Happiness is…

…the first sip of tea, feeling worthy, drinks and laughs with friends, cuddling cats and sipping chai lattes, the rush after a good work out at the gym, finishing a book, midnight snacks, being at peace.

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I am writing…

from a sick bed. I have an horrendous cold. i am fevery, and sniffly, and all the not-so-great things that come with Being Ill.

I am surrounded by tissues, and empty tea cups, and Olbas oil is the fragrance of the day. It is far from exciting.

I just wanted to write a little something, though. You see, I’m awfully self-degrading. Sometimes I joke about it, but there is an element of truth to my self-berating insults. You see, I always feel I could do better. If only I could be better, be stronger, more intelligent, more compassionate. It takes a lot for me to sit back and realise that I am doing ok. So. I suppose whilst I’m ill, and already feeling sorry for myself, I’ll sit back and count my blessings.

This month I graduated. That’s right: I’m a Master of Research (whatever that is). I have a 120-page thesis and several publications and a lovely certificate to show for it. So, there’s that.

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Here’s me, looking uncomfortable in my graduation attire.

I’ve also survived a year in the workplace (hooray!). And though I’m currently in the midst of job applications and other job-related things, I feel positive that I’d be an attribute to most workplaces. I really like working. It gives me purpose, and something to aim for. I just need someone to realise that and to take a chance on me!

I am having a great time with Ben, and my friends, and I have a lot to be thankful for. There’s obviously a reason these wonderful people are in my life, and I should recognise that more often. I just need to take stock of things and realise that, hey: I’m doing OK. I actually am.

Anyway. I’m off to get another tissue, and make another brew.

Maybe we all need to sit and take stock sometimes. I recommend it.

Heather x

The Tea Shop X Trinity Market*

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love tea. Any type is fine with me: green, breakfast, black, white, green…I’ll give anything a go. So when I was asked if I’d like to sample some of the delights courtesy of The Tea Shop X Trinity Market, I jumped at the chance.

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Though I’m not actually a Hullian, I like to think of myself as an honorary Hullian since I lived there during my university years. Hull will always have a special place in my heart, and supporting small Hull businesses is something I will always be more than happy to do.

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I only discovered Hull’s Trinity Market in my final year of undergraduate study, and i was surprised how full it was of curiosities, antiques and interesting bric a brac. There’s also some fabulous food and drink kiosks, selling handmade, locally sourced produce made with love and passion. You can’t really beat that, can you?! I remember venturing into The Tea Shop briefly when my parents visited, but my student budget didn’t allow for much splurging and I had to make do with own-brand breakfast tea for a while. Well, fortunately enough for me, I’ve now had the chance to sample some delicious blends and they most certainly didn’t disappoint.

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The tea blends are: Elderflower and Green Tea, Honeybush Chocolate Cake and Blood Orange. Sound good, don’t they?!

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I got out my finest tea pot, and started brewing.

The Elderflower Green Tea is gorgeously floral and sweet, with a slight fruity aroma that couples well with the crisp, slightly bitter green tea. If you’re not the biggest fan of elderflower, I’d still give this a go. It’s a really great pairing.

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Honeybush Chocolate Cake is a wonderfully-unusual sounding tea, that includes chocolate chips, cream-caramel pieces and rosebuds. It smells exactly as you’d think: a deliciously chocolatey, sweet blend, with a floral note to finish. Another fabulous brew that is something a little bit special.

The final tea is a Blood Orange tisane, with lots of pieces of dried, sweet fruit. It contains apple, hibiscus, rosehip, orange, lemon and natural flavourings. I’m a really big fan of tisanes as a pre-bedtime beverage, and the fruity flavours – and gorgeous colour – is such a wonderful combination.

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As Hull is the City of Culture this year, The Tea Shop is also stocking some exclusively-designed, Hull-themed Moorland pottery mugs, alongside a selection of other Hull-themed goodies. Make sure you pop in when you’re on your travels. They have a Facebook page , website and an instagram account as @theteashophull . Why not check out Trinity Market’s insta, too? Find them at: @TrinityMarketHull .

I’m heading back to Hull for my MRes graduation (eek!) next week…I think I need to pay The Tea Shop a little visit!

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Thanks so much to The Tea Shop X Trinity Market for providing some truly delicious blends. I’ll be back!

Heather x

Disappointments, Direction and Decisions: Visiting the Musculoskeletal Clinic

Yesterday felt like a big, anxiety-inducing, sad-making day.

I woke up early knowing I had to attend my MSK Clinic appointment with butterflies in my tummy and a raspy dry throat. Perhaps it seems a little over dramatic to feel this way, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious.

Truth is, I had been waiting for this appointment for months, having had to be re-referred to a different service in a different part of the country since moving back after my university studies. This appointment would determine what kind of support I’d be entitled to back in my hometown, and having got used to the routine and effectiveness of treatment back in my university town, I was extremely anxious at the prospect of having no support at all, which seems like an exaggeration, I know.

You see, it is very much a postcode lottery when accessing healthcare.

As much as I love the NHS, I must say there really is a huge difference with regards to provisions and accessibility depending on where you are in the country. It’s all a bit touch and go with certain services, as each have different approaches. Back in East Yorkshire I’d been lucky enough to receive frequent acupuncture treatment, excellent mental health treatment through several talking therapies, and access to a neuro consultant, occupational therapy and physio. Though I’d seen a physio and neurologist a long time ago back home, I hadn’t ever seen an occupational therapist despite having cerebral palsy. I also hadn’t had frequent acupuncture, or had monitoring of my curvature since the age of sixteen. It made me anxious to think all the fantastic progress I had made in Hull could possibly be stripped away just because the services and provisions aren’t available here.

All of this explained the butterflies and raspy throat, I guess.

As I suspected, things have changed. Much to my disappointment, they don’t offer acupuncture here. This was a little hard to swallow (and accounts for my exclamation of ‘oh no!’ in the consulting room) and though I was offered facet joint injections back in East Yorkshire, I was told I probably won’t be able to have them over here for a few years owing to my age. I might also have to consider a spinal fusion in the future (eek!) so they’d want to reduce steroid exposure to a minimum.

Again, fairly disappointing.

It’s not all bad, though. I will be discussed at their monthly review -‘they’ being made up of doctors, spinal consultants, neurologists, nurses and pain management specialists – and it is likely I’ll be able to access support to help with the mental struggles of the cerebral palsy and scheuermann’s, which is really quite exciting considering this aspect has never been discussed. I’ll also have specialist physio, with therapists who know the condition, and will be able to advise me accordingly, a change from the ‘I’ve never actually seen scheuermann’s in a person before!’ physio I’ve had previously. So, I’m feeling a bit mixed-up about this one. I am seriously gutted I can’t have acupuncture, and will be looking into private treatment options.

However, I am feeling a glimmer of hope, and really feel that the mental health focus will help. It is also lovely to know I am not alone, so a big thank you to Ben for coming with me to my appointment. This is a start, and I have at least some direction, and I’ll just have to hang tight and see what’s in store.

I’ll get there, I’m sure.

Sending warm bear hugs on this chilly day…

Heather x

I’m back…

…did you miss me?! Wait. Don’t answer that (you probably didn’t). As you can probably tell from my lack of posts it has been ridiculously busy over here. The year was bad enough generally (hello MRes, I’m blaming you) but the last few months have been so hectic all I’ve wanted to do is curl up into a ball and wait for the Whole Thing to blow over.

However, I’m here, and I’m going to tell you all about it…well, the short version, at least.

If you’re a regular reader (hello, you! Thanks for sticking around) you’ll know I went straight onto doing my research degree after my undergrad in English lit. I knew this would be hard, but I didn’t quite prepare for the level of stress, panic and general upset that would ensue. It has been a really tough year. I never realised how all-consuming a research project could be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved doing my MRes. I thoroughly enjoyed the reading, and establishing (what I hope to be) a coherent argument based upon my own research, but wow, my thesis genuinely took over my life. It was all I could think about. If I wasn’t writing up, I was reading. If I wasn’t talking about it, I was thinking about it. And by the end, after several weeks of almost sleepless nights, I sent my lovingly crafted/edited/formatted thesis to the bindery. What I picked up – a whole 121 A4 pages-worth of blood, sweat and tears – made the process seem worthwhile. Holding that tangible object gave me the confirmation that yes, I did work hard, and yes,  it was something I could genuinely be proud of. As someone who is almost entirely self-critical and self-deprecating with regards to my academic achievements, this was a pretty special feeling to have. I’m hoping to find out my marks soon, so keep everything crossed for me!

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Amongst all of this, I was applying for jobs, attending interviews and continuing with several voluntary roles. Thankfully I landed an amazing job that I absolutely love, which will hopefully set me on a positive career path. I have just about settled in. The place is wonderful, and my colleagues are truly some of the loveliest people I have ever met. I’m working part time currently, but I am finally getting confirmation that I’m on the right track (whatever that may be).

This year has been a Big Year as far as years go. There have been the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. I have made the greatest friendships, published an article in a journal, and been fortunate enough to still attend some fantastic events with the Hull Bloggers crew (posts to follow!). The lows have been low: I have drifted apart from people, relationships ended, some close friends have turned into strangers, and I often found myself in a constant state of change where I didn’t know what was happening and who I was going to be sharing my time with. But I have made it. And I can honestly, hand-on-heart say, that i’m feeling the happiest I have ever felt in months. I’m finally feeling like things are on an upward trajectory. And, with any luck, I’m hoping to stay up here – on what currently feels like cloud nine – for as long as I can.

If you’re still reading, and you stuck around for me, i just want to say a big thank you. I’m really grateful for your support, and just know that I really do appreciate every little like and comment. They brighten my day.

So yes. No Superhero is back. And she is here to stay. Keep your eyes peeled for posts…there are many in the pipeline!

Look after yourself,

Heather x

 

 

Nando’s: Exciting New Additions For Summer 2016*

Hello, you lovely lot! Here’s another gorgeous foodie post for you all. A few weeks ago I was extremely lucky to be invited to try out Nando’s new menu items when they launched on the 17th May, by the wonderful Callum over at Callum Jackson Blogs. I love trying new things, and Nando’s never disappoints, so I really couldn’t wait to see what they had to offer.

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We were welcomed into the St Stephen’s restaurant and sat at our places, marked by our favourite bottles of their famous Peri-Peri sauce (what a beautiful touch!) and waited excitedly for what was to come. We were greeted warmly by Callum, who explained what each new addition existed of, and treated us to a truly fabulous night.

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Firstly, we got to try the new range of Vinho Spritzers, which are a refreshing blend of wine, lemonade, and heaps of fresh fruit. First up, the white Vinho Spritzer; a refreshing blend of Crispy Cara Viva White wine, topped up with lemonade and garnished with freshly sliced lime and sprigs of cooling mint. The White Vinho Spritzer was a refreshing take on a white sangria, and I could see this being an absolutely gorgeous addition to a balmy summer evening whilst tucking into your favourite Nando’s! The Rose Vihno spritzer consisted of Summer Fruits Cara Viva Rose wine, spritzed with bubbly lemonade and raspberries, sliced lime and sprigs of mint. The Rose Vihno Spritzer was a huge hit with the Hull Bloggers, and would be enjoyed by those who like their beverages fruity and fresh. Finally, we had the Red Vinho Spritzer; Cara Viva Red wine topped up with sparkling lemonade, and garnished with raspberries, orange slices and a cinnamon stick. This was my favourite of the lot, as it reminded me of a summery-take on a mulled wine. It was warming and delicious, and I’d really recommend that one. Wonderful!

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Naturally, we couldn’t wait to try the rest of the new items, and it wasn’t long before we were presented with the delicious-looking Fino Platters. Now this was what we had been waiting for! A Nando’s legendary whole Spatchcock flame-grilled Peri-Peri chicken, served with a selection of colourful sides including Sweet Potato Wedges, Fino Coleslaw, Supergrains, chargrilled veg, and Peri-buttered corn-on-the-cob. Yum!
The Fino Platter is a great way to get together with friends and family to share some delicious food and good company, something favoured by our South African buddies across the pond which was the main inspiration for Nandos’ delicious new platter. The chicken is the main star of the show; tender, succulent and easily pulled apart, complemented by a tangy grilled lemon to squeeze over the top as you wish. This was absolutely delicious and it’s easy to see why Nando’s is so famous for its chicken dishes.

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Next up we had the corn on the cob; a sweet, crunchy, juicy cob, topped with lashings of spicy Peri butter that complements the sweetness perfectly. Divine!
Supergrain is a new side from Nando’s, which consists of a mixture of grains, including wheat berry, the ancient freekah grain, red quinoa and black barley, with added edamame beans, cannelloni beans, chargrilled bean halves, shredded kale and spring onion. This fabulous mixture is seasoned together, and dressed with light lemon and oregano. This was a real hit, and we couldn’t stop eating it! In fact, this is the first regular side Nando’s has added to their menu since Creamy Mash, so it really is a little bit of something special. It comes in Regular, Large and Nandino portions, minus the dressing for the Nandinos. Stunning, and again, a great addition for a summertime feast.

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The other sides – Sweet Potato Wedges and chargrilled veg – were a fabulous complement to the platter, providing just the right amount of variation and deliciousness to complement the show-stopper of Spatchcock chicken. It was a hugely satisfying meal, and seriously delicious. In fact, I have plans to take my friends next week because they need to try these new items! Gorgeous with a Vihno Spritzer to wash it all down.

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Finally, we tried Nando’s new delicious brownies, available in two gorgeous flavours; salted caramel, and Peri-Peri! Before you start panicking, the Peri-Peri brownie is not as scary as it sounds, and although I’m a salted caramel fiend, the Peri-Peri brownie turned out to be my favourite of the two! Salted caramel is bound to be a hit with most; indulgent, gooey brownie, laced with lashing of salted caramel goodness, and drizzled with chocolate and a hint of golden sparkle. As you can imagine, these were a huge hit, packed with caramel goodness and a deep, chocolatey flavour. The Peri-Peri consisted of the same gooey, chocolatey brownie base, with a hit of Peri-Peri packed punch. If you’re a chilli chocolate lover, you will love these! Although I was absolutely stuffed from the Fino Platter, these were too good to resist and we nearly finished the whole lot! They were served alongside a cooling scoop of Vanilla Gelado, providing just the right amount of creamy indulgence to finish off a meal. We were also keen to try out Nando’s new Peri Pomegranate dressing, a spicy yet sweet and fruity sauce, perfect for both savoury dishes and great drizzled over desserts. I particularly loved this on top of the Vanilla Gelado, providing a spicy-sweetness to cut through the creaminess of the Gelado. What a treat!

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Photo courtesy of Chelsea over at http://chelseahamilton.blogspot.co.uk/

We left Nando’s St Stephens with the biggest smiles on our faces, proving that good food AND good company is a great relief from the stresses of everyday life. I had had a hugely stressful week, and that was just what I needed. Nando’s launched their new menu items on the 17th of May, so they’re waiting for you to get stuck in! Thanks so much to Callum and the St Stephens team for hosting us; I’m sure we’ll be back soon!

Have you tried the new menu items yet? What do you think?
I hope you’re having a fabulous week,
Heather x

April Favourites (part 1) *

Hello! Just thought I’d write up a cheery post about things I loved using last month. These are a mixture of skin care, beauty and products to improve my quality of life, so there should be a little bit of something for everyone! I was fortunate enough to have received some of these products for review, and as always, I’ll indicate this with an *. I am only ever 100% honest when it comes to reviewing products, and I only ever share my thoughts and opinions with you if I truly, truly mean them. Honesty is the best policy.

There’s a second instalment to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

  1. Greenfrog Botanic Botanical Bodywash*

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I was lucky enough to win these at a recent meet in Leeds, and they are seriously wonderful. Greenfrog Botanic create gorgeously indulgent products that are cruelty-free, vegan, and full of organic products. They ‘live by the four Es: Excellent quality soaps, Environmental and natural products that conserve our planet, Ethically 100% vegan to protect our animals and Exclusive’. Greenfrog’s founders Nick and Julie use Himalayan soap berries in their bodywashes, which have been used for centuries, and are extremely passionate about environmental issues so have done all they can to ensure their products are natural and as environmentally-friendly as possible. I was extremely impressed with these, and particularly loved the Geranium and Peppermint scent. My boyfriend even commented on how soft and less-irritated his skin was after using this, and he never usually takes any notice of anything remotely skincare-related! A definite seal of approval there. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of this.

2. Bee Good Lipbalm*

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I received this at the Leeds meet, and it has become a daily staple! I cycle into uni whenever possible, so this is great for keeping my lips moisturised. It is partly made by British bees, and the scent is just delicious! It reminds me of those drumstick lollies I used to eat when I was a child, and I find myself smiling when I use it. It is colour-free and leaves a glossy sheen.

3. Tangle Therapy

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I bought this to help with my motor skills in my hemi hand (the side affected by cerebral palsy). It is a loop of rubber-coated plastic joints, that can be manipulated and moved with one hand. Not only is it great for working on movement if limited, it’s also really relaxing and ideal if you need something to fiddle with. I also have a Tangle jr. original, which is slightly smaller and not rubberised. Because I have severe anxiety I sometimes find I need something to mess around with in order to focus my attention, or diffuse the anxiety. I keep it in my pocket as the Tangle jr. is discrete enough to take out and about. I love Tangle Therapy one, but it is slightly larger so I tend to keep it at home. As I say, it’s great for working on my right hand. I have also included a picture of the Tangle jr. below, which easily fits into a hand. The Tangle Therapy is chunkier in comparison. The Tangle jr. is really cheap on amazon, and a great thing to try out for the price, whether you’re just wanting a fiddle toy or something to exercise your hand with. They come in all sorts of colours and with all sorts of textures. I think you can also get a smaller Tangle Therapy, but I haven’t tried one yet. I might do!

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4. Loreal Keratin Treatment* (shampoo and hair mask)

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I was kindly gifted this little set by Hays Salon, Hull, and I’m really impressed with it! It smells great, and the mask is luscious and incredibly moisturising which is great for my hair. Hays Salon is really friendly and they always do a great job, and I highly recommend it if you’re near Hull.

5. Viridian Ultimate Beauty Organic Skin Repair Oil*

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I received this in the Leeds’ Meet goodie bag and it’s absolutely fabulous! I already use Viridian’s Organic Ultimate Beauty Face Balm, and this of the same quality and luxury. I used to have terrible acne, so this product is great for softening the scarring. Smells great, too!

6. Kiko Campus Idol Brush*

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I was lucky to receive this at our Hull March Meet, and I’ve been using it ever since! Not only is the face brush brilliant, but it adds a gorgeous pop of colour to my dressing-table. Stunning! There’s no fall-out yet, and it’s lovely and fluffy for picking up product.

I was going to include a colossal 12 items in this one post, but I’ll spilt it up and you’ll get to see the second half later on this week.

What do you think of the products above? Are you keen to try anything?

Have a great week; I’m aiming to get as much dissertation work done as possible…wish me luck!

Heather x