Wallowing but not for long!

I had my year follow up appointment this week following the removal of my metal work. I felt very proud that I survived it all, a feeling I’m sure most people with long term health conditions and disabilities can relate to but also a dash of sadness. I allowed myself some wallowing time just because the pain has got to me this week. Sometimes it’s scary thinking ahead and knowing that this is how it will be for the rest of my life. I then ‘had a word with myself’ and got back on with life! I also had homework to do for my cake decorating class. This week it was frills:

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Not the greatest picture but I was so proud they didn’t fall off!

Another thing I am proud of is managing a day at work albeit with adjustments and flexibility. I still managed to put in a days work at home with my trusty work laptop despite looking (and feeling) awful. I feel fortunate that my workplace allow this as it’s better than me being on sick leave and doing nothing. What bugs me about this is why is this not an option for more people with disabilities? It’s should be a standard thing not the exception! I think the very fact that I am grateful for this shows that it is a rarity in society which is a real shame. People with disabilities have so much to offer and this is missed.

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Bugs, pacing, sourdough and lemon cheesecake

I caught a cold at the beginning of the week and it has laid me low for most of the week. The joys of having a bug with chronic pain! We have people coming over for dinner on Friday night and I wanted to make desert plus some bread. But, I feel like rubbish and that feels totally impossible! I though to myself I need to make a plan to pace this…

Lemon Cheesecake
I saw a recipe for lemon cheesecake by Donna Hay that I really wanted to make as my husband is cooking an Italian main Porchetta. I decided to ‘pace’ this recipe by making the base on Wednesday evening, cooking the main cheesecake tonight:

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Then finishing it off tomorrow morning with the cream topping. As there are 3 bubbles and a crack the topping is a must!

Sourdough bread
I am fairly new to sourdough. I only started as my husband had trouble getting a starter going and I wanted to make him one as he wasn’t well. I actually annoyed him by doing a semi-decent first go! I use a sourdough recipe by Paul Hollywood; I made the dough on Wednesday night and put the dough in the fridge for a slow rise while I went to work today. I actually made enough for 2 loaves of bread as I have not fully mastered rising of the dough yet and was worried about messing up! When I got home tonight I shaped the dough and put one in this proofing basket:

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(note the paracetamol in the top left hand corner) and the other in a floured bowl. I baked the one in the floured bowl this evening :

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I put the other one in the fridge for a slow proof as I want to go to the gym tomorrow and won’t have the energy of I have to make bread from scratch!

I think that sourdough is the perfect pacing bread to make as you can take your time and do it in stages, I didn’t feel pressured into over doing it by piece of dough!

Insomnia, budgets and wanting what I can’t have!

It’s gone midnight and I’m still awake. Cue Faithless Insomnia (great tune) to start going around in my head. At this ungodly hour I find myself fantasising about winning the Thunderball National Lottery and how I would spend £500000. I have a nice little (well not too little) place in Wanstead (very nice place in East London) that I have purchased with no debt. I then find my mind wandering and criticising myself for not being good enough at budgeting, not spending money and basically not being tight! Now I definitely can’t sleep…

Nothing much to report health wise. I have a rotten cold and sneezing with spinal problems is so not funny, I sneeze and then say ouch, sneeze and then ouch. Can’t believe it’s been a year since my operation, time does fly but not when you can’t blinking sleep!

Chocolate Brownies and Dis-appointments

I went to my eight week follow-up appointment last week. To be honest I was really disappointed (hence the rubbish title pun). My shoulder is worse than before the operation; the whole point of it was improvement and that has just not happened. I was getting quite morose and decided I need a kick up the butt! That kick was chocolate brownies. I used a recipe from a book called Stacie Bakes by Stacie Stewart. I love this book so much; I got it from the library and will soon be buying this for my bookshelf. The recipe turned out really well. It went so well that I wanted to eat lots. As a way of distracting myself from the new onslaught of nerve pain that has reared its ugly head, I got my food paints out.

Before:

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After:

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I was worried that they would taste a bit odd but they tasted fine. Even Mum said so! Who knew pain management could be so tasty.

Cake Pops and Pain Pops

My latest in boredom baking has been trying to ace the technique of cake pops. I have been looking at the Bakerella website at all the pretty things and decided this was my next boredom baking project. I have had a few attempts at these in the past, at my last attempt the cake pop was too heavy and they were behaving like drunk cake pops and kept toppling! It was also a fairly easy boredom bake as I would need to do too much physically. the past two weeks have been pretty rough with my pain being very difficult to control.

My first go was with Mcvities Ginger Cake. This has been sitting in my freezer for what feels like forever. I made some basic buttercream using a ratio of 1 part butter to 2 parts icing sugar with approx 1 tablespoon of milk to help it along the way. I broke up the cake using my trusty kenwood so it was completely crumbed. I began to add buttercream to the crumbed cake whilst experimenting with different ratios and keeping track of the amounts with my new funky scales:

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They are fab as they fold up into such a tiny package but I also lose them a lot! After much hit and miss I settled on 1 part butter cream to 3 parts cake to produce a good cakey, truffle-like consistency. As I had no sticks then them became cake balls! I shaped them into small balls using an ice cream scoop and I then covered them with melted chocolate and pretty things:

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These tasted pretty good, actually they tasted great and I kept eating them. This has lead to my current research into low-fat cooking which may pop up here soon. Chief Taster said “They are alright but I still like proper cake better” and then proceeded to eat one of them every time he went to the fridge with munchies!

My next attempt was making a basic sponge cake mix (2oz margarine, 2oz self-raising flour, 2oz caster sugar and one egg), mixing them with the butter cream and then covering with white chocolate and adding some food colouring. These were a disaster and I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture! My first error was the cake was not as moist as the ginger cake I previously used so they just fell apart. The chocolate I attempted to colour with purple dye went a murky colour, seized and went lumpy so I ended up with just 4 covered in white chocolate. Chief Taster said “they taste funny” with an odd look on his face. He can be rather harsh at times but it was true this time.

All in all this boredom baking was a bit of a mixed bag, I learnt the following:
An ice cream scoop is a great tool to portion cake for cake balls
Shop bought cake does have its uses
Gel food colouring and white chocolate are enemies
Painting cake balls with edible metallic food paint is a fabulous way to pass the day

Too Much Time On My Hands!

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This is proof I have too much time on my hands. I am now the proud owner of a baking tool box! I got some purple and pink foam stick-on flowers to jazz it up a bit from Poundland today. It’s for cakes not carpentry!

I think I was having a bit of a tool box obsession as I bought a Stainless Steel Tool Box to solve a problem that I had decided I had in my home with messy tools.

I am currently occupied about my flat being too small and messy (probably because I am spending so much time there) and am currently obsessing about Ikea Ivar Shelving Systems and trying to imagine if my office/spare bedroom will be magically transformed by these shelves into something off of an Ikea unit. It sounds like I am still on the Morphine! I am also quite obsessed with getting a folding exercise bike too, although in my defence it could solve the problem of not being able to exercise much. If anyone has any ideas on exercise that’s interesting whilst recovering I would love to hear it.

Sanity Scoliosis Baking

I have been baking up a storm in order to cope with the pain. I am finding it so much easier to stand up than sit down. This is what I have got up to so far:
Lemon Drizzle Cake topped with citrus peel and lemon icing. This was for my Mum’s Birthday. I was particularly proud of this one as it was 2 weeks post op.

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Mini Bakewell Tarts. This was my first foray into pastry. I blind baked the pastry cases and then added the filling.

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Soda Bread. I was bored by the TV (it was a Come Dine With Me Marathon) and couldn’t sit down on the sofa so this is how I ended up with this loaf! I toasted some the next day and had peanut butter on it, it felt very wrong but tasted very good. I have Lorraine Pascale to thank for this.

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Chocolate Fondants. Again, this was inspired by boredom. By making this I gave myself a reason to pop to Lidl and more reasons to stand up. It was a Gordon Ramsey recipe and I was very surprised how well it turned out. I have always been slightly wary of his recipes, I suppose I have been put off a little by his reputation! They are nowhere near as close to the presentation in this recipe but tasted yummy.

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Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies. I used to have a bit of a ‘thing’ with biscuits. No matter what recipe, method or technique I used I could never get them right. These were an excuse to use my new star shaped cookie cutters I got from Wilkinson and a gingerbread man cutter I found whilst rearranging my baking equipment. I went my own way when it came to the chocolate used. I used up three Sainsbury Basics white, milk and dark chocolate bars of varying quantities. My sister and her boyfriend ate 10 between them so its safe to say I will put them on the bake again list!

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I also had a dalliance with Prawn Toast and Crispy Duck using my Gok Wan cookbook. I think this post has made it very clear why I have put the three pound on I mentioned in my previous post!

Post Surgery

So I am nearly 5 weeks post surgery and unable to sleep (Its 1:00 AM in London). So far I have:
Made very fast progress
Had a very fast relapse (this week)
Baked lots of cakes
Lost half a stone
Gained 3 pounds
Annoyed people (post op pain can make for one hell of a grumpy girl)
Amazed people (standing up 2 days pre op and being discharged after only being in hospital for 5 days)
Spent £150 in one particularly pain driving spending spree
Sent £70 worth of clothes post spending spree back to Marks and Spencer
Decided that all people having spinal surgery should be given bottles with sports caps to drink water from as its so much more dignified than spilling cups of water everywhere (I highly recommend a Bobble bottle, it was worth its weight in gold)

All in all its been a pretty mixed bag! The surgery was ‘successful’ according to my surgeons; in my mind it will be successful when I can finally do an exercise class again. I never though I would be saying that I miss the gym!

T minus 3 days: let the weirdness begin…

So three days to do. The weirdness has started kicking with me arriving at work at the outrageous time of 7:30 AM and mood swings that are Oscar worthy! As my partner is away for most of this week I have decided to take myself off to an out of town shopping centre on the train after work (absolutely loving Gap Outlet). Perhaps spending money is not the best idea when I am about to leave work on long-term sick leave for goodness knows how long, but in my defence I have refunds to do! I want to buy some unattractive stretchy bras so at least I can keep to a semi state of clothing normality after the op. People have said “Why are you bothering, its the last thing you should be worrying about”. But it matters to me. What got me through the fusion was the act of getting up each day with the goal of getting dressed in normal clothes and to pyjamas. So ugly bra shopping… Bring it on!

T minus 5 days: are we nearly there yet?

This is something that is completely unrelated from my previous ramblings about baking. I have Scoliosis and had a spinal fusion in April 2008. Recently I have been advised that I have to have my metalwork removed. I have been searching for information (yes I know its bad) about what to expect but can’t find anything beyond the biological about the effect on daily functioning. My partner suggested I should write something myself , more as a personal record but also it might be useful to someone who is in a similar situation.

So far I have written a few lists and used the operation as an excuse to go shopping! Seriously though I have purchased some seriously unattractive bras, stretchy t-shirts and a zip up hoodie as well as quite a few Kindle books for when I am in hospital. I am having trouble concentrating at the moment and difficulty sleeping as my mind keeps wandering to the admission this Thursday and the operation on Friday. I just want it over and done now so I can start getting on with things!