I had a meltdown this morning. A poonami related one (courtesy of my son). After he peed on me too, I just burst into tears – I know, we’ve all been there, right?

That’ll teach me to get up and put on clothes that I want to be able to go out in by lunchtime, rather than a last minute change for me before we go. Part of the frustration comes from the fact that none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit well, and losing the baby weight has been more than hard. So what can I do?

I need to have some clothes that fit me, that I like. I haven’t got the disposable income to buy really beautiful things in fabulous fabrics and in my head that would kind of ‘allow’ me to stay this size. So although the poor husband will roll his eyes, the Great British Sewing Bee makes me want to dressmake.

I’ve dug out a few stashed patterns that I’ve wanted to make for a while. I didn’t realise the Built by Wendy patterns had been discontinued. I’m put off her books because everyone says the included patterns come up really small. I’m going to experiment with them — I think the Built by Wendy shirt will need bust alterations – and use non precious stash fabric. At least that will help with decluttering right? I definitely honestly won’t go to the market and buy any more, no sir no way.

Then the other sewing project is to finally finish the boy’s quilt. All it needs it to be bound. He’s quite enamoured of our bedsize version.

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Kicking the histamine bucket

I’d never given histamine much thought, apart from popping anti- pills from about February onwards for the past six years or so. I never suffered from hayfever as a child and it was savage when it hit me, with severe sinus pain and the feeling that I needed to rip my eyes from their sockets to get any relief.

Probably about the same time, I started suffering from a dry cough. Others probably suffered more, to be honest – when it cleared up my mother revealed that she’d always known when I was about to cough during our phone conversations, and she’d pull the receiver away from her ear before the bellow came.

The cough stopped without fanfare just before our wedding and I didn’t even realise until my mum mentioned its absence. “You must not be eating dairy,” she guessed, knowing that we were on a mad panic last-minute diet. In fact I was mainlining yoghurt and cheese, along with meat on a well-known and frequently derided high-protein diet which I reluctantly thought actually suited me rather well even if I still hankered after bread and potatoes and all things magnificently carbulous.

Not long after the wedding I got pregnant and ate my way through morning sickness, mashed potato was particularly helpful. The pounds piled on too, and they weren’t just baby. When our son was a couple of weeks old, at the beginning of August the cough came back. So I was sleep deprived, hacking, and fat. Winner! By Christmas it was so bad that one night nursing the baby at 3:00am I coughed so hard I felt something pop under a rib – and it still hurts now.

The short version of what happened is GP appointments, the chest clinic at the local hospital, some interesting tests and an asthma diagnosis. That came from me performing exceptionally badly in a histamine challenge test (which sounds like a remake of an 80s television show) but I’m still not sure that they are right.

Yes, I react badly to histamine – my lung function dropped 40% at the beginning of the test, when they only wanted a 20% reaction over the course of the entire test. This, to my consultant, is consistent with asthma and there can’t be any possibility of it being food related – he was very dismissive when I asked him if there could be any link between diet and the cough. Even though long-term symptoms disappeared during a restricted diet and returned with a vengeance when I was eating everything.

So I decided to do a little research. I explained the story to a friend who’s a naturopath if she could think of anything that I might be allergic to, or any other reason for the coughing. She asked me if anyone had discussed histamine-rich foods with me. Um, no.

When you look into it there are a lot of slightly conflicting lists of what you can eat if you’re sensitive to histamine. The theory is that your histamine levels are like a bucket – once it’s full you’ll get symptoms (cough, bloating, sneezing etc) but you can empty the bucket a little by managing what you eat, taking Vitamin C which is a natural antihistamine, and drinking lots of water. I took this lightly as I’ve always been a bit of a an intolerance denier (if you swell up like a pumpkin with anaphylaxis fair enough, but some people are just fussy eaters) but decided to try an exclusion diet in line with the histamine-sensitivity principles. Here’s the things I’m supposed to avoid (from Allergy UK).

  • “Champagne ,wine, beer, cider and other fermented drinks and spirits
  • Sauerkraut and other pickled foods
  • Vinegar and foods containing it such as dressings, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard
  • Tofu and soya sauce
  • Parmesan cheese and other cheeses
  • Sausages and other processed meats (ham, salami, gammon, bacon)
  • Mushrooms and quorn
  • Tinned and smoked fish (tuna, salmon, herring) and crustaceans
  • Prepared salads
  • Tinned vegetables
  • Dried fruit, seeds, nuts
  • Yeast extract, yeast
  • Chocolate, cocoa, cola

Certain foods (even food that is low in histamine) can stimulate the release of histamine from mast cells in your body (a type of immune cell). These foods include:

  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes,
  • Strawberries
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Egg white
  • Chocolate
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Aubergines
  • Avocado
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Mango
  • Raspberry
  • Tangerines
  • Grapefruits
  • Red prunes
  • Pea
  • Spices”

Yeah, I particularly like “spices” thrown in there at the end. It cuts out so many condiments and any source of umami seems to be completely verboten.

However, the cough is gone.

Except when I eat things from that list.

I’ve already sussed that peppers and potatoes hate me, wheat isn’t great and chocolate and white wine are no-nos. So if I’ve declined an invitation to dine, or try various food products, this is probably why. I’m also taking anti-histamine now just to try to help. And I’ll be looking for new recipe ideas and trying to post food ideas here too.

It should almost go without saying, but all resource suggestions gratefully accepted!

On the needles again

Hands up who’s absolutely sick to shit of this weather? Every time I walk down stairs, I shudder when I feel the temperature plummet (long story about peculiar ventilation in the kitchen and the need to keep interconnecting doors open to the back door or mutilate all of them with catflaps) and I end up dressing the child in fifteen layers to which he violently objects.

So in the ‘making lemonade from lemons’ tradition, at least we can continue to bundle up and eat cake. Well I can’t as I’m on a rubbish exclusion diet, but this is was the Easter cake that the rest of the family demolished last week. Scrapiana’s carrot cake (Easter = bunny = carrots) slathered in cinnamon cream cheese icing. Husband was off work last week which meant I had time to do things like temper chocolate and make tiny chocolate eggs and chickens) It was so good to actually bake something, now that we have a fully functioning oven again.

We also made the most ridiculously tasty and trashy cheesy Easter Bunnies, using a recipe from the brilliant Smitten Kitchen book. Hers were more dignified diamond shapes. I think bunnies win.

Bundling up also involves toasty feet. I’m bloody gutted that pretty much every single sock I’ve ever knitted has now found its way into the washing machine and felted. So I finally cast on a pair of socks in my favourite ever sock wool, Misti Alpaca.

I may have something to show for it in about 2015 at this rate.

Thank you Lakeland for the moulds, from last year’s catalogue

The Great British Sewing Bee

I’ve had it on Series Link since I first heard about it. The Great British Bake off had me stuck to the tv from the first episode (big kisses to my exceptionally talented friend Edd) and I had a feeling that the Great British Sew Off would be the same. I wasn’t disappointed!

I’m a longtime fan of Tilly Walnes’ blog Tilly and The Buttons and thought her Tana Lawn pockets in her a-line skirt were super cute. If you want to learn to sew, her photo tutorials are fabulous. She hasn’t been sewing as long as Ann, the contestant with 75 years of experience (!) but you can see from her blog she knows her stuff. So it’s interesting to see the pressure that the show’s time limits exerts.

Only one contestant, Sandra, got a lining done for the skirt and I imagine her grace in the firing line comes from having three daughters standing over her going ‘Is it done yet Mum?’ on repeat. I found myself picking up tips from May Martin, one of the show’s judges along with the fabulously dapper Patrick Grant. We love a neat pocket square in this house. The lovely soft light cotton that Sandra chose had to have a lining because its inclination is to fall in toward the body so that won’t maintain the shape of the a-line they’d been directed to make. Doh.

Scottish Lauren with the fabulous lilting accent is half of the duo behind this rather marvellous looking bricks-and-mortar and online store, Guthrie and Ghani. Anywhere that stocks Denyse Schmidt’s Flea Market Fancy gets my seal of approval. Mark the HGV mechanic totally pulled off the surprise of the evening with his perfectly fitted two-tone dress, with his perfectly fitted fourth-ever zip. Git. Although wouldn’t he have practised that dress at home?

All the contestants seem charming and supportive of each other. Having followed the Bake Off, which is made by the same production company, I have a feeling that everything could change next week as they’re tricksy with editing and playing with who they focus on, to keep you guessing as to who wins. Here’s more about the participants. I’m not going to lay any bets just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if Patrick has a great week next week, and what will happen to Jane? Either way I know I’ll be glued to it. I may also have to dig out my sewing machine…

What are your favourite patterns for beginners and rusty crafters like me?

PS my one bugbear – can we please encourage the use of “sewist” rather than the other word they’ve been using for the contestants? While it sounds fine when spoken, nobody wants to be described in print as a home sewer, honestly now.