The IBS 25th Anniversary Conference 16th April 2016

As I continue on my journey with my dodgy bowels. I was informed a few months back via Facebook of an IBS conference, in Sheffield (commutable). So we went.

It was held at the Victoria Holiday Inn and the whole day was free!! We initially paid for parking and when David went to reception for change to top up the meter he was told no charge and refunded what we’d paid, winner.

Upon entering, there was a sign in area where all the name badges for people who had registered were laid out. It was a beautiful sea of the charities blue and white colours, alongside some very cheery volunteers who were coordinating the day alongside the CEO! A lady who was constantly buzzing around, keeping everyone on track, the CEO of the charity, the free magazine later revealed.

So we entered the foyer laden with a nice goodie bag. The foyer was set out with various traders, mostly pharmaceutical and some gluten free, dairy free product makers too.

One in particular was Delicious Alchemy. Who make gf and df cake and bread mixes. Based in Sheffield they are just starting out on the bigger market, but definitely one to watch as their products are amazing! Very tasty and egg free too? They substitute eggs, milk and oil for mashed potato! I would have never thought about doing that, clever squirrels.


I made my way round and spoke to a few different reps. I was provided with 4 months supply of probiotics, copious amounts of pens, stress balls, mints and product info about other companies. Oh and the best thing in the world for someone with bowel troubles….a Bristol stool chart magnet! That went straight on the fridge.


After a cup of decaff tea we headed for the auditorium where we sat down ready for the talks.

Next stop: Part 2: Lectures and (free) Lunch.

Berlin on a budget


So it’s been just short of a month since I arrived back in Manchester after spending 4 nights in Berlin, Germany. It was a birthday gift from me to my fiancé, as he’s been wanting to go there for ages so I planned a trip and off we flew. We are notorious for not travelling…ever. I did joke I would now yearly plan a short holiday for his birthday but despite the actual break being ok, not knowing were we where or how to get anywhere was a pain in the ass. I’m all for adventure and wandering. But cities tend to lose their charm after a while. I think it’s the sheer amount of people all amalgamated in one place.

That said, I found Berlin in comparison to London, UK or New York City, USA to be a pleasant host. So here is my how to guide to doing Berlin on a budget.

  1. Book in advance. Self explanatory but if you want to do a city break, mini break, long weekend. Basically anything short of a week in a city then you need to book ahead. I booked our flights at the beginning of November 2015. David’s birthday is 30th November so I was able to gift him the tickets on his birthday, I also took him into Manchester city centre despite being ridiculously ill and it pouring down for some culture at the new Cornerhouse HOME Mcr and then some boozy hot chocolate in said Northern typical weather. We flew with EasyJet and like always our flights were all no frills, pay for what you are willing to pay for. In total x2 return flights came in at £160 so £40 per head each way inc. tax. IMG_20160107_135549901The view that greeted us on our first venture outside. -7c
  2. Decide how you are going to get to the Airport and back. We decided to take our car and park at a nearby airport car park, run by a private company. The cheapest I could find was £25 for the weekend, with flights 5 days in total. If we’d taken the tram and bus it would have been £7 each, each way that’s £30 so we saved £5 and a load of stress. Despite being the cheapest option, AHP were brilliant and I would recommend them. In a nutshell, you drop off your car, they park it for you. Ferry you to your terminal on a free transfer bus and when you’re back you call them, they pick you up and your car is waiting. Really worth it after a long journey or wait to get through passport control.
  3. Book your accommodation, again do this early for big savings! Rather than have to check in and struggle to convey multiple needs in broken, embarrassing German. I decided to go the authentic route and booked an Airbnb for our trip. Which in Berlin is probably the best way to stay in the city. We stayed in Kreuzkölln which is on the South East side of the city. it cost £210 for 4 nights, so £26.50pppn. This provided us with an apartment equipped with a small kitchen, bathroom including bath and bedroom. No mod cons, bar the heating which we needed and a set of speakers along with wifi which encouraged us to go out and explore.IMG_20160108_094532080Our home for the weekend ~ A lovely flat in East Berlin
  4. Check pricing before entering. The majority of cafes, bars and restaurants in Berlin have menu’s outside their front door. Meaning you have see what they have to offer in relation to cuisine and price. If you are really watching your cash then there are plenty of street food vendors dotted around, particularly at train/tram stations and touristy areas. We had currywurst at Curry36, a small vendor near the Berlin Zoo in Tiergarden which set us back 4.50euros each for bratwurst and a fresh bread roll. When its -5 you’ll take what you can get, but this which is a classic Berlin dish is just warm, yummy comfort food regardless of the weather. If you do want to go somewhere for a meal, we found that the average meal for 2 came to 30-40euros with drinks. We had a 70-80euro budget each day so a daily sit down meal takes a big chunk when you’re on a budget, so mix it up and use street food to eat as you go. IMG_20160110_135827543Americano and chicken, rocket and chorizo panini, in one of Berlin’s many small cafesIMG_20160107_134454314woolworths – still going strong in Berlin! Went into administration a while ago in the UK
  5. Berlin’s public transport system is organised, efficient and cheap.                                   I was very impressed with Berlin’s public transport system. Despite having bus, tram and train services. They were all connected via a range of tickets. Again I compared the system to NYC and the London Underground. There are 3 rings, A, B and C. A and B cover most of berlin, with the outer ring C containing the airports. A daily ticket for A and B which will get you to most destinations within Berlin costs 7euros and allows travel on ALL methods of transport. Coming from Manchester where the public transport system is fragmented and expensive I found Berlin’s system to be a nice surprise. To boot, all transport is efficient and on time. The most we waited was 7-8minutes for a train. The rest of the time we never waited more than a few minutes. So there’s the U Bahn as an underground system, the S Bahn is the trains and there are buses too. My fitbit I received for Christmas revealed that my cries of torture and pain in my feet was not psychosomatic. As one day we didn’t use the U Bahn so much and walked a total for 30,000 steps, that’s 13.1 miles and 25+ flights of steps. If you want to get around off foot for free then you can do this via a bicycle. Bikes account for 18% of all traffic in Berlin. They are everywhere and there are bike lanes on public footpaths, each street lamp or railing is adored with hundreds of bikes, all shapes and sizes. You can rent a bike for a day, there are numerous companies around the city that hire from 8-10euros per day. Or, you can sign up to, tell them when you’re coming to Berlin, pick a bike to borrow and borrow a bike from someone for free. You do have to provide ID to the website but there are no charges so a winner.
  6. Above all to ensure you get the cheapest option available plan in advance! Buy your flights well in advance, as well as accommodation if able and remember that Berlin IS a city and like all cities, will be expensive if you wing it.

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Change of direction

So after months of silently deliberating a point of focus for this blog I have finally found one. I have always wanted to include the subject of creativity within this blog. How it is formed, why some people can access it more frequently and easily than others and how my creativity manifests on a regular basis.

Throughout my twenties I have spent a considerable amount of time searching for the right choice. The right career, the right job and most importantly the right path.

However in doing so I have greatly neglected my right sided brain, the creative parts of my being and made myself miserable, time and time again.

This blog will document and illustrate my journey to complete the many unfinished projects I have surrounding me at present. Which will require me to step into the past and question my decisions. It should help me to organise my present and retain the focus I need to live in the now and to practise mindfulness, something I have been doing for the past two weeks with great results. Finally it will guide my way into the future and objects I may create or places I may go to seek out new skills and new challenges.

I aim to share my progress with each project I attempt to complete, whilst reflecting on the practise and process. I also hope to improve on the greatest unfinished project I have, myself.


Day 1 low FODMAPS diet

So it’s coming to the end of day 1. How did I do?

Well I had to make a trip to Tesco on the way to work for some breakfast. I bought some Tesco own brand oat porridge cereal which is gluten free! Only contains oats and fortified with vitamins, score!

I had this with some lactofree milk. It was ok texture wise but a bit bland. I’m going to try it with cinnamon tomorrow.

Next lunch.

For lunch I had a sandwich with Genius gluten free brown bread, the filling was Tesco’s ‘cheddar style’ spread. Tastes like a weird cheese, is actually made from coconut and potato starch..mmm.

I think I would struggle a lot more on this diet if I had to start from scratch. But since I’ve spent considerable amounts of time on both gluten and lactose free diets, I know a lot of what to avoid in those categories. I can also have crisps *wipes sweat from brow* only plain flavours though which I can live with. So my accompaniment was some Walkers French Fries also 78kcals per pack, woop!

I had de caff tea and water throughout the day.

Tea was quick as the OH had to go to his fortnightly pub meeting to talk geekery (IT stuff) so I found this recipe on Love Food, Hate Waste:

I omitted the black olive stuff, topped with cheese and a bit of black pepper. I cooked some boiled rice on the side which I flavoured with lemon juice. OH loved it! And also commented that we’d had a meat free Monday meal…oh yeah, double score! He’s agreed to eat low fodmap dinners with me so long as he can have whatever he wants for breakfast and lunch. Which is fine by me and means a lot that he would support me. As much as I know a lot about nutrition and food, it’s still going to be really difficult. Especially when it’s my birthday and favourite holiday…Easter.

I’ve decided were having Easter late this year. Hot crossed buns, chocolate, flowers and champagne (tummy willing) will be had once we’ve passed the reintroduction stage.

I feel full and I haven’t experienced any pain* or bloating all day which is a bonus. *except totm pain, Mother Nature sure has her timing right!

I’m also super tired. I have been trying to eat little and often lately as I have slumps a couple of hours after eating. However today after a memory lapse early morning (not like me at all) I had no fodmap friendly snacks to gobble on. So snackless I’ve managed without but combined with 30mins on the wii fit and washing my hair, I am r e a d y for bed.

Not before I create a new board on Pinterest to house all the yummy recipes I’m going to find *crosses fingers.

Also I found some Udis gluten free & dairy free Cinnamon & Raisin bagels half price. So I bought two packs. I’m thinking I can have them as breakfast toasted or as a mid morning snack with some sort of spread. The look, the smell…it’s super exciting!

Any snack suggests would be appreciated. Until tomorrow, Adiós. x


Monday, Bloody Mondays

As Alan Partridge so happily sung, is the day I start to sort out my digestive tract.

I’ve had ongoing problems with my stomach, well let’s not mince words, more specifically my bowel has given me a whole heap of problems for at least 7 years. I’ve been admitted to A&E for suspected appendicitis and had scans on my ovaries. In 2013 my symptoms became a lot worse. I was in pain most of the time and really bloated. I was bleeding (down there) and I’ve had loose stools ever since March 2013. That Xmas I was having 10 bowel movements a day. Other symptoms include

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Joint pain
  • Low mood
  • Bloating
  • Nausea for hours at a time
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Excess gas
  • Pain (like glass moving through my bowel on my lower right side abdo)
  • Loose stools
  • Blood and mucus in stools

Great huh?!

After a rather painful Christmas my partner dragged me to the GP. Now I’ve been to many doctors over the years who have fobbed me off. I’ve been on anti cramp medication, mint tablets and immodium all of which failed to treat my symptoms.

This GP listened. She did a PR exam which was very painful as well as examine my abdo which was also tender and sent me for a colonscopy. Long story short that was January 2014 and a year later I had a sigmoidoscopy, cameras both ways but neither actually viewing the site of my pain. After two rather abrupt and shockingly poor appointments with the Gastro doctor, I’m still nowhere near fixed.

I tried a gluten free diet which helped initially, all my symptoms vanished. I was so happy I cried. But after reintroducing things back into my diet the pain and bloating and nausea returned.

The Gastro doctor wrote to my GP and suggested I trial a low FODMAP diet under the supervision of a dietitian. I booked an appointment with the wrong GP. A GP I had seen at 26 who told me it was normal for me to be having blackouts….

She refused to refer me to a dietitian and printed off some useless american sheet re fodmaps.

So here I am about to start the low fodmap diet as a last ditch attempt to regain normal function of my bowel.

Luckily for me, up until recently I was a dietetic assistant. While I know I am NOT a dietitian, I do have more information and knowledge than your average Joe. I also have a few friends who are registered dietitians and trained in the fodmap diet.

So with their help, a diet sheet and the internet I am about to start an 8 week diet that will hopefully help to ‘reset’ my gut so I can reintroduce foods and find out what is so intolerant to my gut.

I’ll be posting my progress, thoughts and recipes here. Welcome aboard if you are interested.

*Please note, this diet should be followed under the supervision of a dietitian trained to support you. Please seek a referral if you are searching for an answer to your gut problems/IBS.



Today I had afternoon tea. My last supper. With bread, cheese, crisps, pork pie, scotch egg and cake. I’m going to miss processed foods.

Tis a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done before.

I start the end of a 4 month sabatical from my blog with a quote from Dickens ‘A tale of two Cites’ which depics life right now quite well.

The reason for my absence in writing is a huge blow of depression. That has stemmed from being utterly miserable in my new job. It had and still does have some promise. I have found a number of things difficult; the culture, some people and some of the tasks I am required to complete within my role. But I am more optimistic than I have been in a long time.

I have a plan.

There are a few things that have contributed to my new motivation, one of them is improving my organisation skills.
In my current role I manage diaries, I juggle a variety of projects, emails, phone calls. I preverbly have ‘several plates in the air’ constantly. It is the sheer amount of work that has led to sleepless nights, pangs of fear and crying moments. But all is not lost. I realised that if I am SUPER organised then the work will get done. The stress is being created by myself. So I’ve made a pact to dedicate time each day to filing, tidying and making a list for the next day. My prioritisation seems to work as I haven’t been pulled up on much. There is one person who tells me each day I have done something wrong…but they don’t tell me how to fix it. At first this upset me, then angered me. Then maybe I thought that even though their aim may be to make me look and feel (it works!) a bit stupid, if I figure out how to complete things myself I will learn more.

I have also extended being organised to my personal life. Being an adult working full time, having to clean a house, maintain a garden and feed myself, a partner, two cats and a dog is bloody hard work! Now throw socialising with people you care about into the mix and you’ve got a full time job on top of the one you have to pay the bills.
Thing is, if I ‘block out’ time to complete social events and chip away at the housework each day it’s really not so bad, and its great for the stress levels, they melt away.

Yesterday I blocked out some time* to take a friend for a scarf making workshop, at Stitch Studio in Ramsbottom. It was her birthday treat and we had lots of fun. Needless to say I am already planning more scarves to make…look out ladies for xmas!

Pinning happily

Pinning happily

Tada! Check it out, they sell fabrics online too.

The final thing I want to share is a blog I have been reading and actually what prompted this blog post. That is a guy I found through watching his TED talk on YouTube. His name is Scott Dinsmore and he spends his life helping people make a career from their passion. His posts have inspired me to self-educate, rethink situations, start to plan a career down a path that I forge and blog more! Check out his work here:

It’s Sunday morning and once I’ve plowed through my emails I think I’ll go for a run…some endorphins should help me to complete tasks for today. Until next time, bye for now.
Boxfox XOXO

*Oh god, how corporate.