Napoleons Casino: Dine In Style*

Over summer, which seems like a ridiculously long time ago (owing to my MRes ridiculousness and a year of madness seen in my previous post I’m back…), I was lucky enough to be invited to Napoleons Casino and Restaurant in Hull’s bustling city centre to try out their Dine In Style menu.

Food and a little bit of roulette…is there a better way for a postgraduate research student to unwind?!

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Walking up to the bright lights on a cool summer evening, I wondered what the night would have in store. I don’t often frequent casinos, and I’d never usually consider a casino a place to go to for dinner. But I was in for a rather pleasant surprise.

Shortly after arriving, I was greeted by the helpful staff and signed in,  and then we ascended a rather glamorous-looking staircase leading up to a candle-lit restaurant with an extensive bar and a relaxed atmosphere. Shown to our seats, and given a lovely bottle of red to share, we pondered over the delights of the menu and peered over into the casino area, bustling with people eager to wind down after a busy week.

wine-by-candlelight

 

Though it was difficult to pick three courses from a delicious selection, I opted for three dishes that I hoped would warm up the chilly evening. To start, I had the delicious garlic mushrooms on toast; mixed mushrooms sauteed and slathered in garlic butter, sat atop crispy ciabatta and were garnished with microherbs and aioli. A delicious starter to whet the appetite.

garlic-mushrooms-on-toast

 

For the main course, I went for a bowl of comforting haricot bean cassoulet paired with garlic and parsley ciabatta. The cassoulet was richly flavoured, with intense tomato sauce flavoured with garlic and herbs. Just the thing for a cool summer night. The cassoulet was topped with a crumb, complementing the warming cassoulet perfectly.

haricot-bean-cassoulet

As if two courses weren’t enough, we were also treated to a third! I chose the pear and ginger creme brulee: a soft, creamy custard with stewed pears, top with a glazed sugar crust and served with a tiny gingerbread man and ginger syrup. And yes, it did taste as good as it looked!

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After our delicious meal, we played on the American roulette with our £5 chips. Though I’d never played before, I came away with some winnings, and it was the perfect ending to a lovely night.

napoleons-chip

My experience at Napoleons Casino has completely altered my perceptions. I had a great night, with some delicious food, and as their Dine in Style package is such great value for money, I’m sure many of you will also be surprised at what Napoleons has to offer. The  Dine in Style package starts at £22.95, with a £5 value gaming chip, increasing to £27.95 on Friday and Saturday nights. A fantastic night and something a little bit unusual!

 

napoleons

 

Why not visit any of the venues in Hull, Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds or London to find out for yourself? You may not come home a winner, but I can guarantee you’ll come away feeling well and truly stylish.

Hope you’re feeling good. I’m wrapped up attempting to get through a pile of lesson planning…wish me luck!

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

 

 

Therapy: Letting Go

It’s been a while since I started CBT, and I recently had my final session. CBT, though essentially great, brings up some conflicted feelings. I suppose that’s inevitably the case with  any talking therapy, but as my CBT went on for almost three months, I feel like I really invested a lot into each session.

Therapy for mental health conditions can be really helpful, but – and as with any treatment – you can’t expect a quick fix. Admittedly, though I’ve had counselling before, when I first started CBT I didn’t account for just how hard I’d have to work and how emotionally draining I’d find it. Walking out of the first session I felt simultaneously overwhelmed and absolutely empty, and I remember walking around the nearest supermarket aimlessly and directionless, with what felt like a flick-book of every emotion I’ve ever felt whirring through my head. It did, of course, get easier over time, but I always found it difficult to snap back after each session. 

Each of my sessions were tailored to me each week, depending on the situations I found difficult, and the topics I really needed to address. I loved this part of the session, as we’d draw up an agenda and tackle the issues most important to me. Essentially, though, what each of my sessions boiled down to was working through my low self esteem and trying to recognise and acknowledge the good things I have done. Thing is, I get so blinded by feelings of anxiety, hopelessness and inadequacy that I completely ignore the good and positive things I have achieved throughout my life.

I also spent a considerable proportion of my sessions working through hypothetical situations that I often worried about, with the aim of learning to accept  that I cannot control everything in my life, and I cannot solve everyone else’s issues. This was a particularly challenging topic to address, but I feel like I made some really positive progress in learning to accept and work through these issues.

CBT also addressed what felt like a dirty little secret for far too long. Thing is, I always suspected i had OCD-esque traits, but I’d never actually been diagnosed. Along with the assessor prior to my CBT, we agree that I do have OCD that fluctuates from day to day. I have always been a stickler for routine, but I knew things were a bit unusual when I found myself checking clothes, and jewellery, and other things that really didn’t require constant checking, like whether my alarm was set or that my door was locked, even though I could see that the latch was on. It’s frustrating, because no matter how much I know that these things don’t need checking, I cannot resist. And if I try to resist, I feel an unstoppable anxiety bubbling up which can only be ‘quelled’ by checking. Of course this only reinforces the behaviour, which makes it a really hard cycle to break. I have worked on techniques to help, and I am noticing that I’m getting better, even if this progress is only slow. 

CBT provided some great coping mechanisms to work towards in order to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include keeping logs of activities that I’m particularly apprehensive about, or recalling situations that I found difficult and then examining mine – and other people’s – responses. Crucially this made me acknowledge that situations aren’t as bad as I expect them to be, and that working on evidence – and not speculation – is key to working towards a happier, less anxious life. 

Now that my CBT has come to an end, I’m facing the everyday struggles with a mixture of apprehension and pride. I’m proud because I’ve really improved, but apprehensive because I suddenly feel all alone. The relationship with your therapist becomes a really important one; they’re there on a professional level, to help you through what can sometimes be the most challenging times of your life, but they somehow become more than just a confidant as you build up a relationship with them. You open yourself up completely to them, and they are privy to some of your greatest fears, deepest emotions and darkest secrets. They become integral to working through your mental health issues, and  invest a great deal of time and effort in helping you. I feel a little bit lost facing the big, bad world on my own, but I am so grateful that my therapist has equipped me with the skills to tackle this on my own. 

I suppose I’m finding it difficult to let go. I know that I’ve only just embarked on my ‘journey’ (and no, I’m not keen on that explanation, but it’ll have to do) but I know it’s going to be a long, hard slog. My mental health does fluctuate, and dealing with my physical disabilities brings another layer of complexity to proceedings, but I’m positive that I’ll get there; whenever ‘there’ may be. 

I am letting go, and I am learning that I can do this on my own. I just need to prove it to myself. 

Simple Snacking: Ape Snacks*

Hello! Firstly, I just want to say thanks for popping by. I know it’s been quiet over here; if I’m not writing my dissertation, I’m thinking about it, or reading for it, or talking about it…it’s pretty time consuming, so I appreciate you hanging around as I know nosuperhero has had to take a back seat. Not long to go, now. Keep your fingers crossed!

Secondly, I just thought I’d share some really delicious, simple snacks that I recently had the pleasure of trying. Meet Ape Snacks; deliciously crunchy, crispy, lightly seasoned coconut curls, with no added sugar, gluten free, vegan AND part of your five-a-day. No, really: they’re fabulous!

I was lucky enough to receive a couple of packets of each flavour, of which there are currently two: lightly salted and slightly peppered.

I love coconut, and anything remotely coconut-related. Coconut oil is my go-to beauty product, as it lends itself so well to so many things, but coconut itself is such a delicious, tropical-tasting treat. Admittedly, I didn’t expect these curls to be so crispy, but they were so incredibly satisfying! When those hunger pangs hit in the early afternoon, it’s all too easy to reach for a packet of fat-laden, salty snacks, and though I do enjoy the traditional crisps, I feel an awful lot better if I snack on something healthy. This is where Ape comes in; not only are they healthy – and practically guilt free – their crunchy texture is so satisfying and easily replicates that hearty crunch I often long for somewhere between lunch and dinner. 

Both flavours are simple, allowing the sweet coconut flavour to come through. Admittedly I prefer the lightly salted flavour, but either are delicious and it’s great to know I can grab a packet of these and not feel badly about it!

These would be great as a breakfast topping, or something to accompany your morning smoothie bowl.

Thank you so much to the team at Ape for letting me try your delicious snacks; you’ve made a peckish student very happy!

Hope you’re all having a great day…I’ll have to head back to my desk and trawl through my books. Send positive thoughts!

Heather x

Food and Drink: Things I’m Loving*

Hello, you! Hope you’re doing well today. First, I have a little confession to make. You may have noticed that it’s been super quiet here, and I apologise. I think I might have to reduce the number of posts I’m uploading. Life is busy, and right now, my dissertation needs to come first. I hope you understand, and just know by September I’m hoping to have a lot more time to write up posts. I have a long list of things I’m wanting to share, so as always, thanks for being wonderful and patient. 

Anyway, here’s a post I hope you enjoy (warning…it might make you thirsty!)

If you know me, you’ll know that I  love food. I am that annoying person who’d like to think they’re a real ‘foodie’. I love cooking, I love experimenting, and most of all, I love eating. Food is such a wonderful thing to feel passionate about. I love nourishing my body and aim to eat as healthily as possible. I’m fortunate that my healthy eating habits were formed from a young age (thanks mum and dad!) and I try and eat a good balance of protein, fats, carbs and vegetables. I’m also a real fan of refreshing,  tasty drinks; I’m an avid tea lover, and my tea cupboard is stuffed with so many varieties and flavours. I love a refreshing cool fizzy drink every now and then, but what I do hate is that horrible sugary film left on your teeth or – where the diet versions are concerned – nasty artificial sweeteners to replicate that sugary taste we all love. So when Gaia recently got in touch and asked if I fancied trying out some new products – tea and  a healthy version of fizzy drinks – I jumped at the chance.

Meet my two new favourite drinks; ICHAI tea and Ugly Unsweet Water! 

ICHAI

I admit, I’m quite new to chai blends. I never really tried a chai tea that lived up to my expectations; they lacked the spicy warmth I was promised, or were oversweet, sometimes in powdered form with dried milk and were – oftentimes – a real disappointment. This is where ICHAI comes in and changed all my chai-related expectations. Meet ICHAI: a caddy of loose leaf tea blended with real spices and all-natural ingredients. Available in eight different flavours, these teas are of the finest quality with absolutely no artificial flavours, additives or preservatives, for the purest, most delicious chai pleasure. 

I was lucky enough to receive four of the blends to try starting with the Classic Chai #8 : blend of tea, ground cinnamon, green cardamom and a hint of ginger, clove and star anise for a deliciously balanced and calming blend. You can see the amazing, fragrant mix of spices, you can really appreciate the flavours in the final cup.

Next is Vanilla Chai #7; sweet, indulgent and comforting, this chai is a sumptuous blend of cinnamon, vanilla pods and a hint of cloves for a sweet and indulgent take on the classic chai tea.

Thirdly is Ginger Chai #3: dried ginger root added to the blend to provide a spicy, warming cup that settles, cleanses and invigorates. This blend won the Great Taste award in 2015, and you can see why! 

Finally we have a caddy of Spicy Chai #1: a deeply warming blend with cinnamon, green cardamom, black pepper, cloves and ginger, creating a warming blend perfect for even the chilliest of days.

I’ve been enjoying these blends with milk and a little honey, and I have to say the Spicy Chai and Vanilla Chai are proving to be my favourites, although I’m really enjoying all of them!

Helen, ICHAI’s creator, spent years working as a plant biologist working with Unilever, and her work to create the best tasting plants has continued with the creation of ICHAI. Helen wanted to create traditional chai with the finest ingredients to produce the best taste and aroma. The spices are grown to maintain their optimum flavour, ground to the optimum particle size, using the correct machinery to produce an exquisite-tasting chai and an intense drinking experience. I’m not claiming to be a plant biologist like Helen, but she’s doing something right as they taste absolutely fantastic! I can’t wait to get my hands on the other flavours.

Ugly Unsweet Water

Ugly are changing the way we think about fizzy drinks with their new range of unsweetened fizzy drinks, with natural flavours, no artificial colors or sweeteners. Ugly kindly tells us we’re sweet enough already (thanks, Ugly!) and maintains that their drinks are delicious without that  awful sugary film or horrible artificial sweetener aftertaste. These are best enjoyed chilled, and come in two flavours: lemon and lime, and pineapple and grapefruit. I absolutely loved both of these, but the pineapple and grapefruit has to be my favourite. I was pleasantly surprised by their cool, crisp taste, and would love to see these in vending machines on campus! They’re fab on a hot day, and if I could I’d be drinking one as I write this!

So there you have it; some truly delicious drinks to quench your thirst this Wednesday afternoon. What do you think of the ICHAI and Ugly drinks? Thanks so much to Gaia, Helen and the Ugly team for letting me try these delicious products; I’m a real fan!

Look after yourself today, 

Heather x

Social Media, ‘Spoonies’ and Speaking Out

Social media changed my life.

This is no exaggeration. There’s no other way to put it. Social media changed my life.

Most of us are well-acquainted with social media and all its forms. Many of us have a Facebook account, where according to the statistics provided by Facebook itself, there are 1.65 billion monthly users with an active Facebook profile (Facebook Newsroom, 2016). Twitter, though smaller, also has impressive user figures, with an average of 310 million active monthly users, and 1 billion unique visits monthly to sites with embedded Tweets (Twitter Company site, 2016). These figures pertaining to social media users are impressive, and are only set to grow as the number and variety of social media platforms increases. I know Facebook and Twitter often draw bad press with regards to ‘trolling’ or cyber-bullying incidents, but I want to share with you my positive experiences using social media, and why I think they really can be a force for good.

I got into Twitter when one of my friends set up my first ever twitter account. I was reluctant initially, but decided I had nothing to lose and so got stuck right in. Twitter seems to polarise its users: most people I know either love it or hate it, but after nearly six years of using that initial account, I can assure you I fall into the former camp, rather than the latter. Twitter – if you don’t already know – is described as a way to connect to others via ‘announcements’ of no more than 140 characters, called tweets, which can also include photos or short video clips. Registered users can create AND read tweets, whereas unregistered users can only read tweets and not create their own, or ‘like’, ‘retweet’ or send direct messages to others on the platform. Tweets are short, snappy and to the point, unlike Facebook statuses, which can be pretty long and lengthy in comparison. Facebook in comparison is great for reconnecting with long-lost friends and family members worldwide, and can be a fabulous place to store all your treasured photos. I also love using the Facebook messenger app, and I am part of several groups where we chat and connect over common interests. Both platforms provide a slightly different social media experience, and though some people have experienced the downside of social media, it has been such an incredible eye opener for me.

Social media is a great tool for connecting communities, and one I’ve become really involved with is the ‘spoonie’ community. ‘Spoonie’ is a term coined by Christine Miserando, based on the Spoon Theory, which you can read about here: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ . The spoon theory is a way to help explain the daily difficulties living with chronic illness, invisible illness and disabilities, and when I first stumbled upon this term everything started to fall into place. You see, I have cerebral palsy, but for a long time I didn’t want to admit to it. I didn’t understand it, and I felt ashamed and embarrassed of these differences. It was only through looking into the spoon theory and the community of ‘spoonies’ that connect as a result of this that I finally found the courage to come to terms with my diagnosis. I found like-minded people through the #spoonie hashtag, I got to learn more about my condition of spastic hemiparesis and its associated diagnoses, and after years of lack of education about my disabilities, things finally began to fall into place. My ‘spoonie’ experience culminated in meeting up with several of my wonderful twitter friends with hemiplegic cerebral palsy themselves, and I finally felt like I wasn’t alone. There were people who cared about my welfare. There were people who understood my frustration and felt my pain. And I just knew I’d made connections that would last my lifetime.

I feel that some people worry about speaking out and being honest on social media for fear of ridicule. I actually expected to receive a level of scrutiny when it comes to disclosing diagnoses and potentially sensitive information, and almost prepared myself for it. Though I was initially okay with sharing information about my physical disabilities – notably cerebral palsy and scheuermann’s kyphosis – I wasn’t always so sure about disclosing my mental health issues. But there came that ‘lightbulb moment’ when I found that sharing this information wasn’t so bad after all. There was a similar community here; where people with mental health conditions felt connected, understood and that they were being taken seriously by their peers. And then I thought ‘why should I be hiding this aspect of myself? Why should I feel ashamed about conditions I have no control over?’ and I decided to speak up. I decided to be honest; not only with others, but with myself. Being transparent about issues I’d sat on and ruminated over for year felt incredibly refreshing, and genuinely cathartic. I finally felt like I was coming to terms with all my diagnoses, and I’d be lying if I said social media wasn’t integral to that.

In an age where disabled people – and disabled women – are finding themselves under ever-increasing scrutiny, it is my firm belief that we must speak up. Though there have been advancements made with regards to liberatory and emancipatory movements during the twentieth and twenty first centuries, we have a long, long way to go. I myself have been the target of ‘ableist’ abuse, further perpetuated by damaging stereotypes seen splashed across tabloids and inflammatory articles online. We have not reached a stage where disabled people can feel comfortable despite their diversity. Many people are accused of fraudulently claiming benefits, or exaggerating the nature of their conditions for apparent personal gain. It is a constant uphill battle for disabled people to thrive in such restrictive environments, but portraying an authentic experience of what it is to be disabled in twenty-first century western society is one way to seriously combat these issues. I want to continue to grow older knowing that social perceptions are changing, and that I can feel comfortable in my own skin, with my own differences and my own talents and skills to bring to the table. The disabled minority is the biggest minority group globally, and yet we seem to fall so far behind in supporting this group. In a world where more people are exceeding life expectancy and where medical advances greatly improve our quality of life, we need to act now and shape a society where disabled people are unafraid to speak out. And I truly believe social media has a big part to play in all of this.

Social media changed my life. It might just change yours for the better, too.

PS: I have just started publishing posts on My Trending Stories found here, so why not check it out? Don’t worry, I’ll still be posting here, too. Hope you’re having a great day,
Heather x

Sources:

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/ (2016)

https://newsroom.fb.com/company-info/ (2016)

https://about.twitter.com/company (2016)