Easter Vacation 2018

Having missed the Summer holidays (read why here), I felt like I needed to get away for the Easter break and luckily my friend, Kate, agreed!

We booked into an Airbnb that is located just outside of Hamilton and planned to have a relaxing weekend. What we didn’t plan for was the four and a half hour drive it took to get to the Airbnb, which would usually take only an hour and a half without Easter traffic. Nevertheless, we didn’t let the traffic get to us and luckily Kate bought some delicious snacks for the drive there!

We arrived at our Airbnb and I was delighted to see that the pictures provided didn’t do the garden justice – it was an absolutely beautiful vegetable garden with a great long-distance view, which looked breathtaking at sunset (and perhaps sunrise too, but ya’ll crazy if you think I’d get up that early).

On Saturday we decided to visit the Hamilton Gardens. I had seen lots of pictures of the Gardens online before, but don’t recall ever going there as an adult. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to walk around too much, as I’m still on crutches, I was worried that the Gardens might be too big. Fortunately for me, a slow pace made the gardens bearable – although I made sure to take plenty of breaks along the way and was pretty shattered by the end.

 

After the gardens, we picked up a few extra groceries and headed back to our Airbnb. It’s so lovely to have the time to just chill out and relax, play on your phone etc. and not have to worry about work or chores!

On Saturday we (and by we, I mean Kate) drove us out to Raglan! We were blessed with a super sunny day and after making a pit stop at a local market, we decided to get some fish and chips for lunch. It was so awesome watching everyone interact so peacefully with each other – swimmers, waterskiers, people on kayaks, people on boats! After our tasty lunch, we headed towards Wairēinga/Bridal Veil Falls. I had researched the day before about things we could do, taking into consideration that I can’t walk very far and stumbled upon this awesome ‘accessible track’, meaning that the walk is assisted wheelchair and pushchair accessible and relatively flat enough for those like myself on crutches! Although it was a long walk for me, it only took around 10 or so minutes to get to the top of the waterfall.

The two viewing platforms at the top of the falls provide spectacular views of the falls and surrounding countryside. From here, the track descends steeply down stairs to a midway viewpoint.The track continues down more stairs to the bottom view bridge and information shelter where there is a magnificent view directly across the pool and up at the falls. – DOC

If you’d like to check out this walk, or others near Raglan, click here to view the Pirongia and Raglan tracks brochure.

 


We then spent the afternoon resting (after I may or may not have napped on the way home). It was great exploring the Airbnb garden, as we got to see some chickens (who enjoyed following us around), got to pick some passionfruit from their vine and some lemons from their tree and had a chance to take some photos of the caterpillars and butterflies that were around! I loved the variety they had in their garden, as well; pumpkin, butternut, capsicum, rosemary, basil, tomatoes, passionfruit, lemons, limes, grapefruit… the list goes on!

 

The drive home on Monday was delightfully fast-paced, clocking up to only an hour and a half – the usual time it takes to get to from my house to Hamilton!

It was super nice to spend the weekend away with my friend at such an awesome Airbnb. What did you do for Easter? Have any plans coming up for another holiday? Let me know!

Brunch Club: The Lula Inn

Yesterday I went along to my first NZ Bloggers Brunch Club event and it was fantastic! The location for this month’s Brunch Club catch up was The Lula Inn and we participated in their “Bottomless Brunch”.

We planned to meet at 11am for our two-hour booking, but in order to catch a ride into town (because I currently can’t drive due to my arthritis), I arrived around 9:30am. I figured I could find a cafe somewhere and get a coffee while I waited, but as I walked past The Lula Inn, I thought I would try and see if I could be seated early. To my delight, I was taken over to our table and ordered myself a coffee. Now, they did accidentally forget about my coffee but I’ll forgive them as they offered me a Prosecco ‘while I waited’ – how kind – and I got my coffee in the end (and it was a really good coffee).

It turned out I wasn’t the only one who was early – the delightful Danielle turned up and kept me company before everyone else arrived! Our table was set up with the menu and our glasses ready to be filled over and over again. It was so awesome to have a chance to meet other bloggers, especially since I’m quite new to blogging! Everyone was so friendly and easy to get along with. We began talking, ordered our food and continued to drink the morning away – I had lots of OJ, but their Citrus Boost Soda was rather tasty too. I ordered the Cured Salmon Potato Hash (with poached eggs, horseradish, beet kraut and watercress) for brunch and boy, was it delicious! The eggs were perfectly cooked on a wide/flat potato hash (first time I’d seen it like this before) and the mixture of flavours was superb.

What were my impressions of The Lula Inn?

I had walked past The Lula Inn previously but never ventured inside before. The first thing I thought to myself was “wow”. I absolutely adored their interior designs, their fabrics and patterns and of course, their foliage. The general vibe is modern, fresh and relaxed. The service I received was top notch (despite the coffee delay) and whenever I asked someone for attention, they kindly served me straight away. They had a DJ playing some tunes while we were there and although it was occasionally hard to hear what people were saying, it was nice to have good music playing in the background.

When I first heard about the “Bottomless Brunch”, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth it, seeing as I don’t drink a lot of alcohol but I can safely say that I would definitely recommend going to The Lula Inn and experiencing their “Bottomless Brunch” for yourself. I would actually be quite keen to go back again!

If you’re a blogger, come along to the next event and say hi! The Brunch Club is such a cool way to network and connect with others who have similar passions as you. Thanks to the ladies who organised the event!!

My Arthritis: An Update

You may have noticed that I did not refer to this post as “Reactive Arthritis” like my previous post, rather “My Arthritis”. That’s because I have apparently surpassed the healing period for Reactive Arthritis and my arthritis has now transformed. Although the rheumatologist has informed me that I don’t fit perfectly into one specific type of arthritis, she said that I am most closely aligned to seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. If you are interested in finding out more about rheumatoid arthritis, take a look at this Arthritis NZ brochure.

When I went to see the rheumatologist, she was able to do an ultrasound on my joints and we not only confirmed that the inflammation is in my knees and ankles but we also saw that it was in elbows, which I was completely unaware of. The inflammation was also in my ankle tendons, rather than the joint, which was interesting to find out as well.

As a result of my consult with the rheumatologist I’m now on a new treatment plan (unfortunately much larger than I would have liked) called Triple Therapy. This seems to be the standard attack on rheumatoid arthritis and it’s hopeful that it will start helping me. The unfortunate side is that it takes three months to kick in, so I’m also still taking steroids as well. The steroids have certainly added a dramatic amount of fluid weight gain to my body, especially around my face. It’s hard to deal with, but I’m pushing through it knowing that once I’m off the steroids it will eventually go away.

So what does this mean for me now? I have to keep taking the medication – currently, an average of 18 tablets a day (including a couple that my mum is giving me, like turmeric tablets) and in three months time I will see my rheumatologist again for an update. Unfortunately, the Triple Therapy drugs have some nasty side effects, so I have to keep a close eye on them as well and there is also a chance that the disease may spread to my back. I purchased a small notebook to help me keep track of anything unusual because three months is a long time to remember small details!

Due to some of the drugs’ side effects, I also have to get a blood test every month to make sure that everything is okay. It’s a lot to take on, but I’m trying to focus my energy on more positive things like going to social events and reading fun books. It can be hard some days, especially when I’m in pain, but it’s important for me to keep my head high and continue to live life as normally as I can.

If you have any questions about what I’m going through or would like to share your own story – flick me an email, I’d love to hear from you!

It’s time to step back

I have been part of a small team that organises events once every couple of months for young people (talking about topics such as money, gender equality, mental health etc.) for a few years now. I was in charge of taking photos of the events and generally having a creative touch when needed – like occasionally helping out with table ‘conversation starters’. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending my time being a part of the core team that run these events, but its time to step down from the role.

It’s not something I randomly decided – I thought about it for quite a while, but with the news that my health is not going so well, it made me decide that it was time to let go of that responsibility in my life so I can focus on my health.

I’ve always been a person who struggles to say ‘no’ to things. I often take on too much responsibility and it’s not until something goes wrong (like I double book myself) that I step back to see how much I have on my shoulders. Taking a journey of self-awareness means that I am stepping back before things become a problem. I acknowledge that saying ‘yes’ is something that I often do before really thinking about what it means for my life and I am trying to change that behaviour. So, I am taking the first step by stepping down from my role with this group, as a way to care for myself – by freeing up some of my spare time and concentrating on things like learning more about healthy foods that I can eat and reading more books in nature.

Do you take on too much? Think about it next time you say ‘yes’ to something!

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake Recipe

I recently had an event where I needed to take a plate for a shared meal and I decided to make a cake! I found this recipe online and altered it to my desire (but in reality just used what I had in the fridge already).

You’ll see that the icing doesn’t have any quantities written alongside the ingredients – this is because it depends on how much icing you want and how thick you like it to be. My suggestion is to start small and slowly build it up, so you have lots of room to play with. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake

Ingredients:

Cake

1 cup Chelsea low GI cane sugar
125g butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 1/2 cups Edmonds gluten-free flour
1 3/4 teaspoons Edmonds baking powder
1/2 cup Lewis Road Milk (I used pure organic ‘Light’)

Icing

Butter
Cream cheese
Icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Grease/flour a 23cm x 23cm cake pan (or line a muffin pan with paper liners if you want to use the batter for muffins).
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla essence.
  5. Combine the flour and baking powder and then add to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  6. Finally, stir in the milk until mixture is smooth. Pour or spoon into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes. For cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when it springs back to the touch.
  8. While you let it cool, make the icing. Quantities are as desired.
  9. Melt a small portion of butter and mix in the cream cheese until you have a smooth consistency. You can add more butter later if you need to thicken the icing.
  10. Add in icing sugar as necessary to make the desired thickness and amount of icing.
  11. Once cooled, ice the cake and decorate as desired before serving.

I topped mine with fresh blueberries and passionfruit – delicious!!

Hello Friends & Allies (Café Review)

Overall: Hello Friends & Allies is my absolute favourite local café.

Where are they?

They are located at 93 Great South Rd, Epsom, which is known as ‘the Market Road Shops’. It’s a prime location, being situated at an intersection with four directions filled with hungry customers. It’s parking, however, is not so prime. I often feel like swinging by to grab a coffee or a cabinet treat, but sadly end up driving away as the parking is too hard. Sunday before 10am is the best time for a park, as the bus lane is open and most people haven’t got out of bed yet! There is also a side street close by and you may just have to earn your food by walking a little bit to get there.

There are plenty of different seating options, either out the front or out the back – both providing different but lovely atmospheres.

So what’s their service like?

I have not once turned up here and been disappointed. The service is wonderful and the staff seem happy to be working there. They could potentially take orders a wee bit faster sometimes, though. They are also responsive to images/comments on Instagram which is an added bonus, making customers feel like they’re wanted and welcome in store.

Beautiful food, friendly service and colourful but not over the top decor – what else could you ask for!?

And their food?

The food always looks amazing – even when I order food ‘off the menu’ (i.e. just make up an order). They take pride in the food they offer their customers and ensure that it not only tastes amazing but looks like it tastes amazing!! They also have a wide range of delicious cabinet food, with gluten-free options for those that need them. As you can see from the pictures below, I thoroughly enjoy their berry smoothie!

 

Cost?

I believe they would be considered an average café cost – around $20-$30 for a cooked meal and a drink. Not super cheap but not crazy expensive either. Totally worth what you get!

Opening times:

Mon – 7am to 4pm
Tues – 7am to 4pm
Wed – 7am to 4pm
Thurs – 7am to 4pm
Fri – 7am to 4pm
Sat – 7:30am to 4pm
Sun – 7:30am to 4pm

 

Reactive Arthritis: Dealing with Disappointment

I have to say, the feeling of disappointment is not something that I come across often. I often feel frustrated and annoyed in situations that don’t turn out how I would like them to, but disappoint is another story altogether.

Why am I disappointed? Because as you may have read earlier here and here, I was supposed to have a rheumatologist appointment yesterday. I was called a couple of hours before the appointment to say that the rheumatologist had called in sick and we had to reschedule. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but my heart honestly dropped. I was so disappointed. I had been waiting over a month for this appointment, which included taking extra medication to cover me until then. I had also been waiting to hear what I am supposed to do in terms of physio, the expected timeline of this arthritis, how they think I’m progressing and to get a new treatment plan. The direction and course of my life is currently depending on this rhumatolgist, so to hear that my much-anticipated appointment was cancelled, was shattering.

Having the appointment cancelled meant that I also had to call up my doctors and get another prescription, as I had run out of medication on Monday morning. This turned out to be quite a hassle and of course cost me extra money!

Luckily, the next available appointment was Friday (could have been worse). It is, unfortunately, the most difficult day for me to take time off in regards to work, but after chatting with my manager, she said it was fine for me to take the time off. Later that day, however, (same day as the cancellation and rescheduling) I get a notification that the Friday appointment is now also cancelled and they’ll have to get back to me with another time. I feel for the rheumatologist lady (as she must be pretty sick to take the whole week off), but again, my heart drops. How long am I going to have to wait? What happens with the medication that I’m on? Do I keep taking it? Am I walking properly with my crutches? Should I be doing more exercises to help with the healing? The questions could go on forever.

They got in contact with me today and the new appointment is March 1st – too far away for me to stay on the medication that I’m currently on. That means that I not only have to wait another two and a half weeks to see the rheumatologist (to hear her pivotal decisions about my life), but I also have to visit my doctor again (more money!!) to get more medication and potentially change medication until my new appointment.

With every notification or phone call, I have felt disappointment. It has been hard for me to deal with, as my emotions have overwhelmed me. Having had time to process what has happened and now that I have booked in to see my doctor, I am trying to overcome the disappointment and keep myself focused on the future. Luckily, my best friend and I just booked three days away together over Easter and that gives me someone positive to look forward to! I am struggling at the moment, but becoming self-aware involves figuring out my emotions and right now, I know that planning ahead for something positive is the best thing for me to do. So, with that in mind, I need to plan three days worth of meals so we can do one supermarket shop and then relax for the whole Easter weekend. Got any ideas? Flick a message my way.

For those that are interested, the blog image is a picture of my newly purchased book, Self-Care for the Real World, I’d totally recommend checking it out!