Self Care is important

“Self care” always seems a very millennial term to me. My mum often ends phone calls telling me to “look after yourself” and I think for me this isn’t about living extravagantly or being greedy with food or possessions. It’s more being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself even when things feel bleak and not going to extremes to make yourself feel better.

Caring for oneself might not be flashy, it might not give you the best social media following or Instagrammable moments 24/7 but it can keep you going when things get tough or when you’re feeling burnt out.

Here are some things that always help me when life starts getting on top of me (for whatever reason):

1. Have a bath. If you’re like me and your wonderful family and friends buy you a lot of bath stuff for Christmas or birthdays keep a stash to feel like a treat. There’s nothing like using something lovely smelling to lift your mood.

2. Soul food. There’s nothing like cooking the sort of thing you used to be fed when you were growing up to make you feel a bit better. If you’re really struggling with life even a bowl of kids cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals and soup is cheap and filling (souper).

3. Take one thing off your list. In my job I write lists to help me to remember what I have to do and I encourage the people of my team to keep lists. I advise you, if you’re feeling truly overwhelmed with everything you expect to get done be realistic. Are you really going to have time for everything? You don’t have to be superwoman. Take something of your list to ease the pressure if it’s not an urgent task.

4. Sort out your socks. This is a silly one but tidying and cleaning helps you feel in control (this from a messy person!) and I realized just this weekend but actually wearing matching socks helps with the overall feeling of taking some pride in your appearance.

5. Spend time with loved ones. When life gets hard it is so easy to withdraw but I promise you company will help. Even if you’re sitting drinking tea at your friends house or playing games with your siblings. Don’t doubt the magic of spending time with people where you can just be yourself.

6. Get outside. See some nature. Get some fresh air. Blow those cobwebs away. Simple.

7. If you have a pet there is literally nothing nicer than them coming up to you and nuzzling you. I know not everyone is an animal person but if you are you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Be kind to yourself ladies and gentlemen.

A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Check yourself this Movember

14 November may be a little late to start growing a moustache to raise money for Movember. Its also probably futile for approximately half of the population. However, Movember is an extremely worthy cause. The charity aims to prevent early death in younger males by 25% by 2030 by raising money for testicular cancer, prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

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The lovely people at Heck Sausages contacted me to ask me to write a post about their Check campaign where proceeds from each pack of their Chicken Italia Chipolatas goes towards the charity. As well as tasting brilliant (and being low fat and gluten free to boot) the staff at Heck started to raise money as one of their staff members Jamie has recently undergone treatment for testicular cancer. Read the full story here. Heck have also renamed themselves Check for the entire month of November to raise awareness for self checking of men. They also aim to raise around £25000 for the charity so don’t forget that the more sausages you eat the more money that goes to charity (talk about win win).

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Frankly, men are dreadful at self checking and even worse at speaking to the GP. Depending on where you live between a third and a half of men would not know what to look out for when checking their testicles and a similar proportion of women wouldn’t know how to check their partners testicles. Even more scarily 85% of men would be embarrassed to speak to their GP if they did notice a problem.

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Information about checking yourself or somebody your partner can be found here. Its worth being mindful that early diagnosis and treatment increases survival rates of testicular cancer and also prevents loss of both testicles in males.

I actually have an MSc in Cancer Biology and Therapy and one of the facts that will always stick with me is that despite cancer being more diagnosed in women worldwide, the survival rate in men is so much poorer. Men often won’t see their doctor until its too late, which I suppose ties in with suicide rates also being higher in men. Movember is a charity that aims to raise awareness of such issues and on top of that helps fund research into male related cancers. More effective male cancer treatment increases the quality of life of men of your boyfriend’s age, or your brother’s age or one of your friends. On top of that attempting to reduce the stigma of men talking about their feelings and speaking up about mental health issues also improves lives and helps people who are truly suffering see a light at the end of the tunnel.

While I identify as a feminist and I can speak for days about women’s rights and political issues I am also extremely vocal about equality and men’s quality of life. We should all try to support Movember and encourage more men to check themselves and seek help when needed whether it be through raising money for the charity by cultivating a moustache, donating to the charity or even eating rather a lot of sausages for a worthy cause.

For more information about the work Movember is doing please browse their website. It is absolutely fascinating looking at all the causes they are contributing to.

For more information about Heck sausages including stockists please visit their website.

Why you should consider joining Bone Marrow Register

This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while but I could never quite articulate my feelings on it. Even now its a struggle. But I know there are even now people fighting blood cancers and lymphatic cancers who are desperately hoping for a tissue match and realistically the more people who are eligible to join the register that do drastically improves both the quality of life and survival of patients.

I consider myself extremely fortunate, neither myself or anyone I have been close to in real life has been so poorly to require a bone marrow transplant. However, D has, and when he was interviewing Andrew McMahon in 2014 (of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate) it made me fully appreciate how important it is to get involved when you can. Here was a man who had nearly 10 years previously received a stem cell transplant from his sister following treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and was in great health and had just become a parent. As there was somebody at the gig from the Dear Jack Foundation we both joined the register that evening.

Considering I actually did my Masters in Cancer Biology and Therapy, I am as squeamish as a lot of people can be when discussing medical treatments, needles etc. One of the questions I got asked around the time I spoke to my friends and work colleagues about this was “won’t it hurt a lot if you have to actually make a donation”. The answer is yes and no, if you have to make a peripheral donation (which is most common) it will be similar to a blood donation. The actual bone marrow transplant is done under general anaesthetic and donors typically do experience bruising and side effects. However, I think its worth rationalising by remembering I’ve probably injured myself more when I’ve been drunk and fallen off bar stools. Also, that chemotherapy itself is pretty gruelling both physically and emotionally for the patient and their families; so if it helps someone out for the rest of their life, I can probably cope with some bruises (possibly with some moaning, I might be happy to donate but I’m not a saint).

Its worth noting that whether you join the Bone Marrow Regiaster through the Dear Jack Foundation or the Anthony Nolan Trust you end up on the same register so you don’t have to do it through both charities. Its your choice who you support or whether you wish to support another charity entirely).

I know this is more serious than most of my blog posts, but this is something I feel is important and I have been thinking about how to phrase this for a while. But the bottom line you will potentially be doing something wonderful and saving a life – basically the best gift you can ever give.

Information on who is eligible to join the register.

More on why your should join

Oh and in case I was a bit too serious, here is Andrew McMahon’s new single.

 

Things to do in York: The Great Yorkshire Fringe

D is absolutely excellent at finding things for us to go to at the weekend. This weekend we went to see Showstopper the Improved Musical. The concept is simple but highly effective – audience members decide the theme for a musical and then chose musical styles for the Actors to perform. No two performances are the same and its testament to the skills of the performers that they can adapt and perform hilarious musicals off the cuff from themes as diverse as the York Park and Ride (our show aptly named Ticket to Ride), to current affairs and politics (Why? – about Boris Johnson facing European Parliament). Definitely take opportunity if you can to watch this.

Onto the Great Yorkshire Fringe  which has been running since 15 July and will continue until 1 August. If you’re in York this week you should definitely check this out. There are free performances throughout the day and there is a lively atmosphere that is entertaining for adults and children of all ages. Perfect for the first week of the school holidays.

Going to this reminded me of why I enjoy comedy, theatre and live music. I think we get so caught up in rushing around, trying to maintain a job, an active social life and any hobbies etc. Not even considering my friends who have started to have families or people who have to consider older children. Enjoying live performances with your favourite people helps you live in the moment. No two performances of anything will be quite the same. Sometimes living in the here and now is what’s important.

10 things

So you may have noticed I have been a bit quieter than usual. There were several factors leading to this (I changed jobs, D and I went to Italy and we were both in shows in the space of about 5 weeks). More on all of the above later. Anyway, I have a lot of posts planned for the next couple of weeks and for some rather wonderful reason I have a lot of reviews lined up which excites me quite a lot (including afternoon teas and a low sugar chocolate spread). In the meantime I decided to just sit down and write. Writing is what I love and when the proportion of food posts to more general posts dropped, it was the writing I kept enjoying.

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So onto my list which is based around some of my random pondering.

  1. If you’re going to a party and you don’t know anyone much beyond the host its always a good idea to take snacks. If you like baking or its a birthday you might want to make cupcakes or a birthday cake but generally you can’t go wrong with fancy crisps. There will always be someone who will be excited to see some Kettle Chips. (I am reliably that person).
  2. Life is so much better when you get past the point in your life when you envy people’s life events and feel genuinely happy for them. There is literally nothing nicer than sitting around with your old friends and having that lovely squishy feeling of contentment knowing people have achieved goals they set themselves, found their life partners or are expecting children. Jealousy weights you down and gets in the way of friendship, supporting your buddies just increases your happiness.
  3. In the same vein let the important people in your life know you care. Its always nice to feel appreciated.
  4. You never know what you can achieve until you put your mind to it. It takes guts, it takes practise but sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone is the best thing.
  5. Sometimes its good to take recommendations from friends and family on things. Tried and tested can be better than taking a risk (especially if its for something like a plumber or a roofer).
  6. If you’re regularly earning try to put a bit into savings each month, even if you’re not saving for anything in particular. When an opportunity does come along that you want to take it’ll mean you can just go for it without worrying so much about your finances.
  7. You know you’ve got a good one when you they tell you they’re proud of you when you achieve something you’ve been working towards.
  8. I’m just going to put this out there….I’m not sure I 100% understand all these people on my Instagram feed on holiday who are posing on inflatable things like doughnuts and flamingos. Where did they all come from?? How are they managing to pose so well on them? y brother and I had a blow up crocodile when we were 8 and 10 and we couldn’t stay on it for more than 3 minutes without falling  off and we were a lot smaller back then.
  9. Don’t feel bad for occasionally taking time out for yourself. Just to stop and relax and enjoy your own company. Down time is important.
  10. Even if you don’t manage a long holiday or to visit any exotic locations, try new things this summer.

Be happy my friends.

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An ode to moving to a new place

I felt like given that it is around the time when a lot of my younger audiences are contemplating moving to a new university town and some of you might be in that horrible place between graduating and finding a job. Whether you find yourself moving to a town 10 miles up the road, or to the other side of the globe, relocating somewhere new can be daunting, especially on your own.

I am naturally shy and even as a little girl I was never one for going to something on my own. Whether it was hiding behind my parents and especially my older brother or being scared to go to a new activity; I have to admit I was pretty bad when it came to meeting new people. The first few weeks of university I was horribly homesick for my friends and family and it took me weeks to get the courage to actually get to know people. (I feel compelled to mention that the people I know from university were on the whole, wonderful, I was just scared to come out of my shell.)

However, this couldn’t continue and upon graduating from my MSc the recession actually, possibly helped. I mean, finding a decent job in my industry was pretty stressful and my confidence was pretty low because of this but in terms of lifelong confidence it helped. Between September 2010 and February 2012 I had 5 different temporary jobs in a variety of shops, offices and a research post. I also volunteered for my local hospice doing a phone based job. It was tough but the combination of having 5 different first days in a new working environment, meeting a lot of new colleagues and encountering customers forced me to talk to so many new people. Talking to people on the phone about a charity I felt strongly about stopped me being so afraid of asking for things. Then the last interview I went to in a scientific role before I gave up forever came up and I got the job and it was too far away to stay living with my (lovely) parents.

So I ended up moving to Harrogate, while its not massive I knew approximately 3 people, my Uncle, Aunt and my then 16 year old cousin. So in some ways I had a little support system already in place who fed me Sunday dinners and helped me out a lot when I didn’t know anyone else. It was still scary though the prospect of making friends. Luckily my friend ED and I started the same job in the same department on the same day and even today we are close friends. Then DC and Miss S started working and we formed a little friendship group which gradually got slightly bigger as we all got to know more people.

(This post has snowballed into a life story but bear with me). Times did get hard and it wasn’t all rosy. I spent a lot of time watching tv in my room feeling pretty lonely. I had housemates who were untidy, ones who had scary boyfriends and finally 2 girls who were plain lovely and I was very sad to leave. A long term relationship crumbled but while it was the most painful few months of my life I think it actually benefited us both in the longer term. Holding onto something that isn’t working any more, even when you still care deeply about somebody is emotionally draining, exhausting and everyone ends up hurt. The best advice I should have taken long ago from my parents was not to live in 2 places at once.

Pretty often I find myself now in situations where I think, “how did I end up having fun with you here? 2 years ago I didn’t even know you exist.” Its pretty amazing to think that if I hadn’t moved I wouldn’t have started blogging ergo wouldn’t have bonded with D over writing, I would never have had our pets or met all the people I did through D. I would never have had the opportunity to see so many bands, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start doing theatre stuff again after so many years and I certainly wouldn’t have hugged as many famous musicians.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that sometimes the most wonderful parts of life come from the scariest feelings of the unknown. I was lonely that first night in my first house here, I was so terrified of going on a date with D that I required a pep talk from my housemate and my poor parents got multiple tearful phone calls about people using my toothpaste, ex boyfriends and finding the initial stages of adult life difficult.

I think the best advice I can give to anybody who finds themselves in a similar position to me is to start saying yes to people. In the earliest stages of friendship go along to everything you get invited to, keep in touch with old friends, be the event planner of your friendship group from time to time. Please don’t let nerves be the reason you don’t join in with a new activity. I wholeheartedly speak from experience when I say somebody will make an effort to make you feel welcome.

Although I miss my family and friends from home a lot at times relationships with people who really matter won’t change if you take a new opportunity. If you do move for work university I think throwing yourself into somewhere new, even if you feel sick with fear makes your life so much more than just a job, or a course.