Crohn’s Disease and Me

I’ve realised this blog is “Travel, Food and Me” and I’ve not written a single one about me! So this is my life with my lovely Crohn’s Disease…

First and foremost everyone’s disease is different! I have it relatively easy, but it doesn’t stop it being any harder – especially when someone knows someone else who has it so much worse and mine is nothing compared to theirs.

For those who don’t know Crohn’s Disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (gross right!). It can affect any part of the gastro system from your mouth to your anus (again, ewww!). It’s an auto-immune disease – in layman’s terms my body attacks itself, all fun and games. Turns out I’ve been suffering from it since I was 16 but not diagnosed until I was in my 20s. And here I am nearly 10 years later…

A lot of people will ask “oh no is it your Crohn’s” when you feel slightly unwell. It’s hard to get annoyed as they mean it in such a caring way but trying to explain that it’s not always that, sometime like them I just get ill. It’s is exhausting. Most people think Crohn’s is a pain in my side that makes me go to the loo a lot. They really don’t know the half of it.

I have a lot of problems thanks to Crohn’s. Some days I can’t stay awake. Fatigue takes over and all I want to do is sleep. I’ll get home from work, cook dinner and sit on the sofa not doing anything and I find myself wanting to go to bed at 7.30pm! I’m 26 years old and the thought of going to bed that early makes me feel ancient. Sometimes when I am in the middle of a flare up I have to sit down in the shower because my body is just too tired. To get across to people how the pain in my side is nothing compared to the exhaustion I can feel.

My joints – wow who knew your joints could feel on fire. When it gets bad I fidget endlessly trying to find that comfortable spot, I’ve been known to be in the oddest positions with limbs everywhere as for that minute it might just stop it. Last Sunday was the first time my Crohn’s has really affected my life (note – I’ve been in hospital, missed my last semester of uni and cancelled so many events) but this was the first time I’ve been out and couldn’t do anything about it. The Boy and I went to see Bear’s Den, and I could hardly stand. I moved around so much, felt so unwell that we had to leave 30 min before then end. I felt ill and upset. My disease ruined someone else’s night and I feel so guilty about it.

My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo! But I made things worse; I put on a bit more weight than I should have so I’ve been working hard to get it off. I’ve managed it WHOOP! I’ve lost a stone since the beginning of the year. The downside – I instantly get asked if I’ve been ill, if my Crohn’s has been causing problem. I don’t get that praise normal people get. I’ve also been told it’s not because I’ve been working hard but because “I’m lucky and my disease helps me loss weight”. But that’s life, sometimes you have to be strong and tell people they are wrong. It can be hard as it makes you second guess yourself.

My diet has changed a lot over the years, not because I was unhealthy before but I have to deal with the consequences of my eating habits. I used to love pasta, I think when I was at uni I had it 5 days a week. Now, I have it once, maybe twice at a push. I used to have a lot of cereal with skimmed milk. Now I don’t even have milk in my coffee. It’s odd, lots of this was just natural progression, some of it I made a conscience decision. I can’t have a lot of dairy as it’s hard to digest so I cut milk so I could have cheese. Sounds crazy but for me it works. And that’s it, for me it works. It makes me happy – I tried to cut dairy and gluten and it made me depressed. I am a foodie and I couldn’t live with a life where I couldn’t eat things. So I go for the little of everything method.

But here I am, I work 40hrs a week, gym 4-5 times a week and have a social life. My life isn’t bad, in fact my life is pretty damn good. I just happen to have this disease but it will not define what I can do. It will never stop me living the life I want, I’m too stubborn for that.

If you’ve just been diagnosed stay strong, half the battle is mental. If you’re suffering, it will be okay, your more than just your disease. 🙂

 

 

 

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Summer Fruit and Thyme Jam AND Bakewell Tart recipes

HAPPY SUNDAY!! It’s spring time (ish!) and I’m getting into preserves and fermenting recently. I think it’s great to stop wasting food but also I find it’s really therapeutic. It’s great to get a product at the end that shows such love and care. It’s also a great way to liven up your cupboard – no more plain strawberry jam for us! You can also use smaller jars and give them to friends and family as gifts.

I know these berries aren’t in season, they literally are called Summer Berries but I’m new and wanted to try with some fruit I knew before doing anything too crazy. I used frozen berries but you can obviously use fresh when they get into season. 

And what’s better than using your homemade jam in a Bakewell tart! It’s also a great way to show off, how many times can you say that it’s completely homemade. So here are the two recipes for you…but don’t worry if you don’t like Bakewell Tarts, the jam goes fantastically on toast (even with some cheeky peanut butter too!)


Summer Fruit and Thyme Jam

650g Mixed Berries (I used blackberries, raspberries, red currents and black currents!)

1tbsp water

35ml lemon juice (approx. half a lemon or use pre juiced)

550g Caster Sugar

1.5tbsp thyme, finally chopped

 

Yields approx. 0.5l

 

Place all the berries with the water into a deep, heavy bottomed pan and place on a low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Add the lemon juice and sugar, stir and bring to the boil until it reaches 104°C.

While you are doing this sterilise your jars! Turn your oven to the lowest setting and place your jars in there for about 15 min.

Take the jam off the heat and use the wrinkle test to check it’s ready. Do this by placing a spoon in the jam, using another spoon, on the back of the spoon push a strip through the jam. You are looking for it not to spring back. Stir through the thyme leaves

Spoon into your jars and seal! Your jam should last 6-12 months unopened. Once opened consume within 4-6 weeks.
Bakewell Tart

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

150g butter, chilled

25g icing sugar

1 large free-range egg, beaten

Frangipane Filling

150g butter, softened

150g caster sugar

150g ground almonds

1 large free-range egg, beaten

1 tsp almond extract

Icing

300g icing sugar

1 tsp almond extract

3tbsp Water
Method

First start with the pastry. Measure the flour into a large bowl with the cold butter. Using your finger tips, rub the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the icing sugar and stir using your hands. Pour in the beaten egg and mix to form a soft dough. It can be a tad sticky but it will be fine. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, approx 5mm thick. Place into your 23cm/9in fluted flan dish. Pop in the fridge for 40 minutes. 

Pre heat your oven to 180C Fan/200C/Gas Mark 6.

Scrunch up some baking paper and place on top of your pastry. Fill with baking beans, or in my case uncooked rice! They both do the same trick! Just make sure you push it into the corners. Bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and take out the rice and bake for a further 7 minutes. Remove and reduce the heat of the oven to 160C Fan/180C/Gas 4 Leave to cool while making your filling.

For the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract and mix.

Place 5tbsp of your lovely homemade jam into the cooled pastry case. Spread evenly, making sure you get into the edges. Top with your frangipane mix. Carefully push this to the edges making sure you can’t see any jam. A spatula is the easiest way for doing this. Bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden-brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.

For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in the almond extract and about 3 tablespoons cold water to make a smooth, fairly thick icing. When the tart has cooled completely, spoon the icing on top and spread to form a smooth surface. Leave to set the icing to set (I know it’s hard! But you’ll hate yourself if you don’t) serve in slices. I recommend some yogurt and some raspberries to top it, makes a great dessert! 

Travel – is it ticking boxes or experiencing cultures? Asking and attempting to answer the question

This is a hard one to write. Are we travelling to tick boxes, to say we’ve been somewhere, to get that perfect Instagram picture or to learn about other cultures, to admire the natural world, to explore the untouched? Just because our experiences are different does it mean that theirs was wrong, or even ours was wrong?

I went off for 6 months with The Boy and went to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The stick I got for picking those locations was ridiculous, upsetting and judging!

“Why do you want to go there? It’s so touristy? Everyone does that?”

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Yes I knew people that had been, in fact my stepbrother had done it years before me and the stories he came back with made me want to go. I wanted to see a different culture, eat different foods and see a new world, something I had never seen before. Yes, I did touristy things, but are things touristy just because a lot of people do them? Would you say Angkor Wat is touristy? No. So why is going to S.E.A classed as a touristy thing to do? Once you start digging (or lightly scrapping the surface) you can see why – drunk westerners in Bangkok, the Full Moon Parties and the Island Hoping. This isn’t the South East Asia I saw, this was “Lads on Tour”, “I want to lay on a beach”, “I need a tan to show I’ve been away”. Why have these people travelled so far to do something they could do in the South of France for a fraction of the cost? Have they come just to say they have been, and got that perfect Instagram picture?

“If it’s not on Social Media did it really happen?”

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Is this what we’ve become? Or are they trying something that doesn’t interest me? Am I wrong for judging people’s travels or holidays because I think they could have just done that at home, because it doesn’t seem “cultural” enough? I think that if you go somewhere, you respect their culture, just like I feel when people come to the UK. Respect is key. So as long as they are respectful why does it bother me that they are just partying and drinking? In my view we should want to travel to explore what makes our planet so beautiful, so diverse, and so original. I personally don’t think you get that at the bottom of a bottle. Some cultures have a lot of drinking in them, look at Ireland, and imagine visiting and not having a pint of Guinness. But Ireland isn’t just about the black stuff, it’s about its history, Vikings, scenery, religion and so so so much more. A beach is just a beach unless you explore the area around it. A city just a city if you don’t go into the buildings. A country is just another ticked box if you don’t find out what that country is about. In my view, don’t go to a country just to do what you would do at home…

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I also know some people pick their location based on the land mass they can scratch off on their map. When I first heard this is how they were picking their next trip it was hard not to laugh. It sounded so ridiculous to spend all that money to go somewhere just because it’s a big land mass to show off on your map. Why not read about different places and pick from that? But then I started to thinking about it more. If you know you want to see the world and you can’t decide where to start why not start by picking large countries? Then do your research on that country? Can you really go wrong, you’re still going to see the culture of somewhere new? I suddenly felt bad about the fact I had been that judgy person. If you want to see the world does it matter how you choose your location? I mean, I made a promise to myself that I would visit one new country every year but why a new one, why not go back to something I loved? Because I want to experience somewhere new, or because I want to have another country ticked off. And if I am honest, it’s both. When I’m old and grey I want to look back at all the places I’ve been to, to have got as close to seeing all 196 countries (and yes I’m including Taiwan as its own country) as I possibly could. But not just to say I have been there, to have seen as many cultures as I can, to try new things, to eat and learn to cook new foods.

Yes travel, pick your location however you want, but don’t go somewhere because you feel you have to, go because YOU want to. Explore what that country has to offer, do those touristy things, and learn something new.

Recipe – Cucumber and Mint Cordial

20170305_100213It’s still raining here in Dublin and I’m very much dreaming of sunny days! I can’t wait until I don’t need to wear extra layers or a waterproof every time I go out. As I can’t magic the weather better, or afford to leave the country, I decided to bring summer into the house. What’s more summery than cucumber and mint? I can now sit in the house, with the heating on, dreaming of picnics and sunshine with my Cucumber and Mint Gin and Tonic!!

 

Ingredients

2 cucumbers

3 large handfuls of mint

300 ml water

300g granulated sugar

20ml lemon juice

 

Yields 700ml

 

Method

20170305_100232Chop 1 1/2 cucumbers into cubes and remove the mint leaves from the stalks. Place into a large bowl and blitz with a hand blender until smooth.Strain through a muslin cloth into a bowl. Leave overnight (or at least 8 hours!). Don’t squeeze the bag, as tempting as it might be.
Measure out 500ml of the juice. Adjust the recipe if you don’t yield enough liquid. This does sometimes happen if the cucumbers are a little dryer. Place into a heavy bottom pan with the water, sugar and lemon juice. Simmer on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and then for a further 15 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally.20170305_100247

While the liquid is on the heat, turn on the oven onto the lowest setting to sterilise your jar. Place it in the oven for around 15 minutes, until warm to touch.

Remove from the heat. Skim off any scum that is on the surface, and re strain through your muslin cloth. Pour into your freshly sterilised, warm bottle and seal.

This cordial can be drunk in many ways! With water, lemonade, gin and tonic! Using a potato peeler, create ribbons of cucumber using the remaining half. Place this with a sprig of mint and drink! J

Keeps for 6 month unopened, once opened keep refrigerated consume within 4-6 weeks.