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Guest Post: Paul Foley, brain stem glioma

Paul and his lovely family have been our neighbours for the last 17 years; they are not only neighbours, but our friends. Paul’s story is a tough one to read but one of great importance, not only because he is spreading awareness about his brain stem glioma, but because he has a question to ask.

He needs a new wheelchair to improve his quality of life – pop over to YouTube and search TEK RMD wheelchair and you will see how incredible it is. However, this chair costs £18,000. A cost that no family will be able to afford on their own. Then comes the next stages of his treatment, at a cost of between £50-100,000. So Paul and his family are reaching out to ask for help, for our help to raise funds to make these unthinkable improvements to his life.

Please read his story below and donate if you can, it doesn’t have to be much, every penny counts and no matter what you can afford, Paul will be so very grateful. Share the heck out of this blog post, share Paul’s story and share the link – if any family deserve your help today, if any family deserve your good deed for the day, then this is them. Thank you in advance for your support, love and kindness – I will now pass you over to Paul.

#hairlesshannah

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Before I tell you my story, I want to share with you why I’m writing this guest post.

I’ve now had 5 courses of chemo and there have been some slight changes however, I’ve decided I need to be more proactive and having seen an amazing robotic wheelchair which allows users to stand and move around safely, I’ve set up a funding page with the aim being to get one of these to improve my life. Then there is the next course of treatment – a course of immunotherapy which will complement the chemo. The robotic wheelchair is approx. £18k and the immunotherapy as much as £6k per month. I have set the target at £30k knowing it would be more and the response so far has been amazing. We raised £20k in a week and are now just under £24k with about £15k expected from planned events. I suspect though we will need double that total for the treatment I need.

I head up to Guys tomorrow for chemo course no 5 and hopefully get some answers on cost and amount of immunotherapy: they will not provide funding for brain tumours on NHS – for other cancers yes, but not brain cancer. This is despite the fact that brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer of under 40s but receives only 1% of funding losing out to the more publicised (but controllable) cancers of breast, prostate, testicular etc.

So, if you would like to help out by organising a fund-raiser or simply donate, please head to this link and know that both myself and my family will be forever grateful. The page can be found on the gofundme.com website, search Paul Foley and you will get all the information you need.

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Now for a potted history of my story, by Paul Foley.

For two years leading up to a diagnosis in September 2012, I had a series of GP appointments where getting heard on the specific symptoms I was experiencing was a real struggle. Basically I had a dull, deep-seated headache that did subside gradually over time but I knew was different to any stress or migraine type headache I’d had. One GP helpfully told me to try Yoga as it appeared to be Spondylitis – I laughed and said, “no mate this isn’t muscular-skeletal, this is deep inside like a gland pain” – my exact words – Yoga, seriously?!

I then had 2 or 3 ‘episodes’ that Summer, brought on by heat (sauna) and alcohol, which all resulted in a prominent limp where I had to drag my right leg along – it just wouldn’t work. The next day I’d be wiped out but the limp was gone so I assumed it must have been a blip. Between June and August it didn’t seem to flare up other than having a weird feeling like someone grabbing the back of my neck in meetings at work. Then on the treadmill in August I noticed that the quicker I ran, the right leg just couldn’t cope so I’d stop and do stretches either side but the right leg still wouldn’t behave. So back I went to the GP and back to A+E for a scan…but still nothing.

On holiday in SW France in August 2016, I drove a camper van that week, there and back from the UK and that’s when I noticed that driving was getting tricky. The key turning point was one day in August when I woke very early and my whole spine felt wobbly and weak, I could barely walk. I wanted to walk my youngest to her primary school as I ‘wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be able to walk’ – I remember knowing I was in trouble. I have always known I was in trouble – the medical staff have always been on catch up unfortunately. I broke down on the park bench in the Rec next to her school as I just had a feeling this was very bad.
I headed straight over to the GP and eventually saw the right one – he listened, he knew more about neuro issues, no talk of Yoga – he agreed this was neurological not mechanical – I’d had ankle, knee, muscular injuries over a 20 year semi-professional football career and I knew this was different. He sent me with an urgent letter to take to A+E.  I went to the PRUH at Farnborough and there is where they found it, finally ,on the MRI scan. A lesion / blood / swelling at the bottom of my brain, a really bad spot…won’t be able to get to it so highly likely zap it with Radiotherapy and / or chemo. Bang. Shock. Relief they found something but please not an inoperable tumour. Pulled curtain back……silence, shock, fear, tears, some anger, resilience, creeping determination, some grit and a firm upper lip – I’m never giving up. 

So treatment – all arranged swiftly – all well explained by my very knowledgeable and straight talking consultant – I liked her, she was like a brain specialist version of Mary Portas. The options were limited to two – intensive daily doses of radiotherapy to the brain for 6 weeks and Chemotherapy if that didn’t work.

So every day for six weeks we went to Guy’s, getting zapped to the brain at their advanced Radiotherapy department using a machine that only hits the hotspot of the tumour reducing peripheral damage…supposedly. It didn’t though as I suffered hearing and taste issues to name but two. To ensure the tumour was getting hit they fit you with a bespoke heat moulded mesh mask which is bolted to the bed so you can’t move. You may have seen on the TV cancer ads running at moment. It’s not nice, it’s claustrophobic, you can’t breathe, swallow or cough at all. The only good thing is the zapping is quick, say 5 mins for all of the effort required to get there.

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One slog through rush hour to get home springs to mind as this commuting zombie who could clearly see I was shuffling along with my ticket in my mouth, whacked into me on purpose as I was delaying him all of 5 seconds. I dropped my ticket and hollered after him on a packed platform using my full range of expletives. I wanted to knock some sense into his thick skull but he scarpered up the stairs – he heard me ok – and like a Dalek I was undone by the stairs. As the weeks wore on and the dreaded steroids took a hold, I filled with fluid at every available void and my face got fuller, that bespoke mask fits a face that no longer exists. It’s tighter, more claustrophobic but don’t mention it,  just a few more sessions to get through.

As a bit of advice from someone who has blown up on steroids, if you want to pass comment – don’t. It’s just irritating. Pre-illness I was 6 foot 2, 14 stone and with low body fat and higher than most general fitness. I’ve never been bloated or swollen or overweight. So when people say ‘cor you’ve put on some timber’ or ‘you’ve blown up’ it is just going to grate. Yeah I’m ill, I’m on horrible drugs that just fill you with fluid, I can’t move – funny my body shape has changed! The things people say to you when you’re ill never ceases to amaze me. So many ‘friends’ I just can’t be bothered to talk to anymore – illness polarises your attitude to friends.  Some are brilliant and surprise you and some are just so self-absorbed in their own world they just don’t get it. It is a cliché but illness just strips away the things that don’t matter and you really notice it in others and you get a great radar for selfishness. I couldn’t care less about the weight gain (4 stone currently) it’s a by-product of the illness but the daft comments can do one! I get uncomfortable because I can’t move so well as I’m bloated but it’s just how it is, no more knocking out ab crunches on the bench – I’ve come to terms with that – seemingly others haven’t.

So the treatment finishes and towards the end I start to get a spasm/twitch during zapping – that can’t be good. I can’t taste anything and my hearing goes all ‘electronic’. I asked the pleasant Radiographer about it who replied, “oh didn’t they tell you that?” – unfortunately an all too familiar comment over the next 4 years. She showed me a coloured image of my head which actually shows in ‘glow’ the peripheral damage as the radiation goes through healthy brain tissue. This is the first time I’ve seen this. There is not enough explanation or understanding around radiotherapy especially to a highly vulnerable and sophisticated organ like the brain. You are putting radiotherapy into your brain through healthy parts to get to a tumour – just stop and think about that for a minute! There is a lot of publicity around the Gamma knife and Proton Beam therapy machines with the Proton option being the one the family took their young child abroad and paid for treatment. Young brains that are still developing are more prone to damage from ‘standard’ radiotherapy – they don’t care so much about the older messed up brains. Well, the NHS paid millions for two Proton machines but couldn’t afford to run them – I believe there are some up and running now. The principle makes sense if you imagine a clock face Proton delivers a spread of safer strength beams at 12, 1pm, 2pm and so on which all focus in a concentrated point at the tumour with hardly any peripheral damage. It would have been preferable to have this treatment.

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That continued for three years of ‘stability’ as they call it which basically means you will get symptom changes, numbness, loss of feeling or some movement, reduced endurance etc but if your MRI scans show the same then you are ‘stable’. In some ways it was stable, I was making it into work most days, I was limping around but just about able to do what I had to do. I was getting lifts to work for a while and then back driving when I was able. 

Then around September 2015 things started to deteriorate, I was having to stop more frequently and ‘re-set’ my walk. It got worse and worse and I could barely cross a road in one go. Getting upstairs was very difficult. This changed quickly over the next three weeks to the point I couldn’t stand for long and started to stoop making tea etc unable to stand up straight the back muscles just giving up. I told the hospital every time a new symptom appeared and they advised that the scans were showing ‘no change Mr Foley’. By Christmas I was really struggling to even get around the house and some nights couldn’t make it up the stairs. I couldn’t get my right sock on, eating was one-handed now, shaving/using toothbrush etc, I couldn’t get in and out of shower anymore so it was sitting by the basin and washing. One day at home I stood up to do my belt up and just as I went to fasten it I fell like a tree without getting my hands out onto the breakfast table smashing my nose and rolling off onto the floor. No one was in and I couldn’t get up, so rolled my head onto the timber floor to save the gushing blood from ruining the rug. Hannah’s dad had to rescue me as no one else could lift me off the floor.

A few weeks later another fall, this one as I went to transfer from wheelchair (which I was in now) to toilet but as I stood my leg locked and I fell against the tiles holding my body at 45 degrees with my all of weight-bearing onto my head. I called out, managed to slide down onto the closed WC putting my chest onto the toilet and then sliding onto the floor where I was unceremoniously dragged into the hall to wait for the ambulance to get me into my chair as it was 2am – we couldn’t ask Richard this time! We waited two hours on the cold floor, they got me back in the chair, ran tests and it was 6am before we knew it.

In February 2016 the decision was reached to put me on a 6 month course of chemo ‘empirically’ which basically means ‘without any clinical reason’ so try it and see. I was happy with this though as I was desperate to try something. Then around September  2016 the decision was made to switch chemo to a more powerful chemo, PCV. Around the same time Matt called home with some interesting news, the medics at Oxford had found an extremely rare and specific antibody only found with a condition called Devics or NMO. It could be managed much like MS and may be an improved prognosis but more tests required. So they ran tests alongside continuing the current treatment plan of chemo until we know for sure. A month later the experts told us it is categorically not Devics, despite the presence of a Devics specific antibody. A huge disappointment as an improvement possibility disappeared and the communication + management had been very poor.

I’ve now had 5 courses of the chemo and there have been some changes however,  I’ve now decided to be more proactive and having seen an amazing robotic wheelchair which allows users to stand and move around safely, I decided to set up a funding page for this and a course of immunotherapy to complement the chemo. The robotic wheelchair was approx. £18k and the immunotherapy as much as £6k per month. I set the target at £30k knowing it would be more and the response was amazing. We raised £20k in a week. We are just under £24k with about £15k expected from planned events. I suspect though we may need double that total.

I head up to Guys tomorrow for chemo course no 5 (of new chemo) and hopefully some answers on cost and amount of immunotherapy: they will not provide funding for brain tumours on NHS – for other cancers yes, but not brain cancer. This is despite the fact that brain cancer is the biggest cancer killer of under 40s but receives only 1% of funding losing out to the more publicised (but controllable) cancers of breast, prostate, testicular etc.

Hopefully I get answers, hit my fund target and get continued improvement on my mobility.

Thank you for reading my story, for sharing it and for possibly being able to help me raise the money I need. 

Paul Foley 

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Tasty Tuesday: Prawn & Chorizo Spaghetti

This month Family Green have totally fallen in love with a new dish that initially we found through using a company called ‘Hello Fresh.’ Since we tried it, it has been a weekly addition to our menu! It’s a prawn and chorizo spaghetti dish that is so simple to make but the taste is out of this world! Here is a quick run down of the recipe – honestly, you need this in your life!

For 4 people:

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4 garlic cloves
350g king prawns
4 large vine tomatoes
360g spaghetti
1/2 tsp chilli powder
parsley – optional
pack of chopped chorizo
500g passata
1. Peel and chop the garlic, finely chop the parsley and chop the prawns into chunks. Cube the tomatoes and boil a large pan of water for the spaghetti.
2. Cook the spaghetti for 11 minutes.
3. Whilst cooking the spaghetti is cooking heat 2tbsp of olive oil (we use a few sprays of 1cal spray instead) in a separate pan and add the garlic and chilli for 30 seconds before throwing in the chorizo to cook for 2 minutes, keep stirring.

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4. Then add in the prawns and mix for a further 2 minutes.

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5. Next add in the tomato passata and let it bubble for 5-8 minutes before popping in the chopped tomatoes for a further 5 minutes.

6. Season with salt and pepper.
7.Drain the spaghetti and sprinkle in the parsley and stir.

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8. Drop the spaghetti into the tomato mix, stir and serve up – perfect!

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A totally delicious meal for four, honestly, the best thing we’ve made in ages and I think you’ll love it too!

Happy Tuesday!

#hairlesshannah

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Always the Bridesmaid

There’s a saying, “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” There’s also a film named ’27 Dresses’ that is basically based around the quote. It’s a saying that is relatively true to my life, I have been bridesmaid three times now and don’t get me wrong, each time has been a total honour and I’ve loved being part of those special days, but as mentioned in my post earlier this week about being single, as I get older, that thought does creep in – maybe I was born for the bridesmaid role and not the actual bride!

Now this isn’t a poor me, need love and sympathy blog, far from it. I am one of the lucky people to have actually experienced love, and I mean proper true love and I am very grateful for that. I have so many happy memories and it makes me have the belief that one day I will find that again.

However, it is a fear of mine that I won’t find that person, my lobster, that one person I will grow old with because I want to have my own family unit that I can love and nurture. I have always wanted to get married and have children and give them the love and experiences that I’ve been lucky to have. But as with many things in my life, I know this is, in many ways, out of my control – especially at this point in my life. I’m not in a situation where I can ‘put myself out there’ because of real, physical reasons and I would also be nervous about getting myself out there because of reasons that have impacted my self-confidence and self-worth so much. So, I’ve had to learn to be, or try to be okay with my current single situation more than ever before.

Being single totally has its perks, I know that. It meant that I could up and move to Dubai without a second thought of how it may impact on a partners life, I could travel and do as I pleased on the whole and make decisions based on my wants and needs. It means I have my whole wardrobe and bedroom to myself for storage and to house my shoe obsession and I have the entire bed to myself which is always a benefit – no snoring or quilt hogging to contend with or cold feet!

But I would happily exchange this and make adjustments if it meant meeting the right person coming into my life. I do still believe there is someone out there for everyone, it’s just a case of that chance meeting at some point, I am a strong believer in three things:

  1. It happens when you least expect it
  2. What’s meant to be won’t pass you by
  3. Everything happens for a reason

Each experience we have in life be it a relationship, job, holiday, illness, loss…they all teach us something. I’ve struggled with number 3 recently because I can’t get my head around how so much awfulness can happen to so many lovely people and explain it away with – everything happens for a reason. Yes we learn things about ourselves and others through these tough times but do we really need that to happen to such an awful extent in order for this lesson to be taught?  That I struggle with.

But in terms of relationships I have never looked for any of the meaningful relationships I’ve had, apart from one online, they’ve just happened – one from a chance meeting in a shoe shop and one through friends of a friend. My longest relationship almost didn’t happen because I told him at my 18th party that I didn’t want to dance with him because I was having too much fun with my friends – priorities!!  And because things happen when you least expect them, I believe that things won’t pass you by because if they’re meant to be, they will seek you out. And then depending on how things work out, no matter the heartache or happiness, I do believe that what is meant to be, will be.

I personally think many people are afraid of being single or admitting how long they’ve been single. It’s like being single is something to be ashamed of, like you’ve been rejected from society and are some kind of freak. I know I have felt terribly embarrassed by the length of my single life but it shouldn’t be that way, there’s nothing wrong with me, I just haven’t found anyone who is right yet that’s all. I’m actually quite pleased I’ve had this single time as an adult because I’ve had time to work out who I am for real without influences from anyone else. I’m a strong-willed, fiercely independent woman – sometimes to my own detriment – but I do believe that without being single, I may not have discovered these characteristics in their entirety and I may not have travelled and had some of the experiences I’ve had without this single time. I’m now fully aware of what I want and don’t want from life and a partner, I know what I’m willing to compromise on and what I’m not and I am happy to stick with that. The right person will come along because I know that I am meant to be a wife and a mother and it will happen when it’s meant to be…am I justifying this too much?!

Until then, I just have to keep going through my own life’s challenges and uncovering new things about myself which will in turn continue to build me as a person. So if you’re single, don’t feel sad, there’s many of us in the same pool, so lets just enjoy it until it’s time to jump out and enjoy the next chapter of our story!

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Phew – last daily blog for February, now I’ll be back to one or two blogs a week which I have to say it’s much more manageable for me! So have a lovely weekend and see you soon!

#hairlesshannah

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Pom Pom Painting

Well aren’t you lucky?! Two crafty activities in one week – I guess I’ve been feeling like exercising my teaching juices and actually really enjoyed it so I hope you do too! This one is really aimed at a younger audience but I actually found it was a relaxing activity for me so if you need a mindful time out that doesn’t cost much or take too long, this is perfect for you.

What you will need:

  • Two A3 sheets of paper (in different colours)
  • a pencil
  • a black felt tip
  • paintbrush
  • scissors
  • masking tape
  • variety of paint
  • different sized pom poms
  • pegs
  • something to cover your surface with i.e newspaper

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Method

1. Get you first piece of A3 paper and fold it in half, length ways. open it back up and fold it again across the middle. (Having this piece of paper in a different colour makes it easier when it comes to painting as it easily shows you where the stencil is.)

2. Now choose the word you want to display, I have chosen ‘love’ as it is Valentines week after all! I drew out my bubble letters in pencil first so I could rub out any mistakes.When you’re happy with it, trace over in black pen and carefully cut out the letters.

3. Now you need to get your second piece of A3 paper, I went for white so that my paint comes out brighter.

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4. Before sticking your letters down, place them on and make sure you’re happy with their placement.

5. When you’ve decided, carefully stick down the letters using masking tape. **Don’t use cello tape or any other strong tape because that will rip the paper when you peel them off. You need light tape so it’s easy to remove the letters when the time comes.**

 

6. Now your letters are stuck down, the fun bit starts! Ensure your surfaces are covered so you don’t get paint on your tables etc! I chose pink, red, yellow, blue and white paint for this poster and two sizes of pom pons – large and tiny!

7. Use pegs to secure the pom-poms and dip them into the paint before dotting it on to the paper around the letters. I used one pom-pom and one peg per colour so I didn’t have to keep swapping.

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8. Keep going until you’re happy with the coverage then let your poster completely dry before the last stage.

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9. Once dry, slowly and carefully peel off your letters. You will now be aware that there are masking tape marks left – this is when I used my mini pom-poms to carefully dot more paint so that the letters become complete.

10. Let the poster dry again before you can see the final piece of art! And voila!! Now you can display it however you want! Frame it, stick it to your wall, give it to your friends – whatever you want!

 

Remember that this craft is Valentines based but you could use any word you wanted to link with any occasion and choose any colours you wanted to as well. You may want to cut out shapes rather than letters as another option. You could do this on a smaller scale and make it the front of home-made cards which would be fun to do or if your child loves animals, dinosaurs, characters from films, just cut out silhouettes and follow the same process – let your imagination run wild and get creative!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this craft – please send me any pictures of what you create! See you tomorrow for the final daily blog for Valentines week!

Happy Thursday!

#hairlesshannah

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My Valentine’s Love Playlist

Today is a super short one I’m afraid, it’s the day after Valentine’s but love is still in the air so I thought, why not share my ultimate love classics with you all?

I have a very good relationship with music, my life has a soundtrack. Hearing a song can transport me back to a time and place where I can still remember what I was wearing, who I was with and how I felt. A single song can spark roaring emotions in me from anger to hate, from love to devastation. Love songs aren’t just about being in love, to me it’s about finding love, going through the various stages of love, remembering love, being hopeful for love and simply loving life itself!

My list of 50 songs is quite random – some predictable, some you’ll wonder why and others you may not have heard of! It is a love list that covers all emotions you may feel in a relationship haha so have a look and then let me know what love songs are on your lists!

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  1. Never Too Much – Luther Vandross
  2. Dream – The Everley Brothers
  3. Ordinary People – John Legend
  4. You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King and James Taylor
  5. Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye
  6. Just The Way You Are – Barry White
  7. Always – Bon Jovi
  8. More Than Words – Extreme
  9. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green
  10. Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton
  11. The Way You Look Tonight – Tony Bennett
  12. Everything – Michael Buble
  13. You’re All I Need To Get By – Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell
  14. Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing – Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell
  15. My Girl – The Temptations
  16. Ain’t No Mountain – Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell
  17. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
  18. At Last – Etta James
  19. (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher – Jackie Wilson
  20. I Just Wanna Make Love To You – Etta James
  21. When A Man Loves A Woman – Percy Sledge
  22. My Baby Just Cares For Me – Nina Simone
  23. But I Do Love You – LeAnn Rhymes
  24. Someone Like You – Adele
  25. Unbreakable – Westlife
  26. Mirrors – Justin Timberlake
  27. All My Life – K-Ci and JoJo
  28. Amazed – Lonestar
  29. I Wanna Be The Only One – Eternal feat. Bebe Winans
  30. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
  31. For Your Babies – Simply Red
  32. Have I Told You Lately? – Van Morrison
  33. Your Song – Elton John
  34. Run To You – Whitney Houston
  35. Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson
  36. Feels Like Home – Chantel Kreviazuk or alternative version by Edwina Hayes is also beautiful
  37. You Oughta Know – Alanis Morisette
  38. Natural Woman – Aretha Franklin
  39. Nothin’ On You – B.o.B
  40. Pony – Genuine
  41. Girlfriend – N*Sync
  42. Trick Me – Kelis
  43. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
  44. Gold – Beverley Knight
  45. Love On Top – Beyonce
  46. Bump ’n’ Grind – R Kelly
  47. Count On Me – Bruno Mars
  48. No Living Without Loving You – Celine Dion
  49. Heaven (Candlelight Mix) – DJ Sammy
  50. Man Who Can’t Be Moved – The Script
  51. Piece Of My Heart – Erma Franklin

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Wonder if you can guess the one that’s in there just for the giggles girls?!

Have a lovely day and see you tomorrow!

#hairlesshannah

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Tasty Tuesdays: Valentines baking

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY EVERYONE!

I hope you are enjoying a day knowing you are loved, whether that be by a partner, friend, family member or someone you showed a random act of kindness towards.

Because today is a Tuesday and it’s Valentine’s, I thought a Tasty Tuesday was called for – that way you can bake for a loved one or bake and feed yourself because hey, we all need to love ourselves right?!

I will be giving you a recipe for sugar biscuits and then showing you four ways you could decorate them using homemade royal icing. I have to say, I found it really easy, messy at times but all of the biscuits were totally delicious when finished. This is my favourite Tasty Tuesday so far!

Sugar biscuits (these are the usual measurements but I doubled it for the amount of biscuits I was making hence the ingredients in the photo!)

You will need:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 200g unsalted butter in cubes
  • 100g icing sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 free-range egg yolks

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Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper ready for later.Place the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into the bowl attachment of your machine.

2. Mix with the dough hook slowly until breadcrumbs start to form. I used a kitchen aid with a dough hook but you can also do this using your hands, rubbing the mixture with your fingertips.

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3. Now add in the egg yolks and mix again until a dough forms.

4. Here’s a great way to roll out your dough that I discovered which has changed my baking ways forever! Instead of flouring your surface and rolling-pin, pull out a longer strip of greaseproof paper, fold it in half and re open. Pop your ball of dough in the middle of one side and gently flatten it a little. Now fold over the rest of the greaseproof paper and roll out the dough with the rolling pin over the top!

5. Pop your rolled out dough, still sandwiched between the greaseproof, into your fridge for an hour until the dough is chilled and hard.

6. Uncover the top half of the greaseproof and then cut your shapes using cookie cutters.I used various sized heart cutters for the different biscuits I was making.

7. Pop your cut out biscuits onto a lined baking tray and place into the fridge again for about 15 minutes before the oven as this will help them keep their shape more as they bake.

8. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are slightly brown around the edges.

9. Remove and after 5-10 minutes transfer onto a cooling rack. Don’t move before hand because they will be soft and break.

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Now to decorate.

For jammy dodger biscuits you will need:

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  • jam of your choice -raspberry or strawberry
  • icing sugar

Method:

You will see from the pictures here that when I made my sugar biscuits, I had to pair up the biscuits, one whole biscuit with one that has a smaller heart cut out in the centre.

1. Once the biscuits are totally cool, take the complete half of the biscuit and gently cover it with a layer of jam.

2. Now get the top half with the heart-shaped hole and tap icing sugar over it.

3. Finally place the sugar-coated half on top of the jam covered half and voila, jammy dodger biscuits complete!

Top Tip – keep these biscuits in a tin and keep in the fridge. Otherwise the jam will soften the biscuits really quickly.

 

For love bug iced biscuits you will need:

  • 375g icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites (about 60g)
  • lemon juice
  • piping bags
  • black writing icing
  • red gel food colouring
  • silver balls
  • toothpicks

Method

  1. Sift your icing sugar into a bowl.
  2. Whisk your egg whites in a separate bowl until they begin to froth.
  3. Slowly add the egg whites into the icing sugar and mix until it becomes combined and stiffer.
  4. I recommend using gel food colouring as it won’t change the consistency of the icing. Keep adding until you have your desired colour.
  5. To start with your icing needs to be slightly thicker, add into a piping bag with a small, round nozzle. You will now need to pipe the outline onto your biscuits and leave to dry for around 10 minutes – this forms a wall for the rest of the icing.
  6. Whilst the ‘wall’ is drying, thin our your icing by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice until it is slightly runnier.
  7. Pipe zig zags of icing into the biscuits- this is called flooding. Then with a toothpick, move the icing around so it fills the entire area.
  8. Leave this to dry for 15 minutes and then using the writing icing, draw in the lady bird pattern and add two silver balls for the eyes.

 

For patterned iced biscuits you will need:

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  • icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites (about 60g)
  • gel food colouring of your choice
  • lemon juice
  • piping bags
  • toothpicks

Method:

  1. As with the love bug biscuits, make up your icing and ice on the wall to your biscuits.
  2. You will then need to make up more icing or split the icing you have to mix in the colour you want for your biscuits. I kept with red and pink for my Valentines biscuits.
  3. To create little love hearts, flood the biscuits with one colour and whilst wet, dot on another colour. Now drag a toothpick from the centre top of the dot through to the bottom and it will form little love hearts – simple but so effective.
  4. To create lips, which I haven’t done here, flood the biscuit with one colour and then whilst wet, draw on little ovals and with a tooth pick draw through the middle and drag out the ends to form lip shapes.
  5. To create a zig zag effect you need to ice on lines of alternating colours and use a toothpick to make sure it cover the biscuits. How drag your toothpick from top to bottom through the icing all the way along your biscuit. Then in the gaps, drag the toothpick from bottom to top – easy as that!
  6. To create iced word biscuits you need to flood your biscuits, leave to dry for around 10 minutes and then pipe on your desired words – as you can see i forgot to wait and forgot to change to a smaller nozzle, I was tiring by this point! But you can still see what I’m trying to achieve!

 

So there yo have it, simple, delicious and quick biscuits! Hope you manage to make them and enjoy sharing them or keeping them for yourself!

Have a wonderful day, see you tomorrow!

#hairlesshannah

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My top 10 Valentines films

I love watching a good film, and maybe it’s because I’m a single gal but nothing makes me happier than to watch a well made romance film to fill me with hope. It is inevitable that tears will flow and that realisation will whack me around the face like a wet fish that this is the land of make-believe but you know what – a girl can dream so leave me alone!

I haven’t ranked these films, I love them all equally – well, maybe some more than others – and there are many more that I haven’t listed in my top 10, they just missed out like being picked for the team in PE lessons at school – soz about that! However, I won’t leave them on the bench completely and will list them at the end, see I’m a nice single girl, not a mean girl in the slightest!

(imagine Top of The Pops music playing now)

In at number 10 we have Bridget Jones’s Diary. To be fair, all 3 Bridget films should be here – especially the new one, simply because it’s hilarious! I have many similarities to dear old Brig, not just that I share her birthday but I also write a diary, I slam my weight, I’m unlucky in love and have crazy friends! But this film gives me hope that along with my granny pants I will eventually meet my very own Mr Darcy and not live happily ever after like in the films, but live a normal life with him loving me for who I am. Heaven.

Onto number 9 where we have the classic that is Ghost. Yes it is unrealistic, yes it is cheesy beyond words, yes it make me bulb like a baby every single time BUT it also demonstrates how strong love can be and how it continues even after death when you have that true bond with someone. Whoopi Goldberg makes this film for me, you need that hit of humour amongst all the grief and anger and let’s be honest, my main reason for loving this film is the Swayze. Swoon. No wonder the somewhat rude pottery scene is so infamous – but who wouldn’t want him coming along to help you in that situation?!

Next we have my number 8, Dirty Dancing. Lucky ol’ Patrick gets two films in my top 10 romantic films. Anyone that knows me, knows how much I adore a dance film so dance + Swayze + romance = the perfect loved up film for me. It bears a slight resemblance to an updated Romeo and Juliet – Baby and Johnny from different backgrounds, parents who don’t think he is good enough for their little girl…but luckily instead of loads of deaths and a tragic ending, we can revel in many mega dance routines and end with Baby being removed from that corner and being thrown around a dance floor like nobodies business. How lucky is she?! He loves her, they are at Summer camp and I believe they lived out a truly happy life after the credits rolled.

Number 7 introduces another love of my life – Channing Tatum in Dear John. Magic Mike didn’t seem quite romantic enough somehow so I just had to settle for this one instead! This is a film that is more likely not to have been seen by many of you so I won’t say much. It involves, war, autism, letters, dreams, love and heartbreak – go watch it!

Finally at number 6 I have my first comedy – Bridesmaids. It is just brilliant, the first time I saw it I belly laughed at so many parts and still do now. The comedic genius by the eclectic cast is spot on, the emphasis is shone on the love of girlfriends to get you through relationships, especially in the lead up to a wedding. I love it, you’ll love it, if you haven’t seen it, go now, don’t even finish reading the blog…this’ll be here later for you to continue!

Next is a Christmassy number 5 but I’ve thrown it in anyway because although set at Christmas, it is ALL about love. Yes, it’s Love Actually. I adore the start of the film in the airport, I guess because I’ve now experienced an ex-pat life so get the whole sadness of leaving and the sheer joy of returning home to loved ones. No matter what’s going on in the world, airport arrival lounges show you that love is all around. It’s my ultimate place to people watch, it always brings a tear to my eye because I know what it means to be reunited with people after a long period of time. This film combines love in almost every situation imaginable with comedy, heartbreak, hope and Hugh Grant so you know it’s going to be a romantic film winner.

Number 4 is Notting Hill, I figured I’d stick with Hugh for a while. I love the quintessential Britishness of this film plus it has my favourite actress ever, Julia Roberts. The Welsh comedy brought by Rhys Ifans sets it off for me, he brings tears of laughter every time. Romance and love can and often do happen in the least likely circumstances when you are least expecting it and this film highlights that and I love it.

Julia enters my chart again at number 3 with My Best Friends Wedding. This is my go to happy loved up film (along with Eat Pray Love which I idolise and have watched far too many times – actually, why isn’t it in my top 10?! I’m kind of including it here in this super long bracketed sentence because it is am amazing film. Woman splits from relationship, gives up everything to travel round the would to eat in Italy, Pray in India, Bali,  and find love along the way – this film is my everything.) …I feel I should start that sentence again….My Best Friends Wedding is my go to happy loved up film. So many of us have promised that if we don’t find love we will marry our best friends and that’s the basis of this film, although Jules actually realises she loves her best friend but it’s too late because he’s now set to get married – let chaos, hilarity and Cameron Diaz ensue. The soundtrack is immense and leaves me with a happy feeling in my stomach unlike any of the other films on my list.

In at number 2 is the epic film with my teenage crush of all crushes, Titanic. Leo swept into my life and in some ways was my first love. He danced, he drew, he looked hot in a tux, he had great comebacks and he loved Kate no matter that she was from a unreachably different background. Again, this film does end tragically but you kind of know that from the title. But again, it teaches us that no matter how short-lived a romance can be, it can still be the love of your life and leave you with memories and emotions that transcend death. I am one of those losers that sees Kate and Leo together now at awards ceremonies and my heart does a little flip because it’s like Jack and Rose have been reunited – I love it and I love the movie.

And finally, although there is no order here, this film is the only exception because it is my number 1 romance film. It is the ultimate love classic, The Notebook. There are no words really, it just epitomises love and relationships – the ups, the downs, the splits, the arguments but ultimately the bond that keeps you together, the passion and the love that builds the strongest marriage. Again, I won’t ruin it for those of you who haven’t seen it but if you haven’t, WHY?? There are no excuses, so don’t talk to me again until you have been and watched! You’ll cry, laugh and end the film hoping you are lucky enough to find love like that.

So there you have it, my top 10 and now here is a list of those that didn’t make the 10 but are blinking good follow ups so watch them too!

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A Walk To Remember, Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, 10 Things I Hate About You, Four Weddings and a Funeral, West Side Story, PS I Love You, While You Were Sleeping, The Holiday, The Bodyguard, 27 Dresses and Beauty and The Beast.

Let me know what you’re favourite romantic films are and any recommendations – I love new films to watch and rate!

See you tomorrow on the actual love day of the year!

#hairlesshannah