Me and my tea…….

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Establishing my love for Caffeine Free and Fruit Tea has been something I seem to have done successfully. To say I am a bit of an addict to new varieties and tastes is an understatement.

My caffeine free story was one I shared with you a couple of months ago but drinking “normal” tea gives me extreme migraines, so touching tea with it in is simply not worth it.

I love my Peppermint tea and drink that like it is going out of fashion, however I do like a change a couple of times a day because sometimes Peppermint does just not hit the spot.

When I came across Bluebird Tea Co, I was so excited to see their range and was not disappointed by the tea and products that they produce and supply.

The advent calendar drew me in and from there the rest is history. Obviously, the Calender was not an option for me but having spoke to Bluebird’s amazing team we sorted an amazing array of teas for me to try and I was hyper when my delivery arrived.

In the box there was a fantastic selection of teas for all of the family. These included:

Snowball Tea Bauble

Strawberry Lemonade

Rhubarb and Custard

Mulled Cider

Birthday Cake

Pineapple and Mint

Gingerbread Chai

Lets start at the very beginning….

The boys were desperate to get in to the Bauble and try the Snowball Tea.

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“Award-winning Snowball tea bags in a giant luxury bauble – perfect for your Christmas tree or Secret Santa pressie!”

This tea contains in amongst the Black Tea, marshmallows, chocolate pieces, cacao bean and coconut. I didn’t get to try this one as it contained tea but it smelt amazing and I am judging by the now empty bauble that the boys enjoyed it too.

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OMG….I fell in love with the Strawberry Lemonade Tea.

“Bluebird’s best selling fantastically fruity tea infusion that tastes as good as it smells!”

It is recommended for both Hot and Chilled drinking but I enjoyed it the most when it was hot. The flavour of not only the main ingredients comes through but the elderberry and orange a subtly there too, its amazing and you really get the Strawberry Lemonade taste. I found it very comforting to drink and it kept me going for a few shifts at work.

High from that one I moved on to the Rhubarb and Custard and was equally blown away.

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“Tangy rhubarb tea, creamy custard guilt free sweet treat”

If I could do scratch and sniff for you this would be a post that would most certainly benefit from it. The smells when you open the pouches of tea are amazing.

Being alcohol free at the minute means the likes of Mulled Wine and Mulled Cider are off the menu, but the Mulled Cider tea brings Christmas in a teapot. The aroma is simply divine. I can try with all my might to explain it too you, the closest I can get is by saying, “Christmas in a Tea Pot”.

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“Sweet spiced apple fruit tea, what a winter warmer! Brew a Christmas fruit infusion or to make your own Mulled Cider!”

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“Vanilla sponge, notes of sweet icing + cake sprinkles!”

Birthday Cake…..Tea that tastes and smells like cake. Is that really possible?

With this one having Black Tea in I didn’t get a try but the smell was amazing, the fine detail of the sprinkles makes it all the more appealing on the eye and adds a special touch. The boys tried this one too and told me it was fabulous.

Another OMG moment when it comes to the Pineapple and Mint. I wasn’t sure on the combination at first but it caught my eye first on the website. I love pineapple and had never tried a pineapple tea before.

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“Minty fresh, tropical fruit fusion + coconut – a real crisp cuppa!”

This one was an amazing follow up to the Strawberry Lemonade tea when I ran out of that. It has a very light and refreshing taste. Like the Strawberry one this can be drank either Hot or Cold but personally I prefer it hot. You can really taste the fruit and the Mint is subtle yet very much there. (Saying that I prefer it hot, I think this is because it is winter. I can see both of these teas being lovely served over ice with a touch of something alcoholic to add an extra punch in the summer, being lovely)

Then there is the Gingerbread Chai.

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“Award-winning, spiced Gingerbread Chai rooibos tea”

I have only had one pot of this and I shared it with family. It was lovely and so warming. Who doesn’t love gingerbread so close to Santa coming? The flavour that you are promised from the ginger is there, again it is not overpowering and truly a delight to drink.

In fear of repeating myself, Bluebird Tea Co. make some simply amazing products. Not only are their products amazing but so are the team behind them. Nothing is a problem and as a company they have been a pleasure to work with. Thank you so much for letting me sample your delights…

If you are looking for a unique Christmas Gift or you simply fancy giving their products a go you can find Bluebird Tea Co. over on their website or via Social Media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).

Where did October go?

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You blink then it is gone……

Well that’s what it feels like to me. Where on earth did October go?

I seem to have fallen in to the habit of filling you all in the monthly happenings in The MaryLou house so here goes nothing….

October traditionally stands out to me as the month that we have half term and the month that we celebrate Halloween. I dare say for most of us this is also the case. In some cases you will have started your Christmas shopping and in others you may have completed it (OMG I wish).

We started out the month launching Libby’s event “The Big Chop”. I am sure you have read the post already but in case you haven’t I will give you a brief rundown.

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Libby recently asked us to explain to her what Cancer really was. We are very honest with the children and obliged, telling her in as much detail as we could, but still keeping the details child like, what Cancer is, who it can affect and the treatments it can involve. She went away and processed the information and decided she would like to raise money for children and their families “near our house” that are and have been affected by Cancer.

She had already decided she would like to have her hair cut and donate it to The Little Princess Trust but she decided she would like to gain sponsorship for The Toma Fund.

I set about finding a Hair Salon that would be happy to help us and to our delight Toni and Guy came forward and offered to help us at their Durham Salon.

From there, fundraising has gone from strength to strength and over on JustGiving we have so far raised just over £250, we have sponsorship forms out and about that have raised about the same so far, along with that I am running a raffle. When I told Libby’s story there were some amazing people and companies that stepped forward and said they would like to help. We have had some fantastic prize donations from Metro Radio and Brian Moore, Newcastle Greyhound Stadium, Sunderland Greyhound Stadium, Begu Tea, Sharron Bates, Sweet Evangelines, Tanfield Railway, Arriva, Chiquito, tombola, Lickety Split, 3M and Babsyliz.

Numbers are still available over on the Facebook page. Priced at £1 each. All money raised goes to The Toma Fund and will be drawn on the 18th of November or when all the numbers are sold.

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School photo’s….they happened…..it’s really scary how much a like these too are. Love their pictures though (really must remember to order them this week).

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October brings the delivery and publishing of the “Santa Clause Toy Books” to us adults that is the Smyths Book, Argos Christmas Book, Tesco Toy Book and the random other Christmas Toy Books. This year Libby is circling items in Red Pen and Penny has the Black Pen.

As you can see from the picture Penny has spent a lot of time writing her very understandable lists…

We have yet to write our lists properly but high on Penny’s list is a Furby, A Cry Baby and a new Baby Doll.

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Libby has asked for a Hatchimal, a Cry Baby doll, Harley Quinn Doll, Harley Quinn Dress up and a Shibajuku doll.

Lets hope Santa is preparing himself for the pages and pages of the tatty toy books that are heading in his direction.

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Penny and I had some lovely jaunts in October to collect prizes for the raffle and just because.

We visited Seaham one very cold windy morning, but there is something so homely about the seaside for me. As you know from previous posts I lose all my woes when I go to the seaside (Even if it is cold, wet and windy).

Whilst there we visited the amazing Lickety Split. We had never been before and I was so desperate to have a try of their treats. Penny was very adamant that she would like a Pink Ice Cream, So she got a Sundae with Strawberry Ice Cream, Bubblegum Ice Cream, Strawberry Sauce and M & M’s.

Her face says it all…..

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I was sensible and ordered a Panini…..(lets not mention that I finished Penny’s Sundae shhhhh )

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Definitely worth a visit if you have not been before.

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A month would not be complete without a night or two with my bestie.

Deborah (Country Heart and Home) and I were invited along to the Autumn and Winter launch at Katie’s Garden in Sunderland. It is always a good night no matter what we do but on this occasion we got craft and create fairy houses together. To read more the post I wrote about the night is Katie’s Garden – Sunderland.

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Then came the buying of Halloween Costumes. I begrudge paying an absolute fortune for them and was quite stressed that both the girls needed a new one. Regan had decided that dressing up for Halloween was “not his thing” this year so that left me with just the two too buy.

I did the usual browsing around and was absolutely blown away by not only the selection in Home Bargains but the prices too.

Penny chose a “Pumpkin Witch” Dress and I chose for Libby and got her the “Witch Bride” dress.

Both girls were delighted with their dresses and the hyper for Halloween began.

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I had a very productive ride up to the Intu Metro Centre. (I say productive, it was simply made productive as I found my Christmas Eve box PJ bottoms.)

Every year I go up before Christmas and see PJ’s that are Chritmassy and think, yes they are fabulous, I will get them the next time I am here. Then I go back and who knew? They have none left. So I ceased the opportunity and got them and the girls Christmas PJ’s from Primark.

It would be very rude not to pop over to IKEA while I was there of course. So I ventured over and came away with some bits and pieces for people for Christmas, some candles (standard for me ) and some irresistible wrapping paper.

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Then came the week of Surgery.

The day before I went in Mark and I were invited to the amazing Crook Hall and Gardens in Durham. What an amazing place to visit. To read more about our visit it is the Crook Hall and Gardens post.

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On the evening of the night before surgery, following a family funeral, the hair got cut off. It needed to be off so my surgeon and I could see what was really going on under it. I do find it so liberating having no hair. Cutting it off wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The gut wrenching when the first clump dropped to the floor was quite significant but I made sure I went straight down the middle first. (No turning back that way) and before I knew it, the hair was no more.

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The following morning involved a 4am start and an early arrival at hospital ready for my surgery. I was first on the list and arrived in recovery 4 hours later having had 13 BCC’s removed.

I was really quite poorly after and incurred an overnight stay as a result. Due to the excellent care of the Nursing Staff at UHND,  I went home the following day and I did feel fractionally better. Yet in so much pain. The kids were all on standby though and as one left me to go to bed another one of them took over and made sure I was OK.

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As the days have gone by and the stitches have been removed and fallen out I feel a lot better and the scars are so neat and well healed already. The support I was offered by not only family and friends but people that don’t know the full story was unbelievable and I can only thank you all for that. The flowers that got sent from work were also amazing.

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To read more you can find the story on the Surgery Update post and if you want more in depth pictures check out Before, During and After.

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Dance Schools Halloween Party. Costume outing number one. In hindsight spraying her hair red for the first outing of the white costume maybe wasn’t the most sensible of ideas but it added to the effect. (the dress however looks like someone has sprayed fake blood all over it).

We painted her face with a lovely little kit from B & M . I got the face paint in there last year and was over the moon to find that they had the same kit in for this year (£3.99). A fraction of the price that bigger shops were selling.

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Oooooh now, Mark’s Bovril addiction is no secret and I thought my Peppermint Tea one was just as bad. That is until my hospital stay. As I can not have caffeine my options were a cold drink or Horlicks. Well I fear I may have developed an addiction that rivals the Bovril addiction.

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I have always liked it, but not to this extent. Saying that I think my addiction has been made worse by the fact that I am having to limit myself to one cup a day due to the sheer amount of milk that you use to make it.

Last but not least was Halloween with Deborah (Country House and Home).

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As you well know we always have a good night and it was lovely to be invited down to share Halloween with my Bestie and her beautiful family. The house was decorated fantastically.

This is the first year in quite a few where we haven’t had a party or decorated much. So the decision has been made that we are going all out next year.

Deborah had arranged a Tin Can Alley, Put The Smile on the Skeleton, Bobbing for Apples and some other lovely games for the kids and an amazing spread for us all. Every little detail was considered (I wouldn’t expect anything else from Deborah though). What a fantastic night.

The kids went trick or treating on Halloween itself and came hold with their bags full. They have had “The most fantastical Halloween ever” apparently. I certainly will not argue with that……

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Why I am Caffeine Free

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There is no secret in the fact that I am a tea addict and have been for as long as I can remember. The only problem is, it has to be decaf.

Since a young age I have had blinding headaches and we could never pin point the reasons for them. At the age of 24 these had got to the point where I was seeing stars and feeling really quite sick with them. Following the headache lifting, I would feel very lethargic for days sometimes weeks afterwards. It all came to a point after a long weekend in Majorca in 2005.

There were three of us and as you do, we had a late night out in Magaluf, returning to the hotel about 4am and bedding down until 8 am when our taxi, for the airport, was due.

We got up and the hangover seemed non existent so I loaded up on tea and a bacon sandwich.

On arriving at the airport I bought two 500ml bottles of Coca Cola. Thinking nothing of it I polished one of them off and had the other packed away for the plane.

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We boarded and took off, all was well until about 30 mins in to the flight when I felt a bit sickly. I took myself to the toilet, and sat there for a couple of minutes hoping that the walk would make me feel a little better. Seemingly not, I was sick several times and when I stood up was all starry eyed. Toilet flushed, I made my way to open the door and realised I had no feeling in my right hand, come to think of it I was actually dragging my right leg, I had no feeling in my right hand side at all.

Panic setting in, I dragged myself back to my seat and told my friend that I had just been sick and lost all feeling in my right hand side. The panic in her face was immense and she insisted on bringing it to the attention of the cabin crew on the EasyJet flight we were on.

The cabin crew were amazing, from what I can remember, I say that because I had no idea who I was, where I was and how I got there. Worried, they got me up and took me to the back of the plane and gave me water, while they did the full “There is no need to panic, but if there is a doctor on board, please could they make there way to the back of the plane” announcement.

Luckily there was a GP and his colleagues on board, they had been playing Golf in Palma and he came to my rescue. He checked me over and said he didn’t think it was anything serious and it seemed the effects of the vomiting had caused me to have an anxiety attack.

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The symptoms did not improve as we approached the English Channel, so after speaking to the Captain, the stewardess that was looking after me told me that they were very concerned and the Captain would, if I wanted him too, land in Stansted.

The stars had gone away and I was starting to regain a little bit of an idea who I was so I said for the sake of an extra 30 mins, just land in Newcastle.

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Hitting the runway I saw blue lights flashing at the gate where we were disembarking and I was told to wait until the end so that they could get me on the ambulance and check me over.

Very embarrassing affair, but I got on the ambulance and everything checked out as it should. The paramedic asked if I would like to go to the RVI or would I prefer to go to Out of Hours if things didn’t improve, or got worse. I chose Out of Hours as now all I wanted to do was sleep.

We were escorted through customs by the ambulance staff and the ride home was a long one. I got home and vomited for the majority of the day.

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My partner at the time dragged me to the Out of Hours clinic later that evening and they told me I was dehydrated and not too worry. (I was convinced from the point I felt the numbness on the plane that I was having a stroke). So for the next few days all I did was sleep, sleep and sleep some more, the headache I had would not move and I thought enough is enough and took myself to see my GP. After telling her all the symptoms, it turned out that I had been experiencing a severe focal migraine.

Never heard of it, she told me that there is generally a trigger and it would be a process of elimination to work out what it was.

Over the coming weeks things improved and one morning we went in to Darlington for breakfast. We ordered, and got a coffee each while we waited, and another and another and finally our breakfasts came. By this point however I was feeling ill, seeing stars and had lost feeling in the fingers in my right hand. Bingo! Coffee and Cola were the instigators.

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I kept drinking tea as this didn’t seem to have the same effect. Six months later however after not having an attack since stopping Cola and Coffee. I took bad again, this time I cut out tea and went on to decaf, which it turns out is not totally decaf. Your main stream tea brands claim their normal brands of tea are decaf but in the small print it says decaf up to 0.04%. I found this out as the decaf was having the same effect.

My only option was too not ingest caffeine.

Since then I have stuck to drinking fruit and herbal teas. There are so many things I miss, not only the obvious drinks but the like of Irn Bru, Dr Pepper, Lucozade and Energy Drinks. Then there is the amount of medications you have to be caustious over, extra strength paracetamol for one. However, I do love Peppermint tea and discovered Pukka Teas, which are amazing. My favourite of all is Lidl’s Blackcurrant and Vanilla one.

Anyway I digressed in a big style….

A couple of months ago I got in touch with Begutea. They were looking for people to review a selection of their teas and I was all too willing, if they did a decaf version.

They were very helpful and sent me the three teas that they produce that were totally decaf.

Calm…..

Nightea Night……

and System Cleanse…..

All the tea’s are made from 100% natural ingredients.

First up to be tried and tested was the Calm, the packaging advised to drink when needed. I often get irritable, I think having a house full of hormones tends to do that to a woman. I wasn’t sure about the smell at first but was really surprised by the taste. It is lovely, quite floral in taste and it really does the job. Out of all the teas this was the first one to disappear.

Perfect tea blend to sit down with when you are having a manic day.

Then there is the Nightea Night. I will be honest and say I still have few of these left but that is not because I don’t enjoy them, it is simply because I don’t have problems sleeping. I save these ones for the nights I am at work and have one about half an hour before the end of my shift. They are very soothing and again taste amazing.

The Cinnamon and Ginger really come through in this tea and it almost smells Christmas like.

Last up was the System Cleanse. I was keen to start this one but held off until we had been on holiday, I knew I would be getting back down to the dieting when we came back and hoped the tea would work along side the diet and fitness regime.

The System Cleanse bags are too be drank one every other night, at night, after your last meal of the day for 14 days in order to “Teacleanse”. They taste amazing with a Vanilla tone that is not to strong but yummy and the lavender gives you a sense of peace.

They are amazing. I have drank many teas with the same stated effects but none have worked like this one. I would stress however that you must stick to the guidelines. I made the mistake of taking one on a morning and the magic kicked in at bedtime. Have it at as advised at night and let the tea work it’s magic while you are asleep. I would recommend this to anyone that is dieting and needs to get rid of that bloat.

These teas are available online from Begutea, along with others that contain caffeine. Supermarket teas are good and I have had a few with purpose that have been effective, none of them have been as good as these especially the System Cleanse and Calm versions. My custom will certainly continue.

Lets be honest, nothing beats a good cup of tea, caffeine or no caffeine 😉

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