24 December 2012

Christmas Wishes

Last couple weeks I've struggled to post much, as I've felt shattered and exhausted; like someone has stolen my batteries. On top of that I've also been quite worried, but after a handful of tests we have a special Christmas surprise - our first scan!

At five weeks, that tiny dark blob is just half a cm long, but it looks healthy, strong and well placed. We're still holding our breath and crossing our fingers, but this blurry picture is probably the best Christmas present I could have this year.

I hope all your Christmas wishes come true!

Merry Christmas,


23 December 2012

Fingers Crossed

Even though we knew what to expect from IVF the second time around, we were still unprepared for the emotional extremes of the journey.

When we finished all the injections, our scans were looking good. They could see four or five follicles ready for collection. We were quite hopeful, as this was one more follicle than on our first IVF cycle.

Unfortunately on the day of the procedure, they only managed to collect three eggs - one less than last time, and of those only one fertilised. It was devastating, especially as a misunderstanding left us with the impression that the embryo wasn't of very good quality. Suddenly an IVF cycle which had been been so positive turned into a pointless exercise.

Normally they would wait three to five days before implanting the embryos, so they can select the strongest for implantation. But as we had only one egg fertilise, there was no reason to wait. So the next day we returned to the clinic. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that our embryo was actually developing well. Once fertilised the embryologists can measure the growth of the embryo by how many cells there are. By day three they generally hope that an embryo will have eight cells. On our first cycle we had one embryo with four cells and one embryo with just two. So we were delighted to learn this embryo was already six cells on day two!

Once an embryo is implanted all you can do is wait. For the last two weeks I've tried not to think about it, but this is made difficult by the Cyclogest pessaries you take morning and night to keep your progesterone hormone levels high. The daily interruptions are a constant reminder of what you are waiting for.

It also hasn't helped that actually I'm quite hopeful this time around. While I knew immediately that the previous IVF cycle hadn't worked, I've had a nagging suspicion that this time would be successful. As the testing day approached I didn't know how I would cope with a negative result. I dreaded the idea of testing and at the same time I was desperate to finally know the answer.

Yesterday was the day of reckoning:
It's wonderful to see the line so dark and clear! It's such a contrast to the faint lines we had with the ectopic pregnancy. It's still early days though, even if the IVF has finally been successful we still have all the normal risks of early pregnancy.

I suspect it won't feel real till we're past eight and a half weeks (which is when the ectopic pregnancy ruptured), but this time we should get more support. After the ectopic pregnancy the hospital told me to book in with the BEP (Bleeding in Early Pregnancy) Clinic if I got pregnant again. They'll do an early scan and make sure it's not ectopic again. We've also got a 7 week scan with the IVF clinic, at which point they'll hopefully find a heart beat.

For now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

9 December 2012

Step Down Sunday - Scruffs Eco Cat Bed

Our oldest cat, Mac, was hit by a car before he was taken to the Cats Protection shelter where we found him. We were warned his injuries would eventually lead to arthritis, and I worried our cold tile window ledge would aggravate the condition. So when I spotted a small dog bed on clearance a few years ago, I thought it was worth trying. It quickly became his favourite place.
Since Mac had his stroke last year, our other cat Pooka has become more bold - and has decided she quite likes the basket on the window sill too. For the last few months we've witnessed several skirmishes, our cats manouver for position on the window sill which has lead to some comical results. The final straw came when which ever cat had lost the battle insisted on sitting on my lap (making it impossible to type).
I decided it was time to invest in a second cat bed. While I could try making one myself, there's a risk that I'd get the pattern wrong and I'd still be using mass-market fabric and fibre fill. However I found that Scruffs make a range of eco pet beds.
The 100% recycled super-soft fleece and recycled green-fibre filling are made from post-consumer plastic bottles. The caps and labels are removed, the bottles shredded and melted down. The liquidized plastic is then formed into both fleece and filling fibres.
War is Over!

Pooka is absolutely ecstatic. When she discovered the new bed on the window ledge she purred like a motorcycle and happily kneaded for ages.

We bought the small Scruffs 45cm Eco Donut Bed which is perfect for Pooka, though Mac tends to sprawl across it. I suspect we might have been better with the Scruffs box bed design, as the doughnut shape occasionally falls down behind the sofa, but it would sit nicely on the floor. Over all I'm quite pleased with the quality and the fact it's made with post-consumer material. So if your four-legged friend is looking for a new bed it's worth checking out the Scruffs Eco Collection.

Step Down Sunday

Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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 2012

Round Two

We're now about half way through our Cetrotide IVF cycle. This cycle is different from our last, instead of suppressing my natural cycle we're trying to work with it. This time we started daily Fostimon injections the day after my period started. The nurse has tried to convince us that injecting into the thigh is more painful than into the stomach, but I'd rather chose the more painful option than face another stomach injection. The Fostimon seems to hurt more than the Menopur injections did, but pain doesn't last long.

We had our second ultrasound scan after five days of injections, and while the results aren't fantastic they were certainly more positive than the equivalent scan last cycle. Last time we were told there had been little change and the egg collection may need to be cancelled unless the follicles reached 13mm. This time around we already have one 15mm follicle and a couple of potentials. Even though we may harvest a similar number of eggs this cycle, but I'm hoping they might be of higher quality this time around.

After the ultrasound scan we started the Cetrotide injections, which stop you from ovulating until the eggs are ready for collection. The first injection was awful, it itched like mad and swelled up into a large lump. I was a bit worried I was having an allergic reaction, but the second injection only bruised. Since then the Cetrotide has continued to itch, but not nearly as bad.

Unlike the Buserelin and Menopur cycle, the Fostimon and Cetrotide injections can't be given at the same time. The Cetrotide has to be given in the morning and the Fostimon is administered in the evening. I expected this to make things even more stressful, but the first injection is so early in the morning that there's no time to anticipate it.

Though it's only been a week of injections this time around, they've felt more draining than the month we did last time. I constantly feel exhausted and fairly irritable, which I hope is just a side effect of the extra hormones.

We have one more scan planned for tomorrow, when we'll hopefully confirm the date for the egg collection. If everything goes well, we should have all the technical stuff finished by the end of next week - then we just cross our fingers and wait.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

4 December 2012

Crochet Christmas

Besides the Granny Square Blankets, I've been busy crocheting several items for our Women's Institute. We were asked to organise a stall at our local Santa Dash fundraiser for Willowbrook Hospice. While other members were making jams and fairy cakes, I decided to try crocheting a few items.
I used a few balls of colour changing wool to 'knit' three simple scarves - modelled here by George. Multi-colour wool is a brilliant choice for scarves, as it breaks up the colour without swapping and changing your wool.
I found a pattern for a Granny Stripe Blanket, which uses the same basic stitches as my blankets but worked in lines instead of rounds. This is perfect for scarves, where you decide how wide you'd like it and then continue to crochet until it's the right length.
I also made a handful of floral brooches...
and found patterns for cute Flower and Star Christmas ornaments.
They're quite quick and a brilliant way to use up left over bits of wool.
Not bad for a couple of week's work, and if they don't sell I'll just add them to the family's Christmas presents - hopefully they won't mind!

My next challenge is to finish two more granny square blankets before Christmas. What crafty things are on your to-do lists?

26 November 2012

The Cross Forever Pearl Sauvage

A few weeks ago I wrote about my new Filofax pen, but that wasn't the only pen Cross sent me. They also sent me this gorgeous Forever Pearl Sauvage
Personally, I don't think this is a pen I'd throw in my handbag and carry around with me (I'd be too worried it would get damaged, though the Forever Pearl does come with a velvet storage pouch), but it would be a brilliant choice for writers or those who keep a journal. For anyone who enjoys setting aside time write, the Forever Pearl Sauvage adds a touch of luxury and glamour.
I love the fine details and sophisticated style of the Forever Pearl. The lovely champagne finish has a patterned of rings, some of which are etched into the into the pen, adding a delicious sparkle. And I'm completely taken with the pen's silver tone accents. The central ring has a raised edge, which gives it the appearance of fine silver jewellery. The pen clip is delicately sculpted to mirror the sweeping curves of the Sauvage, and finally the pen is topped with a smooth gleaming end cap. All of these small details give the Forever Pearl a distinctive refined style.
One thing that surprised me was how narrow the grip of the pen is. Despite being a thick substantial pen, the barrel tapers quite dramatically. Personally the barrel is a shade narrower than I'd prefer, but this is less of a problem because the pen is nicely balanced. Your fingers aren't straining to control the pen.  Like the Cross Tech 3+, I found the ballpoint scratched a bit when writing, but hope this will improve with time.

Another advantage of the decorative pearlescent finish is that it doesn't show fingerprints, so it always looks it's best. If you're going to buy a high quality pen, I think it should have some personality. The pattern of rings on the Forever Pearl give it character, while retaining a professional sophistication. A feminine design without pink flowers and bows, the Forever Pearl Sauvage makes writing even a simple shopping list more enjoyable.

25 November 2012

Step Down Sunday: Christmas Postcards

For this week's Step Down Sunday I've gone back to one of my favourites - the recycled Christmas postcards. I love the simplicity of this solution, that greatly reduces the impact of our annual missives. By sending postcards we use half as much cardboard as a normal Christmas card and there is no need for envelopes. We also have them printed on recycled card, to further reduce their environmental impact.

We've been trying to complete our Christmas preparations early this year. So a bit pressed for time, I searched the web for another free Christmas printable. It took me a while to find one with a suitable message, but eventually found the one pictured above. I then popped it into PicMonkey to give it the parchment texture. This year I left the back of the cards white, as last year's grey pattern made it difficult to read (as you can see below). Instead I kept it simple, adding just a few lines for the address and the recycled message message at the bottom.

I looked around for a new eco-friendly printer, but most were well outside our price range. So we went back to Vistaprint, where with voucher codes and money back from TopCashback, we were able to print 100 cards for about £15.

There was no way we needed a hundred Christmas cards, but I've been able to sell the extras at cost to other members of my Quaker meeting. So we've been able to help others reduce their carbon-footprint this Christmas too.

Step Down Sunday

Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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.

21 November 2012

Another Cycle, Another Delivery

When I started my last period I started counting the days - and they didn't add up. When we'd last been at the fertility clinic they told us to call when my November period started, so we could book in for the next IVF cycle. By my calculations this would mean we were doing the egg collection and implantation between Christmas & New Years, which seemed fairly unlikely.

There had been a lot of confusion at our last appointment in early October. This time we're not using Buserelin to suppress my natural cycle so it will be a much quicker process, however the condensed time frame seems to be complicating things. The doctor had said we should start our next IVF cycle in November, but when we were passed over to the nurse she claimed he meant to order the drugs in November and start injections in December. I did try to argue the case, however she told us November was completely booked already so there was no other option.

I really didn't want things to be delayed an extra month because the nurse was wrong, so we rang the clinic up just to check. Turns out I was right and November wasn't completely booked, so we suddenly went from another four weeks of waiting to being booked straight in for treatment - my head was spinning.
The drugs arrived last week and there's a lot less than last time. There's half as many needles, but they appear identical to those we've used before. One interesting difference is in how many boxes there are. The long thin boxes contain a single prepared syringe, while each vial of the Fostimon is boxed individually.
Now we just wait for my next period to start and two days later we should start the injections. This time around we've decided to keep the IVF a secret from our family. Trying to manage their expectations and their reactions to the bad news, added to our own struggle. There's also the suspicion that our news has been spread rather farther than we'd have liked. We've had a few unpleasant shocks as people have offered their sympathies before we've had opportunity to tell them, while others appear to be avoiding the topic at all costs. It's turned every family gathering into a minefield, never knowing who may ask the next awkward question - while also removing the opportunity to share how we're feeling. So for now we're just keeping this between you and us.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

20 November 2012

Granny Square Blanket

One reason I've been posting less on Another Goldfish lately, is that I've been crocheting like mad. I'm attempting to make blankets for all four of my nieces and nephews. I'd normally post this as a Step Down Sunday, but they've actually ended up supplementing rather than replacing the presents we'd normally buy.

Back when we were making our Dream scarf, my eldest niece and nephew watched intrigued as I crocheted my squares - my ten year-old nephew even gave it a try himself. So I thought I'd try to encourage their interest by making them some lap blankets - and I better make one for everyone.
This is my first finished blanket, intented for my eldest niece. It's not especially fancy, just a great big granny square finished with two rounds of double crochet - but I'm quite pleased with it. It's made from a lovely soft chunky wool.
I've still got a lot to keep me busy. Another two blankets are still in progress and I have a handful of smaller projects to finish before Christmas, but fingers crossed it won't be too difficult to manage.

Though they are technically adding to our carbon footprint this year, if the blankets go down well wiith the kids we may be able to consider more home-made Christmas presents in the future.

18 November 2012

Step Down Sunday - Sprig Dump Truck

One of the problems with eco-shopping is that you do much of it blind. So few bricks and mortar shops stock eco-friendly products, that you are forced to search the internet for suitable alternatives. Unfortunately a bit of clever lighting an a talented photographer can disguise poor products.

I'm afraid the Sprig Dumper Truck is one of these products. Sprig is an American company that makes toys from Sprigwood* which is a bio-composite of recycled wood and reclaimed plastic. It sounds similar to the material used in our Beco cat litter tray, so we had a reasonably good idea of what to expect.
We love many of Sprig's toy designs, but had never seen them in person. So when I spotted the Sprig Dumper Truck in my reward catalogue, it was an obvious choice. Unfortunately I was quite disappointed.

As soon as I lifted it from the box, I knew it wasn't what we expected. These bio-composites often feel quite brittle, like cheap plastic that would immediately crack under pressure rather than flexing. So we were surprised to find the Sprigwood so thin, we expected it would be thicker and chunkier and thus more durable. It's possible the plastic could be more durable than it appears (I didn't actually try to break the toy), but there are other concerns like fairly rough edges where the manufacturing moulds didn't meet properly. I also wasn't impressed by the wheels, the axle attachments are quite basic and this affects the movement. In general the product quality felt like something you'd get for under £5, which isn't what you expect when the Sprig Dump Truck generally retails for £15.

I'm hoping the Dumper Truck is just an exception in the Sprig toy range as some of their other products look really interesting and engaging. But if you're looking for eco-friendly toys this Christmas, I'd give the Sprig Dumper Truck a miss.

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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.

11 November 2012

Step Down Sunday - Eco-friendly Toys

Finally after a refreshing break we are ready to start planning our second Step Down Christmas. We've started by avidly searching for eco-friendly Christmas presents that can compete with the normal high street faire. While this is easy for babies and toddlers, it's become more difficult as our nieces and nephews get older. I was thrilled when I discovered Hape who produce environmentally friendly toys for children up to about six years old.
Hape is making a real effort to reduce their environmental impact. They've looked at how the products are made, how they are packaged, the waste they create and how their products are transported. While they are still a major world manufacturer, the holistic analysis suggests a real commitment to the environment.

The original range of toys, which includes the Mighty Mixer pictured above, focuses on wooden toys finished with water-based paints. What really caught my attention was the fact Hape are producing role-play toys in wood. When trying to find a present for my five year old niece, we felt confident that this would be comparable to the other plastic toys on offer.

However Hape are still taking things a step farther with their new range of eco-friendly bamboo toys. I'm really impressed by the clever designs, which embrace bamboo's natural properties. Often when we see bamboo it's been sliced and glued into planks, which leaves me wondering how much energy and chemicals goes into the process. Hape however are using the natural bamboo tube to form several of their toys.
The body of the Hape e-offroader is a single tube, while the front and back fenders are formed by tube segments. There are some plastic parts, but these have been designed to last - so the toys may be passed down to future generations. Toys that look fresh modern and fun, I'm sure my three year-old nephew will love this chunky toy car.

Stormy Seas we've actually bought for my nephew's birthday. (I wish I could show you a better picture, but I don't think my nephew will appreciate me opening his present early!) Made from bamboo, this is a balance game where you have to add cargo to the ship without it tipping and spilling. Though we've bought it for him, we're hoping it's something that will also interest his older sister.

Really that's the thing that make Hape Toys special, their ability to appeal despite their ethical limitations. So often we see eco-friendly products that look rough, tired and boring - there's no way we'll convince people to reduce their carbon-footprint if the products we are offering don't inspire them. I think Hape should be commended for giving eco-friendly toys a mass-market appeal.

Step Down Sunday
Have you made any Steps Down this week? Leave me a message in the comments!

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.

8 November 2012

My New Filofax Pen - The Cross Tech3

You may have noticed from my Filofax post that I have a bit of a passion for stationery, so I take my pens quite seriously. I have a huge collection of ballpoints, flares, felt tips and rollerballs from my days as a design student; when the thickness of the line, the colour of the ink and the smooth flow were so important. So I was quite excited to see Cross Pens were sponsoring BlogCamp London over the summer. I've been searching for a nice pen to fit my Filofax and hoped they might have a recommendation. After chatting with them more by email, the lovely people at Cross offered to send me a few pens to try out - two of which I instantly fell in love with!
The first is the ultimate in organisation and multi-tasking. The Cross Tech3 combines a black pen, red pen, 0.5mm mechanical pencil and stylus into a single barrel that still fits in the pen loop of my Slimline Filofax! Perfect for gadget geeks or stationery fiends, I decided to head to Starbucks (where I do most of my planning) for a test run.
Currently I keep a digital calendar and use my Filofax as a paper back-up for when my data is inevitably eaten. So with both my Filofax and iPad calendars open, the Tech 3 allowed me to flip back and forth between both mediums. I could make notes, pencil in prospective dates, highlight changes in red and pick out events on my iPad without switching pens.
For a multifunction pen the barrel is quite slim, but is still slightly thicker than standard. Personally I prefer this, as it means my hands are less likely to ache when writing. I also appreciate the black print-free finish, as I don't feel the need to compulsively polish it! Practical and fuss free, the Tech3+ still adds a touch of sophistication with its bright chrome accents.

To change between the pens you just need to give it a twist, and when you're finished you twist back in the opposite direction to close. This does mean you sometimes have to circle through all the writing options as there is no way to go backwards. Though it caught me off guard at first, it was something I've quickly adapted to.
Writing with the Tech3 wasn't as smooth as with other Cross pens - it seemed to scratch the paper at times and the ink flow was a bit patchy at first - but it did get better with use. I suspect they just need a bit of breaking in. My only other problem was when I needed to change the lead in the pencil.
To replace either the pencil lead or the ballpoints, you need to pull the barrel apart. The fit is so tight that I was very worried I might break the pen. I had to check the internet for confirmation before I felt confident enough to force the pen apart. Once the barrel was off it was easy enough to remove the mechanical pencil and replace the leads. While a bit distressing at first, the firm fit ensures that your pen feels solid and secure the rest of the time.
Of course if you have a pencil you're also going to need an eraser and the Tech 3 hides this beneath the stylus cap. It's here in the details you can see the quality Cross are known for. The cap screws on smoothly for a flush finish, while the plastic seal ensures it stays on securely.
An ideal companion for my Filofax, the Cross Tech3 has a sleek understated style that combines practical function with gleaming chrome accents - perfect for everyday.

1 November 2012

A Clear Path

Last week we went back for our follow-up consultation with the fertility clinic. As we stood on the damp train platform, my husband lifted an eye lash from my cheek and asked me to make a wish. At first I shook my head, with our dreams now shattered I didn’t know what to wish for... but then I closed my eyes and lightly blew the lash away - wishing simply to find the right path forward.

I normally avoid taking about the spiritual side of our IVF journey, mostly because I believe the experience is universal and applies to everyone equally, but at the same time it’s difficult to explain our decisions without acknowledging this influence in our lives.

I believe there is some greater power that guides us through life; whether you call that force fate, chance, God or a collective human conscience I don’t really mind. Whatever the explanation, I have experienced moments where I have no doubts, where I know I’m in exactly the right place and know exactly what I should do. These are the moments when I feel in step with the world and part of something larger – for me they are the spiritual experience I’m searching for.

As we finished our first IVF cycle I was overwhelmed with the knowledge we couldn’t do that again. I could find plenty of reasons to justify abandoning IVF, but mostly it was an emotional response so strong it made me feel ill. Though I didn’t know of any alternatives, I just couldn’t repeat that exact same path - even if it meant the end of our potential family.

As we sat in the consultation room, the doctor quickly realised we weren’t convinced a second cycle was the right decision. From his perspective we weren't even a difficult case, yet it still wasn't right for us. But then he offered us something different -rather than repeat the same exercise again, we could try a different drug and this time we wouldn’t use Buserelin to suppress my natural cycle. This would cut the number of injections down from thirty-one days to just ten, which also makes the whole process seem less daunting. It’s doubtful that I’ll respond better to this drug treatment than the previous one, but instantly I knew it was the right thing to do.

Even if this IVF cycle fails, at least we’ll know we tried. We won’t be left with unexplored possibilities hanging over us (something which worried my husband). I can’t really explain why a simple change of drugs has made such a huge difference, all I can say is I felt that instant recognition that this was where I needed to go. My wish for a clear path came true.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog

29 October 2012

New Ventures

I think everyone reacts differently to adversity, but when faced with life altering news - I have to be proactive and start a new venture.

When I broke up with my first serious boyfriend I took up swing dancing, earned a bartending mixology certification, went backpacking around Europe for three months and then immigrated to the UK. When I spilt up with my ex-husband I took up ballroom dancing lessons and became a cleaning fanatic.

So it’s no surprise that recently I started looking to make changes to my life. One conveniently appeared in my twitter feed. A member of our WI, the lovely @Deb_Conner, suggested starting a weekly exercise group. She even found a local fitness instructor willing to run a weight training session, so all we needed to do was turn up!

After weeks of stress eating, burning a few pounds off in an exercise class seemed like a good idea. We’ve now been to eight of these classes and though it has caused my pain levels to increase, I’ve had a lot more energy and motivation!

I’m still struggling to find a balance between protecting my hypermobile joints and using more challenging weights. As my pain levels have gone up, I’ve had to resign myself to using the very light weights. It feels ridiculous when I can see others in the group progressing, but I’m trying to suppress my feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment. I’m hoping even these light weights may help to stabilise my joints and prevent them from slipping so often.

In addition to exercise, I’ve also changed my diet. Several years ago an NHS dietician recommended I try an exclusion diet to identify any food intolerances. After a few months of testing we discovered several culprits: gluten, rye, oats, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine, peppers, dairy, Quorn, hydrogenated fats/oils and artificial sugars. When added to being vegetarian, it is rather challenging - and boring.

I’ve stuck to this diet with varying degrees of success over the years, but gave in to convenience and temptation as we’ve been fighting our way through the NHS. After two years of cheating, I’m certainly feeling the effects, so a return to the diet is in order.

The first few weeks are always the hardest, as you give up the lasting comfort of bread and potatoes. I’ve found the best way to resist is to always have a suitable snack in your handbag. My favourite is home-made Peanut Rice Krispie Squares. I’m not a fan of sweet treats, and these temper the marshmallows with extra cereal and the salted peanuts. (Though obviously the marshmallow means they aren’t actually vegetarian.)

Rice Krispie Squares

4 tablespoons margarine (Dairy-free, hydrogenated fat-free)
300 g marshmallows
7 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup salted peanuts (optional)
  1. In a large pan melt the margarine over a low heat.
  2. Grease a tray that's about 9 x 11 inches and 2 inches deep. Also grease the spoon you'll use for stirring and something like a cake slice.
  3. Add the marshmallows to the butter and stir till melted. Once melted continue to cook for the marshmallows for 3 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add rice cereal and any additional ingredients (e.g. peanuts). Mix till all the cereal is coated in marshmallow.
  5. With the spoon pour the mix out into the greased tray and use the cake slice to press the mixture into the tray.
  6. If the mix starts to stick to the cake slice you can grease it over top of the marshmallow already stuck on and continue.
  7. Any mixture left over can be put into greased ramekins.
  8. Allow to cool (they will stop being as sticky). This can be sped up in the fridge. I cut my squares apart with a large pizza cutter, but any knife will do.
  9. Squares can then be stored in a Tupperware container for around 2 weeks.

You can also try adding 1 cup of crunchy peanut butter after you've cooked the marshmallow for 3 minutes, and then continue as normal. These tend to come out very crumbly though still nice. Or you can replace the peanuts with a cup of any of the following for variety: raisins, glacier cherries, cashews, or dried cranberries.


While exercise and diet aren't huge life changes, it is at least a start - and I suppose it gives me an illusion of control in a situation when I have none.

What tricks do you have to help cope with life's disappointments?

21 October 2012

Spending Spree

One reason I’ve struggled with Step Down Sundays lately is we’ve ended up on something of a spending spree lately. In addition to buying the iPad a couple of months ago we've spent a lot of time looking for ways to spend an unfortunate windfall.
See, after the IVF failed we had to change our plans. For four years I’ve been filling in internet surveys and scanning our weekly shopping as a way to save up for things like prams and cots. You earn points for the surveys, which I’d save up and exchange for reward vouchers. I'd then use the vouchers to buy Christmas presents and transfer the equivalent cash into a ‘baby’ saving account. As for scanning our weekly groceries, we've been desperate to stop for over a year now - but the only ‘rewards’ we were interested in were high chairs  travel cots and baby monitors. We now had to find new purposes for these fund I've been saving so long.

The cash was easy to sort; the account will now pay for a trip home for my best-friend’s wedding overseas (whenever that may be). The scanning panel on the other hand, was more difficult. After several years, scanning our shopping has become more a burden than blessing. We knew we had to quit - but to do that we need to cash out.  They have a large catalogue for you to pick from, but very little of it is practical. We couldn't even find suitable present we could give at Christmas!  In the end, rather than order some reward we didn't need, we found a personal shopping experience that came with a reasonable amount of House of Fraser vouchers. The plan is to skip the horror of clothes shopping and escape to the electric department to find a replacement for our crumbling George Foreman Grill (I've got my eye on this pretty Cuisinart model).
We could probably make do with the grill we have a few more years (I think by this point most of the non-stick coating has already come off) but at least we're spending the vouchers on something we could use that should last several years.

Finally there was one more pot of money I needed to spend. When I sold my wedding dress over the summer I had hoped to spend the money on a nursery glider. Now that wasn't going to happen, I wanted to spend the money on something special. I eventually decided on a piece of high-quality jewellery, that I can wear for years and years. It turns out £300 doesn't go very far when you start looking at jewellery, but I eventually found something I love! Would you like to take a peek?

It doesn't look like much in the box, but I love the simplicity and the sparkle! The single diamond seems a fitting reminder for the sparkle and magic once found in a wedding dress. Perfect for dressing up or down, it's a piece of timeless jewellery I should get much use of.
It probably sounds quite superficial, but it has brought a sense of peace. I've taken a wedding dress that was linked with feelings of frustration and inadequacy and transformed it into a bright sparkling memory. A symbol of our marriage rather than our wedding, it is a source of joy and finally stills the turmoil from the day.

Though it's felt gratuitous after a year of minimal spending, it's also been a relief to move on; to make decisions after years of waiting and saving.

16 October 2012

BlogCamp Manchester

For more on the BlogCamp speakers I mentioned:

And if you're looking for the Facebook Tab app just search Facebook for WooBox (any of the app options is fine.)

Thanks as always to Sally Whittle and the brilliant team at Tots100!

12 October 2012

The Importance of Hope

In an ideal world, this month would mark my child’s first birthday. Unfortunately despite getting pregnant after two years of trying, the pregnancy was ectopic. Most people assume that this must have been our lowest point, but oddly it wasn't.

We discovered I was pregnant after taking our first cycle of Clomid (a fertility drug). We couldn't believe it! The line was so faint I ended up trying about four pregnancy tests, just trying to get the dark positive line I've seen on telly. Just the fact we were pregnant was such a huge achievement! That was the first positive news we had, we knew that pregnancy was at least possible. I did have a slight worry that it could be ectopic (apparently a possibility when the test line is so faint), but felt we were safely past that by week eight.

It was 11am on Friday when I felt something in my stomach suddenly move. I didn't think much of it, as it really did feel just like an IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) attack. I dashed up the stairs, but nothing seemed amiss. After waiting a while I began to feel a bit queasy and too warm. I felt something similar when I had a kidney stone a few years before, so I wasn't especially worried yet. I rang Mr Goldfish to warn him something wasn't right, but decided to wait it out.

I walked back into the bedroom and the next thing I knew I was lying down. Not sure where I was, I reached above my head and found the edge of my bedside table just inches away. I crawled onto the bed and rang Mr. Goldfish again, this time I demanded he come home. I curled up in bed to wait.

Two hours later it was clear something was wrong, but we weren't sure what. I decided to go to the bathroom again, but this time I didn't make it. I collapsed again and Mr. Goldfish was left trying to hold me up. As I curled up on the hall floor, Mr. Goldfish called the hospital for advice. As I was still talking the hospital told us to call the GP and ask for a home visit. When we called the GP they told us to call an ambulance.

I'm rather glad they did, as by the time the ambulance arrived they were already struggling to get a pulse. They brought in a wheel chair and I'm rather glad I blacked out again before we went down the stairs.

Even at the hospital they couldn't be sure what was wrong. They brought out the ultrasound machine, but by them I’d lost so much blood my insides were sloshing about – making it hard to find the tube and ovaries. In the end they also used the ultrasound to place the IV port as most of my veins had collapsed.

From my point of view the time passed quite quickly, but for poor Mr. Goldfish the three hours dragged. Finally they rolled me off to surgery and Mr. Goldfish had another long wait.

When I finally came around, I'd lost baby, the right tube and four litres of blood. The four litres was impressed upon me by the anaesthetist, surgeons and nurses. So by the time I left hospital 5 days later, we were feeling lucky just to be still together.

Though people expected us to be overwhelmed by our loss, we were actually quite hopeful. After two years of trying we’d finally been pregnant, and though it wasn't viable - it suggested that another cycle of Clomid could get us pregnant again. And we were also riding on a wave of relief after the ectopic pregnancy. Though we had faced a traumatic event, there was still the promise of hope.

In the weeks that followed, we had plenty to focus on. It took several weeks to recover, and after six months we could start trying again. We looked forward to starting another cycle of the Clomid and knew there was always IVF to fall back on.

The IVF in contrast was our last real hope after the Clomid failed us several times. Where the ectopic pregnancy had increased our chances – by proving pregnancy was possible - the IVF revealed that our chances were even slimmer than we expected, and now there is no fall back position.

While the ectopic pregnancy was difficult, we've found mourning a lost pregnancy easy compared with coming to terms with never having a child.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog

11 October 2012

Autumn Holidays

I love October, just as it turns dark, cold and miserable you get a couple of holidays to cheer you up! Well you do back in Canada at least. Granted it's hard to capture the magic of a holiday while in another country, but it's also a chance to share my heritage and traditions. 

The first in the calendar is Thanksgiving. The second Monday in October, it's a time to appreciate what you have. I can't say we hold a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. My parents are originally from Yorkshire, so the holiday was slightly adapted. When it came to dinner, Mum stuck to what she knew. So thanksgiving dinner was virtually identical to Christmas dinner - just without the crackers, cake & pudding! I'm not convinced the type of food really matters, so continue to serve steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing and lashings of cheese sauce.

Normally we'd invite a few friends or family to share our feast, but after a difficult summer we're still feeling a bit raw. Instead we decided to have a quiet evening to ourselves. It was a wise call in the end, as our simple (veggie) roast dinner turned into a comedy of errors. 

As I'd clerked the Quaker Business meeting that morning, Mr Goldfish offered to cook dinner. So after getting back later than planned, Mr Goldfish started by giving the kitchen a thorough clean - and while doing that he figured he might as well finish some of the other cleaning. Then all the peeling and preparing took longer than expected, so dinner was already running two hours late by the time we were ready to turn the oven on. 

I was in charge of making the extremely important cheese sauce. I was melting butter on the hob while Mr Goldfish fetched the flour. He popped his head around the corner and said "We can't make the cheese sauce and you don't want to know why." Turns out the plain flour I bought from ASDA a few months ago was completely infested with weevils...and they'd spread through the cupboard. After a thorough inspection we had to bin the icing sugar, a few half used bags of flour and a whole bag of golden granulated sugar! 

It was now quite late and the shops were shut, but it wouldn't be Thanksgiving dinner without the cheese sauce. So I put out a distress call and the lovely @ChouxChouxbedoo came to my rescue. One emergency dash across town to borrow a cup of flour and dinner was saved (though now two and a half hours late)!

I did manage to take a quick photo before the cheese sauce arrived on the table. I'm amazed you can't see the steam that was rolling off! We've not yet turned the heating on and our plates created a thin fog between us, but finally we had our delicious reward!

Next on the calendar is obviously Halloween. I don't tend to make a big fuss for Halloween, as it just doesn't have the same spirit over here, but when the WI suggested a pumpkin carving contest how could I refuse?

As it's so early in the year, I waited till quite late to carve my creation. I doubt it will make it to Halloween, but I want it to last as long as possible! The plan was to carve it Sunday night, but Thanksgiving dinner rather obliterated those plans. So it was bumped to Monday.

By the time Mr Goldfish got home from work I had a raging headache that paracetamol wouldn't touch. He frog marched me up to bed to sleep it off. By nine it had mostly abated, but I just couldn't face getting bundled up again to come downstairs and carve a pumpkin. With no more time to delay, Mr Goldfish was forced to be creative. Up came a large table cloth, a chopping board, a few knives, a bowl and the pumpkin. I'm amazed to say I carved a pumpkin from start to finish, guts and all - in bed without a single spill!

And this fierce fellow is the result:

I couldn't believe Mr Goldfish had never carved a pumpkin before, so I shared all my tricks - like cutting a carrot shaped notch in the lid. This makes it easy to fit the lid back on perfectly every time.

A busy weekend that brought back many memories of home, now I need to start planning for Christmas!

30 September 2012

Secret Knitting - Revealed!

You may remember way back at the end of July, I'd pulled out my crochet hooks for a secret WI knitting project. Finally after months of work (and several more squares) we've been able to reveal the surprise.

We've taken one secret location:

And combined it with a fabulous bundle of colourful patchwork!

So early Saturday morning when a band of hardy souls made a bracing 5km sponsored walk which culminated at the top of the old Sutton Manor Colliery, they were greeted by the following sight: a massive piece of guerrilla knitting to help raise money for Willowbrook Hospice.

At the last count I heard, we had about 350 squares created by everyone, from practised pros to newbie knitters. Many were knit by our WI members, but plenty of locals joined in too - and impressively we had squares sent from as far away as Scotland! The scarf was two squares deep, but we still managed to wrap the scarf around Dream an impressive five times!

I really enjoyed being involved in this project - especially the 'knit & natter' working parties where we stitched all the squares together! It was a brilliant opportunity to chat, get to know people and create something unique & original. And though I still can't knit, I'm please to say several of our members have new  knit and crochet skills!

If you live locally and missed the unveiling, I hear our patchwork Dream scarf will soon be on temporary display at the World of Glass.