Thursday, 10 August 2017

An open letter to Sinead O Connor

Dear Sinead,

I am so sorry you are going through this. I wish I could reach right through the video and hold you. I can't promise that everything will be ok but I can promise that you aren't alone. I'm glad to read that you are receiving care and I hope that the good wishes of everyone are making it to you.

Please remember no matter how shit things seem your track record of getting through the the bad days, the sad days, the soul crushing desperation days is 100%. Please keep fighting.

I personally want to thank you for showing the world the true face of Mental Illness. For breaking the romanticised illusion of the troubled artist. Mental illness is real, it's torture, it destroys lives and it takes lives. I pray that you make it through the other side of this awful illness, I pray that the world sees mental illness does not discriminate and I pray that someone is holding your hand wherever you are right now.

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in April and am still on waiting lists for treatment. Waiting, crying, breaking down, getting back up, being furious, being terrified, still waiting, still breathing. The NHS say I'm functioning. I don't even know what that means, do you? Is that enough?

I am blessed with an incredible support network, I truly hope you are to. I don't know if my virtual hugs are any good or if you will ever see them, but I promise I will send them anyway. Please take care, be safe, you are not alone.

Love and hugs



Monday, 31 July 2017

Premier Inn Northampton West (Harpole) - Hotel Review

Date of Visit: June 2017 
Nights Stayed: Friday and Saturday 

From the Premier Inn Website

What the Website Says: 

Quiet walks or screeching tyres? Crunching tackles or fishing tackle? Whatever you're seeking, Premier Inn Northampton West Harpole makes it easy. Set in a pretty village, just a few miles from Northampton town centre, you'll be well placed for racing meets at Silverstone, events at Althorp House and sporting fixtures at Northampton Town FC and Saints RFC. After a day of excitement, a warm welcome, good food and extra-comfy beds are here to help you wind down and recharge.
From the Premier Inn Website

What Trip Advisor Says: 

This hotel has 529 reviews on Trip Advisor at the time of writing this post and has an overall rating of 4 out of 5 stars. 


- Free Parking 
- Free WiFi - standard speed, if you want to stream TV you would need to pay to upgrade to the faster speed. 
- Family Rooms
- Meeting Rooms
- On Site Bar / Restaurant 
- 24 hour reception
- All rooms are En Suite. 

My Review: 

My husband and I visited Northampton in June with the sole purpose of visiting Silverstone. I bought us both a tour of Silverstone for Christmas which was booked for 24th June. We decided to travel down on the Friday so Hubby could be fully rested and enjoy the tour on the Saturday. 

We chose to stay at the Northampton West Premier Inn over the Silverstone Premier Inn which is much closer to the track because it was £55 cheaper to stay 15 minutes away.  We checked in around 4pm, the receptionist was friendly and took all our details, plus talked us through breakfast times and other housekeeping necessities such as parking and the bar opening times. 

The first thing I liked about this hotel was that the extra cartons of milk were in a big glass bowl on the counter, along with extra tea, coffee and sugar packets. No more asking reception for extra milk because you've used up the 40 milliliters you were given! Huzah! (I'm easily pleased) 

This hotel has no lift and no air conditioning but this is stated clearly on the website and we weren't upset by either of these things. There were only a dozen or so steps up to our room on the first floor and we had no difficulty getting there, thanks to precise directions from reception. 

Using a key card we entered our room and my first thought was "wow this is small!" closely followed by "wow this is really nice". 

To give you an idea how small, I am standing with my back against the door taking this photo. Yes it was small but it was really lovely. Clearly refurbished recently the dark wood of the furniture accents the off white of the walls and the deep purple of the Premier Inn branding and deep purple canvases on the walls. 

The TV was wall mounted and had a small connector underneath where you could connect devices such as a laptop or a USB stick. My hubby has a USB on his keyring with a couple of films on and for the first time we were in a hotel where we could use it! Nice! 

As I said, no air conditioning but we were provided with a fan and the obligatory tea and coffee making facilities. We'd been in the room less than 10 minutes by the time I'd made myself a cup of tea and gotten comfy on the bed with my crochet project. Oh yes, I am a crazy party animal :) 

Thanks to me being such an airhead my poor husband had to drive all the way back to Sheffield to drop our keys off with his parents as they were looking after our cats while we were away! He so kindly got me settled at the hotel (as I have terrible anxiety when I travel) and then set off back up north. 

Whilst James was travelling back up and then down the county (I'm so sorry babe!) I watched NCIS on the TV, enjoyed a cup of tea or two and tested out the walk in shower in the bathroom. 

The bathroom was tiny but lovely, everything was sparkling white and felt new and welcoming. Even though it was so small it didn't feel oppressive or dingy in anyway, plus the power shower was amazing! One piece of advice though don't stay in there too long the room soon fills with steam and it gets like a sauna after about 15 minutes. I think it's designed for ablutions rather than long luxurious showers but is wonderful for both. 

When James arrived back in Northampton we went across to the adjoining Beefeater restaurant which I will review in a follow up post or this will go on for pages! All I will say here is that the food was good but expensive. 

Our first night in our room was sweltering, the bed was as comfortable as all Premier Inn beds are, it feels as though you are floating on a cloud as you drift off to sleep but we were so warm! We had the fan on its maximum setting and the window open but still couldn't cool down. We put this down to it being an unusually warm June evening and hoped it was a sign of good weather for our trip to Silverstone. 

When we got up in the morning after a night of broken sleep the room thermostat read a sweltering 28 degrees! 

We got dressed and headed over to the restaurant for breakfast and as we walked outside expecting heat we were blasted with a cloudy cold day . . . erm what? A quick check on my phone showed me that the weather in Northampton was only 18 degrees that day, at best. 

Whilst we ate I tweeted the Premier Inn customer service team who advised that we speak to reception when we finished our breakfast. The breakfast was a standard premier inn all you can eat breakfast and got no complaints from either of us. I love that there is everything you could possibly think of for breakfast and always leave feeling happy and set up for a busy day of sight seeing. 

James spoke to reception who apologised for the heat in our room and checked us in to a different room downstairs which thankfully was only 21 degrees. We moved straight away and the difference in room temperature was so much better, the downside to the move that this was one of the older style rooms, so bye bye wall mounted TV, USB ports and walk in shower. 

On the plus side, hello much bigger room

The bathroom wasn't as flash as our upstairs room but still sparkling clean and the shower was just as nice as the one upstairs. I have a soft spot for Premier Inn showers can you tell? :-P 

I don't know if it was because this was a ground floor room or because it was so much bigger but for whatever reason this room was much cooler and with the help of the desktop fan we were able to have a sound Saturday night's sleep ahead of the journey home. 

We chose not to use the Good Night Guarantee as we felt that staff did everything they could to make our stay more comfortable. In fact we have only ever claimed back the cost of one night in the whole 10 years we have been using Premier Inn as a couple. 

Overall very happy and if we are lucky enough to visit Silverstone again in the future we would definitely consider coming back here. 

Thank you for reading if you enjoyed this post please follow me for more! 

Love & Hugs

Unless otherwise stated all images are my own and cannot be used without express written consent

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Unboxing my first The Vegan Kind Box!

Welcome to the first of hopefully many unboxing posts! I love a good unboxing and have spent far too much time on YouTube watching unboxing videos and scouring Twitter for an unboxing blog post. 

For me these posts and videos are the ideal way to see if a subscription is for me before I spend money on them. I've been hovering around The Vegan Kind website for quite a while now as I've gone from Vegetarian, to meat eater, back to vegetarian and then jumped with both feet into the Vegan lifestyle. 

You see, I've wanted to be Vegan for a while and if I'm honest I was swept away in the "but what will I eat?" thoughts and misconceptions that vegans live off rice and vegetables and there is no way I could do that. But almost a month in, I am feeling good, my IBS has all but disappeared and I am learning about new foods and a new way of eating. I thought it would be hard completely changing my lifestyle at 33 and in some ways it has been, I've realised my reliance on take away and convenience foods, I have realised how docile I can be in having what everyone else is having when it doesn't line up with where I want to be morally.  

Getting this box was part of me learning about new foods and alternatives foods I've eaten all my life. Enough of my yabbering! To the unboxing! 

This post is in no way sponsored: I bought this with my own money and all opinions are my own. 

I started my Lifestyle Box Subscription on the 8th July, because of this they were out of July boxes and so I didn't have to wait until August The Vegan Kind sent me box TVK44 June 2017's box. 

The little piggy isn't part of the box, he is a cute sticker hiding my address :) 

It arrived a little squashed from the postal service but nothing inside was damaged. The box is bright and beautiful. Plus all packaging materials can be recycled. 

Inside on top of all the goodies is a Welcome leaflet which tells you which charity the box will be supporting this month. 10p from the sale of each June Box went to the Hart Wildlife Rescue charity. It also tells you who has written the recipe on the enclosed card and gives social media links should you want to follow them. 

On the reverse of the leaflet are the full details of all six items in the box, the companies who manufacture them, their websites, Twitter and Instagram accounts. 

Let's dive in!

1. Metcalfe's Sweet and Salty Skinny Popcorn RRP 85p

     I love salted popcorn and I like sweet popcorn and I'm pretty sure I would buy either of those from      Metcalfe's; but both together? Nope! Not for me sorry! 

                            2. Harpers Candles Cut Grass Candle RRP £5

A beautiful soy wax scented candle which smells like summer afternoons. I really love this candle, from the delicate scent of cut grass, the tin it comes in and the lovely decoration of the label this is gorgeous. I would happily buy this for myself again and am keen to try out new fragrances from Harpers, on top of this I would be confident to buy these as a gift for someone else, they are great quality and the cherry on the cake is that they are completely cruelty free. 

They even carry the Vegan Society Logo showing they are fully registered with the Vegan Society as always being animal and cruelty free. 

All for a fiver? The last candle I bought before this was £15 and the scent wasn't as good as this one! 

3. Goupie Salted Sticky Toffee 80g RRP £2.50

Firstly can we just appreciate the cute packaging of these Goupie choccies. I don't know why but I love it! I don't know if it's the kookie shape, the triangles or that again the packaging can be recycled it's just so cute! 

I did run into a small problem here. Salt. On my chocolate? Why? I just don't understand the salty and sweet combined thing. I don't particularly like salted caramel either but and it's a big but once I had taken the salt off the top of these they were so good! I mean eat noisily and proclaim how good they are good! 

The inside is sticky and squishy and delicious and YUM!! 

What I also loved about this is that when I posted on Instagram that I was trying these Goupie replied! I love a company that is in touch with its customers, they were friendly and upbeat and made me feel special as a consumer. I want to feel that way. 

Times are hard and money is tight, I want to know that companies I give my money to appreciate that. Goupie really did. I will definitely be buying more from them and can't wait to try more varieties! Even my none vegan husband liked them! 

4. Chewsy Chewing Gum 10 pieces RRP £1.49 

This was a pot luck item, according to the leaflet you would get one of three flavours, spearment, peppermint and lemon. I got lemon. 

Biggest problem with this for me was that it tasted so good I almost forgot it was gum and nearly swallowed it! Great quality product, I was worried the texture would be a bit weird but it isn't it's exactly as you'd expect chewing gum to be. 

100% vegan and 100% going to buy the spearmint one. I'm not sure if it;s just me but I need my gum to be minty. 

Because I'm rubbish I forgot to get pictures of the last two items!! Sorry! 

5. Bounce Foods VLife High Protein Ball 40g RRP £1.79 

I received the Almond Kale protein ball and I really didn't like it. It was like a green lump of marzipan with a bitter aftertaste. I love almonds so can only assume it was the kale that turned me off this flavour. 

I'm not giving up though, I think this would be great to have in my bag to have after I go swimming, it's small and won't go off so I could stock up for gym days. 

I have seen these in my local CO-OP so will have a look what other flavours there are and give them a whirl. 

6. Sunsoul Raspberry and Elderflower 100% Natural Energy Drink RRP £1.30 

I'm pretty sure I have seen this in Holland and Barrett. This was the first time I have tried one and I have to say it was delicious, Elderflower is one of my favourite flavours and I will drink it whenever I can. This has some real kick though and if you're not used to drinking energy drinks like me you might end up with a hum dinger of a head ache. If it were just a canned drink I would definitely buy again for the flavour but it's too powerful for me! I'm an energy drink light weight! 

Overall I'm really happy with my first Vegan Kind box and I can't wait to receive my second early next month! 

If you would like to find out more about The Vegan Kind please visit their website here:

Thank you for reading if you enjoyed this post please follow me for more! 

Love & Hugs

Unless otherwise stated all images are my own and cannot be used without express written consent

Saturday, 22 July 2017

We gave Blood

If you saw my World Blood Donor Day post you will remember I said that the next time I went to give blood I was going to take you along with me. I did just that, and as an added bonus my husband agreed to come with me and donate for the first time!! 

If you've contemplated giving blood but have doubts or anxieties or maybe you're just curious and would like to see what happens during a donation I hope this post helps. 

Let's get started! 

It's really important to eat and drink well before your donation. I had a hearty breakfast of porridge and toast and Marmite (love it!) and a big cup of coffee. 

We arrived around 15 minutes early for our appointment at Sheffield Blood Donation Centre  I checked in at reception first and made an appointment for my next donation whilst I was there. As it was James' first donation he was handed a clipboard and a form to fill out detailing some health questions. 

It's important to stay hydrated whilst donating, there is a drinks station and cute baskets filled with snacks in reception and you are encouraged to help yourself. The only time I have experienced the NHS telling me to eat! 

After filling your health questionairre you are taken into a provate room where one of the staff will go through it with you and ask any further questions. For example the medication that I take has to be approved by the nurse on duty as safe for me to donate, I also had a flare up of eczema which needed to be checked to make sure it was nothing more sinister. 

What you have to remember is that the blood you are giving is going to very sick people, they have to ensure that you are as squeaky clean as possible and that there is nothing within your system which could affect the patient it goes to. 

After this they do the finger prick test, your finger is pricked with a sample of your blood is dropped into one of these coloured liquids: 

Blue for ladies and Green for men. This measures your hemoglobin levels. You want to see that little blob of blood sink to the bottom. If this doesn't sink it means you may be anemic and you won't be able to donate blood that day. Thankfully, mine sank like a stone. 

Next step, back into the waiting room for more drinks until you are called over to sit and begin your donation. I say seat, more like a recliner, I joke every time that I need one of these seats for my house. The staff probably hear that a dozen or more times a day but they always smile and joke with you. 

Then it's on with the donation, I am an awkward customer and it takes longer than average to find a vein but this time was a success and we hit the money spot on the first attempt. 

You're hooked up and away we go. As I had had a tattoo since my last donation a small sample of my blood was taken separately to test for Hepatitis and HIV (this was also done for James as it was his first ever donation) Then you are left to recline in your lovely comfy seat and watch TV. Here's the funny if not slightly awkward part, to prevent feeling faint after your donation you are encouraged to do small exercises which will help to maintain your blood pressure, these include clenching your bottom really tight and then releasing, and crossing and uncrossing your legs. 

I'm not going to lie, I felt like a right muppet at first but you soon realise that everyone else around you is doing the same thing and you soon forget about it. I can't stress how much it helps though, my last two donations I have felt quite dizzy after and since doing these exercises I have been so much better :) No matter how silly you feel doing it clench and unclench your bum!! 

5 minutes later I'm all done! The cradle holding the donation beeps when you are finished, a member of staff comes over to unhook you and apply dressings to the donation site. After this they slowly bring you back to a sitting position. You are talked through what not to do over the next 24 hours, i.e. heavy lifting, strenuous exercise and given a handy safety information card to take with you:

Once they are confident you are not feeling woozy or faint, you are free to go for a drink and more snacks! YAY! Tea and biscuits a plenty :) 

You can stay here as long as you like, some people are ready to go within a couple of minutes, others - like me - take closer to 15 - 20 minutes to feel comfortable enough to go back to my day. There is no rush, plus if you do feel unwell in any way please let the staff know. They are there to help and nothing is too much trouble. I really can't praise them enough. 

As you leave you are given a hearty thank you and can carry on your day safe in the knowledge that you just did something truly amazing! 

If you would like to give blood and are based in the UK please visit: 
Thank you for reading if you enjoyed this post please follow me for more! 

Love & Hugs

Unless otherwise stated all images are my own and cannot be used without express written consent

Friday, 7 July 2017

And the winner is!

Drum roll please . . . .

Alison Clark

You have won this delicious Cadbury Chocolate Bouquet!! 

I have sent you an email, I just need you to reply with the address you would like me to send your prize to!! 

Thank you so much to everyone who entered, I had over 6000 entries!! 

Have an awesome Chocolate Day! 

Why not stick around and check out a few of my posts while you are here.

= = = = = = = = = = 

Thank you for reading if you enjoyed this post please follow me for more! 

Love & Hugs

:Note: I was originally going to film the prize draw but I didn't realise at the time that Gleam shows email addresses and locations of entrants, so for the privacy of everyone involved I didn't post the video. 

It's World Chocolate Day!!

Did you know that the smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation.

It's here! The tastiest day of the year! Whether you love milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate or all of the above! No matter if you're Vegan, Vegetarian, Lactose intolerant or coeliac there is a chocolate out there for you!

Chocolate comes in bars, ice creams, puddings, cakes, biscuits! Oh my goodness I'm drooling! Let's face it chocolate has to be the comfort food of all comfort foods, it's decadent and delicious and quite frankly deserves it's own day!

So, today I am celebrating this wonderfully delicious day by:

1. Announcing the winner of my give away! 

I want to thank everyone that entered from the bottom of my heart, the response to this give away has been incredible! I've loved chatting with everyone about their favourite chocolates in the comments, it ended up with so many I couldn't keep up so if you didn't get a reply it's not personal I promise. I've made lots of new friends on Twitter which I really wasn't expecting. The whole thing has been a pleasure to host.

Give Away Prize

I will film the draw being made and will announce the winner on my blog, immediately followed by Twitter and my Facebook page, I'll be sure to post the video on the blog so you can see how I chose the winner.

M&Ms were created in 1941 as a means for soldiers to enjoy chocolate without it melting.

2. Buying chocolate for my husband and friends

We have a run of 3 birthdays in early July - my husband and two of our closest friends - so we are having a birthday BBQ, I'm going to buy a big box of choccies for everyone to dig into. I'm thinking a box of Celebrations or Cadbury Heroes so there is something for everyone. 

I'll post photos of the delights I buy on Instagram, if you don't already follow me on instagram you can find me here:  Instagram

Eating dark chocolate every day reduces the risk of heart disease by one-third.

3. Treating myself 

I recently decided to become Vegan, but this doesn't mean that I get left out of World Chocolate Day, oh no no no! I fully plan to visit my local Sainsbury's and treat myself to a nice big bar of Dairy Free chocolate and/or maybe even a pack of Pudology Chcolate Orange puddings! Yum!

If you haven't heard of Pudology you can find about them HERE I highly recommend them! They also come in resealable pots so if you find them a bit rich you can just pop the lid on and save it for later.

Chocolate is the only edible substance to melt around 93° F, just below human body temperature. That's why chocolate melts in your mouth.

So, why not treat yourself to your favourite chocolate and take some time to relax; I hope you have a wonderful chocolate day. Tag me in your #worldchocolateday tweets and instagrams! I'd love to see how you treat yourself today! 

Love & Hugs


Thank you for reading if you enjoyed this post please follow me for more! 

Love & Hugs

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Tips for returning to work after time off with mental illness

2017 has been a tough year so far for me, but also a positive one. I may have been the most ill I have ever been but I also made a breakthrough and got my diagnosis. During this time I had to take 2 months off work. I could write for pages and pages about this time of my life but this post is specifically about making that return to work a successful one. 

I want to stress at this point, I am not a medical professional, I am sharing my own experiences in the hope that it can help someone going through a tough time. 

Remember: You don't have to tell anyone anything 

Other than HR and maybe your line manager you don't have to tell anyone anything. One of my biggest concerns was stigma and the constant worry of "how are people going to react?" It might sound obvious but how much you disclose to your colleagues is completely up to you. This was a revelation for me. 

If you feel strong enough to be open about your illness by all means please do, stigma is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. There are great articles about having these conversations on the Time to Change Website. 

Personally, during my return to work my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was still so new, I was still coming to terms with it myself. This was made worse by someone I considered a close friend ending our friendship telling me to stop "banging on" about my mental health as it brought her down. This was heartbreaking, and made me not want to share what I was going through with anyone. When a colleague asked if I was better I would reply "I'm getting there thank you, how are you?" Short and sweet and deflects conversation away from you, whilst still being polite. 

Image from 

Talk to HR about a phased return 

After seeing occupational health and talking to HR I was able to implement a phased return over a period of 4 weeks. My employer broke this down into percentages, on week 1 I worked 25% of my contracted hours, week 2 50%, week 3 75% and finally week 4 had me back at 100% of my contracted hours. 

I can confidently say this made all the difference for me. I still felt overwhelmed at times, especially as I work in a busy office and I had spent the last 9 weeks at home in a nice quiet environment, it was definitely a shock to the system. 

Be Gentle with yourself: It's OK to be overwhelmed 

If you do feel overwhelmed at times that's OK, I really struggled on a couple of days, I doubted myself, I wondered if I had come back too soon, I felt like I couldn't do it and I should just leave. Be gentle with yourself, going back to work after an extended time off is hard. It really is. You're doing great! 

Take some time away from the noise. I'll be honest, I spent more than a couple of my breaks in the disabled toilet by myself just focusing on my breathing and reciting affirmations. It worked for me, sometimes you just need a moment away from your well meaning colleagues, if you haven't seen someone for a while it's natural to want to say hi and catch up with them. 

Build Your Support Network: At Work and Home

At work I had the support of HR, my line manager and 2 trusted colleagues who I felt I could be honest with and who rallied together to pull me through bad days. 

At home I have my incredible husband who continues to be a rock and a tight unit of friends. 

Let's not forget the growing network of online support, mental health peer support groups on Facebook are wonderful, I am in 2 different groups for BPD support as well as following several on Twitter. 

I can highly recommend Elefriends a community for people with mental illnesses operated by mental health charity Mind. You can find out more about Elefriends here:

Self care Self care Self care! 

I know Self care seems to be a bit of a buzz word at the moment but I can't stress how important it is! 

Now self care isn't a magic cure, I won't ever have a bubble bath with a glass of wine and suddenly no longer have BPD (if only!) but you can do so many things to keep yourself well and to make your day a little bit brighter. 

I am going to do a couple of posts in the future about how I practice self care at home and at work. 

In the mean time I highly recommend the Blurt Foundation for tops on all things self care. You can find them here:

I hope that some thing in this post helped, even if it was just steering you towards Elefriends, Mind or Blurt. 

The biggest tip I can give by far is to remember you are not alone. 

Thank you for reading if you enjoyed this post please follow me for more! 

Love & Hugs