Mrs Williams

The other side of the coin

So if yesterday’s post was ‘the bad’ of trying to go eco, im trying to decide if today’s should be ‘the good’ or ‘the ugly.’ Yes ladies and gentlemen, what follows is a post about my bowels, so if you’re squeamish, look away now!!

About 4 years ago, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Having been told for a couple of years, like just about every young woman in London (which is where I was at the time) that I had IBS, a particularly grim experience, involving cameras where they definitely shouldnt be, confirmed that I in fact had Crohn’s.

I’ve been incredibly lucky because, in that four years since diagnosis I’ve generally been very well and only had to go into hospital a couple of times and neither time for very long. I have a couple of friends who are just SO ill with this condition, and I know that my experience of it has been very fortunate. However, it has had some grim moments, and some moments of serious embarassment…no-one wants to talk about an inflammatory bowel condition in the early days of a new relationship for example! One of the things I struggled with most was that my immune system seemed to be absolutely bashed to hell by it. I wasnt sure the two were related, but my GP and consultant assured me that this was just one of the side effects I would have to live with, probably due to my gut not absorbing as many nutrients as it should, I just got ill ALL the time. Not always tummy stuff, although that was prevalent, but every cough, cold, throat infection, ear infection, infected insect bite, conjunctivitis, labyrinthitis…you name it, I seemed to pick it up. And I’m actually relatively hard with a pretty high pain threshold, but I just kept getting wiped out and feeling like proper crap.

However, this week, I had a consultants appointment where, because I’ve been doing so well lately, they as good as discharged me!! I have to stay in a ‘virtual clinic’ and once a year I’ll have to go for a blood test and do an online questionnaire to check up on me, but aside from that, or if I get really poorly, they dont want to see me again! I am just so chuffed and feel very lucky, as I mentioned before, I know lots of people arent ever that lucky!!

I am, however, convinced that my recent lifestyle choices have a massive part to play in this success. Since November Matt and i have moved to eating almost solely organic food, and I have seen a big difference both in the way my gut reacts to the food I put into it, AND in my general health. I am a real foody, I love food, but the problem is, i love ALL food. Im as happy with a greasy kebab off a stand in a b&q carpark as I am with dinner in a swanky restaurant. I love salads, but I also love cake. Call it edible and i’m happy to give it a go. When first diagnosed with Crohn’s, I did try to cut out foods that made me ill, particularly red meat or really fatty food, but still seemed to have trouble. However, beginning to think about the impact food has on the environment has made me really think about what I buy and what I eat, and in the last 5 months, I’ve eaten far higher quality meat and vegetables, and have noticed a real difference. It also tastes about a million times better, which makes it a winner for me!!

As well as this, I started taking a couple of supplements. I now take evening primrose oil to keep all my girly bits ticking along nicely, and fish oil and a hideous supplement called Spirulina. Spirulina is a pure, natural wholefood with just MASSES of nutrients (check this out). Having read rave reviews of it, I popped to holland and barrett and bought it in its powdered form, rushed home, diluted it and…ARGH!! Genuinely the most hideous tasting thing I’ve ever experienced. Imagine drinking rotting spinach leaves, thats the best comparison I can make! I tried a couple of times and just couldnt drink even half a glass without gagging. BUT then I discovered the tablets! Still pretty grim tasting, but much easier to swallow and just as good for me! So now I whack 3 of these bad boys down my gullet every morning.

I really believe that taking time to think about what I’m putting into my body is the key difference to my health, and I am absolutely convinced by organic food. It does cost us a little more, and some weeks i’m tempted back to the bargains of the supermarkets, 3 packets of meat for £10 etc, but each time i’ve really noticed the difference in taste, and even in size…lots of supermarket meat disappears when you cook it cos its full of water!! The consultant gatrointestinal person I saw this week agreed that making these kind of choices was wise, and that because my Crohn’s disease is so mild and the damage done to my gut is minimal, it’s worked really well. We were both very pleased to have no plans to see each other again!!!

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The Truth

I feel like if I’m going to be honest about my eco-journey, I have to share the bad as well as the good in the experience.

This week I am experiencing the bad!!

I need to explain at this point that I have the most awful hair. I know all women everywhere think theirs is the worst, but they’re wrong, mine is! Seriously, it’s SO fine, like actual baby hair, with crazy amounts of static if you even touch it. I have NEVER, even as a child, been able to have long hair because its so fine it just looks straggly and horrible if it gets past my chin!! Its also a horrible mousy brown colour, or at least I think it is because I havent seen my natural hair colour since I was 14! Basically, my hair in its natural unbleached, washed with normal people shampoo state is not a pretty sight!

So I’ve been having it highlighted for years, and then, as soon as I had a saturday job, I started using salon shampoos and styling products to try and give my hair some oomph. Spending £16 on a bottle of shampoo barely raises an eyebrow now, and I’d settled pretty happily on Redkens ‘Body Full’ shampoo used in conjunction with Bed Heads ‘Small talk’ pre-blowdry.

I read the ‘gorgeously green’ book back in November, but as I’d stockpiled products, it’s taken until now for me to be due for new shampoo and new styling product. As I’m used to paying through the nose, price wasnt a massive issue, I just wanted to still be able to have normal looking hair and to stop washing toxic chemicals down the plughole. So, with some birthday amazon vouchers, I invested in these two.

I was promised such good things

But it is NOT going well. The shampoo is just awful, and I’m so sad because I had high hopes. The reviews I saw were excellent, but having looked a bit deeper it seems that anyone who has bleached hair has actually had trouble with this shampoo. It has completely dried my hair out, it’s just like straw!! I’ve used conditioner with it a couple of times, and that makes it a little better BUT conditioner weighs my hair down so I really dont like using it every time I wash. And the thickening stuff is no better, it DOES smell lush but my hair is staticky and unmanageable. I think MAYBE with a decent shampoo i could manage the ‘freak of nature’ thickener, but the combo is awful. Serious bag-on-the-head stuff.

Now Lucy is currently embroiled in a no-poo experiment whereby she’s not washing her hair. I KNOW!!! This has my ultimate respect, and one day, maybe…but I’m not there yet. I am however sold on trying to be eco-friendly, so I’d REALLY like to find a decent shampoo. Despite being used to paying for it, I cant KEEP buying shampoo every week!! Has anyone used anything that works well? Even just a range that is good might have a good volumising shampoo! Alternatively, who’s up for shaving their heads with me?!

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What Love looks like: A family that prays together, stays together

I just watched this very cute video from this years Britain’s Got Talent and had me a little cry because I love these videos, the ones where what you think of someone to look at them is way off the mark, the ones that remind us that there is so much more to someone than first impressions, and the ones where people refuse to ditch their partners because Simon Cowell says they should!!

However, having not written one of these posts for a while, this video is also of the couple singing the music I walked down the aisle to. I suspect it’s been used for that purpose a lot, and was perhaps even viewed as cheesy by some, but for me it was so important to make those first steps into our marriage remembering that we cant do it without the support and guidance of God.

In the past weeks, we have faced new situations that have moved us to prayer, both as a couple, and with some of our friends, and with some of our family, including one very special prayer time in the corner of our kitchen with my little brother.  I think we are more aware than ever of the need we have for a God who knows better than we do and that unless we keep offering ourselves back both individually and as a couple, we will mess up.

Matt and I dont find praying together to be the easiest thing in the world, talking out loud in a room with your eyes closed is foreign and a little embarassing at times, but we are working hard to find ways of doing this that work for us. One thing we have found really useful is to say ‘God, we’re gonna pray now, listen up’ (in an entirely respectful manner!!) and then just talk, talk about people we love and people we’re worried about. Talk about the things we hope will happen for those people and how hard we find it to be powerless to help them sometimes. We dont start with ‘dear Lord Jesus’ or end with ‘Amen’ but we just chat together through the things we care about, offering those conversations to God. We also pray for each other separately. Matt knows that I thank God for him daily, and that I talk to God about my hopes, fears and concerns in our marriage. Praying for Matt helps me to love him more, I think!

So, for today I just pray again:

I pray you’ll be our eyes

and watch us where we go

and help us to be wise

in times when we don’t know.

Let this be our prayer

when we lose our way

‘Lead us to a place

Guide us with your grace

To a place where we’ll be safe’

I pray we’ll find your light

and hold it in our hearts

when stars go out each night

remind us where you are.

Let this be our prayer

when shadows fill our day

‘Lead us to a place

Guide us with your grace

Give us faith so we’ll be safe’

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A wonderful birthday weekend

As I have now jumped in, both feet, to my second quarter-century, Matt and I went away this weekend with some friends of ours to Herefordshire. I love a good mini-break and this one way a mega treat as we got a gorgeous little cottage complete with HOT TUB, for £150 for the weekend. Less than £20 per person per night and it was wonderlicious. Seriously gorgeous quaint little place, under floor heating (I’m put off cottages by the idea that they’re cold) and in the proper middle of nowhere. I love to be a bumpkin once in a while, and this was a perfect opportunity.

Mostly the weekend was spent reading, hot-tubbing (did I mention there was a hot tub?!) and eating. Despite two of us trying very hard on slimming world, we managed some yummy meals and generally chilled. We even managed breakfast with our books outside on Sat

However, Saturday afternoon was what I had really been waiting for…we made a visit to one of my favourite places in the world. The VERY lovely village of Hay-on-Wye. Now, I dont know if everyone in the world already knows about this place and has just been hiding it from me, but I have only known about it since I started dating Matt. Hay-on-Wye is a beautiful little town on the Welsh border which specialises in second hand books…no, really…the whole village is basically devoted to preloved books. This tiny little place has thirty second-hand bookshops, as well as a plethora of other cutesy little places, AND because the books are second hand I was allowed to buy in them during lent (I had read the rules PRETTY carefully, but decided it was allowed.)

Here’s Matt and I in a little random outdoor bookshop, and to be clear yes he IS wearing shorts and flip flops and yes I am wearing a coat with a furry hood, and thick tights. Thats how we roll!

Now I could spend days in this village I think, hour upon hour of picking out romance novels, or running my fingers down the spines of some ancient classic. But with only a couple of hours to look around the whole town, we all had a good rummage through the shelves looking for the very best books, with the extra joy of hearing the yells of some somewhat inebriated welsh rugby fans echoing around as we shopped. Being around books just makes me happy, and being around recycled and reused books makes me even happier. Managed to control my spending to a reasonable level, my main purchase being this beauty

I am super excited about learning thrifty and ingenious ways to make my life much easier! Reader’s Digest def know everything and are going to teach some of it to me.

Yesterday was mostly spent in the geekmobile (yep, we just love a road trip in that thing), which was not the most comfy with 4 adults in it, but we managed to get one of the four of us to see his Mum on mothers day, which seemed appropriate. It was wonderful to get home to my own bed, although now the dissertation is seriously looming over me and I do have to get stuck in. But if this weekend is what being 26 is going to be like, I think I’m pretty happy with that

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Ridiculous things

So I’m not managing many interesting or thought-provoking blogs lately as I am in the final month of my degree and, frankly, there is nothing I want to do less than MORE writing when I put the essays down for the day


This needed noting

Today, I sent Matt off to the supermarket because we’re going away this weekend and needed a few bits, and I was already going to meet with my lovely friend Louise for coffee. Sadly since moving we’re struggling for a supermarket alternative and are caught in the iron grip of Sainsburys, bleurgh!

Anyway, I needed a new razor as I always use them for longer than is appropriate, and keep them in the shower until they’re so blunt and rusty that they cut me and leave me in very real danger of blood poisoning (feel free to judge, even I judge me). So I popped it on the shopping list, and my husband being the new man he is set off to get my organic lasagne sheets and new razors.

I was NOT prepared for what he came back with…

My razors have a floral scented handle


I mean seriously, is that a joke? I’m sure its hard to be the person who has to come up with an angle to make bic razors better than any other. I get that a razor is a razor and that it must be hard to be the cutting edge product (pun intended)…but scented handles?! Am I missing something here? WHY?

So, feel free to comment and tell me the most ridiculous thing you have found in a supermarket…the most useless or absurd. Or comment if you can come up with a valid reason why I might need a razor with a scented handle!!


PS…This is how much of a new man he is, he’s trying to work out what flavour this one is

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Quote of the Weekend

Cool Uncle Matt: So Owen, who do you think would win in a fight between a shark and a dinosaur?

Nephew Owen (Aged 5): Me

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Thrifty Thursday takes a break

So somehow in the last few weeks I’ve become part of a little corner of the tweetiverse with some excellent ladies who are all about being thrifty, crafty, creative and sensationally savvy, and in between their other things, they too do ‘Thrifty Thursday’ blogs, often much better than mine. However, last night the very lovely Lucy suggested that as today is International Women’s Day, we put our thrift on hold and write something related to this.

Now Lucy’s blog is much better than mine, go and have a look at it, now…go on! However, right before she tweeted last night, I’d been having some thoughts about women that I thought I would briefly blog for you today. I’d been texting a friend of mine who was feeling a bit crappy about herself, and had ended up having a conversation with Matt about the age old question…


I think it drives him bonkers, I am basically seriously green with envy at some trait of pretty much every friend of mine. I have two super close girl friends, and a relatively large wider circle of gorgeous girls in my life too, and every one of them I look at and compare myself and find myself lacking in some way. I said to Matt that I think it’s because advertisers play on it. They show us a woman, and ask us to say ‘what has she got that I dont?’ so that they can tell us how we can get whatever it is she has (The answer usually being to spend crap loads of money on something useless!). So it’s wired into our brains to constantly compare ourselves to other women, to see what they have that we dont.

I suspect some of it is natural, and maybe we would do some of it if it wasnt for advertising. But basically I blame them. I blame them for making me think that if I’m bigger than a size 8, I’m fat. I blame them for showing me women who ARE size 8 eating food that would NOT let them stay a size 8 and confusing my brain. I blame them for suggesting that my clothes aren’t expensive enough, my skins not tanned enough, my boobs arent big enough and my shoes arent high enough. I blame them for making me want want want, when I already have SO much. I blame them for making my friends feel crappy about themselves, and when I see my friends comparing themselves to me and others. I blame them for telling young people that they should be having meaningless sex with as many people as possible and that if they’re not, they’re weird. I blame them for saying that if you cant afford something you should borrow money, at whatever cost, so that you can have it NOW.

It makes me very angry actually. I have been angry about it for a number of years, I went to an all girls high school, and it was around then that I started to notice the ways that marketing was affecting us all. I watched friends battle eating disorders and become promiscuous and I got angrier. I try now to avoid it where possible. I dont buy magazines because they mess with my head. I try to fastforward through adverts where possible, and I go out of my way to avoid going to the shops so that I dont end up wanting (too much!) I saw this last week and I just think it is fabulous

Having been brought up in church, and thankfully by an awesome, beautiful woman of God who is pretty tight with Jesus and who showed me what God can do through his women, I am so aware that God wants more for us than what we are sold. The bible says that a virtuous woman is worth more than rubies (Proverbs 31:10), Jesus spoke with women and taught women despite the societal views of them. So the bible values women, Jesus valued women, but most importantly, the bible has this whole different view of beauty. “Your beauty . . . should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit . . . “- 1 Peter 1:3,4 (NIV). We sing a kids song in church that says “Man looks on the outside, God looks on the heart.”

Flippin heck, if only the media got us thinking about the beauty in our hearts, if only when I got together with my girlfriends we spent as much time talking about how to develop a gentle and quiet spirit as we do talking about clothes, hair, diets, exercise, make up, spots, blah, blah, blah!

So for International Women’s Day, Im going to spend some time thinking about how I can better become a woman of God, how I can develop that virtue that is worth more than rubies, and I’m going to try very hard not to compare myself to the other beautiful women in my life, but to value and treasure them.

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Thrifty Thursday is Back!!

I’ve been falling behind in my thriftiness, and in blogging it! In the last week I’ve spent more money than I have in any other week of my life excluding my wedding week…and we’re only renting our new house so it seems a little crazy! Plus our house, whilst being gorgeous and local to our church and a real ‘home’ for Matt and I, its a new build (I know, I know, gasp and sigh, from this lady especially I reckon), so lots of my dreams of thriftily re-inventing my kitchen or making beautiful vintagey artwork is going to be out of place here…sad times.

I also think it’s easy to believe that the thrifty things we do are just normal, and that everyone does them so they’re not mention worthy…However, lately I’ve been realising just how differently everyone manages things (This mornings discovery that Mel manages to buy food for 3 for £30 a week when my shopping bill is never less than £50 for example…) so I thought I’d get on my high horse about…FREEZER FOOD!!

Now, as previously mentioned, I have friends who manage their shopping a LOT more cheaply than I do, and I am jealous of that ability, however we also have friends who spend a shed load more than us, and from what I can see their food isnt as yummy or healthy as what we eat. I am married to a committed carnivore, which never does make for cheap meals and I happen to be a food fanatic, and love planning, making and eating great food…so we find ourselves in an expensive trap! However, I am a recent convert to the joys of making and freezing. I know some people have questions about food once it’s been frozen, but for us its just such a good way to have good food regularly.

So on Saturdays I make me up a big batch of soup which i whack in the freezer in 10 portions and Matt and I take them to work for lunch…come to think of it, making your own lunch instead of buying it is a whole thrifty blog of its own, because when I started dating Matt he was genuinely spending £20-£30 a week on lunches from the shopping mall next to where he worked, and now it costs about a fiver a week for the two of us! Two of my favourite filling lunch recipes are here


Chicken Noodle

Then, throughout the week, unless its a real basic meal like pasta, I make enough for 4 people. I have a massive Le Creuset dish which is ideal for whipping up mammoth lasagnes or moussakas, and my slow cooker is in regular use for excellent stews. Then, once we’ve had our fill, the rest gets put in the freezer. Provided I can dissuade Matthew from pinching all the meaty bits into his original portion, we then have another meal for another evening in the week. In fact, Friday night is usually Freezer Food night. Which is ideal as I’m usually too knackered to manage cooking much more than toast on a Friday.

I do find that frozen/reheated food doesnt QUITE taste as good as the original stuff, but basically it’s pretty great, and adding a drop of water during the reheat works wonders at restoring stuff to its former glory. As does adding a bit of grated cheese…cheese improves most things. I also work increasingly to avoid microwaving where possible, I reheat soup on a hob whenever I can and will pop other stuff in the oven for a bit as I just find anything thats been in a microwave tastes a leetle bit like aeroplane food. The main thing is that, as with everything, the bigger the quantity of anything you buy, the less you pay for it. You know how mince beef is £3.99 for 500g and £6 for a kilo in Tesco? So the more you buy, the cheaper it works out. (Just to be clear, I dont and wont shop at Tesco!!)

So, invest in some decent tupperware and get going!! Here are a couple of favourite freezable recipes to start you off

Mellow Meatballs

Delia’s Moussaka

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Lent 2012

I havent blogged for a while, because we’ve been busily moving house, which I will write more about soon…however before shrove Tuesday is properly over for another year, I wanted to quickly write about lent this year and my plans. I usually try to take lent pretty seriously, as is the Christian way, however for lots of reasons this year feels more significant. I feel like God is doing something, something is stirring under the surface in a number of areas of my life, and I feel like the next 40 days are going to be significant.

So, this year I am committing to the following.

1) No chocolate/biscuits/cakes. I usually do this, mainly because I need to lose weight, which isnt an ideal reason but I’m going with it again. I also hope that it will just raise my consciousness about lent and keep it in the front of my mind.

2) No shopping…this is a tough one. Lately I’ve faced a number of challenges about my consumerism. I am challenged not only about what I spend but also about why I feel I need to spend it. Now, obviously I need to buy food/petrol/deodorant (for everyones sake), so its not a blanket ban. However, I am going to aim not to buy clothes, shoes, jewellery, makeup or any other luxury items. There are 3 exceptions 1) I have to buy some shoes for my friend Carla’s wedding.  I am the matron of honour! The wedding is 3rd May so I might not end up buying during lent, however, Carla’s requirements for the shoes are pretty specific so if I find some that fit the bill I will have to get them. 2) gifts for other people, but obviously only for birthdays etc and 3) charity shops. I hope this lent period can help me to realise that I can utilise charity shops as a way of opting out of the supply/demand system and thinking about what I need as opposed to what I want. My birthday falls in the middle of lent, so Im hoping for no vouchers as they really burn a hole in my pocket!!

3) Getting back on the bible reading thing! Matt and I wanted to read the bible in a year this year, but have got a bit behind with the house move, so Im hoping we can get that back on track as its really important to us both. We are also going to add some more structured prayer into that as we have a lot of things and people we want to see change happen for and we believe that prayer makes a difference

4) ok, so then I wanted to think of something to take on on my own as I really believe that lent should be as much about taking up as about giving up. However, I suspect that any taking up would have an ulterior motive as I have a crap load of work I should be doing in the next 40 days, and I believe wholeheartedly that the degree I’m doing is something I was called to, and so it is actually a spiritual responsibility to get it done and get it done well. Therefore, I am making a public pledge here (and I havent told anyone this yet) that I am going to work my little tush off for the next 40 days, and that my placement, assignments and dissertation will ALL be finished by Easter. That is a couple of weeks ahead of deadlines, but it will give me a focus and a goal and then might give me a couple of weeks extra of job hunting and life sorting post-degree. That is 40 days to write 18000 words with NO CHOCOLATE AND NO CAKE!!! I suspect this lent may be the toughest one yet!

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Thrifty Thursday: Food Co-Ops

So, this week I’ve been feeling a little unqualified for Thrifty Thursdays…not sure I’m doing enough thats thrifty.

However, one thing that I do pride myself on is cooking and baking most of our food from scratch. I dont think I realised that that is actually pretty rare, but I basically dont use ready made foods, and dont even use many (I’d love to say any, but i’d be lying) packet mixes or jars of sauce.

We’re moving house next week, and will be just a bit too far to keep shopping at the farm shop we usually go to, so I’ve been looking around for alternatives…and that is how I discovered food co-operatives. The concept being that if people get together, and then buy in bulk, they can get lower prices direct from suppliers. For people who want to buy organic foods, this is a good way to be able to do it in a…wait for it…yep THRIFTY manner!! These co-ops are run by the community for the community and operate on a not-for-profit basis

This website contains a list of local cooperatives, including a few in our fair Southampton. Im not sure there is anything here that orders as regularly as we might need for lots of things, but bulk items and baking stuffs might well be doable. If not, we may have to look at starting our own.

Im so convinced by the concept of organic food, but Im also assured in my hatred of supermarkets. Selfishly I think this would be an excellent way for me to keep my tummy, pocket and conscience happy. But I also think there is something beautiful about people taking control of their food needs and know a little more about where their food comes from, and what a great community activity, getting together to box up your orders, or to split a massive bag of rice amongst five of you. wonderful!! I’ve contacted a couple of local people to see how we can get involved in this so will keep you posted…