A taste of the Gin Explorer Box*

I have no secrets when it comes to gin. 

It is my favourite.

I will drink it in a cocktail, with a cold, crisp tonic, or – if the occasion calls for it – neat, perhaps over ice.

The front of a greetings card with a guinea pig saying 'hic' as if drunk peering over the top of a glass. Next to that the text reads 'who's a ginny pig?'
Gin and guinea pigs? A match made in heaven

Gin has been for so long the butt of everyone’s joke, where retorts of ‘mother’s ruin’ echoed over the bar, and where it’s only drinkers in my world were ex-boyfriends’ mums. But, you’ll be glad to know that this is no longer the case.

Gin has become one of those fancy drinks you don’t mind ordering at the bar; it’s simple when served with tonic, but oh-so sophisticated, and craft gins made with care and attention are at the forefront of the gin-drinking world. This is where the Gin Explorer Box comes in; a monthly box crammed with gin samplers, accompanying tonic or other mixers, and a little snack to bring it all together.

Craft gin to your door? What more could you wish for!?

The opened box with shredded yellow paper, bright blue tissue paper, and a box with the front cut out displaying four tiny bottles of gin. A tub of corn kernels sits in front, with a bottle of cucumber-infused gin to the right of that.
A beautifully packaged box including gin-flavoured sweets

The four gins I received arrived in a gorgeously packaged box, complete with a booklet describing each gin and the flavour notes associated with it. These gins included Leeds Gin, Nelsons Rhubarb and Custard gin, Thompson’s Grape gin and Hernö gin, alongside two bottles of cucumber-infused sparkling water, and a spanish snack of salted giant corn kernels. I also received a sample of Bath gin to keep me sweet whilst I waited (im)patiently for the box itself.

A box with another box containing gin samples, the Bath gin bottle the main focus of the picture and a bottle of cucumber infused water to the right of it.
Including the little bottle of Bath gin I had five gins to test (no complaints, there!)

This was such a treat for me, and I particularly enjoyed the Nelsons Rhubarb and Custard flavour: light pink so not off-putting, with a rich fruity flavour and a hint of vanilla sweetness to bring the gin to life. I also very much enjoyed the other gins with the Qcumber water, over ice and with a slice of lemon. It made the perfect festive tipple, but I can only imagine just how wonderful this pairing would be during the height of summer or on a balmy evening. Divine!

I absolutely loved this box, and love that you can purchase a full-sized bottle with a slight discount to tide you over whilst waiting for the next box. It was such a perfect raffle prize for me, so thank you to Gin Explorer for being part of the Blogger’s Halloween Party! 

Why not treat the gin lover in your life? If they’re anything like me, they’ll love you forever!

If only it were acceptable to sip a g&t right now…

Heather x

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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

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!

mres-thess-pi

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