Wednesday, 6 May 2015

New blogs, new beginnings

Better Living For Beginners

Something very exciting has been happening recently. Well in fact, exciting things have been happening all year.
My sister had a baby and so brought the first of the next generation to my immediate family. I get all the fun of new baby loveliness with none of the responsibilities or mess. I look forward to being the corrupting influence in her life for many years to come. My mind races with bad habits I can teach her to torment her parents.
I moved house. Again. I'm forever moving house. But this time it's just me and my wonderful manfriend making our home together which feels like something quite special.
And as usual I'm continuing my never ending experimentation through the gastronomic delights of Dublin and beyond, of which, thanks to the passing (finally) of the recession in Ireland, there are many.

my new home

 Over the last couple of years I've been battling with a whole host of diets and diversions trying to get to the bottom of what had me feeling so generally crap in my insides all the time. All the endless headaches, muscle aches, sore throats and sore stomachs were getting on top of me and I explored everything from elimination diets to candida diets to eating whatever the hell I wanted diets. I've tried it all. Before my sister had her beautiful baby she was playing around with finding a more healthy way of eating which was obviously, after all of the above, of great interest to me. She was generally trying to eat less meat, toying with vegan food, finding ways to get a handle on a healthier more sustainable way of eating to boost her energy levels both body and mind. Through her various researching and experimenting she has come to adopt a healthy plant based, wholefood and most importantly non judgy approach to food. I've been experimenting along with her and have found a huge difference in my daily well-being when I am following this way of eating. What's so wonderful about it is it's not limiting or restrictive at all. It fully accepts that someday your body might want a steak, and you know, maybe you should listen to it and go ahead and have a steak. But if you spend the majority of your time eating plant based wholefoods, a treat here and there isn't going to do you any harm at all. And the more you eat this way the less likely you are to crave the things that were possibly doing you harm in the first place.

So it was with all this in mind that last January I, along with three other guinea pigs, embarked on a 21 day vegan cleanse at the instruction of my oh so organised and clever sister. She had entire packs done out for us which we each received as christmas gifts outlining what to eat, how to cook it, what food we needed to buy and where to get said food. Essentially everything we needed to know so there were no excuses for not following through. After a rough first week of detoxing (no caffeine, no sugar, no booze - after the christmas excess you can imagine there was a lot to detox) we all started to feel wonderfully, miraculously brilliant. Included in our guides were tips on meditation, free writing, positive thinking and exercise to boost our minds and muscles along with our insides. I could write another entire post about how wonderful this was and maybe I will but suffice to say I was sold.

One of the best things I took away from the cleanse was that making small changes makes big differences and while I'm in no way a vegan, never mind even slightly a vegetarian, I have adopted a new way of eating that involves far less meat, dairy, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, much more veg both raw and cooked, non fake vegan alternatives to cut down dairy and a generally more discerning attitude to what I put in my body. Admittedly the cutting down of meat has been helped hugely by the fact that there's no freezer in our new kitchen, so that old habit of stocking up on meat for the freezer in the supermarket is not an option any more. But that aside, I'm much more aware of when I want meat and why that might be and make better choices now about where to get it.

While I still often feel pretty terrible I'm getting much better at pinpointing what is making me feel that way and can now make choices based on that. Example. 'Is this bag of Doritos and dip going to make me wheezy and make cranky. Yes, yes it is, but it's delicious and I've nothing to do tonight but lie on the couch and watch a movie so bring it on.' You get the idea.

my wonderful sister Daire

If you want to know more about how to feel that little bit better everyday and find out the small things you can do to start making those big changes you can check our Better Living For Beginners where Daire will explain it all much better than I ever could. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Further down the rabbit hole....

Appointment three was had with the allergy specialist yesterday. Another day, another fistful of cash. I know people say you can't put a price on your health, but those people have lots of money, or at least more than I do. It's been a while since I updated about the progress of my diet. Mostly because I'm sick to tears of talking about it. Now, I love food. I love eating it, I love reading about it, I love cooking it and I really do love talking about it. But when all you're talking about is what you're not allowed to eat and the minutiae of all the myriad reactions you have to various foods, it gets pretty dull pretty quick. So here's a quick run down of how the rest of my re-introduction of various foods went. 


That's kind of all you need to know. I feel like I had some sort of reaction to most foods. The things I didn't react to, oddly, were sugar and tea. I reacted to all the grains on there and the eggs and dairy. Also, my mood was hugely affected on the days when I was eating grains and I was pretty much a nightmare to be around. Not a reaction I was expecting but no doubt unpleasant for those in my immediate company. So, slowly but surely, as the diet went on I started to feel more and more like my old unhealthy, tired, wheezy self. Hangovers without the pleasure of drinking anyone? 

Understandably frustration and confusion crept in and last weekend I was pretty much ready to pack the whole thing in. So when I went back to the doctor yesterday I really was hoping for some answers, but as I'm learning, this is a long road and answers were few and far between. The upshot is, the elimination was fairly inconclusive and a new tack is to be tried. 

And so we come to my new prescription diet - the candida diet. For those of you who've never heard of it, it's aim is to try and combat an overgrowth of candida bacteria in your gut. Nice. It can be caused by a whole host of things from bad diet to stress and boasts a long list of symptoms. The symptoms are so wide and varied it can be pretty hard to diagnose, but according to my doc, the fact that I had reactions to so many different foods could point to a problem in my gut rather than an actual intolerance or allergy. O how I love the vague nature of our little chats.

This diet is to take 30 days and is essentially a low sugar low carb diet, designed to starve the bad bacteria of the sugars they need to grow coupled with a targeted intake of good bacteria to replace them. Sounds sensible. It's slightly less restrictive than the last diet. Hurray. I can introduce things like beans and pulses. Also live yoghurt is encouraged as it is packed with good bacteria. I'm encouraged to try eggs and dairy even though I thought I reacted to them before - confusing. Eating out is now not impossible but still restrictive and I've even convinced him to agree to my having a small bit of alcohol and a square of really dark chocolate every now and then - so my social life has at least a small chance of recovering. Good news. 

The diet may not be as hard as before but after a long month of self denial and self examination, I'm exhausted and confused and the last thing I can cope with is a whole new set of rules and restrictions. With an upcoming trip to the states next week, I can't go to New York and behave, I've decided it's time for a break and I will revisit this next stage when I return. Now, where to for lunch??

Monday, 24 February 2014

Brunch Club

I've had a few days to let the dust settle after Saturday's brunch club and am only now getting to process the whole event. It was great to be back hosting again and fabulous to be sharing the experience with Sarah from Wild Oats. The porridge was a huge hit. Sarah did two special varieties on the day, a savoury porridge made from pinhead (steel cut) oats with walnuts and blue cheese and a  turkish delight porridge with lemon, rose and pistachio. Unfortunately due to my overly restrictive diet right now I wasn't able to taste any but judging from the clean bowls and smiling faces they did nicely. I had to take my hat off to Sarah who braved the bitter February air to cook her porridge under the gazebo on the back patio. Needless to say I spent minimal time out there but Sarah, who would appear to be made of stronger stuff than I, barely gave it a second thought. Good traits for a budding marketeer. (Wild Oats will be coming to markets near you in the coming months!)

wild oats doing her thing

Aside from the speciality porridge on offer, there was also a porridge bar where people could add there own toppings to a bowl of plain porridge. The usual fruits and honey were on offer alongside more decadent items such as peanut butter, nutella, seeds, cranberries and chocolate shavings. There was also toasted muesli, yoghurt, date muffins, carrot and orange salad and heavenly bread from the Bretzel Bakery lathered with butter and jam should you so desire. Fresh juice, bloody marys and as much tea and coffee as you could drink washed the whole lot down. 

For my part it was an exceedingly unusual experience preparing food for people when you aren't allowed to sample any of what you're making. As a result I was approaching this a little blind, although I couldn't resist sampling a bit of the bloody mary mix. Hardest of all was the bread. There's nothing like a fresh loaf of bread, crusty on the outside, beautiful and soft inside. And to top it off the torment of the smell of that bread then being toasted. It's too much to bear but bear it I did. 

The informal buffet set up meant that people could eat as and when they wanted and also were free to move around and mingle. This was great for us as hosts as it meant we were free to grab a chair for a minute or two when the opportunity arose and could interact more with our guests than my regular supper clubs usually allow. A definite bonus for this type of hosting. 

the happy brunch clubbers

DIY porridge bar

So now the only question is when is the next one? And where the hell are the keys for my patio doors? Last seen last Saturday evening. Planning of next brunch club key dependent. I will keep you posted.