Brunch Club: The Lula Inn

Blog, Blogging World

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

Arthritis Updates, Blog

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!

Reactive Arthritis: An update

Arthritis Updates, Blog

For those that have been reading my blog, you’ll already be aware that I’ve been living with Reactive Arthritis for 6 weeks now. For those that want to catch up, go here.

I thought I would give a quick update on how my Reactive Arthritis is going. As I said in my previous blog, I was (and still am keen) to read real-life experiences that people have had with their Reactive Arthritis, rather than read a bunch of medical stuff that may not relate to me.

Since the end of my previous blog, I have gone back to work on a part-time basis. I may be sore and tired but I’m so glad I was finally able to get back to work this week – even if it has only been a few hours a day. This whole experience has been incredibly challenging and unfortunately, I still have a way to go in terms of getting better. However, for now, I’m enjoying being somewhat useful again. Big ups to my workplace for being so understanding and supportive through this. As ironic as it sounds, I’m quite a lucky gal 💁🏻‍♀️

As stated in my previous blog, I have a rheumatologist appointmnet in a couple of weeks and they will determine whether or not I remain on my current treatment plan or move me over to a more intense plan. Unfortunately, since my last blog, the Reactive Arthritis has spread to my left knee and ankle as well. I went back to hospital for the fourth time to get more tests done and they decided to up my steroids once again and asked that I wait for the rheumatologist appointment before looking at a completely different treatment plan. Having taken bloods during this visit, they informed me that I was positive for the HLA-B27 gene.

Human leukocyte antigen B27 (HLA-B27) is a protein located on the surface of your white blood cells and is a genetic marker for autoimmune diseases such as arthritis.

Human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) are proteins commonly found on white blood cells. These antigens help your immune system identify the differences between healthy body tissue and foreign substances that may cause infection. Although most HLAs protect your body from harm, HLA-B27 is a specific type of protein that contributes to immune system dysfunction. The presence of HLA-B27 on your white blood cells can cause your immune system to attack those otherwise healthy cells.

It’s interesting that I wasn’t tested for this earlier, but I’m glad I know now. Regardless of this new information, I still have to wait for the rheumatologist appointment, but having this knowledge on board may or may not affect their decision for my treatment plan.

I am currently living life with less pain, on the whole. The swelling in both knees seems to be very slowly going down and I’m starting to need less pain medication by the day. That doesn’t stop me from needing to walk with assistance (crutches) and I still drip with sweat when I’m up and moving around too much. My body aches, but I no longer cry throughout the night in pain. There is a current heatwave here in NZ, so having inflamed legs doesn’t help with the overheating, but there’s not much we can do about that!

A weird side effect of using crutches is that my hand gets pins and needles in it. My right hand is the one I have been more dependent on over this period of six weeks (as most of the time it has only been my right leg needing the support) and it came as a surprise to me when it started to feel a bit odd. It turns out I’ve been hitting a nerve in my arm that in turn creates pins and needles in my hand, mostly in my pinky. Just a warning in case it’s happening to you – it may be because of your crutches!

Out of curiosity, some things that I am doing to help with my Reactive Arthritis are:

  • Trying to avoid as much sugar, gluten and dairy as possible
  • Eating pineapple (a natural anti-inflammatory)
  • Taking pro-biotic tablets to counteract the antibiotics I am taking
  • Taking turmeric tablets and making pumpkin soup with turmeric powder
  • Sleeping with ice packs under my ankles and damp cloths on my knees to help keep me cool
  • Drinking enough water throughout the day

If you have any questions about how I am going or have any handy tips, feel free to message me! I will update you once I have seen the rheumatologist.

P.S. The blog image is a Tropical Smoothie I made using fresh pineapple, a fair trade Huckleberry banana, some Homegrown orange juice and a tropical Juicie. The straw is from CaliWoods.

Giving Back: Street Appeals

Blog, Thoughts

In my spare time, I enjoy volunteering for organisations like the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and the SPCA. A lot of organisations like these run Street Appeals, where people can donate money into buckets that you’re holding outside of stores like Countdown and Mitre10. You may be thinking, “Hmm, I don’t know about that. I don’t like harassing people for money”. Well, let me ease your mind – as someone who is collecting in a Street Appeal, we are asked not to approach people. Instead, we let people come to us, which I think this is really important because no one wants to be pressured into donating!

I usually sign up to the Street Appeals with a friend and we do a two-hour block of collecting. We usually make a day of it and either have breakfast or lunch together as well (depending on the time). We spend most of the time chatting away with each other and to those who donate. It’s quite interesting to see the different conversations you can have with those who choose to donate. Sometimes it can be a real eye-opener, as the person shares their personal connection with the organisation.

It is such an awesome and easy way to give back to others with a low level of commitment. I wanted to get into volunteering for years (specifically at the SPCA) but realised I didn’t have the time to commit to regular volunteering, so signing up for things like the Street Appeals (and other cool one-off events like the Cancer Society’s Walking with the Stars half marathon), I am able to volunteer my time on an irregular basis – win-win!! Why do this? Well, to be honest, it makes me feel good! As I say, it is such an easy way to give back to others, so I think the more important question is “Why not?”. I have found over the years that taking care of myself includes doing things for others and this is just one way that I achieve that.

That being said, this won’t suit everyone. If you want to help out but Street Appeals don’t sound too appealing for you, then perhaps look into other things that you could do – like bake cupcakes for the SPCA Cupcake Appeal or look into volunteering at the Starship Hospital. Whatever way you choose to give back, the organisations and those they serve will appreciate it 😊

Gluten-Free Delight: Bakeworks Delivers!

Blog, Product Review

Having been stuck at home for the past month (read more about why here), I’ve consequently spent a lot of time on the internet, among other things.

One delightful thing that I came across is that Bakeworks, an awesome Gluten-Free company, has an online shop AND they deliver for free – “Free North Island shipping on orders $20+ and only $10 for South Island – Sorry no Rural Delivery due to courier restrictions”.

I have had an intolerance to gluten for several years now and I love stumbling across new products to try. I first took notice of Bakeworks when their Home St. Sprouted Seed Pizza Bases became an alternative option at Hell’s Pizza. I then saw them (and tasted their scrumptious samples) at the Gluten-Free Food & Allergy Show on the North Shore. However, not knowing where to buy these amazing bases from, Bakeworks fell off my radar.

Friday is pizza night at my house and I was gleefully getting used to Hell’s Pizza – an altered Pandemonium, being my favourite. My mother, however, came home one night with a packet of the sprouted seed pizza bases and I told her how much I had enjoyed them. She had purchased them from one of her favourite stores, Cere’s Wholefoods and I asked if she could get more the next time she was there. Lo and behold, Bakeworks showed up on my Instagram within the next few days and it said they had an online store! I was absolutely delighted. I made my order on the spot and within 36 hours had the goods delivered to my house for free.

The items that I tried were:

1x Torpedo Roll 210g Single for $3.99 each
1x Bakeworks Pizza GF Base 10″ 2pk 370g for $5.95 each
2x Home St. Sprouted Pizza GF Base 10″ 2pk 370g for $7.49 each
1x Bread Crumbs Retail 300g – Bread Crumbs Retail 300g for $5.50 each
1x Shortbread 200g for $5.50 each
1x Triple Choc Muffins 2pk Retail for $5.50 each

So far I have tried the muffins (which didn’t taste gluten-free, meaning I feel happy offering it to friends when they come over), the shortbread (which I would say have been the best gluten-free biscuits I have tasted thus far) and the plain pizza base (which was as delicious as the sprouted seed pizza base).

I definitely look forward to trying more of their products in the future. Go on, give them a go – spend only $10 (South Island) or $20 (North Island) and it can get delivered right to your door for free!!

How Reactive Arthritis took reign over my Summer Holidays

Arthritis Updates, Blog

When I was first diagnosed with Reactive Arthritis, I did what most doctors hate and went straight to the internet for answers. I wasn’t looking for medical opinions, however – I was looking for personal experiences so I knew what to expect.

So, what is Reactive Arthritis and how did I get it?

Reactive Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and you get it after having an infection in the bowel or genital tract. The day before my inflammation had started, it was confirmed that I had salmonella – a type of food poisoning. To read more about Reactive Arthritis, take a look at this brochure from Arthritis NZ and to read more about salmonella, take a look at this brochure from the Ministry of Health NZ.

How did it all start?

Some could say the timing was a blessing, others not so much. I caught the salmonella at the start of December and it lasted around two weeks. The original day I came home early from work due to feeling sick, was also the day that my dog passed away. It was sudden and heartbreaking – with putting her down as the only humane option at the end of the night.  I will never forget those moments when she closed her eyes and you could finally see her at peace, no longer panting in pain or confusion. My heart, it still aches.

Due to this traumatic event, I wasn’t taking too much notice of my poor health. Nevertheless, once I had been tested and it was confirmed that I had salmonella, I was told to just keep on keeping on and that I wouldn’t be getting any medication to help. At that point, I didn’t mind, as I could feel that it was finally coming to an end. Little did I know, that Reactive Arthritis was coming my way!

How did it ‘reign over’ my Summer Holidays?

I write this post four and a half weeks since I first experienced symptoms and I still have a long way to go in terms of healing – just so you get an understanding of how long this process has been.

I originally woke up one Saturday morning with a sore jaw and a sore ankle. Thinking that these two things could not be related and not being in too much pain, I went about my day. It was an early Christmas for my family as I was to fly out to France the following Friday 22nd December for my summer holidays (although, it would be winter in France). Over the course of the day, I battled with the dregs of my salmonella and the beginnings of inflammation in my left jaw and right ankle. Over the course of the next 24 hours, the pain got worse and my ankle was starting to be noticeably swollen. A friend had come over and she took me straight to A&E. The diagnosis was not straightforward, unfortunately, and I was sent home with the suspicion of Reactive Arthritis and a prescription for low dose painkillers and low dose steroids.

I am unable to take anti-inflammatories, which is something quite important to note (as it changes the whole course of action in terms of healing when it comes to things like Reactive Arthritis).

Hours after my initial visit to A&E, my mother had to take me back, as the inflammation was getting worse and I was becoming less able to put pressure on my foot, making it hard to walk. They sent us to the hospital for more testing and I was thankfully able to grab a wheelchair while we were moving around for different tests. After some bloods, an X-ray and after they took some fluid out of my right ankle (unpleasant experience, but necessary), they confirmed that it was Reactive Arthritis and I was told to continue the treatment that was prescribed to me at A&E. Within 48 hours I was back in the hospital, via an ambulance, due to how much pain I was in. I was thankfully prescribed better painkillers and was given a few extra days of steroids. They told me to visit my doctor before the end of the week as a checkup. At this point, it seemed like they assumed I would still be making it over to France at the end of the week – boy, were they wrong.

Friday came along and I had to cancel my plane tickets. It was a hard decision but I wasn’t improving and knew that it was the smart idea to cancel rather than reschedule at this point (thankfully I did, seeing as I am still in the healing process a month later). It was time to visit my doctor. He saw me walking along on my crutches, unable to put any pressure on my right leg and instantly knew that the dosage of steroids I had been given were not high enough. He increased the dosage and warned me about the dangers of being on the higher dosage – your body becomes dependant on them and it can be super dangerous to suddenly stop taking them. There are also way higher chances of getting an infection, as well. Within a day, I already felt better. However, over the next 48 hours, I then began to feel worse. It had spread to my knee and it was excruciating to bend my leg.

Having done our online research, we could see that it wasn’t unusual for the inflammation to spread. A few days later, however, I was in too much discomfort to ignore that things seemed like they were getting worse. We went back to my doctors (not my usual one, as he was on annual leave) and the doctor sympathised with my pain and gave me longer lasting painkillers, but said there was nothing else he could really do to help. We went for a blood test as a precaution and by the next morning, I was back in the hospital. Apparently, the blood test I did post my doctor visit didn’t look too great, so he called me up and sent me to the hospital ASAP, thinking I could have an infection. We did more blood tests at the hospital and thankfully I didn’t have an infection. They mentioned that they thought I would have been successful in my healing at this point, but my knee and ankle were still quite swollen. Luckily, my left jaw had gone from painful enough that I could only eat liquids or extremely soft foods to being able to eat relatively normal and only have sporadic belts of pain.

Seeing as my knee had the most inflammation, the doctors decided to drain some fluid out of it – like they had done the previous week with my ankle. They warned me that it increases my chances of infection, but can also be really helpful. Around half a cup later, my knee was not as full. They did some more tests and decided to also inject a steroid directly into my knee. This was extremely painful and I wasn’t expecting the doctor to take the needle and in and out a few times to “make sure she was getting it in the right spot”. Despite the pain, I appreciated both attempts to help my knee, as these actions seemed to help show progress in my healing. My father has rheumatoid arthritis and seeing as I was taking much longer to heal than they thought, we had to double check that they had not misdiagnosed me. I had X-rays of my jaw, pelvis, both hands, both knees and both feet. Thankfully, the results came back clear.

I spent the next three days in the hospital, getting out just in time for New Year’s Eve – not that that meant much to me at the time. It has been two weeks since my stay in the hospital and I am still in pain, which changes on a daily basis. I am getting more sleep than I was a month ago, although I cannot wait until I can sleep through the night. I went for a check-up at the doctors last week and he has suggested that I continue on my current treatment plan of steroids until I visit the rheumatologist in mid-February, so they can make an official analysis. I am seeing a very slow positive progression of the swelling but the pain is still quite prevalent.

So, how did Reactive Arthritis take reign over my holidays? Well, I had to take the last week of work off in December, I spent two weeks unable to walk and two weeks still on crutches and bed rest, I’ve had to take the first week off work in January and I’m still in the process of healing. I essentially had no holidays. I am, however, extremely grateful to my mother who has taken care of me this whole time and to all my friends and family who have visited me in the hospital or at home. It’s amazing how times like these show you people’s true colours and makes you appreicate all of those around you.

I hope to update you all on my progress over the next month. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions!