Timelapse – return to blogging – Brighton West Pier

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay Underdown/wavesandpebbles

This photo was taken from my hotel room in Brighton when I escaped with my daughter for a couple of days before returning home for my last cycle of chemo treatment which I am having today.  I have very mixed emotions and hoping that I don’t end up back in hospital.

My post today was prompted by the realisation that people were still reading my blog and if I left it much longer I might never return.  I realise how much I have missed the blogging world but I have taken time out to get out and about as much as possible before I am restricted again.  I have also been experimenting with other social media, Twitter in particular, but there is no comparison.  I find Twitter fascinating but there is not the same sense of community that I feel might be gained from being part of the blogging world.  I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this.  There’s a lot of social media options out there and for me they each serve different purposes and it’s finding a way to use them without social media taking over your life.

I’m just going to leave it there today.  I’ve still been taking photos which I will catch up on and blog about.  My Apple desktop is a scattered mess of photos which will no doubt give me inspiration.  I’m keeping calm and relaxed and there is just something about the photo I have chosen for this blog that takes me to a different place.

Introducing my Healthy Eating Forum for Bloggers across the World

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

I know I need to eat healthier.  It’s not that I don’t eat reasonably healthily, as I think I do.  But it is what the ‘reasonably’ stands for.  Some days it’s chocolate, including keep returning to that delicious block of Belgian chocolate gateaux that I thought was such a bargain as I can slice it straight from the freezer and no longer wait for it to defrost.  Other days it’s butter, too many things throughout the day that just wouldn’t be the same without it: hot buttered toast, mushrooms cooked in butter, cauliflower cheese with a rich sauce.  Then recently I bought a second hand Kenwood food mixer and have been making my own bread and baking cakes.  How do people who bake all the time manage to keep trim?  And going out socialising, eating and drinking in restaurants and cafes.  Yesterday I was offered dessert (after a fairly healthy and very filling jacket potato with cheese and salad).  Usually I decline but I was tempted by their homemade Raspberry Pavlova.  When it arrived the raspberries were sitting on a thick blanket of fresh cream.  It was delicious but even I realised it was a bit over the top.

When I was first diagnosed with leukaemia in January this year I was in hospital for three months and lost about a stone and a half (I never can visualise my metric weight).  I must admit I was glad that I had some weight to lose as I eventually couldn’t eat and had to have nutrition intravenously.  The medical staff were concerned that I got my appetite back and ate things that would build me up.  So when I could eat, it wasn’t particularly what I would call healthy – it was a bit of a mix.  Which is probably where I am at now.  I do believe that as long as the healthy and unhealthy is properly balanced then it is not a problem.  But what is that balance?  Balance is probably the wrong word as it definitely should not be 50:50.  What do you think?

When I was in my early twenties I was forever trying to lose weight, trying different diets with my friends then putting the weight back on.  Then I stumbled across something that worked for me, losing over two stone and keeping it off for many years.  I still recall that I had a set menu every day, it became a routine.  I had cereal for breakfast, crispbreads with apple sauce (yes, sounds strange, but I discovered it and it worked for me) then a chicken salad in the evening.  I also walked to and from work, a good half hour each way.  The thing was I didn’t have to think about what I was going to eat.  I knew.  Once I got used to it, I stopped being obsessed with thinking about food.  Have you found something that has worked for you?

I know what I need to do.  I need to plan what I am going to eat, make a shopping list and stick to it.  And how difficult is that?  Simple.  Then why is it so hard to do?  Why do I seem to have such a block when it comes to planning my diet?  I have come across some blogs on here which focus on healthy eating, including people who have been affected by cancer and discuss the best types of food to eat.  The problem is there is so much information out there and it’s knowing the best places to look.  Have you found a really good blog or website?  Is there a book you would recommend?

I should have the motivation.  I have good reason to want to eat healthily but somehow that isn’t always enough to do what’s needed.  There must be other people out there who are struggling like I am, or who have moved on and now living a healthy life.  I am therefore setting up a page which people can visit and share their own experiences, what has helped them overcome blocks to healthy eating, what healthy eating means to them in practice, what the risks are – such as what has stopped them following a healthy diet, what has got in the way.  Things such as stress, relationship break-ups, long working hours, cooking for family?  I’d love to hear from bloggers all over the world.

Please visit my new Forum https://wavesandpebbles.wordpress.com/healthy-eating-forum/ and let me know what you think of this idea.  I hope it will bring people together to discuss their issues related to healthy eating.  You may have noticed I don’t talk about losing weight.  I do need to lose weight but I think that once I am eating a healthier diet, my weight will gradually reduce which is the best way of keeping it off.

I look forward to hearing about your own experiences and am hoping that by doing this, it will help me, and others out there in the blogging world, live a healthier life.

Happy blogging.

Kay

Recovering at home – working towards my goals

Photo Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Photo Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Today I thought I’d better try and get back into blogging, which I had been looking forward to but other things have got in the way and I couldn’t seem to decide what to write about.

One thing I am really pleased about is that I at last seem to be making progress with an idea for a novel, one of my ambitions in life.  It is gradually beginning to take shape, slowly.  At last I seem to have found a way that works for me, by doing it randomly and gradually it is coming together and different ideas are starting to pop up.  I want to write something that is both simple and yet complex in the way that it is structured, bringing together things to do with life that I am interested in and using some of my life experiences and learning.  I had often thought about writing something autobiographical until I attended a creative writing course which made me realise that I could write fiction and weave personal experiences within it.

The other thing I have been doing over the past couple of weeks is catching up on an online learning course on social media marketing.  It is an introduction and has been interesting seeing how the course itself has been put together.  Maybe this will come in useful when I publish my book!  When it comes to publishing – some way off for me at the moment – there are decisions to make on whether to go the self-publishing route, whether to publish an e-book, traditional printed copies or both.  I love books that I can just flick through, there is just something about browsing in a book shop, holding the book and turning the pages.  Yet having an e-book would open it up to a much wider audience.

Something else I have done in the past couple of weeks is putting together a photo book.  I took advantage of one Groupon’s offers and enjoyed putting together a random selection of memories from photos on my computer which spanned from the birth of my 13 year old daughter.  I received the book in the post yesterday and am really pleased with it.  It has a hard cover with my own photos on the front and back.  A bonus was that I could share an electronic version with friends and family if I wished – I wasn’t expecting that – so I am well pleased.  Going back to my novel, I can really see the benefits of going the ‘e’ route but a combination – like my photo book – would definitely suit me best.  So at some point I will need to research the options, particularly cost-wise and time-wise.  If I really got a move on with my draft, when could I realistically publish?  At last I do actually believe it could happen, that it is not some flimsy dream without legs.

IMG_0731

Since coming out of hospital I have been dipping into ‘The Millionaire Course. A Visionary Plan for Creating the Life of Your Dreams’ by Marc Allen.  I really like the book, particularly the use of ‘keys’ and numerous quotations.  It has reminded me of things I have learned in the past and I have started doing affirmations again in relation to things I want to achieve.  Last time I did this regularly, I did notice changes take place in my life for the better.  I just need to remember to read the affirmations each day, add to them or change them, and see what happens.  It helps in keeping things positive during a difficult time, as does my writing.

Well that’s it for now.  I hope not to leave it so long till next time.  I’m now going to see what photos I can use for this post.

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Additional note:

It intrigues me where things lead.  As I thought about what photo to use, I decided to take a photo of an inspirational tile that was a gift from my eldest daughter some years ago.  It sits here in a prominent position in my room.  I then decided to look on the back to see if there was any way of finding out if it was still available.  Well I still don’t know the answer to that as I got distracted.  The tile is by Russ Berrie and I googled this.  I ended up reading about Russ Berrie’s story as Founder of The Russell Berrie Foundation.  A man who starts making money at the age of 10 years old selling scorecards at baseball games and has a real belief in the value and skill of being able to sell.  He becomes one of the top 40 most generous Americans and founds The Russell Berrie Foundation.  Sadly he passed away on Christmas Day in 2002 but his memory lives on through the Foundation.  I liked the following quote from his story which is an extract from a lecture given in 1998 “Selling Your Way to Success”:

“So, set a goal, then persevere in that goal through thick and thin, overcoming all obstacles … if you have the courage and the sense of urgency to get it done, you will do so. You can achieve what you want if you truly want it badly enough. My wish for you is that you get in touch with the person that is uniquely you. I advise you to trust yourself enough to let the world in and savor all that it has to offer.” (Russ Berrie 1998)

Forced to Reflect – chemo and pancakes – including recipe for Strawberry Pancakes with Fresh Apricot and Caramel Sauce

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Copyright 2015 Kay/wavesandpebbles

Forced to Reflect

In my mind, the words force and reflect do not sit well together. Forced is negative, being made to do something against one’s will, whereas reflection brings to mind a calm place with ample time to look back in a positive way on memories. What brings me to think of these words together? I have had a couple of months off treatment, which has taken me to a wonderful place where I have enjoyed life, had renewed energy, been able to think about the future, my hair has regrown to a point where I actually like my new short style. I began to feel that I was in a false state of wellness as I knew that my next cycle of treatment was imminent. Last week I had the dreaded call, resulting in dates for this week. I have tried to keep positive, not to think back on the difficult and challenging time that I have had since January.

Yesterday, as the clear ultramarine blue liquid dripped into me, I thought ‘what a beautiful colour’. One of the nurses who knew me quite well from my spell in the high dependency unit joked about me turning into a smurf. Her smile reminded me of the kindness and care she had shown me back in that dark place. Another nurse smiled brightly, commenting on how unbelievably well I looked compared to that time when I was lying in bed, hardly able to move, being turned throughout the night and losing the use of my legs through lack of mobility. I got through that time. I can do it again, I may not even go there.

Here I am discussing my treatment, what this blog was not to be about. But this blog is saving me, it is giving me hope. It is enabling me to achieve goals at a time when I felt that time was running out. Each day is precious, I enjoy my life with my wonderful family and friends. I have been blessed with a beautiful warm summer that is delightful. Yesterday when I was going for my treatment, my eldest daughter visited and we went out to my favourite new local cafe for lunch. I once wanted to run a tearoom – it was to be called ‘Pebbles” and would be right beside the sea. One side was to be the cafe with special gifts and books for sale, the other side was to be a place for quiet contemplation, with artwork to view and books available, and the opportunity for either one to one support or small group workshops with a coaching theme. I gain satisfaction from seeing what other’s are able to accomplish. The cafe I mention is run by a young girl seemingly living her dream and very successful with it. Who knows where life will take her, I know nothing of her history. I have never owned a tearoom but I have been able to achieve the essence of my dream by organising special intergenerational tea party events, holding workshops and training in the community and organising an art competition – all while working in my dream job working for a local charity.

I started this post early today and now it is late evening and I am reflecting back. I return to the local cafe. The first time I visited it was with a friend. We chose from the breakfast menu and I had the most scrumptious fluffy American blueberry pancakes piled high, with fresh blueberries floating in warm maple syrup. All thought of taking photos for my blog went out of my head as I dived in, so the photo shown here was an afterthought. This experience led me to look up recipes and try one out with my new mixer that I treated myself to. I was really pleased with the results and we had them with cinnamon sugar. Yummy. So this morning, as my daughter had stayed over, I decided to make them again. The first round was drizzled with tangy fresh lemon juice with cinnamon sugar. For the second round, I thought I’d try something different and I made the most wonderful fresh apricot sauce with strawberries. I was gutted that I forgot to take a photo so will have to make them again specially and take a really good photo. But I wanted to include what I did here anyway. So, a quick recipe.

Strawberry Pancakes with fresh apricot caramel sauce

Use your favourite recipe for American fluffy pancakes – if you have never made them there are many to choose from online. The one I make uses 200 g self-raising flour, 200 ml milk, 2 eggs and 1 tsp honey. The eggs are separated first. Then mix the flour, milk, egg yolks and honey together with a fork until thick and smooth, but not for too long. Whisk the egg whites until thick and firm and then fold into the pancake mixture until all the white has mixed in. Melt butter in a thick frying pan and when it is sizzling spoon dollops of the mixture, spaced out. (At this point I add some chopped strawberries, quickly sprinkling a few pieces over the top of each pancake first and then gently pressing them down with the back of a large spoon before the tops of the pancakes become too set. The pancakes are then flipped over once golden to cook the fruity side until lightly golden.)

To make the apricot caramel sauce (quantities for 2 servings only) and the amazingly flavoursome whole strawberries that top it all, peel and chop 2 fresh apricots and wash and hull 4 fresh strawberries. Place the chopped apricots and whole strawberries in a heavy based pan, I use stainless steel, with 3-4 teaspoons of caster sugar. Do not add any liquid. Heat gently, stirring occasionally. The apricots will start to soften and the sugar melt, becoming a lumpy golden sauce. You will smell a slight caramel scent. Do not allow to boil. Continue to stir just for a few minutes. I stopped when I noticed the caramel smell start to change and placed the base of the saucepan in water for a few seconds to stop the sauce from continuing to cook, so it didn’t become bitter caramel. On tasting, there is a hint of caramel flavour which blends beautifully with the fresh apricots and I served it warm. The whole strawberries will be cooked through but remain firm, and their flavour is really intensified.

So today, my second day of treatment, we enjoyed a home cooked, satisfying and delicious breakfast. What a treat! It reminds me that I must cook more, something I used to do a lot of and have the recipe books to prove it in my garage library. It also gives me something else to photo and blog on here.  So, forced to reflect?  Yes, but to me, reflection ends in a positive and turns the world around.

Unblocking creativity and releasing inspiration – 10 minute writing challenge (2 of 2)

Copyright 2013 Miguel Virkkuhen Carvalho, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

Copyright 2013 Miguel Virkkuhen Carvalho, Flickr, CC-BY, via Wylio

This 10 minute writing exercise was written four days after the last one posted yesterday, back in January of this year when I was in hospital.  It was a very emotional time yet at the same time my emotions were somewhat on hold, still struggling somewhere with my new situation in life, having just been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia – a fast-acting life threatening form of cancer.  Fortunately the final report revealed that I had the type APL (Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia) which has the best prognosis.  

‘Let anything come to light. Light, sun, shade, depths. My favourite colours. Pink and turquoise. Where are they now? The luminescence of my favourite pink is in my hand leading this waltz of writing. Waltz – music is within me yet it has evaded me. The song of life, the thrill of it all. The lilting sound of creativity. Creativity is to be found all around – or is it? I need to search it out, to wallow in it and bring it back to life. Life, it keeps coming up. This new, unexpected venture. How does it feel to be here? But I am not ‘here’. I am soothing my soul to do something special with creativity. There is so much around, but where is it hiding. I am on a journey and that journey is just finding me. I must avoid the logic. That is not what this is for. Storytelling was my aim and that can stay with me. I will write a short story, one that wings in from the sky above. One that I don’t think hard about, it just comes to me. Will it be real? There will be more than one – but fantasy is what breathes through my veins. A new light. Get caught up in the colour that comes to me.  Take inspiration from all that has come to be in this vessel of a room. The cards and gifts. Where am I? I am with heart. I am loving life. All is not lost it is within me. To find the light and the story. To have music in my mind. To love and to laugh. To write music is a gift that I can bring to this time. I am soaring through the sky in Florida. Such a wonderful and special time. The cool air brushing through my hair as I swirl through the clouds like a swan sweeping across the ocean.’