Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Going gluten free

To see how this journey started, read my previous post on going gluten free here.

Yesterday we went gluten free!

Yes we have finally reached the moment. Mr PTC has been religiously eating lots of gluten every day for 4 weeks, and I have to say, he was not very happy about it. He had to include a larger proportion of wheat in his diet than he is used to in the run-up to being tested for Coeliac disease. Before all this we frequently had days where we didn't eat any wheat or gluten and I think this may be why he was not showing even more extreme symptoms before. To eat the equivalent of two slices of bread a day for the last four weeks was quite hard for him. He got sick. By Sunday evening he was exhausted and had had three weeks of constant stomach cramps. Poor guy!

So yesterday morning (Monday) he had is blood test at 8.45am and he didn't even have wheat for breakfast. It has now been nearly 48 hours since his last wheat containing meal, and so far not a lot has changed. However, this is what happened during our dietary test at the beginning of the year that made us think we needed to cut wheat/gluten out of his diet. I think it takes him a long time to get stuff out of his system (doctors are always astonished that it takes him 4 hours to react to eating dairy, because apparently it should only take 1 hour). So we will wait and see.

However, there has been one surprising development in this four weeks of eating wheat for me. Mr PTC was away last week on business, and while he was away I went super-healthy, eating lots of fruit, veg, fish and meat, but not a lot else. Basically carbs went to zero. I find this easier without Mr PTC around because he loves starch! Mr PTC arrived back home on Friday and to ensure he got his gluten quota over the weekend we treated ourselves to a few things he thinks he will miss (though I'm sure I can figure out a gluten-free recipe given time). So we had pancakes, yorkshire puddings and scones. All fresh, all delicious, and all full of starch, wheat and gluten. This was more wheat than I normally eat by a loooong way, and infinitely more than I had eaten for previous last 7 days.

Yesterday I felt terrible.

Really terrible. I had stomach cramps all day, and not the type I am used to. I don't know if it was the change in diet, wheat or just bad timing. However, because of it I am also strictly following the gluten free diet for the first month, even though before yesterday I was wavering (I'm sorry, but I love bread, biscuits, pastries and all those terrible bad wheaty delicacies). However, I would prefer to know if I am causing myself damage and change my diet.

So we are both gluten-free, for now at least. After a month, I will allow myself a treat. If I get sick, I will go to the GP too and ask to be diagnosed. That will mean a month of eating gluten followed by a blood test, but I would prefer to know, have it on my doctors notes now, rather than collapse in 20 years time.

We now wait. Mr PTC for his blood test results, me for my body to sort itself out before trying gluten again, and us for the house move in two weeks time. Whatever happens we will remain gluten/wheat free. The contrast in Mr PTC's health was so extreme after being wheat and gluten free for three weeks that I can't see us going back to it permanently. I'm also fairly convinced that too much wheat will exacerbate any hereditary pre-disposition to gluten-intolerance that I may have from my mother, so even if I'm 'fine' I will remain gluten-free most of the time and have the odd treat when out and about. I would prefer to be able to keep on eating wheat every now and then than keep eating it all the time and end up developing Coeliac disease in 10 years.

So watch this space for gluten free recipes winging there way through the internet to you! Oh and did I mention we are moving house in two weeks, and I'll own my first ever home in 9 days? I did? Oh. Well, I'm still excited!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Moving house guide: 1 month to go

So it is one month until moving day. I am definitely behind on my packing schedule, but in all honesty, it isn't the end of the world yet, because I am ahead in other areas.

Things to do with one month to go are:

1. Design, print and address moving house notification cards for family and friends. 
This is simple and easy and it is a great task to get done now. I've even left you a template for three different versions:

Modify, print and address those envelopes now. All three are designed on an A4 template, so you get four per page for the A6 versions and three per page for the DL versions.

Don't post them yet, but keep them in reserve. That is one chore ticked off the list, ready for the post box a week or so before your moving day!

2. Start notifying authorities/companies about the house move.
Remember that mail-tracking sheet that we've all been filling in for the last few weeks, now is the time to start tackling it. You may not want to notify all companies right now, but certain things such as utility companies need a while to get everything sorted. You will also appreciate having as much done as possible well before moving day. The last few weeks are always busy busy, so get stuff done now. In particular contact the following:

  • Gas/electricity companies. They won't be able to take over the supply at your new address until you move in, but letting them know in advance that you are moving means that they are ready for your final meter reading at your old address, and that they will be ready to take over the account at the new address the moment you get those keys.
  • Phone/broadband/TV. Telephone and broadband can usually be organised to be taken over on the day you get keys. The only issue (in the UK), is if the line has been disconnected, in which case an engineer needs to be called out. Unfortunately, unless you have cable and therefore can get your telephone line through a company such as Virgin Media, you will be relying on a BT engineer. Don't worry, your phone company will organise this for you, but BT charge a fee, which some companies pass on to you. Ask your company for details.
  • Council/Local authority. Now is the time to tell your council you are moving. Even if you are staying within the same authority, there will be a change to your status, so get them  notified now. Council's are notorious for taking ages to sort these things out, but be careful about cancelling direct debits without the councils agreement because otherwise they may charge you a fee. If you are moving outside your current council, hold off notifying the new council until you move in as nothing can be done until that point anyway.

Unfortunately most of these companies still rely on telephone conversations to get this sorted, which is a real pain, because who has time to be on hold for 30 minutes over a precious lunch break? Most councils now provide an email address thankfully, though it is all a bit hit and miss whether they get read.

3. Organise your mail re-direction.
This can be done anywhere up to 6 weeks before moving, but should be done at least a week before. In the UK the Royal Mail offers a service to redirect mail, charged per surname, for anywhere from 1 month to 12 months.

4. Organise home/contents insurance for your new property.
You may choose to stick with your current provider, but don't assume this is the cheapest option. Check out price comparison sites to figure out what is a sensible price, and don't forget to include plenty of contents cover as most people underestimate how much their belongings are worth. Once you are armed with information, call your current provider and find out what they will do for your new property. The benefit of staying with your current provider is that everything is seamless, the transfer will be painless, and they should waive the cancellation fee on your current policy (yes you will be taking out a NEW policy). However, remember that they might not be the cheapest. When they provide the quote, if you are not happy tell them the price you could get it for and see what they will do. If not, while on the phone cancel the old policy for the day you move out, then organise a new policy from a price comparison site.
Some useful comparison sites:

5. Buy birthday cards and presents and any other gifts/greetings needed in the next 6 weeks. 
You will be far far too busy to do this around moving day, so get it done now. Write, wrap, address and stamp and put in your moving box (see below), with a note in the calendar of when to send the item. If you are ordering online for delivery to the recipient, bookmark the item you intend to order and write yourself a note in your calendar. Doing the legwork now will make everything a lot smoother later.

6. Contact your solicitor/estate agent/letting agent on progress.
OK, so you are probably on top of this, because this is the exciting bit - the people that actually make sure you get that lovely new house! But make sure you have arranged a date/time that suits you for signing documents, rather than leaving it until a week before and the agent choosing the time because of their limited appointments. Also figure out where you will collect keys from and organise a time for this.

7. Create a moving day box.
This box will stay with you at all times during the move. Right now it should contain your moving-house folder, a calendar with key dates in it (such as when to post those cards you've organised) and any important documents for the new house such as the contact information for your solicitor/agent in case their are problems on the day, your lease (if you have one), the inventory of your old property for comparing at move-out (if you have one). In the run-up to the move you will add other items, such as the kettle and food for moving day, ID (don't trust that to a removal company!) and similar items.

This list should keep you (and me) busy for the next week, but continue filling in your mail redirection check list and eating all your food up!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Why I need a financial safety net, and why you should have one too

Wow. Well the beginning of 2013 has been a rollercoaster and a half. Life has, in general been good. I am happy, excited about moving house, and despite being properly ill for the first time in years for half of January, feel like things have been quite good here.

But. Oh you knew there was a but didn't you? 2013 has been expensive. Mr PTC and I both kept on saying that our good luck just could not continue (I don't really believe in such things, but well, we seemed to be riding high at the end of 2012). We were aiming to be frugal and cheap and mean for the first three months of 2013 to make sure we were in the best financial shape possible at the beginning of our new life as home-owners. Most of our savings are going straight into the house as a deposit, so we wanted to make sure we had a financial security belt, and the bigger the better.

Then 2013 came along. I broke my glasses and ended up buying two new really quite expensive pairs (its an investment). I needed some new work clothes, Mr PTC needed new shoes. Small items, but they add up. I also broke my laptop - thankfully it is my work laptop and therefore that was paid by work. I need a new phone - did I mention the camera stopped working (again this is on hold). Then when I didn't think I could break anything else (I'm now officially a bad penny round here), the car went in for a service. 

Oh yes. The car…. its always cars that break the bank isn't it?

Today was our dear little car's third birthday, which means by UK law it needs it first MOT. It also happens to be the end of the warranty period and because of that we decided to take it to a Volvo dealer to make sure that anything that could be done under warranty is done under warranty. Dealers are never the cheap option, but sometimes a short-term sacrifice is worth a big gain. Well the service came back as a fairly expensive one. Totally justifiable £480 - ouch! We thought we did well out of it thought because sure enough the crank shaft (what the?) and something else had oil leaks. 

So back to the garage the car went, under warranty to fix oil leaks. It was awkward (we only have one car and live in the middle of nowhere so can't go anywhere without a car), but we survived. Until that is the garage f'd-up (excuse my language, but really they did!). I won't tell you details because we are still fighting for money  back, but amongst other things they broke the windscreen (they at least are paying for that), but we ended up paying another £1300 on top of the service.

I should point out we were sort of held to ransom. If we didn't cough up the car would remain in pieces and we needed our car back. Yes, we probably shouldn't have paid, but what can you do when you need your car urgently?

We bought the car last summer, and were so excited, despite the cost, to buy a car that should last us 8 years or so. We are therefore in this for the long-haul. We love having an estate, and in general it drives perfectly. It is an eco-car which isn't just good for the environment (and makes me feel less guilty about being car-dependent), but good for our wallets too. To then be faced with nearly £2000 in service bills only 8 months later is far from what we expected. We also had to pay for our AA renewal and car insurance this month - so in total the car cost us a whole lot of money this month.

To say I'm annoyed is an under-statement. But now I come to the reason I wrote this post. Understandably (at least I hope) I was (maybe am still a little) angry about this situation. However, what is done is done. We are able to cope though because we keep a financial security belt. We never have 'zero money'. The amount we decided to put down as a deposit for our house was our savings minus our security belt. A while back we decided we should keep 3 months worth of income in a savings account for bad situations. In general we save each month, so if the worst came to the worst and we both were out of work we would be able to live for 4 months, possibly 6 at a stretch off our savings. We would ideally have 6 months worth of income, but because we wanted to get into the 75% LTV bracket for our mortgage we won't have that come March 28th.

Many people do not understand why our 'zero-point' when we say 'we are broke and can't go on holiday' still allows us money in the bank. We work hard to get to that safety net - it isn't always easy to get to that level of saving, and I can see why many people feel that they can't do it. But by putting away a little each month, we can deal with these bad times where everything goes wrong without feeling like we will loose something very important to us or fall behind on our rent/mortgage payments. Even as a student with no income I set aside money for emergencies. It wasn't much, but whenever I had some money come in, be it from parents, a loan or whatever, a small percentage was set aside. Now we set aside a larger percentage because our expenses are larger. We never touch this money, except in bad months like February this year. Now we will focus on putting that safety net back to where it was asap to give us financial security once again.

If I have one piece of advice out of this whole affair, it isn't about garages, or being careful, or not spending more than you think you should on an item like new glasses, it is to put a safety net in place. I spent money on new glasses, thinking it was an investment, and at the time we did it, we were financially doing quite well. If I knew we were going to have to spend so much on the car, I would have been more restrained on the glasses. However, you don't know what might happen tomorrow. So put a financial safety net in place.

If you feel that you have nothing left in your budget to put way, start small, heck, start tiny. Take the tiniest bit of money and put it in a savings pot. Do that each month, and soon you'll forget you had that money to spend in the first place. It may be tough if you had to sacrifice something else to do that, but I can promise you, in the event of needing emergency cash you will be grateful. I realise this approach will not work for everything. I have friends who just don't understand our approach to finances and spend every penny each month and are happy. They deal with financial emergencies by using credit cards and loans. I just can't do that. I was brought up to spend only what I have, not on credit. I don't even like taking out interest free credit, knowing that if I leave the money in the bank earning interest I will be better off. It just seems wrong to me to take out a loan (I say this but I am taking out a mortgage!). 

N.B. I am not a financial adviser, so if in doubt, talk to a professional when making big financial decisions. This is just my approach to money and my attempt at a frugal lifestyle.

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Friday, 1 March 2013

Clutter and wellbeing: owning up to the situation

I had a bit of an ah-ha moment last night, on something that for some reason makes me a bit ashamed. I realised that I feel better, like really, properly healthier better, when I am not surrounded by clutter.

Let me explain... This week has been one crazy week so far. Thankfully Friday is calmer. However, Thursday being month-end meant big deadlines at work for both Mr PTC and I. We've been doing loooong hours, on top of trying to pack up the house, have lengthy phone conversations with family who are ill (nothing serious, but enough that we wanted to catch up and let we know we were thinking of them). Fine. We can take this in our stride, especially because we have each other to lean on.

On Wednesday our one non-running-about-crazy item was to watch 'Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners'. Now we don't watch much TV, indeed I'm not quite sure why we watched this, but really it was quite fascinating. Mr PTC and I both saw some of the two extremes in ourselves. Certain things bring out a tiny bit of OCD in us, and other things we can stop looking at and allow the hoarding to take over.  I particularly liked the phrase of one lady who realised that her hoarding made her 'anxious', and yet she didn't do anything about it, except put a blanket over things. I watched the programme with a growing fascination on the interaction between the two extremes, but the lesson two days later is actually about clutter in my life.

Anyway, moving on from my obsession with watching different people interact (maybe I should have been a psychologist after all!), yesterday was crunch point. I had a phone call from my landlord asking to bring round someone to view the house this morning. I knew we had deadlines at work and I knew the house was in a state, but oh heck, we'll manage, so I said 'that's fine'. 9pm comes round and we are still at work, rapidly running out of steam. We finally got home at 10pm with chicken and chips (not the healthiest option, but there are only a few options that late at night) and we had to clean the house. Oh no.

Well we did clean. Not amazingly - how glad am I that I did a deep clean of the kitchen last weekend! It was more of a pick-up that went on for an hour. When we finally got into bed I mentioned to Mr PTC that although I was exhausted I actually felt really great. This wasn't just because we had both met our deadlines at work, because I felt better when we finished cleaning. I felt better because we had put everything away and the house smelt and looked clean.  Mr PTC quickly piped up 'well that's quite an admission'. I was initially upset. I know I am not a natural neat freak, but neither is he! The difference in our behaviour is that Mr PTC notices mess more, but ignores it - I don't notice it. However, I must be noticing it on some subconscious level because I felt so much better, despite the exhaustion after cleaning at midnight!

So there we are. I feel substantially better in a clean and un-cluttered house. Even to the point that when I am exhausted it is still worth doing a quick pick-up to improve my wellbeing. Mr PTC, despite being an openly lazy person (aww but I love him that way!), feels the same way. So we have promised ourselves to try to de-clutter and put-away more.

How does this fit in with Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners? Maybe the OCD cleaners have a point - you get ill and anxious if you live in a messy cluttered environment. Not to mention it makes cleaning a lot harder. I think being OCD just means it is more extreme, but like most 'disorders', it is a sliding spectrum and most people sit in the middle somewhere (that is a personal theory on many mental health issues - not a clinically understood theory you should note!).

Some funny cartoons on clangnuts.com

So the PTC household has agreed to 'attempting' to more regular de-clutters, put-aways and pick-ups. We are aware that with less than 5 weeks until move day life is likely to get more cluttered as we pack up, but in the new house we are hoping to start some new routines and pick ups are going to be one of them. We will finally start giving everything a proper home so we know where things should go, and if I get my way less stuff will be out and on surfaces to make cleaning easier. Maybe we will be making a move towards minimalism - hah I don't think so, we have way to much 'stuff' we can't part with.

Righto, random Friday musings are now over. Normal service can resume.

Happy weekend to you all!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Monday, 25 February 2013

Targets for the weekend - update

So how did my weekend go? A little crazy! Nothing new there.

On Friday I shared with you my targets for the weekend. Well, as always, lots of things came up, and I did less than I planned. Here is how my list looks now.

1. Pack away pet stuff, including disinfecting first where appropriate. Started, but not yet completed. Everything is now clean and ready to be packed away, but the packing has not yet been finished.

2. Pack all non-essential books (we have lots of them!). Completed!

3. Pack overflow kitchen cupboard (this mainly contains bakeware for special occasions and should not be needed before the move). Started, but not yet completed. There is more in there than I thought!

4. Find out if we are keeping/leaving the dishwasher (we need to negotiate with our landlords!). Pathetic excuse, but I never went to see my landlord!

5. Check all plants that are being moved. Done!

6. Clean car (inside and out!). Ah, now this is one of the reasons my weekend didn't go to plan - the car is being taken apart by the garage and we haven't seen it since Wednesday last week. So no progress here!

7. Clean windows (inside and out). No progress here either!

So that looks pretty pathetic right? I will however let you know what else I achieved (apparently I'm good at doing stuff, just not what I really need to do!):

8.   Check heating oil level.
9.   Clear leaves from garden.
10. Quick tidy up of garden.
11. Sort out recycling (this was a big job!).
12. Take meter readings.

OK, so that still looks pathetic. Oh well, lots to do this week then!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Farewell my Brambly Apple

I mentioned on Friday that our lives had been a bit crazy recently. Well one bit of news, which I have decided I should share with you dear readers, is the loss of my wonderful little Bramble. Readers first met Bramble last September when I introduced the 'cat kit'. Unfortunately last Friday evening (15th) we came home to find out that Bramble had been hit on the road while we were at work, dying instantly.

Wee Bramble, when he was just a few weeks old.

On the Saturday we made the decision to take our other cat, Lavender, to my parents until after we have moved. We also took along our dearest Bramble and buried him in my parents garden. We planted a tree on top of him which provides berries in the winter for the birds (oddly appropriate because we know how Bramble liked to be near the birds). Unfortunately, Lavender did not seem to be coping very well. When we first got home on the Friday and heard the awful news, we took Bramble into our kitchen and put him on the floor. Lavender came over to see what was going on, and then tried to clean him up. When we stopped her she ran off and refused to go into the kitchen again, even after Bramble had been moved. When she saw us burying him on Saturday, she came over and wailed  at us, almost as if she wanted us to stop. She sniffed the box he had been in and wailed some more. I know she understands he is dead now and it is heartbreaking. Thankfully I heard from my parents today that she is now playing with one of their cats, so fingers crossed she will be OK.

My favourite: Lavender finally accepts that Bramble is staying and is prepared to sleep next to him.

This probably sounds like I am overly worrying about Lavender but we have good reason. The worst thing about this whole situation is that one of the reasons for our move and the location we are moving to is the dangers of the road we currently live hear. 12 months ago we lost our other cat, Smudge (Lavender's brother), to the same road. Afterwards she went into a three month period of what I can only describe as mourning. She stopped talking to us (she meows and chirrups and purrs all the time normally), and wailed whenever we left her alone. We finally got a kitten, Bramble, in May last year, and she instantly perked up. It was very clear to us that she needed cat company, even though at times Bramble drove her mad because he was so boisterous. Thankfully it looks like being with my parents cats is helping this time, even though I miss her like crazy.

Our new house will be 3 miles down a single track, very quiet road, so hopefully a lot lot safer. At Christmas we questioned whether to leave Lavender and Bramble at my parents for the rest of the time in our old house, keeping them safe. We were planning that they would go there for the actual move anyway as it reduces their stress. However, we decided it was kinder to keep them with us until mid-March. Now I am regretting this. I keep telling myself we would do that again. They are our cats, not my parents'. But my heart now aches.

So the house is oh so very quiet now. No Bramble and no Lavender. And I will never again be able to call another cat 'Brambly Apple' .

He was so much bigger than this in the end. Nearly double the weight of Lavender (who is a very petite cat when not in the same picture as a kitten). Unfortunately he was four weeks away from his 1st birthday when he died.

One day we will have more cats again... and hopefully not too far in the future. But first, we shall move home and Lavender will come home and I will hold my kitty once again. Better still, Lavender will get her very first cat flap in her own home, rather than only getting one while on holiday with her grandparents.

To our dearest wee Bramble, we will always love you and you will always have a place in our hearts. Lots of love Mum & Dad x

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Friday, 22 February 2013

Targets for the weekend

So what have you got planned for the weekend?

After a few weekends being written off by various events in our lives, the PTC household needs to get its act together this weekend to get back on track with the big upcoming move.

So here is my task (or should that be target?) list for the weekend. I'm not going to kill myself getting everything done (along with the usual weekend rush), but I'm going to see what can be done.

1. Pack away pet stuff, including disinfecting first where appropriate.

2. Pack all non-essential books (we have lots of them!).

3. Pack overflow kitchen cupboard (this mainly contains bakeware for special occasions and should not be needed before the move).

4. Find out if we are keeping/leaving the dishwasher (we need to negotiate with our landlords!).

5. Check all plants that are being moved.

6. Clean car (inside and out!).

7. Clean windows (inside and out).

So that's us for this weekend. Hopefully we will do most of this list, but I am already behind on my usual tasks, having been away unexpectedly last weekend. I have a stack of laundry and ironing to do (oh how I hate that iron) and meal planning and such. Nothing like a challenge to get you raring to go though hey?

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Diet and health

I've wondered quite a lot whether to write this post, but I've decided it is time to share in case this helps anyone else.

You might have noticed that I've been quiet (again) for a few weeks. Well life is crazy, I'm exhausted, super busy at work and running around trying to get *everything* and more done. More than anything though, I'm bone weary tired, and so is Mr PTC. This just gets us down. OK, so now I sound like I'm grumbling, but I promise, this will become clearer in a few moments.

So back to the title - diet and health. My family, and Mr PTC's have a history of dietary issues. My mother is a coeliac, my sister is lactose and cow's milk protein intolerant. On Mr PTC's side, his father is a coeliac, his mother can't have dairy (there is no conclusive evidence as to which type of milk problem it is, or if it is both as full testing has never been carried out), and his brother is in the process of possibly being diagnosed as a coeliac too. Mr PTC himself can't have cow's milk protein (and therefore any product made with cow's milk) - other milk types (goat, sheep, buffalo etc.) are fine. So basically, complicated families!

Now Mr PTC had his gall bladder removed in 2010 after a couple of really painful (are they ever not?) gallstone attacks. Ever since then he has had a 'gloopy' tummy. Now his tummy has always been very communicative (as I like to put it), but this was somehow different. However, we didn't really notice as it has been a gradual decline, with just a gradual increase in the propensity of 'uncomfortableness' since the operation. Nothing conclusive, and he has a loud tummy anyway. There is also always the risk the 'contamination' with milk - he can be quite off-hand in restaurants and with shop bought food about possible milk risks. He has a fairly high tolerance for milk these days so that he just gets uncomfortable if there is a tiny bit of milk product in his food (for example, a restaurant serving buttered potatoes and plain potatoes with the same spoon would cause him to be 'gloopy' rather than full-on 4 days of sick).

The other change, which I have just put down to our lives is his tiredness. Mr PTC is not a natural early riser. He loves bed (hah so do I!). But when we first met Mr PTC regularly got up before me at the weekend (I'm a slob when I don't have to get up). These days he can sleep all day unless I drag him out of bed. He is also more grumpy, which I've put down to work stress, being together for longer (the honeymoon period doesn't last forever, right?) and the tiredness he is experiencing.

So we just continued ignoring all of this. We discussed on and off doing a 'trial' of no dairy at all or going gluten/wheat free, but we just never got on with it. Well January was hard around here. I was properly sick for the first time since I was a kid and Mr PTC clearly had a milder version of it to. We were wiped out. Work was getting on top of us, the house looked like a bomb had hit it and we weren't packing ready for our move. So we decided to go gluten free, I'm not sure why. It just seemed like a good idea.

Well on Wednesday (20th) we stopped after three weeks of gluten free. Now nothing earth shattering happened in those three weeks, and nothing earth shattering has happened since. It certainly is nothing like the experience of my mother or father in law who experienced really quite extreme improvements in health during their first few weeks of being gluten free, or the awful effects of a subsequent 'accident' once they had been glu-free for a few weeks. However, since Wednesday Mr PTC has been exhausted, more stressed and more grumpy. His tummy has also started complaining - oddly though he hadn't noticed it 'clearing up', but having thought about it, he is convinced he had less 'glooping' during those few weeks of gluten free. I also noticed that I was less tired during those few weeks, though things are less clear for me (I was also not as careful about gluten because the test wasn't really for me).

Now I'm not going to jump to conclusions here. This is by no means a massive change in health. We've also had ups and downs at work and in our personal lives (we lost a cat, and our neighbour had emergency surgery - but those are posts for another day), and the change in diet also coincided with me making more home-cooked food (fewer nasty ingredients), and using up the freezer contents, which right now is mainly joints of meat. We have probably therefore, accidentally been fairly close the the 'paleo' diet that everyone is raving about online. See it is murky territory!

So for now, we are continuing with eating an all inclusive diet and making sure Mr PTC ingests some wheat/gluten everyday (as my dad says 'a glu-full' diet). Mr PTC is now taking this to the doctors and hopefully we can convince them to take this seriously given the family history. Diagnosis of gluten-allergy in the UK seems to depend largely on how good your GP is! Unfortunately, for a full clinical diagnosis in the UK a blood test for antigens is not sufficient; instead a biopsy of the bowel is required. This also means that Mr PTC must continue eating wheat/gluten for the time being until the biopsy is done.

Regardless of what happens, we will be changing our diet, at least for a short time. We will wait until the doctors do what they must for diagnosis. If the results come back negative we will still try going gluten/wheat free again, and I might join in properly this time. There seems to be a lot evidence that even if you do not have the autoimmune response that is present in people with Coeliac disease, that wheat is not great for us. While I love my food, I also love having energy and more than that I want Mr PTC to be happy and well. So after doctors appointments and moving house in April we will go on some sort of detox. I'm thinking the paleo diet having read so much about it, but I'm still researching to find out what I think is best. Whatever happens though, I have a feeling that a full re-evaluation of our diet/lifestyle is well overdue and may be one of the best things to start afresh with the house move. We will have space for growing our own vegetables and maybe that is just the incentive I need to move to a healthier, less refined, diet. I love growing things, and I do so love to eat too!

If you have any experience of dietary issues, trying different diets or the paleo diet I would love to hear from you and share your experiences. I am acutely aware that one in three people with Coeliac disease in their family will develop Coeliac disease. That means there is a fairly high probability that Mr PTC and/or I will develop it or even already have it! I'm also aware that my mother and my father in-law were left undiagnosed for years, and in some ways have never fully recovered from the damage done before diagnosis. I don't want this to happen to Mr PTC and me, or anyone else for that matter.

Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Friday, 1 February 2013

So how did January really go?

So I've given you all an 'update' on January in the form of what I've been telling you about. But how has it really gone? I want to know what you have been up to. So I'll start by telling you how things have been going round here!

1. 2013 started with the big house move news. You can get all the helps and information I am compiling here, but I thought I'd let you know how it really is going.

Well the letters scheme is going quite well, I have written down most of the mail that needs to be re-directed, but I am sure some has fallen through the cracks... I mean who's perfect? Part of the reason behind this blog is to help me hold myself accountable and be more organised! Fingers crossed telling you guys that I haven't been quite as diligent as I intended I will now be guilt tripped into catching up!

Packing has taken a hit. With being ill I did nothing for about two weeks, so I have thus far only completed 6 boxes. Oh dear. That is one task that will be taken up this weekend.

2. I attempted to have a cash-free January. I will admit this was somewhat easier because I spent most of 2 weeks in bed. It is so easy to not spend money if you are in bed - unless that is you use the credit card online. Despite various mishaps 2013 has started out fairly cheap. I'm not sure it will last!

Talking of mishaps, some of the events that I haven't shared with you in the last week (and hence being so quiet for a while):
a). I broke my glasses. They did so well for 4 years and then I smashed them by head-butting my laptop! Who knew macbooks were so vicious? That was one expensive mistake! I can't believe how much new glasses cost these days.
b). My macbook broke. OK, firstly not 'really broke' and secondly it has nothing to do with item (a) above. In fact it is just really misbehaving and has been since before the glasses incident. There is a CD stuck in the drive and it will NOT come out, however much persuasion is provided. Luckily Mr Lappy is still under warranty and going to the shop tonight. Alas that means temporary laptop and slightly unhappy me. I'm also worried that everything will be wiped, even though I've backed up. Silly hey?
c). I keep loosing and forgetting things! Yesterday I put my handbag in the fridge - which is quite an achievement because the handbag is really quite large. On Monday I tried to fill the food processor with water rather than the kettle. Maybe just maybe I'm not 100% better yet.

So anyway, moving onto more pertinent things.

3). My planner for 2013 is still only in its January states - apparently printing and filing are beyond me at the moment. This might explain why I keep forgetting things (see note above). Sorting out the rest of the planner is my priority for this coming weekend. Oh and packing. I keep forgetting the packing!


4). Despite my  series on how to deal with housework when you are ill I have a stack of ironing up to the ceiling. OK, not quite to the ceiling, but it certainly feels like it. There are shirts that I washed before going away for Christmas still to be ironed. I'm not entirely sure what Mr PTC has been wearing to work recently, because I'm sure it hasn't seen an iron.

How terrible is that?! I'm actually quite shocked, but between car keys and handbags in fridges and water in the food processor rather than the kettle I think my ability to do housework is just rock bottom. Last night was the first night Mr PTC and I did any form of useful housework except put on the dishwasher and do laundry for about 10 days. Believe me, the house was not pleasant.

So do I prioritise housework over packing and planners now? Looks like a busy weekend.

5). Anyway, January finished on an up as yesterday our mortgage was fully approved. I do believe that basically nothing can stop us moving now, unless the sellers do something crazy like set the house alight. 

Fingers crossed for a calmer February!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Thursday, 31 January 2013

January highlights

I thought I would finish January with a little round up of progress around here, and drop in some of my posts from the start of 2013. Indulge me!

Well 2013 started with a big big band in the form of us deciding to buy a house. Hopefully I have convinced you all to organise your house-moves to make them stress-free and calm:

Organised house move: making sure your letters move house with you.

I then set myself the task of reducing my expenditure in January by not taking any cash out of the bank! This was followed up by the release of my 2013 planner printables.


I started a new series on tips and tricks by sharing some simple tips on having pets and also how to deal with housework when you are ill.

The theme of moving house continued with emptying the freezer - or indeed how to just make sure you eat everything up! And then tips and tricks on packing for safe and secure house moves.


Emptying the freezer.
House move: Packing made easy

Finally January finished up with a somewhat belated section on filing... sorry  no pictures of this one!

I hope you have enjoyed the start to 2013.

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Friday, 25 January 2013

Sorting out the filing

So this post has been a long long time coming.

When we moved into our current house 15 months ago, we finally got ourselves a filing cabinet. Before that filing was a bit hit and miss. We used a combination of methods that Mr PTC and I had used pre-marriage, neither of which worked, and none of which made sense for us as a couple.

Having a filing cabinet I was determined that things would get filed away neatly, regularly and in clearly categorised hanging files. Well, 12 months after getting the cabinet we have finally finished! I started 12 months ago, and then left everything for the best part of a year. We knew where the important stuff was, and we had a pile for filing, and that is how it got left for a WHOLE YEAR! I cannot believe that we let that happen.

Crunch time came with applying for our mortgage at the same time as the tax return becoming urgent. You can tell something is wrong when we normally do the tax return in the early Autumn (about the time we have all the relevant documentation to complete the forms), but this time we waited until January when the deadline is fast approaching. We suddenly needed bank statements from 2011 and proof of all sorts of things from the last 5 years for our mortgage. Eeeek!

So filing became a priority.

Well, we have finally achieved it. I have a huge box full of confidential waste (to be burnt as fire-lighter, or shredded), we recycled another huge box full of paper, and the rest is now neatly categorised in the filing cabinet.

My method.

1. Figure out categories. You don't need to keep everything. Certainly, keep bank statements, anything that proves your address etc, but you don't need to be keeping random bits of junkmail from mail order companies. Do, however keep any mail order company details you might need such as account numbers. Then write a list of categories.

For example

  • One file for each bank account (we have a joint account, savings accounts etc.).
  • Credit card statements
  • Council Tax letters
  • Tax returns
  • Warranties
  • Manuals (this might move to a file at some point).
  • Car stuff (includes MOT certificates, insurance certificates etc.)
  • Work (includes bonus letters, contracts etc).
  • Personal documents (paper counterpart to drivers licences, birth certificates, passports, vaccination records)
  • Household (includes our current lease, copies of the inventory from when we moved in).
  • Insurance (contents/home insurance documents

Basically if you have something that doesn't fit, make a category for it. It is a lot easier to find something that is in a labelled file, even if it is all by its lonesome. With our bank accounts, because we have so many, each file actually has the account number on it so I can quickly determine which one is which.

Label each hanging file appropriately, then put in alphabetical order. The exception to that in my book is that I put all of our bank accounts at the front, with everything else behind, but alphabetical.

2. Keep items for the relevant time period. Now for a health warning. I am not a financial adviser, so please take this with a pinch of salt. However, I was completely surprised that we would need to provide the mortgage company with details going back 5 years. This even meant utility bills to prove our address (for some reason bank statements were not acceptable for this for the particular bank we are using). Luckily we had that information, but in the past utility bills have only been kept for 1 year. In general, I would suggest keeping stuff for 5 or 6 years. If you own a business it needs to be longer (I think HMRC can check your business tax return up to 7 years after you filed the return, which makes it nearly 10 years after you actually received the bank statement etc.). If in doubt, ask the advice of a professional.

3. Sort and file. This is the last, obvious, and least enjoyable step. Yes, you really just have to sit there and do it. Once the files are in alphabetical order it is actually quite quick. You just pull out the drawer and sit there and file. Easy peasy. Honest!

That's it. Three simple {ahem} steps. Now I won't kid you this is a boring task, hence why it took me sooooo long. But now it is done I am actually keeping on top of my filing (it has only been 2 weeks). I know myself well enough that this won't last, so I will start using a 'to-file' box at some point. However, hopefully it will never get this out of control again as we now have a system.

To summarise:

1. Categorise: come up with a list of hanging file names and sort alphabetically.
2. Chuck away items that are too old. 5 to 10 years is a great point to start at. 
3. Sort and file.

Then sit back, get a cup of tea and glow with joy at having organised paperwork... or is that just me?

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Moving house guide: emptying the freezer

So on the theme of decrapification, ahem, maybe just instead making sure we don't throw lots out when we move, I want to empty our freezer.

Now we have a lot in our freezer. This whole move sort of happened accidentally. Now don't let me kid you, we will have had 3 months from deciding to buy a house to house move day, which realistically is plenty of time. But I hoard, and this includes food!

Our big chest freezer (a wonderful thing to allow you buy in bulk, prepare ahead, and save money by buying items reduced to clear) is FULL. I mean like properly seriously FULL. And of course, being little Miss Frugal, the thought of throwing any of that away makes me weak at the knees. It would be criminal.

So we are purging the freezer! This should happen once a year anyway, we are just 5 months late! The whole point in having such a large freezer was to save us money, but I am not sure we use stuff out of it as often as we put stuff in! Silly silly us! So here is my method for using it all  up!

1. Take an inventory. Yes, I know we should totally have one of these already, but we do now! Better still, Mr PTC helped me and it only took 10 minutes. I had a pre-printed sheet with many of the items listed, then space for items I had missed. Its all pretty coloured, and of course matches my 2013 Planner, and you can download you very own freezer inventory here.

2. Get a list of recipes. I went through my recipe binders pulling out recipes, writing them by category. So for example, I have several whole chickens so I had a category for 'chicken' meals.

3. Meal plan the coming weeks. Of course, you are all doing this already right? Yes, so am I {cough cough}. This new meal plan is going to be aimed at using all that freezer food up! So use that recipe list and the contents list, and have a tick sheet to say you have designated that item for that meal on your inventory. Make sure you include items that can be cooked in advance as freezer meals. So for example I have lots of minced beef which I will turn into chilli con carne, and freeze in single-person portions, as I know we will need ready meals in the run up to the move.

4. Cook eat and be merry. Now there is a clear meal plan there is of course no excuse not to empty the freezer!

So there you have it! The same could be applied to a really full larder/pantry. I don't have that problem, well except possibly for baking ingredients - but that would require a lot of cake in the next two months!

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com

Monday, 21 January 2013

Moving house guide: the simpler way to pack

So it has been at least 10 days since I have shared anything house-move related with you, mainly because with my bout of illness things have stood still here for a while. Please accept my apologies, but keep reading if you don't fall asleep too soon.

Packing. Yup, there it is. The main source of trauma for any house-movers. How on-earth do you pack up your entire life into itty little boxes and remain sane? You are expected to cram your belongings, your loves, your memories, and everything you need to function, into boxes, perfectly and to a schedule! Then you trust someone (possibly yourself and a few willing friends), to cart this to a new location, whereupon you need to find each beloved item a new home.

And we are supposed to be calm about this?

Well one approach, that if I had more money I might consider, is the service some removal companies now offer of packing for you. Yes it really is that traumatic. OK. I wouldn't, even if I had the money. But only because I don't want some freaky people going through all my stuff! And that's a lot of stuff.

Having moved many (erm seven) times in 10 years you would think I would find this simple. It never is. Yes I have a system, and yes it gets better each time, but it is still stressful. I am always astonished by how much stuff I manage to fit into a small space. Honestly, when I pack up it is like I'm taking the actual walls with me I have so much stuff. OK, lets cut to the chase, its mostly junk crap stuff I don't need. Well, maybe not mostly, just a large part of it.

So round one in the packing is decrapification. I forget where I first heard this word, and I apologise if it offends anyone, but it totally gets the point. Moving house is a great time to decrapify your life. It does require a bit of extra time at the beginning, but it helps you no end, and saves time and money by the end of the move. Seriously, you will pack fewer boxes, consequently moving less stuff (and paying less for the privilege), possibly do some good by donating to charity/friends/in need at the same time, and have less stuff to find a home for at the other end. It also enables you to be clearer about where you pack the items that you are keeping as you go along, leaving you with a clearer idea of where things are.

So here are my top tips for keeping the packing simple and under control.

1. Start early. I can not emphasise this enough. You may be a last minute person, but seriously, there is so much to do in the run up to moving, that you need to start as soon as you know you are moving. If you have very little stuff, firstly congratulations because you are waaaaaay ahead of me on the decrapification front and secondly, you may be able to skip this step because presumably everything you own is used on a daily or weekly basis. Well done. Oh you have Christmas decorations - yup they can be packed now.

2. Get boxes for free. Now we enter the land of little Miss Frugal. Yup that is me, well sometimes. Like when it is convenient.

Now seriously, you DO NOT need to buy lots of expensive packing boxes. Seriously, they can charge you about £5 a box if you get them from a removal company. We reckon we will need 70 boxes for this move - that's £350!!! Even online in bulk they cost £1-£2 each. No way. When you can get them for free? Yup free. Firstly, try your work. If you work in an office, then believe me there will be regular deliveries of office supplies, printers, cartridges, paper, you name it, there will be boxes. Find out who accepts deliveries and make friends with them. If that fails, try your supermarket. Again make friends! They will be sending lots and lots of cardboard for recycling (well we hope recycling rather than landfill) everyday, and certainly won't mind getting rid of a few. You may need to be picky about the type, but 10 minutes sorting through a pack of boxes is worth the money saved surely?

3. Decrapification. You knew I'd get this in the list right? Naturally! As you pack, please please purge. I have a system when I pack. I pick a room and enter with 4 boxes (or 1 packing box and 3 other things such as washing baskets to toss things in). As I pack I purge into the 'packing box', the 'I'm so old/broken you really really need to chuck me away/burn me' bin, the 'gift me because seriously you will never ever use this' bin and the 'recycle' bin.

We are so lucky that we have a great recycling collection scheme round here that means very little needs to go into landfill, but find out if your local recycling depot takes things that you wouldn't be able to have collected for recycling. You will probably need several trips to the recycling depot in the run up to your move anyway (if you decrapify thoroughly), so just store bin bags of stuff in the garage for a day trip out! I have found I am only packing about half of the stuff I have at the moment, with the other half being chucked/donated/recycled. Fair enough I am right at the beginning and packing the things that aren't really used much, so there is likely to be more junk, but it is quite impressive. I've donated 8 boxes of stuff to charity since Christmas and the charity shop drop-off is now on my weekly schedule! The bonus of course is that I feel great about donating to charity as well as sorting through all my stuff. It is even better that they now legally have to send me a letter telling me how much money they make from my donations (ok, waste of paper, but total feel-good boost). £87 for my old junk? Seriously?

4. Label label label. I cannot emphasise this enough. Unless you are Martha Stewart, or possibly my Aunt, you will not unpack for days or weeks. OK, for me it might be months. Accept this, don't try and be the angel that will not emerge in the frenzy of a house move, and be realistic. What this does mean is when you absolutely desperately need that pitcher, that usually only comes out at Christmas, all of sudden in July, it will be on a list in a labelled box and you will know where to find it.

There are of course quite legitimate concerns with labelling every box with a comprehensive list, particularly if you are using a removal company. Now 99% of removal companies will be fabulous, and should of course be insured, but it is just a little too convenient when your box of valuables goes missing but nothing else? So, label the boxes by number only, cataloguing what is in a box somewhere else.

I use a system of coloured sticky paper (such as this), stuck on the box, colour coordinated by room and numbered. So each room gets a colour (for example blue for the kitchen), and each box for that room gets a number. I label the sticky coloured sheet with the room name and box number. I put identical stickies on the top and side of the box (so that they are easy to identify in a stack of boxes). Then on a lovely printable, I write the box number and its contents. This way I know the contents of box 10, but the removal men don't. To make life even better, when I want that pitcher in July I just look through my contents sheets and find the relevant box number, rather than reorganising all the boxes to find the relevant label, let alone opening 20 boxes to find it first!

Empty packing sheet - ready to be filled.

The key thing here is use a different colour for each room and clearly label the boxes top and side, so you can see the box colour/room/number from a distance in a stack.

Get a copy of the packing list sheet to fill in here.

5. Set yourself a target. Figure out how many boxes you think you will be packing, or perhaps rooms to pack up (we went for boxes, because we needed this for removal company quotes, and every room contains something we will need in the last few weeks/days). Divide this by the number of weeks you have until you move, and that is your target for packing per week. For example, we think we will have 70 boxes of stuff. Very approximate, but its a start. We have 11 weeks until the move date from now, but will be away for 1 week, and I want to assume that nothing useful will happen in the last week before moving (actually there will be a packing frenzy I'm sure). So I am giving myself 9 weeks for packing. That means 7 or 8 boxes per week for the next two months. That is a lot less stressful (at least for me), than 70 boxes in one week! It also means I am not bringing 70 boxes into the house in one weekend. Instead I will be picking up 10 boxes or so from work a week for the next few weeks and trying to pack all/most of them straightaway.

So there you are. That is my packing method. Sorry for all the words... but I hope it helps to keep the peace!

To summarise:
1. Start soon (NOW!).
2. Get boxes for free from work or shops.
3. Declutter as you go to minimise how much you move.
4. Label your boxes by room/number and have an associate list of contents somewhere else.
5. Set yourself a weekly target for the number of boxes to pack.

Thanks for stopping by,
Let me know what you think... leave a comment or send an email to passthecaffeine {at} gmail {dot} com