some old material in the loft I used to use as curtains way back in University.  With a couple of quick seams I made something like a pillowcase.  It's perfect for wrapping awkward things (in this case big pair of boot slippers), which would use an awful lot of paper. We don't intend to use these with our family and friends, but the Mr & I will use them for years to come.

So there we have several ways to reduce the environmental impact of Christmas morning!

Do you have any sustainable wrapping tricks?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


15 December 2011

My Blogging CV

This week's Gallery celebrates the release of the Blogger Calendar with photos taken at CyberMummy the past summer.  I didn't attend CyberMummy, so probably won't claim a calendar - but I was intrigued by the prompt. Tara and Jay want a photo of what inspires our blog and a bit of a blog CV.

Ovulation Tests

Another Goldfish has always been about new beginnings. Previously I've written for design and shopping blogs, and as we planned to start a family Another Goldfish was intended to be a combination of lifestyle and baby products.

Unfortunately starting a family wasn't nearly as easy as we hoped. So after a year of trying I started the blog anyway, but to share the frustrations and pain of keeping our fertility problems a secret.

Probably the biggest change to the original blog concept is our recent commitment to low-carbon living, and this has been incorporated into the blog with Step Down Sunday.

My most popular post was part of the Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Campaign.

While I can't claim any accolades, I am also a regular blogger over at Emma's Diary.

Not an especially noteworthy CV, but there you go!

11 December 2011

Step Down Sunday: Eco-Felt

Step Down Sunday When looking at your carbon-footprint real Christmas trees are obviously the best option. When growing they reduce the carbon in the air and at the end of the season they can be composted or replanted.  Unfortunately we bought a new artificial tree in the sales last year. It would be wasteful to throw it away now (and I’ll admit I actually prefer artificial trees).

Since I can’t reduce my carbon-footprint with my choice of tree, I've decided to pick my new decorations carefully. One general premise suggests that we’re better making things rather than buying them. In theory we reduce things like packaging, transport costs and we also know how they have been made.

I thought I’d start with some simple felt ornaments, but it’s no good making things ourselves if our materials aren’t eco-friendly. So for the last few weeks I’ve been searching for eco-friendly felt. There appear to be two types: Wool and Recycled Polyester. 100% wool felt is quite eco, but very expensive. There is apparently a Wool/Rayon blend which is cheaper, but this may be misleading. Though Rayon is made from natural fibres, the intense process required to make Rayon is not always considered eco-friendly. Finally there is EcoFi felt which is made from recycled bottles. The bad thing is that you are still using plastic so your scraps won’t bio-degrade, but it also provides a market for recycled plastic. There’s no point in recycling our bottles if we can’t sell the resulting material to make something new.

Eco-Felt
I eventually concluded that while wool is the ideal choice, eco-felt is an acceptable alternative. After much searching I finally found a store that stocked EcoFi which is manufactured in the United States by Kunin.   Simply Sequins sells single 9x12in sheets in a wonderful range of colours for 45p each, which is quite competitive when compared to places like Hobbycraft. I've not had chance to make anything yet, but with all these colours there's so many possibilities!

Do you know of any more eco-friendly craft supplies?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


7 December 2011

Don’t tell me to relax!

We’ve finally had a turn of good luck, so when trying to conceive this month I was really rather hopeful.  It felt like things might actually be coming together, and that this could finally be our time - but just days later I suddenly started feeling stressed and anxious. At first I thought it may be related to a job interview Mr Goldfish had, but the stress never abated. So for the last week I’ve felt completely awful, my euphoria at our good luck seemed crushed by some unknown cause.  But as I began writing this post I suddenly had an epiphany; the same day as Mr Goldfish’s interview a well meaning woman told me the best way to get pregnant was to relax.

I realised that I’d subconsciously bought into the “relaxing” myth. It doesn’t help that the only time I did get pregnant was while we were on holiday...but it was also our first cycle of Clomid (and the only cycle of Clomid I took before losing my right tube). There were plenty of other reasons why that cycle could have been successful, yet I forgot all that.  Instead I focused on how I was ruining our chances of conceiving by being unable to relax!  As soon as I realised that my stress has very little to do with our fertility, it felt like a band suddenly loosened around my chest. For the first time in days I could breathe freely.

In 2010 they did a study that compared the cancer survival rates of different personality types. It showed that whether you’re a grumpy or upbeat, you attitude doesn’t affect the cancer.  This probably seems obvious to you, but think of how many times you’ve heard someone say that “the best way to fight cancer is with a positive attitude!”

It sounds innocent enough, but really it’s insidious - what it suggests is that we have the ultimate control over our bodies. Research has found that rather than help people, all these comments do is make those dying from cancer feel guilty. They feel like they are responsible for their own deaths because they couldn’t be positive enough.

We all have our own coping mechanisms; people like me are always happy and cheerful on the surface, others are quiet and stoic, still others get angry or depressed.  These attitudes are as much a part of us as our hair colour.  (You can change your outlook a bit, just like you can dye your hair - but I suspect it still peeks out from underneath.) I’m often commended on being cheerful in spite of my health problems, but it’s not like I have any control over it – it’s just who I am.

So why do we believe this idea that relaxing will help us conceive? It seems to be a bit advice left over from the 1940s and 1950s when infertility was a complete mystery.  I realise that being less stressed in general is better for your health, but it isn’t a fertility barrier. There are plenty of people who get pregnant while in stressful jobs or during difficult times - so why do people assume that ‘relaxing’ will get me pregnant? Like the case above, it just suggests that somehow our infertility is my fault - that if I could just be less anxious then I’d have a baby by now.

I’m so glad to have this weight finally off my shoulders, as I suspect it’s been lurking at the back of my mind.  If I hadn’t realised the illogic of the situation going into IVF would be much worse. There’s no way I’ll be able to face my needle phobia everyday for months without feeling stressed. So now I can finish this two week wait with a sense of peace – it will work or it won’t – no matter how I’m feeling.

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

4 December 2011

Step Down Sunday - Eco-friendly Cats

Step Down Sunday One big contributor to your carbon footprint is your pets. Much of it comes from their high meat diets, but there are still things we can change.

We started by looking at the cats’ litter tray.  Since Mac had his stroke he’s had trouble getting through the door of our covered litter tray.  For the moment we’ve removed the cover, but the litter is being kicked everywhere. The tray is about 10 years old, so we decided it was reasonable to get a replacement.

After a bit of searching we found the BecoTray – an eco-friendly litter tray.  They take bamboo and leftover rice husks and grind them into a fine powder. The powder is then mixed with a biodegradable resin and pressed into a hot mould. This makes the BecoTray sustainable to produce and when in a warm damp environment  (like a compost heap or when buried in the ground) the tray biodegrades in just 2-3 years. The result feels something like Bakelite - heavy & strong but it doesn't have the flexibility of plastic.

Beco Cat Litter Tray

We did have some problems with the first tray they sent out, as the pieces wouldn’t fit together. There was then some confusion with the delivery company who were suppose to collect the old tray and deliver our new one, but Brands by Nature also sent us a Beco Litter Scoop for our trouble.

So now we have our eco-tray, we started looking at the litter itself. Though a natural material, the clay for clumping litters is often produced by strip mining, which is considered an environmentally degrading process. But there are a few eco-friendly cat litters available that use recycled paper, wood pellets or vegetable matter. In the end our decision was partially influenced by where we could buy the litter from. We found most of the eco-friendly litters were available online, rather than in high street shops. So instead of paying for shipping every few months, we decided the cat litter could help us qualify for free delivery from Ocado (but more on Ocado another week).

We finally chose Natural & Clean Cat Litter, which is 100% biodegradable, flushable and compostable. It’s made from depleted barley (after the edible part has been removed) and is natural and sustainable.  It also has a patented odour control formula that uses natural ingredients. We're still using a 50-50 mix of the new litter and our old litter while the cats get used to it, but so far we're quite happy with it.

Now we just have to figure out if we're allowed to add the used litter to our green bin for composting!

Can you make any eco-friendly changes on behalf of your pets?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


30 November 2011

Emma's Diary

You may have noticed recently I've not been writing much about our struggle to conceive and there are two big reasons. The first is that there isn't much to say. We're slowly working our way through the Clomid and have one more cycle to go before we can be referred for IVF.

The second is that I'm one of Emma's Diary's new bloggers (you may have spotted the badge on the right), so much of my infertility angst has been vented over there instead. (I thought you might like a break from it!)
If you would like to catch up on my posts there:
Right now it's some stupid time in the morning because I can't sleep. Yet again I'm being taunted by my irregular cycle length and early spotting. Yesterday morning I had enough spotting that I thought my period would be starting in the next couple of hours. Instead it's disappeared completely over the last 48 hours. As each hour passes my hopes get higher and higher.  Even though I'm sure this has happened before, I'm suddenly thinking forward and making hopeful plans.

I'm now wondering when to try a pregnancy test. I get the impression that most women test early with the hopes of getting a positive result. I've realised I tend to test early so I can get the bad news sooner, to squash my hopes before they become painful. So do I test in the morning (Day 27#) or do I wait till Thursday? How much pain will that extra day cost me if I get the expected negative result?

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Update:  I gave in and took the test. Negative as expected.

27 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Organisation

Step Down Sunday It feels like the last few months have run away from me, and I was struggling to think of any note worthy changes we’d made - but I realised it’s not just the big things.  We're trying to change the way we make decisions and the way we approach problems - I suddenly realised I had an example of that.

This week I’ve been quite desperate to organise my desk drawers, specifically I wanted something to corral my pens so I don't have to search through the whole drawer to find one.

I was nostalgically recalling some plastic drawer dividers I used to have as a teenager that would have been perfect, so I started searching the internet for a suitable replacement. I did find this set from Lakeland which is quite similar and I was sorely tempted, but besides being a bit expensive for a bunch of plastic trays, I couldn’t help thinking it was also rather wasteful. Surely I should be able to find a cardboard box that would work?

Most of the boxes I found were much too big, but I remembered I had an empty Kleenex box upstairs. I was a bit dubious that it would work, but I’d give it a try. As I left the room with my reclaimed box I spotted a forgotten gem. Two years ago I was given a Cath Kidston umbrella, which came in an equally pretty box.  So pretty in fact the empty box has been sitting on my dresser ever since – and it’s the perfect size for pencils! I snapped it up and dashed back downstairs.
Cath Kidston Boxes
This box was just what I was looking for - it’s strong, durable and attractive. And even better because the box has a lid I get two matching trays for my drawer!

It’s not exactly impressive, but by resisting the easy plastic option I found I had the perfect solution right under my nose. I just needed the time to think of a better solution (though being a bit of a packrat also helped!)

Have you made come up with any creative eco-solutions recently?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


23 November 2011

The Ministry of Books

Quaker Faith & Practice
If I lived in a hypothetical world where I could only keep one of my books, I’d have to choose Quaker Faith & Practice. Faith & Practice is a collection of passages from Quaker writings that give advice and help explain what Quakers believe. It’s one of those books which always has something to offer whenever you open it.

Most meeting houses will have at least a few copies hiding on their shelves. Often when I go into meeting for worship, I pick one up and let it fall open randomly.  This means while I’ve read a good portion of the book, I can struggle to find specific passages.

For the last few months I’ve been searching for one of my favourite passages. I’ve searched and searched through my copy of Faith & Practise, but couldn’t find it. I’d just about given up when I went into Manchester for the mid-week worship. I picked up an old copy of Faith & Practice from the shelf and let it fall open.  Finally there was the passage I was looking for:

Quaker Faith & Practice 21.13
When we descend from our towers, and come out from our sanctuaries, and take our place in ordinary homes, and workshops, and are surrounded and jostled by our fellow-creatures, we find that our sensitive souls shrink from some of these contacts: that this man humbles our pride, and that one offends our aesthetic sense: that this woman takes our words amiss, and that one misconstrues and resents our actions. It is so much easier to feel enthusiasm for humanity, than to love our immediate neighbours.  -  Phyllis Richards, 1948

I suspect this was the book from which I first read this passage.

When a member of the meeting is moved to stand and speak, we call that ministry - and it occurred to me that each copy of Faith & Practice offers its own ministry. Over time the books become worn and well loved passages easily fall open.

If the book is owned by an individual you may find their voice within its pages, but if it’s a communal book like those found in our meeting houses – does it become something more?

I like the idea that each book has its own voice and personality, offering something different even though the words are exactly the same.

2 years, 5 months

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I am so jealous of women whose cycle runs like clockwork. Since we started trying to conceive my cycle has run anything from 22 – 30 days long. It makes that two week wait completely maddening, knowing things can start at any moment. Of course it is also affected by stress, and a bad month can short my cycle dramatically.

It looks like skipping the Clomid last month was a good idea, as this cycle has been one of my shortest at just 23 days long. Unfortunately this means our best TTC days will be right around a big nasty appeal date. After all that stress I really doubt I’ll be in an amorous mood.

While the first months can be fun, trying to conceive often begins to feel more like work as the years go by. It doesn’t matter what you have planned, if that date ends up with a big red circle around it you have to perform. So what do you do when you’ve got a pounding headache or you’d rather just curl up and go to sleep?

First we try to break the routine. We take some time for ourselves; maybe go out for dinner or a film. If you’re trying to save your pennies, you could make a special meal at home. I love sharing an intimate meal - things like tapas, dim sum, or a baked Camembert can make an easy fondue. I normally don’t drink, so even a single glass of Bailey’s can sometimes be enough to pull me out of my rut.

Another good tool can be romantic films or erotic fiction, which can act as a bit of foreplay for your mind. It doesn’t have to be a sappy chick flick either, we were surprised to find the flirty banter in Mr & Mrs Smith was enough to improve our mood - anything that can help remind you there was more to sex before you were TTC.

I’ve also found putting the effort into dressing up nicely can help. It’s far easier to feel sexy when you know you’re looking your best. (Though maybe this only works if you’re normally a scruffy thing like me.)

So there are my three tips for when TTC feels like too much work. Do any of you have some tricks I’ve not thought of yet? With a possibly long road ahead...I may need them!

This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog.

20 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Tetra Pak Recycling

Step Down SundaySince tiding up our recycling area, I’ve been looking more at what we can recycle. One point of concern has been Tetra Paks. The official Tetra Pak Recycling website would suggest there are recycling points across the country, but at least in our area the information is very out dated.

I eventually called the council after I was unable to find any of the listed recycling points. Apparently since Tesco took control of the bottle banks in their car parks, the Tetra Pak recycling containers have been removed. This means there are no collection points in our area, and there seem to be none nearby.

There is however an unusual solution. You can save up your used Tetra Paks and post them directly to a recycling centre in Somerset. (This may be slightly misleading – there are no Tetra Pak recycling mills in the UK. Instead the cartons are shipped to Sweden where there are suitable facilities.)

There is also some concern that it isn’t true recycling. Tetra Paks can’t be turned into new Tetra Paks. The Tetra Pak recycling website says the paper fibres are removed and reused while the aluminium and plastic components are combined to create furniture. I have some reservations at taking this information at face value. It’s clear that Tetra Pak are trying to sell the product as environmentally friendly – I’m not sure how interested they are in keeping the information up to date.

Tetra Paks do have some interesting environmental claims. Tetra Paks take less energy to produce than cans. They can also be formed on site, unlike bottle or cans – so a single truck can deliver a roll of nearly a million litre cartons to the factory. Once filled cartons are lighter than cans and thus take less energy to transport, plus they are more space efficient so more can fit on a truck. Finally Tetra Pak UK claims to be carbon neutral company by offsetting the carbon created during travel and by electricity.

So even if the recycling option isn’t ideal, Tetra Paks do appear to save energy across the whole product life cycle. Not to mention, Tetra Paks are nearly impossible to avoid these days. So it seems the best solution is to keep these cartons out of the landfill.
Recycling Bins 
A month or two ago I found a narrow box that would fit neatly between our recycling containers, and since then we've collected 19 cartons. Yesterday we rinsed the containers and then packed them into a bit of old Amazon packaging. Then I printed out the special labels you can find here. (The platypus tells them they can throw the box straight in the shredder.)
Packaged Tetra Paks
Mr Goldfish popped down to the post office, and it cost us £2.16 send them on their way to become something new. We wanted to post things now so we could get an idea of the cost, but next time I think we could wait longer and pack more cartons in the box which will hopefully bring down the postage cost per carton. We may also look at the boxes we're posting them in to see if we can reduce the weight.
Recycling Label

Can you recycle Tetra Paks in your area? Are there other things you wish you could recycle?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

16 November 2011

11:11 11.11.11

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Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.

Though it's a bit silly, I've always made wishes. I can't help thinking that simply having hope is more likely to make your dreams come true.

In high school my best-friend used to make a wish whenever she saw the clock read 11:11, and over the years it's a habit I picked up. Now if 11:11 is lucky, surely making that same wish on the 11.11.11, would give it an additional boost.


I wished for our luck to change.


I wished for the child we've been desperately trying for. I wished for my appeal to be approved and give us just a bit of room to breath. I wished for Mr Goldfish to find a brilliant new job. I wished for direction, purpose and faith.

I wished for everything to turn out as it should.


13 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Mooncup

Step Down Sunday This week’s Step Down Sunday is less about doing something new, and more about sticking with changes we may not be fond of. I’ve been using a Mooncup for over three years now, but it’s so tempting to give in and switch back to tampons. Despite my irritation I’m actually a big fan of the Mooncup. It’s comfortable, reliable, environmentally-friendly and saves me money.

If you’ve never heard of the Mooncup - it’s made from soft medical grade silicone. It’s placed inside the body like a tampon, but can be used for years. You just need to sterilise it in boiling water before each period. Mooncup have won lots of awards for being an ethical company and for reducing their environmental impact across all areas of the business. And if their green credentials weren’t enough, within just three months the Mooncup pays for itself. Anytime you use it after that you are saving money!
The part I’m struggling is the extra effort.  When my pain levels are high everything takes more energy and motivation.  In addition to my normal pain and fatigue, I’ve recently had horrible back pain from kidney stones and some rather nasty headaches from the Clomid tablets.  So the extra effort of cleaning the cup each time it’s emptied just makes the whole process more miserable.

One trick I’ve found that makes things easier is cleaning it with water, rather than wiping it clean with toilet paper.  If you have a sink within reach you can just run it under the tap, but if you have a separate toilet like we do taking a cup of water into the loo with you works as well. (It’s also easier to put in if it’s wet!)

I really would recommend the Mooncup to anyone, but it does take some commitment to choose the non-disposable option.


What eco-friendly changes do you struggle with?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

9 November 2011

Life Still Goes On

When you’re trying to conceive, especially over a long time, it’s easy to forget that normal life keeps going.  You can become so obsessed with tests, doctors appointments and schedules, that nothing else seems important.

We’ve had a tough year, and not just from a fertility point of view.  We had the ectopic pregnancy rupture in March, but we also had: our car broken into, the same car damaged again - just a week after it was repaired, we’ve had a couple of stressful weeks waiting to see if I had cancer, and finally we thought our pet cat was going to be put down.  That would be more than enough stress for anyone, even if we weren’t trying to start a family.

Last month we just pushed through all the stress, trying to keep to our TTC schedule.  We ignored all the additional problems and worries, as if they weren’t taking their toll.  Never giving ourselves the time to rest and regroup.  You get so used to holding your breath and blindly moving forward; hoping that everything is going to be all right next month, you forget that it’s okay to stop and breathe a moment.

So this month we decided to give ourselves a break.  We’ll skip the fertility drugs and the tests and instead we’ll try to recharge our energies.  I’m not sure four weeks is really long enough, but hopefully it will give us a new perspective.


This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog

6 November 2011

Step Down Sunday - Christmas Presents

Step Down Sunday We're running a bit late this year and have only just started our Christmas shopping.  So this week we've been trying to buy eco-friendly presents for our nieces and nephews. We've found it surprisingly difficult to stick to our goal - several times we've been on the verge buying into the high street offers and presents. In the end I think we've done pretty well, finding presents that are better for the environment without feeling sanctimonious.

I immediately noticed that there are virtually no eco-friendly presents for older children. We also have an added difficulty in that we don't want to give presents with a message. It's been our choice to reduce the environmental impact of our lives - not theirs, so we need to find presents that will still appeal to mainstream kids.
The youngest were obviously the easiest, for my two year old nephew we've purchased a wooden train set by BigJigs. Though wooden toys are often lauded as being eco-friendly (and probably are better than plastic), it is quite difficult to determine if they are made from sustainable wood.

For my four year old niece we've ordered a cute monkey made from organic cotton and sustainable rubberwood by I Love My Planet.  We plan to pair this adorable critter with a pair of Curious George books to give him some additional mainstream appeal.

Our next nephew is eight years old an I'm afraid here we've come up rather short.  Though we've not purchased it yet, we think we're going to buy Lego.  Though made from plastic, it's a toy that lasts for years and rarely gets thrown away.  So while not being eco-friendly itself we're going for something that lasts a long time and gets passed on and reused.

Finally my eldest niece is eleven years old and luckily has developed an interest in painting. After days of fruitless searching for eco-friendly craft supplies I found the Bird Cafe Kit by The Little Experience a UK based company. I'm a bit dubious that the kit includes disposable painting trays and such, but it seems highly recommended by several eco-stores.

I think we've done well to resist the easy options so far, but as we move on to the adults I think it will be much harder.


Do you have any eco-friendly present suggestions?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

3 November 2011

Halloween

Halloween snuck up on me this year. When I opened the door to find cute trick-or-treaters on my door step, I thanked my propensity for forward planning and dashed to the pantry for the large bags of Monster Munch I’d bought weeks before in anticipation.

Normally I find Halloween in the UK disappointing. The stores may import more and more Halloween products, but it just doesn’t have the same meaning and experience. Halloween is a community event in Canada. Virtually everyone participates and it’s an opportunity for creativity, sharing and includes people of all ages.

Little Witch

I believe this was my first Halloween costume. Mum made my costume and dressed me up as a witch - even going so far as to give me fake warts! My next costume was an infamous bunny rabbit. Again it was home-made and it was a brilliant costume for the Canadian autumn. You could fit jeans and extra layers under the costume for warmth and it even had built in mittens! However my mum was rather sneaky and put the biggest turn-ups you’ve ever seen on the legs. It left plenty of room to grow, and after wearing the costume for few years I was sick and tired of being a cute fluffy bunny.

Bunny Rabbit


Since then I’ve worn many costumes over the years from a shiny mermaid and fiery fairy to a creepy grim reaper – even a rather embarrassing Star Trek uniform, but after moving to Britain I’ve pretty much given up on the holiday. So imagine my surprise this year!  We had about fifteen trick-or-treaters, all in proper costumes and often with their parents.  They were all polite and cheerful - and it felt just like being back home! I suddenly remembered the magic and excitement I used to feel as a child.

I may have been the one giving out snacks, but I think I received the best treat of all. 

30 October 2011

Step Down Sunday – Seasonal Veg

Step Down Sunday
One of our big goals is to reduce the carbon-impact of our food. Now that we’re shopping in the local farm shop each week, we have more opportunity to eat seasonal veg. Seasonal vegetables can be grown locally, so there are fewer transportation miles. A significant portion of our carbon footprint is created by shipping food half-way across the world so we can eat it all year round.

I'll admit this all sounds good in theory, but to be honest I’m not really that adventurous when it comes to food.  Growing up we’d eat potatoes, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, celery, iceburg lettuce, and green beans.  I’ve stretched myself out to chickpeas, cauliflower, and all types of lettuce, but beyond that I tend to struggle.  It’s not that I don’t want to try new things, I just don’t know what to do with them most of the time. 
little-gem
So I was thrilled when we discovered how easy it is to cook Little Gem Squash!  One gourd is the perfect size to split between two people, and you can store them in the cupboard for about a month.  It’s so easy to prepare I thought I’d share the recipe:
Little Gem Squash 
  • Wash the outside of the squash.
  • Then use a heavy knife to cut the squash in half.
    (Mr G. has finally found a use for our cleaver!)
  • Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
  • Trim off the stalk and base to they’ll sit flat on your baking tray.
  • Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  • Roast at 200°C for 40 minutes
IMG_8560
That’s it!  Just pop them straight onto your plate.  The rind acts as a bowl and you can easily scoop the flesh out with your knife & fork.  A perfect side dish for these autumn months, Little Gem Squash are an easy and tasty addition to you meal.


Do you have any seasonal veg recipes?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.


24 October 2011

End of a Dream?

IMAG0107
Once the relief of not having cancer had worn off, I started looking at the path ahead.  We have two cycles of the Clomid left, but I don’t hold much hope in that now. Suddenly IVF feels like it’s looming over my future, and the prospect is so much more terrifying since that needle biopsy test I had to check for cancer. 

See when I was a very young child I had an allergy scratch test done, twenty-five needles in my back. It may not have been so bad, but the nurse would only do one or two at a time before disappearing to answer the telephone. She dragged the process out so long that I’ve been traumatised ever since. 

Unfortunately facing my fear doesn’t make it any better.  This year alone I’ve had more than 15 blood tests, 7 injections, 2 biopsies and that doesn’t count anything that happened when I went into hospital.  Whatever strength and reserve I had for facing my fears is feeling thin and fragile at the moment. 

To go through with IVF you’re committing to injections every single day, with additional blood work just for fun.  I have no idea how I long I could face that without suffering a complete anxiety breakdown.  Even though our health trust pays for two cycles, I suspect I’ll be lucky to make it through one.  So with Clomid looking futile and IVF looking doubtful, last week I started looking into adoption.

After reading several websites, it seems like there’s no point in even applying.  One site was looking for people with lots of extra energy, so my chronic pain & fatigue excludes me.  Another suggested that they excluded those with a history of mental health problems because the process is so stressful.  Others implied you’d only be able to adopt if you’d take siblings or disabled children, which I would love to do, but the a fore mentioned pain and fatigue makes that prospect even more daunting.  And of course you’d have to wait a year after completing your medical investigations into infertility before even enquiring.  Oddly enough it sounded like having IVF was a requirement before you could apply - simply deciding not to have it didn’t sound like an option.  I understand these rules are in place for a reason, that logically they are trying to offer the best opportunities for the children in their care, but it does leave me without hope.

Suddenly I feel at the end of our journey.  I know there is still a sliver of a chance in the Clomid and IVF, but I no longer believe in it.  And I don’t know how to continue through the process when everything feels so hopeless.

Waiting for Another Goldfish

pregnancy test

The thing I hate most in life is waiting, and it would seem that the universe is trying to teach me a serious lesson in patience.  Mr Goldfish and I have been planning to start a family virtually since we met six years ago.  At 27 years old I knew I had time, but I also knew we had to get engaged - and then married – and then I was in the process of getting kidney stones treated. (Can you imagine trying to pass kidney stones while pregnant?!)  So after two years of wistfully wandering through baby stores, I was given the all clear and we threw out the condoms!  We were so excited – for the first six months.  The months after that were harder; each one a roller coaster of hope that would lift us up and then bring us crashing back down.

After a year of trying we had reached our lowest point.  I was utterly distraught knowing that our odds had dropped significantly and desperate to find out if something was wrong.  So for the next six months we were jumping through hoops and having test after test at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.  At first Mr Goldfish’s results were a mess, which seemed to be putting us on a fast track for IVF.  Luckily loose boxer shorts and a few vitamins a day made a dramatic change, but we still didn’t get pregnant.  In January 2011 we were finally prescribed four months of Clomid, a fertility drug that increases ovulation.  If that didn’t work we would be referred for IVF in April.

I took just one cycle of Clomid before falling pregnant; we couldn’t believe it! I took four pregnancy tests just to be sure.  It wasn’t all good news though; my thyroid had suddenly turned toxic. The day I told my doctor we were pregnant my heart rate was 142bpm, nearly double the normal rate, so I was quickly prescribed a handful of tablets a day. It wasn’t good timing but the baby would be alright and that was all that mattered.

I gleefully counted the days and weeks, desperate to reach that twelve week milestone when I could finally tell our friends and family.  Unfortunately they found out sooner than we expected, at eight and a half weeks I was rushed to hospital with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.  I lost the pregnancy, four litres of blood and my right tube.  The surgery was similar to a caesarean, but without the joy of a child at the end. Now with my fertility halved we were told to wait six months while everything healed, before we could try to conceive again.  That six month wait finished this September. Since then we've tried two more cycles of Clomid without success. So that’s me, Another Goldfish, a 33 year old woman in the north-west desperately trying to start a family.


This was originally published on the Emma's Diary Blog

23 October 2011

Step Down Sunday – Radiator Valves

Sometimes stepping down is as simple as asking for help. Step Down Sunday

For a few months now we’ve noticed our radiators have been getting hot even though the radiators are turned off and our heating isn’t turned on.  We can’t really afford to call out a repairman, so we’ve been searching the internet for solutions.  Mr Goldfish has since learned a lot about central heating, but nothing that would cause this problem.

It was only when we mentioned it to my father-in-law that the radiator valves were suggested.  Apparently it’s more common for the pin in the valves to get stuck in the closed position, but in our case the heads were so old they couldn’t push the pin down to close the valves anymore. 
IMAG0176
Mr Goldfish didn’t even need tools to remove and check the heads. It turned out at least four of our valve heads needed to be replaced.  Mr Goldfish did slightly cheat on the solution.  He didn’t want to drain the system to replace all the valves, so a bit of Googling revealed that our old British Gas valves were re-branded Drayton ones so we simply bought new heads that could fit our old valves.
Thermostatic Radiator Valve Heads
So for £40 we’ve fixed the radiators and we’ll save energy and money on our heating bill this year.

Have you been making any eco-friendly changes before turning the heating on?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.