Health Diary Week 98: Attempting Life Balance

Image: Me balancing my fellow travelling friends, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (2008)

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<<<Week 97

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. I’ve fallen a bit behind with posting again in my attempt to balance, work, play and rest.

My NHS Work Life

I definitely feel more comfortable in my Staff Wellbeing Admin role and I’m ready to take on more responsibilities (I’m five weeks in now). I still have loads of settling in to do yet with my Health and Wellbeing Coach job (it’s only week two): I attended the online Trust Induction, shadowed the Social Prescriber again and received some training on the GP patient system – there’s still loads more to learn and prepare before my clinic is up and running.

Histamine Food Challenge: Baked Beans

I was feeling reckless and craving baked beans, so I decided to top half of my jacket potato with some baked beans (one of the riskiest histamine ingredients, as it contains tomato) and a sliced pea-protein sausage! I took a DAO enzyme beforehand (just to be safer) and waited to see what happened – surprisingly, I seemed okay, so I’ll give it another go, without the enzyme, at some point:

Image: My jacket potato topped with baked beans and sliced sausage

Topped Meals

I hadn’t realised I’d been so into loading my meals with some kind of topping this past week. The most indulgent was my loaded cheesy nachos with a ‘ham slice’, spring onion and sweet paprika. I accompanied a salad with some free-from coleslaw (a small histamine risk). My pasta and rice were topped with reduced fat hummus (my addiction):

Image: My loaded meals. Clockwise: My typical low-histamine salad with coleslaw. My typical low-histamine easy pasta with ‘ham’ and topped with reduced fat hummus. Loaded cheesy nachos with ‘ham’, spring onion and sweet paprika. Vegetable rice topped with hummus

Physical Activity: Walking

I was pleased with the amount I walked, as I exceeded the government recommendation of 150 minutes moderate exercise, completing 172 minutes (nearly three hours) of brisk walking. My total was 296 minutes (nearly five hours) – I like to think those two slower hours included a great deal of mindfulness, like enjoying the scenery as I passed by:

Image: Left: River view on one of my walks. Right: My Active 10 week’s walks

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

And of course, here’s a few of my week’s smile-provokers…

Appreciating a ‘Duvet Day’:

I was tired after the social weekend, so I was very happy to spend most of the bank holiday Monday lazing in bed watching television. Sometimes doing nothing is the best, but too much gets boring. Working full-time again has really made me appreciate the times when I can do guilt-free nothing:

Image: Charlotte (one of my besties) and I enjoying a relaxing duvet-based “girls’ night in” (2006)

A pub night:

I was feeling a bit anxious about this pub visit for my friend, Tina’s, big birthday (looking fab Tina!). We were sat in the outside area which helped me feel more comfortable and it turned out to be an enjoyable evening. What’s more, I’ve adjusted to just drinking a couple of vodkas (instead of far too many) and I particularly like not waking up with a hangover the next day:

Image: Tina and I taking selfies at her ‘Big Birthday’ gathering at the local pub

An afternoon out with my parents:

My parents and I decided to have lunch at a marina cafe as it was such a sunny, warm day. We parked about thirty-minutes walk away to give ourselves some exercise there and back. I took one of my DAO enzymes (to counteract histamine effects from the food) and thoroughly enjoyed a butternut squash and avocado salad with chunky chips, and salted caramel dairy-free ice cream for dessert – delicious (and histamine rebellious):

Image: Clockwise: My salad and chips lunch. My salted caramel ice cream. My parents and I attempting a selfie. Our view of the marina (can you see the swan?)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 99
<<<Week 97
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Health Diary Week 97: Be Kind, and Surround Yourself with Kind People

Image: Women on deck chairs (By: Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay, Pixabay)

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<<<Week 96

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

My NHS Working Life

Let’s start with some work updates…

Full-time Hours:

This was my first week working full-time hours, for years! The time flew by in a whirlwind and before I knew it, my working week was done. I was pretty tired by Friday, but also incredibly relieved I didn’t feel horribly fatigued (it was a long-haul Covid concern of mine) – I feel more confident now that I will be okay working full-time hours.

Staff Wellbeing Administrator: Week Four:

It was my first week working from home as a Staff Wellbeing Hub Administrator. I liked it. I feel more settled in the role now (everyone continues to be nice and encouraging). So far, I mostly answer the phone, and book and process counselling referrals. I’m expecting to take on more responsibilities soon.

Health and Wellbeing Coach: Week One:

This was my first week as a Health and Wellbeing Coach[1]. I met loads of people, many whose names I can’t remember, but everyone seems lovely. One morning, I shadowed the Social Prescriber[2] who I’ll probably have a lot of contact with – she was amazingly helpful. I’m surprised by the freedom in my role – lots to consider. It all scares me a bit, but I felt like this when I began a science degree with no science background and I excelled at that, so I’m sure I’m capable and will find the whole experience rewarding.

Image: An image of martial arts coaching that came up when I searched “coach”, which made me laugh because it’s nothing like me or what I was envisaging, so of course I had to use it here (By: 1820796, Pixabay)

Ears, Nose and Throat Referral

I received an ENT appointment – I’d almost given up on it happening. Now I’m a bit nervous about what they’re going to do to me – will they stick a camera up my nose that I’ll have to try not to sneeze out? – Every time I do a Covid lateral flow test, I retch, my eyes water and I sneeze violently! This could be interesting. Anyway, moving on…

Some Tasty Meals

Nowadays I can handle a wider variety of foods compared to when I first became low histamine back in October 2020 – almost a year ago! I had several tasty meals this week: Mum’s courgette and broad bean risotto, topped with roasted sweet potato. And Mum’s dairy-free cheesy vegetable bake (cauliflower, broccoli and carrots), served with roast potato, sweet potato, fennel and steamed courgette. A simple pasta salad. And a hearty Sunday brunch of scrambled tofu, served with potatoes, pitta bread and hummus – keeping me satiated until dinner time:

Image: Clockwise: Vegetable risotto topped with sweet potato. Cheesy vegetable bake with roast veg and steamed courgettes. Pasta salad. Scrambled tofu with potato, pitta and hummus

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Don’t you just love a sunny bank holiday weekend? – I most certainly do. My last three smile-provokers were part of my weekend, but before I get to that…

Dragonfly:

I’m sure I’ve told you before how much I love dragonflies – I think they’re beautiful. So you can imagine how delighted I was to get a close look at one in our garden during my lunch break and even capturing some decent shots (they don’t usually stay still for long):

Image: Dragonfly. I chose this photo to share, because from this angle the dragonfly looks like it has a friendly smiley face

Kind people, kind words:

My little monthly mindfulness friend group are so kind-hearted. Karen, who hosts our get-togethers gifted us all a book called “Kind words for unkind days” by Jayne Hardy. I like how it is divided into chapters, e.g. “Words for the days that feel overwhelming” and “Words for the days when you’re being unkind to yourself” – helpful and comforting:

Image: Kind words for kind days book

Crumble Club:

I had a particularly social weekend. There was my usual visit with ‘my dear friend Bevy’, but I also went to my lovely friend’s Crumble Club. Jen made delicious crumble (of course), which we drowned in custard (I took a DAO enzyme to reduce dietary histamine effects). We allowed ourselves some emotional crumbles too – it’s nice to feel comfortable enough to show vulnerabilities around friends:

Image: Tina and I at Crumble Club. Me unnecessarily scrunching up small to try to fit into the picture (hahaha)

A lazy Sunday in the sun:

Deciding to spend Sunday afternoon at a marina cafe was a genius idea, even if I say so myself. I indulged in three colas (sugar excessive, I know), one with vodka. My friend and I just chilled out for hours in some deckchairs over-looking the marina, enjoying the warmth from the sun:

Image: My bank holiday Sunday afternoon lazing in a deckchair overlooking the marina (there were some cloudy times, but it stayed pleasantly warm)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 98
<<<Week 96
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References

1. NHS, 2021. Health and wellbeing coaches.
2. NHS, 2021. Social prescribing.

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Health Diary Week 96: Quality Family Time

Image: Elephant family (JL G, Pixabay)

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<<<Week 95

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. I’m still trying to catch up with posting, but I keep getting delayed by my new work life and socialising (I can’t complain)…

Staff Wellbeing Hub Admin: Week Three

This was my third week in my new admin role, but also my last week on-site at the hospital before being based at home for the foreseeable future. I will miss the camaraderie of working directly with my job share, Lorraine. And while I won’t miss the early morning public transport commute, I will miss the walking part – I need to factor a walk into my working days.

Exercise: Walking

Talking about walking, my current physical activity is mostly limited to walking. I completed 320 minutes (over five hours) and was pleased to scrape the UK’s government recommendation for 150 minutes moderate exercise per week, in the form of brisk walking:

Image: My Active 10 walks and rewards for Week 96

My Low(ish) Histamine Meals

It’s been a while since I’ve shared meals I’ve prepared, so I thought I’d show you some of this week’s meals I made to substitute those the rest of my family were eating. My food choices are quite limited on this low histamine diet, although thankfully my options are slowly increasing…

Pasta, salad and garlic pitta:

I enjoyed my dinner of gluten free vegetable pasta (yellow bell pepper, courgette, sweetcorn, sweet white onion, garlic, chia seeds, B12 yeast flakes, turmeric, dried herbs and cold pressed rapeseed oil), served with a side salad (mixed leaves, red onion and cucumber) and a garlic pitta pocket – tasty:

Image: Pasta served with a salad & garlic pitta pocket

Vegetable & pistachio rice mix:

This vegetable brown and white rice dinner actually contained most of the same ingredients as the above pasta, except the pasta was swapped out for rice, and I added some chopped pistachios:

Image: Vegetable and pistachio rice mix

My tasty salad:

I love a salad. My go-to low histamine salad contains mixed leaves, spring onion, cucumber, radishes, beetroot, chia seeds and cold-pressed rapeseed oil. Here I took a risk and added pre-prepared roasted bell pepper and artichoke hearts. Also, I always accompany the leaves mix with a potato salad of steamed potatoes, hemp seeds, dried Italian herbs, turmeric, sweet paprika, vegan mayo (a teaspoon) and cold-pressed flax oil. Always satisfying:

Image: My tasty salad

Cheesy Nachos:

My end of the working week meal was indulgent cheesy nachos. I topped mine with coconut-based cheese (an occasional indulgence, as it is so high in saturated fat), roasted bell pepper, artichoke hearts, red onion, dried herbs and sweet paprika:

Image: Cheesy nachos

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

And of course, I couldn’t leave without sharing a couple of smile-provokers…

Family guests:

Kerry, my cousin-in-law (well near enough) and three of the children (two I hadn’t met before) stayed with us for a few days. It was great getting to know Kerry better and having time with the kids, albeit I was shattered by Thursday afternoon. I did very much enjoy my time with them though:

Image: Baby Eric

Memory lane – The shell house:

On one of our walks, Mum and I found this minature stone town in someone’s front garden. One of the neighbours told us it was built over fifty years ago and was far more impressive back then. What I loved most about this little scene was that it brought back happy memories of my grandparents taking my sister and I to see the Shell House near Bournemouth when we stayed with them – I was always excited to go there:

Image: Minature stone town

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 97
<<<Week 95
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Health Diary Week 93: Catching Up

Image: Catching up (mohamed Hassan, Pixabay)

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<<<Week 92

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. You might have noticed, this is my second post of the week, as I’ve needed to catch up after falling behind on my weekly posting…

Histamine Issues: Inflamed Eyelids

At my Optician appointment, I was surprised to discover I have inflamed eyelids, likely due to excessive histamine. The thing is, my eyes hadn’t particularly bothered me, at least not compared to everything else, but as soon as I knew there was an issue with them, they started feeling uncomfortable – go figure. Having said that, I’m glad the issue was picked up before it became severe – attend your health check-ups folks.

So, I have instructions to use a cold compress for ten minutes twice daily for two months, plus lubricating eye drops four times a day, and mast cell stabiliser eye drops four times daily for 28 days (sodium cromoglicate – same as the tablets I was prescribed by my GP but couldn’t get hold of due to supply shortages).

Histamine Food Challenge: Broad Beans

I wanted to try broad beans again (because I love them so) to check if I’m as okay with them as I think. So, I decided to add them to a simple vegetable pasta – nothing bad happened – yippee!:

Vegetable pasta, including some tasty broad beans, orange pepper, courgette, sweetcorn and sweet white onion

My Hot Chocolate Replacement

I used to love a comforting mug of hot chocolate or a matcha latte, back in the day before my histamine issues, so I was searching for an alternative. ‘My dear friend’ Bevy, and I decided my chicory drink would work well as a latte with gluten free oat milk, so I whizzed one up in my trusty Vitamix – I was not disappointed by this frothy, filling delight:

Image: Chicory latte – frothy, delicious and ridiculously filling

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

And let me share some of my week’s smile-provokers with you all…

Birdies:

I can’t believe it took us years to discover the joys of a bird feeder. While I was sat out having a mug of chicory I was treated to a visit from loads of little birdies (some kind of tit I think). It was a nice change from the squabbling starlings who currently dominate the feeder:

Image: Our busy bird feeder (I think there’s eleven tits on the feeder in this pic)

Molly and Not Molly captured together:

Neighbourhood cats Molly and Not Molly have featured in my blog for some time, but I’d never seen them together until now (Not Molly is incredibly elusive). For a while, I’d mistaken Molly for Not Molly (I don’t know Not Molly’s name), but now that I’ve seen them together, I’m confident I can tell them apart:

Image: Molly and Not Molly (finally). Top: Molly bottom left and Not Molly top right. Bottom right: Molly (Week 71). Bottom left: Not Molly (it is really hard to capture a photo of this one)

Mini work reunion:

In my University Disability Adviser days, I worked within a team of kind, caring and encouraging people. So, my highlight of this week was a catch up at a cafe (outside) with two of my former colleagues, Rachel and Marjory, who I hadn’t seen for far too long:

Image: Mum and I at work (2007) – yep, we worked together – at the university and our previous organisation. (I didn’t have a photo of Marjory and Rach together to share)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 94
<<<Week 92
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Health Diary Week 91: Look up

Image: My dawn hot air balloon trip, 2007

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<<<Week 90

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

Firstly, I’m sorry, this post was so delayed – there were some unexpected circumstances – more on that in Week 92.

Histamine Intolerance – Insect Bite Reactions

What can I say? I’m an insect magnet! Or rather, whenever an insect nibbles on me, I react with horribly red, raised, itchy bites – a typical reaction in people with histamine intolerance[1].

I’d sat on the grass in Bevy’s garden after covering myself in insect repellent. But I missed a strip along my lower back, and of course the insects feasted on this small patch. Bevy didn’t notice any bites on her, despite wearing zero repellent.

Histamine Food Risks

I was treated to some absolutely delicious food this week. Let me tell you more…

Yeast (pizza):

Oh, how I’ve missed pizza – I haven’t had any since going low histamine in October 2020, mainly because of the tomato base. It also contains yeast, which can be problematic[2], although I take calculated risks by consuming gluten free pittas.

Ben (aka Ben Cooks Plants) made pizza in his new pizza oven (built himself). For me, Ben made a specially adapted low histamine dough (no gluten and minimal yeast), and a white sauce base instead of tomatoes (my hero!). I polished off two pizzas – excessive, I know. And yes, I felt absolutely stuffed for the rest of the evening!:

Image: My low histamine pizzas, courtesy of Ben Cooks Plants. Clockwise: Beetroot and green pepper pizza pre-dressed. Beetroot and green pepper pizza dressed with pumpkin seeds and fresh herbs. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza dressed with ‘parmesan’. Peach and ‘parma ham’ pizza pre-dressed

Cashew nuts (ice cream):

Now, I very much enjoy ice cream and the weather has warmed up considerably, so I thought it was about time I tried the Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream waiting patiently for me in the freezer. Cashew nuts (replace dairy) are one of its six ingredients – they’re listed as “Moderately compatible, minor symptoms, occasional consumption of small quantities is often tolerated”[2] – I didn’t notice any symptoms, which is great as they’re more affordable than macadamias and pistachios, my other nut options. The ice cream verdict? – Heavenly!:

Image: Booja Booja honeycomb caramel ice cream (yum!)

Alcohol (vodka):

I indulged in four singles of potato-based vodka (two with apple juice, two with cola) in Tina’s and Ben’s garden. The riskiest of these ingredients was the vodka as it not only contains histamine, but also encourages histamine to be released (by mast cells) and blocks histamine degrading enzymes (e.g. diamine oxidase)[2] – very risky indeed, but not as much as wine. So, this was one of those occasions when I chose to take one of my DAO enzyme tablets to help break down excessive histamine consumed. I didn’t have any noticeable ill-effects (phew):

Image: Naturdao, plant-based DAO enzyme supplement

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

It was a good week – a great start to my two weeks off work…

Hello sis:

My sister and her boyfriend Carl decided to visit us before covid restrictions were lifted (they didn’t want to travel to us by train when other travellers may not be wearing masks, especially as covid cases are rising again). As always, it was lovely to see them. Mum prepared an impressive buffet lunch. Emma’s friend visited – Madeleine and I were amused watching Em and Carl practice setting up and packing away their newly acquired tent – definitely wouldn’t be my forte…

Image: My sister and Carl visit. Top: Buffet lunch. Bottom: Watching tent practicing skills

Gin and tonic o’clock:

We had gloriously hot and sunny weather, so much so, that we’ve had to stay inside during the hottest time of the day. Whilst watching our bird friends by the pond, I was treated to my first gin and tonic since before I started my low histamine diet in October 2020 – no noticeable ill-effects – lovely:

Image: Gin and tonic, pondside

Uninvited guest:

Oh, the cheekiness (and delight) of inviting yourself over to your friends’ garden and then being offered homemade pizza. It was a beautifully sunny day and there was much hilarity – at times there were tears of laughter running down mine and Tina’s face:

Image: Pizza delights, al fresco. Clockwise: Ben’s home-built pizza oven. ‘Ben Cooks Plants’ preparing pizza. Ben’s standard, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven. My low histamine, gluten free, vegan pizza in the oven

Looking skywards:

I love being able to sit outside looking up at the sky. In Tina and Ben’s garden, we saw loads of noisy seagulls above us feasting (it was flying ants day). And I was surprised to see a group of eight magpies gathered on the rooftop. It was also a night where we spotted several satellites travelling past. But my highlight has to be catching sight of a meteor, during daylight, enter and burn up on entry into our atmosphere – such a sight:

Image: Meteor, Free-Photos (Pixabay)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 92
<<<Week 90
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References

1. Dr Tina Peers, Ca. 2021. Introduction to Histamine Intolerance (HIT).

2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.

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Health Diary Week 90: Feeling Appreciated

Thank you postcard received, as part of the NHS Big Tea event, 2021

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<<<Week 89

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

Physiotherapy

I had another in-person physio appointment, which was great as a couple of new exercises were introduced to improve movement of my dominant arm behind my back and to increase overall shoulder strength. It is expected I’ll only need one more appointment, as I’ve almost recovered normal use of my arm – great news.

Exercise: Walking

In my current job, I can get in a fair amount of walking during a shift, even when working in a seated role – I recorded 70 minutes walking on the day I was mainly sat updating medical records in the vaccine bay – I try to get up and move around between vaccine vials (when the vaccine drawers need to prepare the next batch). My total weeks walking was recorded on my Active 10 phone app as 296 minutes, of which 101 minutes were brisk.  And sometimes I don’t have my phone on me, so my stats are lower than the amount I actually walked. I still need to get out for more brisk walks though, as you can see in the below graph:

Image: My Active 10 walking stats. Left: My week’s walking log. Right: 70 minutes walking when working in a seated role (not bad)

Food Risks

I don’t know what got into me this week – perhaps it’s because I was feeling particularly well since having the antihistamine combo (Loratadine liquid in the morning and Cetirizine liquid before bed), so I got a bit lax on my low histamine diet. As it was, my rhinitis and fatigue symptoms started flaring up on Saturday, but they calmed down by Sunday – phew! I experienced minor gut ache, which could have been histamine related or due to the re-introduction and increase in different types of fibre (legumes) as explained in my article: Carbs: The Good, the Bad and the Sometimes ‘Farty’![2]. Anyway, here’s more about what I ate:

Scrambled tofu:

Mum wanted scrambled tofu again (as did I), so of course I made us all some. The tofu itself was a risk (significant histamine symptoms expected[1]), and the risk was further increased with my wholegrain pitta (yeast, fermented products) and cauliflower hash browns (sunflower oil, black pepper). I absolutely loved this comfort food meal and don’t regret it one bit:

Image: My scrambled tofu with pitta, hash browns and notomato sauce (a proper comfort meal)

Broad beans (risotto):

Now, I love broad beans, to the extent I used to cook up a whole batch, peel off the outer coat and just eat them as a snack. But, they are listed as “Incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake”[1], so I’d obediently avoided them. But I’d been craving them recently and they’re seasonal, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Mum kindly cooked up a rather delicious risotto loaded with broad beans, asparagus and courgette – divine!:

Image: Mum’s green risotto: broad beans, asparagus and courgette (divine)

Chickpeas (hummus):

Now, the chip butty is one of the Brit’s proud inventions – basically a chip (fries) sandwich – trust me they’re wonderful. And when I visited Amsterdam (many years ago), they made amazing falafel wraps loaded with hummus and salad. Well, I kind of combined these two delights to make my own creation – chips, salad and hummus pitta – I can’t even begin to tell you how good this was! But risks were taken (again) – the frozen oven chips were pre-cooked in sunflower oil (single dose considered okay[1]) and hummus is listed as incompatible[1], and there were the pitta bread ingredients as well – but it was totally worth it:

Image: Chip, hummus and salad butty (yum!)

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

As always, I’m very happy to share a couple of my smile-provokers with you…

A family visit:

My Uncle Chris dropped in for a visit as he was in the area for work. It was lovely to see him and catch up on some family updates. The last proper family event where I saw this part of my family was at my cousin Alice’s wedding in Liverpool, a great vibrant city – we had a fabulous weekend. Hopefully, we’ll meet up with the wider family in the not-too-distant future:

Image: Mum and I (and Cilla), Liverpool, 2018

Return of the long-tailed tits:

Our long-tailed tit bird visitors have returned. These little fluff balls are so cute – they look like little anime characters. I was starting to worry that we wouldn’t get to see them this year, because the starlings have been so dominant at our bird feeder:

Image: Oldiefan (Pixabay): Long-tailed tits. My own photos just didn’t do these little cuties justice

Feeling appreciated:

On Tuesday, I got to my work position to find a little message for us all on one of the boards, wishing us a “Happy Tuesday” – courtesy of one of our friendly security guards. Then during my break, I received a gift bag as part of the “NHS Big Tea” event – they contained a cupcake, cup with tea and coffee and a thank you post card – how lovely. I passed on these treats to Dad who seemed to enjoy them:

Image: NHS positivity. Clockwise: “Happy Tuesday” message. NHS Big Tea gift bag. “A Big Thank you NHS” sign on someone’s house that we pass on my way home. The cupcake and postcard from the NHS Big Tea

I feel a lot of appreciation recalling the moments that bring me happiness. Likewise, feeling appreciated makes me happy too – I receive a lot of that nowadays since working for the NHS, from both patients and line managers – I really appreciate the appreciation – thanks so much to all those lovely people:

Image: NHS appreciation on one of the walls at the Covid vaccination centre where I currently work

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 91
<<<Week 89
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References

1. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
2. Watson, K, 2019. Carbs: The Good, the Bad and the Sometimes ‘Farty’!.
3. RSPB, Ca. 2021. Long-tailed tit.

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Health Diary Week 80: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Back to Work

Back to work: Me looking a little dazed by the prospect

“The best way to enjoy your job is to imagine yourself without one”

Oscar Wilde

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<<<Week 79

Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. Firstly, I must apologise for the delayed post – a couple of unexpected situations and general work tiredness slowed me down.

I started working for the NHS

I was nervous (but also massively excited) about starting work as a Covid Administrator in a vaccine centre. I’d been a University Disability Adviser until mid-2017 when I took voluntary redundancy to complete my studies full-time. After graduating at the end of 2019, I’d intended to have a few months break. And then Covid-19 emerged and I contracted it mid-March 2020 (read my story here), leaving me with some lingering symptoms delaying my return to work.

I had no idea how I would handle my fatigue, despite only working three days a week (just over six hours each shift). I worked Wednesday to Friday and was hugely relieved I was okay, but I spent much of my weekend sleeping before my next shift on Monday. My shift pattern will settle down soon, so I’ll be able to develop a routine.

I worked on check-in, where I welcomed and booked-in people for their vaccine, before directing them to the assessment queue. I’m hoping to work in the vaccine bays soon. What I’ve absolutely loved is being around people again.

Me dressed for work: NHS vaccine support staff

I lost weight

I was hoping that being back at work would increase my activity levels and halt my recent creeping weight gain. When I weighed myself on Monday, I’d lost 2.2 lb (1 kg) in weight after my first working week despite being sat down most of the time – yay! My shift timings mean I miss a meal at work, so that must have helped. And I probably burnt a few calories trying to keep warm, as the building was well ventilated (rightfully so).

Medical updates: Histamine and clicking jaw

I missed a phone call from my Doctor to review my histamine issues, whilst I was at work. So, this meant another e-Consult form to request a set time to speak to my Doctor. Hopefully I’ll hear back soon.

Also, I had a dentist appointment to shave down one of my teeth to reduce a heavy bite. Hopefully this will stop my jaw from clicking so much and improve bone repair from an extra tooth previously removed. Thankfully, it was a simple process – no anaesthetic required and over quickly. I’ll be interested to see if my jaw does stop clicking.

Pre-work breakfast: Baked oats and quinoa flakes

Now that I’m working, I either miss lunch or dinner, because of my shift timings. My employers provide sandwiches and snacks, but sadly I can’t eat these (except the apples) because of my low histamine, gluten free and vegan diet. I just take dry foods (popcorn, crackers, nuts) to snack on during a break and eat filling pre-work meals. My pre-work breakfast was baked oats and quinoa flakes with apple and blueberries, topped with macadamia butter (details here) – super filling, dessert-like breakfast – yum!:

Baked oats and quinoa flakes with apple and blueberries (and other goodies)

Pre-work lunch: Pasta salad in macadamia butter

My pre-work filling lunch also incorporated my trusty, newly discovered quinoa flakes and macadamia butter. This time I made a fusilli (brown rice) pasta salad – I have an idea on how to improve it next time, but I must say, I was impressed with this creation (details here):

Pasta salad with macadamia nut butter and quinoa flakes – so filling!

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Here’s a few of this week’s smile provokers…

Real-life people:

What really made me smile this week was interacting with people in real-life – returning to work and seeing friends. It was wonderful to meet in Karen’s garden for the first time this year (and the bonus was it was daylight, initially) instead of on Zoom. We had a lovely catch-up (myself, Karen, Julie and Chrissy) and a calming mindfulness session led by Chrissy:

Garden meet-up and mindfulness (Week 47)

The talented Mr Blackbird:

Our blackbird friends have been incredibly busy with nest maintenance and feeding. Mummy Bird and a male were collecting mud and sticks from the pond, flying back-and-forth to a nest somewhere behind our house. Our blackbird friends have also been enjoying the abundance of worms in our garden and the buffet we provide on the driveway for the ground-feeding birds. But impressively, Mr Blackbird has also figured out how to hang from the bird feeder to obtain extra sustenance:

Mr Blackbird demonstrating his skills

Super Moon:

I awoke Tuesday morning (27 April) at 4.30am to a huge, clear moon lighting up my room. Unfortunately, my photo attempts didn’t do it justice, so you’ll have to take my word that it was gorgeous. I found out later this was a super pink moon. I didn’t notice it being pink, but then the one shown below isn’t obviously pink either:

Super pink moon. Image: TheOtherKev, Pixabay

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 77: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Katey in the Kitchen

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences.

Antihistamines: Acrivastine versus Loratadine

In Week 75, I updated that my Doctor had said I could choose between the antihistamines Acrivastine (brand name Benadryl)[1] and Loratadine (brand name Clarityn)[2]. So, naturally I undertook a bit of research to decide between the two options. The main findings of interest to me were:

My Acrivastine versus Loratadine research summary table

I decided Loratadine was my best option. Acrivastine is another of those antihistamines containing a high histamine food colouring (I really don’t get the deal with this!) –  Quinoline yellow (E104): “Very poorly tolerated, severe symptoms” and a “histamine liberator”[5]. The pharmacist confirmed that tablets for both Loratadine and Acrivastine contain lactose (which I have issue with), but you can get Loratadine solution (doesn’t contain lactose) on prescription. I just hope the other ingredients are okay, as I couldn’t find details for this. I was concerned that a common side effect of Acrivastine was sleep difficulties[1] – when I caught Covid (March 2020, read my Covid story here) I had 180 days of insomnia (which also messed with my mental health), so the possibility of going through anything like that again was hugely off-putting. I’ll let you know how I get on with Loratadine.

Side note: I should also mention that I asked the pharmacist whether all Fexofenadine (a stronger antihistamine) contained Allura Red/E129 (a high histamine food colouring) – apparently it does, so that’s definitely off the cards.

Exercise

I’ve been feeling too fatigued these past few weeks to exercise much. So, I was pleased with myself for completing three short walks this week, totalling 98 minutes, of which 54 minutes were brisk. Here’s hoping I can be more active soon. If I can, it will help towards losing the extra weight I’ve gained this week – I’ll tell you how much another time:

Exercise: Walking. Right: Pretty scene spotted on one of my walks. Left: My Active10 record

Food creation: Baked oats

Instagram has been trending with baked oats recipes these past couple of weeks, so of course I thought I should try them (details here). What I loved about this meal is that you just throw it all in an oven proof dish and pop it in the oven, leaving you to get on and do other things while its baking. It was tasty, so I’ll be having it again for sure, maybe with blueberries next time instead of apple and I’ll add in some macadamia butter – yum!:

Baked oats: Apple, black cherry jam, chia seeds, flax seeds, maple syrup and sweet cinnamon

Food creation: Vegetable and seed noodles

I rediscovered my love of King Soba noodles. I made a delicious meal of pumpkin and ginger noodles, notomato sauce, vegetable and seed mix and vegan feta – my mouth is watering just thinking about it! – details here. Vegan feta is a histamine risk, but one I’m willing to take occasionally:

Vegetable noodles: King Soba pumpkin and ginger noodles topped with notomato sauce, vegetable and seed mix and Violife feta ‘cheese’

Food creation: Risotto burgers

I had another attempt at my butternut squash risotto burgers. This time I added more binder (chia seed ‘egg’) and made up the burgers pre-freezing the risotto. The risotto itself was great and getting eight burgers from the leftovers was brilliant (details here) – lots to freeze for a low energy day:

From this tasty butternut squash risotto:

Butternut squash risotto

To these butternut squash risotto burgers:

Butternut squash risotto burgers. Clockwise: Risotto burger in a pitta with salad. Cooked risotto burger. Chia seed ‘egg’ ready to be stirred into risotto. Pre-cooked risotto burger

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

I had a pretty good week. Here’s some of my smile-provoking experiences:

Messy cooking:

I’m a messy cook – I claim its due to the dyspraxia. I got into such a mess making my risotto burgers, including my hands becoming well coated in burger mix. And when I was tidying up, I misjudged returning the flaxseeds to their shelf and they fell off, spilling over the floor. My parents are so used to these occurrences; Dad didn’t take any notice and Mum walked in calmly to see what had happened this time. I love that we just accept these little incidents as part of everyday life. And the seeds didn’t go to waste – I deposited them on the bird feeder for our little friends:

Messy cook. Clockwise: My hands during burger making. Flaxseed spillage (I think the birds were happy with the edition to the bird table). Burgers batch cooked and packed for freezing. Burgers pre-cooked, ready for freezing

Popping corn:

Talking of mishaps. I was staying at the rental property which is lacking cooking facilities and was feeling a little peckish. So, I decided to try out my new popcorn maker for the first time. The instruction manual said I needed a big bowl, but I didn’t have one, so I thought two small bowls would suffice. How wrong I was! Firstly, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of popcorn such a small number of kernels produce. Secondly, they came flying out of the popcorn maker at speed, bouncing off me while I was trying to catch them in my too small bowl. I wish I’d filmed it. I was yelling “No, no no!” at the machine while trying to contain the situation. Hilarious!:

Popcorn making: My first attempt with my popcorn maker and subsequent mess (this was after I’d cleared up a bit)

Long Covid research:

I attended the Royal Society’sLong Covid: an unfolding story” Q&A session, which was both informative and supportive. It was encouraging that two of the speakers had the lived experience of Long Covid: Dr Nisreen Alwan (Associate Professor in Public Health, University of Southampton), and Dr Adam Rutherford (geneticist, author, and presenter of BBC’s Radio 4’s Inside Science). I was most pleased to hear that there’s loads of research being undertaken, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we get more answers. I particularly want to hear more about the link with histamine issues:  

The Royal Society – Long Covid: an unfolding story. Left: My Q&A session questions that never got past review stage (I really wanted to hear about their hypotheses around histamine issues and mitochondria dysfunction – maybe another time)

Cherish each moment:

Do you remember that beautiful white blossom tree I shared with you in Week 75? Well, we had a couple of nights frost and all that beautiful blossom was destroyed. You might ask why this might make me smile? Of course I was disappointed about the blossom disappearance, but I was pleased that I had taken the time previously to enjoy the beauty when I first saw it. It reminded me that we need to cherish each moment, as we don’t know how long they will last or what’s around the corner:

Cherish each moment. Left: Beautiful white blossom tree, Week 75. Right: The same tree after a frost, Week 77

“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

Betty Smith, American novelist and playwright

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”

Alice Morse Earle, American writer and antiquarian

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

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References

1. National Health Service, 2018. Acrivastine.
2. National Health Service, 2018. Loratadine (including Clarityn).
3. Drugs.com, 2021. Acrivastine and Pseudoephedrine.
4. Drugs.com, 2021. Loratadine.
5. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance, 2016. Food Compatibility List.

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Health Diary Week 76: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Let’s Concentrate on the Smiles

Smiling Sun. Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images (Pixabay)

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. This post is briefer than usual, because I’m feeling kind of exhausted and not much happened really. Don’t worry, this isn’t a reflection on my state of mind – overall I’m feeling pretty happy and that’s going to be my main focus here, after the histamine update.

Histamine overload

I must confess I’ve been lax these past couple of weeks about managing my low histamine diet. I’ve taken little risk after little risk, gradually building up to toxic histamine levels in my system. I need to get motivated to get back on track somehow, because I’m experiencing the fatigue now, along with rhinitis – it doesn’t feel, look or sound good! Surely that’s motivation enough?!

Food creation: Potato bowl

Thankfully potatoes are okay on this low histamine diet, which is great, because I absolutely love potatoes – I can’t imagine not having them in my life. (Having said that, I used to say this about tomatoes and avocadoes, which I can’t eat these days, but I haven’t actually missed them that much). Anyway, one evening I decided I just fancied a bowl of potatoes for dinner. Of course, I wanted an interesting bowl of potatoes, so I concocted a vegetable, seed, spice and herb mix before baking them in the oven (details here). I have to say, the result was an incredibly deliciously satisfying dish:

My potato bowl creation – so tasty!

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

Despite this being a shorter than usual post, I still wanted to share some of my positive moments with you, because not only does the reminiscing make me smile, so does the thought it might make someone else smile too:

Street party?:

I decided to take the opportunity to spend some quiet time at my parents’ former rental property before the sale completes. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I was confronted with a street party directly in front of their house (especially after joking with my Mum that this would happen – I didn’t actually think it would). I declined the offer to join the gathering, after all, no more than six people from different households should be meeting outside. I’m quite proud of myself really, because I miss socialising with groups of people, but I also know there will be a safer time to do this:

My sister and I dressed for a street party, 70’s fancy dress style (I’m the little one)

Friends in real life:

So, instead of group gatherings, I took the opportunity to meet a couple of friends outside, now that we can. And how lovely it was to meet friends in person. Sadly, I missed seeing Bevy – hopefully next week. But it brought me great joy to visit Tina’s garden for a proper catch up, whilst enjoying the sunshine warming my face. Actually, upon my arrival, Tina noted I already had a suntan – this was from sitting outside during the glorious Summer-like days earlier in the week:

My somewhat dazed, slightly sunkissed (or pink) face

Pretty flowers:

Talking about sitting in the sunshine. I’ve been keeping an eye on this particular flowerpot when my parents and I sit out the front of the house for coffee (chicory for me). I’ve enjoyed observing the flowers develop over the weeks – aren’t they just so pretty?:

Dad’s pretty flowers. Clockwise: In full bloom, Week 76. Pretty flower that didn’t survive past Week 75 (something ate it!). Flowers not quite in bloom, Week 75. Close ups of flowers waiting to open, Week 75

“Not Molly’s” disapproval:

The boy cat from behind our house, who I call “Not Molly” (because his sister is called Molly and I have no idea what his name is) has become a regular visitor to our driveway. He’s very cautious of us, so when we arrived home from Tina’s house, he sat staring at us disapprovingly from behind our garden gate, almost as if he thought we shouldn’t be there:

“Not Molly” staring at us disapprovingly from behind out garden gate (hmmm, the windscreen needs a good clean)

 Boojagrams:

I love a good quote. One of my favourite things about opening a box of Booja-Booja chocolate truffles (other than the chocolate, of course) is reading the Boojagram. This lockdown has provided a lot of time for self-reflection, which led me to decide some time ago to just be me and not worry so much about what others think about me. So, I felt this message was quite apt:

“Maybe a good way of changing the world is being you”.

Mister Booja-Booja
Mister Booja-Booja Boojagram No. 62: “Maybe a good way of changing the world is being you”. (Excuse my poor attempt to neatly remove the quote from the box)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

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Health Diary Week 74: Food, Exercise and a Positive Mind

Blossom

Tree blossom

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Hi, welcome to another weekly instalment of what’s on my plate: health updates, meal creations and smile-provoking experiences. Okay, I’ll start with the job stuff…

Psychometric assessment

I received an email on Monday to undergo online assessments for the NHS Graduate Management Trainee job I applied for. I’m not a fan of being assessed, especially in timed circumstances, because I have a slower reading and processing speed due to my Dyspraxia[1]. At university, I received extra time for exams to provide a more level playing field, but I felt uncomfortable asking for this under these circumstances, despite declaring a disability on my application.

There were two parts to the assessment; the first was to check if your personality fit with the NHS and management, consisting of statements on a Likert scale from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree” – this was okay. But then there were the timed, four minutes per section assessments: Verbal reasoning (24 questions), numerical skills (16 questions) and abstract thinking (10 questions). I ran out of time on each part and completely messed up the numerical questions, despite being capable of answering them. I decided I had to just congratulate myself for trying and draw a line under that experience.

Covid Vaccine Centre

I completed the mandatory training and online DBS (criminal record check) for my temporary, bank admin job in a Covid vaccine centre. I received an email back from the lovely admin person, advising I should be able to start work next week – Yay! – I can’t wait to work again.

The Administrator also advised that once I receive the welcome letter, I can book my COVID vaccination – fabulous news – such a relief, especially with the expected slow-down of UK vaccine availability during April (supply issues) and potential restriction of exports to the UK by the EU to enable them to catch up on their programmes. The government reported that despite this slow-down, they still aim to offer the vaccine to all UK adults by the end of July – I really hope this happens.

Typical meals

I didn’t experiment with making anything new this week and just stuck to my easy go-tos: Oats and/or fruit for breakfast, salads for lunch, and mostly pasta or rice (rice details here) for dinner:

Week 74 meal examples. Clockwise: Porridge oats with blueberries, seeds, sweet cinnamon and maple syrup. Salad with potatoes, cornmeal bites, beetroot and celery

Food challenge: Tofu

My weekly challenge was scrambled tofu (again) because Mum wanted me to make her some and I love it so much and didn’t want to miss out. Previously, I experienced mild rhinitis reactions after having tofu in seeded wraps in Week 68 and Week 70. But the seed wraps contained sunflower seeds, listed as “Incompatible, significant symptoms at usual intake” by the Swiss Interest Group on Histamine Intolerance[2]. So, this time I opted to serve my tofu in a pitta bread with notomato sauce (details here)  – I didn’t have a reaction – excellent! Next time, I think I’ll try it Nana’s spaghetti-style (Week 46) with adaptations of Quorn ‘ham’ slices and notomato sauce – I’m excited:

Food re-introduction challenge. Clockwise: Scrambled tofu in pitta bread. Nana’s spaghetti-style scrambled tofu (Week 46). Scrambled tofu seeded wrap with potato roasties (Week 68). Scrambled tofu, salad leaves and notomato sauce seeded wrap (Week 70).

Freezer food finds

Where would I be without my freezer food saviours? Hungry! I found portions of cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, roast potato, sweet potato and stuffing – I felt like a winner. Sadly, I forgot about them cooking away in the oven and ended up with an overly done dinner, although mostly recoverable – phew!:

Freezer food: Cauliflower and broccoli ‘cheese’, roast potato, sweet potato and stuffing. Clockwise: Frozen. Charred! Plated pre-gravy. Plated with gravy

Exercise

I’m supposed to be doing my twice daily physiotherapy interim exercises while I’m waiting for my actual physio appointment for my shoulder hypermobility injury. I’m ashamed to say I’ve been a bit lax. I’ve done them once most days, but it just hurts so much – I will do better.

I went out for three strolls this week, totalling 162 minutes, of which 89 minutes were brisk walking. It was lovely to have a stroll and chat with my neighbour who I hadn’t seen for ages due to lockdown rules.

Positive Thinking: What Made Watson Smile

And let’s finish off with sharing some of my smile-provokers…

Mandatory training completed:

I was pleased to complete the additional mandatory training courses for my NHS temp admin job, a) because I enjoy learning, and b) so that I can start my role soon – I really want to get back to work now:

NHS mandatory training. Left: Recognising and managing anaphylaxis. Right: Resuscitation – Level 1

Food horrors:

So there I was sat in the cosy warm kitchen, at the little table, happily munching away at my dinner, when suddenly I realised I was literally facing my own food horrors – foods I used to love (tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and avocados) but I can’t eat now because of their high histamine content. I realised I was surprisingly okay with that:

My food horrors – some of my former favourite foods: Tomatoes, satsumas, bananas and avocados

Driveway sun and Spring flowers:

It’s wonderful there’s increasing opportunity to sit out by the driveway pond without being wrapped up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves. And I’m enjoying watching Dad’s potted flowers gradually appear:

My favourite driveway flower photo, so far (it’s actually really small, but so beautiful close up)

Spring is here (again):

We’ve already had the start of Spring from a meteorological perspective (1st March). And on the 20th March, Spring began astronomically[3] – yay! I’m loving noticing more signs of Spring when I’m out walking. So, of course I have to share some of my favourite picture snaps:

Spring is here (again)

I hope you enjoyed this week’s ‘What’s on Watson’s Plate’. Please feel free to follow my bite-sized updates on Instagram or Facebook. See you next week for another catch up.

>>>Week 75
<<<Week 73
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References

1. Dyspraxia UK, Ca 2017. What is Dyspraxia?
2.  Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI), 2016. Food Compatibility List.
3. Met Office, 2020. When does spring start?

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