What I’m Reading

Hello there. I’m writing on a crisp bright Tuesday, and it has just turned midday. I had a hospital appointment this morning and treated Drew to a cooked breakfast to say thank you for accompanying me.

It’s nice to get appointments out of the way in the morning, as it gives me plenty of time in the afternoon to study. For those of you unaware, I’m currently studying for my MRes degree in English Literature, and the majority of my degree classification relies on my 30000 word dissertation. I’m particularly interested in the depiction of difference through literature, and as such my wider reading reflects this concept. The books I’m currently reading are a mixture of books used for my dissertation and for pleasure, but admittedly they all have similar themes (mostly because I’m so interested in them!). 

(Ed.) Garland Thomson, Rosemarie (1996)

Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body
New York University Press

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As a collection of essays from various authors, Freakery explores the concept of freakishness through historical, cultural and literary perspectives. As the study of bodily difference is a new and dynamic field, this comprehensive collection of essays provides a brilliant introduction to the concept of the corporeal Other. Though it is useful to have an awareness of the work of Goffman and his theories regarding stigma and bodily difference, Freakery provides a great starting point for those wishing to learn more about the concept of bodily freakishness that continues to be of prevalence within contemporary society.

Nihn, Bao (1993)
The Sorrow of War
Vintage

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Nihn’s Sorrow has been on my ‘To Read’ list for quite some time. During my A-Levels I began to develop an interest in war literature, and Nihn’s novel is – rather sadly – based upon his own experiences of serving in the Vietnam War, where he returned as only one of ten survivors from his battalion. Incredibly moving and oftentimes disturbing, Sorrow has often been likened to All Quiet on the Western Front. I can’t wait to finish this , and I’m sure it’ll be a novel that’ll stay with me for a while after reading.

Wurtzel, Elizabeth (1998)
Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America
Quartet Books

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This was a charity shop find, and to be honest I picked it up on a whim not expecting an awful lot. My undergrad dissertation focused on the relationship between mental illness and the body, and naturally I was drawn to something like this. Prozac Nation is actually a memoir, where Wurtzel discusses her struggles with mental illness as a teenager. Described as ‘Sylvia Plath with the ego of Madonna,’ Wurtzel uses a no holds barred approach to discuss her struggles with mental illness and her progression to improved mental health. A couple of trigger warnings, however: she does discuss self-harm and aspects of her own suicidality, so do be mindful of this if you’re wanting to give it a read. A darkly-comic read that is sure to resonate with many.

I am reading lots of different books at the minute, but thought it might be good to share a select few. Are you into reading? Let me know what you’re loving at the minute.

Have a great Tuesday afternoon whatever you’re up to,
Heather x

My 2015 round-up

Hello there. Now it’s safe to admit that Christmas is well and truly over. The decorations and trees in people’s houses have come down, and there’s talk of spring cleaning and resolutions everywhere you go.

In light of the New Year I feel a need to look back on it and reflect a little.

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2015 was an odd year. There were fantastic highs, and terrible lows, and not really much in between.

Let me explain.

2015 saw me finally accept I needed help for my depression and anxiety. Initially, this was a terrible situation. My anxiety was without a doubt at its worst. I found it almost impossible to leave my house without Drew. And when things got too much, I couldn’t bear to even bump into my housemates so I deliberately altered my sleeping pattern to avoid people. Of course, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but things got so bad that every sound made my heart beat so fast. I’d wake up dripping in sweat, having been jolted awake by terrifying flashbacks to a traumatic time, and dealing with all this alongside chronic pain and third year was really very difficult. Though it was a definite low point, I’m pleased to say that things got better.

Because, what’s most important, is that I realised I needed help and made the decision to get it.

That’s a definite high point, because it was the best decision I ever made. Through a mixture of counseling and medication, I’ve managed to keep my mental illnesses under control.

2015 was also increasingly difficult with regards to chronic pain from my spinal condition and cerebral palsy. There were very bad days. So bad in fact that for a week or so my diet consisted of instant cuppa soup as getting up to cook things was just far too painful, especially when having to prepare things with my affected arm.

But, I am pleased to say that I made it through. And, in what feels like forever, I’m finally being listened to by doctors. For once I feel like people are listening. That people really do want to help. And as a result I’m seeing an orthopaedic consultant, neurologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapists, orthotists and having regular pain management. Though I know there will never be a cure for my cerebral palsy and spinal problem, I know I can look at managing their symptoms and getting the best out of my body. Slowly , and with the help of my occupational therapist, I’m learning to undo all that negative ableism that’s permeated my thoughts. I’m learning to accept that it’s okay when I can’t do certain things. I’m learning to accept that my best is more than good enough. I’m learning that I have achieved so much in spite of all these things and that I need to stop being so hard on myself. I’m finally learning to accept who I am.

It’s OK that I can’t always do things for myself. I’m doing my best, my absolute best , and that’s all I can ask for.

I certainly did my best in 2015 when I graduated from university with a BA hons degree in the summer. Those painful, long-winded nights in the library dosed up on codeine paid off. I did it, and for once I can admit that I did well. Here is a picture of Drew and I in our silly hats to prove it.

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I also got onto my MRes course at university, which is everything I hoped for and more. Fingers crossed I’ll be getting to wear that silly hat again once more!

2015 saw me getting more and more into my blogging. Blogging initially started as a way of achieving catharsis and discussing things I felt were important to me. 2015 saw my blogging continue to grow and I want to take the chance to say thank you for putting up with me! You’ve all been fabulous. You have no idea how much it means to me that people actually read what I write on here!

I also collaborated with some fabulous brands this year, which is absolutely amazing! I’d like to thank Personal Planner, Primula, Wren Kitchens, Al Porto, Ultradex, Nine to Five Heels and Stick to Stigu (just to name a few!) for the wonderful opportunities you have given me. It has been fabulous to work with you all and many thanks for your support!

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2015 also allowed me to continue making lots of friends through blogging. The summer event was absolutely fantastic and I’ve made some really lovely friends. I’m hoping that the #HullBloggers will go from strength to strength in 2016, and thank you all for being so lovely!

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It sounds a little silly but 2015 saw me get these two wonderful little things: my guinea pigs Smudge and Patch. They have provided so much joy through difficult times and I hope will continue to for as long as possible. They even made it into my doctors notes because they’ve helped with my well-being so much!

So though 2015 wasn’t the best in parts – there are some things perhaps a little too sensitive to mention on here that contributed to that – i am so thankful for the good times. I’m hoping to make 2016 much more positive now that my medication has been sorted out for everything and seems to be helping.

As always, thanks so much for reading if you have, and Happy New Year to you!

Look after yourself whatever you’re doing,
Heather X

Jumping into 2016 with Stick to Stigu*

Hello there! I’m writing in the early days of 2016, and with a New Year comes new resolutions, ideas and ways of doing things. I’m a huge fan of organisation, and particularly due to my anxiety and depression routine is essential to keeping me calm: or at least looking like I know what I’m doing! Though phones are a handy way of keeping note of key dates, in my opinion nothing beats using a proper paper planner, and they can be such wonderful things to keep daily life in order.

When Helena from Stick to Stigu offered me the opportunity to try out their 2016 planner, I jumped at the chance.

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This is the first edition of the planner. What immediately appealed to me is the neutral navy colour, which would be suitable for everyone. The planner is ring bound, making it handy to keep a pen in place, and the tagline of ‘plan hard/play hard/rest hard’ is completely true to the interior of the planner.

There’s a lovely introduction from the Stigu team in the front. Here we find out that ‘Stigu is a juggler, and this planner is for all of us out there juggling.’ Well, this was just my cup of tea!

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I’m used to traditional planner layouts, where there’s often a week across two pages and a space under each day and date, but Stigu is different. Stigu has a week per page arranged in grid format, with a lovely big space opposite for doodling/note taking/to do lists. What is really lovely is the little reminders and Stigu doodles scattered throughout, reminding you to take rests, get energized or even create things!

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Each page brings with it something different, whether that be amusing doodles, anecdotes or handy little hints. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, and at least some thing on each page is guaranteed to make you smile. I particularly love the emphasis on making sure you rest, restore and ground yourself, and as someone work several chronic illnesses this is something I can really appreciate.

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There’s also the handy addition of yearly dates, which is good to use if you just need to glance at dates coming up.

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Each page has a handy tear off corner so you can keep up to date with each week on each page, and their web address is handily printed throughout.

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Overall I have to say I’m hugely impressed with this planner. It is everything I could need and more, and each time I pick it up there’s something about it that makes me smile. It is already coming in handy as I’ve jotted down my hospital appointments and other errands!

Thank you ever so much for Stick to Stigu for allowing me to review this. I absolutely love it, and I’m sure it’ll be stashed away in my daily handbag for the rest of the year!

Why not check Stick to Stigu’s social media accounts?

Happy New Year! I hope your Sunday is going well.

Heather x

November Favourites*

Hello, you. How are you? Just thought I’d post something a little light-hearted to break up the more serious posts.

I’ve done a couple of these things before so I guess this can be my November favourites: and as always, it’s a fabulous mixture of wonderful things!

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All things coconut…*

Above we have a picture of some Vita Coco cafe latte drink*. I am a huge coffee fan, and this certainly didn’t disappoint. Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of coconut water on its own, I appreciate the freshness it provides and this proved to be deliciously refreshing coupled with coffee. Definitely one to purchase in the future; Drew was a fan, too!

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I was extremely late to the coconut oil bandwagon, but now I’m on it there’s no turning back. I first tried coconut oil over summer as a make up remover, and quickly realised that it worked an absolute treat. It didn’t leave my eyes sore and stinging, didn’t make my skin inflamed and itchy and – best of all – didn’t exacerbate my acne prone skin. For makeup remover I use KTC pure coconut oil. However, also at the #HullBloggers meet I received two sample pots of organic cold pressed oil; Vita Coco* and Viridian* which smells divine! It’s a fabulous moisturiser and lipbalm, leaves my skin feeling soft, and best of all it has slight spf in, so I know I’m helping to protect my skin in more ways than one.

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misfit shine*
I won this at the last #HullBloggers meet on the raffle which was amazing. I’ve always been interested in getting one of these, and when I finally did I was literally jumping for joy. The misfit shine is like any other activity tracker: you connect it to an app on your mobile device and it stores and collates your data, whether that be from walking, running, cycling, swimming or anything in between. It can also track your sleep pattern, which is great for someone like me as sleep is extremely important. Turns out I actually walk quite a lot, which really surprised me. The design is very sleek and smart (it’s made of aviation-grade aluminum) and lights up to show your progress. I couldn’t get a great picture as it’s hard to capture, but it really looks great and can be worn as a clasp, bracelet or pendant if you buy the necklace to go with it.

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I haven’t had any other experiences with fitness monitors so I can’t compare my experience, but I have been pretty pleased with the misfit so far!

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My Barbour International Axle jacket
Because I’m a lucky girl I received this beautiful coat for my birthday. It’s from the International range, so is inspired by Barbour’s biking heritage. The coat itself is waxed and lined with signature Northumbrian lining and is an absolute delight. In fact, I love it so much I might just have to dedicate an entire post to it!
Excuse the dodgy pics; I was so eager to show my dad when it arrived I took them as quickly as possible! Better ones will appear in a post in the near-future, I assure you!

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Bespoke and Oak* products
I received this gorgeous personalised gift at the #WrenFamilyFavourites event and I’ve been loving it ever since. I’m a huge fan of anything handcrafted or personalised, and this is exceptionally lovely. It now takes pride of place in my kitchen. I think I may have to check out their website for some festive goodies!

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The Incredible Face Mask from Mays Beauty*
Face masks are great when you want a bit of me time. This little face mask may look pretty dull but it packed a real punch. When it said ‘clears impurities’ I’m more than certain it did because it really does anchor to the skin and remove any dry, flaky or oily patches. If you have sensitive skin I’d probably give this one a miss, but it would be a new refreshing experience for those who like to feel like they’ve been well-cleansed!

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Patch and Smudge
Okay so this one is a little bit of a joke but I have to include them. These are my new guinea pigs Patch and Smudge, who have been here for about a month. I cannot believe how obsessed I am with them; they are such wonderful little creatures and I’m sure they’ll be popping up in posts from time to time!

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Ahhh but just look at their little faces!
Patch is on the left and Smudge on the right. I believe they’re about 3 or 4 months old and they’re very cute. They’re doing wonders for my well-being!

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you’ve had a great Saturday!
Heather x

#WrenFamilyFavourites: Wren Kitchens Event with Linda Barker*

It was a chilly November evening as we made our way to Wren Kitchen HQ, situated across the Humber bridge nestled in the sleepy town of Barton-Upon-Humber. Fizzing with anticipation and excitement, we tentatively entered the heart of Wren Kitchen’s design hub and sat shyly, admiring the delicious aromas wafting from the room before us.

When I was invited to the Wren Kitchen’s Family Favourites event I admit I didn’t really know what to expect. I suspected that there would be lots of food (check!), wonderful blogger-company (check!) and some rather gorgeously designed kitchens (check!). However – to my delight – the Wren Kitchen event was far more than I could ever have imagined; it was utterly fabulous.

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We were kindly greeted by the lovely Victoria, who handed us some very intriguing goody bags…we knew from the off that this was going to be a fabulous night!

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As we walked in we were handed a glass of bubbly (and a non-alcoholic option for those who had to drive) and ushered to tables laden with all sorts of interesting crafty goodies. I am seriously into anything crafty/arty. My mum has always made scrapbooks and cards, and she’s always creating something new every week and I think I definitely have some of that creative streak. We were given our very own personalized recipe scrapbooks just for the occasion! Safe to say my mum was pretty jealous when I showed her!

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We were made to feel extremely welcome by the lovely Linda Barker, who went on to explain her collaboration with Wren Kitchens. Linda is a seriously talented designer (and a fabulous chef as it turned out!) and we were treated to a live cooking demo. Wren Kitchens have been running a campaign for people to enter their family favourite recipes, and the bloggers at the event (yes, lucky us!) got to taste these recipes for ourselves.

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We were treated to vanilla and chocolate marble cake, peanut butter and banana loaf and warm mince pies. And what’s best of all is we were actually given the recipe so we could replicate them at home; Drew is going to have to deal with lots of cake because I have had such a baking-craving after this event!

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The mince pies were a festive favourite of many, but I’m a real lover of anything chocolatey so the marbled chocolate cake was my favourite of the night.

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After our live cooking demo and plenty of chat from the lovely Linda and the team, we were treated to a look at Linda’s very own kitchens. I’m a student so I’m only living in student accommodation, but I developed SERIOUS kitchen envy after seeing these. They were fabulous; and as explained by Linda their kitchens are as bespoke as you can get for the price, which is fabulous as Wren believes that the kitchen is the heart of any home. Now Christmas is approaching I can definitely agree with that, and as someone who is really into cooking, the kitchen becomes a vital part of every day life.

This was a fabulous kitchen; just look at the units! I was also a fan of the duck-egg blue colour scheme.

This one was more rustic, yet with a modern edge. Really beautiful!

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Linda loved explaining her designs to all of us. This geometric print is similar to something she has in her own kitchen, and it made a great focal point for the room.

I hope by this point you’re as jealous as I am…how wonderful are these?!

After having a nosy around the kitchens, we all enjoyed some more chat (and cake!) and had a couple of pictures. We were all huge fans of our personalized apron and wooden spoons…they were such a gorgeous touch, and we demanded we have a picture of them!

I just want to say a massive thank you to the lovely Wren Kitchen team, all the wonderful bloggers and of course, to the fabulous Linda Barker. It was a really wonderful night and it was a pleasure and a privilege to be a part of!

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Has this post given you serious kitchen envy? Let me know in the comments below!

You can check out Wren Kitchen’s website here and Linda’s collections here.

I hope you’re having a fabulous Tuesday.

Heather x

One of Hull’s hidden gems: Stanley’s Brasserie

Hi there! Now, this is the fourth year I’ve lived in Hull to study at the university, so I’ve had ample time to sample and savour the local delights in wonderful restaurants dotted around the city. On Saturday it was my birthday (which is a completely scary thought…where has that year gone!?) and my parents headed over to help me celebrate with a meal out (I know, I’m a lucky girl!). We wanted to book a table in a local restaurant for the occasion and decided to try Stanley’s Brasserie in Hull. I’ve never been before and always admired its cosy atmosphere from afar.

I’m so so glad I booked that table, because it was absolutely amazing.

I’m a fan of most foods. I like to be adventurous, and it’s always great to try new things. I was fortunate enough to have an upbringing filled with many different types of food and cuisines from all over the world. As I’ve got older I’ve become a real fan of seafood, and fish – when it’s well-cooked – is one of my favourite meals.

Well, little did I know when I sat down at the table that I’d have one of the most delicious fish dishes I’ve ever had.

We kicked off the meal with cocktails, and I chose the Espresso Martini.  If you’re a big coffee fan, this is definitely the drink for you. Delicious! In fact, it was so good I forgot to take a picture. Woops!

To start I ordered the Hot Mozzarella. I’m a huge fan of cheese – cheese and biscuits is one of the best parts of Christmas day for me – and when I saw that this came with Italian prosciutto, I knew it’d be right up my street. I wasn’t wrong. It was fantastic; oozy, salty mozzarella in crunchy breadcrumbs, surrounded by fruity tomatoes and a good drizzle of pesto and topped with some delicious prosciutto, which is definitely one of my favourite things in the world.

It was divine, and it tasted even better than it looked.

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Next up, I had the seabass fillets, which came with a spinach and potato gratin and a dressed side salad. This was literally the best fish I have ever EVER tasted. The skin was crisp and salty; the fish itself was succulent and tender, and the gratin and salad was the perfect accompaniment.

It was truly divine, and is definitely one of the best things I have ever eaten.

Because I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even stop to take a picture which is a real shame, but wow. I would go back just for the seabass.

To finish mum and I shared a little lemon meringue pie. I think it’s true what they say; you definitely have a separate stomach for pudding! I did take a photo of this one.

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Again, beautifully presented and also extremely delicious. It had a crisp, buttery pastry case, lashings of tangy lemon curd, sweet marshmallowy meringue all topped with a generous helping of whipped cream (although we could have had ice cream but I think mum would agree the cream was a great option!).

All in all this was seriously fabulous. If you’re around this part of the world be sure to drop by; it’s feeling very festive at the minute, and the fairy lights definitely help!

You can check out their menu online here.

I hope you’re having a fabulous Wednesday.

Heather x

Today has been great…

…although it didn’t necessarily start off that way. This morning I was sore and cranky but I took some painkillers and made it into uni (after some cuddles with guinea pigs of course). Here’s one with smudge which is super cute, if I do say so myself .

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Smudge saying hello

Emma has been here since yesterday which is super lovely. It’s great to have a catch-up with my best friend, especially when ice cream is involved. She accompanied me to my pain management so we went for hot waffles afterwards which were as good as they look. And yes, they are m&ms on the top…and cream….and chocolate sauce. And I had two scoops of gelato; banana and nutella. I know, I really do have a big sweet tooth!

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If you’re ever over this way, be sure to visit caffe gelato. It’s a popular haunt for families and students alike, and when I was battling my way through final year it became a fabulous incentive: unhealthy perhaps but delicious all the same.

Emma is a really creative and crafty person, and she crocheted me a purse which is amazing!! I love anything handmade; it’s so thoughtful, and no-one else will have the same thing.

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It was nice to have pain management today because I’ve really been missing it and feeling it, too. I had an orthopedic appointment last week which is useful because they’re going to review my spine, which I think is needed. It will mean having a full spine mri but hopefully all will be well and I won’t have any more problems with the vertebrae in my spine to deal with. Fingers crossed!

Things are looking up, and this week I feel on top of all my work and errands which makes a change.
Although admittedly, I still feel like being an adult is hard, and I still think I’m about 6.

Shame I turned 22 the other day!

Anyway, I better get going. We’re going to chill out tonight with some films and snacks.
It’s so lovely to have a little bit of a break in my schedule.

Has your Monday been going okay?

Let me know, and keep your eyes peeled for my Wren Kitchens post…it’s going to be a good one!

Heather X

Ps here’s a cute pic of Patch…I know. I’m officially a crazy guinea pig person.

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