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The veg box and ‘The Great British Bake Off’ have inspired me to have a crack at baking. The veg box because they sent a whole punnet of redcurrants – and what the hell else are you gonna do with redcurrants? Make jam? No.
I love TGBBO though – along with everyone else in the UK it seems! I think it is fair to say I’m not much of a baker myself, but I’d like to be – and I love watching the contestants. When we move to our new house with our much improved kitchen I have great plans for baking and cooking in general. For now, I’m stuck with a bit of a crap tiny kitchen and limited tools!! With that being said… I tried to make redcurrant muffins…
It all started with a trip to Asda and a root through the cupboards and I was able to assemble this collection of provisions:
Which once I’d weighed it all out and measured etc became this:
60g unsalted butter
175g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
120g caster sugar
1 large egg
125g fresh redcurrants
My recipe instructions were:
Preheat oven to 180°C. Butter a 12 cup muffin pan. Melt butter; set aside to cool. Sift flour into a medium mixing bowl, add baking powder, salt and all the sugar apart from 2 tbsp – reserve this to sprinkle over the muffin tops before cooking. In a small mixing bowl beat egg enough to combine yolk and white. Whisk in milk and melted butter. Add to flour mixture; stir quickly and lightly just until flour is almost dampened. Gently fold in redcurrants; be careful not burst too many of them. Spoon batter into prepared muffinpan cups, filling each slightly more than half full. Sprinkle reserved sugar over batter in each cup. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
My first little bump in the baking road was realising we don’t own a sieve for sieving flour… so I just skipped that and moved straight on to mixing everything together. This was after spending quite some time picking redcurrants off their stems – fiddly little buggers they are! I was also a bit unsure about my ‘muffinpan’ – I have two things that may or may not be ‘muffinpans’. One has 6 cups, one has 12. I went with the 12 cup one which I am now fairly confident wasn’t the right choice!! I don’t know what it is for – but it’s definitely isn’t muffins.
I’m getting ahead of myself though… once I’d mixed it all together and decanted into the not-a-muffinpan they looked like this:
My other clue to this not being the right type of pan was that I had quite a bit left over. Waste not want not though – so I bunged it into some paper cupcake cases that I found in the cupboard. At this point I should of sprinkled sugar over them – but I forgot. So that didn’t happen until they had been in the oven for about 5 minutes which was obviously a bit late! I left them in for 20 minutes and this was the result:
Not entirely muffin shaped!! Not sure all that sugar should be there either.
I mangled them a bit getting them out of the pan too – but it was all good as I went to work with the squirty frosting on a few for our dessert this evening – tasty and covers the mangeledness. Winner!
…and I bunged the rest in a box for another day:
We’ve actually just eaten the ones with frosting and while they look a bit crap, they taste yummy!!
Baking effort #1 not a total success… but not a horrible failure either. I think I could get quite into this baking malarkey…
A question I get asked a lot by other people I have met who are due to have a mastectomy / recon surgery is: “what should I take to the hospital??”. I thought it would be a good idea to just make a post here about what I found useful – that way I can give people the link and hopefully it will help someone with their preparations…
Just to clarify – I had bilateral mastectomy with immediate expander reconstruction. I’m thinking if you’re having an LD flap or Diep, or any other recon type there might be other things you’d need. Equally – if you’re not having an immediate recon at all then there will be different things to think about. this list is just from my personal experience.
So without further ado – here are the things that I found useful and actually used:
Short sleeved mens shirts from Primark (or a more expensive establishment if you fancy splashing the cash!) – I had terrible trouble finding button up PJ’s that were not long sleeve, lurid green or made of silk and stupidly expensive. This was a cheap and cheerful alternative and I was still wearing them with leggings and a vest top as my go-to outfit a few weeks after surgery. Comfy, cheap and you can pretend it is a fashion choice a la the “boyfriend look”.
Shorts – again from Primark and for wearing under the shirts / in bed.
Big pants – for wearing under the hospital gowns.
Other comfy PJ’s and a nighty from M&S. Made of really soft material and very stretchy so easy to put on. The nighty / minishirt has buttons down the front too. Links:
Those PJ pants and top are SUPER comfy. I’m going to get more just because I like them!!
Slippers / crocs / flip flops – anything you can slip on / off easily.
Cordial / squash – nicer than drinking water all the time.
Lip salve – I got very dry lips for some reason.
Obviously washing stuff – but particularly those feminine wipe things and wet wipes for freshening up.
Puzzle books and pen – easy ones though!
Easy to read book / audiobooks if you have MP3 player.
Mobile phone & charger.
Other stuff that are not exactly ‘must haves’ but might be helpful:
I had a private room but if on ward I’m thinking earplugs would be a must.
I had drains either side and just put them in a plastic bag once I was up and about – but I know some people take a shoulder bag to put them in instead.
I did not wear any type of bra thing till about 2 weeks post surgery. The ones I started wearing first though (sometimes!) were the comfort style from Asda:
The do bandau ones in that style as well – or these lacy ones which are a bit prettier! Not sure how much use they would be if you need support on one side – but they are working well for me:
All of these have a small amount of padding which hides my scar marks / lack of nipples – all are easy to step into to pull on as well. 9 weeks on I am actually now alternating these with normal underwire bras… or just no bra at all.
…and I think that is it. Hope this helps someone somewhere!!
Well that was quite a long break from blogging! Normal service should now be resumed…
I have a lot of things to update about but the first thing I want to do is introduce you to a new friend of mine. He doesn’t look like this any more – but he did when he first arrived:
Altogether now: Awwwww!!!
This is Albie – short for Alberic which means “Elf or magical being, power” because frankly, I felt I needed a bit of elven magic in my life. He arrived into the world on May 1st 2013 and came to join us 8 weeks later. He is my “I’ve had chemotherapy and quite hardcore surgery and I need a little friend” kitten. I have been taking some little videos of him since his arrival and if you care to, you can see how much he has changed already here:
I love him – he can be a little nightmare whirling dervish at times but he can also be a lovely cuddle monster and a ton of fun. Unfortunately our resident old lady cat does not agree and would prefer it if he would stop waving his paws in her face and pouncing on her tail – but I’m hoping they’ll work things out eventually! He absolutely loves her and trails around behind her all the time – which usually ends in quite a lot of swearing on her part. Not once has she used claws to tell him off though – to her eternal credit she just hisses / growls and gives him a slap. Most of the time she just waves her paws at him and doesn’t even make contact. When he is calm she is fine – but poor love is deaf so when he starts stalking her and leaping up unexpectedly it is a bit of a shock!
So far he has been to the vets a couple of times and had all his jabs. I’ve not let him outside yet and have bought a little harness so I can take him into the garden etc supervised initially. He is certainly not sensible enough to be let loose on his own yet! I think he is quite smart and he is into everything so I can imagine him getting into all sorts of scrapes in the big wide world. He was a bumbling little thing when he first arrived but now is leaping all over the place and likes to practice his balancing on the back of chairs. He has been good as gold in terms of toilet training – used the litter tray perfectly from day 1 and has recently progressed to a bigger enclosed poo house. He hasn’t quite got the hang of the swing door yet though – we’ve had to take that off till he’s a bit bigger.
His favourite toys at the moment are:
– his scratching post / tower thing – http://www.petsathome.com/shop/climb-and-hide-lookout-by-pets-at-home-79907
– a little plastic doodad called ‘kitty boink’ – http://www.boinks.com/our-products/kitty-boinks
– this 3 in one extravaganza – http://www.petsathome.com/shop/cheese-chase-3-in-1-cat-toy-by-petstages-15058
So that is Albie – my cat in progress aka: Kitten Schmitten / Albie the Dinosaur / Mr Magoo… we seem to have a habit of giving our family members a number of aliases!! I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of him in the future…
It didn’t entirely go to plan – but what “had to be done” has indeed been done. Old boobs that were trying to kill me replaced with new foobs (fake-boobs) in the making. There was a bit of a scary horrible complication which I will get into in a bit and I’ve ended up in a rather feeble state, but it got done and I am finally home again. Hurrah!
So… how did it all go down? Let me tell you… sorry this might be a bit long and there won’t be any pictures!
Wednesday 29th May –
My check in time at the hospital was 11am so I got up in the morning, had a shower and faffed around packing my things until 10:20ish when we set off. I was allowed to eat till 07:30 but I didn’t have any breakfast on account of still being in bed and feeling a bit sicky and nervous anyway. Last drink of water was at 10:20 – and it was quite some time till I got to have another one. arrived at the hospital in good time and got taken up to my room quite quickly. Luckily I now qualify for private healthcare at work so was at a Spire hospital which I’m sure was a much nicer environment that the NHS ward would have been. I would have had the same surgeon etc but I appreciate privacy and nurses who are not run off their feet! So we were settled in and told a nurse would come to do the paperwork / pre op observations, then I’d see anesthetist and then my Surgeon Mr Smith (who we will be calling Smithers from now on) would come to do the consent forms and mark me up for surgery. I was the only person Smithers was operating on at the Spire that day but he was at the multi-disciplinary clinic at the NHS hospital that morning so basically – once he arrived it was a go. Originally they said they expected him about lunch time and maybe I would go to theatre around 13:30 / 14:00.
The nurse came and did the requisite pulse / blood pressure checks and another lady went through my forms and dished out the anti-embolism stockings / gown. At some stage I put them on – I can’t remember if it was before or after anesthetist came in. Before I think – but they let me keep my normal clothes on for quite a while which was a nice difference to when I had my other two ops at the NHS hospital. Straight into your gown there – which isn’t very comfortable. Anyway, we were waiting and waiting and as 14:00 approached and Smithers hadn’t arrived yet I was getting a bit stressed. They didn’t know where he was and couldn’t get hold of him. I started worrying that he wasn’t going to turn up at all – but the nurse said it would definitely be happening that day and knowing him as I do – I should have expected him to be late. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s great – it’s just that he likes to give people the time they need and I’ve been told he’s known for taking his time over surgery too as he wants everything to be as perfect as they can be. Good attributes in a Surgeon / Consultant I think – but it does mean he’s always late! Not once have i felt rushed by him though – and I’m sure I’ve overran on the alloted time at some consultations. As he had a clinic in the morning I’m sure he was giving other people the time they needed to talk things through. I do wonder about those people – they won’t have known he was heading my way to do an operation that perhaps they are considering too. I’ve been to those clinics and it never occurred to me that he would be operating in the afternoon. Man works hard.
We just sat in the room and had the news on the tv while we waited. M got some drinks from the machine and went on about how nice the tea was… even offered to get me one before remembering I was nil by mouth and realising I probably didn’t need to hear him raving about PG Tips! The news was mainly about the suspected abduction of Georgia Williams (can’t seem to find a report from 29th May) and the trial regarding Mark Bridger / April Jones . I did think to myself that although I wasn’t having a good day – at least I wasn’t involved in any kind of abduction / murder so things could be worse!
Anyway, we saw Smithers arrive in his car with about 400 files at about 14:30 I think and then there was a flurry of activity. Anethetist rocked up and did her bit. She was very nice – explained what would happen and checked out my airway etc. All stuff I was used to from the other ops. As much as I wish I didn’t have two pointless operations last year it did mean I wasn’t nervous just about having ‘an operation’ or the anaesthetic and was familiar with the process. I think that probably helped – although I didn’t feel too nervous anyway. I was back in the surreal world of “is this really happening??!”. It was not long then until Smithers arrived with his ruler / marker pen and consent form. We confirmed what surgery was being done and I signed the form. He then spent quite a while measuring and drawing on my boobs with marker pen – another surreal experience. He took a couple of pictures (boobs only) before and after and then I had to turn the gown round the other way and just wait for the nurse to come and collect me to take me down to surgery. She arrived quickly and I was on the table in the anaesthetic room on the dot of 13:00 having kissed M goodbye. I did feel nervous now and hate the time between them hooking you up and putting you under as I am not great at small talk at the best of times. One of the nurses / assistants did start saying how “there is no better man” than Mr Smith though which I suppose is nice to hear at that point and is something I’ve been hearing a lot from a lot of different people. There was a bit of a wait as the actual anesthetist said she didn’t realise I’d arrived and was thinking it was taking a long time – I’m sure we walked past her on the way in but never mind! She started the process off with something that just made me feel a bit high and I remember them saying to think about something nice – all I could come up with was swimming with Dolphins and M in Florida but really I was thinking “oh shit, here we go!” so it wasn’t quite the nice relaxing feeling a remember from the last fe GA’s I’ve had to be honest.
Next I knew I was waking up in the recovery bit and felt like absolute hell. There was a clock on the wall and I think it said 20:00… I was in quite a lot of pain and felt very sick. They gave me a bit of water and then I was sick – and I actually found the sickness surprisingly upsetting. It completely took me back to my FEC induced vomiting and my brain panicked a bit because that was so horrendous I never want to feel like it again. They gave me more pain killers and some anti-sickness and I remember saying I didn’t want Ondansetron because it’s rubbish and makes you constipated or anything involving steroids. I really do hate steroids!
I was in the recovery bit for quite a while and at some point Smithers was there and said it had gone well. I don’t entirely remember seeing him but I do remember hearing him say that. Went back to my room at about 21:30 where M was waiting for me. I had the oxygen tubes in my nose and still felt very wonky. It was completely different to waking up after the shorter WLE operations last year where I was pretty lucid and went home the same day. I’d had some opiate based painkillers and all I remember is telling M about being sick. I’m not sure what time he left to be honest. Spent the night having observations taken at least every hour and things injected / administered. It wasn’t very restful! The nurse did take the oxygen out at some point which made things more comfortable. I did have to have a wee in the night which meant using the commode which is obviously lovely – but I was pretty pleased not to have a catheter. Neither M or I can remember if it was that evening or the next morning that they moved the canula from my hand to the crook of my arm. My veins are absolutely hopeless and when they tried to put in the IV antibiotics it hurt like hell so had to be moved. This was to be an ongoing theme… I actually have a new found appreciation for my chemo PICC line. The chemo nurse was damn right – my veins would never have coped with chemo via a canula.
Thursday 30th May –
So that night was a bit rubbish but I felt a bit brighter the following morning although still in pain. I had a blood test taken and various pills and breakfast arrived at 7:30ish. I had a little bit of melon and toast – as I had come back late and felt so sick I had not had anything to eat the day before and I’d had no breakfast either so you’d think I would have been starving but i really didn’t want very much. M visited early and then went off to work and I was just in my bed. The food lady came and I ordered a ommelette for lunch and chicken wrap for dinner. After breakfast a nurse came and gave me an injection in my stomach (tinzaparin – thins the blood / helps with circulation) helped me have a wash and I went to the loo for a wee and braved looking in the mirror. It wasn’t very pleasant seeing my mangled form but it was as expected and I managed not to have a crisis. The nurse started asking about my cancer and if it ran in the family and then said “do you mind talking about this” and for once I said I’d prefer not to. It just isn’t a very cheerful story and I didn’t really feel up to explaining it all and chatting about chemo. It might be interesting for other people but it’s like re-living it all the time which is a bit rubbish. I felt a bit bad though as she came back later and said sorry and did the “do you feel depressed” / “we’ve got people you can talk to” thing… so then I did end up having to talk about it all a bit and explain why I didn’t want to talk about it and how I thought my mood was a pretty standard response to a shit set of circumstances…
They kept asking about my pain and was it moderate / severe etc and I discovered that I find it very difficult to guage pain. I was variously given paracetamol, codeine and oramorph… not sure if I had some tramadol that day – I don’t think I did.
Anyway. A physiotherapist also appeared and got me to move my arms / shoulders / neck a bit and said she thought I had good movement which I was happy about. Then about three nurses trooped in and looked at me and asked how I felt etc – I think one of them was the pharmacist. It all got a bit confusing who all the visitors were to be honest – and in between the nurses did my obs and checked the wounds regularly. Lunch arrived at about 12:30 and I had half the omelette and a fruit salad. I didn’t have much of an appetite still but the food was very nice and I really enjoyed the fruit.
After lunch I was left alone a bit more and apart from the obs being taken I really just rested in my bed. I did a few puzzles and then planked out until dinner arrived at 17:30ish. I woke up feeling really rough but felt I should try to eat to forced down half a wrap and a bit of sorbet and then M arrived. I felt really sick at this point and he has now said that immediately he knew something was wrong. I kept saying I felt sick after eating and I thought maybe the oramorph had something to do with it. I got up to go to the loo and while I was in there noticed my left foob had swelled up huge and was rock hard. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed it before and barely made it back to the bed – came over all hot and sweaty and really sick, I felt realy very ill. I was about to press the buzzer but M didn’t wait for me to decide what to do and had already gone to nurses station to get someone. There was a flurry of activity and they were obviously concerned. Thankfully Smithers was downstairs running a clinic so they called him on the phone and he arrived pronto to have a look and announce that I had “had a bleed”.
My response was “that doesn’t sound good” and he agreed that it wasn’t great. I was bleeding internally and was to be taken back to theatre, left side opened up again and have the hematoma drained. I remember just looking at him and saying “will it be ok?” as I was so worried the whole thing was going to fail but he said yes it would be ok. I also remember asking about if I had to tell the insurance and he said just not to worry about that! It is funny what you think of in these situations. It wasn’t funny at all at the time though. He had to call in the on call anesthetist so I had to wait for him to rock up and it hurt like a bitch. Smithers had me sign another consent form and they did give me pain relief. I then became absolutely exhausted – I kept falling in and out of sleep and really wasn’t very lucid. Poor M had to just watch me flake out, be rushed off to theatre and have to wait for me to come back. It was horrible for both of us on many levels! I now understand why I was so tired and losing the plot – it was due to the blood loss. More on that later.
I went off to theatre at 20:20 – got wheeled down in the bed this time instead of walking! As I was going M bless him made the point that I’d had a bad time coming round the day before and they said they’d seen the notes and were prepared with the antisickness and wotnot. Got wheeled straight into the anaesthetic room where a new anethestist asked a few questions and said they would start me off with *something* and would then move the canula to my hand which I remember thinking “oh poo.. that’ll hurt”. So they hooked me up, he injected something, put the oxygen mask on me and then they took me into theatre while I was still awake (in a ‘I’m high’ fashion) and moved me onto the table. This wasn’t very nice – you don’t normally see theatre at all and the “one two three lift” thing is what you see them do on tv on those emergency programs. The theatre room seemed really big but randomly the table felt really small. I was sparko shortly after this and found myself waking up in the recovery room again.
Much better this time – no puking and in less pain. Smithers was there and they were discussing my blood count and whether I’d need a transfusion. I remember hearing that if it went below 80 I would need one. Smithers then went – I’ve since found out he went to speak to M and explain it all – and came back to say he’d lost his keys! I had a couple of people in with me and could hear them talking – he eventually found his keys in the scrubs bin! I felt a bit bad that everyone had to stay so late for me but they were lovely about it. I went back up to the room at about 22:30 and was very happy to see M although I was so knackered I don’t think I made that clear at the time! He stayed for a little bit and then left me to rest. I think he was emotionally a bit ruined by it all and had had a long day himself what with visiting me in the morning, going to work and then it all kicking off in the evening.
So it was another night of obs and commodes and bloody painful IV antibiotics as they had moved the canula back to my hand as promised. It is not at all how I (or any of us I don’t think) had envisaged the day panning out… I really would advise avoiding hematoma’s if at all possible. They can put a real downer on your day!
To be continued…
I’d quite like to get in more than one photography day in February but with chemo this Friday I’m not sure how realistic that is. Having said that I’ve been told they are giving me one hell of a dose of steroids so I might be bouncing off the walls!!
Regardless, I am happy to say I did make it to the nature reserve sunday just gone and it was a big difference to my January visit. First flowers are out – I managed to find some crocus and snowdrops. I also saw lots of Red Kites but no good shooting opportunities. They actually seem to fly lowest over the roads so I think I will just have to traipse around the cul de sacs until I’m in the right place at the right time.
It was this connection screw.
This may not look like much but it caused me much excitement and I wanted to head out and try my new set up out straight away. But being a complete wally I managed to take everything I needed (including new charged up batteries)… apart from the off camera lead to attach the flash to the camera. Muppet.
I couldn’t be bothered to head back home to fecth it so I just used the flash on camera for a few macro shots of the flowers – worked ok but I’m looking forward to seeing how much improvement the off camera set up will bring.
Enough of me blathering about lighting… onto the shots. I still have some to process but this is the first set. Click on any of the pictures to see bigger versions:
Not Frayed Crocus:
First Snowdrop – not sure about the depth of field on this one and I always struggle with whites. I’d like to re-shoot this one tbh…
Blue Tit – fast as lightening they are and never stay still… hope to improve on this over the year but I think it’s not a bad start:
…and finally two shots of a male Mandarin Duck – the most colourful bird on the lake. I prefer the one with the reflection – I had to be very patient to wait for him to float into the right patch of sun / calm water!
… but then I do prefer this pose:
So there we are – not quite what I was aiming for but I think that Mandarin reflection shot might make it into the final cut. I have been chatting to a very lovely person on a photography forum that I frequent this evening and received a bit of a tip off about where to find barn owls at our other local nature reserve which is exciting news! I hope I can get out and about at the right time to see one – and maybe even get some photo’s. I have also read about tawny owls visiting the area where I took the above shots and I think I spotted an owl nest box when I was there this weekend so that is promising.
I also picked up some decaying leaves to try out in the light tent / with the macro off camera flash set up. They are very interesting – you can see the internal structure of the leaf. Might give that a go tomorrow night if I get a chance. Or over the weekend if I’m not feeling too crap. Apparently the new chemo drug side effects might kick in a few days after it is administered rather than the puking frenzy FEC caused a few hours after. We will see.