Sunday, 28 January 2018

My trip to Peggy Porschen, London

Towards the end of last summer, I spent a day in London with my brother, Richard, and sister-in-law, Lisa (and bump, who is now, of course, known as Noah!) I never got round to sharing my trip with you on here and as I’m trying to get all those blog posts written that I’ve had sitting around for ages, I thought today I would chat to you about what we got up to!

Our first stop was Borough Market, which I had never investigated before and was soon left wondering why I’d left it so long. I must admit it was a little scary going round in a wheelchair because it was so busy that all I could see were people’s legs and stomachs! But I’m fairly used to that now, so it didn’t bother me too much and I was soon getting caught up in the atmosphere of the market. It was a bit of a rainy day, but thankfully most of the market was under-cover. So we just pottered around the different stalls, eyeing up all the amazing looking foods and being overwhelmed by the insane smells of cooking. I would list all the things we looked at, but to be honest I think it would be easier to tell you which produce we didn’t see! There was something for everyone – whether you want freshly baked bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, an amazing selection of cheeses or something sweet. There were even stalls specialising in gluten and dairy free products, which caught my attention. We didn’t end up buying much – there was a shop with loads of different cheeses, which let us try some of them (and my brother bought one of his favourites) – they tasted amazing! And I found delicious balsamic vinegar in an oils store, which we all ended up buying a bottle of! But the fun was mainly in just looking around, trying samples and seeing the variety of things on offer. I really want to go back! We also caught a view of The Shard, which is another place I would love to go one day.

After our adventures around Borough Market, we made our way across London to Belgravia (which took a while with us trying to find tube stations that had disabled access). Thankfully the weather had brightened up, so as we walked/I wheeled through the gorgeous white houses of Belgravia we were really able to take everything in and enjoy imagining the kinds of people that lived in the cute little roads off the main road. Our main aim of the trip was to have tea and cake at Peggy Porschen - my gift to Lisa for her birthday. If you’ve never heard of Peggy Porschen before (where have you been?!) it’s a favourite amongst bloggers for photos, but also sells the most gorgeous looking cakes. We soon spotted the famous pink parlour across the road, with a selection of whom I can only assume were other bloggers taking photos in the legendarily decorated doorway. We were a bit worried about not being able to find anywhere to sit, as there are only a couple of tables inside, with a few more outside, but luckily one was available outside by the window.

As I was able to get out and walk a bit with my stick, Lisa and I headed inside to take a look at the cake counter. There were so many yummy treats to choose from – we had real difficulty deciding what to go for! From chocolate truffle cake to salted caramel cupcakes, everything looked so perfect with the little pink labels on each treat. There were also teas; coffees, hot chocolates and cold drinks to choose from, and again, it took a while to make a decision on which to go for!

In the end, I went for pink lemonade, to match the décor of the shop, a generous slice of Strawberry and Champagne Layer cake and three macarons for us to share. Richard opted for the Dark Chocolate Truffle Layer cake, and Lisa went for the Glorious Victoria Layer Cake. I can vouch for everyone when I say it was all so yummy! The cakes were light and fluffy, with mine having a strawberry champagne truffle to finish it off. And the macarons were a pretty good match for my favourites from Ladurée – I didn’t really want to share them! The menu does change from season to season, so you can find the latest options here.  

As well as the delicious drinks and cakes, you can’t eat at Peggy Porschen without getting a picture or two of the beautiful flowers and decorated doorway. As it was summer, the door was surrounded by stunning fake flowers in every shade of pink you can possibly think of. The outside décor changes with the seasons, and I’ve heard they have a fantastic Valentine’s display at the moment, which I wish I could go up and see. Luckily we were able to get a few photos before the heavens opened and the rain started falling. It was pretty busy, so we had to wait for a few other people to have their photo taken first, but it wasn’t too long. I can definitely understand why bloggers love to use Peggy Porschen for photography products. It’s the definition of girly and if I had a tea room (which is always something I’ve dreamed of!) it would definitely look like this!

Have you visited Borough Market or Peggy Porschen before? What is your favourite cake from their counter, or is it too hard to choose?!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

How my dogs have changed my life

As a young child, I was always desperate to have a dog. Every Christmas and Birthday, top of my wish list was a puppy, but every year I would wake up on my birthday or Christmas morning to find no puppy. Looking back in retrospect, I can totally understand why my parents didn’t cave in and buy a dog until we were much older because they’re a lot of work and commitment. We bought Alfie, our Golden Retriever, first. A lot of planning went into it – we researched dog breeds for weeks so we could make sure we were choosing the right breed for us, and then had to look for a reputable breeder. We went to see him when he was only a couple of weeks old and brought him home when he could be separated from him Mum. A few years later, we had started to think about getting a second dog (well, my sister wanted to get one but as she still lives at home we all had to discuss it). She was desperate to get a King Charles spaniel, so, again, spent weeks researching them and looking for a breeder. And then a friend of ours, who is a veterinary nurse and often brings home abandoned animals, posted a photo of Freddie (or Little Dave, as he was called then!) on her Facebook page, saying that he needed a home. We went round to see him to work out if he would fit into our family, and ended up bringing him home with us. And the rest is history!

As I mentioned, getting a dog (like any other animal) shouldn’t be a decision taken lightly. A lot of work goes into looking after and training them, you need to be able to afford their food, toys, vets bills etc. and they are also a tie when you want to go out or go on holiday. But despite all these considerations, they are also the best thing ever and I can’t imagine our home without a dog. So when I received an email from Puppy Spot a while ago with a little info graphic they had put together about the health benefits of having a dog, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share these health benefits with you and also talk about how my dogs have impacted my life.


As you can see in the graphic, dogs can really benefit our cardiovascular system by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which I think is pretty darn awesome. While I can’t give you any scientific proof of how my dogs have impacted my life in this way, I can definitely testify that they help me to feel calmer and less stressed, which has got to be a good thing. If I’m ever feeling stressed out or upset by something, a cuddle with one of my boys just seems to help that stress fizzle away. Freddie especially will come and sit on my lap when I’m sitting on the sofa, and he will fall asleep. There’s something about having a warm little ball of fluff curled up on your knee, breathing gently, that just helps you to slow down your own breathing and chill out a bit.


It’s pretty well known that animals in general can help to reduce anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness. I think the mental health benefits are the ones I have noticed most with having Alfie and Freddie. I really struggle with anxiety and depression, and like I mentioned above, having the dogs around me can really make a difference. There have been times when I’ve been curled up on the sofa, struggling to communicate with people and feeling very bleak. But when Alfie or Freddie come up to me and give me a little lick on my hand, it’s like there’s a connection there that helps bring me back into the room. They are also brilliant at reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. I don’t go out with the dogs very often, but since getting my electric wheelchair it has become a little easier. And it’s amazing what a conversation starter having a dog can be! If I’m out without Alfie and Freddie, no one will ever really talk to me. But if I’ve got them with me, other dog owners will stop and chat, and even people without dogs will often strike up a conversation.


One reason I’ve heard a lot from people considering getting a dog is that it will help them get out and exercise more. With having to use my wheelchair to get out and about, I wouldn’t say my dogs get me exercising more, but they certainly get me out and about a lot more. It’s nice to have an excuse to get outside and go for a wheelchair ride in some of the beautiful parks and woodlands we have nearby. Dogs are also meant to boost the immune system, which makes a lot of sense. My Dad is the one that walks Alfie and Freddie the most, and he is rarely unwell!

I can’t actually remember what life was like without Alfie and Freddie, but I’m 100 per cent sure it is better now than it was back then. Seeing their happy little faces and wagging tales greeting me whenever I come in the house and having constant snuggles on tap just make my life so much better. They just feel like such a central part of our family and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Do you have a dog as part of your family? How have they changed your life?

Monday, 15 January 2018

New Year Anxiety

We’re two weeks into 2018 now – the excitement of Christmas is long gone and the positivity and motivation of a fresh new year lasted about two days before we started feeling flat again. I don’t know about you, but it’s around now that I start to get New Year anxiety. Sure, in the first few days of a new year I feel that pressure that ‘this year is going to be MY YEAR!’ But in that first week, I actually believe that! But now, that positivity and excitement has turned into anxiety and I’m feeling pretty wobbly about the prospect of having to make it through another 351 days. So I thought I would share a few little tips that I use to ease that anxiety and help myself manage that overwhelming expectation of making it a year to remember (for all the right reasons!) 

Take it a day at a time

I think this is the biggest tip I turn to whenever I’m having trouble with my mental health, and it’s something I would recommend time and time again. The worst thing you can do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the future is to look too far ahead. When your brain is doing somersaults wondering how you can possibly get through to December, fit in all the necessities and do all those amazing things that everyone else is doing (they’re not, but you think they are!) it can often feel like you’re running out of time before you’ve even started. Either that, or it can feel like you’re looking out at an expanse of desert that goes on and on and you wonder how on earth you’re going to reach the end when there’s so far to travel. Obviously some things need to be planned in advance, like hospital appointments, work commitments etc, but as long as those are in the diary when you need them to be, I find it a lot easier to just get through one day at a time. Generally on a Sunday I will look at my week ahead, just so I’ve got an idea of anything that’s coming up, but after that I will just think about my Monday. What things do I need to do – do I have any appointments or deadlines that have to be met? And what things would I like to do? If I’ve got a completely free day, I like to try and plan something, even if it’s just small, so that I have a reason to wake up in the morning. Doing things this way makes me feel much less anxious and much more in control of my ability to keep going.

Make mini goals not huge resolutions

Especially at this time of year, it’s really easy to set yourself big resolutions like eating more healthily, exercising more or being tidy. There’s nothing wrong with resolutions like these if you feel able to keep to them, but for a lot of people setting goals this big just ends in feeling like a failure after two weeks. It certainly does for me! I find it much better to set myself smaller, more achievable goals either daily or weekly. They can be as tiny as going to bed before midnight or eating one piece of fruit a day, but usually I will only set a week’s worth of these little goals because I’m more likely to keep to them and therefore end up feeling better. I like to use things like a weekly planner or post-it notes like these where you’re able to make daily to-do lists – I do much better when I have tasks written down in front of me, and there’s no better feeling than being able to tick things off (does anyone else ever make a list of things they’ve already done, just so they can tick them off?!) I think it’s also important to try and make your goals positive ones as well. It’s all very well writing a list of things you don’t want to do or can’t do any more (Don’t go to bed late, don’t eat junk food etc.) but how rubbish does it feel having to follow all these instructions not to do the things you actually want to do!? So I try to reframe them and turn them into a more positive goal – instead of saying ‘Don’t go to bed late,’ why not say ‘Go to bed earlier so I can read my book for half an hour?’ Instantly it feels more appealing – one, because you don’t feel like you’re being told off every time you read it, and two, because you’ve given yourself a positive reason to go to bed earlier. Just little things like this can really help with sticking to your goals.

Factor in self-care

When you’re setting yourself goals, it can be easy to forget looking after yourself. And especially when you’re feeling anxious about getting through a whole year and making it the best year possible, you can become so busy trying to cram everything in that self-care doesn’t even factor in your day-to-day life. I feel a little bit hypocritical talking about self-care, because it’s something I still struggle a lot with. But at the same time, I’m beginning to understand how important it is. I used to believe anything to do with self-care was just self-indulgent and a waste of precious time and energy. But actually, now that I’ve started to make a bit more time for it, I realise that it actually puts me in a better place for everything else I do. I’ve seen what happens to people who focus solely on everyone else and neglect themselves – they’ve become run down to the point they can’t help anyone. So it’s really important to make a bit of time for yourself regularly and look after your needs as well. When you say self-care, people often think of painting your nails or going for a massage. And while these things are most definitely self-care, it can also be more every day things like making sure you eat three meals a day or ensuring you get a decent night’s sleep. Anxiety can feel so much worse when you’re feeling burnt out, so looking after yourself as well as those you love can really help you to address the year feeling a little more equipped.

Reflect on the good things from last year

When you’re looking at a whole year ahead of you with anxious anticipation, I find it can really help to look back on the year that’s just finished and remember the good times from then. One way that I like to do this is by looking back through my photos, mainly because the majority of my photos are of nice, happy moments that I don’t want to forget. If I just reflect back on the year, I will often go straight to the bad times – my mental health crisis, being in hospital… But if I look at my photos, I realise there were so many good things, little things, that got me through those difficult times. And remembering all of those good things help me to believe that, even if 2018 isn’t ‘The best year of my life,’ and even if I have some really difficult times, I can still get through it and there will still be light in the darkness. Because I find photos so powerful, one of my goals for this year is to get a lot more of my photos printed off and put some time in to starting a Project Life album. Ideally, I want to have an album for each year – that way I have something physical that I can look back on whenever I’m feeling doubtful about how I will manage to get through another year.

Plan some things to look forward to

I think it can be really difficult to look at a year ahead and feel like you have nothing to look forward to. Now, I know my earlier point talked about taking things one day at a time, but I do think there is an exception to that tip and that is planning some things to look forward to. Depending on how you best like to manage your time, you can either do this for the whole year or just do it for a week at a time. I tend to sit in the middle though. I like to try and have a few bigger things set up throughout the year to look forward to – so things like a holiday, perhaps a few days out, visiting friends that don’t live near-by. But then I will also look a couple of weeks/a month at a time and plan some smaller things to keep me going. So, if I look at my calendar on a Monday and see I have a quiet day on the Friday, I might see if my Mum fancies going for a coffee or if my sister-in-law is free so I can go and visit her and my new nephew. Plans don’t have to involve other people either – sometimes I might just plan a film or TV programme I would like to watch, or put a morning aside to write a couple of penpal letters. But knowing I have these little treats to work towards helps me to get through the days that perhaps aren’t so fun.

Use something like a Happiness Planner

If you’re not a planner person, then this last tip probably won’t be your kind of thing. But, if like me, you’re a bit obsessed with planning and journaling, you’re going to love using something like the Happiness Planner. This is just an example, as there are so many planners and journals out there to choose from depending on what sort of thing you want to record. But I find it really helpful to have a place where I can just do a bit of a brain dump – whether it’s a blank page notebook that I can just write essays in, or this Happiness Planner, which asks you all kinds of questions to help you get a better idea of what makes you happy (and sad) and how you can plan around this. If you love this kind of thing and are looking for a journal or planner to try out, I found so many options simply by typing in ‘journal’ or ‘planner’ into the search bar on Amazon. As well as helping you gather your thoughts together, these can also be a great distraction when those anxious thoughts take over.

I hope these little tips will help if you’re struggling with New Year anxiety, but I think it’s important for me to acknowledge the fact that this doesn’t have to be ‘your year’ or ‘the best year ever!’ There’s so much pressure, especially when you look at social media, for everyone to be doing amazing things and living their best lives, but sometimes simply getting out of bed and getting dressed is enough. Chances are, most of the people you see posting amazing photos on Instagram have pretty dull lives, just like the rest of us!

How do you cope with New Year anxiety? I’d love you to share your tips for managing anxiety and getting through another year