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Showing posts from 2017

How did I get on with my eight-week mindfulness course?

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There's a book that's been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, as I was waiting for a time when I was going to commit to doing the eight-week course inside it properly.

Recently, that time came, and having completed my eight weeks of mindfulness training, I'm going to share exactly what I thought.

Here's the book:
Mindfulness - a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world
Mark Williams and Danny Penman
- includes a CD of guided meditations


Mindfulness has been something I've experimented with on and off over a number of years, and it's really only been in the last year that it's started to click, for me.

I wanted to see what it would be like to follow a more structured formal practice, to take it that step further towards becoming a part of my daily life.

Throughout the eight weeks, I've kept detailed notes on my thoughts, so this may be a lengthy post but I hope some people find it helpful or interesting!


The techniques in the book are bas…

The Reading List #47

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I've recently got a new phone so I've been scrolling back through all my old photos and actually organising all the photos and notes of books I still need to share.

That means there's plenty of mini reviews on the way over the next few weeks...

For today, here's the latest four:


The Betrayals, Fiona Neill


Rosie and Lisa have always been best friends, until Lisa has an affair with Rosie's husband. Years later, Lisa sends Rosie a letter asking for her help.

There are four sides to this story: Rosie, Nick and their kids Max and Daisy, and each take it in turns to narrate chapters. The voices were clearly defined and the thread of the story was strong, even when being viewed from multiple angles. The central storyline features a couple of moral dilemmas which were interesting to unpick, but what really set this book apart was the descriptions of Daisy's OCD. It wasn't the main point of the story, but played a very critical role in how a lot of the characters ide…

Getting a life

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If you know me in real life or just through my online life, it's pretty evident that this has been a year of big change.

I've not exactly been quiet about it and I've charted my progress through living back at home, counselling, moving to Chester, learning to eat again, learning to work out and get fit, starting yoga... It's been a journey, as they say, and it's a journey that continues to evolve every day.

After years of being mentally unwell and treating my brain and body badly, or healing only so far as 'putting a plaster over things' and carrying on, this year has been a year of total and proper change.

There's been a lot of deep thinking, of digging through past thoughts and past behaviours, and replacing and renewing and relearning.

I've been rediscovering parts of me that I had lost, reuniting with the parts of me I and those around me missed, reintroducing pasttimes I used to love, and saying goodbye to unhealthy, unfulfilling habits.

As a p…

Hello, November 2017

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Month 11 of 12 in 2017.

I could probably write a whole post wondering where the time went but I won't, because I think we all feel the same way.

Last month, everything stepped up a gear.

I was busier than I've been in YEARS (no exaggeration there). I was in month one of a new job and started two new courses (an Alpha course and a creative writing course).


It was extremely busy, but I feel so lucky when I reflect and realise that my time is packed with things I absolutely love. My new job role is doing something I love and would do even if it wasn't paid, I'm meeting great new people and I'm spending time adding in hobbies and events I enjoy.

I've also realised that I'm reintroducing many things I used to spend all my time doing, but for various reasons including my anxiety I had pushed to the back of my mind. I'm talking about singing, theatre, creative writing, meeting new people...

This must be the reason my happiness has been pretty high, too. I'…

Finally home.

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Since moving to university, I've never been settled in one place for very long. For many reasons I've hopped around, but that's meant I've been living in a very temporary frame of mind for about five years.

I've moved from York to Darlington to Cheshire to Stockport to Macclesfield to London to Cheshire to Chester.
All since 2011.
Whilst some have been clustered closely together, they've still been moves. I've never felt like the place I've moved to will be home for the foreseeable future.
Moving is stressful; anyone who has ever moved house will tell you that.
But for me it's not so much the moving that's been an issue, even though that hasn't been easy. It's been that sense of unrest I've felt whilst living there.

For various reasons, each of the places before my current one was temporary. It might have been because of the time span of university, or because of an uncertain job situation, or because I was temporarily back with my p…

Goodbye Christopher Robin

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I'm not a huge film person and go to the cinema fairly rarely, but it's something I'm working on changing as I'm learning to appreciate it much more.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon watching Goodbye Christopher Robin and I'm so glad we made the time to fit it in. I saw Margot Robbie talking about it on the Graham Norton Show and couldn't not go along and see what she was talking about.

Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the story behind Winnie the Pooh. In a post-WW1 world, happiness is hard to find and people begin to find it in the pages of children's stories written by A A Milne. Created based on his own son and toys, and on time the pair spent together, the stories blur the lines between truth and reality. It's a fascinating story, an interesting insight into England following the War and a beautifully told story of a little boy who wasn't allowed to ever grow up properly.

I knew very little of Milne's story, and I think this was the perfect w…

Blood Brothers - 30th Anniversary Production, Storyhouse Chester

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Willy Russell's 'Blood Brothers' is an iconic show for so many reasons, and the current touring production is possibly the best I've seen yet (this is viewing number three in the last ten or so years).

The show is currently on its 30th anniversary tour and arrived at Storyhouse in Chester for a week, which is a stunning venue and a perfect home for the show.

Visually, the productions I've seen have all been very similar, with the staging very consistent, so it's the actors who make up the cast that make the difference to the show. It became very quickly apparent that they've selected the best of the best for this tour.

Blood Brothers has long been one of my favourite shows, and even when read on paper is fantastic. On Tuesday evening, those words were lifted off the page in the very best way I've seen yet. Act One was laugh-out-loud funny and packed with heart, and Act Two was raw, gritty and heartbreaking. There's a lot to pack into one evening in …

World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day.

There's so much I could write, but on a day where so many are sharing such powerful thoughts, words and stories, I'm going to keep my message short.


I speak very openly about my own mental health journey because I believe it is the only way to start breaking down those walls and letting other people know it's ok to talk and to ask for help.

My message today:

You know your own mind. You know when you're not ok.


Even if to the rest of the world you may look like you're fine, or far better than fine, I know you could be fighting a huge internal battle.

Maybe it's not huge; maybe it's a few small feelings, but you can sense they're building up over time.

Maybe you've noticed a few small habits or behaviours that you know aren't healthy.

You know yourself better than anyone else, and you know when something is wrong.


If something is wrong, however 'silly' you're worried you may sound, speak to somebody.

If…

Why London wasn't for me, but I'm glad I lived there

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In August 2015, I packed my bags and moved to the big city.

Just over two years on, I'm happily settled back up north, in beautiful Chester.

My London journey was a complicated one. A lot happened, and it really challenged me. However, out of those challenges and out of the many great things that happened whilst I lived there, I know I learned an awful lot about myself.


Why did I move to London?

For those that know me, and certainly those that knew me at the time of moving, the move was unexpected! I had been spending regular time in London both with work and socially and I think I got swept away in the excitement. Couple that with the fact a job opened up at a company I had admired for years, and it seemed like the time to take the leap.

I honestly think another big part of the motivation was exactly because of that fact it wasn't expected of me. I had spent years putting myself in a box of what I thought I wanted, what I thought made me happy and what I thought made me comfor…

The Recipe Post #17: Garlic butter salmon in foil packets

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Recipe time again, and this time it's another salmon recipe because it's still one of my favourite ingredients. I was lucky enough to have this made for me (after it had sat in my notebook waiting to be made for ages) which I'm sure made it taste even better!

I found the original recipe on littlespicejar.com, and we paired the salmon with simple veggies and some sweet potato mash.

To say this was a flavour sensation certainly wouldn't be an exaggeration. It was absolutely delicious and will definitely be on the 'make again' list.



For the salmon, you will need:

4 salmon fillets (or, in the original recipe, 1.25 lb salmon)2 cloves garlic, mincedsalt and black pepper1/4 tsp Italian seasoning2 tbsp lemon juice2 tbsp cold butter, cubed1/4 tsp red pepper flakes Preheat the oven to 375F.
In a pan, combine lemon juice and minced garlic, then when reduced a little, add in 1 tbsp butter. Remove from heat and swirl to start to melt butter. Place back on heat a few seconds …

Hello, October 2017

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October.

The tenth month of the year.

I'm quite a fan, I've got to say. Not of the fact the evenings get darker or that the weather isn't the best, but I do love the changing leaves, the autumn colours and the jumpers!

Can we just get one thing straight though? I hate Halloween. Genuinely, I have really strong feelings about it. That might be a topic for another day but I can't cope with the amount of tweets I'm seeing today about the fact Halloween now apparently lasts the whole month of October? Not for me, thanks.

To me, 31st October is my dad's birthday and nothing else! He's coming over with mum a few days before for lunch. Before that, we've got a wedding to go to, a couple of weekends away, numerous things planned with friends, a trip to see Blood Brothers...

And alongside that I'm starting my new role. I'm sure I'll talk about that more at some point but for now let's say I've taken on a new part time role that I'm so exc…

The Results: Warrior Women September Self-Development Challenge

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Happy 30th September!

This month has flown by. I know I've fit a lot into the time, but at the same time I just don't know where the days have disappeared to.

At the beginning of the month I said that I was going to be trying the Warrior Women September Self-Development Challenge - I'll call it 'the challenge' from now on as that's a bit of a mouthful. It therefore seems only right that on this, the final day of the month, I let you know how I got on.

Below is the original list of challenges, and I can say that I've successfully ticked every single one! If you want to know exactly what I did do each day I was tweeting the whole thing (look for the tweets where I've shared this image).



So, how did I find it?

Realistically, most of the things on this list are things I already do regularly, so maybe for me 'challenge' was the wrong word. It was more a daily prompt to make sure I was staying in the habit of these kind of practices, or a way to shake…

The Reading List #46

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Where on earth has September gone? Honestly, the fact that it's October on Sunday is a little scary!

Whilst I've not blogged as much I had planned to this month, it's been a month packed with great things and I've been doing some planning to really focus on this space in October...

Today, we're here for another reading list.

Without fail, I start my mornings reading, and I usually at the moment have multiple books on the go at any one time.

For that reason, there will be a fair few of these posts popping up over the next few weeks and months!


Mindfulness for Life, Craig Hassed and Stephen McKenzie


This really is a sweeping mindfulness manual, covering history, theory and practice. It's all about how mindfulness can become a part of your everyday life, and is far from difficult. It takes practice, but the benefits you get in return are huge. I think this book strikes a really good balance between offering an overview of mindfulness alongside practical tips and ad…

Dewa Roman Experience, Chester

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Since moving to Chester two months ago, wevre been making an effort to explore both the 'things the locals do' and the more touristy side of the city.

A couple of weeks ago, we spent the morning at a museum I remember fondly from being a child. I remembered the Dewa Roman Experience Museum was good, I remembered I had been to it, but that was about it.



The museum promises to help you 'experience the sights, sounds and smells of Roman Chester', and it certainly delivers. For a fairly small museum, they certainly pack in a lot of information and a lot of interactivity.

The experience starts in a darkened ship, with a voiceover telling the stories of Roman Chester, with signs on the wall beginning to set the scene and give you context. There's plenty to look at as you walk through this first section, which brings you to a room with a video screen. Here, a short film sweeps you back through time to the days the Romans walked through Chester, and really captures your im…

Why I deleted My Fitness Pal

Until early this year, I had never been a traditional 'dieter' or tracked my calories and macros in any way. In fact, I'd count myself as slightly clueless when it comes to the calorie composition of many foods, or how many grams of protein could be found in a meal.

I then began a series of sessions with a personal trainer, as I realised it was time to start looking after my body as I was looking after my mind. I'd been told time and again how much of an impact nutrition and exercise could have on anxiety and depression, so it was time to stop making excuses.


One of the tools suggested to me by my personal trainer was the popular app My Fitness Pal. It allows you to track your food and water intake and your exercise, and also offers articles on fitness and food on the homepage feed. She emphasised that we were not going to get hung up on calories or numbers, but that because my eating had been affected so badly over a sustained period that it would be a useful way of g…

International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

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Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool has long been one of my favourite museums. Liverpool as a city is the place to be for incredible museums, but this one in particular I return to over and over again.

Situated on the top floor of the Maritime Museum, right by the water, it strikes that perfect balance of delivering lots of information in an incredibly accessible and concise way, with a focus on presenting these things in innovative and interactive ways.

My latest trip was just over a week ago, and I honestly think it gets better every time. The museum follows the journey of slavery from its earliest origins and leads right up to ancestors of those slaves living in England - specifically the Liverpool area - today.




That's another thing I love about this museum: the balance of the big picture alongside the local stories. There's a huge timeline charting the American Civil Rights Movement, there are stories of experiences on the sh…

The Reading List #45

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I cannot stop reading at the moment. I've truly and utterly fallen back in love with reading and tend to have a few on the go at once.

It's reading list time again, so here are my thoughts on four more of the latest books I've read...


Radical Self-Love, Gala Darling



The subtitle for this book is 'a guide to loving yourself and living your dreams', and the content could not be summed up more clearly than that. It's brimming with positivity and inspiration, but everything feels so accessible. I think sometimes when you're being told about self-love by people who have already reached that point of contentment within themselves, it can feel preachy or patronising, or like you'll never reach that place they're at. This book offers the tools you actually need to get there, with a healthy dose of love and support.

It honestly made me feel so uplifted and empowered, and I've already passed it on to one of my friends.


No Way Back, Kelly Florentia
Published:…

Urbano 32, Chester

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I've found a new favourite lunch spot!

Each time we've wandered into town since moving to Chester, Urbano 32 has caught my eye. Yesterday, we finally tested it out.

Specialising in amazing sourdough pizzas, and also offering a great range of drinks and antipasti dishes, it was easy to see why it always seems to be busy when we walk past.

The menu hits that perfect balance of offering plenty of options without being overwhelming, and the menu is written in a friendly style on plain brown paper.

The interior of the restaurant has a bit of a warehouse feel, with metal piping holding the lightbulbs and lots of wood and brickwork on display. The outdoor seating proves very popular on sunny days like yesterday.



We ordered two pretty different meals to sample a wider portion of the menu, and both meals were a hit.

To drink: 1 x apple juice, 1 x apple and mango juice

To eat:
1 x tomato, mozzarella and basil sourdough pizza (mine, of course!)
1 x king prawn skewers with a side of roast…

The Recipe Post #16: Naan pizzas

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You know when people make a homemade version of a takeaway or unhealthy favourite and claim it tastes better or as good as the original?

I usually roll my eyes at those claims, but I've found something which, while it tastes different to the traditional recipe, is still so satisfying and definitely fits the craving.

Naan bread pizzas are now one of my go-to meals if I need something quick and simple, and I wish I could just eat a pizza.

While it's not necessarily 'healthy', it's a lot better for you than plenty of store-bought pizzas, and you know exactly what you're putting into your sauce.




I combined a naan pizza recipe from food.com with an easy pizza sauce recipe from allrecipes.co.uk, played around with the quantities, and here is the result:


For the sauce, you will need:
90g tomato puree
2.5 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 tbsp each oregano and basil
1/4 tsp rosemary
up to 150ml water

Mix well the puree and oil, then add garlic, …

Hello, September 2017... and a Warrior Women challenge

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Well, here we are again. The first of another new month, and September will always feel like the start of a new year to me.

As each year passes and I move further from my school days, I can't shake that September feeling and the need to buy some new stationery.

I'm not really sure what happened to August.

Now well over a month since moving, we are settling into routines.

The weeks feel a bit more familiar and patterns are starting to emerge.

Now the work on meeting people and joining new things has begun and will continue to go on.

I'm going to treat this September a little like it IS a new school year.

I'm going to make friends.

I'm going to throw myself into some new clubs or hobbies.

And I'm going to push forwards, not look back.


For all these reasons, September seems the ideal time for a little challenge.

A short while ago, Warrior Women Worldwide was born, created by Ginny Coates and Zoe Hale, with the aim of 'empowering women to live authentically tow…

My journey to exercise

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It's no secret to anyone who knows me that there's been a pretty big new addition into my schedule over the last few months: exercise.

I've never been someone that 'worked out'. I didn't like P.E. and Games at school, I wasn't on sports teams (apart from the rounders team in Year 7) and I wouldn't choose to go out for a run or even a walk.

I've dabbled in certain things over the years - horse riding when I was about seven, a long-ish stint of swimming at primary school and short phases of becoming obsessed with a particular workout video, but nothing really stuck.

The one thread that ran throughout, certainly since the beginning of high school, was dancing. That kept me moving, and walking to and from school and university did the same, but it was one particular type of movement and exercise, and by the time I left university that had pretty much stopped, too.


I think my story is a fairly common one: I didn't enjoy the 'conventional' tea…

Got a goal? Just drink more water...

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Just a quick check-in today to update you on another change I've really been focusing on for the past few months as a part of the whole mental and physical overhaul 'journey' I've found myself on.

Today's topic? H2O.

Water.

Drinking more water is probably one of the most common pieces of advice you hear if you're trying to improve your health in any way.

Want clearer skin? Drink more water.

Want to sort your digestion? Drink more water.

Want to stop constant snack cravings? Drink more water.

Want to lose weight? Drink more water.

It's the tip we all roll our eyes at and then carry on with our day.


Water has never been something I've thought too much about, as I've actually always been fairly good at drinking it.

Granted, part of that may be because my drinking options are limited - I don't drink hot drinks, alcohol, fizzy drinks... you could count the drinks I'll go for on one hand.

I've never been one of those people who 'doesn'…

The Reading List #44

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It's that time again and I've been reading SO much recently I feel like these posts might be popping up more and more often.

The Reading List series is a collection of posts that collate mini reviews on the things I've been reading recently, which is usually a complete mixture of fiction and non-fiction and different styles and genres.

Here's the latest collection:


Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins



Where do I begin? I've heard of Tony Robbins many times, but hadn't picked up any of his books until this particular one was recommended by my personal trainer a couple of months ago. Awaken the Giant Within is about recognising your potential and taking action. It's about the fact that you can make whatever you want to of your life, you just need to set goals and work towards achieving them.

This book is so practical, regularly making you stop to make lists and complete other tasks. These tasks range from examining your deepest desires to analysing your emoti…