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!

 

The KeepCup that’s here to stay

In the lead up to #PlasticFreeJuly, I thought it was an appropriate time to finally purchase a KeepCup. I had been given a reusable cup from my mum, which she got for free after shopping at Farmers. I appreciated the gift and used it a few times, but soon realised it didn’t vibe with me very well. I ended up passing it on to someone who really enjoyed it.

I don’t buy a lot of takeaway coffees, so was in no rush to find a reusable cup that I liked and for those that know me, know that it’s not often I buy things like this when full price. I kept an eye out on places that sold KeepCups, checking out their colour combos and looking out for any sales. Last weekend, when I was at St Lukes Mall, I walked into Stevens and finally found one that I liked. As someone at work said to me, the cup you choose can potentially say a lot about you, so picking a colour combination that suited me was important. I also happened to get 15% off – bonus!!

Have you got a KeepCup, or something similar?

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.

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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.

Gluten-free Shortbread

I am hosting two Pink Ribbon events within the next month (one at work and one with friends), so thought I would give some Pink Ribbon Shortbread a try. It was the first time I’ve ever used royal icing, and I think they turned out pretty well!

The shortbread recipe is from here and the icing recipe is from here, thanks to good ol’ Chelsea.

Gluten-Free Shortbread

Ingredients:

250g butter, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
1 1/2 cups standard flour

Please double check that all of your ingredients are gluten-free.

Icing (Makes 1 1/2 cups)

2 egg whites
2 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon strained lemon juice (no pips or fibre)
2 ½ cups icing sugar

Please double check that all of your ingredients are gluten-free.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C bake (140°C fan forced).  Grease oven tray or line with baking paper.
  2. Beat butter and icing sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Mix in cornflour and flour until the mixture comes together and forms a dough.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1 cm thick and cut into shapes using biscuit cutters.  Alternatively, roll dough into a log and slice into rounds, using a floured knife to prevent sticking.
  5. Place on prepared tray and bake 25 – 30 minutes, until shortbread is pale but crisp.
  6. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Place all icing ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric beater until fluffy, thick and shiny.
  8. Spoon icing into a piping bag (or you can use a small ziplock plastic bag with a small hole cut out of the corner).
  9. Pipe onto biscuits for decoration.
  10. Store in an airtight container.

I added some Misty Day Potions Pitaya powder to my icing in order to make the pink tone for the Breast Cancer awareness ribbon.

Note: Contains raw egg whites – not suitable for pregnant women to eat and those on restricted diets.

 

Love Exposure (Restaurant Review)

On our way to Mt Eden after watching Tully (great film BTW, I definitely recommend watching this one), my father and I kind of stumbled across Love Exposure. We went from planning on eating somewhere in Mt Eden, to seeing Nandos and deciding that would do instead, to noticing Love Exposure from the opposite side of the road and wanting to know more… What type of place was this? What was it called? What sort of food did they offer? The neon lights and the Brothers Beer sign drew us in.

Overall: It’s not going to suit everyone, but if you like Asian Fusion food or want to try something a little different, I would definitely try it out.

Where are they?

They are located at 191 Dominion Road in Mount Eden. They are on the corner of Dominion Road and Onslow Road and they’re pretty hard to miss as the entire place is lite with neon lights!

What sort of vibes were going on?

From the get-go, the vibes are great. They had music playing in the background and there were plenty of people packing the seats up, so there was an awesome buzz going on. The neon colours and what would usually seem like tacky decorations create a fun and bubbly environment. As I say, the decor is something that would usually be considered tacky… yet, somehow, they make it work!

There are three different ‘areas’ that you can be seated – two inside areas and one outside area. It looked like they had room to cater for some bigger groups, as well. I enjoyed sitting on a mermaid patterned seat!

So what’s their service like?

They seated us as soon as we walked in, giving us the option of sitting inside or out. They then presented us with the menu (unfortunately a little hard to read under the neon lights, but not impossible) and came back a few minutes later to take our order. The food was served to us really fast – although it should be noted that things didn’t turn up all at once, which was fine as we were sharing food. They also came back to check up on us later, which is always a nice little touch and works out well in regards to ordering more drinks (or food if you didn’t pick enough to begin with).

Fast service, funky decor and flavoursome food! 

And their food?

Extremely tasty. We ordered the Vietnamese spring rolls, the free-range chicken satay skewers and the grilled pork shoulder with lettuce cups. All of the meat was beautifully flavoured. My only wish was that we had more lettuce (or rice) to help compensate for the flavoursome meats. Perhaps we can adjust our order accordingly next time! I also got a Lemmy lemonade and my father got some good ol Brothers Beer.

I enjoyed that each dish has an aspect where you were involved. We had to wrap our spring rolls in lettuce and dip them in a sauce, we had to dip our satay skewers in the satay sauce and then sprinkle peanuts on top and we had to wrap our pork shoulder in a lettuce leaf and top it with this delicious sauce.

A lot of the food is also gluten-free (bonus for me!) and there were a few vegetarian dishes on offer too. The food ranges from $10-$16 and I think it’s recommended to share the dishes. As mentioned above, my father and I purchased three between us. The only potential downside to the food is that all of your pictures turn out pink!! (See below)

 

What’s your Daily Mantra?

Thanks to a KikkiK purchase a few years ago (similar to this), I’ve constantly got a ‘mantra’ that I say to myself. A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated frequently that helps create a positive mindset. These mantras not only help create a positive mindset, but I feel like they help create a healthy mindset, too. It’s important to feel confidence in oneself and these little sayings encourage me to practice mental self-care. I replace these KikkK ‘inspiration cards’ weekly, to help me have a focus and feel like I have a purpose. For the week, I see the mantra every morning and say it to myself – well, that’s how it started anyway…

More often than not, I now make up my own mantra and have it much longer than a week. At the moment, my mantra is ‘I can do this’. Why? Well, if you have read some of my previous blogs, you’ll know that I am currently living with arthritis. It started with salmonella; something that is unpleasant, but not something I knew could cause me to get reactive arthritis. It was supposed to be a rather temporary disease but unfortunately, that’s not the case for me and I now have whats being categorised as ‘seronegative rheumatoid arthritis’. So, every day, I am saying to myself “I can do this” because every day has its struggles and I’m fighting my way through it. Some days are harder than others, but each day has its own battle and whats hard is that it looks like I’m okay to everyone else i.e. when I was lying in a hospital bed, it was obvious that I wasn’t well, but when I’m walking around (albeit still on crutches) most people think I’m doing okay. So, to set my day up with a positive mindset, I start with saying my mantra to myself.

Do you have a statement or slogan that you often say to yourself to help you keep a positive, healthy mindset?