Life with Gilbert

Posted June 18th, 2014 by Penny Wise

My first anniversary as a solo homeowner is coming up soon, I can hardly believe it! More's to the point, I can hardly believe I've MADE it with everything that's happened over the past year but by some miracle I have and a huge part of that has been thanks to my SS skills. I can hardly believe how little I spend on food these days, maybe once every six weeks or so I might have to go and do a decent food shop but on the whole I get through most weeks on between $40 and $60. Which I don't think is bad at all considering I'm feeding two hulking great larrikins as well as myself! The funny thing is, I don't think we have even eaten better either! As well as a filling nutritious meal, the boys also enjoy home made dessert each night, which we've never really done before and the baking tins are always full.

I have to admit, I'm a bit of a hermit these days. If someone had told me a couple of years ago that at the tender age of 41 my favourite way to spend an evening was sat in front of the fire watching Food TV I would have fallen over laughing. I don't really get it myself to be honest! With two largely independent teenagers and a circle of friends who love going out dancing and partying, you would think I would be itching to kick up my heels along with the best of them. Not so however, quite the opposite! I very rarely go out; in fact I don't even like going out; I would rather stay at home warm and toasty with my boys in my beloved Nawtypoo. I've lost count of the invites I've turned down in favour of spending the evening at home making double fudge chocolate brownies or some other homely delight. Besides, what's the point of going out when I'm yawning my head off by 9.30!

I do consider myself to be extremely boring - but the thing is, I'm happy! My life is very simple and I like it that way. And, independent as my boys may be, I know that they love having their mum at home, especially when she spends so much time making yummy food for them! I love the fact that every time they walk in the door the fire is lit and they are greeted by the smell of home cooking. I never imagined that cooking would keep me sane but it really does! It empowers me, makes me feel valuable, that I'm doing a good job. Good grief Penny, what a nana you sound! You'll be walking around with a hair net soon! Still, boring or not, my lifestyle has had some big changes over the past couple of months. Long-time readers of my blog may remember long periods of ill health over the years. I've been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, glandular fever, you name it, someone's clutched a straw at it and while I never felt in my heart that the medics had it quite right, it was nice to be able to at least put a name to the rubbish way I felt so I went along with it.

Over the past three or four months however I began to feel as though something once again wasn't quite right. I had no energy; it was a struggle every day to force myself out of bed. After suffering from insomnia for years, I had gone to the other extreme and could sleep for 13 hours straight and still feel I needed much more. I began to get nasty, burning abdominal pains most nights and extreme debilitating nausea during the day - but most frightening of all was my intolerance to alcohol. After a misspent youth, alcohol consumption was something I was always very conscious of and I tried hard to limit what I had and how often but the past six months had been ridiculous. My friends had long teased me for being a lightweight but gradually I had become worse and they would watch absolutely flabbergasted as just one glass of wine would cause extreme memory loss and if I had two, I literally couldn't stand up. I became very worried that something was dreadfully wrong and after the last episode, which saw me unable to get out of bed for two days following two glasses of wine, I went to the doctor in fear and trepidation. This was a different doctor to the one I usually saw but I didn't care who it was, I just wanted to know what was wrong with me!

First she weighed me and was surprised to see that since moving to Whangamata in 2010 I had lost 32kg - particularly as I had stopped running in 2011! I was surprised too, I knew I had lost around 20kg but I didn't realise it had been THAT much! Then she listened carefully to everything I had to say and when I had finished she asked 'Have you heard of Gilbert's Syndrome?' I most certainly hadn't, so she sat me in front of her computer and brought up some information. 'It's a genetic liver disorder. I think this is you', she smiled. I stared at the symptoms on the screen in amazement. This WAS me - this was absolutely me. For the first time since I fell ill back in 2008, I felt that someone had finally hit the nail on the head. I was delighted! 'I've never known anyone be happy about having a liver disorder before!' the doctor laughed. She immediately referred me for tests and over the next two days I had 13 different blood tests but we already knew she had the answer and the results confirmed it. What do you know - turned out my year-round 'golden tan' wasn't due to living at the beach but jaundice! I spent a few more nervous days waiting for nastier complications such as hepatitis and cirrhosis to be ruled out, then got on with living my new life with Gilbert.

My diagnosis was 51 days ago and I haven't touched a drop of alcohol since. I never will either because I know I just can't and I never, ever want to feel that way again. I have also cut out a lot of carbs from my diet, as well as red meat and fried foods and have come to recognise many of the triggers that make me feel bad or lack energy - it can be something as simple as a potato but it is nice to finally know what is going on with my body and make changes accordingly. I am very lucky compared to a lot of Gilbert's sufferers and I am extremely grateful for my health. I guess this has contributed somewhat to my hermit behaviour; not because I have the condition but because I am so glad that I found it and it has made me so thankful for everything I have, in particular the simple things but most of all my children. Now I no longer go out or spend my evenings in front of the TV with a glass of wine, I bake! Every afternoon or evening you'll see me poring through recipe books or scouring the Internet for something yummy to make. Nine times out of ten I end up making something from the Forum, such as Peach Cobbler or Marshmallow Chocolate Muffins. Whereas I used to be someone who tended to stick to the same old recipes, I'm no longer scared to try new things. I think a lot of people are scared to try new things for fear of failure, that it might go wrong or turn out yuk and I used to be like that but no more, now I'll give anything a go if it sounds nice and I have it in the cupboard!

Another great thing about my love and passion for cooking is that when there is baking in the house, the boys are never hungry and they never complain 'there's no food!' I remember Fiona saying this several times over the years and she's absolutely right. It seems a funny thing to say but life really is so much easier and less stressful when the tins are full! I can't believe I used to think that baking was so time consuming and awful when it only takes me 20 minutes to make enough lunchbox and after school goodies for a whole week. This hermit would much rather spend 20 minutes in the comfort of my own kitchen than brave the supermarket!

So seeing as I'm all domesticated and confident-like, I have decided it's time for a new culinary challenge. I looked out of the window the other day and all of a sudden a multitude of oranges, lemons and mandarins had appeared on the trees in the garden. Seriously, how lucky am I to have all this free stuff? I gave a ton away last year but this year I thought I should really make the effort to do something more with them myself as well. I wanted to make lemon honey and marmalade but I hadn't done any preserving since the kids were babies and had given away all my jars and seals and what-not. That was an expensive enough outlay the first time round, I didn't want to fork out for those again! Then to my delight I saw a lady on our local Facebook Buy, Sell and Swap page giving away a whole box of jars and seals for free! I went and picked them up and promised the kind lady a full jar or two in return, she was very happy with that! So now I have no excuse not to make marmalade. I can't wait to get stuck in and see how it goes! There's only one small problem - no one in our house likes marmalade!

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