I will GO PINK for Cancer Research

I will GO PINK for Cancer Research

GO PINK for Cancer Research

I do some strange things while scrolling through my phone at night. My insomnia keeps me awake for hours sometimes with only my screen for company. I wake up the next day with buyer’s remorse, usually because I’ve bought shoes or clothes that never fit me, or an appliance that never gets used. But this time I woke up with a sinking feeling in my gut because I had signed up to GO PINK, and agreed to dye my hair pink for breast cancer research.

I’m pretty conservative and have never dyed my hair any shade that could be considered flamboyant or radical. As an introvert I hate to stand out in a crowd. The thought of it makes me blush so I’ll probably end up looking like a flamingo with cheeks to match my hair. I needed some courage and that came in the form of my beautiful niece Ally who LOVES to stand out in a crowd and possesses such a lively spirit that she’ll boost my confidence when I need it the most. Ally has been a wonderful support to me over the last few months. She was the person I turned to when I knew I was having my mastectomies because she’s been through breast surgeries herself. Having someone to talk to who has been through this has been a blessing.

Ally and I. She’s been a wonderful support to me over the last few months

I’m doing this challenge because it’s to fundraise for a cause that is very special to me. I have written about my genetic disorder BRCA2 which increases my risk of breast, ovarian, pancreatic and renal cancers and melanoma. I inherited it from dad who died from prostate and pancreatic cancer (both caused by BRCA2). I’m at home recovering from bilateral prophylactic mastectomies, which is a risk reducing surgery along with the removal of my ovaries which I had done in March.

The very fact that I could have risk reducing surgeries is entirely due to the discovery of BRCA2 in the mid 1990’s. Before that, entire families were devastated by breast and ovarian cancer striking again and again through multiple generations. It’s now commonplace for family members to be tested for genetic conditions when there appears to be a genetic link there. Discovering this gene mutation in 1995 was a game-changer for breast cancer research.  It allowed people like me to discover their inherited risk for cancer and do something about it.  Increased screening, prophylactic surgery and medications to reduce the risk are all possible now thanks to breast cancer research.

In my case there were few cases of breast cancer in my family so that alone prevented me from being tested ten years ago. It’s not as well known that men can have the genetic mutation too. Prostate cancer and melanoma have cropped up in our family through multiple generations, including my 24 year old son who had a melanoma. My cousin was diagnosed with BRCA2 about 10 years ago, and because of that I could be tested for free. The cost used to be extremely high but improved testing methods mean that more people can now be tested for it under Medicare. My sons and any other close relatives are also eligible for free testing.

I am passionate about research into genetic causes for cancer and other diseases. That is why I signed up to the GO PINK campaign because it raises funds for breast cancer research by the National Breast Cancer Foundation. If dying my hair pink raises awareness and funds, then I’ll do it even though I’m feeling anxious about looking weird with pink hair! The big day is this Friday and if you would like to donate to this cause via our team The Tough Titties (Ally’s idea, because people who have cancer have to be tough) the link is below.

https://fundraise.nbcf.org.au/fundraisers/thetoughtitties

https://fundraise.nbcf.org.au/fundraisers/thetoughtitties

The Simple Joy of Gardening

The Simple Joy of Gardening

How to Start a Garden from Scratch

One day’s harvest from our garden last year

There’s nothing better than eating fresh produce that you have grown yourself. Knowing that it’s been grown without the use of pesticides or other dubious additives and has only been handled by yourself adds to the pleasure of eating fruit and vegetables that haven’t been transported many kilometers or stored for months.

My husband and I usually grow our crops between Autumn and Spring because the Summers in Queensland are far too hot. Temperatures are mild here, rarely dropping to frosty levels, and there are fewer bugs around to eat everything before we do. Be sure to check locally to find out when the best time to grow is. If you’re lucky, you may live in an area where you can grow crops all year around.

This is last year’s garden in it’s prime with many of the vegetables ready to harvest.

Start with the Basics

Start With The Basics – the requirements for a healthy garden:

  • Soil that is well drained, full of nutrients and has loose texture
  • Few weeds and bugs
  • Water
  • At least a few hours of sunlight

If you live in an area without ideal conditions like us, you need to create it. That is why we use raised garden beds. Our soil is very sandy and of poor quality so we fill the raised garden bed with the following:

Cow manure – you can buy by the bag like this. You can use any manure as long as it has been mixed with soil and allowed to settle
Organic garden soil – you can buy it by the bag like this or have a truck load delivered if your garden is large enough
This compost is ready to be used. It has composted down to half the depth it was at the beginning, and there are very few large pieces of uncomposted material.

These ingredients are added to the garden bed and stirred and turned over with a garden fork.

Mixing the compost, soil and cow manure with a garden fork

My husband does all the heavy work because I suffer from arthritis in my back, but once the plants have started to produce, I can look after them.

We generally plant seedlings to save time. You can also raise seeds yourself and then plant them out when they’re mature. Instructions are on the seed package or seedling tags as to what favourable conditions to grow them in. Our beans grow from last year’s crop – we save some of the last beans to dry out then just plant the seeds straight in the ground.

We have also grown cherry tomatoes using seeds taken from the previous crop. Our pumpkins grew wild from the compost. It’s interesting to see what crops up each year from our compost!

My husband planting the seedlings. They will come with instructions on how far apart they need to be planted, and other requirements

Daily Garden Tasks

Daily watering is a must except if you have really rainy days. A daily routine would include picking out weeds and squashing bugs before they get out of hand. Remove plants that have died or gone to seed because they attract bugs and disease.

Regularly fertilise your garden. We use our own liquid fertiliser that we make from our worm farm. Read about it in this post. Alternatively choose a commercial product that uses organic ingredients only.

Pick plants as soon as they are ready to eat. Living them to die in the garden only attracts bugs and weeds to take over. You will find that fresh vegetables will keep much longer than store bought ones because they haven’t been stored and transported for weeks or months.

What if you don’t own a garden?

Two garden beds is enough for our needs. If you don’t have a backyard, you can grow most vegetables and fruit in containers. My brother lives on a houseboat and has an impressive array of vegetables and herbs in containers. Another alternative is to grow sprouts in jars. I have easy directions here.

What to Grow

Your choice of what to grow should be based on what crops grow best in your area. Your local landscape supplier or garden supplier should stock a good range of seedlings. Have a conversation with the staff – they are usually very willing to give you local know-how on what the best plants to grow are. Other than that it’s trial and error. In general, don’t grow anything that you don’t enjoy eating!

This year we are growing beans, snow peas, bok choy, baby spinach, parsley, onions, Kent pumpkin, beetroot and cos lettuce. My husband made trellises for the beans and snowpeas and you may need stakes for some of the taller plants. We also have a chilli plant and cherry tomatoes and a range of herbs.

Times vary from when you start the garden to harvest, but generally we’re eating our produce within a few weeks. One of my favourite pass-times is picking the ripe vegetables and making them into beautiful fresh meals.

Three weeks after initial planting. We have added a few more seedlings to ensure a continuous supply of our favourite vegetables

Being a patient in the midst of a pandemic

Being a patient in the midst of a pandemic

As I wrote in my previous post, I have been in and out of hospital since March, pretty much the whole time Australia has been in lockdown. Going through health issues during this time has been challenging to say the least. I was lucky to have my surgeries at all because elective surgeries were put on hold to make way for an influx of Covid-19 patients.

Getting through the door of a hospital is like running the gauntlet as you are met by staff who screen you for signs of a fever and ask questions about your recent exposure risks as you enter the building. Visitors are limited which is difficult when you’re going through surgery.

On the 13th of May I had bilateral prophylactic mastectomies because my risk of getting breast cancer was 60-80% due to having the BRCA2 gene mutation. The surgery went well. The following morning I developed severe swelling in the left breast and my Hb dropped very low due to bleeding.

post operative complication after a mastectomy
Post-operative complications: My Hb was 63 (normally 120) so I’m extremely pale. My left upper chest is swollen up to my shoulder, compared to my right shoulder where you can clearly see my clavicle. The surgeon operated again to drain 600ml of blood. Not the prettiest photo of myself but it’s true to life

I had emergency surgery to drain the haematoma but continued to bleed into the drain. I lost over 1.2 litres of blood and needed 4 units of blood transfusion. It was extremely scary to go through, and I felt like I’d made a huge mistake to have the mastectomies done.

My recovery has been slow because of this setback. I was in hospital for 6 days, waiting for my blood count to get high enough. I’ve had some really low periods during the last couple of weeks, days where I’ve been really emotional and cried many times. I guess many women undergoing mastectomies would be emotional, but my own low mood is affected by the fact that my surgeries have had complications.

I have been extremely lucky to be in the position where I can have surgery during the pandemic. If I was a public patient my operations wouldn’t have gone ahead at all. I’ve always had private insurance, but that doesn’t cover all the costs so I’m lucky I had funds set aside for emergency as I am thousands of dollars out of pocket.

In Australia, hospitals have been very quiet because of elective surgery being cancelled. This has worked in my favour because I have been able to have a nice quiet atmosphere to recover. As a nurse I am well aware of how busy hospitals usually are so it was nice to see the nurses looking relaxed and not stressed.

I received outstanding care from the nurses and doctors during my admissions to hospital. I felt very well looked after especially when I had the post-operative bleed. If the nurses hadn’t been so on-the-ball my outcome might not have been so great.

I’m now recuperating at home, which will take time because of the complications. I’m very limited in what I can do and need to rest as much as I can. I’m typing this on my mobile phone because I need to limit my arm movements. I’ve never been so reliant on other people for my needs

I have deep appreciation for my husband who has been taking very good care of me. He’s had to shower me and wash and dry my hair as well as do all the household tasks. My heart swells with gratitude for how he has cared for me and I feel more in love with him for the way he does everything for me so lovingly. He has been my rock through so many things in the past.

I have felt loved and supported by so many people in the last few months. Even though we’ve had social distancing laws and can’t always be together, I’ve had many messages of support which have uplifted me when I need it the most. Social distancing hasn’t prevented them from caring.

My boss has been incredibly supportive as well, allowing me to have time off to have these operations and medical appointments. I am really grateful to her for caring and empathising with my situation. It has made a huge impact on my morale going through all my health issues to know my job is secure.

I’m through all my surgeries now, and on the way to recovery. I’m looking forward to gaining some independence back because it’s hard relying on other people. I’m very bruised and I still have drains in. I can’t do much except rest as I’m not able to raise my arms above my shoulders or even go for a walk. I’m really looking forward to the day I can walk the dog.

This year has made me aware of what truly matters in life. It’s not possessions or expensive holidays that count. The things I value now are my health, my loved ones and my independence. I feel very loved by many people and that is the ultimate outcome of a year which has brought unprecedented change to everyone worldwide.

Beating BRCA2 – How it has Affected My Life

Beating BRCA2 – How it has Affected My Life

While the World Has been focused on the Coronavirus I’ve been beating cancer

While the World Has Been Focused on the Coronavirus, I’ve Been Beating Cancer

The World around us changed dramatically between my birthday and my best friend’s birthday three days later. We spent the weekend together with our husbands, the four of us celebrating by staying in a resort and drinking, eating and laughing together. After we went home the restrictions started suddenly so that it would no longer be possible to socialise in that way. Our last weekend together from 20-22 March is the last time we could eat out at a restaurant or cafe, drink in a hotel or even spend time together. It seems like the distant past now.

Restrictions in our State have begun to be lifted but we still can’t eat out together or cross the border to visit my family who live just an hour south. Social isolation has added another layer to my own health battles that began to unfold this year.

BRCA2 Gene Mutation and Cancer Risk

I was diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene mutation in March. You may have heard about Angelina Jolie having BRCA1 and undergoing bilateral prophylactic mastectomies and a total abdominal hysterectomy a number of years ago. BRCA2 is similar – it increases my risk for breast and ovarian cancer dramatically. It’s a case of not if I develop these cancers, but when.

I knew there was a chance of inheriting this gene about 10 years ago when I nursed my cousin who told me she has the gene. I had genetic counseling back then but it was not very obvious that the gene was on my side of the family as there wasn’t a high number of family members with cancer, especially breast and ovarian cancer. The genetic counselor thought my cousin probably inherited it from her father (no blood relation to me). So I didn’t get tested and opted for more stringent screening instead.

I’m a huge advocate for screening – I’ve been having early mammograms and ultrasounds for the last 10 years and I get my skin checked six monthly. Because I starting taking my sons for skin checks from a very young age, my son’s melanoma was picked up when it was just a stage 1 cancer. A lot of people ignore things til they’re so advanced but that’s not me. I get every little bump checked out because I’ve seen too many invasive cancers as a nurse.

My Son’s Melanoma – He was Only 24 Years Old

The last few years have produced more cases of cancer in our family – my son, brother and sister have all had melanoma and my father had prostate and pancreatic cancer. It was always in the back of my mind that I should probably get tested for BRCA2 so I went back to the genetic counselor, was tested and found to have it. I inherited it from dad – I had a 50% chance of having it and my sons then had a 50% chance of inheriting it from me. My first reaction was not for myself, but rather for my sons – “I’ve given them a death sentence”.

BRCA2 Affects Males Too

Telling them was difficult. It would have implications for when they want to start a family, and it might even be a deal-breaker for some women who wouldn’t want to have the risk of having children with a genetic disorder. They surprised me with their reaction, however. They said they’d rather know if they had the gene so that they could more more aware of screening and getting any changes in their bodies checked out early. They underwent genetic counseling and were tested and we were surprised and ecstatic to find they don’t have the genetic mutation after all (even my son who had a melanoma which is even more surprising).

Risk Reducing Surgery

My first response to finding out I have BRCA2 was to swiftly decide to have prophylactic risk-reducing surgeries. That involves removing the organs most at risk of developing cancer – ovaries (I have a 20-40% chance of getting ovarian cancer) and breasts (60-80% chance). Having nursed women with ovarian and breast cancer for most of my nursing career, I know how devastating those cancers are and I want to avoid them as much as possible.

I had the first surgery on March 30th – a laparoscopic bilateral oophrectomy (keyhole surgery to remove my ovaries). This surgery is low-risk and most people bounce back quickly, with very little complications. Then there’s me. I seem to have the worst luck when it comes to complications to procedures – I went into complete heart block after an angiogram and required CPR. One medication landed me in hospital from a severe allergy. So to have complications after this small operation, while not surprising for me, was a shock to the system all the same.

I bruised. My abdomen got extremely distended. A lot of pain and nausea. But the worst thing – I couldn’t pass urine. I ended up going home with an indwelling catheter and it unearthed a problem with my bladder that’s probably been there for a long time but wasn’t apparent until I had pelvic surgery. I had follow-up surgery to fix it last week and while there was an improvement, I’ll continue to have issues for a long time because my kidney and bladder have been damaged. All my back pain was from my kidney, not my spine after all.

This week I will undergo my biggest challenge yet – a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. I’m scared of having this operation after what I’ve been through, but I’m more scared of breast cancer. Someone said to me that I’m brave to do this – I don’t feel brave. In fact I feel just the opposite. The women who have breast cancer are brave. Imagine going through this operation as well as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and medications for life. That’s brave to me.

I feel like I’m cheating cancer by doing these surgeries, but there’s still the risk of getting a different type of cancer because of this gene mutation. BRCA2 causes pancreatic, prostate and renal cancer as well as melanoma so I’ll still have to remain vigilant. Of course I can’t get prostate cancer, but pancreatic cancer is hard to detect and my dad’s was too far advanced to have any treatment. It ravaged his body and he only lasted for 7 months after it was diagnosed. Poor bugger, it was a horrible way to die.

How the Coronavirus Has Impacted Me

So while the world’s attention has been focused on coronavirus, my attention has been on my own health issues. I’ve found it hard to cope at times because it’s restricted my ability to interact with the people who are my confidantes and support system. Talking on the phone is not the same. Even when I was in hospital I could only nominate one visitor for the whole hospital stay. My husband was sent away from the hospital and could only visit for 2 hours once a day. Going through mastectomies will be daunting without him there for my support. The thought of it upsets me a great deal. I won’t be able to have my sons and best friend visit at all.

Elective surgeries were cancelled in March but I guess I’m really lucky that I knew the surgeons personally and my first operation was pulled forward to beat the deadline before it would have been impossible. I feel a little guilty that I could get this preferential treatment but there has to be some perks for nursing alongside these doctors for the last 20-30 years.

Having to tell my brothers and nephews over the phone and Messenger that they too have a 50% chance of inheriting this really sucks. Social distancing sucks when you have to have these very full-on conversations. Worrying that I may get the coronavirus affects my health too, because I have co-morbidities that would mean I’d be one of the cases most likely to end up really sick from it. It’s been a very stressful time, and I’ll be glad when this is all over and we’re out the other side. One things for sure, the world will be a changed place when this pandemic is done.

Note to my followers: I’ll be out of action for a while due to my surgery this week. I may be able to post short updates via my mobile phone but my usual blog posts will be on hold for a few weeks. Thank you all for your support, I really appreciate it.

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series

A guest interview with Morgan Fitchett

Meet Morgan Fitchett, Vegan Life and Wellness Coach. She is the second guest for my Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series. I felt inspired just by reading her story and I hope my readers are inspired as well.

Morgan Fitchett, Vegan Life and Wellness Coach

Tell me about yourself. 

Hi, I’m Morgan Fitchett. I’m a Vegan Life & Wellness Coach. I help women adopt a vegan lifestyle with confidence. People often worry about what they are giving up or leaving behind. They can’t imagine fitting veganism into their social, home, family or work life. So I work with women to find ways to fit veganism in without losing or compromising what is important to them.  

What is your background and how does that impact what you do now?

I have a background in law, administrative and clerking work. After the birth of my son (he is now 2), I decided that I didn’t want to return to that life. 

I’ve been vegan for nearly 7 years, and I wanted to reach others and help them connect and make the swap. I started blogging as a way to reach more people. That then evolved into mentoring for Challenge 22(a free Facebook support group for those looking to transition).

I found that I wanted to be more involved and get one-on-one with people. I had considered mentoring, and through exploring that idea, I discovered coaching! 

I then dove in and took some certification programs on both life and wellness coaching. I added in a vegan nutritionist diploma program for good measure! 

Honestly, I am always learning. I am currently taking even more programs on coaching methods to further expand my knowledge and help others more effectively!  

What drives you? Where do you get your passion?

Well, veganism transformed my life in a lot of ways. It helped me take control of my health and weight and find a cause that was bigger than myself. I see a lot of people struggling in life with things a plant-based diet could help better or even eliminate. 

Plus, there are all the environmental, ethical and personal benefits to veganism. I think spreading the word and showing veganism is practical, fulfilling, and affordable is important! 

What is the defining moment that set you on this course of interest? 

I knew that I wanted to be my own boss and work at something I loved. I took the first plunge with my blog, and then I joined Challenge 22. I enjoyed interacting with the Facebook group and the environment they created, but I felt like it wasn’t enough for me or others. 

I kept thinking I would move into something more “one day,” and then I realized there is no such thing as “one day” – I needed to take action now. That shift in mindset really propelled me. Once I discovered the benefits of coaching, I knew I wanted to apply this to veganism. There are so many people that can benefit from working with someone one-on-one. 

Who or what inspired you?

Seeing other strong women being visible and confident in themselves and their veganism has been very inspiring. I started following more women online and really loved the way they used their platform to shatter stereotypes and myths. 

I also joined a plant-based dragon boat team last year, and being a part of a bigger cause and connecting with so many like-minded people was really inspiring. It was a combination of both those things that pushed me to get outside of my comfort zone and start something! 

What are your goals in life?

Wow, big question! I think my goals are always changing and evolving. They shift and become more clear with time. 

But right now, my main goals are:

  1. To support women who are interested in starting a vegan lifestyle but just don’t know-how or have beliefs they are holding back
  1. To help others no matter where they are in life or their financial constraints. I’ve been trying to make sure that help is available in my blog posts and other free content in addition to my paid coaching.
  1. Create a successful business, so I can stay at home with the kids and be my own boss!
  1. Continue learning, evolving and exploring new things!

What message would you like the world to hear?

Eat more plants! Your body will thank you, the earth will thank you, and the animals will thank you. It’s easier than you think.

In your opinion, what does the world need now that would improve it?

More plant-based eaters! So many of the world’s problems could be improved or solved with the adoption of a plant-based diet. 

You won’t need fad diets to stay thin, or pills to control your blood pressure (though, don’t stop taking them unless you get an okay from your doctor!). Our environmental impact on the planet will be slashed, and the animals will no longer have to live in the worst conditions for food that’s making you sick. 

You don’t have to give up anything, you just have to make a shift. All your favourite items and comfort foods are available in plant form.

Morgan can be followed on her website The Veg Query, and social media:

thevegquery.com

facebook.com/thevegquery

instagram.com/thevegquery

twitter.com/thevegquery

pinterest.com/thevegquery

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfQMMuuY_JCA7p42peUMgnQ

Empowered Beauties With Brains – Guest Interview

I was featured on the Empowered Beauties With Brains website. This is a community organisation that aims to help, support, motivate, inspire, uplift and empower women. The website showcases women from all works of life. It was an honour to be interviewed by Tiya Gorain, the founder, who is an entrepreneur and a wellness & empowerment coach based in Sydney, Australia.

Here is the link to my interview

An excerpt:

“My goals in life were to bring up my children to be the people they’re meant to be, to make a positive impact on others’ lives, and to create a life of peace and joy for myself and my family… Your health is your most important asset. Don’t neglect it. Find some way to fit it into your schedule”.

You can follow the organisation on the following social media accounts:

Facebook

Instagram

Originally Published on April 24, 2020 by empoweredbeautieswithbrains

We are a women empowerment community organisation. We believe that every woman has beauty, brains & power within. She just needs to recognise it within herself. Our intention is to help, support, motivate, inspire, uplift & empower women. We implement various programs, workshops, events, training and coaching sessions for the benefit of women in Australia, Singapore and India.”

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series

A guest interview with Sevinj Ahmadova

Meet Sevinj Ahmadova, founder of Healthy Recipes Guru


Sevinj Ahmadova, founder of Healthy Recipes Guru

Inspiring a Healthy Lifestyle Series is a series of interviews with people whose life goal is to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle. Since I began Midlifestylist I have been privileged to “meet” many people who are passionate about health, diet, and lifestyle so I invited some of them to be interviewed (online). My aim is to inspire others to live a healthy lifestyle, and seeing some of the websites and social media posts of my guests shows that they have the same ultimate goal.

My first guest is Sevinj Ahmadova from Hungary who is the founder of Healthy Recipes Guru. Her website has the most mouth-watering recipes and the best thing is, they’re all healthy. Read on to be inspired by her passion for healthy food.

Tell me about yourself. What is your background and how does that impact what you do now?

My name is Sevinj, I am the founder of Healthy Recipes Guru, I am a master graduate from international economy and currently working full-time for a multinational company as finance specialist. Even though in my background I don’t have any specific study that I can say that is related to food, I could develop myself thanks to my passion to healthy eating by reading a lot and getting the right information. By saying right information, I consider the fact that not trusting each piece information, rather to go and research for empirical clarification of it, because Internet is full of myths that people blindly trust and then get the perception of staying hungry because they “eat healthy”.

What drives you? Where do you get your passion?

My passion had come to me when I started my healthy lifestyle, because I could see the difference in my body, in my skin, in my nails and hair, and most importantly, IN MY MIND! It all starts with brain and thinking. No one wants to prepare burgers, but everyone wants to eat them ready, right? It is because in our mind it is a burden to prepare them (to fry meat, to toast bread, add cheddar slice cucumbers and tomatoes, put all them together, ah nooo, lemme grab Burger King!) and eating them is so satisfying that we can hardly remember the number of preservatives in them (some people do not have even idea of them). But if you think that eating healthy is easy and satisfying and you do not always have to cook, you can even order but the right food or eat outside with making healthy choices, then your mind says: why don’t we try it? So, it all started at this point, when my mind started thinking positively about eating and being healthy.

What is the defining moment that set you on this course of interest? Who or what inspired you?

2 years ago, when I still was a master’s degree student, I had bunch of stuff to do for university such as writing daily assignments, studying for next day, researching the thesis work… So basically, I did not have spare time to cook (or I perceived myself so) and I was eating all the junk stuff that you can imagine on a daily basis. I could eat pizza for breakfast, salami toast for snack, meat sandwich for lunch, Whopper for dinner and chips before sleep. As you can imagine, when I finished school I had 20 kg difference from my weight when I started school, I was 20 kg more than that (and to be honest, I have never been a thin girl, I was just normal before that), and according to overweight calculations based on my height and age, I was already considered overweight. After graduation and seeing my pictures there, it all started.

In the beginning, I want to emphasize that I was very sceptical and not motivated at all “eating healthy” because I had same false perceptions in my head that many of us have. I thought that healthy eating and healthy food are “no more pizzas”, “no more burgers, and especially, “no more enemy potatoes” at all! But then, I have started reading a lot about healthy eating (I think, I will be thankful to myself for this for my entire life) and I realized that all of this stuff were just myths and of course I can eat burgers and potatoes, the only thing I should consider is to change some products to the healthy ones, or if I am going out with my friends and I “have to” eat McDonalds, then I should control my portions!

Even if I could not do this last night because I was too busy with hanging out with my friends, it is not a problem because I can balance it next day with healthy food and not staying HUNGRY AT ALL! Because the most important step in healthy eating is to understand that mixed tomato, lettuce and cucumber salad will not fulfill you, even I am not talking about satisfying. But if you add cheese/chicken and cashews/walnuts and some olive oil with vinegar and lemon or honey-mustard sauce, then it can be your lunch because it is fulfilling and very satisfying. So healthy eating is not about being hungry, eating lettuce and craving burgers, it is about being full, getting satisfied with food and being healthy!

What are your goals in life?

My main aim by creating this blog was to share the best recipes that I have under healthy umbrella because most of the time, people do not really know which food is healthy and which is not and there are some people who consider the food unhealthy when they see that it is dessert (“because you are not allowed to eat dessert if you eat healthy”), or calories are a bit more (“because healthy food is always under 300 kcal, no matter what, and an empty stomach is an indicator of healthy eating and weight loss”). So now, I am trying to create outstanding content and promote my blog basically because I want to make some impact by making a change in minds and to show the real face of healthy food and healthy lifestyle. That turned into my life goal.

Bio: Sevinj Ahmadova, founder of Healthy Recipes Guru.

Take a look at Sevinj’s website Healthy Recipes Guru, and social media sites:

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/sevinjahm/

Instagram account: Healthy Recipes Guru

Twitter account: Healthy Recipes Guru

Why Anzac Day Means so Much to Me

Why Anzac Day Means so Much to Me

The last week has been pretty hard for me. I moved my website to another website host and, to cut a long story short, I lost most of Midlifestylist.com. Six months of work down the drain.

It’s really devastating and I felt like giving up, but my son gave me a pep talk last night which encouraged me to keep going. He’s a musician, music and video editor and music technician and he’s had his full share of devastating losses like this – one of his hard-drives burnt out and he lost a whole year of work a few years ago. I feel terrible because people who clicked on a link to my site got an error message, I apologise for this if it has happened to you.

The good news is, I have been able to move my website back to the original place and it seems to have been restored just the way I had it before! Enormous relief.

Anyway, I wanted to commemorate Anzac Day today. Anzac Day is a Public Holiday in Australia and New Zealand to remember our Service men and women who served in the Armed Forces. With great respect we hold dawn vigils and ceremonies in honour of these amazing people. This year was different because of Covid-19 – social distancing meant that we couldn’t gather at ceremonies so we stood on our driveways with a candle instead.

In honour of my grandfather who served in World War One, I published his story in my blog about my family history, This is Who We Are. You can read it here. It is his memoirs of his time spent serving in France for the British Army – he went to war at age 18 and spent 5 years in the front lines in Ypres, Somme and Maubeuge in many of the bloodiest battles of World War One.


Harold Norris, Private 16471 of the 18th King’s Liverpool Regiment of the British Army from 1914 – 1919. Served in WW1 in Somme, Ypres and Maubeuge in France

I also Honour my Father-in-Law Ces Henry who served with the Australian Army in Korea. He doesn’t like to talk about his time spent overseas serving our country, but we know that he was on the front lines there and conditions were particularly horrendous for them.


Cecil Henry, my father-in-law with Gwen, my mother-in-law. Cec served in the Australian Army in Korea and other overseas posts including in Japan after the war.

My sister’s son Xavier is carrying on the family tradition and is serving with the Australian Army at the present time. I’m very proud of him – his mother unfortunately passed away after years of being unwell so he overcame a lot growing up. He was deployed in Iraq for some time last year.


Xavier my nephew (far left) who serves in the Australian Army

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

Lest we forget

Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen, September 1914

A Complete Guide to Composting and Worm Farms

A Complete Guide to Composting and Worm Farms

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure

Start with the Basics

Your garden needs soil that is rich in nutrients in order to thrive. The best way to provide those nutrients is to use compost as the basis of your soil. Compost is organic material that can be added to soil. It enriches the soil and improves it, providing a strong basis for plants to grow. Compost can be purchased from landscape suppliers, but the best compost is one that you make at home.

The Benefits of Composting

In addition to improving your soil, composting has other benefits as well:

  • Reducing waste – composting reduces the amount of household waste that goes to landfill. Composting reduces the methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
  • Growing your own food with compost gives you the ability to grow organic, healthy food without fertilisers
  • Your plants are healthier and can withstand pest infestations and disease easier
  • You will need less water because the soil is healthier. The soil where I live is very sandy and poor quality. Adding compost to it gives it the nutrients and texture needed to retain moisture, enrich the soil and improve the health of the plants we grow.

Ingredients for a Compost

Your compost needs three main ingredients:

  • Brown: Twigs, branches and dead leaves. Cardboard and newspaper
  • Green: Grass clippings, food scraps, coffee grounds, tea leaves, vegetable scraps
  • Water

What you can and can’t compost

You can compost:

  • All vegetable and fruit scraps
  • Egg shells
  • Coffee grounds and tea bags, used coffee filters
  • Nut shells
  • Newspaper, shredded office paper
  • Cardboard
  • Grass clippings
  • Dead plants
  • Hay and straw
  • Pet fur and hair clippings
  • Vacuum dust
  • Cloths and rags
  • Ash from fireplaces
  • Wood chips and sawdust
  • Plant trimmings
  • Egg containers and similar containers made out of recycled paper

You can’t compost:

  • Eucalyptus and gum leaves, black walnut leaves, branches
  • Glossy paper and cardboard
  • Cooked food especially meat and fish
  • Diseased plants and weeds
  • Pet faeces and litter tray contents
  • Dairy products
  • Fat, oil
  • Plants treated with pesticides

Making your Compost

The easiest way to make a compost is to buy a bin from a garden supplies store such as Bunnings or you can buy one online here. There are a few different types available commercially, for example the traditional plastic bin or a compost tumbler. Alternatively, you could build one from scratch using wood for the frame and sacks or a tarpaulin to cover it. The bin should be situated in a shady part of your yard. We use two commercial bins made of plastic with lids. We use one continually until it is full, then the other one.

Our dual compost bins. We fill one continually until it is full. Meantime, the other one is breaking the organic material down into usable compost.

It takes time for the compost to break down the material into suitable matter for your garden. Our climate is hot and humid so it takes less time to break down than in a cold climate.

Add green and brown material to the compost in equal amounts, and add water each time. Use a compost stirrer or hay pitching fork to rotate the material regularly – this add oxygen to it and helps it to break down. You can also add lime or a commercial compost conditioner to aid in breaking the material down. When the material in the compost bin is dark and rich in colour it is ready to use on the garden.

Alternatives to Composting – Worm Farms and Bokashis

If you don’t have a garden or produce much green waste, there are alternatives to composting: worm farms and bokashis. We have a worm farm, which takes up a small amount of room on our verandah. Bokashis can fit on your kitchen bench and ferment the food waste into decompostable form that can be buried in the garden or used to enrich the garden. I have never used a Bokashi so I can’t vouch for it, but I love our worm farm – the worm juice that it produces makes the plants in our garden thrive. You can buy one online here.

We set up our worm farm over a year ago with the basic kit and a starter kit of 1000 worms. The worms were tiny when we bought them and now are the size of earthworms and are thriving. I feed them once or twice a week with kitchen scraps – you can give them any vegetable or fruit scraps apart from onions, garlic and citrus. Once a week we water them with a watering can full of water. There is a tap at the bottom of the worm farm that you turn on, and out flows worm juice – the byproduct of the worms’ digestive process. This is then diluted and used on the garden and pot plants. The plants visibly thrive with this fertiliser, which is natural and non toxic.

Our worm farm.

I really enjoy looking after my worm farm and recommend using one when you don’t have space for other types of composting. It feels great to be able to use food scraps in this way to improve our plants – a complete recycling of our waste, and economical as well because the only costs are the initial set-up. It’s much cheaper than buying commercial fertiliser and isn’t harmful to use in any way.

Even in the heat of our Australian summer my worms survived. We put a worm blanket on top of the worms and water them more often. You can also add frozen blocks of water if it’s particularly hot, but we’ve had temperatures in the high 30’s (Celsius) and they survived. They’re more active in cooler, damp weather of course.

How to Care for Your Worm Farm

Feed your worm with enough food scraps to cover 1/3 of surface of worm farm

Feed your worms with enough food scraps from your kitchen to cover 1/3 of the surface of the worm farm. Use vegetable and fruit scraps, cut up or mashed when the worms are small. I use a combination of large and small pieces of food so that the worms can eat the smaller pieces first and still have larger pieces for later in the week. Some take quite a while to break down like potato peels and cabbage leaves.

Close-up of worms and their food

This photo shows a close-up of the worms with some of the more fibrous food – corn husks and egg shells. The worms need this grittier material to aid in digestion.

Cover the food with some commercial compost

Take a handful of commercial compost (if you have some of your own garden compost you can use that as well), and sprinkle it over the food.

Cover the worms with a worm blanket to keep the temperature regulated

 Lay a worm farm mat over the top.(purchase at a garden supplies store such as Bunnings, or online where-ever you buy your worm farm from). Once a week water with approximately 5 liters water, preferably rain water. After an hour or so open the tap at the bottom of the worm farm.

The tap at the base of the worm farm allows you to drain the worm juice off after you have watered the worms. The worm juice is then diluted and spread on your garden and pot plants.

After the worm juice is drained out, close the tap again. Dilute the worm juice 1 part worm juice to 10 parts water. This creates a nutritious tonic that can be added directly to your garden and pot plants. Use on any plants over two weeks old, and as a fertiliser at any time. The benefits are that it improves your garden without chemicals, and is non-toxic to your pets, children or yourselves.

Our worm farm is a Tumbleweed product – their website is a great resource for starting and maintaining your worm farm and compost. There are some great video tutorials as well.

I recommend learning about the different types of composting in Compost Revolution’s Compost Tutorial. There is a guide to help you select which composting method suits you, and if you live in Australia, you can buy their products at a discount. Some city councils also give you a discount for composting because it helps them to reduce the waste going to landfills.