Friday, June 12, 2020

Universal Yums: Snacks from the UK! (June 2020)

The Universal Yums monthly subscription box combines a couple of my favorite things: learning about other cultures and snacks! I had come across snack boxes such as these advertised on Facebook and Instagram for awhile, but finally decided to pull the trigger on this one for a couple reasons. A friend of mine and her husband have been doing “quarantastings” with different types of beer vía Snapchat every night of quarantine. I thought that was such a fun idea and wanted to do it too....except that I don’t like beer. But I LOVE snacks! I knew another friend did a snack subscription box, so I checked in with her and got her referral code for this one to try it out myself. Turns out multiple friends of mine subscribe to Universal Yums!

Universal Yums is a box that comes out on the 15th of each month filled with snacks from a specific country (or in this month's case, region). There are three different sizes, ranging from $15-$35 per box. I’m getting the medium box ($25/month) which includes 12+ snacks, a booklet with games and trivia, and recipes from the country. All boxes include free shipping. If you want to know which country is going to show up on your door step the next month, you can follow them on Instagram or Facebook. I ordered mine in May, but since it was too late to receive the May box I could pay $1 to get the June box early, which is what I did.

If you’d like to try it, click here for $5 off your first box! 

I did a lot of traveling before I reached adulthood, but something that I struggled with on those travels was trying new foods. I can’t tell you how many times I went to McDonald’s on our Japan trip when I was 15. (A lot, okay. It was a lot.)

I’ve always been picky when it comes to food, but I’ve gotten a lot better over the last half decade! The biggest thing for me is texture; there are so many things I struggle to eat because the texture freaks me out (yogurt, avocado, guacamole, eggs, pasta salad, etc.) I also struggle with seafood because of the smell, the texture, the fact that I grew up in the midwest far away from any sort of fresh sea delicacy. Five years ago I wouldn’t touch seafood. Now I’ll eat just about any of it on tacos, I’ve tried calamari, and I LOVE chargrilled oysters! Also, growing up I refused to eat foods that sounded weird. I wouldn’t touch cream cheese, sour cream, cheesecake... I’ve come a long way lol.

Anyway, my goal with these boxes is to try every snack that comes in them, no matter how weird it sounds. I plan to post about each box to help hold myself accountable to that! The UK was pretty easy, since their snacks were similar to things I'm used to. I'm a little more nervous about the asian countries....all I can think about is the stringy squid things and wasabi peas that we tried when preparing to travel there!

Grandma Wild's Toffee Flapjacks (1/5★)

This was an oat bar with toffee. Turns out, though flapjacks is synonymous with pancakes in the US, they are a type of bar in the UK. In a foodie/travel Facebook group I am in, someone asked about the foods in this box and if they were actually popular in the UK- someone responded that these were popular in England. I was not a fan. Full disclosure, I took a bite of this expecting to love it and promptly spit it out. The texture was strange; I could not handle it. Also, the flavor was different, too. I don’t really know how to explain it. Talking about food is going to be harder than I thought...

Bristow's Sherbet Lemons (5/5★)

Honestly, every time I look at the name I think of McGonagall saying "Sherbet Lemon" as the password to Dumbledore's office in Chamber of Secrets. They were nice and lemony, nothing special, but a good hard candy if you’re looking for something sweet to suck on. I liked that it wasn’t super sour like many lemon candies are. I'm told these are very popular in England!

Bristow's Bucks Fizz Chews (4/5★)

These were a fizzy orange and champagne chew, though they weren't very fizzy. I was excited to try these because dreamsicle is my favorite flavor, and that was what the orange and white made me think of. Apparently the candy was inspired by a mimosa-type drink (though invented before the mimosa) created in London. It is not dreamsicle flavored, but is very citrusy, and very chewy! Its not  candy you could eat a bunch of at once (probably a good thing), but definitely one I would grab one of when I was looking for a bit of sweetness!

Bristow's Chocolate Limes (4/5★)

This treat was lime on the outside, filled with chocolate on the inside. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this candy, but it is one Ive found that I can definitely get on board with! I love the lime hard candy part of it; it is the perfect amount of sweetness with exactly zero sour. The chocolate in the middle throws me a bit, but it’s a very minimal amount. As much as I like chocolate, I think this treat would be better without, but it wasn’t bad!

Mackies Honey & Mustard Potato Chips (1/5★)

My first taste of English crisps! I was interested in trying these because I love honey mustard pretzels! I'm told this is a popular brand in Scotland (which makes sense, as per the wrapper). I ended up not being a fan of these. The consistency reminded me of the Lays stacks potato chips which was fine, but the flavor was odd. I should have taken the ampersand in the flavor seriously, because it was definitely not honey mustard flavored. There was an after taste of spicy mustard and though it wasn’t a powerful flavor, it takes up your whole mouth, like smoke. I managed two chips then tossed the rest.

Johnny's Pickled Onion Rings (0/5★)

The name of this one scared me. Anything with the word "pickled" in it is something that does NOT sound good to me (except actual pickles!) But looking at them, they looked like Funyuns, which I like, so I figured I would try them. Also, some girls in the facebook group said these were the best snacks in Scotland! Y’all. Not trying to yuck anyone’s yum, because that is my biggest pet peeve, but BLEGH. I did NOT like these! Maybe if I hadn’t had the anticipation of Funyuns they wouldn’t have been so bad, but these got a big ole NOPE from me. They were very overwhelmingly  pickle flavory. Like, I can’t get the smell/taste out of my nose/mouth intensity. Now I’ve had pickle flavored chips before and enjoyed them, but not these!! I could only stomach one cute little ring...thinking I need to try these around someone with a less sensitive palette so they can eat the stuff I don’t like! 🤪

Dean's Shortbread Rounds (3/5★)

You really can't go wrong with shortbread cookies! I use to love dunking them in my kool-aid. My Facebook group said that this was a popular brand in Scotland, specifically. They were okay. A little doughy tasting, and not as sweet as I’m use to. It wouldn’t be my go-to for a short bread cookie (I like the sugar!), but I would eat it again.

Yummy Banana Toffee (4/5★)

I like banana and toffee, so this sounded interesting to try! It was yummy! This reminded me nothing of toffee, but more so like a banana Laffy Taffy (which happen to be my favorite flavor of Laffy Taffy). It was slightly less sweet than a taffy, and slightly less sticky, though it was impossible to pull apart into the units it appears you're suppose to pull it apart into  without it sticking to your fingers, so you had to just bite into it and eat the whole thing at once. It probably isn't something that I would eat all the time, but I would definitely indulge in it again! Also, according to the group, this was the least common treat- only one person had heard of it!

Clotted Cream Fudge (3/5★)

I had to learn about what clotted cream was before I ate this.  Apparently it is just heated cream being stirred while it cools so it clots. These had the flavor of caramels, with a texture more like that of fudge. They pretty much fell apart in your mouth. Not something I would eat a lot of at once, but would grab one every now and then.

Welsh Potato Crisps Lamb & Mint (2/5★)

This was the most bizarre thing of the bunch, I think. I've eaten lamb a time or two, but never had lamb flavored chips. Or mint flavored chips for that matter! After the other two chips in the box were complete flops, I didn't hold out much hope for this flavor. First of all, I need to learn to stop smelling things before I taste them. The smell was VERY minty, though the taste less so. These weren’t bad, they were just different. I could see where people would like them, but the flavor was just a little too odd for me.

Chewy Bonbons Rhubard & Custard (3/5★)

These chews were inspired by a British desert called a "fool," which is a parfait-type delicacy layered with custard and boiled fruit - typically rhubarb. They looked like hard candies in the bag, and I don't think I've ever eaten something that was rhubarb flavored. Even my experience with rhubarb in baked goods is pretty limited, due to my inability to eat things that sound weird. These were unlike anything I have eaten before. They were not super sweet or intense in flavor. They feel like of fluffy, but also chewy, but not sticky chewy. I seriously have no idea how to describe this treat, but it was pretty good!!

Kent Crisps Ashmore Cheese & Onion (5/5★)

According to the booklet sent with my snacks, this is the most popular flavor of crisps in the UK. Plain chips are the most popular in the US, followed by barbecue and sour cream & onion. These crisps were slightly thicker than a normal Lay’s potato chip, but thinner than a kettle chip. I can definitely see why this is the most popular flavor in the UK, they were very tasty! Not too salty with the perfect amount of flavor, I could definitely eat these as a frequent snack.

Favorite: Sherbet Lemons

Least Favorite: Johnny's Pickled Onion Rings

Weirdest: Lamb & Mint Welsh Potato Crisps

If you’ve traveled in the UK, or even lived there, are any of these snacks familiar to you? Are there ones not pictured that you would recommend? If you ordered this box, what were your thoughts??

Saturday, June 6, 2020

My Life With Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 7: 7 Things I’ve Learned From Living With Chronic Pain

June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month, and since headaches and migraines have had such an enormous impact on every aspect of my life, its a pretty important subject for me, and something I have done an extensive amount of research on. I have officially been dealing with them for half my life, and truly cannot imagine a headache/migraine free life. If you're interested, you can find my story my following the posts below.

My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 1: In the Beginning
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 2: Welcome to the Real World
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 3: No Stress Like Teacher Stress
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 4: New State, Same Headaches
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 5: Finding My Happy and Living in the Now
My Life with Chronic Headaches/Migraines Part 6: the Injections


Because there is so much unknown about migraines, their causes, and their relief, I've found the best info I've gotten has been anecdotal from people who experience them IRL. Doctors can help, but since their is no real conclusive research, there is only so much they can do. Additionally, like any chronic pain, unless you've been there, its hard to understand. It is nice to hear from others who are in a similar boat, trying to navigate through the same storm. Invisible pain is a struggle to live with, but it has taught me a lot!! The following is a list of seven things (in no particular order) I've learned from living with chronic pain....

1. Don't procrastinate. Seriously.

You never know when a flare up will hit, or how long it will last. It is an awful feeling when you know you have things that need to be done but you’re in too much pain to even uncurl out of the ball you’ve wrapped yourself into. 

2. Make sure you have a solid support system.

The thing about chronic pain is that it leads to issues with your mental health. It is so easy to fall into depression and not be able to turn off the anxiety. You’re always wondering when the next episode will occur, how long it will last, how bad will it be, what events or other fun (or important) things will you have to miss out on because of’s so important to have people in your corner willing to help you out when you physically cannot help yourself.

3. Always be prepared.

Whatever medications or other physical coping mechanisms you may POSSIBLY need- be sure to always have them. Always. There is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere in the middle of an episode and have no escape from it because all your tools and relief are at home.

4. What works for some people, may not work for you.

I'm not the only one in the world who gets headaches or migraines, obviously, so I am always looking for remedies that others have used.  Unfortunately, that doesn't always work.  I've got a closet full of essential oils and natural remedies, massagers, heating pads, and every prescription under the sun. I'm willing to try just about anything; unfortunately, I have yet to find a suggestion that has consistently worked. HOWEVER, getting suggestions from people who have been there is always helpful, and even though some things may not work, or may only work for a short time, the sharing is always appreciated!

5. If you feel okay enough to do fun things, do them.

(Thought I am posting this in June, I wrote the little blurb for this one back in January) I write this as I’m sitting here on day 6 of consecutive headaches and migraines. I went to work crying this morning, and those who know me know that I’m not a crier unless things are really bad. I bawled through my whole last-minute doctor appointment, because I was in so much pain, and terrified that I was back where I was two years ago, in a slump of never ending pain. But, rewind...on day 2 of this mess, I went to a concert. On day 3, I was out with friends. Day 5, to a Predators game. Did I feel 100% on any of these days? Absolutely not. But I felt okay enough to go. Chronic pain has taken so much from me, that I stop letting it take away my fun on days that I don’t absolutely have to. You learn to power through and live with the pain when possible.

6. If you travel frequently, make sure your prescriptions are at an accessible pharmacy

I send my prescriptions to Walgreens. Its nice because there are Walgreens EVERYWHERE. When I visit MN, I can easily send my prescriptions up there if I forget to pack them.  When we went to the beach last summer, I was able to refill in Gulf Shores when I unexpectedly started to run low. This eliminates A LOT of stress.

7. Slow down and appreciate the little things.

This is hands down the most important thing I have learned. Life is not a race, and the faster you move through it, the more you miss. Take the time to appreciate the little things you take for granted, it makes it easier to appreciate things on the days you feel like life isn't worth the pain.

It has taken some serious time to get to the point that I am at now, but I would go as far as to say that I am one of the happiest people that I know, and I credit most of that to dealing with chronic pain. The smallest, tiniest things excite me because I know how sucky life can be if you let it, and now that I have the control to stop letting it, I've done just that.

After I got through the worst year of it, I had a nice long chat with myself, I said, "Gretchen. Let go of what you can't control, and stop being so worried about the things you can." I just like that, I did, and I'm so much better for it. Migraines suck. Chronic pain sucks. I would love to give them up for good (and believe me, I am trying!), but I wouldn't be the person I am now without them.