10 Things I've Learnt In 26 Years

Tomorrow is my 26th birthday and I've seen these types of posts floating around, reflecting on life's lessons so naturally I wanted to collect together some of the things that have really stood out to me over the years.

1. You Can Watch Harry Potter An Unlimited Amount Of Times
I grew up with these books, films and the kids in the series, who we all know and love and were the same age so it really felt like my year group were all growing up alongside them. What I have come to notice however is no matter how many times I read the books or watch the films, it's never enough and I always get that lost and emotional sensation when I've completed them, time and time again. My world would not be complete without Harry Potter and I'm sure I stand with millions of people across the world who thank JK Rowling for bringing these wonderful stories into our lives.

2. I'm Sensitive
And for a very long time I was made to feel as though being sensitive was one of the worst things a person can be. Only within the past two years or so have I come to realise how rare it is to find someone who is equally as sensitive but it's also sometimes very difficult when others can't understand how you feel about something. I wouldn't change my sensitivity for anything else though and it's something I have learnt to embrace rather than hide.

3. People Come And Go
When you're younger and friends start to drift for the first time, it can sometimes set off all sorts of anxiety like 'did I do something wrong?' 'do they just not like me anymore?'. But as you get older, change locations, workplaces, educational establishments, you meet new people and just as naturally, you drift from others. Sometimes people do remain and you'll make friends for life, I know I sure have a few who I met at my old job who just can't seem to get rid of me but if things don't continue as they are, I've learnt to not worry too much about clinging onto every last bit of their time. Friendships work both ways as should everything and one day you may reconnect with people you thought you'd never see again, but I appreciate the time I do get with people and have learnt to look at things from a different point of view.

4. It's Okay To Have Cereal For Tea
The novelty of not living under either of my parent's roofs with their rules hasn't quite worn off yet despite having been away from home for nearly 7 years. Sometimes you just need that little bit of chocolate or a biscuit for breakfast and sometimes you just fancy cereal for tea. No harm in that. So long as you're living a healthy balanced lifestyle alongside these occasional slip ups then I really don't see the harm in just switching around the order in which you have your meals.

5. Spending Time In The Kitchen Is Therapeutic 
When I worked six days a week at my old job, I hardly ever enjoyed spending time in the kitchen. On top of trying to build a business, run my blog, channel and still have some kind of a social life the last thing I ever wanted to do was 'waste' time in the kitchen. I was all about convenience, quick and easy and if it took too much time away from me I got incredibly pissy. But after finding a routine and realising the importance of good, healthy and homemade food as opposed to crappy quick dinners like beans on toast (I was terrible, I know) I have once again found my love for baking, experimenting with vegan treats and also cooking a lot more from scratch. Nutritious, healthy food that makes me feel good and also makes me feel good about making it - that's why food became it's own category here on my blog!

6. No One Will Know You're Wearing Cheap Clothes
When you're a teenager one of the biggest things you feel like you face is where you're buying your clothes from and are the brands as good as those being purchased from by your friends. When I was younger, the thought of disclosing to anyone that a t-shirt might be from Asda's George terrified me and it didn't help that my 'friends' were tit heads who would have given me grief for it. I think to be honest it was how they would have made me feel over how I actually felt about my super cute £5 Asda top but kids can be so cruel and if I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be 'you don't need 'friends' like this, have the courage to find some new ones'. These days I love nothing more than a rummage through Primark and even the charity shops. Recycling is cool and I wish I'd known that sooner.

7. My Health Is Important
Following on from point 5 about the food side of things, leaving my job earlier year was let's face it, a long time coming but as I have mentioned previously here, I feel I left it a bit too late before I took my health seriously. It took for me to hit an all time low before I realised the neglect and lack of respect I had for myself...how on earth had I let this happen? Luckily I turned it around and with the help of my family and friends, have turned into a brand new person. They helped me to dust myself off, redesign and come back stronger. I made the decision to improve my lifestyle by going vegan as well and making more of an effort to eat healthier, find an exercise I enjoy rather than despise and I learnt to recognise when my mental health needed love and care as well as my physical health.

8. Animals Matter
I turned vegetarian when I was 7 years old and never looked back. This year I went a tad further and cut more things out and in turn, discovered a whole new lifestyle that has done nothing but invigorate me and fill me with this crazy new passion for life, health and the environment. But for as long as I can remember, the number one reason why I try to do all I can is because I have the most ridiculous amount of love for the animals. I have lost sleep wondering how I can help them further, researched how I can rescue some animals and have mulled over countless ideas as to how to promote good animal welfare. Aside from the art, my passion for animals is something I have only developed and I will only ever continue to do so because I don't believe for one minute I am done here. I will continue to try and help the animals and use my voice for them and I honestly couldn't give you any other reason than I feel like it's what I'm here to do.

9. Money Isn't Everything
Money really doesn't buy everything and with that, I'm attempting a more minimalistic approach to life. No offence to the blogging world, but when I started my blog I fell into the trap of buying stuff just because it looked cute, would make a pretty prop or just because I needed to try it for the sake of a review. I ended up with so many cosmetic products that I simply did not need, they ended up sat in my bathroom cupboards for months and I'm only just getting around to using them all up. I don't buy like that anymore; I buy when I genuinely need things and even then I try and talk myself out of it. Not spending money on things just for the sake of reviewing it has also taught me to be a lot more creative with my blog content, you really don't have to spend much or anything at all to have a blog which I feel a lot of new comers often feel like they need to do. Putting blogging aside, I've never been one who is driven by having lots of money but having the security with a fairly well paid job is something I miss a little, but no where near as much as I thought I would. I have learnt to live with a lot less yet somehow, I'm so much happier.

10. Family Is Everything
Money can't buy family or friends either and as I've grown up I've come to see that nothing really does compare to family and having joined another family as well, in turn expanding my own I have never felt so much love and support in my entire life. I'm very lucky to still have both my parents and also lucky to have been welcomed into the Woolley family like I've been a part of it the whole time and have the most amazing, caring in-laws anyone could ever ask for. In my teenage years I wasn't really one for spending a great deal of time with my own and as I've mentioned in a previous post, my Mum and I were like cat and dog but these days she's my best friend and we have so much fun together.

Thanks for reading,

Yutaka Vegan Katsu Curry*

If you had to ask James and I what our favourite type of food is, Japanese would win every time. Embarrassingly, before I got together with James I hadn't tried too much Japanese food but he introduced me to the likes of Wagamama's and with him being a quarter Chinese, asian food and cooking is a huge family favourite. It's very easy to assume that grabbing a takeaway is the best way to try different kinds of foods but once again, James has opened my eyes to cooking these things from scratch at home and I couldn't believe how easy it is and so much tastier, most likely healthier too! Yutaka has been one of our favourite food brands for a good couple of years now so when they got in touch and asked us if we'd like to sample their Japanese Style Curry, we jumped at the chance!

Yutaka tofu panko katsu curry

Yutaka onion katsu curry

Onion Yutaka katsu curry

This meal was super easy - you just need an onion to dice up and fry before adding your katsu curry chunks with water, some rice, some tofu or veg and that's basically it. It took under 30 minutes to make and you can get really creative with what you fry up to go alongside your rice and sauce. Yutaka were kind enough to send us a bag of their panko which is essentially just Japanese bread crumbs and we've tried these before along with our regular purchase of Yutaka silken tofu. We made our usual vegan friendly batter just with flour, water and a splash of rice milk to dunk our pieces of tofu in before covering them with the panko and frying them in some oil. To get some healthy veg in there we did the same with some pieces of courgette and they're so delicious!

panko fried tofu vegan

katsu curry Yutaka vegan

Whilst the tofu was busy frying away, the rice was boiling and our curry sauce simmering, filling the entire kitchen with the most fantastic smells which left us both dancing around desperate to get stuck in. To serve up, James got all fancy and used a mug to mould the rice into a presentation dome whilst I arranged the panko tofu and courgette around the outside. Then he got the thumbs up to drizzle on the katsu sauce whilst I got some snaps of our delicious looking meal before we snuggled up in front of a film to dig in.

vegan katsu curry

vegan katsu curry panko fried tofu

It's only been this year that I have really started to actually enjoy cooking; in the past all it's ever felt like is a chore and I've never had the confidence to try something new but brands like Yutaka make it so easy, simple and delicious that I now enjoy spending time in my kitchen creating lovely meals. What makes it even nicer is when James can get involved with reviewing bits for my blog and we both get excited about cooking, teaming up and making a real evening of it. We get the radio on and it's such a nice way to spend time together so a big thankyou to Yutaka for sending these samples over to us to try - we absolutely loved it and had a brilliant time trying something new!

Thanks for reading,

*The Katsu curry cubes and the panko were sent to us to review on my blog, the tofu we bought with our own money from Tesco*

Why I'm Not Doing Blogmas

Like many bloggers at this time of year, I've been mulling over whether or not to give blogmas a shot this December. I didn't get the chance to last year since I was working heavy six day weeks and couldn't really find the time without running myself into the ground so I was pretty certain until this week that I'd give it a whirl. But the lack of inspiration I have been experiencing mixed with wanting to do vlogmas too and run my online shop along with Christmas fairs, has made me question the quality of my posts should I go ahead. At the moment, I usually have a new post up every two days which I think is pretty good going and I'm very happy with the content I write (otherwise I wouldn't press publish!) but I also know that going that bit further would be spreading myself too thin.

blogmas christmas snowman

I've been seeing other keen bloggers asking around on social media too whether it's best to keep to a Christmassy, festive theme or whether to just add a bit of everything in there and I honestly wouldn't worry too much - it's your blog, you write about whatever the hell you like. I think it always shows in writing anyway when the author is enjoying what they're sharing with you and this is something else I think might show in my own work should I attempt blogmas this year. Will forcing content out have 'desperate' written all over it and give my readers the impression I literally scrambled whatever ideas I could find together just to say I didn't miss a day?

So here's the plan, I'm going to be laid back as if I were laying on the ground and will continue my usual routine of one post every two days which is what I feel super comfortable with. If I feel like it and if the occasion, motivation and enthusiasm arise then I will capture that bad boy and add it to my collection but I'm not going to stress about trying to think of ideas and getting them up on time. And that's okay!

Are you doing blogmas this year?

Thanks for reading!

An Arty Day Out In Newark

It sure has been a crazy busy week for me and I've barely been at home in my lovely, warm and snuggly abode. On Wednesday my Mum and I ventured into Newark for two reasons: one was to visit a friend of mine who has commissioned Mum to do some pet portraits for Christmas gifts and we needed to get a good snap of the pooch in question for good references when doing the painting, the second was to visit an art shop. We usually go art materials shopping together and we're the best yet worst pair to put together for this kind of buying because you'll find us sharing experiences using different materials but also encouraging each other to splurge. We went to the art shop first and it was a cute little place called Hills of Newark and upon entering it had that classic art shop smell, the old kind. This smell is super nostalgic to me because when I was little my Mum worked in a graphic design office (she's been self employed for many years now) and the smells of printer inks, paper, pens and paints all floating around the air is one of those that I wish I could bottle up and sniff at will. I asked the lady who was helping us if she'd mind if I took some photos of the shop because it really was a magical wonderland of art supplies.

Art shop

Art supplies blog post

Winsor and Newton acrylic paints

Art supplies haul

After wondering around and buying a few bits from Hills, we headed back into the main part of town and grabbed a Starbucks - I had a soya milk gingerbread latte and to be honest I wasn't overly fussed with it. It was no PSL let's put it that way but it wasn't terrible, I just expected more of a festive kick to it. Then when we'd drank up, we nipped down a lovely little alley way called Chain Lane and went into the Trent Galleries to look at the Kerry Darlington exhibition that was being put together. My Mum first introduced me to Kerry's work a few years back and I absolutely adore her, but seeing her work in person was breathtakingly beautiful and for the first time in my life I stood thinking to myself 'yep I could happily have her work up in my house'. My Mum was like a giddy child in a sweet shop and couldn't stop 'ooooohing' over every piece she saw and kept changing her mind as to which was her favourite. I knew for sure which piece had captured my heart and it was this stunning scene of the Mad Hatter's tea party. Kerry's use of colour and 3D effect within the work is unlike anything I have ever seen and it feels as though you discover another tiny detail every time you look into it. Mind blown.

Kerry Darlington Mad Tea Party painting

Newark, Nottinghamshire

We eventually found it within ourselves to part from the gallery but vowed to return this weekend to meet Kerry Darlington herself who is going to the shop for a meet and greet and could hardly contain our excitement! Mum was skipping all the way back to the car and we returned back to Leicestershire feeling really refreshed and inspired. Watch this space for my post all about our awesome day at the gallery meeting Kerry Darlington in the flesh and the crazy exciting news that goes with it!

Thanks for reading!

My Worst Interview - Story Time

It's currently a pretty miserable looking Tuesday morning and I have just been reading Steph's blog, thinking about how good a face mask makes me feel and how they pick me up even when I'm feeling pretty damn rotten. It led me to remembering an awful experience I had earlier this year when I was trying to find another job before quitting my old one. I didn't then have the confidence to go freelance so you can imagine my excitement when I saw a job advertisement for a studio worker for a well known graphic design company not too far from where I live and my delight when I got asked to go in for an interview.

I've always prepared super well for interviews and in the days leading up, I chat away to myself asking those typical interview questions and this occasion was no different. I was so nervous but at the same time quite excited about seeing this place and meeting some new people, gaining some interview experience and potentially a new job. I left with plenty of time to spare looking like the dog's bollocks and found the company located out in the sticks in an old converted barn with a big gravel driveway. How picturesque and idyllic I begin to think.

I enter the main doors to reception and was greeted by a lovely man who guided me through to a tiny waiting area where I was left to it. A lady passed by soon after arriving and was so friendly and welcoming, asking if I would like a drink or anything and making sure I was waiting in the right place for the right person, assuring me they'd be along in no time. Eventually another man appeared, closely followed by another young scrawny looking man who turned out to be a woman...my mistake. They stood staring at me confused and gone out, refusing to make the first move, so I hopped up and introduced myself politely, offering a hand shake (as you would) and in turn asked if they were the people I would be interviewing with. Still silence. After what felt like a million years, the bloke said 'we were expecting a man to interview today, not you.'

Here I am, stood there enthusiastic about their business which I barely know and I'm making the effort to come and see them for an interview (because interviews work both bloody ways) and that's the first thing they say to me? Right. I tried to laugh it off explaining that having a unisex name, this is easily done and anyone else would have laughed back and apologised for their assumption but not these people. After a few 'umms' and 'erms' they led me up some twisty stairs to a room that was above the main office. No walls or privacy, people downstairs could hear you talking as it was designed like a maisonette; not the ideal place for a formal interview. We sit down, both of them opposite me and they proceed to get things out onto the table and then up pops the first question. Where do you currently work? After my in-depth answer they continue to look at me so confused and rigid which is off putting enough but also led me to believing my way of answering questions was either boring or that my answer was nothing more than demented nonsense. Then they explain to me that they were under the impression I worked for a windows and doors factory. Sorry, what? Then I get asked 'You are Ellis Walker aren't you? And you've got the right interview day haven't you?'

This was where I started to feel incredibly nervous and wanted the ground to swallow me up. Flight mode kicked in and I wasn't the same for the rest of the time I was there. I calmly and still politely explained to them they had the wrong person's CV in front of them and they immediately looked very embarrassed and that was the first apology I got out of them. As they began trying to get my CV up on the computer, I tried my best to relax once again so during this time I was trying to make a conversation with the woman who still hadn't really spoken to me. I complemented the location and asked how long she had been working there, you know general small talk to try and diffuse the tension a little. She was having none of it. I should have stayed quiet, I was even more nervous now because I was starting to feel like they didn't want me there. After a good 10 minutes of the man searching for my CV, he announces that he doesn't have me on file and asks once again if I'm sure that I applied for their position. Through pure nerves I try and joke back that I wouldn't have known where and when to find them if I hadn't applied and attempted to save the day by whipping out a copy of my CV which I had in my bag. Top tip kids, take a copy with you!

I was starting to think to myself silently that I didn't want to work for a place that was this disorganised and to my horror, the man asks me to go through my entire CV with them. The whole thing? Blimey. So I did and they looked just as uninterested as ever. Despite all of this, I continued to answer questions but the entire time I was wishing I could just go home and hide. Out of no where, the man starts to tell me a bit about the role and why it would be better suited to a man, asking whether I thought I would be capable of lifting big graphic design displays and such. Standing at 5ft1 I'm not very big nor do I have an immense amount of strength but I was also used to heaving 15kg bags of dog food every day so I thought I could at least build up some more muscle, showing them initiative and the enthusiastic attitude towards developing further. This entire time I wanted nothing more than to run, anywhere but here. My heart was pumping so hard I thought I would either be sick or just collapse and flop out of my seat. My hands were shaking, vision was starting to blur and as much as I tried, I was loosing control and an anxiety attack was starting.

I was asked to give an example of when I had worked on 'commercial value' and as I was at the time working in pet care research, I found this ridiculously hard to answer but still, I felt that what I gave them was a strong, interesting and well explained example all about a project I was currently doing within my role. I don't remember exactly how they asked but they began to challenge my answer and I gave them what I felt was a valuable reasoning each and every time but they still weren't satisfied. They were eye rollers and sighing before looking at each other after every answer. And did I mention the scrawny woman who barely spoke kept smirking behind her hand? I'd had enough and with the last bit of dignity I felt I had left, I regained control by removing myself from my seat and walking out. Of course, they asked what I was doing so I calmly explained that they had made me feel nothing but awkward and unwelcome since I arrived and that I wasn't prepared to stay any longer. They tried to convince me to stay and 'have a minute' but I'd already made my mind up; even if they offered me a job at the end of all of this and were simply testing my patience, I didn't want to work for a brand this unprofessional.

I let myself out, walked back to my car and left in silence, but upon arriving at the end of their driveway, away from view I burst into uncontrollable tears and the relief I felt was unreal. I pulled into a nearby car park which was a place I used to come walking with my Dad when I was younger. We used to call it Tubby Hill because it looks just like the place in the Teletubbies, a children's TV show made famous in the 90's and the nostalgia mixed with the fear of what I had just experienced caused one of the worst panic attacks I've ever had. I sat sobbing in my car for a good half an hour before deciding it was safe enough to travel home. When I pulled onto my own drive, I rang a friend who was waiting in anticipation for me to share my day with her and it wasn't until after I had filled her in and she said 'You walked out? Do you even realise how bad-ass that is? You're flippin' amazing!' did I understand that what I did was the right thing to do. I had travelled all the way home feeling like a failure and that I just wasn't good enough, but by walking out I had regained control over a situation which was making me extremely uncomfortable, way past the usual discomfort a typical interview can sometimes make you feel.

I opened up my front door and there on the mat was a little parcel from The Body Shop. I had forgotten all about them asking me to take part in one of their campaigns and they had very kindly sent me a jar of face mask to use. Without hesitation, I went upstairs and had a shower, washing the day and the smudged mascara away before popping on some face mask and climbing into bed with some fresh pyjamas to let it do its thing. As I lay there, I instantly felt calmer but was still mulling over what had happened that afternoon, occasionally feeling mortified but more so proud that I had chosen to leave a situation that wasn't bringing out the best in me. It took guts to do and I hadn't given myself any credit for that having spent so much time focussing in on just needing to get myself out of there.

Interviews are scary, I'm sure most of you will be able to relate and I honestly cannot remember an interview that hasn't frightened me or that I've enjoyed, but this was something else. It's also easy to forget that interviews work both ways; you need to be working out whether or not the places you go to can give you what you want and need as well as them getting to know you. Obviously I understand that when times are hard you might not be able to be too choosy, but if a workplace ever makes you feel how I did then you have no obligation to stay and endure their lack of consideration for you. Keep applying, stay positive and remember to look after yourself too - this is so important.

Oh - and you bet your bottom dollar I sent an email to the lady who invited me for the interview explaining that the two who had interviewed me were beyond rude and unwelcoming as well as exceedingly unprofessional. I wasn't going to let that behaviour slide.

Have you ever had a nightmare interview experience?

Thanks for reading!

Six Months Self Employed

I did a post at the three month milestone after going self employed early this year and it's now been six! It feels like only last month I was still in pieces physically but more mentally over the strain my old job was causing and it still baffles me that I gave them five years of my life just to be told not to bother working my notice and to just go. They made out they were doing my a favour because I expressed (multiple times before the resignation) how stressful the role had become and how ill it was making me, so I was told to not bother coming back. Anyone else would have danced with joy but in my head I had 4 weeks to wind down and spend some time with the dogs in my care before I left. Not just hand my notice in and job done, on top of not receiving the traditional business send off. Anyway, I think I'm 99% over that now and it's been 6 months today since I left that place forever.

The first three months now looking back over that time, I think I was just taking it easy and getting myself into a routine. I was working super hard don't get me wrong, but I was trying to work all of this out. It felt like I'd almost left my old self behind and had the opportunity to start a fresh new me so I did just that. It felt very strange when I met new people and they asked what I did; I felt really proud and confident to tell them that I now worked for myself. I used to have to go to the post depot at least three times a week when I wasn't working from home, simply because I was always missing my parcels due to being at work. The man at the depot always used to be so chatty and when I went there a couple of weeks back to retrieve a parcel, he had been wondering why I hadn't been popping in anymore and I had to explain I now worked from home and even six months down the line, it still makes me feel all fuzzy inside being able to say it out loud after so many years of dreaming.

Self employed blog post

In terms of a routine, I still go with how I'm feeling on the day and I think that running a shop, channel and blog allows me to choose which to work on that day, whether to mix them together and do a bit of each (usually this happens every day) or whether to just focus on one area. I allow myself between half an hour and an hour for lunch to have a proper break but that doesn't mean I don't sneak downstairs for a cup of tea throughout the day (who wouldn't?!). I try to get in some exercise everyday which is usually yoga and of course the housework needs doing but it's so much easier to manage these days. I spend plenty of time with my dogs and my mental health is better than it has been in months, perhaps even years.

Putting aside the feeling of living the dream, what is also a truly beautiful feeling is when people tell you how well you look. Even my Nana, who is infamous for commenting on my appearance whether it's my ever changing pastel hair colour or my complexion, has taken to telling me every time I see her how healthy I look. Of course, I take the opportunity to drop into my responsive thanks that the vegan lifestyle helps, but friends and family aren't stupid. These days I look in the mirror and see a difference and it's amazing really how mental health struggles show physically after battling for any amount of time. Friends and family know it's not just the vegan diet, they know I'm not on the verge of a meltdown anymore and it's reassuring for me as much as it is them that I'm now in a much happier place.

It pains me to admit to myself that I feel I left it too long before leaving my job; I feel ashamed that I didn't realise the importance of my health and continued to trudge on through just waiting for the perfect moment to stick my middle finger up at the fat cats in suits. If I'd have left it any longer, I'm not entirely sure I would be in a very good state or even here at all. I wasn't in a very nice place, it was putting strain on every relationship I have in my life and not just my marriage...how could I have not seen what it was doing to me? How could I have not seen just how bad it was? Had it become normal to look like a long term drug addict, quickly loosing weight, loosing hair, fingernails, covered in stress rashes and having no appetite except for coffee and Valerian Root pills? I'll never put myself through that again.

Cruelty Free Stickers Pastel Elixir

Working from home and working for myself has taught me so much already; that discipline is an absolute must and not just for actually doing work whilst being in the comfort of your own home. I'm the complete opposite, I just can't seem to stop working and I have to remind myself that I can allow a couple of days off a week and it doesn't actually matter when those days are. A regular steady income I do miss and I've had to adjust to having very little money and assess what is wise and what isn't to be spending it on. I worry quite a lot about money but who doesn't, that's the way I try and look at it. And hey, it may be a worry but I sure as hell am not stressed and anxious to the extent I was six months ago. My hair has started to grow back and I now cut it myself every 4 weeks to save money and also help to get it back to a lovely condition...it was split end central! My finger nails are still all ridged but my cuticles have grown back and the rashes have completely gone. I drink plenty of water and very rarely have coffee these days, my appetite is healthier than it has ever been and more importantly, I feel and look healthier overall as a person.

Thanks for reading,

I Collect Children's Books

I collect children's books. Despite not yet having children of my own, books aimed at children are usually the first ones I visit when I step into a book store. Sometimes I love nothing more than popping into The Works or Waterstones to grab some new inspirational materials and that is exactly why I collect children's books;  for inspiration! Illustrations like this are what made me want to become an illustrator myself and I love nothing more than immersing myself in this kind of work from time to time to recharge my batteries and refill my creative juices.

Unicorn Colouring Book

One of my favourite types of illustration is the use of thick black outlines which can often be seen in my own work these days. I took a lot of inspiration from these kinds of drawings when I first started out and I also used to adore sinking myself into a bit of Cartoon Network and watching something like Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. I went through quite a huge phase of really wanting to work for Cartoon Network one day but my heart never really lay with animation so I started to explore books a lot more.

Adventure Time comic book

I went into The Works this past summer and picked up a few more kid's books to add to my collection and I noticed they had a 3 for £5 offer on some of them. I decided to get a selection of the Twinkle the Fairy books, illustrated by Sarah Warburton who I had never heard of before but now these books are some of my favourites to open up and get lost in. It's not necessarily the story I enjoy and I don't always read the words, I prefer to get lost in the illustrations themselves and sometimes I end up feeling like I am a part of the artwork - a strange yet wonderful feeling. 

Sarah Warburton illustration book Twinkle the Fairy

Sarah Warburton

My collection wouldn't be complete of course without a Disney book of some kind and whilst I have a few Winnie the Pooh books and a lovely copy of the Jungle Book, this huge book really stands out to me and it's the one James bought for me last Christmas. It shows you a huge variation of all of the Disney films ever made, dating all the way back to when Mickey was first born and the first Mickey and Friends short films, along with the beginning of Snow White and my favourite, Fantasia. I just love the sketchy first ideas of the characters and seeing them develop into the moving, dancing figures we know and love, but what really makes a drawing special is when you can see and feel the characters moving even when they're captured still on the page. 

Disney drawings

My next aim is to start collecting the Beatrix Potter series...I actually had the entire collection as a kid in a lovely box that I think my Mum still has somewhere so I'm going to try and track them down before I go buying any more. Another childhood favourite of mine is 'Mrs Armitage on Wheels' both written and illustrated by Quentin Blake who is without a doubt up there with my top 5 illustrators of all time. He is just fantastic with such a unique style and energy, plus the Mrs Armitage series were some of my favourite little stories to read when I was younger so it would be magical to revisit them. I actually have this book on my Christmas list!

Aside from children's books I can't think of anything else I actively collect but what I want to know is, what do you collect?

Thanks for reading!

The Best Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes*

A couple of weeks back I decided to try a cake recipe from the Vegan Food and Living magazine and whilst the cakes themselves tasted amazing and were the best tasting cakes I'd ever made that were also vegan, most of the batch actually sunk upon taking them out of the oven. Muggins here forgot to put the oven on the fan setting which is probably why this happened but still, the recipe was amazing and really easy to follow so when Aduna got in touch and asked if I'd be interested in trying out their Super Cacao Powder, I knew attempting the recipe again was the perfect way to go. I'll list the ingredients below as I couldn't find a link to the actual recipe, but all credit goes to the Vegan Food and Living magazine...just thought I'd clear that up before we begin!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

140g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt
70ml aquafaba
65g coconut oil (melted)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
60g apple sauce
120g raw cane sugar (I used granulated & it worked fine) 

Vegan Cakes

I set my oven to 180°C with the fan setting and prepared a cupcake tray with paper cases and this recipe should make you 12 standard sized cupcakes.

Mix together your flour, bicarb, baking powder, cacao powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

Whisk your aquafaba, coconut oil, vinegar, apple sauce and sugar together until the sugar has partly dissolved.

Then mix your dry ingredients with your wet and mix well before dividing your mix into your cupcake cases.

The recipe does say to bake for 20-25 minutes but for some reason mine only took between 10-15 so do keep an eye on your cakes to make sure they don't burn. Mine came out beautifully and weren't burnt on top as I kept checking up on them as I did the washing up. Although the recipe is also topped with a vegan chocolate mousse, I did an alternative simply because I didn't have the ingredients required but again I used my Aduna Super Cacao Powder to achieve a rich chocolatey flavoured frosting instead. All I did was mix together some vegan friendly spread (I used Pure Sunflower Spread) with icing sugar and my cacao powder until I got my desired texture and taste. I never follow a recipe for my frosting as I much prefer to just wing it and go with taste testing it whilst mixing the ingredients, but feel free to use a recipe if you prefer.

To decorate, I popped my frosting into a piping bag with a star tip and gave some fancy swirls a go. I'm no where near as skilled with a piping bag as I would like but I'd love to practice more now I have found the perfect vegan cake recipe. Then you can go crazy with toppings; I used some gold sugar confetti I got from Tesco and also some edible black glitter which complimented the chocolatey colour and made them look ridiculously cute and pretty.

Vegan chocolate cake

Aduna Cacao Powder

Tesco Confetti Sprinkles

I'm still very new to the vegan lifestyle but I can't tell you how amazing it feels to be able to make great tasting foods like this without any animal related ingredients involved. Better yet, did you know the Aduna Super Cacao Powder has a tonne of benefits? The full list you can read all about here but some of my favourite benefits include being a brilliant antioxidant, stress relieving and also a pretty good source of natural protein which vegetarians and vegans can sometimes struggle to get enough of.

What is even nicer is having family and friends pop round for a good ol' cup of English tea and being able to treat them to a yummy homemade cake and saying 'it's vegan you know!' and seeing their faces drop in disbelief. With a good cacao powder, you really can achieve a gorgeous chocolate treat that is bound to go down a storm and the feedback I got from these cupcakes has been amazing. Definitely the best I have ever made and a recipe I'll be returning to time and time again. I can't wait to see what other chocolate puddings I can make using this stuff!

Thanks for reading!

*The Super Cacao Powder was gifted to me by Aduna to have some fun with on my blog, all opinions remain my own*

An Anxiety Update

This year certainly has been a year for thinking 'fuck it' and doing a lot more of the things that usually terrify me. We bought our own house, I quit my job and went self employed, had a smear test, have travelled around a lot more and this week I did something else that I really struggle with; meeting new people, alone!

I've been chatting away to Abbey for over a year now, it doesn't quite seem that long and I'm not entirely sure where the time has gone but even at the very start, I knew she was someone that one day I would muster up the courage to go and meet in person. Living quite far apart, I always wondered to myself how this would ever be possible and then she moved to Leicester this year for her PhD and it just so happens, Leicester is my closest city besides Nottingham. So off I went, literally shaking as I left the house but as soon as I started driving I felt much better. Driving does that to me for some reason and it baffles those around me who constantly say 'don't drive if you feel like that!' but as soon as I'm behind the wheel I instantly chill right out. And then upon arriving in Leicester, I spotted Abbey's face and instantly felt even more at ease and knew I'd have no problem with just being myself.

Being a typical anxious person, I spend a lot of time worrying whether I've made a very good impression; did I come across as uninterested simply because I focus so much on my breathing, will people make a fuss if I don't eat very much or judge me over my choice of food, will they even like me? Will I say too much of something I'm not supposed to, even swearing...is that allowed in front of some people?! You never know but sometimes it just 'slip's out' and even a gentle 'oh bollocks' can offend some folk and then what do you do?

I grew up never knowing that the way I behaved was down to something called anxiety. I didn't know or understand, I thought I was just some sort of freakish idiot that couldn't do the things most people were finding so easy. One of my earliest memories of anxiety is sitting in MacDonalds with my Mum and my brother having just finished a Happy Meal each and Mum said we could get ourselves an ice cream if we went and ordered it ourselves. This was no fault of my Mum's, it's just teaching kids independence after all and of course my brother shot up and went straight to the counter whereas I remained in my seat, preferring to stay put and go without rather than walk across the restaurant alone and speak to the scary person behind the till.

As I've got older however and I seem to have improved with age, I am learning to manage these thoughts and feelings. Some days I don't feel I can walk into a supermarket alone or even pop to the post office, I freeze and feel an incredible urge to just run until I get home and can lock myself away in our bedroom under the duvet and not move. This infuriates those around me sometimes, especially when all they ask is I pick something up for them during the day or drop something off somewhere. And then on other days, I don't struggle at all. After seeing Abbey this week, I needed to nip into The Range to grab some crafty bits and there have been times when I park up outside and can't bring myself to go in. But I pulled up, got out and walked into the store with no problem what so ever. I even wondered around for a lot longer than I needed to, simply enjoying being out in public in what was at the time the quietest I'd ever seen that shop and I felt I could walk around it for hours finding little hidden gems. It was one of those moments where you wish you had lots more money so you can go a bit crazy.

 I don't bring up mental health very often on my blog simply because to be honest, I don't feel very confident disclosing something that a lot of the time I don't even talk about in real life but then I remember that experiences like this are what join us all together and hopefully helps us all to feel less alone throughout our struggles. I'm very lucky that I have some brilliant friends around me who are very understanding, encouraging and also celebrate the little victories with me. Some days I get huge bouts of confidence that don't stop me from doing anything and others, I can't even answer the door to my regular postman. 

But this year sure has been full of lots of little achievements and meeting Abbey was such a fun afternoon which I can't wait to do again very soon. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and will show you love and support, especially when you need it most and don't forget how important it is to also show yourself love and care too.

Thanks for reading,

Katnipp Illustration - An Etsy Shop

As the festive season approaches, the Etsy shop review posts have returned and what better way to welcome them back than with introducing you to the wonderful Katnipp Illustration! Katnipp is run by the gorgeous Cathy and I know just by looking at photos of her that we'd be awesome friends, I don't even care how creepy that might sound! She's a pastel princess and her personality is sure reflected in her work which is one of the most special things about buying from a small business. Not only is it so much more personal for you, but you feel the love and enthusiasm that goes into their work and opening up my order from Katnipp was one of my best experiences yet!

mermaid gift

I ordered a little 'moon' button badge to add into a little collection I've been putting together for a Christmas giveaway (stay tuned!) and as much as I really wanted to just buy the entire Katnipp range, I'm watching the pennies as it's my first year self employed whilst Christmas is just around the corner. Scary times! Cathy hand makes all of her items herself and this button badge is of a beautiful quality, very shiny and vibrant also presented on a sturdy display backing piece. My order arrived in a super cute pink envelope and my treats were inside some pink bubble wrap with gold chevron washi tape for extra protection on it's journey to my house. How bloody adorable?!

handmade badges

Cathy was kind enough to add in a pretty mermaid sticker which is a very decent size and perfect for decorating your planners and laptops with; I'll be adding the sticker into my giveaway too! The colours used in Cathy's work are my favourite which is probably why I'm drawn to it so much but I also adore her style and use of lines and shading. I wish I could draw and paint like she does!

mermaid stickers

Not only does Katnipp have a cute range of button badges available, there are things like mugs, tote bags and prints to choose from, as well as handmade jewellery and even personalised baby scans in your chosen colours, the perfect keepsake of your little ones. Everything is very reasonably priced, especially since it's all handmade with love and care.

katnipp illustrations

I'm dying to return to Cathy's shop for some more treats for my friends before Christmas arrives and I have my eye on a couple of bits already...not even sorry! You can find the Katnipp shop here if you fancy checking the range out for yourself, you won't be disappointed! :)

Thanks for reading!

Popular Posts