Day 42 – Some of my favourite things: lie ins, one-pots and wimberry tart

My husband woke me with a cup of hot water and ginger at 10am! I couldn’t believe it, a weekend lie in. How lovely, and what a luxury. We are normally woken by a child on a weekend even earlier in the morning than on a weekday. For what reason, we can never fathom, so today was pretty exceptional.

The kids were dressed and fed – a weekend treat of Jus-Rol dairy-free croissants and pains au chocolate, which my daughter had made – and had already watched How to Train your Dragon.

I had my breakfast juice of carrot, apple and ginger which was simple, delicious, and my absolute favourite. I then set about preparing the vegetables and fruits for the next day’s juices.

The boys were a great help juicing, and particularly enjoyed making me a Green Lemonade. We had to make three substitutions to avoid two of the key ingredients: spinach and lemons. We juiced choi sum instead of spinach, and used ginger and a packet of mint instead of lemons, which transformed the juice into something very tasty.

We finished just in time for me to run out the door to my aqua class leaving the washing up for my husband, who kindly said he didn’t mind. I arrived pretty much last to find a packed pool and everyone singing along to Tina Turner. The Sunday instructor is popular because of her classically good pop and tough workouts, and today was no exception. The music included Salt-N-Pepa, Michael Jackson and the best of 80s pop with a bit of salsa thrown in for good measure. I can’t say I’ve ever jumped like a torpedo to ‘Push It‘ before, but it put a smile on my face, at first, until the exertion quickly turned it to a grimace. I often wonder why aqua aerobics doesn’t attract a younger crowd. In my 20s and 30s I was a gym bunny and there were few classes that exhausted me in quite the same way as aqua aerobics did, and still does.

Recycling amusement

I went home via the recycling plant to drop off some old plumbing parts, and was amused for 10 minutes by the desperate call for help from a man who had dropped his car keys into the general waste container. This periodically grinds up any house-hold waste that has been put in to it. He was lucky on this occasion as one of the workers came to his aid, full kitty up with gloves up to his elbows and pulled them out. After that feel good moment, I realised it was getting late and remembered it was one-pot night.

This was going to be a basic pot of veggies and chicken and included potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsnip, onions, and thyme mixed with chicken thighs and legs and some chicken stock. I drank a sip of my watermelon, blueberry and chard juice while I was preparing the meal and soon spat it out again as my mouth was strangely full of unpleasant cold lumps. A quick blitz in my Salter blender and the juice became smooth and delicious once more.

Wimberry tart

Next Sunday, my daughter will be cooking for everyone as part of her termly homework. She has to plan a menu for a three-course meal and help Mum or Dad to prepare and cook it. As we will be in Wales visiting my in-laws, it will be Grandma helping her granddaughter in the kitchen. She planned her menu today and has decided to make a prawn cocktail starter, roast chicken dinner with roasted and boiled veggies, stuffing and gravy, and wimberry tart with custard for dessert, that is if Grandma has any wimberries left in her freezer. Otherwise is will be apple tart instead.

Image result for wimberry tart
A classic wimberry tart

Wimberries are known as the mountain superfood in Wales. They are collected from the mountains of south Wales in the summer months and often frozen and used to make tarts during the winter months. They are absolutely delicious, so we are all keeping our fingers crossed that Grandma still has a bag of wimberries safe and sound in her freezer!

Day 41 – The Great British Bake Off

Spinach and citrus fruits are appetizing ingredients, often added to green and orange juices to enhance their flavour and nutrient status. Kale has the most nutrients of practically any other plant on the planet but it’s not to everyone’s taste on its own in green juices, so adding a combination of other greens (often spinach) and 20% fruit, makes a mainly kale-based juice flavourful for me. As spinach and citrus are known histamine releasers, I have to avoid them and find alternatives. I did do a brief trial of adding back in these ingredients after 3 weeks on this fast, but the cuts on my fingers opened up again on every digit within days and are still healing, so I remain on the hunt for good replacement combinations.

I’d tried cherries and lychees instead of oranges before, but both require a lot of preparation, and that’s time I don’t often have. Neither worked that well with the green juices anyway as they were too sweet and did not have powerful enough flavour. Grapes were also a bit too sweet, but perhaps I just added too many or should have used green instead of black grapes. However, I struck upon a wonderful combination today in the form of a just ripe mango, which worked surprisingly well.

I also tried ginger instead of lemon and that worked just fine too. Then I tried an unusual green called choi sum instead of spinach and the flavour of my green juice was delicious. My kids even thought so too.


Chocolate cupcakes and sprinkles

My husband commented that there has been a lot of baking going on in our household recently, despite me not being able to eat any of the produce. It is one of my favourite pastimes and it turns out that my son, Twin 1, shares my passion for it too. I think my daughter would as well, but her allergy to eggs has somewhat put her off.

I love The Great British Bake Off and own a couple of the programme’s baking books, plus books by Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. One of my all time favourite recipes is a lemon drizzle cake, which is as light as a feather, sweet, sour and divine. My second favourite recipe is one a work colleague once shared with me. It’s a dairy free chocolate cake, which is melt in the mouth soft and delicious covered in chocolate frosting. I often use the recipe to make fairy cakes too and it works like a dream. Sadly, chocolate and citrus, being on the avoid list for histamine, mean I no longer enjoy any of these goodies. Good for my waist line, but not for my soul!

We decided to bake organic, dairy-free, chocolate cupcakes today using unrefined sugar, and covered them in vegan chocolate icing and sprinkles. I made the whole family wait agonisingly, while I took photos of the pretty-looking creations.

As to the taste, well apparently, they were delicious!

I left them to it, sipped my green juice and made a watermelon juice with chard (surprisingly good), ready for tomorrow.



40 days of juicing – ‘A thousand miles begins with a single step’

The pilates class ended with the sharing of a proverb, ‘Everyone has a story’. This makes everyone unique and special. Sometimes we can be so wrapped up in our own story that we lose empathy with those living a different story. Nowhere have I become more aware of the stories of others than as a member of Sling The Mesh Campaign, set up by Kath Sansom in 2015 soon after she had a Transvaginal Tape, or TVT for short, and it went horribly wrong.

Kath Sansom, founder of Sling the Mesh Campaign

The Sling the Mesh women and men are some of the bravest and most courageous people I have had the pleasure of meeting. Given most of us haven’t been able to access counselling support for the trauma we have endured, this group has become the go to for support for nearly 7,500 people. I have had the pleasure of meeting Kath several times at the House of Commons, and House of Lords, and also on The Victoria Derbyshire Show on 26th September 2018 where I was interviewed about hernia mesh and Kath about the Campaign. She has some particularly great heels!

Sling the Mesh Girls at The House of Commons, 24th February 2018

What is a TVT, TVT-O and TOT?

A TVT, TVT-O and TOT are pieces of polypropylene mesh which are intended to support the urethra, the tube which passes urine, and the neck of the bladder. The only difference is they are inserted in different ways. They all involve a 15-20 minute operation to cure stress urinary incontinence, a common side-effect of childbirth. The problems with these devices though is that they are inserted blindly with two large hooks which can cause horrendous injuries if inserted incorrectly, and the mesh is made mostly from polypropylene, a type of plastic which is completely unstable when exposed to air and water. In order to make polypropylene stable, plastics manufacturers add antioxidants to it as soon as it is made.

The trouble with antioxidants is that they are usually washed away within two years of a device being implanted, and as of yet, not a single mesh manufacturer has added enough antioxidants to the polypropylene to make it last the 40+ years it needs to last in the human body. This means there are hundreds of thousands of men and women with mesh implants who are living with degrading polypropylene in their bodies.

The 60-Day Challenge

‘A thousand miles begins with a single step’, Chinese proverb.

To find myself with forty days behind me is quite a surprise. It’s further than I thought I would come, and suddenly, 60 days seems just that bit nearer.

I continue to juice on!


Day 39 – An apple a day

My loving 7-year old daughter volunteered to juice my green juice after tea, while I bathed the boys. I was slightly apprehensive leaving her in charge of my machine, but after revisiting the kitchen twice during bath time, I realised she had quickly learned how to turn it on and off and the pace at which to feed the vegetables and fruit down the chute. She was actually enjoying herself.

There is certainly a therapeutic aspect to cleaning, peeling and chopping fruit and vegetables, feeding them into my beautiful Omega juicer, and seeing them ground round and round, slowly being pulverised. It’s fascinating observing the differing amounts of juice each produces and how dry or wet the waste matter is. I’d visited As Nature Intended earlier in the day and treated myself to four really large organic Braeburn apples. A proper apple. All four went into my juices for tomorrow.

I loved apples as a child and ate more than one a day for a long time. My Mum who loves proverbs often told us that, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’.  For too long though, I have abandoned them in favour of berries: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, in the main. As most berries, apart from blueberries, trigger histamine production I have had to avoid them for many months and in the meantime I have fallen back in love with apples.

Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, and dietary fibre, and phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. A collection of research studies suggests that apples may well be one of the most healthy foods for you to include in your daily diet.

I’m almost two-thirds of the way through this fast now, with just three weeks left to go. My husband is now confident that I will get to 60 days, but I can still only think about 5 days at a time. There is much I’d like to see improve in my health, and this is making me anxious. Is there time?

The film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead set me off on this journey and is a great place to start if you are interested in juicing. I have put a lot of hope and faith in this juice fast. I look forward to what my last few weeks of juicing brings.

Day 38 – Hissy fits

Swimming was so off today.

Attempt 1 – Pool 1

The boys excitedly got undressed and put on their all-in-one swimming costumes while I gathered up the mass of possessions and attempted to fit it all into the skinny, cramped locker, giving the last bag a shove with my foot to squeeze it in. We walked through the shower area to the pool side and found the children’s pool drained of water and a man at work sticking down tiles. As realisation dawned on him that he wasn’t going swimming after all, Twin 1 had a complete melt down and kept insisting he was still going in. I would have liked to have had a hissy fit too, as there was no sign or message as we entered the building, nor a sign in the changing room advising us that the pool was out of action.

A homemade chocolate chip cookie from the snack bag helped to cheer them both up, but of course there wasn’t one for me, so I fumed for a little while longer!

Attempt 2 – Pool 2

I suggested going to the pool where their sister has swimming lessons instead. Both agreed. Three miles in the opposite direction we parked the car and paid for 2 hours in the car park. Two excited boys ran up the ramp trying to get the top before I had climbed the stairs. They won of course. We entered the building and were asked by the receptionist how she could help us. It was then that we found out the family pool was closed and only available for swimming lessons today as a problem with the main pool meant the water was too cold to swim in. Unbelievable. Twin 1 had the biggest hissy fit possible and refused to leave the building, while Twin 2 ran off down the ramp towards the car park where I couldn’t see him. Grabbing Twin 1, I hauled him out of the building in desperation praying that Twin 2 was safe. We’d paint or bake instead I promised.

Attempt 3 – Painting and Baking

Painting was a success for all of 10 minutes, and then baking seemed to hold more of their interest. I suggested we made dairy free cheese scones so they could have them for lunch. The boys love Violife cheese and were happily eating the grated cheese by the handful while I finished the scone mixing as fast as possible to ensure there would be enough cheese left to top the scones with.

Twenty minutes later the kitchen smelt amazing and my stomach was doing leaps of excitement, except my head kept telling it there was no reward coming. I served the scones with melting dairy free spread and a small dish of sweetcorn on the side.

It turned out that neither boy liked the scones and ate only the bowl of corn, much to my annoyance. It was hardly their fault that they didn’t like the sprinkling of cayenne pepper the recipe said to put on the top. But I wasn’t in a rational mood.

Totally disillusioned by our wasted morning, I drained my bottle of coconut water, packed the boys’ bags for nursery and attempted to hurry them out of the door. We were late by the time we finally got out, as a result of various hide-behind-the-sofa antics, which annoyed me just that little bit more than usual. I hurriedly grabbed a couple of Soreen banana loafs so the boys’ little tummies wouldn’t go hungry, and immediately felt a lot better.

My Juice Marathon

I’m beginning to liken this juice fast to my marathon. I’m in awe of people who do the real thing, but this is my equivalent in the challenge stakes.

It’s been a hard day today. Feeling cold all of the time doesn’t help lift your mood either. I don’t understand why others on this journey are describing abundance of energy, wellbeing, enlightenment and clarity of thought even, when I am feeling tired, cold, angry and anxious. Anxious because what if this fast does not quieten down my hyper immune system? What will be next?

I had pilates tonight. I could so easily have not gone, but I did and the school marm of an instructor cheered me up no end with her harsh tellings off and story telling.

She was the person who said to me before my operation to focus my thoughts only on a positive outcome. When I woke in recovery and couldn’t feel my left leg, her words went through my head again and again until finally I had flickers of feeling a few days later. I gave her a huge hug to say thanks for the gift she gave me.

Day 37 – Surrealism

Tate Modern, housed in the old Bankside Power Station on the banks of the River Thames, is the world’s most visited modern art gallery. I paid it a visit today with a friend to celebrate her birthday. The juices in their lovely glass bottles came too, of course, packaged in a cool bag.

It was a wet and windy day. As I crossed Blackfriars bridge, I walked through the pedestrian security barriers and suddenly began to feel unsafe. Glad to be on the other side of the river, I followed the sight of the tall chimney in the near distance and soon found my way to the turbine hall. 

The Tate is currently exhibiting 100 works from Dorothea Tanning which she produced over seven decades. This is the first time that a large-scale exhibition of her work has been shown for 25 years and numerous galleries and private owners have come together to make the exhibition possible. Tanning is best known for pushing the boundaries of surrealism using paint, and soft sculpture.

I liked the fact she had a couple of themes running through most of her work: doors opening and closing and her much loved dog – every day things which most people can relate to. If you have an hour spare, while ambling along the South Bank, it’s a worthwhile viewing.

 

We refuelled at a nearby Leon with a juice and a boxed vegan salad and talked non stop until it was almost past the time I needed to leave to pick up the kids. What a lovely few hours immersing ourselves in someone else’s story and then catching up on our own. 

Day 36 – Chocolate mousse for greedy goose

Neon Sheep is an enchanting stationery and nicknacks haven. I visited a store in Ealing for the first time today, and couldn’t leave without buying five of the 500ml glass bottles complete with brightly coloured silicon sleeves which were sitting on the discount shelf. Most of our bottles at home are now stainless steel, but stainless steel doesn’t handle acidic or alkaline contents well (juice basically) and has been found to leach iron, chromium and nickel into the juice, so this is the reason why I resorted back to plastic. This was an uncomfortable decision for me as no polypropylene is stable, never mind the BPA-free label. So, there was something rather special and safe about filling my new glass bottles with wholesome fresh juice.

Tomorrow’s juices in my lovely new glass bottles, all 2.5 litres of it!

I cooked the boys fresh tomato and olive pasta sauce for lunch, a classic Jamie Oliver recipe from his book The Ministry of Food. I like to add onions to this recipe so the kids get even more veg. This time I used red onions and caramelised then in maple syrup first before adding the rest of the ingredients. It smelled delicious, and the boys ate a large plateful each. For pudding they had Deliciously Ella’s Chocolate Mousse, using her original recipe, which is much simpler than her update. The mousse is simply topped with banana, chia seeds and a drizzle of maple syrup. I’d normally eat a medjool date or two when making this recipe, so had to use all my restraint not to!

Chocolate mousse made with avocado, bananas, dates, almond spread and cacao
Ella’s classic chocolate mousse

5 Weeks! – A little of what makes you happy

The kids and I finally got to the cinema for a Mini Morning of Spider-Man. I sipped my hot water and ginger and ended up cuddling Twin 1 who got scared by one too many kapows. I loved it, and so did the kids.

My husband had some time out to follow his life-long passion of golf for a few hours instead. He hired his first Zipcar, which wasn’t a great experience as one of the tyres was flat, but he eventually got there and came home a very happy man.

With so many vegetables in the house, and on the spur of the moment, I decided to cook roast chicken for lunch. It was cheats chicken breast rather than a bird, but no-one seemed to mind. The one consistent food I have craved throughout this fast is roast potatoes. It’s not like I even eat them that often! If you are looking for the perfect roastie recipe then you can’t go far wrong with Delia’s perfect roast potatoes. Just put your oil of choice in a roasting tray and any of your favourite herbs. Place the tray in the oven at 200 degrees. The oil must be sizzling hot. Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes in a pan, drain the water, put the lid on the pan and rough up the potatoes so the outside is fluffy. Transfer the potatoes quickly to the hot roasting tin and cover them with the fat, a sprinkling of Himalayan sea salt and return to the oven. Cook for approx 50 minutes. The result is perfectly crispy roast potatoes on the outside with a soft and fluffy centre.

My attempt at Delia’s Perfect Roasties

I joined my kids at the table while they wolfed down a plateful of dinner. They first politely apologised and said they wished mummy could have some too. So did I! My red juice wasn’t bad, but I would have loved a plateful of what they were eating. They ate well, refuelling after a happy hour jumping on the trampoline.

In the afternoon, I had a couple of hours by myself in Westfield to pick up some new leggings as my old ones are beginning to fall down. Yay! As roasties were still very much on my mind, I bought a Yorkshire pudding bake tray to make mini toad in the hole for the kids. Before heading home, I found a juice bar and spotted a kale and ginger juice made with amazingly all the ingredients I can eat. All but the kale went into an industrial centrifugal juicer. A handful of kale was later added to the top of the juice before it was pulverised in a liquidiser. I tried the juice a little later and found it totally unpleasant as it was full of kale bits which blocked the straw and made the juice bitty. As soon as I got home, I put the drink through my juicer and it came out clear without any kale bits left in it. It was absolutely delicious.

Day 34 – Protein requirement

Weekly shop day. I love doing the Aldi shopping as it means I get a couple of hours on my own early on a Saturday morning when there’s few people in the supermarket, the shelves are fully stocked and I can get round quickly so I have time for a browse around the seasonal stock. The Easter eggs are pretty special this year. Aldi is even bringing out an organic vegan egg made with rice powder not wheat, with Ferrero Rocher-style hazelnut truffles. Sounds absolutely yum. Thankfully, my 60 days fasting ends a couple of weeks before Easter, so I will have had time to readjust to eating again before treating myself to a one-off Easter egg! Rather miserably, chocolate is on the histamine avoidance list….

aldi vegan easter egg

The kitchen was full of wonderful aromas in the afternoon as my husband made a Weight Watchers Sausage and Bean Casserole for the kids, and cooked my favourite Mary Berry curry dish, Quick Chicken Curry. I had to leave the room as the incredible smell of the spices and not being able to savour the outcome was too torturous.

It’s only taken me a month of juicing, but I’ve now worked out that if I juice the dessert ingredients first, followed by the red juice and lastly the green juice, my machine is easier to clean and the pulp chute doesn’t become clogged midway through with stringy vegetables such as celery, ginger and Tuscan kale leaves. The kale tends to push all the soft produce through the machine ensuring every last bit of veg and fruit is juiced.

There is quite a bit of protein in plants I have learned, but if you do longer than a 15 day fast it is recommended that you add protein into your daily juices. I’ve been struggling adding pea protein powder to the lunch and dinner juice, but found this evening that blending the power into the dessert juice is a much more palatable option, as it is the only juice that ends up thicker and more like a smoothie. It’s good to know I’ve the protein requirement sorted for the rest of the fast, as it had been a concern and one that is much debated on the Joe Cross Community Facebook group.

Day 33 – The burn

I love a physical challenge, but my physiotherapist set the bar very high today. She instructed me to balance on one-leg, on a stair, toes griping the stair and heel hanging over, then do a one-legged tiptoe, lower my heel, and repeat. This was without holding onto the bannister. She only allowed me to touch it with a single finger if I needed to steady myself. Oh my word, the calf-burn had me admitting defeat before I could do five tiptoes on my left leg, and a few more on my right. Ouch! As light relief, she then spent the remaining 15 minutes bending each of my fingers as far as they would go towards my palm. At least they were a little less stiff by the end of the session.

As a reward for working out so hard, my sons and I set about making the kitchen smell wonderful again by taking the zest of oranges and lemons to make gingerbread, and then dairy free chocolate chip cookies using chickpea and rice flour. I’d forgotten how easy gingerbread is to make, and this particular recipe used maple syrup instead of sugar. As gingerbread has to be chilled for at least 2-3 hours, we decided to keep that to bake the next day. The cookies looked delicious though, and judging by how many the kids ate, I assume they tasted just as good.

I left my husband in charge of the twins and cookies and rushed to the doctors to have my first electrocardiogram (ECG). The nurse told me to strip to my pants which I wasn’t expecting. It was the first time since losing 2 stone 2 lbs that I’ve stood in front of a stranger and not worried about what I look like. A spectacular benefit of juicing has been the reduction in oedema all over my body, but particularly my abdomen. I just hope this is a sign of the juicing healing the chronic inflammation my body has been suffering from since 2005.

Sadly, the team at the Chiswick Diagnostic Centre messed up my blood tests and didn’t do the specific tests for Raynaud’s requested by my rheumatologist, so the consultant has had to request them again. The ECG results weren’t forthcoming at the doctors either, as the practice nurse told me she wasn’t able to interpret the graphs, but that my GP would look at them and ring me. So, all test results still hang in the balance.