Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sunday Snippets - 22nd May 2016

Thankfully this week has been a lot less crazy than the last few weeks, which I definitely needed as my body is struggling to keep up. Unfortunately I haven’t felt particularly well, and have been having a lot of trouble with pain, as well as my mental health, so it’s not been the easiest of weeks. But I’ve been trying to pace myself a little better, at the same time as trying to catch up with e-mails, letters, Facebook messages, blogging, YouTube and everything else that needs doing! At the moment it just seems that no matter how much I try to catch up and get on top of things, the list of what I need to do never gets any shorter!

Last Sunday I had a bit of a lie-in after not sleeping particularly well, which seems to be a regular occurrence these days for some reason. I spent the morning seeing my friend, Sarah, again and giving her her birthday presents. It was lovely to catch up, as we don’t get to see each other that often now that we live in different counties. I came back home, did my medications for the week ahead (which seemed to take forever!) and played with the dogs in the garden a bit. I spent most of the afternoon blogging, which took longer than usual as I got distracted by a TV programme about elephants, which was pretty awesome but also really sad seeing how many of them get killed for their ivory. I spent my evening watching The Queen’s 90th Birthday party celebrations on TV.

On Monday I woke up with a splitting headache and in a lot of pain, which wasn’t much fun. According to my sleep tracker I woke up at least ten times during the night, so it’s not really surprising that I felt rubbish! I did manage to do a bit of tidying in my bedroom during the morning in between crying because of the pain. It doesn’t look massively different, but I keep reminding myself that every little helps. Around lunchtime my Mum and I popped over to my brother’s fiancé’s Mum’s house to do a bit of planning. How cute is this notebook from Veronica Dearly! We came home early afternoon, and I had planned on doing some work but ended up falling asleep on the sofa for most of the afternoon.

I had a fairly chilled out Tuesday, which was lovely. In the morning my Mum took me to my friend, Katy’s, house and I had a back massage. It was desperately needed as my neck and shoulders especially are so tight and painful – I just wish it lasted longer and I could have them more often! I came home and fell asleep, which definitely wasn’t what I had planned. My afternoon was pretty quiet – I just spent it trying to catch up with some messages and e-mails. I popped to Waitrose with my Mum to get a few bits for dinner and also picked up a prescription from the chemist. I made sure I gave this little lady lots of cuddles when we got home, as it was her 6th birthday.

On Wednesday I had absolutely no plans, which was a lovely feeling. I had planned to get up a bit earlier than usual, but obviously my body had other ideas because I ended up sleeping until quite late. I had a very slow morning just pottering around, and it seemed to take me ages to get myself up and dressed. I spent quite a few hours editing photos and then writing and uploading a blog post, which I was pleased to get done. I opened this lovely note and bracelet from my friend, Lissa, which really brightened my day.

Thursday brought with it an early start for a hospital appointment, although apparently I didn’t get up early enough! The traffic was absolutely awful, so I ended up being a little bit late, but thankfully not too late to be seen. I saw my Neurologist, who said he couldn’t be certain whether I’m having seizures at night and we’ve basically got to wait and see if another seizure is witnessed in the future. He doesn’t agree with what the Pain Doctor has prescribed me and thinks I should try Gabapentin. I’m really not happy to though, after the experience I had with Pregabalin. I’m seeing him again in August, but I just don’t know what to do at the moment. I’m getting conflicting advice from so many different doctors and it’s just impossible to know who to listen to. We came home and I ended up sleeping until lunchtime. I hate feeling so lazy and unproductive, but I just feel so rubbish at the moment. In the afternoon I caught up on a whole load of YouTube videos and also went through all my blogging e-mails that have built up. Freddie fell asleep on the back of the sofa while he was sitting there waiting for my sister to get home, and he just looked so cute!

On Friday I woke up with no real plans, so was just going to have a quiet day doing odd jobs. But I desperately needed some new bras, so my Mum said she would take me over to Marks and Spencer, as they had a money off event happening. We had a browse around and I chose some that I liked the look of, before getting measured to check I was getting the right size (which I wasn’t). We also popped next door to Tesco, as I needed to get something for the hen party in a couple of weeks – thankfully they had exactly what I was looking for! We came home and I dozed on the sofa for a while. I then rang the DVLA and they’re still waiting to hear from my neurologist to say I can drive again, so I’ve asked them to send him the form again, as he said he hasn’t received anything. I spent the afternoon watching YouTube videos and browsing the Internet for ideas for my sister’s birthday. As the weather was nice I went and sat out in the garden for a little while to watch the dogs play.

I didn’t have a great night on Friday night, as I was upset after hearing that a friend I made in hospital a few years ago has passed away. So I ended up waking up quite late on Saturday morning feeling pretty crappy. My pain levels were really high as well, so I spent most of the morning just trying to get myself up and dressed. I eventually managed to edit some photos and write and upload a blog post, which I’ve wanted to get up for a while. After resting for a bit, I went to the chemist with my Mum to get my new pain medication, and we popped into Waitrose as well. When I got home I opened some post, which included these new Nivea products I’ve been sent to blog about, so I’m excited to try them! Keep your eyes peeled for a blog post about them soon!

If you haven’t read my blog before, I just wanted to let you know that I have a second blog, which mainly focuses on my health in more depth than I talk about it here. It’s largely for friends and family to follow and keep up with what’s going on, but if it’s something you would be interested in reading as well, you are more than welcome to follow me over there. It’s called ‘Zebra Crossing’ and you can find it by clicking here. I’m trying to keep it updated fairly regularly, so hopefully there will be something there for you to read!

I’m also trying to post on Snapchat a bit more, so if you fancy following me, my username is Jennycole44.

What have you been up to this week? I always enjoy hearing about your news and adventures!

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

Festival Place Big Brand Fashion Fix

One Saturday, a couple of weeks ago, I was invited by my local shopping centre, Festival Place Basingstoke, to attend their Big Brand Fashion Fix Weekend. I’ve been to many Festival Place events before and always enjoy heading down there to see what they have in store. So, on the 7th May, my Mum and I made our way over to Basingstoke to find out what was happening.

We arrived in Porchester Square to find a white catwalk, bright pink carpets and a gorgeous Health and Beauty Lounge. I had actually been booked in to the lounge for a beauty treatment, but as they were running a little behind I decided to sit and watch the first catwalk show while I was waiting.

Renowned stylist, JP, came out and announced the first fashion show, giving us his insights on the latest trends as well as loads of fashion tips. All the brands showcased on the catwalk can be found in Festival Place, which was great for when I saw something I really liked.

First up was Debenhams, with some beautiful beachwear that made me feel very summery. I particularly loved the blue and pink two-piece, which I thought would look very flattering if you’re feeling a bit self-conscious about your body (as I do!)

Next came a brand that I’m not too familiar with; Phase Eight. I often go past the store when I’m shopping, but for some reason have never actually been in, so it was good to see some of the things they sell. They have some really pretty occasion wear, which would be perfect if you’re attending a wedding this summer.

I then received a tap on my shoulder to let me know they were ready for me in the Health and Beauty Lounge. Unfortunately I didn’t see my e-mail in time, so wasn’t able to book in with one of the beauty brands on offer (Dior, Clarins and Estee Lauder); however it actually turned out OK as I got to have a bit of pampering with Hair Lab instead. One of their lovely hair stylists gave me a hair consultation and also straightened my hair for me, which was nice and relaxing.

With my newly straightened hair, my Mum and I went round to the pink carpet to have our photo taken in front of the paparazzi. I also took one on my phone and uploaded it to social media using #fashionplace to try and win myself some awesome prizes!

As I hadn’t managed to see all of the first catwalk show, I decided to go back and watch the second one, thinking it would just be the same as the first. But they had different brands this time, so there were even more lovely clothes to see! This one started with Next, who have some very pretty, flow-y summer clothes on offer, as well as some adorable children’s outfits.

After Next came Monsoon, a shop that I’m familiar with, but mainly for their Accessorize stores rather than clothing. I absolutely love Accessorize, and was bowled over by what Monsoon are selling this season.

Although not a shop I personally shop in, I know Slaters have a great reputation for suit hire for weddings and other special occasions. They even showed off one of their rather smart looking kilts!

Gap came next with some great laid-back outfits, perfect for the warmer weather. This is another shop that I often just go past, but after finding a beautiful jumper in there recently and seeing these outfits on the catwalk, I will definitely be making more of an effort to look round in future.

French Connection and Topshop also showed off some beautiful outfits, with FCUK in particular really hitting the mark with their summer range. I just wish it wasn’t so pricey!

Last up was good old Marks and Spencer, who I think have really upped their game in recent years. I always used to see M&S as a shop for older people, but recently I’ve found a lot of clothes in there that I really love, so it’s definitely worth a look.

After the second fashion show I thought I would just pop back round to the Health and Beauty Lounge, just to see if I could squeeze in with one of the beauty brands. Luckily, some ladies from Estee Lauder were there and happened to be free, so I had a lovely chat with one of them and tried out a few of their products (and consequently want to spend my life savings there!) They very kindly gave me a bag full of samples to try out too, which was a brilliant ending to a fantastic day! I was a bit sad that I didn't manage to have a chat with the ladies from Clarins, as I'm really interested in their new products, but apart from that my Mum and I had a really lovely few hours and came away with so much inspiration for the summer.

Did you go to the Festival Place Fashion Event? Or does your local shopping centre put on fun events like Festival Place does?

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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

What makes me High Street Happy? Collaboration with Quidco*

I love to shop, but then you probably already know that if you know me or follow my blog! Whether it’s for clothes, accessories, home ware or even just food: I just love browsing the shelves and popping things in my basket, then coming home and looking through the things I’ve chosen. As my health has got worse over the years though, I’ve had to cut back on my outings to the high street and turn more towards the online world. With limited energy and frustrations with disabled access in some shops, trips to the high street aren’t as fun as they used to be. It’s great that there’s so much available online these days, but I don’t think you can beat actually going out into town for a shopping trip. Being able to pick up products, see the quality of garments and just get lost in your own little world while you browse the rails – it’s something I have always looked forward to, and despite the difficulties, I do still look forward to it now.

So when Quidco got in touch with me about their new ‘High Street Happy’ campaign, I knew it was something I wanted to get involved with. I’ve been using Quidco for a few years now, but always assumed it was purely an online thing. But I was wrong! Quidco High Street is a cashback scheme, which allows you to earn money back on your shopping in more than 5300 retailers nationwide, with over 40 different brands. If you don’t have a Quidco account already, head over to the Quidco website (here), click ‘Join Quidco now’ and follow the instructions. Through this link, you can also earn £10 bonus cash back!

Once you’ve signed up, all you need to do is register your card on the website, then when you shop at one of their retailers, Quidco tracks your purchase and pays you cashback as a percentage of your purchase. Once the retailer has confirmed your purchase, the cashback will be deposited into your bank account automatically. From there, you can transfer it to your bank or PayPal account or ask to have it paid as an Amazon gift voucher. There are a huge variety of retailers on the list, from Argos to Debenhams and Mothercare to JD Sports. You can find the full list on the Quidco website.

So, what’s the catch? Well, there isn’t one! There are no hidden costs. Quidco makes money from a combination of the fees from Quidco Premium accounts and the commission that retailers pay them for directing traffic to their sites. I’ve found the online version so useful, and often use my cashback to either treat myself to something nice, or save it for Christmas to help me buy presents for friends and family. So I’m really excited that I can now use Quidco on the high street too!

As well as sharing this exciting news with you, Quidco asked me to let you know three things that make me high street happy. So, on a recent trip to Basingstoke with my Mum, I took some snaps around the shops of just a few things that I love about the high street.

You can browse around shops that aren’t online

Basingstoke Primark store

One of my favourite things about going out shopping is visiting Primark, mainly because it’s a bit of a novelty, as you can’t buy their products online. I’m terrible for spending hours watching Primark hauls on YouTube and then wanting to go out and buy everything in store! Plus the store in Basingstoke is nice and spacious, which means it’s one of the easier stores to get a wheelchair around. There’s nothing better than coming home with a big Primark bag full of cute bargains.

You can swatch lots of different cosmetics

Browsing the Barry M stand at Boots, Basingstoke

Another great thing about shopping on the high street is being able to see products in real life, and this is especially true for cosmetics and fragrance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally happy to order make-up online, but it’s so much nicer when you can actually hold the product and test it out. I’ve ordered so many things online that haven’t been what I thought they were because I was just judging them by a picture. I will often leave Boots or Superdrug with my hands and arms covered in swatches of lipstick, eye shadow, blusher and more! And when it comes to perfumes, I always like to smell something before I invest in it.

You can turn shopping into socialising

My Mum and I enjoying lunch at Costa Coffee, Basingstoke (Festival Place)

Although it’s great to pick up bargains and try out products before you buy them, my absolute favourite thing about shopping on the high street is the social aspect. Whether it’s going with friends or family, I love to make a day of it and spend quality time catching up with people I love. I know some people might question how sociable you can be when you’re in a busy high street, but I personally find it a great thing to do with others. One of my favourite people to go shopping with is my Mum, and I look forward to that time together even more now that it’s become more difficult for me. Apart from the practicalities of her helping me around in my wheelchair, I really enjoy our general chitter chatter as we peruse the shops; talking about things we like (and don’t like!) but also talking about more personal things in a relaxed setting. We always try and make time for a coffee or some lunch on our shopping trips – just a little treat and another great thing about the high street.

Quidco actually did a bit of research on a selection of high streets across the UK, including Reading, which is another place my Mum and I visit sometimes. They found that:

·      At least 79% of people questioned like, or love, this local high street
·      31% of respondents from Reading go to their local high street 1-2 times a week
·      Over half (52%) of respondents go to the high street to do other (non-food) shopping
·      Almost three in five (60%) respondents said that finding a surprise bargain they didn’t even know they wanted would make them happy
·      25% of respondents said that their best shopping experience was a time on the local high street.

With online retail growing rapidly, it’s easy to get everything we want at the click of a button. But I also think it’s important to remember our local high streets, as there will always be some things that the online world can’t give us. I’m definitely guilty of choosing a website over a local store, but with Quidco High Street on my radar and reminding myself of the things that make me high street happy, I will definitely try to make more of my local high street.

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Quidco, but all opinions are my own

Do you use Quidco already, or does Quidco High Street sound good to you? I’d love to hear what things make you high street happy!

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Sunday, 15 May 2016

Sunday Snippets - 15th May 2016

It’s been a bit of a crazy week with three hospital appointments (well, technically…more on that later!) and what has felt like no real downtime, so I feel a bit like I’m running on empty at the moment. But, as always, there have been good parts in between, and those are the things I try to capture in my daily photographs. I started doing something called Project 365 a number of years ago, which is basically where you take one photo every day for a whole year. I got a bit addicted to it and have done it for so many years now that I’ve lost track of how many photos I’ve taken. But in the last year or so, I decided that instead of just taking a photo that represented the day, however rubbish, that I would look for happiness or positivity in each day, and base my photo around that. I find it just helps a bit on those days that are a real struggle, and when I look back at them it’s nice to know that there was something good even in the most difficult of days.

Last Sunday was a really nice home-y day, which are definitely my favourite kind of days (even though obviously it’s fun to be doing exciting things – you just can’t beat a relaxed family day). I woke up ridiculously late, which definitely wasn’t my plan but I obviously needed the sleep! I wasn’t feeling particularly great, so just took things slowly. My brother, David, came over late morning, so I chatted with him and the rest of the family for a while, which was nice. With both of my brothers moving out and with losing three of my grandparents, it really makes you treasure time spent with family. As the weather was so good we took the dogs out in the garden to play. This little munchkin (Freddie) absolutely loves water, and got rather wet as we were pouring the watering can and he was just jumping around in it! I spent a lot of the afternoon trying to write a blog post, but I kept nodding off and the heat in my room didn’t help. I spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling out, flicking through a magazine and watching The Simpsons. For my Self-Care Sunday I treated myself to a DIY mini-facial, which was very relaxing.

Monday brought with it a whole day without any plans, which was a nice prospect after the craziness of the last few weeks (and the fact that for the next three days I had hospital appointments looming). After a bit of a lie-in and a lot of procrastinating, I spent the morning editing a load of photos off my camera and importing some videos I filmed recently. In the afternoon I caught up on my blog emails, wrapped a birthday present for a friend and got it ready for posting. I popped to Waitrose with my Mum just to get out of the house for a few minutes. I wore this t-shirt from Primark, which makes me smile for two reasons: 1) It’s Disney and 2) It’s so true!

I had a very early start (5am – ouch!) on Tuesday, which wasn’t much fun, especially considering it wasn’t for anything exciting! My Dad and I made our way to the station, got a train to Clapham Junction and then the over ground to Denmark Hill. King’s College Hospital is fairly close to the station and we got there in plenty of time, so had some breakfast in the café, which helped me wake up a bit. We then went up to the Arrhythmia Clinic and I had an ECG and my blood pressure checked, before seeing the specialist nurse. We had a chat about my POTS and the new drug (Midodrine) they’re starting me on, then she gave me my first dose. I had to wait around for a while to have my blood pressure monitored, so I read my book and finally managed to finish it! When they were happy I was safe to go, Dad and I decided to just make our way back rather than getting lunch in London, as it was pouring with rain and we were shattered. So instead, we found a little café when we got closer to home, which meant we could relax a bit. As soon as we got home I fell asleep on the sofa and spent the whole afternoon asleep, which was definitely what I needed!

Wednesday was a bit of a rubbish day to be honest. I woke up not feeling brilliant, which was probably a mixture of the effects of Tuesday and the new medication. But my Dad and I had to go over to our local hospital, as I had an appointment with my Neurologist. Well, so I thought. I tried to book in with the receptionist only to be told my appointment had been cancelled back in March, but I hadn’t been told! This is the second time this has happened in the space of a few months (last time it was with my Gastro) and a referral letter for Stanmore was also never sent, which cost me even having an assessment there as they’ve currently closed their books. So, as you can imagine, both my Dad and I were not happy. The Neurologist wouldn’t see me without my notes, as he said I was too complex, which is fair enough and I’d rather have a proper consultation. We spoke to the matron and then to PALS, who advised us to make another formal complaint and they will re-open our case. So, after an hour and a half we came home and I crashed out on the sofa for quite a while with this little man. I did manage to get a couple of letters written in the afternoon, in between rests though, which is something.

I had another fairly early start on Thursday, as my Dad and I had to pop to my brother’s flat and the Post Office before we went to the hospital. I had an appointment with my Pain Consultant, which went a lot better than Wednesday’s debacle! We’ve been trying to get me off opiates, but after trying numerous other things have had to admit defeat – I just hope my Gastro Professor will understand. I’m being put on Tapentadol, which I can then top up as needed with Tramadol on bad days. He’s also referred me to have injections where the base of my skull meets my spine – if those work I can have them in other places and he will also refer me to have some sort of electrical current treatment that does something to the nerve being treated. On our way home, my Dad and I popped into Costco to get a couple of bits. I spent the afternoon crashed out on the sofa, as this week had really hit me and I think the Midodrine is also making me feel a bit funny. My sister, Rosiie, was making me laugh by putting my glasses on Alfie – he looks so clever!

Friday was the first day in what felt like ages that I didn’t have any appointments. So, I had a much-needed lie-in and took things very slowly. I didn’t really get up and going until nearly midday, which is a bit bad but I was shattered and was feeling really dizzy. I spent a while editing and uploading an EDS Awareness video to my YouTube channel, which I’m happy I’ve actually managed to get up in May! You can watch it here and I would really appreciate any support over there. I rested for a while and watched a bit of YouTube. Then my Dad and I popped down to a local photography exhibition to have a look round for half an hour, which was nice. I got some new flowers for my room and they smell amazing – I’ve never bought stocks before and they went really well with these beautiful dusky pink roses.

Yesterday was more of a relaxed day, and I actually had a social engagement for a change! I had a really quiet morning just pottering round the house and wrapping some birthday presents for my friend. Around lunchtime, my friend Becky picked me up and we went to the cinema to see The Jungle Book. If you’re a regular reader, you will know how much I love Disney, so I had high hopes for this adaptation of the classic film (and, of course, book by Rudyard Kipling!) Thankfully I wasn’t let down – the film was fantastic, if a little dark in places, but it stuck to the story really well and the animals looked so realistic. I will definitely be buying it on DVD when it comes out, and there are also so many other exciting films coming out over the next few months that I want to see – Finding Dory, The Secret Life of Pets, Me Before You, Mother’s Day and Alice Through the Looking Glass. After the film, we chilled out in Starbucks with one of their new fruity Frappuccino’s, before Becky’s boyfriend picked us up and dropped me off at home. I rested for a little while, and then had an unexpected visit from one of my closest friends, Sarah. I had planned to see her on Sunday, but we managed to squeeze in an extra catch-up on Saturday too, which was so lovely as we don’t get to see each other enough these days due to distance. I actually ended up watching some of Eurovision last night, which isn’t like me as I’m not really a fan, but it was quite fun to watch it with the family.

If you haven’t read my blog before, I just wanted to let you know that I have a second blog, which mainly focuses on my health in more depth than I talk about it here. It’s largely for friends and family to follow and keep up with what’s going on, but if it’s something you would be interested in reading as well, you are more than welcome to follow me over there. It’s called ‘Zebra Crossing’ and you can find it by clicking here. I’m trying to keep it updated fairly regularly, so hopefully there will be something there for you to read!

I’m also trying to post on Snapchat a bit more, so if you fancy following me, my username is Jennycole44.

What have you been up to this week? I always enjoy hearing about your news and adventures!

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