April 23rd, 2017

Howdy.

 

Yes-yes, can you believe it, I’ve finally managed to post an entry on the blog! Ha, this blog is so sporadically updated isn’t it, I just hope the dearest readers don’t give up on me!

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So, some of you (if any!) might be wondering how I’m doing with my breast cancer. The last time I wrote about it was back in January before the radiotherapy. Well, I did the radiotherapy everyday (with a rest at weekends) for four weeks. It sounds pretty full-on, but actually, each treatment was only a mere thirty seconds long (… and it wasn’t a zapping beam like in the Bond movies!). The reason for such short treatment being, the full dose of radiation is given in fractions. Radiotherapy is about damaging the DNA of the cancer cells to cause it to die, but inevitably the surrounding healthy tissue is exposed and gets a whacking too, so it’s best to spread out the killer bursts, allowing for your healthy cells to recover.

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The actual beaming may be short, but of course it takes ten or so minutes for the radiographer to position me accurately on the table. Ah, talking of accuracy, to do so, they tattooed two pinprick size dots on my chest! MY FIRST TAT Y’ALL! Lol, I’ve always fancied a tattoo, but who knew I’d be getting one in such an un-rock n’ roll situation! Oh well, despite the un-hipness, nevertheless I was excited and jolly as they did it, I mean c’mon, it was the highlight of my hospital visits, ANYTHING is better after experiencing the ghastly chemotherapy and the cold-cap.

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The chemotherapy…, the chemotherapy. Where do I start on how to tell you about this one.

 

Y’know, at the time, I was acting all brave and strong and as normal as I can be, because that’s the defence mechanism in me. And there’s everyone around me commenting “You’re managing so well!” and “You’re looking great!”. But looking back? I can tell you that it really was the shittiest time of my life (oops sorry, excuse the language!). Crappiest. Really. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemies! (well, I don’t have an enemy but just saying!)

 

Of course I could have made my life much easier by opting out of cold-capping, because that probably equated for half of the problem. Cold cap is basically a headgear that you put on pre, during and after your chemotherapy, which freezes your scalp in the hope of keeping your hair. Logic being that the poisonous drug won’t reach the hair follicles if it’s frozen. Like I say, that’s the logic anyway (because I still lost a lot of hair).

 

Traumatic? Yes. Painful? Oh yes, terribly. Endurable? Barely yes, but only because I have children who I was adamant not to upset any further. If it were not for trying to look ‘Normal’ for them, I would have torn off the mf-ing cap off my head in a speed never before seen by mankind. But with the cold-capping, I managed to keep ‘some’ hair, mostly on the sides, so when I put a hat on and have hair showing on the sides, people never suspected!

 

But for the children, it’s bad enough that their mum has cancer, right? Suddenly their steady, happy and ordinary everyday life gets hit by this bombshell of a news! Obviously we involved them wherever we can, filled them in on what’s happening because “not knowing” brings unnecessary fear. Without sounding scary, we told them, “it’s just taking the lump out and making sure it never comes back again with some medicine!”, which, in a nutshell, is all it is.

 

Perhaps it comes with the job of being a mother, but I worried. I worried what effect this would have on them. Being mindful for their mental state was a paramount issue for me, even though my own mental state was all over the shop. Actually even more so because I was suffering, that I didn’t want to drag them down too. We lay a stable ground for them as much as we can and of course always tried to be the chirpy mum in front of them but my eyes were often puffed up. And seeing people around us always asking about your mum’s health brings home the seriousness perhaps.

 

I felt that it was important to stamp out any problems before it happens, so quite earlier on in all of this, I sent two group emails asking for help. One was to my son’s friends parents. The other was to all the girl’s parents in my daughter’s class. If you want, you can read one of them through this link, which will open another page from my website.

 

Despite my worries, the children certainly stood up to the challenge:

 

Unbeknown to me, our teenage son put a picture of a woman with bald head plugged into chemo on his Instagram account, with the words: “I’ll delete this picture when she’s done fighting it”. My gosh, you can just imagine how it squeezed my heart when I found out! – The other week though, I noticed that the picture was gone. I asked him what happened and why, to which he replied, “Well, you’re better now aren’t you!”. – I will do anything for this boy.

 

And then our daughter brought out the maternal quality in droves with this experience. If I nodded off while reading a book or something like that, or at times even during play with her, she’d attentively put a blanket over me and then ever so slowly walk out of the room, careful not to make a squeak. I noticed her doing this before proper sleep got hold of me and I was deeply moved and so grateful that she is my daughter.

Although, sometimes she treats me like an injured pony or a kitty! Lol! Her recent ‘thing’ is to stroke my short hair back and forth, like petting an animal. I understand her fascination though, the hair that grew from baldness does feel especially soft and nice like animal fur! – A friend of mine described my daughter as having an ‘old soul’, that she seems to understand the world around her. Well, I do think she has a developed sense of empathy. Do you believe in past lives? I do, and I sometimes feel that we were also mother and child, but in reversal, me the child. That’s what I feel when she envelopes me. – I will do anything for this girl too.

 

My children’s friends and their mums stood up to the challenge too!

 

I was told by my son’s friend’s mum that his group of friends have a gentleman’s agreement that they won’t ask about my health unless my son mentions it. Thirteen year old boys and their pact! Bless ’em. :-)

 

And my daughter’s friends mums! I received so much emotional support. For example, as soon as the email was sent, they organised a get together for me. It was exactly what I needed, not to be a sorry-case at home, but having a laugh in the pub! They brought around food and flowers from time to time too. And we went for numerous coffees and lunches! It sure made a difference knowing that I had them to fall back on.

 

And Mr.D… Shall I tell you? It was on his birthday, 28th June, that I was diagnosed…! Poor guy, what a shocker it must’ve been, and what a horrible present it was! I’m so sorry that it had to be that day. But of course he has been a rock and a shoulder to cry on. I guess he had the short end of the stick than any other because not only did he had to process this news and deal with my bouts of negativity, he had to look after the family but also go to work throughout the time!

 

Now with the benefit of hindsight, I asked them how they felt at the time and my family all say they were not scared. I think we came through this alright! Thank God for that! Life is almost back to normal now, I just need to go back for treatment once every three weeks for the rest of this year, and take oral medicine for the next five years.

 

I sometimes have bouts of fear. Like a heart attack it suddenly comes unannounced. I worry that the cancer might come back again. And that the next time will not be so lucky. And I still grieve the loss of the work I loved doing too and I feel slightly lost. But that thought gets disrupted soon enough with the children that need my attention and I am ever so grateful for that.

 

Ps: some of you might have realised that the website has been updated? Yup! It has! Now, it is mobile-responsive, and with the bonus of a ‘Recipes’ page where you can now access my recipes much easily. I have also recently started Instagram! There you’ll find me posting stuff much more frequently than on the blog, so please check it out~! ;-)

 

January 19th, 2017

Happy new year 2017.

It’s a new year, a new beginning…

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Belated happy new year everyone!

 

How is 2017 panning out for you so far? Back to the usual routine by now?

 

Personally, what with what’s going on, welcoming this new year feels a bit like starting with the dreaded next chapter in a book where the last chapter ended badly.

 

And indeed, this new year started off on the wrong foot. I was straight back for treatment on the very next day we came back from our Germany trip… Aw dear readers…, I couldn’t help but feel miserable :( it was like an unwelcome reminder of how 2017 is going to be for me… You know, it felt like reality face slapping. Ouch. (sigh…)

 

BUT…! And there is always a ‘but’, right? :)

 

Just yesterday, on my way home from the radiotherapy session in town, as I watched a guy climbing up the stairs two-steps at a time, I copied & I did too! Just imagine me taking big strides on the steps at Kings Cross station! Lol. The point is, I think my energy is coming back, I CAN FEEL IT. As well as skipping the steps, I’ve been making it a mission to walk on the escalators to clock in more step counts too. And using the stairs instead of taking the lifts! I think it’s paying off. :)

 

PLUS…! I come with amazing news to share with you.

 

Folks, Coco&Me has received its first ever Christmas present!!!! Our fabulous/ genius/ uber-kind bestie Mr.A (who we stayed with in Germany) has SUPER kindly offered to update the site so that it is mobile responsive! (Yah, I know, you don’t need to tell me, like, ‘finally’ huh?) When Mr.A handed me a Christmas card of a hand holding a mobile, I didn’t ‘get’ it, but when he explained, oh my gosh I was sooooo extremely happy, I cried! :) :) :)

 

cocoandme_mobile

 

Mr.A, You know what you did? You brightened the start of 2017 for me. And your show of kindness will positively glow in my soul. :) Thank you so much.

 

In detail, not only will the site become mobile responsive, he will be creating a proper recipe page where all the recipes I’ve posted in the last 10 years will be easily accessible.

 

What’s more, the graphics will all be in vector so that it’a crisp-looking, and and and… ah yes, I’ve taken this opportunity to start on INSTAGRAM!!!!

 

You’ll find me on: https://www.instagram.com/_coco_and_me_/

 

Ha ha, again, like finally, right…!? I know that it won’t look as beautiful as the others nor will I be uploading pictures so strategically, but I’ll give it a shot in my own way!

 

Not sure when we’re rolling out the remodelled website, but when it does, I hope that you’ll like it & agree that it is a major improvement!

 

T xx

December 25th, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

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(Even Santa’s health conscious this year.)

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Ho Ho Ho~! Merry Christmas ~!!

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I hope this message finds you well? Where are you? What are you doing today?

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Guess what? I’m currently in Hamburg! And I’m so happy! It was a bit of an effort to get here but it just feels like it’s exactly what I needed. Y’know, since a while ago, I had been regarding this winter trip as a goal/ milestone, because it coincided with my end date for the chemotherapy treatment I’ve been having, & so it’s a relief & a proud moment to say this: “Here I am!”

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In Germany they celebrate Christmas on the 24th, so yesterday, from late afternoon, we were at Mr.D’s sisters for the party. His mum gave me the biggest bear hug – she always does. She’s a sweet lady, she sings a birthday song in German over the telephone on my birthday, every single year.

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For Christmas dinner, Mr.D’s macrobiotic sister S baked ‘saibling’ fish stuffed with vegetables. Wholegrain rice, brussel sprouts & German red cabbage on the side. Very healthy Christmas dinner don’t you think?! :) Well, then again, the dessert was a naughty tiramisu made by his sister N, & there were lots of chocolate covered marzipan to nibble on throughout the evening, so not completely!

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Wherever you are this Christmas, have a wonderful day!

T xxxxx

 

December 13th, 2016

Cold busting lemongrass & ginger tea self-brew

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Coco&Me - Recipe for ginger & lemongrass tea self-brewing in thermos flask - www.cocoandme.com

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This post is in two parts. First, it’s the recipe itself, then secondly, there is my story on what it is like as I travel with this flask on the red bus to get to the chemo treatment that I am having at the moment.

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Part 1: The recipe.

Whenever I travel, I concoct this tea in a thermos flask & take it out with me. It takes just a couple of minutes to put together, it’s so simple, I just let the goodness steep on its own accord while traveling.

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I like to sip this as the day unfolds. Like while waiting for the bus on a freezing day for example. I pour just a tiny bit in to the cup so that it cools down quicker, then take a sip & enjoy the deep, warming zing of the ginger & the crisp, purifying aroma of the lemongrass. I feel its warmth seep in to my body & envelope me & shield me from the cold.

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Its weird to admit to, but this tea flask is starting to become almost like as if Linus’s security blanket for me. Whenever it’s too much, I take a break with it. Even while walking on the street at times! I stop & take a sip by the sidewalk & let the world pass by. I find that it is a great calming way to take a step back from the hustle & bustle. I now realise that the time you enjoy taking a break is not wasted time. It reminds me to slow down & most importantly, allow for that.

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Coco&Me’s recipe for cold busting lemongrass & ginger tea brew

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Ingredients:

Fresh lemongrass

Fresh ginger root

Tea bag of your choice (caffeine-free would be ideal, like rooibos tea or chamomile)

Honey to sweeten (optional)

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Method:

1. Boil some water in the kettle.

2. Cut a slice of ginger. Just a slither is plentiful, otherwise it becomes too spicy & dominant in the tea. Peel the skin, & place this in the thermos flask.

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cocoandme_ginger_tea

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3. Next, chop off about 2cm of lemongrass. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash it to bruise & release the aromatic oils. Pop this in the flask also.

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4. Pop the tea bag in the flask & pour in the hot water. Let the tea steep for a while & then discard the bag.

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5. Then secure the lid. That’s all! :) It’ll be flavoursome after about 30 minutes. 

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Part 2: As on my way to the chemo treatment.

Thursday morning. Eight o’clock.

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The day starts with my earnest intention to leave the house much earlier than Mr.D who stands in to walk our daughter to school. I want to get to the hospital quick to start on the treatment so that I’ll be home by the time when the children come home from school.

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But I get too involved when I enter the kitchen – I see the washed up plates & pots from last nights dinner on the dish drainer by the sink & the compulsive in me finds some work to do. I circuit around & around the central kitchen in a hurry to put things away in to the cupboards. Have I ever told you that I hate my stupid kitchen island? It makes me feel like a guinea pig on one of those round spinning what-you-call-its.

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I’m the queen when it comes to multitasking (a much positive way to put it rather than saying impatient jitterer, which is what I really am!), so amidst the tidying I prepare my breakfast, which this morning is porridge with slices of kiwi & dried prunes. With the same chopping board I also cut a small piece of ginger & pound a thumb length of a stalk of the lemongrass. These I pop in to the travel flask filled with hot green-rooibos tea to steep. It’s amazing this, just the tiniest pieces perfumes & permeates the tea. I feel like I’m doing something right & healthy by drinking it. I tuck this travel flask in to my rucksack, together with a small bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel which I now carry around everywhere, because chemo compromises the immune system & I’m freaked out about germs on public transport!

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I leave the house to journey to the hospital. It will take me around an hour & a half on the bus with one interval change.

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On the first bus that I take, a scruffy possibly homeless man comes on. His worn out clothes are dirty gradients of grey. Except his t-shirt. It’s bright blue with the superman S logo. If there ever was a superman & I was Clarice, this beatened superman looked unpromising to bring some peace to my troubled world.

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Next, I sit on the icy cold metal bench as I wait for my second bus. The thing about England is that it’s so cold for most of the year. There’s not really a real summer here, it’s hot for only like two weeks then that’s the summer done! So I have a go at the bench. “C’mon, seriously? Do you have to be metal? You’re super icy!” ~ This is all in my head of course. Don’t worry, my screws aren’t that loose yet!

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This is the perfect time to take out my thermos flask & pour the hot tea in to the cup that also acts as a lid. The purifying aroma of the lemongrass feels like it’ll shield me from the cold, & the fiery kick from the ginger warm my body from the inside. I’m convinced that if anyone should take a thermal image of me & the others at the bus stop, I’ll be the one that is glowing reds & yellows, while the rest will be in shades of blue.

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Soon enough the bus for the second length of my journey arrives. This one takes up the longer part of my travel so I sit upstairs on the double decker bus. My preferred side to sit is always the curb side so that I can look at the passing shops. It’s interesting you know, the kind of shops out there. There’s ones that’s like“How on earth are they surviving?” & I’m not kidding, it’s the sort that both you & I will think so in unison. But surely the shop rent isn’t cheap either. Sometimes, there are shop-keepers that lean by the doorway, arms crossed, looking bored stiff. Er, yeah, that’s really gonna bring the customers in, isn’t it…

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I plug my earphones on & listen to the BBC radio programmes that I pre-downloaded on my iPhone. Listening to it & all the while looking out of the window is entertaining enough to pass the time. Food related programmes are my favourite to listen to. This particular instance they were cooking at the same time as talking & I hear the sizzling sounds of frying the fatty bacon with clear stereo audio. Ahhh my-my, it is food porn for the ears I tell you! The sounds of the kitchen are my favourite sounds that I behold so fondly. Love it. I subtly smile to myself for my own silly reaction & decide to take another sip of my tea. I briefly pondered wether the distinct lemongrass aroma may be too intense for the confines of the closed air of the bus, but heck, I pour some out anyhow.

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Listening to radio, I observe the people getting in & out of the bus from my upstairs seat. I noticed the young lady waiting by the bus stop straight away. Something about her is so radiant. Y’know what, it’s that youthful look with the air of carelessness. No sign of apparent worries, confidently living the moment. – It’s such a contrast to me, I thought. Me, makeup-less, on way to the ghastly chemo, with my balding head hidden under the beanie, finger-tips tingling with peripheral neuropathy, weighed down with anxiety for having to freeze my head with the cold cap again. As a fully-fledged adult you know that the grass is not greener on the other side, & blah blah blah, but nevertheless, I feel… jealous… & it tugs at the emotions that I want to keep stabilised. Undergoing chemo compromises the immune system physically for sure, but also emotionally it seems. I think tea again should help. I sip it & close my eyes as I gulp & feel the warmth trickle down deep.

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It’s a funny thing, now that I’m not busying myself with the baking, I notice my surroundings much more so. Keeping up with the appointments is busy enough, but the truth is, the little people in my head are also feeling like the shop-keeper leaning by the doorway with arms crossed, looking bored stiff…

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Ps: Two more chemo sessions to go! – Last one on 21st. Then 4 weeks of radiotherapy from mid January.

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November 10th, 2016

I bought a non-plastic kettle!

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Hi-hi everyone! This time, I’d like to show off my brand spanking new kitchen equipment!

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cocoandme_ottoni_fabbrica

_Hello, nice to meet you Mrs. Kettle, welcome to mine! :) :) :)

 

Ta-da~!!!!! It’s an ALL-STAINLESS-STEEL electric kettle by Ottoni Fabbrica & it’s non-plastic!!! Ooh it makes me so happy! :)

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I do slightly fear that I may come across as a bit silly getting all excited over just a kettle…, lol, but you’ve gotta understand (!)
this is a cumulative result of me searching high & low for a non-plastic kettle for an age! Did you know that finding a kettle with absolutely zilch plastic parts is really hard?! You’d think that the stainless steel kettles out there on the market would be good enough, right?, but no…, they all have some sort of plastic part that would be in contact with the boiling water. For example the mesh lime scale filter by the spout – it has a plastic frame… And if the kettle has a a water level window on the side, that’s going to be made out of plastic too.

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_Inside shot

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_The kettle by Ottoni Fabbrica has a stainless steel mesh filter on the spout side. The mesh is the same height as the kettle, & although it doesn’t look it, it is actually removable for washing!

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You’re probably wondering what the fuss is all about, right? Well, I’m on a mission to get away from the plastics. This is because I worry about harmful cancerous chemicals entering mine & my family’s body. My personal concern is especially bisphenol A (BPA) that mimics the oestrogen hormone. Was it this that fed my hormone-receptive breast cancer…? Having had the first-hand experience of cancer, where ever I can, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

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“… considerable data indicate that exposure of humans to BPA is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, miscarriages, decreased birth weight at term, breast and prostate cancer, reproductive and sexual dysfunctions, altered immune system activity, metabolic problems and diabetes in adults, and cognitive and behavioral development in young children”

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Mind you, it’s not just bisphenol A (BPA) that’s bad…, yikes…:

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“Three plastics have been shown to leach toxic chemicals when heated, worn or put under pressure: polycarbonate, which leaches bisphenol A; polystyrene, which leaches styrene; and PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which break down into vinyl chloride and sometimes contains phthalates that can leach.”

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(Quoted from breast cancer fund)
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So, here’s my review about the use of an all-stainless kettle in general & specifically about the Ottoni Fabbrica kettle:

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Pros:

  • In general, an all-stainless kettle has no plastic parts touching the water. It’s strong material will likely last for a long time. Stainless also doesn’t impart or absorb flavors or smells.
  • The Ottoni Fabbrica kettle is considerably a lot quieter than the plastic kettle I had previously! And the design of the spout on the Ottoni Fabbrica kettle is really nice – it pours water beautifully. Also worth mentioning is the large opening on the top which makes putting the water in easier.

Cons:

  • In general, an all-stainless kettle is heavier than it’s plastic cousin. In my opinion, elderly people might find it cumbersome. It also gets pretty hot to the touch on the outside wall.
  • The Ottoni Fabbrica kettle is expensive compared to the standard price-point of it’s plastic cousin. The handle is still plastic (but atleast it’s not touching the water directly). I wish the handle was wooden…! It’ll really suit the rustic appearance of the kettle! Using wood will make these kettles truly plastic-free!

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By the way, as far as I know, this is the only all-stainless steel interior electric kettle that I know which is available to the UK market.

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The Ottoni Fabbrica kettles comes in two different shapes. To make the decision to choose harder, they have these in  an assortment of twenty colours & finishes to colour-match your kitchen! Below are the four that I liked the best: 

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Ottoni Fabbrica Italian Top Kettle “Alice Bianco” 2400W 1,7 L

The colour-combo of white & silver reminds me of my iPhone!

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Ottoni Fabbrica Italian Top Kettle “Alice Nero” 2400W 1,7 L

I like simplicity, so this one with the black handle was a possible candidate. It’s a classic look that you won’t get tired of.

 

Ottoni Fabbrica Italian Top Kettle “Alice Elegance” 2400W 1,7 L

Similarly, how about an all-black one like this?? Rather slick don’t you think? It oozes calm modernity. Oh choices, choices…! :)

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And then this is the one I went for. Ottoni Fabbrica Italian Top Kettle “Fjord Satinato” 2400W 1,7 L. It’s over twenty pounds more expensive than the others… but I liked the shape of the spout, & I liked the brushed stainless steel surface. I think the somewhat retro/ vintage-y/ nostalgic appearance is rather charming!

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