Recipe Kit Boxes: Are They A Rip Off?

Friday, April 28, 2017

I recently had the chance to give a 'well known' recipe kit box a try - I didn't pay for the box, and the full price was £27.49 - quite a princely sum for a cardboard box with food in, right?

When the box arrived I was excited to get stuck in and really get to grips with the whole idea of having food delivered right to my door, something about the whole idea strikes me as very cosmopolitan and modern. I originally had a camera set up to vlog the experience, but I won't be using the footage as.. Well. I'm so disappointed. I really, really wanted to like it - I love to cook and trying a new recipe was an amazing little bait for me to give the whole thing a go!

Don't get me wrong, the ingredients arrived in a bag filled with sheep wool and cooler pockets to keep the food cool while in transit. The box had been partitioned and the chicken was vacuum sealed in packs to keep it separate from everything else. I can't fault that. They even included a branded wooden spoon, nice touch. But... Is it worth the £27.49 price tag?

Which dishes did I choose?

Chicken cacciatore with crispy potatoes 'pronounced cat-cha-toray this is an Italian hunters stew. Succulent chicken thighs are snuggled into a tomato sauce, flavoured with fresh rosemary and thyme. Served with crispy potatoes.'

Ingredients included (as a meal for two): 1 onion, 100g carrots, 3 garlic cloves, 5g fresh thyme, 4 chicken thighs, 300g potatoes, 1 tin of finely chopped tomatoes, 1 chicken stock cube, 5g fresh rosemary, 1 tbsp. tomato paste, 60g pitted black olives.

Sicilian chicken linguine 'inspired by dusky evenings sat around the Etna mountain, this simple chicken dish combines capers, olives, lemon, wilted pea shoots and seasoned chicken. Bellisimo!'

Ingredients included (again, as a meal for two): 30g pitted black olives, 1 chicken stock cube, 1 leek, 200g linguine, 15g caper buds, 200g diced chicken breast, 1 lemon and 50g pea shoots.

I chose these because as a healthy eating household, chicken is the only meat we really eat. For special occasions like Easter we'll eat Lamb if it takes our fancy.. But chicken is our primary meat of choice. It was quite hard to choose a recipe which was chicken and not too fancy - the appeal of such websites is to sell you fancy recipes you can cook in your own kitchen so a lot of the choices were a little too fancy.

I did notice when the box arrived that each portion is small - four potatoes had been sent for our 'chicken cacciatore with crispy potatoes' dish. Four small potatoes. One onion, which when I did use it the very next morning.. Was soft, brown and rotten. We don't eat huge portions, but for our main evening meal at night there would be nowhere enough food for two of us, per meal. I'd have to add salad, or a little bit of rice to bulk the meal out - even more so as we both have active lives with fitness classes and endeavours every few days.

So for £27.49, I got all of the ingredients listed above with the recipes. As I clutched my bag of pea shoots, I wondered if this was worth while.. So I decided to do a little bit of probing.

What if I had gone to the supermarket?

Tesco is local to me, so I've chosen Tesco to do my little bit of research with.

Obviously, the amounts available in Tesco don't balance with the amount needed for the box so I actually bought more than the recipe stated. For example, I had to buy a 300g jar of black pitted olives - not just 90g as the box provided.

So for £12.93 I could go to Tesco and buy the ingredients myself. Apart from the pea shoots - but I looked up the best replacement for those online which is spinach and added those to the shopping list, you can see there is a £14.56 difference in what I paid for my meal box, and what I'd pay in the supermarket.

To me, that isn't okay.

Even if I factor in £4 for the delivery, it would be over £10.

I don't earn a great deal. As a Teaching Assistant I pinch the pennies, and to think that people are paying out for these boxes and getting such a bum deal doesn't sit right with me. I didn't pay. I was 'gifted' the box to try and I'm glad - receiving a box that I paid so much money for that I was so disappointed with? I'd be devastated, and it would mean depriving myself and my family of a substantial amount of money that would be better spent elsewhere.

My experience with this whole recipe box kit trend hasn't been a fulfilling one, and I don't think I'll be experimenting with them any time soon.

Alton Towers - the Vlog!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Vlog from our trip to Alton Towers this Easter. We had a great time! This post is part of my Merlin Pass 2017 series which you can view by visiting the playlist here.

#30Before30 - One Year On!

Monday, April 24, 2017

My 30 before 30 challenge began last year, on the evening of my birthday. Good news - today, is the evening of my birthday. Therefore I've battled for a year to try and cross these off of my bucket list - a year ago today I'm sure people eye-rolled and didn't take my post on board but I assure you I've been trying my best to make these happen.

Not completed.

Not completed, although I am a part of a weekly bootcamp class now which is a huge achievement for me!

Not completed.

I did it! I have a vlogging channel now, with over 100 subscribers - so I like to think I did this one pretty well too. Vlogging has opened up so many doors for me, and I'm so thankful for each and every person who takes the time to watch the videos we create.

Not completed. This was always going to be a tough one as I have a very deep set irrational fear of fish. We do have Merlin Passes now so we can access these all year round, but I honestly cannot see me getting over this fish thing any time soon. I'm a coward!

We did it! When we moved home we acquired an old sofa that needed some basic repair. I don't have any photographs as we recently got a new suite, but it saw us through the first six months of living in a new home before we were able to upgrade to something a little lovelier. I also have plans over the next few months to upgrade some of the pieces we have been given while setting up our home, so keep a look out for those coming soon!

Completed...! Kind of. I used beans grown by the place I work and some berries from the local area to make some goodies - and it felt fantastic. I did originally have this as 'forage for wild ingredients' but I felt that could be a little dangerous (I'd probably eat a bad mushroom and die) so tweaked it a little.

Not completed, although I am becoming more confident in front of the camera.

I did this! The scarf featured on this instagram photograph of Megan at Willow Park this year is one I made for Mike. I knitted it for his birthday and we all wore it that chilly spring day. Accomplished!

I did this in a vlog that you can view right here!

Not completed.

I did this, but not in the glamorous way but any stretch. The usual insomnia creeping in, but thankfully I got it back under control once more. I think taking part in an all night ghost hunt may count as part of this too, right?

Completed at Alton Towers on April the 1st. Myself, Mike, Tristan and Gail my Mother-in-Law went to Alton Towers and we took the opportunity to tick this off of my list. Here is the evidence on my instagram - riding high above Forbidden Valley in a cable car!

Not completed.

We did this! You can watch the vlog right here - Ghost Hunting with the Sixth Sense Ghost Hunters at the North West Transport Museum.

Not completed.

Not completed.

Not completed.

Not completed.

Not completed.

Not completed.

Not completed.

I did this at my in-laws Halloween party with my little family and Gilliblogs! I did my own makeup and went as a leopard - I got a whole bunch of compliments on it so I don't think I did too badly. Thank goodness I'm creative!

Not completed. Our garden has been under maintenance this year to fill in a reservoir the old factory used so we haven't been able to tick this off.

After many attempts.. This is my go-to style now.

I actually have a 35 mile walk to do with work in May 2017, so although I didn't manage it this year I certainly have it on the cards in the very near future.

I did this on a regular basis as I worked the early morning shifts at work. I have evidence again, over at my instagram!

Not completed.

Our house came with roses! I didn't plant them, but I do tend them.

I have a manicure each month now. It began close to Christmas as I had the traditional 'works do' and I had acrylics applied. I don't think I can live without them now! Its my one treat I allow myself each month, as I feel so feminine with my nails looking pretty. Little things can make such a difference!

Well, I've done a few!

An Online Revison Tool At Your Child's Fingertips?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Here on She & Life, I've never hidden my offline profession as a Teaching Assistant. I love my job, and I love working with some of the most incredible minds I've ever met - both my colleagues and the children themselves! Because of that, I'm going to be sharing some resources that I've discovered and feel could be beneficial to both school setting and at home. With SATS looming, I like to think any resource a parent can access with their child at home is a blessing (sorry to everyone I've just given an involuntary shudder too - that SATS word is anxiety inducing for adults at the moment!)

Education Quizzes offers a huge variety of test-based resources from Year 1 all the way through to Year 11, which have been curated and put together by teachers who are passionate about the subject they lead in. Priding themselves on not just putting trivia questions together and calling it a revision pack, each section has a carefully selected variety of questions which are all woven into the curriculum for that said year.

I'll be focusing on the KS2 version of the website as that's what Megan is currently at - and it's currently what I assist in when it comes to work. When you sign up at Education Quizzes homepage you will be greeted with a homepage that is easy to navigate and comes with a number of awesome little features I want to mention.

Obviously, on the left hand side of the page your key stages are categorised into handy little sections, with ages provided just in case you aren't so sure what stage your child is currently at. I like the options of a specialist category, which has the best introduction: "Education Quizzes doesn’t just cover school subjects. Nope, we’re far from a one trick pony. We’d say we’re more like a 74 trick horse. See, we like to educate everybody, on all sorts of topics! Hooray for nerdiness." (Source)

Another favourite for me is the nature blog available to read through - its something I'll be sharing with Megan as she has a vested interest in all things wild, much like I did at her age which is endearing. I love the huge amount of choice available - so even when your child has a piqued interest in something that you don't think you'd ever find in school - log in and have a look online.

The handy sections above break down for each person accessing the website, just why they should invest in the £9.95 monthly fee. That seems like a huge amount of money in the competitive market (Mathletics is £59 annually) but for the variety of information you can access it actually compares quite well as it covers all the subject bases. I think being appropriate for a family of mixed age children is appealing too - both Megan and Tristan can make use of the website, despite being different ages and in completely different stages of education.

The KS2 section of the website has every subject you could wish to choose from, even covering the Music, PE and RE aspects of the curriculum. Each has its own category once you log in, and is easy to navigate even for the smaller members of the household. Within each subject there is a vault of revision style quizzes providing a wealth of knowledge building opportunities - perfect for those wanting to review one subject or knuckle down and invest into more than one.

Schools can also take advantage of the quizzes for pupils, and the pricing structure is given in a handy online tool. Schools make use of resources like this in a variety of ways - from setting online quizzes as homework, to working alongside parents in teaching their little one to be a 'Quizmaster' - making Education Quizzes a must-have for any educational setting. Access to over 4000 quizzes, each tailored by a teacher and available for as little as £2 per child.

Essential Oils & Why They Are Essential To Me

Monday, April 17, 2017

Essential oils. I remember my Mum being a huge advocate of these growing up, and back in the early nineties they had the hippy, not-taken-seriously kind of vibes. I never knew that as she dabbed my face with water and tea tree oil (ah, those teenage spots..) I'd be a huge advocate of them as I blossom into my thirties.

I use essential oils so much now, I'm a huge advocate. So I'm sharing the oils I use day to day, and why I use them. I recommend getting yourself a bottle of each and giving them a go - I reacted so well to them, and I couldn't imagine certain things without the background scent these days.

For sleeping! This mixed with a little water, spritzed on your pillow at night is a true saviour. I've sworn by it for years, and see no time in the future when I won't have lavender oil as a pillow spray. I also use lavender around the house in oil burners to try and create a soothing environment around the home if I have something coming up where I feel a little anxious. I sometimes mix a drop or two into my night cream, creating a soothing mask I put on before bed - Lavender has antiseptic properties that cannot be ignored.

*If you or someone in your home has epilepsy, please do not use lavender oil as it is known to trigger seizures.*

There are two different types of camomile oil, before I go into too much about these I want to define each one. The types are:
Roman - for moods, like PMS and frustration - if I'm feeling restless or irritated I turn to this oil - again, in an oil burner.
German - this is your skin soother - perfect for psoriasis or eczema although it does depend on your skin. I recommend consulting your GP or dermatologist before experimenting with camomile oil if you already have prescription creams for your skin.

Camomile tea isn't oil based, but I do recommend it as a soother before bed if you have restless legs or struggle dropping off in the summer months.

Eucalyptus is a staple for any household I think - great for winter, it soothes those snotty noses and nasty coughs clearing our the sinuses when used in a vaporiser. If you can't do that, add a few drops to some steaming water and put your head over it. Cover both head and bowl with a towel so you get all the steam to your face, and breathe deeply for a few moments - great for the symptoms of flu, and great for the skin to boot.

*Care should be taken with eucalyptus oil - ingested, it can be toxic and used topically it may cause skin irritation.*

This oil I use when I have work to do. If I'm on a deadline for the blog or need to do some serious work, I pop this in our oil burner and have at it. It really works well at realigning your focus and giving you the clarity you need to 'reboot' your brain and get yourself back on track. Those days you can't focus on one task at hand and instead balance six different tasks like plates spinning on sticks? This is your oil.

*Care should be taken with eucalyptus oil - ingested, it can be toxic and used topically it may cause skin irritation.*

Slow Cooker Comforts: Hunter's Chicken

Saturday, April 15, 2017

I love Hunter's Chicken. My BBQ sauce is pretty amazing (I have it on the best authority, obviously!) and while I did give a guideline above I can't say any of my sauces are ever the same. We prefer ours on the hotter side of BBQ, as opposed to the sweeter side - so you may want to add an extra teaspoon of sugar to the sauce if you like the sweeter side of things. I usually put this in the slow cooker in the morning with the pieces of chicken (we don't eat bacon) and leave it simmering most of the day so when we do get around to eating it the chicken simply falls apart.

- 1 large red onion
- Half a teaspoon of red chilli powder
- 1 (or 2) cans of chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
- A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- A drizzle of Lea & Perrins
- 1 clove of diced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons of sugar*
- Season to taste

I did spend a lot of time deliberating over one or two cans of chopped tomatoes - we always use two but generally have a slow cooker full of smoky barbeque goodness. The chicken absorbs all the sauce, and simply flakes when you pull it with your fork - I leave it as whole breast pieces but this could easily be adjusted into a pulled chicken dish - ideal for a family gathering!

Gulliver's World, Warrington

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mike and Megan took off to Gulliver's World, Warrington this week to make the most of the Easter sunshine. Gulliver's World is a favourite for Megan, simply because she's too dainty for the huge rides at parks like Alton Towers & Thorpe Park - if we head to the bigger parks she spends a lot of time watching everyone else ride - and sulking because of this (the joys of a nine year old!) so we tend to take Megan to smaller parks, and Tristan to the bigger ones.

Gulliver's World theme parks are designed for the littles, with a scary looking rollercoaster just big enough to be terrifying for the youngsters and give a buzz as an adult. As expected, food and drink there can be quite expensive so we usually take a packed lunch with us - although Mike mentioned Megan managed to buy her own carton of juice for under £1, so I do wonder if the prices have been lowered to a more appropriate range. With the demographic that Gulliver's World targets, I honestly find prices that are at the same level as Alton Towers and such quite off-putting so it does make me incredibly happy to hear they're much more competitive.

Gulliver's World is situated close to Burtonwood Air Base - in fact, its right next door. Otherwise known as RAF Burtonwood, its located two miles outside of Warrington and used to be home to the American forces in the 1950's. It held the accolade of biggest airbase in Europe during the war and there were over 18,000 personnel stationed there at its peak - now however, it is almost erased - the runways lie under Junction 8 of the M62. Almost all traces of this base are gone, which saddens me - although Gulliver's World have taken a nod towards the local heritage by the photograph above.

One thing I love about visiting places like this is the jaunty paintwork a lot of the rides have. Its what I spend a lot of time at local fairs looking at and photographing - a lot of work goes into keeping rides vibrant and while they sometimes aren't as current as they could be I find them charming.

When we visit somewhere like Gulliver's World we have a checklist. Megan is particularly reluctant to follow it, but she does appreciate it throughout the day even if it does stand in her way of dominating the fashion circuit at whatever we are visiting. The checklist gets run through as we all get dressed: t-shirt, with vest if possible. Jumper or cardigan. Coat - waterproof one, this is a necessity (we often get around any moans and groans by reminding our little ones they can be tied around a waist if they get too much). Comfortable shoes. Two pairs of socks - when you pound the pavements at an amusement park or even out in the wilds, your feet feel the cold first. Finally, for us ladies - a hair bobble. As you can see by the vlog we did at Thorpe Park last month, rollercoasters and rides are hell on your hair.

The theming around Gulliver's World is very medieval - well, as medieval as a theme park can get without terrifying the children. Castles, princesses, dragons and knights.. All are pretty prevalent as you wander the park, and while some aspects may look a little tired the park is absolutely charming to take in and appreciate. A lot of the visitors here (such as Mike) used to visit here themselves as children, so nostalgia is a huge factor for adults that bring their own children to the same park they used to excitedly drag their own parents around.
One of the wonderful things about this park is that Megan can independently explore things - she doesn't need to cling to her Dad to line up or have someone next to her on everything. Things are tame enough for her to bravely go explore on her own, socialising and interacting with other children doing the same. Perhaps its because I work in a school, but I love watching children be children around other children. Under her Fathers watchful eye, she was able to be a child with no hang-ups or without constantly appealing to an adult for social cues - something that you don't get to experience too often this day and age.

Gulliver's World will forever be popular with those in the North-West, because they've grown up alongside it and will continue to bring younger generations to the park. The closure of Camelot impacted a lot on the themepark attractions in the area, and I think if Gulliver's World keep on improving and aiming for the younger children - they'll expand into the Camelot mantle and thrive. Why not book online and save money on tickets today? The park is open all summer, and into the later part of the year although please check your desired dates before dropping by - you could be attending one of the 'special events'!

(I sat this one out because of my recent diagnosis of Femoro Acetabular Impingement, so Megan and Mike both put on their blogging caps and did this alone!)

Defining The 'I' in TMI

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

As bloggers, we put ourselves online. We put ourselves online, a lot. I mean, there are varying degrees of comfort when it comes to that obviously - not all of us do it the same way, and some of us have boundaries that others don't. Today I want to expand on those boundaries.

Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to sharing things online. Some are happy having a tell-it-how-it-is attitude, such as the wonderful Vix Meldrew or  Laura at Superlatively Rude.

Firstly, can I please say I wish I was as confident and fancy-free as both of those women. I've been an avid reader of Laura and Vix for years, but they represent something that is so different and alien to me that I just can't embrace the same blogging tactic they do. As prudish as it seems I simply cannot open up on the same level as them - casually or professionally. My job restricts me somewhat thanks to my name not being a secret. I'm actually a little glad about that as I don't feel comfortable sharing too much anyway, I like having my own privacy and despite being a blogger and putting myself online - I like having my own privacy. Just because I blog, just because I share - doesn't mean I like having my personal life splashed everywhere.

I see that 'excuse' thrown around so much - "You blog, surely that means you don't really care about what you share online?"

It really is the exact opposite. I control what I share. I control the context, the angles, the captions - everything. I pick and choose what I want to put online, and I want to keep everything I do share pretty positive and rosy. I don't share the days where I've struggled to get out of bed and I'm staring at a laundry pile that has built up for weeks. I don't take a photograph of my face the days I'm looking pale and withdrawn. Or the days I can't be bothered washing my hair. Or even the days I wear my pyjamas all day. I don't share Mike's personal life. I don't share the children too much, they choose when they want to appear in vlogs and generally on Instagram I share photographs that Mike has vetted.

I see a lot of people tweet about women being able to talk about what they want, when they want, on whatever medium they want. But I'm happy in my little comfort bubble. Even offline, I get uncomfortable speaking about sex or the finer details of my personal life with anyone. I doesn't mean I don't support the cause for women, and it doesn't mean that I'm against feminism and the positive message it champions.. It just means I'm a little bit of a prude and I'm okay with that. I'm comfortable being uncomfortable with certain topics.

It isn't wrong to have walls and barriers when it comes to sharing.

It isn't wrong to share everything, warts and all.

We all share the same space and it'd be so boring if we all felt the same. That's what makes us different. I can live my life vicariously through other people sharing if I like while keeping my own blog fresh - and sharing what I'm happy to share! 

A Rabbit Is Not Just For Easter

Monday, April 10, 2017

So, the season for cute fluffy chicks and painted eggs is upon us - Easter. Coloured ribbons, chocolate crème filled eggs and fluffy bunnies are assaulting our senses from every direction, but a post on Facebook has left a bad taste in my mouth. Rusty is my house rabbit, he takes up half of our front room and never goes without. He's completely spoiled, but he comes with  story. Read about us taking him in on this post, but he never really left!

Please do not, absolutely do not, buy your children a pet rabbit for Easter.

Rusty came from a home where he was gotten as a gift for two boys, and over time they just didn't give him the attention that he needed - a post on Facebook offering him up for free cropped up on my own feed, and as a previous rabbit owner I knew I had to take him. A rabbit is a huge commitment, and not one to take lightly.

My front room always smells of hay, and rabbit, and rabbit nuggets. Not really the most appetising scent to walk in to some days, but with cats and dogs prowling the back of our house I wouldn't ever consider him going back outside. Spending almost £100 on an indoor enclosure was the best thing I ever did, closely followed by Mike adjusting a shoe rack and creating a run for him so his cage door is never closed and he can enter and exit it whenever his little bunny self likes to.

He has fresh food every single day - even if we don't. I'm always stalking to the local shop and clearing the fresh vegetable reductions! I can often get a weeks worth of rabbit dinners for £3 to £4, but with nuggets and other things such as sawdust, hay and straw - I'd say it pushes things to £10 a week. If it falls on a flea week, it often pushes £20. For the months he needs his boosters, that adds an extra £45 on top of everything.

He gets cleaned out fully, once a week. Smaller cleans happen every day. Megan gets involved a little with those, although she doesn't like his pooh I endeavour to teach her that having an animal is a commitment - she had pet fish at home that didn't last very long due to her neglecting them. While she knows that Rusty is 'mine', I try get her involved as much as I can. When I was her age, I had two pet gerbils named Robbie and Henry (after the Paul brothers in Rugby League) and a hamster named Gareth (after Gareth Gates).

So no, a rabbit is not just a flippant decision while stood outside Pets at Home. Thankfully, Pets at Home have outdone themselves and made a decision I 100% condone.

They will not allow rabbits to be adopted over Easter.

If only the rest of the world would follow suit. A rabbit is a real animal, that requires loving care and commitment. It isn't just a throwaway decision you should make - they can live up to ten years and the amount of rabbits that are sent to rescues (or like Rusty was - offered up on Facebook for free) is absolutely shameful. When you can't look after a pet and you offer it for free, you open the doors to anyone simply walking in and taking that animal for their own means. Rusty was lucky, he's now shacked up with a blog writing blonde & a computer gamer with a talent for making rabbit runs.

Not all will be so lucky.

Social Media & Blogging, Do You Need It?

Sunday, April 09, 2017

This post is the second in a series which will talk you through the basics of blogging - from my personal experiences.
Social Media is a huge part of blogging - for many reasons. You use social media to promote your blog, to communicate with your readers and to keep abreast of what may be trending in the blogging world at any point. But, it really is optional. I never used to feel that way, social media and blogging was hand in hand - but as I stumbled into more communities I realised not everyone had Twitter Not everyone had Facebook pages, or Instagram.
Social media is optional.
It isn't a must, it isn't a need. You do what you feel comfortable with, and if that means having a blog without the intersecting social media, then you do it. I do however, recommend you have a little bit of a think about setting up social media for your blog and setting it to self-publish when you update or so you can spend an hour or so a week scheduling posts.
Scheduling posts? That means you set up all your tweets for a day, and load them onto an application such as Buffer. That means it posts tweets for you, or updates Facebook for you. That means you can get along with your life while not worrying about keeping on-top of everything online. I find it almost irreplaceable and I probably wouldn't be as organised and in control without it. Another tool I use to keep myself on top of things is the IFTTT application and browser based website.

I do have to stress that you don't need to do every single social media application. Dip into one or two, stay exclusive - you do what you feel comfortable with and you'll go far.

So, I'm Abnormal?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

So when I went to the GP this week about reoccurring hip pains, it was a shock. I had undergone tests for Rheumatoid Arthritis as it runs very rampant in my family - my Mum was diagnosed at 28 - so that was the bombshell I was expecting to get. But it wasn't.
As I sat there squirming in the chair, a part of me was glad to have something diagnosed - I felt very sensitive about the issue.
For the last year or so, one of my hips has been causing me problems. I didn't think to get checked at first because hey - I was thirty years old, about time I had some aches and pains right? When I began my new exercise regime in January, that's when I knew I had to see someone. Squatting and doing certain leg exercises was becoming very uncomfortable, and I found myself having to explain myself to the boot camp trainer as to why I couldn't do certain flexes. He was very understanding thankfully and didn't just take me as someone who was slacking - I really did want to push myself, but I just couldn't.
My hip would lock at certain points, and it would constantly feel like needles are prickling on my right side. So it was time to suck it up and go to my GP - which in turn, led to x-rays.
Anyway, squirming on the chair with the GP. He looked very calm as he shuffled the papers on his desk, and cleared his throat.
"Your blood tests came back clear of RA."
For that, I was thankful - and I knew my Mother would be too. It had been a definite thorn in our sides since I admitted to her I had to have blood tests and x-rays - Rheumatoid Arthritis had changed her life and although she had seriously embraced the new direction life had taken, it had taken some dark times during her transition to being in a wheelchair to get to this point. I'm nowhere near as strong as my Mother, I don't know how I would have coped with going through what she did - no doubt I'd have been a none-stop trainwreck.
Back to the squirming..
"Your x-rays have something we have to discuss, though."
Oh, oh..
"You know your hip is a ball joint, right? Well, yours are.. Abnormal."
Turns out, my joints have extra growths on them. So my ball joint is more like a ball joint with an added extra - which was causing the pains in my hip. I was reeling at this point, especially as I had no issues prior to 2016 with my hip.
"That isn't everything.. Both of your hips have this abnormality - I'm going to refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon."
My hips have something called Femoro Acetabular Impingement. Usually found in males due to the difference in hip shape (hey, I can officially say my hips are manly) it's only recently come to light. You can read more about Femoro Acetabular Impingement here, but there are some pretty gory photographs so don't click if you've just sat down for dinner.
Because mine is so advanced, it does mean that surgery is somewhere in the none-too-distant future for me. I'm awaiting a consultation with the surgeon, but speaking with my Mother on the phone today I've resolved to blog my way through this thing. I don't know what might be coming and when, but I know that I'm going to need to write my way through the bumps in the road.

10 Ways You Can Improve Your Self Care Routine

Friday, April 07, 2017

'Self care'.
Self care is the choice to look after yourself. Its about that powerful, independent decision to engage in activities that promote your own well being and self worth - without feeling guilty for doing so.

1. A long hot bath.
My favourite. The obscene amount of bath photographs I put up onto my instagram is evidence of how much a long hot bath can pick me up. I love taking the time to lock the bathroom door, pop in some bath oil (or if the occasion calls for it, bust out some of my favourite LUSH products!) and just let myself slide into that comfort blanket of bubbles. I do recommend having a good book, or propping up your tablet close enough so you can catch up on the latest series you want to binge watch (but far enough away not to fall into the bath - that isn't so great for your self care routine!).
2. Exercise.
Exercise is amazing for boosting your self esteem and putting your confidence levels back on track. I never truly believed it but when I began my boot camp classes I realised why so many people advocated exercise as a pick-me-up. It took a lot for me to go to an exercise class, it might be more beneficial for you to do some online surfing and finding a good Youtube channel to subscribe to. Exercise is still exercise even if it happens on the rug in front of the fire!
3. Go exploring.
Go and appreciate somewhere you haven't appreciated before. When you go, listen to the noises around you and take more notice of the things you see. Even if you take a camera, don't focus on getting 'the best' pictures but focus on taking them anyway. It isn't always about everything being perfect, but it is about making time to appreciate everything around you.
4. Get dressed up.
Even if you aren't going anywhere - make the effort to look good for yourself. Put on your favourite outfit, even if you want to spend a day spring cleaning. It really is okay to primp for you.
5. Switch off.
Mobiles, laptops - anything plugging you in to the outside world - spend a day without it. The world won't stop and you can live without knowing what that cute dog on your instagram feed is doing today. A Digital Detox is something I've written about before, and in switching off I was switched on to so much more around me. I was able to focus on my family, the beautiful views and the wonderful weather - and then after the day (or weekend in my case) was over I still found the world continuing on without my social commentary. Amazing, huh?
6. Have a duvet day.
I'm totally condoning this. A day in pyjamas, wrapped up in a blanket on your sofa is perfectly acceptable. I usually curl up with the TV series of my choice, a cup of my favourite tea and the laptop for a day of me-time - and usually end up browsing my favourite interior design websites while adding things into my basket I'd never usually buy. I also use this time to read my favourite blogs!
7. Write a list.
Take the time to write a list - you'll be surprised how much it actually helps. Make sure it's something that represents the positivity you need - from the compliments someone has given you, to the beautiful things you have seen that day. Taking the time to reorganise the thoughts in your brain really does do wonderful things for your feel-good-factor.
8. Take time to talk.
Spend some time having a chat, catching up with a friend really is soothing. I sometimes pin a lot of my happiness on chats with some of the closest friends, even if it is a message chain with a friend or plans to have coffee and a chat.
9. Have a clean out.
Clear out your wardrobe and get rid of some of the old clothes lurking there. Purge your bookshelf of reads you've read back to front. Venture under your bed (or in that kitchen drawer everyone dumps things in) and empty out that clutter cavern.
10. Spend time with people you love.
Even though this list is all about self care, there is something to be said about the company of those you genuinely adore being great for the soul. Even if it's a phone call to the people you miss most - make sure you have some time appreciating those you love.

10 Egg-cellent Easter Bakes You Have To Try!

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Excuse the pun, but with Easter everywhere I look offline it really only seems fair to bring it online and share some of the best Easter-themed bakes I've found around the internet this year. Now, it isn't all about the Cadbury's Crème Egg - although they do feature - because I absolutely loathe the bloody things.

Crème Egg Stuffed Chocolate Cupcake by Becky at milkbubbletea

When I first started putting this post together, I knew I had to share a cupcake that I had actually seen years and years ago on one of my favourite blogs, milkbubbletea. Becky created this Crème Egg Stuffed Chocolate Cupcake and it just screams Easter - so her bake is kicking us off. Becky also has honourable mentions with her Easter themed Miffy Cupcakes & her Easter Chick Chocolate Stuffed Cupcakes.

Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns by Sarah at TamingTwins

Now it certainly isn't all about Crème Eggs during Easter for me, but give me a packet of hot cross buns and I'm a happy woman. Give them a chocolate orange spin like Sarah at TamingTwins has done with her Chocolate Orange Hot Cross Buns and I'm in my own personal heaven!
Chocolate & Orange Mini Egg Surprise CheeseCake by Ciara at MyFussyEater
A cheesecake! Another offering with chocolate and orange, with a hidden surprise to boot. I definitely like a good cheesecake, so when this Chocolate & Orange Mini Egg Surprise Cheesecake by Ciara at MyFussyEater popped onto my radar I knew it had to make the list.
Bird's Nest Coconut Macaroons by Stacey at BakeEatRepeat
Tradition here in England dictates that you use cornflakes or Shredded Wheat to make your Easter nests - Stacey at BakeEatRepeat defied convention and created these Bird's Nest Coconut Macaroons.
Easter Chocolate Nests by Zoella
Speaking of using Shredded Wheat - Zoella created a post and video highlighting her six favourite Easter treats and these Easter Chocolate Nests were nestled in there begging me to feature them. These used to be a primary school treat at Easter time, although the thought of thirty under-twelve children running around with chocolate covered fingers strikes a few notes of terror deep within my soul.
Rabbit Cookies by Sandeea at larecetadelafelicidad
The Spanish blogger Sandeea behind larecetadelafelicidad has created these adorable Rabbit Cookies! There are many, many variations on Pinterest of similar cookies but I love the simplicity Sandeea has adopted for hers. Also, they have a chocolate filling which isn't shown on the photograph - fantastic!
Chocolate Mini Egg Cake by Jennie at ScarletScorchDroppers
I do enjoy a Cadbury's Mini Egg, so coming across this Chocolate Mini Egg Cake by Jennie at ScarletScorchDroppers was a revelation - it's covered entirely in them! I also advocate the sneaky use of Cadbury's Fingers as a wall - if only it was a viable architectural option when it comes to other things in life..
Bunny Mini Cakes by Laurie & Nancy at TwoSistersCrafting
Laurie and Nancy over at TwoSistersCrafting have set the standard really, really high with their delightful Mini Bunny Cakes. Give me a cake, it's a winner. Give me rainbow cakes topped with bunny ears and finished with a little bunny tail? I have no words!
Chocolate Bark How-To by Hobbycraft
I did start this list with the intention of featuring bloggers and not brands, but Hobbycraft have created a stunning Chocolate Bark How-To guide and I feel obliged to share it. Very useful if you've already made Zoella's Chocolate Easter Nests with the children and you'd like something else child-friendly!
Simnel Cake by Phil at VickeryTV
It isn't really an Easter list if it doesn't feature a Simnel Cake - so I'm sharing this delightful effort by Phil at VickeryTV - a Traditional Easter Simnel Cake. One to try if you're feeling brave this Easter!

Dealing With Negativity Online (And In Life)

Sunday, April 02, 2017

We all have those people around us online, and in life that want nothing more than to absolutely ruin your day. Thankfully, I'm not exaggerating when I opened the post with 'we all have those people..' as it isn't just you - you aren't alone in this and yes, it really is okay to talk about it.

Now, I'm not talking about constructive criticism, or a difference of opinion with this post. I'm talking about those who make it their daily duty to make someone else feel bad, because of one thing or another. Online especially, certain things can be read differently than intended and that escalates a situation that perhaps wasn't meant maliciously in the first place!

That said, you have the right to react to anything you encounter that makes you uncomfortable in your own way. What doesn't cause someone else a lot of hurt, might cause you weeks of anxiety. You deal with things how you want to, you have that choice. Nobody should feel bad because of another person, not online nor in life offline.

On Social Media
Online, we have a number of tools to use when encountering something that makes us uncomfortable.

Blocking is often the best option, limiting your interaction with the person causing problems and making sure you have control over your own online experience. The person on the receiving end of the block generally knows that this has happened - but it isn't your problem. If you've made the decision to block someone, make sure that once the block has happened you don't go looking. Being trapped in a 'what are they saying about me?!' circle is incredibly demoralising and it isn't an easy one to pull yourself out of.

Muting is another option, for those times you don't feel a block is appropriate. There is something to be said about muting, as it simply eliminates all tweets or posts by that person, but they don't get the satisfaction of being blocked. You can also mute certain hashtags you aren't comfortable with, if that is more of a reassurance.

If you have public social media accounts, it might be worth considering flipping the privacy switch and making them friends only if it is an option for you. For bloggers, this isn't always something we can do due to our hobby being about sharing - but if you've blocked a person and they still access your profiles via other means, it highlights more of an obsession their side than yours. If you feel you can't share as much as you'd like, the option is there to create a 'private' social media account for the people you'd like to share things with on a personal level, while keeping a public social media for your blog or business.

Via Blog / YouTube Comments
When it comes to comments I use Disqus on the blog, and while I know it isn't always a popular choice for bloggers when choosing a commenting platform I did so for a reason. Comments can be moderated to a huge extent, from blocking the commenter to marking them as spam so they don't show up. Disqus allows you the grace of IP addresses and other data from the commenter if you feel you're being targeted by a particular user, which can be recorded if you feel it needs to be. Like all major commenting platforms, you can also choose whether guests can comment or if they need to be registered users.

There can be a lot said for taking the moral high road too.

I received some particularly unhelpful comments on a Youtube video earlier this week, and as Mike helps me moderate that he simply responded with 'thanks for the feedback!' and we carried on as normal. The next day, the user responded with a follow up comment which was much nicer and even had an apology. Cliché, but the term 'it says more about them than you' is incredibly relevant when it comes to things like this - they want to spend time harassing someone else for the choices they make, then let them.

The temptation is always there to publicly respond with a sassy comeback, or perhaps calling out the comment in a public way. We've all been there. Having friends or fans then turning on the culprit in kind, not helping the situation in any way. Don't start a witch hunt, it isn't going to paint you in the best light for handling it that way and it simply gives the person who left the comment more attention. I've seen situations unfold publicly where the people defending the victim of a horrible comment have said even worse things about the perpetrator of said comment, making the whole thing ridiculous and hypocritical.

Try not to respond in anger - we've all googled a passive aggressive quote and slapped it on Instagram or Facebook. A few hours later we've all been that person who has deleted said post or tweets feeling pretty crummy about it. If you get the urge, perhaps write your response down and come back to it a few hours later to review it when you aren't so hurt or angry. A lot of things happen because of a knee-jerk reaction to the original problem, if you think on it for a while you tend to self rationalise your anger and the urge to respond in kind is often gone.

Or Offline?
This is perhaps the most difficult. The importance of the phrase 'you deal with things how you want to, you have that choice' that I mentioned at the beginning of this post truly does shine through here as nobody deals with something the same way as someone else. If every person wrote a book on how they handle things, I'm sure every single book would be different as its such a personal thing to work through. A few staple things are worthy of noting, however.

Speak with someone. Someone who is completely away from the situation, so they can offer an opinion that you can value as it won't have any ulterior motive to it. You don't need to offer them your soul on a plate, tell them what you feel comfortable with and appreciate the fact you're sharing something that is incredibly hard to share. As humans, we don't like admitting things aren't perfect, and it's a huge step to share - but try. If the problem has persisted a while, there is absolutely no weakness in speaking to someone on a professional level too.

Make yourself comfortable. A lot of life is online now. Whether you feel encroached online or offline, you can adjust settings to make sure you share what you want to share. Facebook offer a restricted profile option, meaning you can pick through your added friends and activate it so they see the very basics. They won't get a notification saying they're restricted, life will just carry on as normal and your personal space online will have clear boundaries. If you feel that isn't the option, then don't feel bad for blocking someone. You are the most important person in this situation, and if that makes you more comfortable then so be it.

Challenge yourself. Go out, have new adventures and don't ever stop! A pyjama day is well and truly acceptable but don't get yourself into a rut of staying away from people and distancing yourself. If your problem is a person, its just one person on a planet filled with many more worthy beings for you to share yourself with. If its a situation, then you have the power to fill your life with many, many more situations. Join clubs, go embrace something you care about and you live the good life.

So You Want To Be A Blogger & Taking The Plunge - Blogger Or Wordpress?

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Blogging is something I've embraced for a long, long time. I might not be the best at it, and I might not be huge but I do have a little bit of knowledge around the subject I think I can share.

This post is the first in a series which will talk you through the basics of blogging - from my personal experiences.

First things first. You need to have an idea in mind of what you want to create - what do you want to blog about? What is your direction? These days you can literally blog about anything, from beauty products (look at Zoella!) to weight loss, to your pet - and you'll always have a readership. That said, it doesn't just happen overnight and it really does take a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get to a point where you feel moderately successful.
Now, if you want to blog for the freebies, or to simply make 'easy money' then I'm afraid the blogging world will probably chew you up and spit you out the other side. When someone takes on the blogging hobby, it becomes painfully obvious if they only want to blog to achieve notoriety, fame or money - and neither one of those is easy to come by. Having a blog as a hobby isn't easy. Between updating your content, maintaining your social media and getting to grips with skills such as photography and graphics design.. You have the negative side of blogging too.
That said, blogging is the one constant I've had in my life from teen to thirty year old, and it isn't something I'd turn my back on in a hurry. I've made friends, I've made memories and I've learned things I never thought I could get my head around in the years I've blogged.
Okay okay, so you might go self hosted. But deciding between Blogger and Wordpress. I made the decision all those years ago to opt for Blogger and I haven't looked back since - it's simple, but it does the job and you can get lots of fancy templates these days which mean you can make Blogger blogs look just as polished and professional as some self-hosted efforts. The whole Blogger v Wordpress debate comes down to personal taste - you can always switch from Blogger to Wordpress or from either platform to self hosted further down the line so don't feel pressured into one platform or the other.
Blogger can be accessed here - you need an e-mail, and will be prompted to make a Google account although this isn't necessary.

Wordpress can be accessed using this link if you'd like a free blog - or this link, if you have your own hosting space and want to use the Wordpress framework.

Get yourself signed up, and have a look around at all the features. You'll become familiar with them over time, but for now - why not create your first post?
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