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. 
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
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?

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. 
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.

17 October 2011

A Hard Week

This has been an unbelievably hard week.

It started with a long torturous wait for my test results. When the doctors first mentioned cancer I wasn’t too worried; I knew the odds were in my favour. But after a couple of days I also remember just how bad my luck has been over the last year. I had this creeping feeling that it would obliterate our last chances of having a family.
But the night before my hospital appointment we found something new to worry about – my cat started spinning. It sounds comical, but Mac was compulsively turning in tight little circles. He’d finally settle for just a moment before getting up and circling again. I didn’t know what to do.  He didn’t seem distressed, in fact he was purring like mad, loving the extra attention I was giving him. By the time Mr Goldfish got home from work Mac was perfectly fine.
Mac Window
Unfortunately it wouldn’t last, he started circling again as we went to bed. We stayed up with him until he finally settled and decided to call the vet first thing in the morning. By 6am Mac was really distressed, the circling was finally causing him trouble, as he got stuck walking around & around the scratching post. His left side was obviously weak, causing him to stumble and he wasn’t purring any more. We suspected he’d had a stroke. He was so poorly and miserable, by the time we left for the vets I was convinced he wouldn’t be coming home. I was completely distraught, crying in the vet’s waiting room.
I turns out that my lovely cat has hyperthyroidism like me. I was so relieved when we were sent home with handfuls of tablets and my friendly, cuddly cat safely tucked in his basket. He’s still not feeling brilliant, but he’s come on leaps and bounds since that night!

Oh, and those cancer tests? I’m all clear.

16 October 2011

Step Down Sunday - Christmas Cards

I love Christmas, but it is hard to ignore how much waste we Step Down Sunday
create this time of year.  But Step Down Sunday isn’t about giving up the things we love, but finding new and better ways to do them.

With so many friends and family overseas, I send quite a few Christmas cards. It can be difficult keeping in touch with even close friends over the miles and time zones, so Christmas cards are a way of saying that we’re still thinking of them - even if we haven’t spoken in a while.  At the same time I can’t help but see the waste in sending cards that will be thrown away after just a few weeks.

So I came up with a plan to reduce the environmental impact of our Christmas cards.  First I identified what was important: obviously there was the holiday message, but Christmas cards are also used as decorations so the pretty picture is important too.  At this point I had a clever idea which would more than half the material costs! Instead of sending a traditional card we could send Christmas postcards.  It uses half the cardboard and doesn’t need an envelope. (The envelope was another concern as not every where recycles them.)

Eco-friendly Christmas Postcards
I was a bit surprised that no one sells Christmas postcards, but I found several places where you could print your own. I choose VistaPrint in the end as they were affordable and could print on 100% recycled card. I found a free Christmas printable on the internet, added a simple Merry Christmas to the back and as a final flourish added a footnote: “This year we’re sending recycled Christmas postcards to help reduce our carbon footprint.”
I’ve been anxiously awaiting their arrival since I ordered them, and I’m quite happy with the result.  We did need to place a large order of a hundred cards, but we can use them over few years or we sell some of them at cost to other people who like the idea.

There are still ways our Christmas postcards could be improved like using paper from a wind powered paper mill or a printer who use vegetable inks, but I think this was a good start.

Do you have any eco-friendly Christmas ideas? Join the Step Down Sunday:

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.

(And if you're interested in a pack of ten cards for £2 - let me know in the comments!)

15 October 2011

Mumsnet Miscarriage Care Campaign

I’ve seen mention of Mumsnet’s Better Miscarriage Care Campaign for a few days now, but I’ve been scared of investigating more.  For me October 15 isn’t just Baby Loss Awareness Day – it was also my due date.  I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, but I’m actually okay.  It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I expected, but I’ve been wary of torturing myself unduly by reading blogs about other miscarriages when mine is still fresh in my mind.  It was only after I stumbled across VBinCatalunya’s post that I felt maybe I should add my voice.

Overall I feel a great debt to the NHS for saving my life that day.  The emergency room and critical care teams were completely and utterly brilliant.  I did have problems on the ward, but I know they were stretched and understaffed.  In general I felt most of the nurses were trying to help as best they could, and at least I wasn’t surrounded by newborns.  So all in all I’m very grateful, but there was just one episode I found very upsetting.

A day or so after the operation for my ruptured ectopic pregnancy the junior doctor came around with a form.  Because we’d lost the pregnancy so early, at just 8½ weeks, they needed to check and make sure it definitely was a pregnancy and not some type of tumour.  They needed my written consent for this because it was ‘Reproductive Material’.  I understand all this and didn’t have trouble signing the form, but the second part stopped me in my tracks.

They wanted to know if they could dispose of the material as they were finished with it, or did we want it held until all the material could be disposed of together.  Apparently a few of the tests would need slides which would take a few weeks to come back.

I had no idea how to answer this. You’ll notice that till now I’ve never mentioned the word baby.  In the aftermath of the surgery we didn’t quite feel like we’d lost a baby, as we knew it had never been viable in the first place – but this form suddenly made me question that assumption.  Should I be mourning the death of our baby?  I had images of this tiny baby that was nearly impossible to see being cut up into slides...surely there wouldn’t be much left to keep?  And how are they going to dispose of it? If it’s going to be thrown in an incinerator with other biological matter does it matter if it’s kept all together?  I assume they ask because people feel it’s a life or a child, but if you think that way wouldn’t you want to bury it, not just let some stranger dispose of it?  But that wasn’t an option I was given. 

I felt like I was being faced with a huge decision I might regret forever. Not to mention it wasn’t just my baby, it was our baby.  I was being asked to make a decision that was obviously desperately important to some people - without my husband’s input.  I suspected he’d take a scientific rather than spiritual approach to things and say they could throw bits out as they were finished rather than spend extra effort trying to keep it all together...but I didn’t know that for certain. 

By this point I’d started thinking out loud a bit to buy myself some time.  Logically I didn’t see how keeping our ‘reproductive material’ together was going to make a difference, but I wasn’t being asked for a logical answer. I was being asked to make an emotional decision I was completely unprepared for.

As I stared at the form the doctor said ‘Just pick which you prefer, it doesn’t matter which.’  And I thought...If it doesn’t matter why are you asking me?  If it makes no difference couldn’t you keep all ‘reproductive material’ together till disposal rather than blindside women who’ve already had a traumatic experience?  In the end I decided to have the material kept together.  I felt like I might be being silly, but at least I couldn’t regret my decision. 

While I’m sure they were trying to be helpful with these forms, I felt like I’d had an emotional rug pulled from underneath me.  I don’t understand why I needed to make an immediate decision, why I couldn’t have my husband’s support in making this choice, and why they needed to ask these questions in the first place if it ‘doesn’t matter’.  Instead they set off an emotional upheaval where I had to question my own feelings and wonder if I was a bad person for not mourning a child we'd never had.

I don't think I'm ready to read other people's stories yet, but @mmelindor is hosting a blog hop over at Salt & Caramel and I'm sure she'd love your support.

10 October 2011


This week Sleep is for the Weak asked us to think about collections.  I’m afraid feel a tad guilty about my collection, see I have a passion for tableware specifically Emma Bridgewater china. It’s a bit unquakerly to buy things just because they are lovely, but at least these are practical.
In fact there are several reasons to love Bridgewater china, it’s hand-made in Stoke so there’s very few transportation miles. It supports British workers and designers, and even though it’s expensive - it means the cost hasn't been artificially reduced (often at the cost of the planet or foreign workers).  And finally because it’s collectable it should always have value. It’s not the type of product that will end up in the rubbish; instead it can be sold or passed on to someone else who will love it.
I’ve received most of the pieces as birthday, Christmas and anniversary presents.  I love the bold patterns and how they can be mixed and matched.  While they aren't our everyday tableware, I love any excuse to bring them out and they've become a traditional part of our Thanksgiving dinner! I still feel a bit guilty about my Bridgewater collection, but I try to remember just because something is expensive doesn’t actually make it bad.

9 October 2011

Step Down Sunday - Farm Shops

Step Down Sunday
A lot of reducing our carbon-foot print seems to be dependent on how we spend our money.  Currently food is the biggest regular purchase we make (ignoring bills). We’re hoping that by changing the food we buy, we can reduce things like transportation miles, excess packaging and buy more organic produce.

I was surprised to learn that buying organic actually reduces your carbon-footprint.  I’d assumed since it doesn’t maximise the number of crops that can be grown in a field that it would be seen as wasteful.  In fact organic farming helps trap carbon in the soil keeping it out of our atmosphere.  (For anyone who thinks that sounds alarming: CO2 is naturally found in the earth and is part of the CO2 lifecycle, but recently the proportion in the ground has dropped while a greater proportion is now in the air).

One of the easiest ways to make an impact is to get out of the supermarkets.  We’re very lucky that there are a few farm shops within about 3 miles of us. First we visited Red Bank Farm Shop.  When you arrive you can easily forget what you came for as you park in front of several aviaries.  It seems that a local bird of prey company, Hawks R Us, also runs from the site, specialising in weddings where a barn owl delivers your wedding rings. (I could not make this stuff up!)  But, if you can pull yourself away from the birds, you find a small charming farm shop. 
Red Bank Farm Shop

Our main disappointment was that Red Bank Farm primarily focused on meat.  As I’ve been vegetarian since I was fifteen and Mr Goldfish gave up meat in January for environmental reasons, this isn’t very helpful.  They did however sell some Chinese sauces which might be useful.
Kenyon Hall Farm Shop
Kenyon Hall Farm Shop

Next we tried Kenyon Hall Farm, which was exactly what we were looking for.  A combined pick-your-own farm and farm shop, they had a wonderful range of vegetables and staples.  They carried a huge range of Suma products!  If you’ve never encountered Suma, they are ethical and environmentally friendly specialists in Vegetarian, Organic, and Fairtrade food.  There were also some brilliant creative ideas, like frozen fruit or vegetable mixes you could buy by the scoopful! 
1st: brocolli, cauliflower, bean, carrot mix 2nd: potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms & courgette 3rd: breaded mushrooms

This weekend we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and we were able to buy a brilliant range of locally grown vegetables.  There is locally grown romanesque, purple sprouting broccoli, harlequin & onion squash as well as English grown celery, carrots and parsnips.  (I can't remember where the potatoes and cauliflower were from.)  We were also able to buy fresh double cream and Dove Farms digestive biscuits for my favourite white chocolate cheesecake.  A brilliant opportunity to start buying local, our meal will celebrate both the holiday and our commitment to Stepping Down.
It will take some planning, but really I hope we’ll be able to buy a lot more of our food from the Kenyon Hall Farm Shop rather than keep giving our money to Tesco.

What changes have you made to your life to reduce your carbon-footprint?

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 October 2011

October 15th

Coincidence: It's what the universe does for fun.


So Twitter tells me October 15th is National Baby Loss day.

October 15th was also going to be my due date, before my ectopic pregnancy ruptured.

And October 15th is test day, when I should find out if the Clomid has worked this month or if I'm still not pregnant.

And just to add to the fun: It's only two days after I'll get my needle biopsy results, which have a 10% chance of coming back as cancer.

I think I'm in need a good laugh, how about you?

5 October 2011

Social Competitions

Social Competitions
I understand that companies run competitions to get your attention.  You trade your contact details for the opportunity to win something cool. But there is a new trend that is driving me up the wall.

I’ve seen more and more competitions that require you to ‘Follow’ them on Twitter and ‘Like’ them on Facebook.  Surely the point of social networks is that you can control how you interact with people. So why are companies and blogs forcing you on to both platforms?!?  It’s not like you get different information in each channel, instead you just get spammed twice as much.  After reading the same messages over and over I just feel irritated, which surely isn’t the intention.  It’s certainly not helping their brand image.

Just as an aside, I don’t even understand this constant chasing after followers.  How does it help to get followers only interested in the free prize?  Does the quality of your followers really not matter?  Does your message really go farther if no one is actually reading it?

I don’t claim to be a social media expert, so maybe I’m wrong, but personally forcing me to interact with your brand - on your terms - doesn’t make me ‘Like’ you more.

2 October 2011

Step Down Sunday - Recycling Bins

Step Down Sunday
One of our main priorities when making changes to our life is that they be sustainable.  There’s no point in making quick changes if in a few weeks we’ll give up in frustration.  We really want to integrate this environmentally friendly behaviour into our lives.  So my first project isn’t that impressive, but I’m enormously excited by it.

We’ve been recycling for years, but we’ve never found a system that works for us. First we tried using the materials supplied by our council, but that soon failed.  In St Helens we’ve been given an assortment of recycling containers that are all too big (and ugly) to be kept in the house.
·         Black Box – For Cans & Glass
·         Blue Plastic Bag – For Paper
·         Red Woven Plastic Container – For Plastic Bottles Only
·         Green Wheelie Bin – For Green Waste & Cardboard
·         Brown Wheelie Bin – For Non-Recyclable Waste


So we next tried a set of stacking containers from Tesco.  While they look reasonable, we had a range of problems with them.  First they were awkward to empty.  It took more energy to pull everything out them than it did to fill them in the first place.  Our second problem was that they only fit in the utility room.  We have a big bully of a cat who needs to be locked away while he eats.  This means that it’s a hassle to get to the recycling bins during meal times.  Instead the recycling would build up on the counters making a cluttered mess.

So now I’ve come up with a new solution with these IKEA recycling bins.  I’ve pulled out all the cleaning products from under the sink and replaced them with three bins: one for Glass & Cans, one for Plastic Bottles, and one for Cardboard.  I’ve marked the bins with electrical tape to distinguish them.  The bin hold a surprising amount of stuff, but are still easy to empty into the council approved recycling receptacles.   The final part of my plan is to build a box I’ll attach to the back of the cupboard door for those must have kitchen cleaning items. 

By making better use of my kitchen space, I’ve stopped the recycling from taking over the house.  This really is a big change for us and since I’ve been excited every time I found something to recycle!  Now we just need to reduce how much recycling we produce.

What changes have you made to your life to be more eco-friendly?

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.