Trying a different chopping board

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be able to tell you that I admit to not being much good in the kitchen. My Cerebral Palsy means that I struggle to do a lot of cooking for myself, although I will have you all know that I’m a complete whizz with the microwave (as long as the things that I put in aren’t too heavy).

One of the things that I find hardest, next to lifting heavy pans and carrying them around, is chopping things up for myself.  I know that there’s the option to buy pre-cut things. I often do this when it comes to veggies because I’m always adding these to something else, but when it comes to fruit I really wish that I could just buy a bag of apples and cut them up when I felt like it, rather than having to buy six individual packets of one prepared one. I know that I could just simply bite into it instead, but I had braces when I was a teenager and now I hate doing that.  Plus, I think it would be good if I could master things cutting them up business for myself.

A while ago, I met an Occupational Therapist who said that she could get hold of some chopping boards with spikes on for me to have a go at using to see if they helped. She did this a couple of weeks back actually, but I’ve been so busy posting about my on-going serial casting treatment that I haven’t had a chance to post it yet. If you want to find out how that’s going, then you can find all my posts about it so far here.

One of them that she was able to loan me was this one here, which has a small circle of spikes to put things on while I tried to hack into them. I decided to use a small, soft and probably slightly passed its best, peach and a small apple. I wasn’t planning on eating these after because I knew that there would probably be nothing left by the time I was done with them.

Chopping board with spikes

I would like to point out at this point that this post is written entirely from my own experience and what works/doesn’t work well for me won’t be the same for everybody, this is just what it was like for me personally. I decided to try using this after talking to an occupation therapist.  I’m not a medical professional so I cannot say if these would work well/be suitable for anyone but myself, so therefore this post should not be used as a replacement for medical advice.

The peach didn’t work as well as I was hoping that it would. I thought that I would find that the easier of the two to cut, but I think that the stone may have made it more difficult for me. I found it hard to press in down on to the spikes and it kept wobbling around. I still managed to cut it a bit, but I gave up in the end because I was afraid that I might cut myself. I doubt that I would  have done, I think it was just a confidence thing, but I felt I had done the best I could anyway.

peach on chopping boardPeach after

The apple went better than expected thought. I still found it hard to push it down onto the prongs very far, and it took me a couple of tries but I did it. It was a good job that it wasn’t a larger one though because I’m not sure that t would have balanced as well. I think it would have needed a few more spikes.

apple on chopping board

However, I did managed to slice the thing clean in two which I have never been able to do before so I was pretty pleased with that one, so it made me think that it might be worth getting myself one after all.

apple after

I think that I should also say that I found it much, much easier to clean than any of the other cutting boards that we have at home, because it was much smaller and lighter. I found it much easier to get in and out of the sink and I wasn’t as worried about dropping it.

I’m glad that I was given the chance to experiment with some before I buy some because it’s made me realise that some things will still be a challenge, and that I would like a bigger spiky section that the one on these boards.

Cooking with CP: Things that make it easier for me

Regular readers of this blog will know that my Cerebral Palsy means that I struggle with cooking. They’ll probably also be able to tell you that this frustrates me, both for myself and because I can’t make meals for my family. But, if my three years living away at university thought me anything (my actual multimedia journalism degree aside of course) I learned a couple of handy hints about making my life in the kitchen a little bit easier. Here are a few of my personal things that I couldn’t cope without.

This is a post about how the items listed below work for me personally. I cannot offer advice on or say how well they would work or how suitable they would be for others as I’m not a medical professional.

A plastic measuring jug: I know this one sounds obvious but I use it for a whole lot more than just measuring stuff out. It was a couple of weeks into my first year that one of my housemates at the time made the shocking revelation that you could cook pasta in a microwave! This was a totally alien concept to me but it made my life so much easier over the years when I realised that I could make it in this instead of in a heavy pan that I can’t lift. After that I started making soup in one too because I found it far easier to carry than a steaming hot bowl of the stuff (and I’ve had less spillages that way too).

Colanders with long handles: It wasn’t long into my pasta-making days that I realised colanders that just had handles on the side were a big no-go because I either ended up almost burning myself or spilling half of my just cooked food down the sink. For a while I got a bit creative and used a sieve as a replacement, but then my mother bought me a huge orange one for Christmas that year and I got far more excited that one person should ever do over a kitchen utensil.

An electric tin opener: I had one of these at home anyway before I left, but silly old me forgot to pack it on the day I made the trek to start my new life 60 miles up north. I’d been far too busy trying to remember other things like my textbooks, clothes, and duvets to worry about that. It’ll be okay, I thought, I’ll just buy ring-pull tins. That was about the time that I realised I didn’t have the hand strength for those and spent the first couple of weeks asking everyone to help me open my peas. Now it’s the first thing I pack. Oh, and coat hangers, I forgot those that day too.

An apple corer: I love apples but ever since I had braces as a teenager I’ve always hated having to bite into them. And of course the time I pulled a loose tooth out on one as a kid probably doesn’t help either. I couldn’t chop them until I realised that taking out the core first meant that I could just about manage to do it as long as I wasn’t fussy about the size and shape of the pieces I cut.


Supermarket Shopping

There are times when I feel like I practically live in the supermarket. I know that I talk about it a lot in my posts, but there are times when trying to navigate the endless isles and trolleys almost reduces me to tears.

When I was at university, I had help from an outside care agency who would help me run my weekly errands, but every now and then I would run out of those odd little things like milk and bread that send you into meltdown as soon as you don’t have them in the house.

So I would grab my old Kaye Walker frame Betsy and head on out to the store. Thankfully I lived across the road from two little express branches of two big supermarket chains so at least getting there and back wasn’t too difficult.

The staff in both stores were usually pretty helpful and would offer to carry my basket of goods around the shop for me. As much as I would’ve loved to accept their help but I always had to decline. I liked to try and carry things for myself, or at least hook the basket over the side of the frame, because I didn’t want my shopping to get too heavy for me to carry home without me noticing. Sometimes, people would look a bit confused until I explained my logic and then they understood. A lot of them would still stand in the queue at the till for me when it got to the time for me to pay for things because the spaces are often narrow because of special offer displays. By that point my arms I usually so tired that I’m really grateful for the small rest before walking home again.

I always have to try and avoid using self-service checkouts no matter where I am. They get on my nerves because I often move too slowly for them and they end up asking me over and over about wanting to continue and sometimes I end up having to start all over again. I get really flustered and paranoid that everyone else in the shop will be looking at me, or waiting to use the machine.

Thankfully, while I live at home, my mum takes care of that kind of stuff at least, but I’ll always try and get a few things for her on my way home if I’m passing through town to try and help her out a bit. As much as I’m not a fan of going food shopping, I know it’s something that I should get as much practice as possible to get better at it.

The difficulties of eating out

Eating out is hard sometimes. Not because I’m embarrassed to eat in front of others or because I can never choose where to go, but because of my Cerebral Palsy.

As well as my legs, I also have problems moving my left arm and hand. Often, I  will know what I action I want it to do, but then it will go ahead and decide to do something different, or make the task in hand (no pun intended) much, much harder than it needs to be.

Because of this, I find it quite hard to cut my own food. I can manage soft things, like cooked potatoes and vegetables are ok, but things like pizza, chicken and steak are an entirely different story. Although I’m right-handed I have to swap and change how I hold my cutlery throughout my meal depending on whether I’m trying to cut my food or pierce it so that I can actually get it on my fork to eat.

If I’m in a pub or fast food place with my family or my boyfriend and I start to struggle I’ll ask them to help me out, but it’s not something I like to do if I’m in some swanky restaurant (which is hardly ever, to be fair). I know that I shouldn’t feel self conscious about needing help with, but sometimes I am, as much as I hate to admit it. I always try and pick something from the menu that I think I’ll be able to manage easily to avoid situations like this.

Then there is the issue of toilets. Places that serve meals are sometimes quite tight and always full of people carrying plates with things on and hot liquids so I feel under more pressure than ever to not fall over. If I can fit Martha or my wheelchair through the gaps between the tables it’s not too much of a problem. If I’m in a group, it’s okay too because I always ask someone to walk to the bathroom with me to help me doge anything that I could break or trip over. If there is just me and one other person, I often have to catch the attention of a member of staff to ask for their assistance and then leave a decent tip afterwards because I know that it can’t have been a very pleasant thing for them to do and I’m always worried that I’ve taken them away from whatever they were supposed to have been doing at the time.

For these reasons and others, when eating out I try and stick to local pubs when I’m going out for a meal. Don’t get me wrong I think that going somewhere that could be considered fancy is a nice treat sometimes, but I often spend far more time worrying about trying to eat, get around and dropping or spilling things than I probably should.

Hopefully I’ll get over this eventually.