March Favourites

Spring has sprung and March is almost done! So here are my top picks from the last month.

TV and film.

How To Get Away With Murder.

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I’d heard about this series way back when I was in Dubai but never started it even though I am a huge fan of Shonda Rhimes. I have watched all of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and love them both so I was already sold when I knew this was another of her creations. However, it was also the fact that Viola Davis is the lead actress and she is just top class. I have to admit that I became a binge watcher after episode one but it saved my skin over three weeks of sleepless, painful nights and afternoons and I loved it! It was one of those box sets that kept me guessing until the end and each episode had a cliffhanger that left me needing to watch the next episode ASAP! Netflix has the first two series and the third series should be coming soon. Seriously – go watch it, Shonda I can’t work out if your’e just simply a creative genius or a seriously messed up woman who needs some counselling – either way, thank you for creating three of my favourite TV series!

This Is Us

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This has been a series that I’d heard whispers about and it caught my eye because I do love Mandy Moore! It’s been on Channel 4, there’s only one series and I have to say, it’s brilliant. It tracks the lives of a family in two different time zones, following the path of the parents and their initial relationship through to having children and then the present day which allows us to see how the family exist now. It has subtle twists and turns but echoes issues that many could relate to, it’s beautifully written, it made me laugh and cry and I can’t wait for series two to come out.

I, Daniel Blake

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Now, I’m not going to go into this too much because I’m still pondering it due to the some of the incredible correlations to my experiences with the DWP. I will be writing a blog post about it but I do urge you to watch it. You will grow to love the characters, feel their frustrations and laugh at the humour. It highlights so many issues that plague our society today and highlight stereotypes and challenge our perceptions. It’s film at it’s best and you really should watch it…it’s not a book but it would provide a great subject for a book club discussion so maybe switch it up a bit and discuss this film rather than a book this month.

Beauty

Clinique Moisture Surge

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I love this product. I was first introduced to this in an airport because it’s great to apply when flying as it does what it says on the tin and really does give your skin a moisture surge when it’s feeling dry and horrid. You can get a light version or a stronger version depending on your skin type. I have used both and honestly, I’ll never stop using it. It sinks straight into the skin but it feels wonderful, it’s just a very wet moisturiser that hydrates your skin. Love it.

Baking

Wilton Food Colouring

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I’ve been using Dr Oetker gel colouring which is fab but very expensive and doesn’t always achieve the colour required with one tube. So the discovery of Wilton has been a revelation to my baking days! You literally only need to use a toothpick to achieve bold colours, I’d advise less is more until you work out how much you need to get the colour you want. The use by date is 2019 and knowing the amount I used for one rainbow cake, it’s going to stretch and last a very long time. It’s very cost-effective so if you bake lots I’d really push you to go out and buy some or order online like I did!

Bedroom nooks

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I’ve spent a lot of time in my bedroom this month and it’s been important to make it feel relaxing and comforting. These two lamps are two of my most treasured items – the blue one has travelled all the way back with me from Egypt and the white one from Dubai, they are so beautiful and give off the most stunning light. Then I have my lovely little candle that a friend gave me and my newest addition of my little fake plant – who’d know eh?! Wilko’s came up trumps with it and I think it completes my little corner.  Spring cleaning season is here so make your rooms nice, you don’t need to spend a lot of money, you probably already have lots of bits and bobs that just need to be rearranged in order to change the outlook of your room. It’s amazing how these little things can change or help our moods – have a go and see what happens!

And there you have it, my March picks…see you on the other side of April…eek!

#hairlesshannah

Life would be boring if we were all the same

Grief isn’t really a word I’d associated with my life over the past 18 months until my one-off psychotherapy session. Grief tends to be associated with the loss of a loved one, describing any other form of loss as grief hadn’t really occurred to me before. Yet once I started to ponder this thought, I’ve realised that I have experienced an awful lot of grief on many differing levels and I haven’t dealt with any of them properly.

Since a young age I have most definitely been a person to put on a brave face in front of people because I never want to be a burden. I don’t want to impose on people and add to the stresses and strains they are inevitably dealing with in their own lives. Now don’t get me wrong, of course I confide in my friends and I do talk to my family…when it’s pulled out of me…but on the whole, I like to think I can deal with things, work them through, on my own. But at this golden age of thirty, as this never-ending illness keeps its nails firmly dug into my every being, I’m learning that I can’t always cope on my own. Not as well as I’d like to think I do anyway!

Grief is a process and a process dealt with differently by every human and that’s why it should never be faced with judgement. The way I may deal with things is probably totally different to how someone else would and the time frame I deal with it is also probably vastly different too. This is life, humans are meant to be different, what’s the saying – life would be boring if we were all the same! I am definitely someone who chastises myself too easily, I guilt trip myself far too quickly too and I am a sucker for comparing myself to others which in turn doesn’t help the latter two issues! Without realising it, I suddenly became aware over the past few weeks that on waking every single morning, my first thought of the day was always, without exception, one that took a dig at myself. How awful is that? To wake up every day, being in such a bad place that my first waking thought is one of hate towards myself. That’s why I know I’m not in a good place because although my own self esteem and self-confidence hasn’t always been the best, it’s never, ever been this bad. It makes me sad that I feel this way about myself, not just about my physical being but about my day-to-day life. I have always been such a go getter, a busy person with a real love for life and it makes me so sad that I’ve lost that, especially when there is so much good that surrounds me. Whereas before I could use those good things to keep my head above water, now, I know that these good things are there but they don’t help me as much to keep positive. That’s so much harder to deal with because it’s like they are at an arm’s length away but I can’t quite get to them.

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Although I’m in a waiting period before I start CBT, I thought I’d be proactive and have spent several sleepless, pain filled nights jotting down, thinking about and analysing all the things I’ve lost and may need to grieve for in the last 18 months. It seems I haven’t dealt with any of them – great start Hannah, great start! The list grew longer when I stopped looking at the bigger picture and started looking at the smaller picture that lived within it and that then became quite overwhelming. Seeing it in black and white made me really emotional.

I’m not going to bore you with my list but it ranges from the seemingly little things like not being able to spend time reading a book, to the bigger things like not being able to work, to the obvious one of losing my hair. All of these things cumulatively add up the loss of life as I knew it. The life I’d built up after jury service, being independent again, gone. Just like that. In all honesty I don’t have the answers and I don’t know how I’m supposed to let this go and I’m sure that’s a question I’ll ask when I start CBT. I just struggle with it all because there is no end point. There’s only so much positive thinking I can do. I feel like I can’t control the constant arguments in my head that flit between berating myself for not being positive to being kinder to myself and allowing myself to be okay that I’m not always being positive.

I didn’t know I was going to write this post until a few days ago when grief really did hit me in terms of the death of a loved one. Losing my Grandma was something we had been prepared for in many ways and had wished for her too because dementia is such a cruel illness. We’d lost her a long time ago and watching her the way she became was very hard, luckily she was unaware of how she was existing because she would have hated it. But I was so close to her, after Grandad passed away she was my only Grandparent left and we formed such a tight bond. I loved looking after her and spending time together. We would do puzzles, I’d join in with activities at her care home – glass painting has never been so entertaining! I enjoyed painting her nails and doing her make-up and when she was able to, I was lucky enough to be able to take her out to  enjoy a scone in John Lewis before tackling the disabled toilet with a wheelchair…we did laugh! In the later months it was nice to just sit and hold her hand, push her round the garden when the sun was out and massage in hand cream, talking to her about the past or just sitting with her as she slept. She was a truly special lady in my life and yes, I know she lived to 91 and that’s amazing and I know that she’s at peace and that it was best for her. But she was my Grandma and I loved her and I can’t explain how much I am going to miss her.

So yes, I guess you can say grief has come to a head and I don’t know what to do with it all. I haven’t cried very much which is SO unlike me but then I don’t feel like I need to, I just know that all of a sudden since this realisation, there’s this knot in the pit of my stomach and I can’t untie it. I think perhaps it’s because I know that if I start to untie it, there’s a lot to be unravelled and I don’t know if I have the strength or energy to deal with it all. It shall be done but I need the tools to approach it properly so hopefully my appointment will come through soon!

Having said all of the above, I have never lost sight if the fact that I am still so very lucky. And that has always brought me back to a quote from Winnie The Pooh; “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Happy Tuesday.

#hairlesshannah

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

So, I think we can safely say that many people tonight and over the weekend will be celebrating by both eating and drinking – namely having a pint of Guinness! So what better than combining the two to make a gloriously delicious Guinness cake?!

Two of my friends made this cake for me on my 30th and it was soooo good! Originally it’s a Nigella recipe so I’m sure some of you may have tried it already, but seeing as it’s St Paddy’s Day it just seemed the perfect thing to bake.

You Will Need:

For the cake:

  • 250ml Guinness
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 75g cocoa
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 x 142ml pot of sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 275g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:

  • 300g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 125ml double or whipping cream

 

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 and grease and line a 23cm springform tin.
  2. Into a large, wide saucepan you need to put the Guinness and slowly add the butter which needs to be sliced thinly. Gently melt.
  3. Now whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
  4. Beat the sour cream with the 2 eggs and vanilla extract and pour into the Guinness mix.
  5. Finally whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and take off the heat.
  6. Pop the cake batter into the tin and bake for 45 minutes – an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Place on a cooling rack and let it cool completely before removing the tin – it is a really damp cake so this will take a while.

 

 

While the cake is cooling you can prepare the icing.

  1. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth and the add the sieved icing sugar and combine.
  2. Now add the cream and beat once more until it’s smooth and spreadable. When iced the cake should resemble a pint of Guinness with a gorgeous frothy top!

 

Make sure you only ice the cake when it’s completely cooled and then serve and enjoy!

I really hope you’re having a fab day celebrating wherever you are and that this cake can form part of your celebrations for years to come!

Happy weekend.

#hairlesshannah

 

St Patrick’s Day Gold Coin Cupcakes

Sorry this post is a little late but as they say, better late than never!

This is a fun Tasty Tuesday recipe for St Patrick’s Day this Friday, the cupcake recipe is my go to recipe and it’s so easy and delicious every time. These little cakes will be perfect for any St Paddy’s Day celebrations you may be hosting.

You Will Need:

For Cupcakes:

  • 2 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 100g butter/margarine
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk

For Buttercream:

  • 200g butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • gel food colouring
  • chocolate gold coins
  • green sprinkles

 

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Method:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 190 and line a cupcake tray with cases.
  2. It may not be what everyone would agree with, but I throw all the ingredients, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and milk all in together and mix it up for about 2 minutes.
  3. Then I add the vanilla extract and mix for a further 30 seconds.
  4. Ensure the ingredients are well combined with no lumps.
  5. Now spoon the mix into the cupcake cases evenly – I use two tea spoons to do this.
  6. Bake in the oven for 15-17 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool on a cooling rack before icing.

 

 

While the cupcakes are cooling you can make the icing.

  1. Add the butter and sieved icing sugar into the bowl and mix for a good 5 minutes. The longer you leave to mix, the whiter the colour.
  2. After 5 minutes, add in the green gel food colouring – keep adding until you have your desired shade.
  3. Continue to mix until well combined.
  4. If you have a piping bag, choose the nozzle you require and set up the piping kit, then spoon in the icing and get piping! If you don’t have a piping kit you can use a sandwich bag and once the icing is in the bag, simply snip the corner off and pipe away!
  5. Once the cupcakes are iced, place a chocolate gold coin in the centre and pop on your green sprinkles to finish them off.
  6. And voila – gorgeous, scrummy St Patrick’s Day cupcakes.

 

Have fun making these and let me know how you get on!

See you Friday!

#hairlesshannah

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Troubled mind…

I’ve been having trouble recently, trouble with my brain. My mind. I’ve been spending a lot of time in pain, both during the day and the night where the pain is so unbearable I can’t find comfort and so I have all this time on my hands to think and ponder. Specialists have suggested as a next step that I start seeing a psychiatrist – I know, scary word – but the explanation as to why try this is actually beginning to make sense to me.

The immunologist explained it like this. People bandy around the word stress but when stress is acute it can actually cause physical effects on the body which can linger long after the actual cause of stress has gone. For example, we think we can almost 100% say now that the stress that was the catalyst for all of this was the new job in Dubai and the lack of support I received. But that was over sixteen months ago now so when doctors kept saying stress may still be a cause, I just didn’t understand. But, stress to that level will have had a physical effect on my body i.e. the asthma attack I had and the recurrence of the glandular fever. Stress can manifest itself in so many different ways and because it alters some of us physically: our state of mind will also change along with it i.e my life has never gone back to being how it was before.

However, we/doctors don’t often see the brain as a part of our body that needs treatment. It goes unnoticed until the word mental health or depression is mentioned and then there is this huge stigma attached to it. Initially when the word psychiatry was mentioned I automatically thought they thought I was bonkers. But no, it was a medical professional acknowledging that what I am going through is having a profound effect on both my physical and mental being. That there is a chance that by treating my mind, by looking at calming me internally, targeting the potential stress triggers that may be lingering, it will potentially have an impact on my physical symptoms.

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It has taken me weeks to get my head around this and I’m still not sure I trust in it totally – I want someone to help me with my pain, with this new life – I want a cure, I don’t want to be managed! But, I guess in the meantime all I can do is trust the healthcare professionals dealing with my case. This idea has sparked something in me though because although I write this no holding back blog, I do hold back. I hold a lot back actually because I STILL continue to worry about what people may think about me, what they may say behind my back. But that isn’t healthy and I know that, and that doesn’t mean I’m going to start divulging every little thing about my life that may or may not still be clinging onto my brain awaiting exorcism so I can move forward, far from it! I just mean that I should write about things I want to write about without fear of who will read it and cast opinions – we can’t all agree on everything and I am under no disillusion that my blog is exempt.

So this is a new blog post from a somewhat pain-clouded Hannah who needed to get something off her chest that has been clinging on and has been causing stress and upset for far too long now. So here we go, attempt one at looking after my mind and being true to myself!

“You’ve got too much time on your hands” was a sentence thrown at me in the early stages of falling ill. Apparently too much time to worry and over think things and therefore be way too sensitive to suggestions made by this particular person. I’ve never openly written about the demise of this friendship because I’ve been too worried about mutual friends etc. It has been suggested recently by professionals that this may possibly cause emotional stress because I’ve held onto the hurt and pain for too long without properly getting rid of it. I know that I’m too cautious of other people’s feelings to the detriment of my own.

I’m definitely not here to rip to shreds a friendship that I cherished very dearly: I suppose that I have just had more time to think about the downfall of said friendship now that enough time has passed for me to not feel so bitter and tormented about it. As I’ve thought about it more, I’ve realised that it was this friendship that has in turn caused other insecurities to creep in more recently about the strength of other relationships I have. Isn’t it funny how we can let one person colour our views and opinions of others? How comments made by one individual can sway and impact our thoughts, feelings and outlooks? To my knowledge, only one ‘friend’ has ever questioned my illness. But that is all it took. That was the start of my self-doubt because hell, if someone who I was so close to can think that all I needed was a “kick up the backside” then surely others must feel the same too? As things have got worse over the past few months and I’ve been able to do less, as people’s lives carry on and mine doesn’t, I’ve questioned whether people think I’m just dragging out this façade and are just getting fed up with me.

As I’ve said before in my blogs, I know I am far from perfect, I know I have my faults but I do self reflect a lot and if I’m wrong or cause hurt then I am happy to hold my hands up, talk things out and move forward. But, as I have also said before, my friends, my close friends – they become my extended family because, as I have found out, when the chips are down, it’s your friends as well as your family that will literally drag you forward kicking and screaming. Sometimes I think we only see the good in people because we love them and although this particular friendship is done and dusted, this is by no means reflects on the years of happy times we had.

However, the hurt I felt when this friendship unravelled was similar to the pain I felt when I split up with my ex. After all, we had a relationship, we shared our lives – ups, downs, tears, laughter, travels, weddings, babies and everything in-between and I would of course do it all again. I have spent hours thinking about what I did wrong for this friendship to have failed so miserably but you know what, all I come back to is the fact that I got sick. She didn’t believe me, she didn’t have time to support me because of her own life and in the end she tried to turn it back onto me because she didn’t have the guts to see that she was in the wrong. Now, I get that people have busy lives, ALL of my friends have jobs, most are married and some have children yet ALL of them have managed to text, ring, send post and come visit me, we have maintained our friendships as two ways streets. They made and continue to make time because a) they want to, b) they know I’d do the same for them and c) we make time for those we care about whether they are blood related or not, whether we have 23 hours of our days for the next 6 months planned out already – we simply make the time. End of. No excuses.

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I may feel like I am at my weakest at the moment, I’m currently writing some of this at 1.37am whilst in excruciating pain, but it’s these times that give me strength. Strength to know that I did nothing wrong in this specific situation, I can finally see that now and I need to get it out there in order to let it go.

But because I’ve had time to think and look back over the last sixteen months I can quite clearly see that only one person is no longer in my life and everyone else has mysteriously stuck around. So that tells me something: my friends do believe me, do trust me, do love and support me and do want to help me gain strength within this new life I find myself living. I’ve had time to read countless blogs about people living with chronic illnesses who have lost friends via similar circumstances. Why is that? Why in the time we need these friends most do they desert us? I really can’t come up with an answer and that is the bit that still hurts because I will never know. It just appears that because we suffer with a hidden illness, some people think that tough love, harsh comments and causing tears will snap us out of this situation we’ve ‘landed ourselves in.’ And you know what – shockingly, that doesn’t work because we are actually are ill. We can’t be magically cured, we need to be trusted, loved, supported and above anything else believed. Because if you think we are vying for attention believe me, there are soooo many other ways of doing it without making ourselves broke, medicated up to the eyeballs, missing out on life in general and getting depressed.

Make it your task this weekend to tell the people you love how much you cherish them, make them feel loved and make time to send a text to a friend you may not have spoken to in a while. Those little things are so much more meaningful sometimes than the bigger gestures.

Have lovely weekends.

#hairlesshannah

Tasty Tuesday: Rainbow Cake

So today’s Tasty Tuesday is the recipe for making a rainbow cake. I first tried rainbow cake in Dubai at The Humming Bird bakery and it was immense! I never thought I would be able to make one because it looks so impressive and complicated…BUT…one of the lovely parents of a child I taught in Dubai is a crazy talented baker and she sent me a recipe and you know what, it’s actually not that difficult, if I can do it – you can too!

You will need:

For the cake:

  • 12oz self-raising flour
  • 12oz caster sugar
  • 12oz salted butter
  • 6 eggs
  • drop of vanilla extract
  • gel food colouring

For the icing:

  • 250g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • sprinkles/decorations

 

Method:

  1. Cream the fat and sugar together until white and fluffy.

2. Gradually add the flour until well combined.

3. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and then pour in a little at a time.

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4. Divide the mix into six bowls – I do this by eye to start with and then use scales to check that the measures are roughly even.

5. Add gel food colouring to each bowl. Using gel colouring is important as it doesn’t change the consistency of the mixture. I used to use Dr Oetker gel initially which is fine, but have recently discovered Wilton gel colouring pots which allow you to only need a tiny bit on the end of a toothpick to give you amazing colour.

6. Pour each mixture into round 18” tins and bake in the oven at 175 for 16 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

**note** when the cakes come out, don’t be alarmed, they will look brown, especially the blue and green ones – we always say they look like scouring pads! But when you ice them and cut into them the colour is perfect! The cakes will also be rather thin but again, that’s fine due to the amount you will be layering up.

If you want to freeze the cakes you can but pop a piece of grease proof paper between each one first.

7. Mix together the butter and icing sugar to make the buttercream – leave it mixing for 5-7 minutes to make it a whiter colour.

8. Pop the bottom layer onto the plate of stand you will be using as once it’s done it’s a tricky cake to move! Put the buttercream between each layer to the thickness you like.

9. Once the top layer is on, gently put a thin ‘crumb layer’ (thanks Catherine for the tip) over the whole cake and leave for 10-15 minutes. This makes it easier to ice the cake to a better finish as it catches and sticks all of the crumbs!

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10. Put a final layer of icing on the cake and decorate as you like.

11. Serve up to discover the amazing, show stopping cake inside – delicious!

 

And that’s it – cake done! It is time-consuming but I sit down to do all the mixing and colouring and I must admit, it’s quite a therapeutic cake to make! It’s Spring now so colours are starting to emerge in nature so why not bring a little bit of colour into your house – go on, I dare you!

Happy Tuesday!

#hairlesshannah

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Quiz Night round up!

Hello all! So today’s little blog is just to say a huge thank you to everyone who came to and supported our quiz night last week. We were raising money for Alopecia UK and for our neighbour Paul who is raising money for a new motorised wheelchair and further treatment for his brain tumour.

We raised an incredible £1138.30 which is way beyond what I expected from the night. Both recipients will be over the moon with the donations, I’ve given Paul his half already and he was thrilled and wanted to thank everyone for their generosity.

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The support given from my local community was also amazing, the raffle prizes donated definitely helped with the sale of raffle tickets – the palava of running out of tickets was a nightmare though – whoever heard of pulling out coloured post it notes for a raffle?! Cathy you were a total star for dashing off to Tesco and being creative in solving the problem – thank you.  I wanted to give the local businesses a shout out because more often than not these days, local communities get a lot of stick for not supporting people but they went above and beyond and I feel very lucky to live where I do.

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I really hope everyone had a good night, I will never forget coming round from a little nap in the side room to mum rapping lyrics from a 5ive song – it shouldn’t have surprised me really!! Deborah and Jen were total superstars for being in cool, calm control of keeping track of scoring and many other jobs – thank you lovely ladies. And then there’s mum and dad – I couldn’t have done it without you, I know I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to in order to help, so as always, you were superb.

Here’s to continuing with raising awareness for Alopecia UK and supporting friends when they need it most. Have a fab week.

#hairlesshannah