How well do you look after your teeth?

For years, I barely looked after mine. I hated cleaning my teeth, and I didn’t have the money to get them checked out – so much so, that I didn’t even think about getting them looked at. Last year, I finally decided to sign up to a dental plan so I could keep my teeth regularly maintained… and it was a fantastic decision. Yes, I’ve had to spend a lot of money fixing problems caused over the years, but the longer I waited to check my teeth out by the dentist, the more damage that would occur. There are a couple of areas of my teeth (mostly my back teeth) that need extra help, and the dentist has put in these temporary ‘covers’ (don’t know the official word) to help the teeth naturally work on themselves. In a couple of years, after well maintaining my teeth, the dentist will decide what to do with them – hopefully not all permanent fixtures, if I’ve done things right!

“By joining our Lumino Dental Plan, you can rest assured that you’ll be taking care of your oral health the best way possible through regular check-ups and hygiene appointments. For less than a dollar a day* you can be confident you’ve got the basics covered with:

  • A comprehensive dental consultation, including an exam and x-ray
  • Two hygiene visits
  • 10% off any additional treatments,  excluding Dental Implants and Orthodontic services
  • Text alerts when your appointments are due”

– Lumino 

Totally. Worth. It.

Overall, I’m so glad that I finally started caring for my teeth properly. It’s something that I regret not doing earlier, but apparently (so says my hygienist) it’s quite common for people to stop going to the dentist through their uni years due to money. But, fear not! I am regularly chewing sugar-free gum, flossing (although I still find this the hardest to remember to do regularly), cleaning my teeth with fluoride toothpaste and using mouthwash. I’m also eating less sucrose and fructose – or, at least cleaning my teeth/chewing gum asap afterwards! I also purchased an electric toothbrush to help me clean my back teeth slightly better and easier, as the toothbrush head is smaller. FYI that my dentist said I didn’t need to buy an expensive one – he said the main difference is the battery life and I always have mine plugged in.

So, how well do you look after your teeth? No judgement here, but here’s a reminder to get them checked out if it’s been a while!

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

Throwback: A trip home, in China

At the end of 2016, I won a scholarship to go and Au Pair in China. Although I ended up coming home after 6 weeks rather than 6 months due to a mixture of things, I value the experience I had there. However, there are a few experiences that are funnier now than they were at the time.

Here is a quick moment down memory lane, of an experience I had getting home from town one night by myself (I was living in Shanghai FYI).

“Now, we get to the horror ride of getting home. I looked up directions to get home, and Apple maps suggested that I catch a bus the whole way, or catch a couple of subways. Seeing as they took around the same time to get me home, I thought, why not catch the bus?! It took around fifteen minutes for the bus to turn up, and I was very thankful when it did, as it was freezing outside. The bus had HEATED seats!!! So, for the next hour, I was very pleased. We finally arrived at my last station, where Apple maps told me I had fifteen minutes to walk before arriving at home.

I was looking forward to dinner and bed. I started to follow the instructions, though, and I eventually came to a gated community. Apple maps told me I had to walk through it to get home. Surely I wasn’t reading it right. I kept on walking to see if any of the instructions changed, but it kept telling me to go back to the gated community. Perhaps it’s a gated community where you don’t need a card to enter? I tried and yes; you need a card. It was pitch black, and I was lost. Having no clue how else to get home, I thought I would try and catch a taxi. I haven’t had any problems with them so far, so what’s the harm in trying?! Well, I tried one taxi, and he indicated that I needed to go to the other side of the road. Okay, I can do that. I then waited in the cold for another ten or so minutes before another empty taxi drove past. I showed him the location of where I wanted to go, and he looked confused. Why? I’m not sure. He got a translator out and translated ‘Where you want to go?’, I once again showed him my phone. Unable to do anything else, I said no worries and backed away.

To hail a taxi, you usually have to physically hop on the road. So, I got back onto the pathway and FELL OVER. I was upset, lost, cold and so, of course, also had to add in a fall. Having a little cry to myself, I was feeling determined to get home. I walked all the way back to my original bus stop and kept refreshing Apple maps until it gave me a new option to get home. Eventually, it did, and guess what? It took a 3-minute bus ride to get home. Why, oh why, did it not suggest this to me in the first place?! I will never know. I arrived home, ate some food I had purchased on the way and gladly went to bed.”

Home was so close, that in the end I had to laugh.

Daffodil Day Fundraiser + Vegan/GF cupcake recipe

Although I have changed roles at work and am no longer ‘in charge’ of social events like the Pink Ribbon Fundraiser we held in July, I still love to be involved! I helped my successor (the lady who now has my previous role) organise a fundraiser for Daffidol Day. The Cancer Society of New Zealand’s Daffodil Day symbolises hope for 1 in 3 New Zealanders affected by cancer and the donations raised from fundraisers like this go towards vital scientific research into the causes and treatment of all types of cancer, as well as providing a wide range of support services, education and awareness campaigns/programmes for people affected by cancer in our area. If you’d like to learn more about this – click here.

My contribution to the morning tea was some delicious cupcakes. Someone at work is vegan, so I thought I would give some vegan/gluten-free cupcakes a try so we could both enjoy a treat (and a few others who are also GF at my work). I know what it’s like to turn up to an event and the only thing you’re able to eat is what you brought to the table!

I found this recipe from a vegan website and adapted it to suit my requirements.

Vegan/Gluten-free Lemon Cupcakes

Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 25 mins | Yield: 12

INGREDIENTS

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (220g) gluten-free flour
  • 1 cup (200g) low GI sugar
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) Soy Milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest

For the icing:

  • 3 cups (360g) icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup (75g) Olivani
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, baking soda and salt. Lightly mix together
  3. Then add the soy milk, oil, vinegar, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Whisk briefly with a hand whisk to combine properly and remove any lumps. Do not over mix
  4. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners and divide the batter between them.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  6. When baked transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing
  7. Prepare your icing by adding the icing sugar, Olivani and lemon juice into a bowl and mix. If it’s too thick, add a little more lemon juice (a couple of drops at a time) until you reach the right consistency
  8. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes – I added yellow food colouring to the icing and also added a slice of kiwifruit on top to add some extra moisture an make it look kind of like a flower
  9. Enjoy!

Self-care on the Road to Recovery

How self-care affects recovery

Over the past 8 months, I have come to realise that self-care is a dominant player in my Rheumatoid Arthritis recovery. I am a true believer that recovery is holistic and that overall well-being is important, not just physical improvement. During a conversation I was having with my physio about ‘pacing’ activities (I’m focusing on walking at the moment – read more about ‘pacing’ here) I realised that not only has my ‘pacing’ been helping my recovery physically but so has spending time in nature! I love a good flower find and enjoy breathing in fresh air.

Taking care of ourselves

We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – that can be in the context of a parent-child relationship, friend-friend relationship, with your partner or even with a stranger. This concept has been explained to me in relation to flying in an aeroplane – we have to put our oxygen mask on before we can put the mask on a child/any else that needs help. This is pointing out that if we are struggling, it becomes a lot harder for us to help other people.

So, what can we do about it? 

I truly believe that self-care is a crucial part of everyone’s health and well-being, but especially those who are recovering from something, like myself. This is when active self-care comes into play. It’s about making sure we take time out to care for ourselves. There are basic self-care aspects, such as ensuring you are feed balanced, nutritious food and have the appropriate amount of time to sleep, but there is also a deeper level of self-care that we need to take into account. We all have physical, emotional/mental and spiritual needs that we have to consider when thinking about self-care. Self-care changes from person to person, as well. It’s all about listening to your body and being aware of what you need.

How do you know what works well for you? In my experience, it’s all about trial and error. You give something a go and see whether it works for you. For example, sometimes self-care is all about spending time alone and sometimes its all about spending time with others.

Where do I start? 

Below is a list of self-care habits I personally like, which you are encouraged to try out:

  • taking a bath
  • quality time reading a book
  • eating some of my favorite food
  • ‘earthing’ – physically connecting with the earth e.g. walking on the beach barefoot or lying on the grass looking up to the sky (although my hay fever is not a fan of that one)
  • going for a walk either by myself or with friends
  • having a nice nap
  • listening to some music that makes me feel good
  • spending time trying out some new recipes
  • spending some time with my best friend
  • lighting a candle at my meal time and sitting down at the table to eat
  • watching my favorite TV show
  • asking to catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while
  • buying something that I usually wouldn’t buy
  • going to the movies
  • doing a face mask
  • thoroughly cleaning my teeth

Self-care can be part of your normal daily routine and it can also be a special time that you have allocated. There are some habits I tend to perform more than others, as I have learnt over the years what I need to on a regular basis and what I need when I’m feeling a certain way.

Can you recognise what self-care habits that you do on a regular basis? If you have any self-care tips, let me know!

A Slow and Steady Journey: Arthritis Update

I’ve been a bit MIA on my blog lately, as life has just been jam-packed full of activities and appointments. Now that I have a bit of time up my sleeve, I thought I’d give an update on my arthritis. For those that haven’t read my previous blogs, I have Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, which developed after I got Reactive Arthritis as a result of getting salmonella. This was back in December 2017 and things still aren’t back to normal, but they are improving – here’s how:

  1. I had a terrible sleep on Saturday night, so much so that I actually only slept for about an hour over the whole course of the night, for no particular reason that I could tell. It was a humble reminder that only a short 7 months ago, I was having to get up every two hours in order to take pain medication to get through the night (and day) without being in excruciating pain. In terms of pain, I have come a long way.
  2. A couple of weeks ago, I had a rheumatology appointment at the hospital to see how I was going. There is still a small portion of active inflammation in my joints (those affected for me are; both ankles, both knees, both elbows and both shoulders), but overall, it has significantly gone down since my first visit with my rheumatologist. In terms of active inflammation, I have come a long way. 
  3. I started driving about 2 or so months ago. That means I had about 6 months without driving and without having any independence. That was hard for me. I still get a sore leg after driving, and the parking isn’t great where I work, so my mum still has to drive me to work and back every day, but I’m driving outside of that, for social events and errands. In terms of driving, I have come a long way.
  4. This week, I had my first physio appointment. I had asked to see a physio as I am still having trouble walking properly, as well as getting the sore leg after driving. It was a great session and he said I haven’t done any damage, but just need to improve my strength – something I already suspected but appreciated hearing. I think back to when this first happened and I couldn’t walk at all on my right leg (where I first got the inflammation). I was then on crutches for about 5 months and have since been using a walking stick. I still have the walking stick, to help when I’m having to stand in the same spot for ages or when I need to walk long distances or generally need some support. In terms of walking, I have come a long way.

I still have a long way to go; I can’t ‘go for a walk’ yet, I’m still using a walking stick, I struggle to stand in the same spot for too long (e.g. showering and cooking), we’re still trying to figure out what treatment will work best for me, I’m still coming off the steroids, I still need to try and lose the weight the steroids caused me to gain, I still get sore if I push my self too hard…. but, I’ve come a long way.

The rheumatologist has said that it’s more than likely that I will be living with this arthritis my entire life, but as long as I take the medication/once we’ve found the right balance, I should be able to live a ‘normal life’.

The physio has tasked me to try ‘pacing’, i.e. with walking, spend a few days trying to figure out how many minutes I can walk at once (I’m doing after work), without pushing myself enough that I need a rest. I then need to calculate the few days together and figure out the average – I’m thinking it will be about 10 minutes. Once I’ve done that, I need walk for that amount of time every day for a week. If everything is going well, add another 10% on for the following week and so on. This concept is based on trying to stop or discourage a cycle of overdoing it and then needing rest, then overdoing it again once you feel better and round and round it goes. What we want, is to build up my strength slowly so I can function on a day to day basis without needing to take a day of rest in between. I also have a few exercises to do, one I can do at my desk at work and the other I need to do at home with an exercise band (pictured).

It is a slow and steady journey, but I am getting there!

 

Pink Ribbon Brunch

For those of you who follow my blog, you’ll know that I’ve already done a Pink Ribbon Afternoon Tea at my workplace. Seeing as I was already doing one Pink Ribbon event, I thought I might as well do another!

What are Pink Ribbon events? They are events that help raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation. They typically involve food – usually, breakfast, but this time around I did a brunch instead.

In 2017 over 3,600 kiwis hosted a pink ribbon breakfast and collectively raised over 1.8 million dollars for breast cancer research and support. – Pink Ribbon website

I got up early Saturday morning and moved all of my pink decorations into my lounge. I spent a little while putting things on the tables away and replacing them with pink items. I then began making a grazing table. I thoroughly enjoy setting up (and eating) grazing tables, and this was the most epic one I’ve ever made! To check out a video of it, click here.

DSC_4821

My sister and her husband turned up to help with the finishing touches and then my guests started to arrive. I had asked everyone to bring food, expecting that most people wouldn’t, but I was wrong! There was soo much food and I ended up having lots of leftovers to take to church and work. I also asked people to dress up, but there wasn’t a lot of effort put into that… mostly because people didn’t own anything pink. However, my sister won some chocolate for being ‘Best Dressed’ (see below). I also provided a few bits and bobs that everyone could put on to brighten the room up.

While we were waiting for people to roll on in, we nibbled away at all the delicious food and caught up with each other. A few friends were able to catch up with old friends, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in years! Once everyone had arrived, I asked people to get into groups so we could do some NZBCF quizzes. On the Pink Ribbon website, they provide us with some quiz questions and I thought it would be fun to participate. Some of the questions were quite hard, but it was all a good laugh… and we all learnt a thing or two! If you’d like to check them out, click here. The winners got some chocolate – delish! We then continued catching up and nibbling away. I had turned an old Pic’s jar into a coin jar for cash donations and then reminded everyone that they could donate via the online link I had provided them. As a bonus, the donations put people into the draw to win a raffle I had organised.

Everyone got a thank you bag when they left, and most people took a cake-pop  (as seen in the feature image) that my sister made, too! The NZBCF sends you a mixture of pens, keychains and badges to give to those who donated, so I put one of these and an information pamphlet into a bag, along with a homemade cookie as a thank you. The cookies were super easy to make (find the recipe here) and I then got them sealed and placed an ingredients sticker on the outside.

After the great success of two Pink Ribbon events and getting a few extra donations for the leftover food, we raised $545.50 and with that, I am rather proud. People asked me why I hosted the events and the answer is simple… why not! I don’t have time to volunteer for awesome charities like @bcfnz on a regular basis, so I try and help out with one off events when I can. Doing street appeals are a great one-off option (but not in my current health state). Have a think about how you could potentially help out when you’ve got some free time!

Pink Ribbon Afternoon Tea

As mentioned in my previous blog, this year I am hosting two Pink Ribbon events.

What are Pink Ribbon events? They are events that help raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation. They typically involve food – usually, breakfast, but this time around I did an afternoon tea instead.

In 2017 over 3,600 kiwis hosted a pink ribbon breakfast and collectively raised over 1.8 million dollars for breast cancer research and support. – Pink Ribbon website

The first one was hosted at my workplace. I asked a few ladies, who I knew were into this sort of thing, to bring along some treats to eat. There were vegan nipple cakes, pink meringues with raspberries, beetroot dip with cheese and crackers, gluten-free triple chocolate brownies and lots more! I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more delicious selection of foods to eat.

I decorated the table with an assortment of pink things and when the time came, called everyone over. We had a lovely work colleague who spoke to us for 5 minutes about her experience with breast cancer and how it affected her family. Her advice to us was that if we know anyone going through cancer, or those who have family members going through cancer, remember to reach out; to ask how they are going, because it could mean a lot to them.

Then, we dug right in! I was stoked to have a pleasant buzz of chatter going on during the event, as this was not only a fundraiser but also a chance for work colleagues to connect.

Overall, we made $257 for the foundation, and I am rather proud of it! It was so simple to host – I asked a few people to bring some food (and I provided some myself), I set up a pink-themed table, I organised a speaker and let people know where to donate! I definitely recommend doing a Pink ribbon event next year, if you are able to.


There were two things that I enjoyed making for this event. First, were the ‘thank you’ bags. The NZBCF sends you a mixture of pens, keychains and badges to give to those who donated. I put one of these and an information pamphlet into a bag, along with a homemade cookie as a thank you. The cookies were super easy to make (find the recipe here). And the icing? Well, let’s just say I need a bit of practice! After a few mishaps, they eventually did turn out well.  I then got them sealed and placed an ingredients sticker on the outside.

The other thing I enjoyed making for the event were some gluten-free chocolate covered pretzels (you can check out a picture of them above). I got the pretzels from the supermarket and all I did was dip half of the pretzel into melted white chocolate that was mixed with some Misty Day Pitaya powder.