Updated Bucket List – Items #1-18

Last time I reviewed my new Bucket List I had 17 items and little progress towards any of them. However, I’m now delighted to report that I can cross off one item and have made significant progress towards three others:

  1. Coffee with a friend in our local Starbucks
  2. To be a bridesmaid
  3. To visit New Zealand
  4. To live on the ocean
  5. To own a Class B motor-home (Roadtrek ideally)
  6. Waist length hair
  7. Day-trip to Frankenmuth & Bronners
  8. Reschedule & enjoy my belated 45th birthday vacation
  9. Acceptance of RADS diagnosis and limitations that places on my life
  10. Despite RADS diagnosis, work on improving the quality of my life and work at getting back to work.
  11. year long road trip following 70 degree (21 C) weather throughout the contiguous United States.
  12. Lose steroid weight and return to a healthy weight
  13. Get out walking, locally and a little further afield on walking trails and then snowshoeing as determined by the weather
  14. Visit Harrison Hot Springs in BC
  15. Go indoor skydiving
  16. Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival
  17. Go on a picnic

Yesterday, with a great deal of help from my friend I was able to cross off #1. In fact we went a step further and didn’t just meet for coffee in Starbucks but we actually met for coffee in a small local mall. Thankfully, it doesn’t have a juice/smoothie vendor and the food court is small enough that between us we could keep an eye out for potential concerns.

On arriving at the Mall we had a quick review of how to give me an Epi Pen (just in case) and then had a small wander around the mall. My first time doing so in about 6 months. Unfortunately, the cleaning machine was out, and in use, for part of the mall and that scent was too strong for me to manage so I didn’t make it to the book store. However, we did have coffee! The cleaner in the food court very kindly agreed to clean the bathrooms while we did, rather than washing the floors and tables down, at that time. It seems that the cleaning services in the Mall all use a citrus/strong scented solution for washing the floors.

Kai alerted a couple of times that I needed to use my inhalers and ultimately that we needed to leave, due to scents and my reactions. I’m so proud of him.

Funnily enough having decided to make this alert extremely obvious while we were in the hospital (jumping on, & pawing at, my head literally) he remembered how to do it more subtly, but still insistently, yesterday. If I didn’t know better I’d think it was deliberate on his part as a few patients had commented on not seeing him working, not realising that his usual alerts are very subtle and not obvious unless you’re looking for them. He can’t really have decided to show off, can he?

I am so thankful to have a friend who was willing to ensure that she was completely safe (unscented) to be with me, and to then look out and advocate for me. Unfortunately I can’t often advocate for myself as I can’t get close enough to the scent to ask the person concerned if they’d help me out.

So #1 is completed! Though it will definitely stay as a goal to meet on a regular basis.

I’ve also made good progress towards items 9 & 10 (Acceptance of RADS diagnosis and limitations that places on my life & Despite RADS diagnosis, work on improving the quality of my life and work at getting back to work.)

It’s a fine balance. Much as it was great to get out of the house, and meet for coffee yesterday it took a lot of courage to do so and I needed a lot of help to make it safe enough.

It’s all about living in this moment.

In this moment there isn’t a citrus fruit or product in my vicinity so I enjoy it. I need to be cautious and take appropriate precautions but I’m not going to give up on life just because I know what could kill me & how likely that is. I could still get hit by that proverbial meteor!!

Oddly enough I’ve also made some progress towards items 6 & 12 (Waist length hair & Lose steroid weight and return to a healthy weight).  I realised how much longer my hair has grown over the past year when I braided it for the first time in a while during my hospital stay and the braid came quite a lot further down my back. My hair is still very fine and my entire braid thinner than most people’s bangs…. but it’s growing!

Also, despite eating hospital food I actually lost some weight in the hospital. I’ve still got a long way to go to get back to a healthy weight , after the impact of the steroids, but I’m finally not going up every day!

So given my recent success in meeting item 1 I’m going to replace it with a new item. At least once a month, taking appropriate precautions, get out and do something social.

I’m also adding a new item to my list. At least once a day, do something creative. That could be as simple as writing this Blog or colouring. Alternatively it could enable my trying out a new craft, or one that I haven’t done in a while, or can’t do as well as I used to so rarely do anymore. It could be writing a poem, a story or exercising my somewhat limited artistic talents. It could also be cooking a meal or baking something that’s a little more complicated than taking it out of the box! Just because I’m only cooking for me it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to cook an interesting meal for myself.

So here’s my updated list. The items in italics are those that I’ve made good progress towards!

  1. At least once a month, taking appropriate precautions, get out and do something social
  2. To be a bridesmaid
  3. To visit New Zealand
  4. To live on the ocean
  5. To own a Class B motor-home (Roadtrek ideally)
  6. Waist length hair
  7. Day-trip to Frankenmuth & Bronners
  8. Reschedule & enjoy my belated 45th birthday vacation
  9. Acceptance of RADS diagnosis and limitations that places on my life
  10. Despite RADS diagnosis, work on improving the quality of my life and work at getting back to work
  11. year long road trip following 70 degree (21 C) weather throughout the contiguous United States.
  12. Lose steroid weight and return to a healthy weight
  13. Get out walking, locally and a little further afield on walking trails and then snowshoeing as determined by the weather
  14. Visit Harrison Hot Springs in BC
  15. Go indoor skydiving
  16. Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival
  17. Go on a picnic
  18. At least once a day, do something creative

How’s your Bucket List coming on?

NB. Please note that Epi Pen’s come in cases. So to use one you need to take it out of the case first. Then it’s…

Blue to the Sky, Orange to the thigh

Which means take the blue cap off and make sure that end is towards the sky, swing the pen and ‘stab’ the person with the orange end on the outside, fleshly part of their thigh (through their clothes) and count for 3 seconds. Call for an ambulance and paramedic service.

If there is a delay in getting emergency services you may need to give a second pen. Most people with severe allergies, and known anaphylaxis reactions, will carry several of them on them. I also carry inhalers and liquid Benadryl which can also help buy me some time.

The Epi Pen needle is on a spring within the orange section and the blue cap releases the safety catch for it. You are never exposed to the needle. So it’s completely safe for you to give to somebody else if they need you to.

Christmas Dinner & I don’t understand the fuss. Cooking a roast dinner is not that hard!

I know that some of the questions were really just making conversation but somewhere along the way I’ve missed out on where all the fuss is with making a Christmas dinner. Or any roast dinner for that matter. I can’t count the number of times I was asked if I was ‘ready’ or ‘all set’ for making the dinner.

Now, I understand that this year I was making dinner for one; which is conceptually a lot easier than the years that I’ve made it for 30 people plus. However, that’s really just a matter of qantity and timing.

In reality I think that a roast dinner is one of the easiest meals to cook. It’s all preparation and washing up! The oven does the rest.

Over the years my traditional English Christmas dinner of roast turkey has gained some American influences such as sweet potatoe casserole. However, it wouldn’t be a Christmas dinner without English style Paxo stuffing and roast potatoes.

This year I had a simple turkey breast that was to be cooked from frozen, thanks to M&M Food Market. Added to which I had roast potatoes, stuffing, carrots, sweet potatoe casserole, sweetcorn casserole and gravy. I’ve almost finished the leftovers, as it was hard to find even a turkey breast small enough for one.

I tend to start my day pretty early and Christmas day was no different. My dogs and I were up at 5 and the turkey was in the oven soon after. I initially planned to cook the turkey first and let it cool;  then cook the sides later. However, it smelled so good, and it seemed a shame to waste the hot oven, so I ended up cooking it all to be ready when the turkey was. As a result, I had my Christmas dinner, as brunch, at 9:30 in the morning! It was great.

I spent the rest of the day watching Christmas movies and enjoying several treats sent to me from friends in England. There’s nothing quite like English Cadbury’s chocolate!

Anyway I’m still not sure what the fuss was about. Yes, there was a lot of washing up and you have to watch your timing if you want it to all be ready at the same time but really, it’s not that hard.

Timing a soufflé so that it doesn’t fall, or a Baked Alaska so that the meringue just browns but the ice-cream doesn’t melt is much harder in my opinion.

Anyway, the reuslt of all this was that I thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas dinner and the leftovers since. So much so, that I am making a commitment to myself to cook myself a roast dinner at least twice a month during 2017. Hopefully, at some point I’ll be able to cook for other people and not just myself again. In the meantime though I sure do enjoy the leftovers!



St. Nicholas Day & Christmas Baking

Normally I would go away in the odd years for the Christmas holidays. However, last year I was in the midst of moving so as I was in the middle of unpacking, and having the back yard (garden) fenced before the ground froze, I stayed home.

Ironically, given my current circumstances, I’d had to move as I was finding living in an apartment difficult due to the shared entrance way and laundry facilities. My allergies were making it very difficult to keep myself safe. However, I promised myself last year that I would make up for missing my normal trip this year.

Unfortunately, as my allergies and reactions are currently so much worse that plan has also had to be placed on hold. For years when I stay home I have established a number of traditions. Whenever I travel anywhere I try and find a Christmas ornament that represents the places that I have visited. At Christmas I then treat myself to a real tree and delight in hanging these ornaments, taking the opportunity to reflect on all the great memories from those trips.

This year, I can’t cope with the scent of a real tree so my ornaments won’t be hung this year. Despite that I may well take an evening to unpack and repack my ornament collection, just to enjoy those memories one more time. Unfortunately, I don’t have many new ones to add this year. 

Other traditions include watching the Santa Clause movies on the weekends in December on the run up to Christmas. With ‘The Polar Express’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ also being firm favourites. 

Christmas Eve is dedicated to shopping for stocking fillers (with an agreed limit at the $ store; another tradition that I will have to miss this year) and watching “It’s a wonderful life”. 

If I can find one, I’ve attended a church service on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve services have always tended to be too much of a risk. For some reason, oranges and Christmas always seem to go together. Either as a Christingle or as a special treat in a stocking. Either way, they become a huge problem for me in the Christmas season. If I can, I try and attend a “Nine lessons and carols” service or a “Blue Christmas” service.

Traditionally, being English, Christmas dinner for me is turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing and vegetables including the infamous brussel sprouts. Personally, I don’t have the traditional Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as they’re fruit based. Though I did use to make them for years until I could no longer tolerate handling fruit peel. Over the years I’ve dropped the brussel sprouts and added in a couple of southern US dishes, from American Thanksgiving meals, such as sweet potatoe casserole and sweetcorn casserole. Dessert is usually something richly chocolate! 

When I was young, and visiting my grandparents for Christmas, Christmas dinner may well have been a curry as my Grandfather wasn’t a fan of the traditional meal for some reason. However, there would still always be a roast turkey dinner at some point over the holidays. 

This year, as I’m still housebound and needing to avoid scents and allergens as much as possible these traditions that I have developed over the year mean so much more than usual. They’re a touchstone in this weird reality that is my life currently. While so much has changed in my life this past year, these traditions can mostly remain the same. 

Today, for many western European countries is St Nicholas Day (December 6th). One year, I was actually in Bari, Italy for this day. Bari, is where he is believed to be buried so, as you can imagine, this date is a big deal there. In other parts of the world it doesn’t have as much meaning. However, one of the advantages of travelling a lot during my life is that I feel free to collect traditions from other countries along my way. 

So today, I dropped of Christmas baking at my neighbours in honour of St Nicholas Day. It took me a lot longer this year to manage the baking than it has in the past and was completed over almost a week. However, today they were gifted with peppermint creams, vanilla fudge, rum balls and gluten free sugar cookies (hopefully nobody is diabetic). My neighbours have been amazing this year. Last Christmas they picked up my snow clearing when the company I hired failed to honour their contract. This year, they made sure that I knew not to hire a contractor and that they would take responsibility for it again for me. Not only do they do an excellent job, but as they know I often have early doctors appointments they often do mine first, even before their own. Another neighbour volunteered his teenage son to cut my grass this summer, for pocket money (allowance), including picking up some of the poop that I hadn’t been able to stay on top of. 

In general they keep an eye on me and check that I’m safe. I’ve honestly never had such great neighbours. So hopefully, they’ll appreciate a little Christmas baking as a thank you for their help. 

While I am usually known as Nikki, my legal name is Nicola, which is the feminine version of Nicholas. So today, has special meaning to me. However, I realised after I dropped off the baking that I forgot to explain this in their packages. So just in case, they’re reading this:

Happy St Nicholas Day!

Perseverance: Eggs over-easy and rice – Made to perfection!

As I mentioned yesterday, I am a fantastic baker once I’ve adjusted a ‘recipe’ for Canadian ingredients and the latest oven. I was taught to bake by Ruth, who was my grandmother. As she was my mother’s step-mother I only ever knew her as Ruth.

I wonder sometimes why nobody ever suggested that I call her something different. However, as my grandparents were a complex situation with my father’s side of the family rarely maintaining contact, aside from my Aunt Wendy, and my mother’s side involving some pretty complex relationships. It was only years after his death did I understand that my ‘Ganda’ was my mother’s father. He was only ever referred to as Ganda and as I also had Paddy & Frankie who I knew were unrelated I just didn’t connect it. My stepfather’s parents ignored me as did my step-brothers’ deceased mother’s parents. Anyway, I digress.

Ruth certainly fulfilled the role in my life as my grandmother and I spent a lot of time with her when I was young. However, the reason that I struggle with the different ingredients in Canada is that she taught me to bake by eye. We rarely measured anything. Which still works fine when cooking the main meal but doesn’t work quite so well when baking.

As a result I have happily cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner, including vegetarian options, for 30+ people in my own home. In my first marriage I was frequently cooking for 4-6 men as my husband’s friends often stayed with us and we took holidays together on canal boats.

So complex dinners, soufflés, baked Alaska etc have never fazed me.

However, for some reason plain boiled rice, creamy fudge, and fried eggs used to completely elude me.

It didn’t matter what I did, I couldn’t cook rice. I couldn’t even cook riceroni, which my second husband introduced me to, and I loved. I can’t eat them now though due to the high salt content.

However, a few years ago I was introduced to the concept of a ‘rice cooker’! So I now have an older version of this Cuisnart rice cooker.


It’s extremely simple to use. You simply add the number of cups, using the cup provided (that’s important) fill it with cold water until you meet the numbered line that matches the number of cups of rice you put in, and turn it on. If you forget about it, it automatically switches itself to warm, rather than cook. I’ve even been able to cook risotto in it, as well as a variety of different kinds of rice. I plan to try quinoa at some point too.

Quinoa is a great substitute for wheat as it is gluten-free. Though there is an older study that suggested that true celiacs’ may still have trouble with it, more recent research has demonstrated that it doesn’t stimulate the celiac response. Quinoa is great for those of us on restricted diets as it provides us with both protein and fibre at the same time.

Anyway, with the help of my fantastic rice maker I can now make rice! Perfectly, every time.

The second item that I always struggled with was frying an egg! Again, it didn’t matter what I did it; either turned out undercooked which made me feel ill, too burnt for my tastes or became scrambled!

So while I’ve been sick I decided that I was going to set this as a goal for myself. Something that takes little time or energy, but would be really useful to be able to do well as I really like fried eggs, over-easy. Like quinoa, eggs are very healthy for us. They are a good source of protein, vitamin B2, selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12, zinc, iron and copper.

slide_397236_4882464_freeSo I googled how to fry an egg, specifically looking at over-easy eggs as I’m not a fan of even a little bit of the egg white not being fully cooked. Consequently, over the past few weeks I have tried a number of different recipes and cooking instruments.

I’m therefore delighted to announce that I’ve finally cracked it (pun intended).

Now this may not work for you, but it has now worked for me two days running!

  1. Use a non-stick frying pan or similar (I use a wok!) add a little butter to the pan over the highest heat setting until the butter is fully melted, which doesn’t take long.
  2. Then crack an egg into a cup and pour it slowly into the pan. Do the same with a second egg if wanted.
  3. Immediately turn the heat down to the lowest setting.
  4. Move the pan around over the heat so that the butter runs underneath the egg as it cooks.
  5. Once the bottom is solidifying, using a slotted fish spatula/turned carefully flip each egg over.
  6. Watch closely, and as soon as the runny egg white starts to solidify remove the wok from the heat and let it rest for 30 seconds.
  7. Serve & eat! (Don’t forget to turn the burner off).

I have no idea why this works for me, but it does! So the only thing left on my list of things that I just could never cook, is proper English fudge. However, that not only takes a long time to make but as I now have to avoid dairy in my diet I’m not that sure how well my ‘recipes’ would work using dairy alternatives.

Time to google recipes!

Once I find one that could work, I then just need to get well enough to try it. Or at least have a day with enough spoons!

At which point it will be time to remember that while perseverance can, and does pay off that there are times when just accepting that I did the best that I can, and that’s OK, is the healthy thing to do!