Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:


See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Monday, 29 July 2013

A Teeny Weeny Update

Hey guys!

I'm sorry I don't have anything more for you today, but I'm pretty busy right now, spending time with all my friends as well as Ferret who's visiting, and Tiger and Duchess are on their way over as we speak... I'm really pleased to get to spend time with everyone (even if Ferret is still pure evil) as I love my friends and family to pieces!

Just thought I'd tide you over with an update on what's going on blog-wise this summer.

I've got a few more craft ideas in the offing, particularly since I get to pick Duchess' brains about sewing! My next tutorial will be how to make a pretty candle holder as seen on "Superscrimpers". However I'm planning on using my giant silicone cupcake maker for the first time today, so you'll probably hear about that, too! I promise there'll be a picture even if it's a disaster. Especially if it's a disaster.

August is, among other things, my "cut the crap" month, if you'll pardon my language, so I'll be eating less rubbish, moving about more and telling you guys about my ordeals!

A theme toward the end of the month will be going back to school. I'll discuss pressures around studying, and also have a chat with my dad who's an award-winning teacher, so you guys can all send in your questions! This will also tie into the healthy eating regime when I offer up some exciting recipes for school lunches and snacks... you'll never eat a boring old cheese sandwich again!

Another thing that'll be interspersed between August's varied themes is something I've decided to call "Surrounded by Awesome" where I'll be reviewing some of my favourite things, starting with local talent and books from my childhood, and moving on to some newer awesomeness, too! I'm halfway through a book right now which I can't wait to tell you about!

And of course, there's the moment you've all been waiting for--or should have been... The five chosen pictures from the art contest will be put up on Facebook for everyone to vote for!

So apologies I've nothing new today, but I hope you're all as excited about August as I am!

In the meantime, you can keep up-to-date with me on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatherineAnnMinnock

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatherineAnnMK

and now, Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/catherineannmk/  where I'll be sharing some healthy recipes etc soon!

Hope to be in touch with you guys somewhere on the world wide web!

Catherine Ann. xxxx





Friday, 26 July 2013

Food, Glorious Food... A Berry Tasty Treat!

Hey there!
I have got another craft idea for you guys today, but I whipped something up for dessert last night that was positively scrumptious and couldn’t wait to share it with you!

If you’re a regular reader/friend, you probably know that my back garden is full to bursting this time of year with the delicious fruit and veg my dad’s been growing for about four years now. I'll put a little collection of pictures up soon so you can see it in all it’s glory!

One crop that’s been a great success this year has been his blackcurrants. This is probably the second year they’ve grown well... and for the past week it’s been drooping under the weight of the gorgeous berries.

Blackcurrants are said to contain three times as much vitamin C as an orange! 100g of the pretty purple fruit contains five times your recommended daily allowance! (And as vitamin C’s water-soluble, don’t worry about having too much!) They’re also chock-full of anti-oxidants:  wonderful for the skin, for those of you who were interested in eating yourself beautiful!

I was stuck for something to do with these berries as I’ve never cooked them before: I know they’re delicious on cheesecake, but that’s something which throughout history I’ve failed epically at.

Instead, I found something to whip up in about five seconds, and it was so tasty!



I put three or four handfuls of blackcurrants in a saucepan with two tablespoons of sugar and a few drops of water, turning the heat up high to get a syrup going. I stirred occasionally and while this was bubbling away, turning into a crimson gooey gloriousness, I crumbled up three rich tea biscuits into each of four wine glasses. I have a feeling that digestives would be even tastier!

All that was left after that was to top with ice-cream and garnish with a few fresh berries.


Maybe not the healthiest or lowest in fat... but we all got plenty of vitamin C  last night, and enjoyed it, too!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Crafty Little Things... Top Banter

Hey guys! I’ve got two more t-shirt ideas I’d like to show you! One is a top I just finished yesterday, and one is the first ever top I altered which I forgot to include in all the excitement of my last post!
This first one’s a very simple idea, and it shows how you can put your own spin on something really easily. Perfect for people who like to be a little bit different, or if you can never seem to find exactly what you’re looking for in the shops.


My first project! (A terrible picture of.) But I ironed this for you guys, hope you appreciate. 


I got this T-shirt for exercise if I remember rightly, before realising that... hang on, I don’t exercise. I love this colour grey as it really suits me, but the top had a really high neck which was tight and uncomfortable.
So after seeing something on TV where a woman bravely took a pair of scissors to her clothes, I decided to bite the bullet and do the same...

With a regular cotton t-shirt, you just need to use some big sewing scissors and make large, confident snips. I simply cut all along the neckline about an inch or two in, and snipped the sleeves the same way. Remember to start with a little bit... you can always cut more, but it’ll be a tad more difficult to sew back on.

If you're worried about it looking poorly cut, just do what I did: let the fabric curl as it naturally does, and add a few stitches to keep it that way. 

Then I just made a little design out of buttons to stitch on. I’ve always got a collection of them hanging around, whether it’s from old clothes or ones I snapped up in the shops...

I stayed with Elephant and Panther last year, and as there aren't many department stores... well, in Ireland, Panther took me into John Lewis and I spent about an hour amusing myself with buttons, ribbons and the like.... heaven! 


This next T-shirt was made from a plain white large one, which had a little iron-on logo from something or another. I soon changed it round!



First I decided to dye it dark blue. I used Dylon fabric dye, which you just put in the washing machine with the clothing. One pack was €5.99 from my local supermarket, and I used it to dye a t-shirt and a jumper.
The more clothes you dye, the lighter the colour will be.

I then cut off one sleeve entirely and widened the neckline again.



As the top would’ve been really baggy, and as I’d seen this style in the shops, I cut a few inches at the seam on either side and held them in place with a stitch, so they could be tied up.

Now to cover up the ugly patch, I sound a button (one of my many) and some blue ribbon from one of my birthday presents (yeah, I'm the sort of person who gets almost as excited about the ribbon as I do about the present). I made a flower by simply stitching the ribbon on in some loops, and adding the button to the middle.



And here's the finished product! Overall, I'm really pleased with it. I even had enough ribbon left over to tie round my wrist when I wear the top so it looks like I bothered to put together an outfit! If I had to do it again, I would probably cut less out of the top, as the shoulder falls down if not positioned perfectly! 






Thursday, 18 July 2013

Food, Glorious Food: Why I Don't Have A Dolmio Day...

This post is one of a few I have planned. Since you all seem to like my recipes so much (thanks for the feedback!), I’m going to include a “Food, Glorious Food” post every week or so, rather than making a big block of them. That way, you’ll get a chance to try the tasty treats as and when I put them up! Enjoy!

I adore pasta. It’s probably my favourite thing to have for lunch or dinner, and of course if you’re going to have a pasta you need a sauce. Sometimes I have a mushroom sauce or a white sauce, but most day’s it’s the old reliable tomato—which is probably healthiest, too!
It may surprise you to know that such a pasta-fanatic as myself hasn’t bought a jar of pasta sauce (Dolmio or any other kind) for about three years now. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are great, and before the legal brains behind those adorable Italian puppets get cross with me, I’m just using that brand as an example, but often these sauces can be overpriced and high in things like salt or preservatives.
I realised that while a jar of sauce from my supermarket was costing me €2.00, a tin of tomatoes cost 25c, an eighth of the price (I think... my maths brain’s not too good). The other ingredients for a home-made pasta sauce cost next to nothing, too, particularly if your dad grows his own onions like mine does...



Well, you know your onions, don’t you dad...


Anyway. Hem. Here’s a recipe for saghetti I made last night.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED...
Spaghetti (I used about half a pack which would have served four)
1 chicken breast.
1 tin tomatoes.
1 large onion.
1 clove of garlic
Mixed herbs/herbs of your choice
Pepper
Olive oil
I also threw in some fresh peas from the garden. You can add in any veg you like.



Picking your own veg is a peas of cake! (Sorry)



...AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO
1) Boil the spaghetti in a large pan. Meanwhile, dice the onion and chicken breast.
2) When the spaghetti is soft, after around ten minutes, leave it in a colander in the sink to drain. In the same pan (damn right, I’m not doing any more washing up than necessary), sweat together the onions and chicken in a little olive oil until the chicken is white through.
3) Throw back in the spaghetti and crush in the garlic. Then empty the tin of tomatoes into the can along with about a third of the tin’s worth of water. If the tomatoes are whole, just chop them a little bit with a knife. It doesn’t have to be smooth.
4) Add the herbs and pepper (no salt, you’re not allowed, I said so) and put on the lid, leaving it to bubble for five-ten minutes.
5) Et viola! Wait, no, that’s French. Er... bellissima? My school doesn’t offer Italian... sorry! Remember, you can make your own pasta sauce however you like, it’s mainly just sweating the onions and adding a tin of tomatoes. If you want to top a pizza or something like that, just whizz it up in a blender!


Om nom nom...



Have a spaghetti-tastic week, everyone!




Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Crafty Little Things... Sew Impressive

Aaargh! So all those times I said “tomorrow” in my last post? Yeah, sorry about that. A lot happened  that evening, then I went on a 4k walk yesterday—for me, that’s like, solid exercise people. More on that later. I’m hoping the punny title makes up for it?

Anyway, today I’ll be sharing some pictures of thing sewn by myself and my friends, because what can I say:

I’m a material girl.

Hahahahaha.

Anyway. Here you go! Hope you get some inspiration once you see what (relatively) normal people can do!

Let me apologise (I seem to be doing that a lot today) about the picture quality on some of these... I hope you can get the general idea! Specially sorry to Duchess for not doing her beautiful work justice with a camera. 

PRETTY LITTLE STOOL:
I sewed some spare Cath Kidston swatches onto an old piece of fabric and tied it on to the freshly-painted old stool with ribbon. Simples.










TANK TOP MADE FROM T-SHIRT:
 This was inspired by Creating Laura but I added some bows when the straps wouldn’t sit quite right on me.

I know you're all wondering--we buy this radioactive detergent in Aldi ;) 


BAG BY DUCHESS:
I’ll give more details on Duchess’ work in a later post, once I’ve consulted with her to make sure I’'ve got my facts right! That’s probably when I’ll gush about how pretty it all is, too.

Bracelet (and hand) model's own... 

This bag's also got a pretty lining, I'll go into that more later. 


HANDBAG BY DUCHESS:


APRON BY DUCHESS:

I wear this when I make all those tasty treats you see here on Unlucky For Some! 




SLEEVELESS TOP BY BAMBI:
Bambi made this from one of her dad’s old shirts, using a cuff to make the bow!







I hope these pictures have inspired you to try something of your own. Check back for tips from Duchess, and to see the next t-shirt I have which is half-made. I’ve also set myself a challenge of making something for Crow, even though he’s a boy and boys are icky, so watch this space and wish me luck! 

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Insert Crafty Pun Here...

Hello! So, as most of you are aware, I am a teenager. Teenagers often find themselves broke: in my opinion, it’s par for the course and the way it should be. As most of you may also be aware, I have some really lovely friends. And when you have great friends, occasionally you have to remind them how great they are. A lovely way to do this is by giving a gift...

These two points combined seem rather problematic... until you realise that there’s a way round everything if you look hard enough. I love making my friends hand-made, personal gifts. I also love making my own stuff, too, as I’ve never been one who wants to be the same as everyone else.

Being able to bake is a great blessing as it means you can always treat your friends to something special (see Crow’s birthday cupcakes), but lately I’ve become really interested in crafts, too.

I think DIY and craft is something everyone can do because there's such a huge list of options available. I know Duchess is a dab hand at sewing, Bambi makes her own inspirational quote cards (which feature as a prize in the art competition), and I like to try a bit of everything.

Today I want to talk about bracelets I made for my girlfriends last Christmas. I bought all the materials on Ebay: glass beads, charms depending on what each girl was interested in, lobster clasps, crimping beads, rings and bracelet wire. I bought most of this stuff from a store called Beadbubble, which was great for me because they're based in Cork so postage was low, but you can find things like this fairly cheap from anywhere. I’d recommend investing in some kind of “bracelet starter kit” which will contain the basics you need to attach clasps and rings, so that you know just what to do. After that, let your imagination run wild! I found some charms in the shape of cupcakes, guitars and flowers, but you can find almost anything. Where I used wire, you can also use chain or cord. Where I used glass beads, you can find wooden or clay varieties. Have fun shopping around and see what you can come up with! The girls loved their bracelets as I’d made one unique for all of them. Granted, Bambi’s broke the second she tried it on, but it’s all part of the learning curve! My next challenge will be to create something for the boys in my life. Perhaps I’ll use black cord and some kind of metal beads or charms.

I found making the bracelets to be a really fun experiment and I learned a lot, too! It’s a skill you can adapt for lots of different occasions and I’d encourage anyone to give it a go. The beauty is that wholesale materials are cheap as chips, so if you find it’s not for you, you won’t have wasted all your cash! I’ve even got some left over beads I’m giving to Bambi which she could use for her cards!

Tomorrow I’ll show you some pictures of beautiful gifts sewn for me and my mum by Duchess, if that’s more your thing.

If you feel like giving DIY and crafts a go in the meantime, here are a few places to start:

Pinterest is full of pinboards where craft enthusiasts have collected their favourite projects, and I found it to be a great place to start. I’m hoping to add a DIY pinboard to my account soon, so be sure to follow me at http://pinterest.com/catherineannmk/! It was there that I discovered...

 Creating Laura, whose blog I shared last week. It’s full of projects and she’s always happy to help!

Superscrimpers has to be a favourite TV show of mine. It airs on the British Channel 4. I'm not sure where else it can be viewed, but you can find info on www.channel4.com. It’s a show dedicated to impartial money-saving advice, and there are invariable little tutorials on how to revamp old clothes or make decorations, one of which I’ll be showing you later on.

DIY—It’s Easier Than You Think is a page on Facebook dedicated to picture tutorials on how to make your own... well, everything. There’s a great variety to look through and I’d highly recommend liking the page for updates and inspiration!

Hope that’s inspired some of you to do stuff yourself, and I promise I’ll have a crafty pun ready to title tomorrow’s post! I also believe I promised some of you another recipe... See you soon!



Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Scoliosis Story... Part 5 (Featuring Flying Baby and Asian Doctor)

RECOVERY

Apologies that this post is so late, but I’ve been having too much fun and it’s been dragging, so there it is... but rest assured that I love each and everyone one of you immensely!

Today I’d like to talk about recovery both in and out of hospital. If these posts don’t apply or appeal to you then I apologise, but this is the last in the series and hopefully you’ll enjoy the recipes and craft posts to come, or you can check back in a few weeks for posts on writing.

Anyway, so I’m back in my room in the ward. I’ve lost more weight than a celebrity on a fad diet, and yes, I’m in quite a bit of pain. But I’ve got a little button to press in my hand for morphine. Generally, I am the sort of person who waits about three hours into a headache to see if it’s worth taking half a Panadol. I don’t like drugs, even the legal kind one sometimes needs, though that may sound silly. It just goes against all my instincts to take something artificial that’s supposed to change the way I feel. I suppose that’s why I’ve never been that interested in drinking—I think I get it from my dad.

However, medicine is developed for a reason, and when a nurse presents you with a cup of pills which will ease the burning and the aching in your back... you swallow them up like a good little patient and don’t ask questions, regardless of the lump it leaves in your throat. It was the same with morphine—something I had to make an effort to remember was that no doctor is going to let you have something harmful if they can help it. I was on a drip which gave me a dose and then I could click my button if I felt the need for more—but only every fifteen minutes if memory serves.
So I guess two things I learned to do in the days after my surgery were to trust those around me—the doctors and nurses—as well as trusting my own body. I hadn’t realised this, but while our minds are pretty awesome, our bodies can get along just fine without them, thank you very much. They know how to survive. Been doing it for millennia. My body knew that it needed to heal itself, so for the next couple of weeks I just had to pay attention while Body told Mind: “We need to rest.” “We need to walk.” “We need to stretch.” Etc. For a semi- control freak such as myself, it was a strange experience, made even stranger by the fact that I began to hallucinate. Of course, I’d been warned it might happen, but it’s not really something you can prepare for. I never expected my ears to deceive me...
“What was that, dad?”
“What?”
“What did you say?”
“Nothing.”
“Yes you did.”
“No I didn’t.”
“COME OVER HERE AND SAY IT TO MY FACE OLD MAN.”

...OK, so the last bit might have been created for your entertainment, but you get the idea.
Then there was Asian Doctor. Basically, my brain kind of mixed up present and past. My eyes must have fixed at some point on this lovely gentleman in his scrubs, and suddenly his image would pop up on whatever background I was looking at at the time.

Perhaps the most unnerving hallucination was, for one second and one second only, Flying Baby. The wall in front of me went completely red and liquid, like it was blood, and a baby appeared floating in front of my eyes, just for a second. I screamed aloud. I still have no idea where it might have come from... suggestions are welcome.

Apart from hallucinations, there were a few other scary experiences. My back was stapled rather than stitched, in what’s been described to me as looking like a “zip” (I chose not to see for myself), and there was one stage where I went to itch my back and the dressing had moved, so I felt the staples. Reflexively, I recoiled and tensed up. Mistake. My whole back locked in a spasm and it was intensely painful. There were several moments like that, particularly as my nerves were so sensitive. There was also the fact that as some nerves had been cut, I had no feeling whatsoever in a few places. That’s still coming back, a year later.

Slowly but surely, though, I got better. I still remember the first time I completed a “lap” round the ward, the first time I walked up a flight of stairs. I began to feel less fragile. I could soon take a shower by myself and even pick up a jug of water, both of which I’d felt too weak to do before. Ourteen days after my operation, I was home. And home had never looked so perfect.

I’d just like to say a special thank you to everyone who supported me throughout. I genuinely hadn’t realised how much people cared about me. You all know who you are, so just, thanks.

*BBC voice* If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in “The Scoliosis Story”, then don’t hesitate to contact me. Perhaps you’re about to go through surgery and have some questions? Or maybe you’ve had a different experience to me. If so, I’d love to hear about it!

My scoliosis isn’t something I’m shy about, so if you know me and are curious about my scar, my x-rays or anything like that, don’t hesitate to ask. If you don’t know me...
...don’t come up to me and demand to see my scar. Don’t make it weird. Introduce yourself first is all I ask.


As a side note, if you happen to have scoliosis, go on a first date and decide to show your special someone how your ribs are two different shapes... results may vary. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The Scoliosis Story... Part 4

WAKING UP

The first thing I remember was lying in a bed which seemed to stretch out for miles around—probably because I couldn’t move my head at all. I remembered where I was right away, and what had happened, so the first thing I did was to move my legs. I brought my knees right up to my chest: they could still move—good.

There was a nurse in the room who was responsible for making sure I was OK when I woke up. She said hello to me and I fell back asleep. I was in and out of consciousness for a few hours and at some point my parents came in to see me. At this stage I wasn’t in any pain at all... brilliant.

So, for anyone who’s going to be getting this surgery, here’ s what happens when you wake up. You’re on a drip which is feeding you. You’re catheterised (shudder). You can’t lift up your own head. Your legs are OK, but it’s hard to move your arms as well. You feel ridiculously weak, but don’t worry. You begin recovering without delay.  But you’re not especially worried. A combination of the drugs and the copious amounts of genuinely caring people around you makes you pretty relaxed.

They try to get you walking right away, which for me was pretty scary. Have you ever seen Avatar? That’s the only way I can describe it. It’s like having a whole new body to control. Because you’re straightened up—and in the beginning, not at all flexible—you’ll be a lot taller than you were when you woke up that morning. Picture a ten-second growth spurt. The floor is further away. For me, I already felt like I’d lost weight, so my limbs themselves looked longer. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I was taught how to stand up without putting strain on my back, a kind of rolling motion, and then I took my first steps there in the intensive care unit, holding the hand of a nurse named Aisling who to this day is one of the kindest people I’ve met.

Walking was hard. One or two steps felt like wading through treacle, the blood rushed to my head because I’d been lying down for so long, and all the while I was terrified of falling over or falling apart. Little by little, though, I got the hang of it and got up every couple of hours to take a few steps.
I got moved back up to my room and mum stayed the night with me as there was plenty of room. I was hooked up to a machine that monitored my breathing. That night, I began to feel real pain in my back. The machine kept beeping when I didn’t breathe properly—it was funny being told I wasn’t doing something properly when I’d been doing it all my life!

Since my ribs had changed shape, one of my lungs hadn’t decompressed properly and even though I barely noticed, I was finding it difficult to breathe deeply. I was taken back down to intensive care where I had to wear a special oxygen mask which basically forced air in and out of my lungs, in order to expand them properly. Imagine a vacuum attached to your face. I couldn’t talk when I had it on, and it dried out my entire face at a time when I wasn’t allowed to drink water.

However I recovered pretty quickly, despite an initial scare when two nurses decided to stand by my bed to talk about another patient, so I overheard “she’s really going downhill”..panic... and soon had to go for a CAT scan. This was a very scary experience as I had to be lifted by a team of nurses (not that I’m terribly overweight, but a team) on a blanket onto the CAT scanner. Irrationally, I had visions of myself crashing to the floor. Not a nice thought when you’re feeling totally fragile, like you could snap at any moment.

I also had to get several X-rays from my bed. This involved me having to be helped to sit up (sitting, strangely, is harder than standing) and having a board wedged behind my sore back. My breathing was also checked with a handy little machine with a straw I had to suck to see how strong my lungs were getting.
Eventually, I got there, and it was time to move back up to the ward for only regularly ill people. Yay!

I hope this isn’t putting you guys off too much, but I’d like for people to have this resource if they need it. On Thursday I’ll talk about fun with morphine and much more... and then I’ll begin my next, less depressing, theme.  


Read part 5 here.