A rocky start to wonderful whirlwind in 2023.

So another year and another rocky start. 

Tuesday 17 January. Neo, our Beagle had an operation today to remove a large lump on this left side rib cage area. The vet was not happy with the look of the mass and so we have sent it off for Biopsy. 

Thursday 1️9 January. The good new is that Ryan has been discharged from the Maxillofacial team at Cardiff Dental Hospital. They said it has probably healed as much as it is going to and he will always have a hole there now. Ryan is a bit bummed about the hole because it is 'annoying' but accepts that 'it is was it is' his words. 

It is another by product of Cancer treatment. Ryan looks fine from the outside but as the doctors said the internal damage done from treatment, especially Radiotherapy, is permanent and almost always causes other health issues in future because of it all. 

The bad news however is that Neo isn't good though after his op on Tuesday. He has excess swelling to the surgery wound but also all under his belly area. We were back at the emergency yet yesterday, they took photos plus checked for infection and we have to go back today as originally planned for post op check and they said they will have to try to drain the fluid. 

Our appointment today is booked for 4 pm but I will ring the vet soon and see if we can be seen there earlier instead.

The worst news is that on Tuesday 24 January the vet telephoned to confirm that sadly Neo's lump was a Mast Cell Tumour. I wanted to start him on Cimetidine but it is £120 per month so Prednisone it is instead at £7.50 pm. Has possibly 6 months to a year left. He is only 8 years old. 

Collage of 6 photos of Neo, Beagle dog taken over the last 8 years from 2015 to 2023.

Neo the naughtiest but cutest Beagle in the World.

Intermittent Fasting

Friday 2️7️ January. Today is the end of my 4th week of IF and what a fabulous month it has been and start to the year. I know there are still a few days of January left but I weigh once a week on a Friday. 

I am down **4kg in 4 weeks** and have learned so much about my relationship with and understanding of food. I have been tracking CICO but hope I can now continue IF without having to monitor every single calorie. I started at 16:8 and from this week have set my Fasting Tracker app to now do 18:6 (eat 12-6pm). 

This month I have been learning and understanding how high insulin levels from processed carbs can prevent weight loss which has been my stumbling block to getting my excess weight off so IF is perfect for me to lower my carb intake during my window and fasting will help lower my insulin levels to be able to switch my body from primarily burning glucose for fuel to burning fat

I can't wait to see what February brings.

Sunday 5️ February. Went to visit mum in her nursing home. Honestly I hate going now. Hate it. Hate seeing her like that. Dementia can seriously do one. 

Neo is in a very bad way too. Last night we noticed Neo can't use his left back leg. Same side as recent cancer op. He is no better this morning. Just phoned the vet and made an appointment at 9:45 tomorrow morning. I think the cancer has spread. 

Wednesday 2️2️ February. Neo lives to hoon another day. He has torn his cranial cruciate ligament in his left back knee. Vet did an excellent thorough exam and recommends rest and less hooning and a knee brace which you can buy for dogs just like humans. So we ordered one. 

Sunday 2️6️ February. End of Month two with IF. Weight down another 2.5kgs, total reduction 5.5kg so far. Still 5kg to go so halfway there. 

I also decided to not count CICO as I had in month 1 to see how I got on and can honestly say my tastes for food have already changed. I used to crave carbs, especially crisps and now I genuinely don't want them. I am choosing healthier  less processed food options to lower my insulin. Still struggling with my sugar and wanting something sweet after dinner/tea but making progress. 

My only regret with IF so far is that it took me 48 years to discover this lifestyle. 

Wednesday 1️ March. Dydd Gwyl Dewi. We played at the local Dementia Group, St. David's Day sing along event. It was an honour and a pleasure to be involved in such a lovely afternoon. 

❄️ Wednesday 8️ March. SNOW DAY ❄️ 

Thursday 9️ March. Week 10 of IF. 18:6 & 20:4. Coffee and water fasts only. I weighed this morning and another .5kg down. I am steadily reducing 1/2 kg a week which is about 1lb. 

This is the most sustainable 'diet' I have ever done as I do not feel restricted at all. I have lowered my carbs to around 50g p/d and trying to only have good/complex carbs from fruits and vegetables but I have also enjoyed cake once a week too. 

Snow Day 8 March 2023

The Ramblings of a Menopausal Mad Woman.

Saturday 1️1️ March. I need to change the name of this blog perhaps. Menopause can also do one. I have been struggling for a couple of years now and am becoming increasingly unable to cope. I am so done with it all. Had a cry and vent to hubby and have promised to call the Dr of Monday about upping my Antidepressants or changing my HRT.  In the meantime I am binging on Lambrini, cake and crisps. 

Monday 1️3️ March. I tried 53 times to get through the GP this morning as promised so I will try again tomorrow. 

Monday 2️0️ March. Finally spoke to GP and have agreed to increase my antidepressants back up to the maximum dose. I am feeling better after a long discussion with her and opening up about just how dark this recent bought of depression has been. 

I have also decided to reopen my Etsy shop and rebranded to Sarah Lou Crafts UK so that I can list my occasional makes plus lots of my crafting supplies that I know I am not going to use again. Very much an As & When hobby rather than a business. I need to take baby steps and go super slow and careful as my mental health is still so fragile. 

🧡 Thursday 20 April. A month ago today I made the nervous decision to reopen my Etsy shop and re-join Instagram after an 18 month break and what an amazing month it has been. I honestly did not expect the wonderfully warm welcome back from the amazing crafting community and 34 incredible sales from my revamped shop. So glad to be back up and running again.🧡 

🎵 Friday 21 April. Played an amazing 10th Anniversary concert with Band at the local secondary school. Dad, Eldest and daughter-in-law came to support. A fabulous evening had. 

☘️ Wednesday 26 April. 5 day Band trip to Dungarvan, Ireland. What a fantastic time away and with Ryan that wasn't a hospital trip. Such fun had and time to get to know band friends better.  

Ireland Trip 2023

Friday 5 May, Went out for food at Cattle & Co with eldest for his birthday and DIL, Ryan & DS. Amazing food and lovely evening with my favourite people. 

Sunday 28 May, I received a phone call at 9am from my cousin to let me know that his mum, my auntie had sadly passed away after a long battle with bowel cancer. 

Monday 29 May, Spring Bank Holiday hubs, Ryan & I went to dad's to work on his garden with Eldest & DIL too and brother and his kiddies. It was a glorious day with a picnic in the garden. 

Thursday 1 June. Meal at a local pub with all the family. Another glorious evening spent and awesome food. 

Thursday 8 June. Mojo hasn't been well for a while. Off his food and sleeping. I wondered if he had heat stroke or hopefully just a bug so took him to the vet but sadly he has congestive heart failure. £78 of medication and about 6-12 months prognosis. 

Saturday 10 June. I had a meeting today at Craft Alive in Llandeilo to pitch for becoming a seller there. It went well and I need to make some samples for them to see. I am so excited as I have always wanted to sell there. Now to get making a beautiful shawl in British wool called Celtic Green. 

Sunday 18 & Monday 19 June, I travelled to Seaton for my Aunt's funeral. It was lovely to see all my cousins for the first time in 8 years. 

Friday 23 June, went to see Crwbin play their Summer concert at Pontyberem Hall even though I didn't feel 100% well and woke up on Saturday with a Migraine that knocked me out for the day. 

Sunday 2 July, Dad, Brother, Sister and I had a small 'party' at mum's Care Home for her and dad's 50th Wedding Anniversary. It was a lovely afternoon to be fair and so touching that the staff had decorated mum's room with balloons and banners too. 

Saturday 8 July. Played with LTB for the Llandeilo Pride event. It was fabulous and we were so lucky with the weather. A couple of light showers in the morning but it all cleared away and was lovely for the event. There were over 200 people taking part in the parade and a wonderful turn out of spectators too. 

Monday 17 July. I am already getting disillusioned with Etsy and am once again itching for my own website instead. My dream is to have my own Shopify website one day, although I simply cannot justify the cost at the moment. It is something that I can save for and aim towards so over the last few days I have been researching alternatives to Etsy. I won’t leave the platform but have decided to try running BuyIndie alongside. It is a UK marketplace that can be a stepping stone to my own website. I have set up an account and am waiting now for the free Etsy import service to copy my listing across. Once that is done I will link it as a checkout feature on my free website that I have been building on Google and will begin driving my own traffic away from Etsy as the BuyIndie fees are ridiculously cheaper. 

Etsy does not charge a monthly fee but you pay 20-25% commission per sale. BuyIndie is £6 a month but you only pay a payment transaction fee of 1.4%+20p per sale. 

Monday 24 July I was not accepted to Crafts Alive but it has given me the push I needed to create my own website. What I have decided to do is build it in Google Sites, a free platform with my own domain SarahLouCrafts.co.uk which costs just £10 a year, purchased through Google Domains and I have linked the Shop feature to my BuyIndie store. 

I think it is a good plan that is a fraction of the cost of a Shopify site. Shopify charges £25 a month, and BuyIndie only costs me £6 a month. It is a great solution. 

Monday 31 July. I have booked a table at the National Waterfront Museum, Makers Market on 9 September. I used to love doing the event pre-covid times, the last time being December 2019. I am nervous about getting back out there but also excited to be back doing what I enjoy most. 

Tuesday 1 August. Happy Lammas Harvest Festival wishes to you all as we welcome August and celebrate reaping what has been sown. 🌾🌾🌾

Thursday 10 August. A lovely city break away to Bath. We had glorious weather and found the most gorgeous local pub where we were fully welcomed and adopted by the locals. 

Trip to Bath

Saturday 19 August. World Photography Day. Read Ryan’s blog about his hobby. “With my photography I am not having to interact with people or do the social thing that I find difficult”. https://www.bellybuttonpanda.co.uk/2023/07/Photograblog.html

Saturday 26 August - International Dog Day.

Monday 28 August. Today marks Ryan’s 3 full years in remission. In remission for the second time and cautiously optimistic about the future.


Top, Mojo white and tan Jack Russell. Bottom left, Neo beagle. Bottom right, Loki GSD in black and white.

International Dog Day

Friday 1 September. This month is Blood Cancer Awareness month. Another post that Ryan wrote for our blog. Cancer sucks: Going all in on a high card. https://www.bellybuttonpanda.co.uk/2023/07/cancer-sucks.html

Today also marks the day that I launched my winter collection. https://buyindie.co.uk/shop-category/sarah-lou-crafts-winter/

Wednesday 6 September. I have something completely crazy. I am absolutely sick of my horrible, ugly, neglected patio area. Project Patio begins! Wednesday was jet wash day, I was absolutely soaked even though I wore Ryan’s waterproofs and wellies. My hands and wrists were on fire from the power of the jet wash, but it was worth the effort.  

Thursday was paint-the-wall day, which went surprisingly well and quickly. 

Friday was new plants and a rug, plus use of the furniture we already owned to glow-up the area into a haven to sit with my morning coffee and to watch my garden birds all day and to enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings. I promise not to let it get into such an awful state again.

Patio Makeover - September 2023

Saturday 9 September. I attended my first Makers Market since before the pandemic. I used to enjoy the event at the National Waterfront Museum and I was pleased to see that it is still going strong. It was a fabulously successful day and I made a good profit too. I am already looking forward to the December event. 

Wednesday 13 September is World Sepsis Day. Sepsis was another unplanned diversion as we rode yet another bump along the ever winding Lymphoma road. https://www.bellybuttonpanda.co.uk/2023/07/sepsis-and-cancer.html


Friday 15 September is Lymphoma Awareness Day. Sometimes you get to choose your battles, and sometimes the battle chooses you! https://www.bellybuttonpanda.co.uk/2023/07/nkt-cell-lymphoma.html

Saturday 16 September. It was an honour and a pleasure to play with Llandeilo Town Band for Ukrainian refugees from across South Wales at a special fun day event in Carmarthenshire. 

Monday 18 September. I cannot believe that I have won the #SBS Small Business Sunday award from Theo Paphitis. What an amazing opportunity for my small business and self development. I am so excited to be a part of the amazing community and for this next chapter of Sarah Lou Crafts. Thank you all so much for being here with me on this adventure. 

Saturday 23 September. Mabon blessings for the Autumn Equinox. Thanks-giving for the fruits of the harvest to bless us all for the coming winter months.


Sunday 24 September. 2 months ago today I opened my shop on BuyIndie. I have earned 6x on BuyIndie than the same period on Etsy. 🥳 Now to be fair I have not been advertising my Etsy shop, I have been focusing on BuyIndie, but Etsy is a huge platform that should be driving traffic, right? Yes, indeed, in the last two months Etsy has brought 51% of visits to my shop but I have only made a tiny fraction in sales compared to BuyIndie. 🩷 


Monday 25 September. Eldest son and DIL got the keys to their new house. They are finally home-owners after renting since their Uni days. We spent 2 days helping them to move from their rental and even Ryan helped to look after their dog while we did the moving. 

Wednesday 27 September is Rare Cancer Day. The Epstein Barr Virus causes glandular fever and in rare cases cancer. Ryan is one of those rare cases. https://www.bellybuttonpanda.co.uk/2023/07/epstein-barr-virus.html

Thursday 12 October. Spent a lovely long weekend in Preston, visiting family and the city of Manchester too. 

Thursday 26 October. Played a lovely intimate gig for the Hen Gŵrt, Llandeilo for their celebration and exhibit of music through the years. 

Wednesday 1 November is Stress Awareness Day. Autistic meltdowns are not tantrums. Stresses build up to an unmanageable level and eventually explode out. https://www.bellybuttonpanda.co.uk/2023/06/classroom-meltdown.html

Sunday 11 November. It was an honour to play with a small band at the Llandeilo Remembrance Day parade. The rainy weather was kind to us for the short time that we played. 

Remembrance Day November 2023

Thursday 16 November is National Clarinet Day. 

Friday 17 November is National Take a Hike Day. Hiking Mitts are a perfect adventure accessory for people who want the convenience of fingerless gloves with the added comfort of warmth.


Thursday 23 November. A lovely long weekend spent in Germany, visiting family and our first authentic German Christmas Market. Unfortunately we arrived home to a very poorly Ryan. I took him to the doctor the following day who sent him straight to hospital, do not pass go, where sadly Ryan was admitted with Sepsis for the second time after failing to fight off a bout of Tonsillitis. He spent 9 days on various IV drips and I must say the medical team were amazing and with Haematology and ENT making absolutely sure he had not relapsed too. 

Thursday 30 November. St. Andrews Day. 

National Clarinet Day

Photo collage of 6 pictures showing large Ferris wheel, christmas market stalls, and old town buildings.

Germany November 2023

St. Andrews Day

Friday 1 December was our Christmas Concert with Llandeilo Town band and it was a fabulous evening with music and festivities

Thursday 7 December Ryan was thankfully discharged from hospital to rest and recover at home. We have a follow-up appointment with ENT on 18 January 2024. 

Friday 8 December we played as a small ensemble for Llansadwrn Christmas lights switch on. It was a lovely evening and free mulled cider too. 

Saturday 9 December our small ensemble played carols for Dryslwyn Community shop and thankfully they had provided us with a large gazebo to shelter us from the rain. 

Sunday 10 December I had a fabulous day at the Winter Makers Market at the National Waterfront Museum with lots of sales and laughter with the other vendors. 

Tuesday 12 December I completed a 6 week training course learning about Green Skills for Business. You can read more about that on my 

Green Skills - Sustainability page

Friday 15 December a small ensemble of us played at Plas Dinefwr, Newton House for their Christmas Carol Service, it was a wonderflly festive evening this time with free mulled wine. 

Saturday 16 December a larger group of us played carol outside Morrisons in Carmarthen for most of the day. It was cold and wet but we had a lovely crowd of spectators and we raised several hundred pounds towards new music and stands for the band. 

Monday 18 December our small ensemble played carols for the local Dementia Friends group. This event is the highlight of my year as it means so much to be able to give back to such an important group and all the work that they do.  

Thursday 21 December, I took dad to visit mum in her nursing home. Neither of us like going as it is so very hard to see my mum as a shell from dementia eating away at her. 

Saturday 23 December, the small Town Band ensemble played carols in Llandeilo Town for the last minute shoppers and we had a fun morning, with singers and children stopping to join us. 

So a great end to the year after a rocky start and a wonderful whirlwind it has been with some amazing adventures and exciting events. Here's to 2024 and whatever it brings. 

Yes, those are Daffodils in bloom in December.

Go to next post: The Story So Far In 2024