Environmental goals

Hi wonderlanders!

I mentioned in my end of 2020 post that I have some goals around changes I’d like to make for 2021 in order to start reducing my waste and living more sustainably. Being totally honest, I am still very much learning about this and its something I became more conscious of over the last year. I’d like to consider the impact I have and to start making some basic changes to reduce this. I know that it will only have a small impact but any improvement is an improvement, that’s something that I have learnt. Over the last year, I already started to try and make changes so some of these have been done for a while. I started writing this post at the start of January but hadn’t got round to finishing it off and posting it, so in that time I have been able to add even more things that I’ve done! So, into the changes!

  1. Reducing food waste by doing things such as planning better to reduce my food waste. I’m still not great at this, but I’m trying to improve. Since being on Slimming World I was very much in the process of meal planning, but despite this, I still ended up with some wastage because I forgot about things. This is good for both sustainability but also for the budget! So I am now more conscious about planning around what I have in and what needs using up. To reduce food waste when shopping, I also try to shop for reduced veg that is at the end of its shelf-life to stop this from going to waste (again, it also helps the budget!)
  2. I’ve increased the amount I recycle, but I am also trying to reduce packaging too. One of the changes that I am making that will take some time is to reduce my single-use plastic by reducing and stopping my consumption of Pepsi Max (or the cheap supermarket equivalent I tend to drink). I used to go through a 2 litre bottle over the course of 1-2 days, and it would be pretty much the only thing I would drink, apart from some occasional water or green tea. In the past, I stopped drinking Pepsi Max cold-turkey and it was horrendous. I went through days of having headaches, being irritable and being unable to concentrate, so I decided to do it gradually this time. I started by cutting down to half a litre per day (usually a cup every morning). After I had used up the bottles I had in, I changed to drinking cans (1 can per day). Not only was this a slight reduction in quantity I was drinking, but it also meant changing to a more-recycled material as the container. I’m aware that the plastic wrap on the cans isn’t great either, but this was a start, and now the Aldi own brand version package in cardboard! My next stage of reduction was to try and only drink a can on alternating days and then gradually increase the days in between cans. To help with this, I also drink green tea (as this has caffeine) on days when I don’t drink Pepsi. I also increase the amount of water I have in the day to keep myself hydrated. I drink tap water, so that also means no single-use plastic.
  3. Reducing other plastics by using eco friendly laundry solutions. I switched to Smol laundry capsules. These are mail-order laundry capsules that come in a cardboard package. They are pretty reasonably priced and are delivered as part of your normal post, so using shipping routes already in existence. They work just as well as branded laundry capsules and are packaged in a way that takes up less space in the cupboard, bonus! I use Ecover fabric softener at the moment but I’m still early-days with looking in to this side of things. Ecover is really cheap, works just as well as any other fabric softener and smells great.
  4. Reusables! Now that I have used up pretty much all of the single-use food bags we had in, instead of buying more of these, I have invested in re-usable food bags. I have also invested in re-usable food covers and re-usable wax wrap. These can be used repeatedly so reduces the amount of single-use plastic I would be using. One of the main things to do when swapping to more sustainable methods (I have been told), is to use up what you already have first, and where possible, re-use things, so I ensured that when I finished with the items we had, I replaced them with reusables. There are loads of different brands that offer them and although you can’t always find them in supermarkets, you can buy them online or in places like Lakeland.
  5. Cosmetics in bar form. I’m currently using up the remains of my shampoo and conditioners (is it just me or does anyone else end up with little bits of left over shampoos and conditioners in bottles?!). I have so much more than I realised! Once I’ve finished with the current bits and pieces, I will swap to solid shampoo and conditioner bars. They come in cardboard packaging, which reduced the use of single-use plastic packaging. As they are smaller and easier to transport that also reduces the environmental impact of transport. I’ve already changed to a solid bar for my face wash. I’m trying out “Eco Warrior” and may do a review of it after I’ve used it for a while so that I can see if I get along with it. Some supermarkets now sell these in their cosmetic section, so they’re pretty accessible. I also have a couple of other bars to use (a shaving gel replacement and a body scrub) once I have used up the products I have (as they were on sale, so my thrifty self jumped on that one!)
  6. Reducing meat intake. To be honest, this is a very new one and a step I wasn’t sure I’d ever make if I’m being totally honest. Although I understand that it sounds very minor as a step, I am now only eating meat at tea time (or dinner time if that’s what you call your evening meal). In the past, I would always eat meat at lunchtime and it would be rare to not do this, so by not having this is actually a step in the direction of reduction and each small step is something, right? There is an environmental cost of raising livestock for food, which is something I am conscious of, and if I can reduce it a bit then that’s something. I’m not sure what direction this will take for the future, if it will reduce further etc., but its a start!
  7. Buying second hand as much as possible. This is something I have spoken about before, but where possible I buy clothes second hand either online or on charity shops. There’s a few reasons for this. One of the main ones was to make replacing my wardrobe cheaper through my weight loss journey, as I have to do this regularly while my body shape is changing and my clothes become too big. Another is that you are helping to raise money for some very worthwhile causes and of course, sustainability! By buying second hand you’re reducing clothes going to landfill and also reducing the amount of brand new clothes needing to be made (particularly with fast fashion brands). This doesn’t just have to stop at clothes, other things can also be bought second hand such as books, household items etc. which again, means less new items need to be made.

So those are the main changes I am making/have made to try to improve my sustainability. There are likely to be more over the course of the year and I will post some updates if there are any other big or interesting changes. I hope that’s given some ideas to others if they were looking for inspiration for their own goals for simple sustainability swaps/changes. Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Battling on

Hi Wonderlanders!

I decided to write a post about motivation as this time of year, people (myself included), start off the year with good intentions but the motivation quickly slips away. So I thought I’d write about staying motivated. I am writing about weight-loss because it is one of my biggest fights and has been for some time, and over the last year in particular, my motivation has been very up and down. Some of these can be adapted for other goals as well, and I have tried to do that to keep me motivated for the other things I want to achieve. So here we go…

  1. Don’t try to conquer the world in 1 day. It just doesn’t work. I took some time off from weight loss over Christmas and my eating habits reverted back to being fairly terrible for about a week or so. When I decided to draw the line and go back on plan, I had a few days that I could class as “false starts”, where I’d start the day with good intentions and on plan, but by the end of the day, I was back off plan again. When that happens, you can either look on yourself as having failed and being a bit rubbish, or you can think that “at least I was less terrible than yesterday”. I chose the latter. Having a couple of days with that mindset of “I’m not being perfect, but I’m better than I was yesterday” meant that I could have a few more days, guilt free, but still not binging, and I am now back to being 100% on plan.
  2. Why am I doing this? Having a few off-plan days actually helped me to remember this. I noticed that I felt physically rubbish when I was eating rubbish. I was bloated all the time, I felt uncomfortable and at the back of my mind, I was thinking about all the progress that I was undoing. On top of that, I noticed the return of the heartburn which I hadn’t really had for a long time. One of the reasons I wanted to lose weight was for my health but there were also aesthetic reasons. I hated the way I looked and how that made me feel, as well as the way clothes looked on me. This point will also link in with some of the others.
  3. Having goal clothes/wish lists. I have found this to be quite motivational for weight loss. While I am in the process of losing weight, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on nice clothes because I will just end up too thin for them (hopefully). As I have a goal weight in mind and that I still have a way to go, I know that I will be needing smaller clothes when I succeed. When I’m getting close to being the next size down and my current clothes are a bit too baggy, I buy the clothes in the next size down and use that as a means of measuring progress. When I fit in to the smaller clothes, it feels like an achievement. I use mainly trousers for this as I rarely buy tops at the moment as I like them baggy. This helps me to stay on plan, as I’m regularly achieving something that is not purely down to weight. I also have a whole list of clothes I want to buy when I reach my final target. Whenever I see something nice, I put it on a wish list to think that “I could pull this off once I reach my goal”.
  4. Having progress photos. Something I noticed when I started dieting was that I had very few “before” photos because I hated how I looked, but the few that I did are pretty unflattering. Once I started making some progress, I compared how I looked before to how I looked after making some progress. I found it very motivational because it showed how far I had come. I could see the difference, visibly and that I was actually making progress, even at times where I felt I was stuck. Although I haven’t had any events to have photos from, I have tried to take progress photos just in my own home every now and then. It gives me a bit of a boost.
  5. Thinking about all the positives of the changes. This is similar to thinking about why you are doing it, but this is all about what are the good things you’ve got from it so far. For me, its about feeling less bloated and uncomfortable, feeling gradually better about myself and having less heartburn. Like I said previously, just having a week off plan and then coming back on plan has made me feel better and reminded me of the positives.

Well, those are some of my motivational tools, I hope they help others with feeling more motivated and positive about their own goals when motivation starts to wither. Good luck with your goals and until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Obligatory end of year post

Good evening wonderlanders!

Its the end of 2020 and of course, its time to celebrate the fact that its over, because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? I generally do a “year in review” post anyway, not that there is much to review this year. Although I have shared some of my low points with you all, there are a large number that I haven’t shared due to them being far too personal (and that isn’t going to change, to be honest. I have my limits) Suffice to say, there have been more lows than highs this year. This post will also be relatively short, given the lack of interesting things that have occurred this year.

The year started out alright actually. We managed to get in a couple of gigs before the plague hit the UK properly. In February I saw Dir En Grey (I did start to write a post on the gig, but haven’t actually completed it. I may yet…), and also a joint gig with Apocalyptica and Sabaton (and discovered that I enjoy Amaranthe while I was at it as they were supporting). That was also my only trip to London this year (sadly) and I have dearly missed my friends in that part of the country. Despite not being able to see friends and family a lot of this year, we have done things such as online meet-ups and video calls and when get-togethers have been allowed, we have tried to do these at times. I was able to have a hen do, despite our wedding needing to be postponed to next year, and even if it proved we are all out of practice when it comes to socialising (as we all ended up tired very quickly), I think it was definitely needed.

Regular readers will know that I caught Covid at the start of April and was quite unwell. I also ended up with pneumonia and have since been enjoying (?) life with post-covid syndrome (I believe that’s what they’re referring to it as these days. Its also been known as “long Covid” and “post-covid fatigue”). Where I stand with it all at the moment is that I still experience fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, short-term memory loss, aphasia and muscle aches. I have had lung function testing recently and awaiting a chest CT, following which I will hopefully have my results from both sets of tests to see if there is any more permanent damage to my lungs, or if I just have to wait for post-covid syndrome to go away at some point by itself.

Despite all of the lockdowns and not being able to attend events and gigs, having to postpone the wedding and not being able to see friends and family, I haven’t minded it too much. As someone who is very introverted, I have been making the most of the time to read, play on my Switch and get some crafting in. Although I may not have lost as much weight as I was hoping to this year, I am still leaving the year about a stone lighter than I entered it. To me, that’s quite a positive, and I am very focused for next year.

I’m not so optimistic that I think 2021 will be amazing, and I’m fairly sure that the first 6 months will still be terrible, but I think that there are positives still to be had. I have goals and I am optimistic that they are achievable, such as hitting my target weight by June (which means about 1 pound per week, but with some wiggle room for no losses some weeks etc.). I’m also gradually trying to be more conscious of sustainability, using less plastics and less waste in general. Although I won’t be perfect, I am trying to make small changes to improve (which I might do a post about in the near future). I’m also trying to increase the time I spend on hobbies that I used to really enjoy but haven’t had the energy to do this year. I’m not going to set myself any huge goals because I don’t know how the year is going to pan out and setting myself up for potential failure isn’t very motivational.

Going in to 2021, I hope that everyone is kind to themselves and doesn’t class 2020 as a total write-off (there will be some positives somewhere if you look, even if its exceptionally difficult to see them). I hope that wherever you are, whatever you are doing that you have a happy and healthy 2021, and look for the positives in the year ahead. I will still continue to sporadically provide content, in the hopes that at least someone reads my ramblings and enjoys the experience. Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

My complicated relationship with food

Hi wonderlanders!

I know that I have talked alot about my weight loss journey on here and revelations that have come through this, but I don’t recall if I ever talked about how I got to this point in the first place, and at least not in any depth. I thought it may help others if they also have (or have had) a complicated/dodgy/terrible relationship with food. Not only that, when I have spoken to people around me about the types of food I used to eat and in what quantities, they have sometimes been entertained, shocked or in some cases, downright disturbed. So I thought I’d share with you lovely people too.

To really think about where my issues with food originated, I think we need to fully rewind to little Alice. As a child/teenager, I used to be able to eat anything I wanted and I never gained any weight. I think part of this was to do with me being such an active little sprog, but also I always enjoyed being busy. I think I was also just really lucky with my metabolism. At home, I was always fed hearty, good meals and easily devoured them, but we weren’t much of a household for having puddings (unless it was on a Sunday or special occasion). Fruit was always available and I was actively encouraged to eat it. My own choices with regards food and my large appetite probably did not bode well. At the time though, I never gained weight, and I think that is what lured me into a false sense of security. My food choices in school were along these lines: chocolate poptarts for breakfast (or sometimes leftover cheesecake or other pudding if it was a Monday morning), several chocolate bars and sweets throughout the day, 2 rib burgers or chips or pizza at lunch and more crisps and chocolate on top of that. Although salads were available to buy at school for lunch, they were never my “go to” because, I was a teenager, and pizza was available! This pretty much continued through my teens and in to college. For example, at college I would often buy a full cooked breakfast, several lots of chocolate, crisps and sweets throughout the day, cream cakes, a jacket potato covered in cheese and beans at lunch, hot chocolate with whipped cream etc. I had a part-time job in town on the weekends. My meals on a Saturday would consist of 2 pizza slices for breakfast, chocolate and/or sweets on my break (and sometimes during my shift if I could sneak them), McDonalds for lunch and then Chinese take-away for dinner. Again, I’d re-iterate, I WASN’T GAINING WEIGHT.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That all changed when I hit 18 and it kind of all went downhill from there. I was still eating stupid amounts of unhealthy foods like when I was a child, but now the weight started to creep on. I went away to uni and my diet just kind of took a nose dive. I used to eat continuously through my lectures and that would mainly be chocolate and sweets. Of course I now also had the alcohol consumption that often accompanies student life. I lived within short walking distance of supermarkets so suddenly, at 10pm I could just walk down the road and buy cake if I craved it (and often did). When I say I would often buy late-night cake, I mean I would go and buy a victoria sponge, wouldn’t cut it up, just pick it up and bite into it and just eat the whole thing. I would do that several times per week. I didn’t eat loads of take away (as many would probably assume), I did actually cook for myself. The problem was, this was often quick frozen food because although I knew how to cook, it was easier and quicker to use frozen foods because I didn’t like being in the kitchen for long due to some of the housemates I lived with. There would be some nights where I’d make up entire pints of angel delight and just drink it.

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Pexels.com

Around this time I started to acknowledge I should probably cut down on the unhealthy foods because I was starting to gain weight gradually, but all of these attempts were pretty half-arsed and short-lived. My terrible eating habits continued through my professional life when I started to work full-time. Although I would generally take sandwiches or soup (or something along those lines) for lunch, I would still be eating things like pastries for breakfast and snacking on chocolate and crisps (although fruit occasionally got a look-in). I would sometimes buy lunch from the canteen and you could almost guarantee that it would be chips, or a jacket potato, or some other full cooked meal with a pudding afterwards. I would also often have a sausage sandwich for breakfast from one of the cafes. During my shifts, I’d also make trips to the vending machines for yet more chocolate, and could often be found buying a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows from the on-site Costa. In the evenings, even when I was having a full cooked meal and a pudding at work, I would still then cook a full meal for dinner. There would be some days where I’d eat chips more than once in a day. When I stopped working in a location with a canteen or vending machines, I would simply just take a load of snacks with me. I did, again, continue to make half-arsed, short-lived efforts to lose some weight because I was becoming more and more upset with my body size and shape. In one of my jobs I also had night-shifts to contend with and would often find myself devouring large bars of dairy milk and a few cans of Monster or Relentless around 3 or 4am, just to get me through my shift.

During some of this time I was also contending with completing a Masters part-time (alongside a full-time job, 2 part-time jobs, and multiple types of volunteering. Yes, I’m not sure how I did it either). Healthy eating was nowhere near the forefront of my mind when I was staying up until 3am to finish an essay, knowing I had to get up in 3 hours to go and do a 12 hour shift at work, followed by 3 hours of volunteering. It was excuses such as this that often led me to eating extremely badly and justifying these choices.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Fast-forward a few years in to my current career. My eating habits continued to be terrible. I was stress-eating whenever I had deadlines at work or I would reward myself with food sometimes. Then it just became standard practice to eat an entire pack of Wispa bars in an evening, or if I was making a cheesecake to take to work, or a Korma, I’d just drink whatever double cream was left. As a snack, I’d drink an entire can of custard, or eat a can of rice pudding. One of my favourite snacks of all time was to chop up a banana, cover it in custard, spray cream over the top and crumble a flake over it. Sometimes I’d swap the custard for ice-cream. I’d eat that several times per week. While at work, I soon found myself eating an entire pack of Maryland cookies in the morning (after breakfast), eating a cooked lunch with a pudding, then eating a share bag of magic stars in the afternoon, going home and eating a cooked dinner. There may also have been other snacks during the day. At this point my weight was racking up rather quickly and I hated myself more and more for it, but I just didn’t have it in me to stop at that point. In order to turn yourself around from weight-gain it takes some real love and care for your own body, and asking someone who hates their body to want to take care of it, is kind of asking a lot.

I still made some vague attempts at losing weight or limiting myself but it just wasn’t working and led to me giving up frequently. I knew I desperately needed to change as I was approaching 30 and classified as obese at this point. It was shortly after my 30th birthday and I was having a conversation with a colleague who’d successfully lost weight and she explained Slimming World to me. She answered my questions and during that conversation I made the decision to do it. I pushed down all my feelings about being anxious going to a group where I didn’t know anyone, how it would be, would people in my life make fun of me for going (as I’ve often been mocked in the past for things I’ve thought about doing)? etc. and decided enough was enough and I had to try. I found a group and joined, and the rest is history. I believe I’ve written about how I found the group experience before and what I had expected compared to how it was, so I’ll leave that there.

I suppose the moral of the story is, everyone who decides to make a change is at a different point when they decide that they need to change their eating habits (if they do) and its not an easy change to make. Everyone has different motives and some people never break the cycle, simply because its easier to just keep going as we are, even if we know its bad and we may hate ourselves for it. Not everyone will feel they need to change and that’s fine too. What I’m saying is, if you reach your breaking point with food, whatever it is, even if you’ve tried so many times before, its still possible. Even if its scary and a lifelong habit, it can still be done. Being totally honest, I got pretty emotional at parts of this post because it was quite difficult to see all of my old habits and realise just how self-destructive I was being. It was also hard to think about my turning point and making that leap to join a group. I felt alot of mixed emotions writing this post. Although its positive to feel that I have come a long way and made so much progress in my weight loss journey (that for a long time, I thought I’d never manage), its still hard to think about the point I got to and how I got myself there. But, things are looking up and to end on a positive, I am still on track and pushing myself to keep going towards my goal. I hope this has helped others who may have had similar struggles. Until next time, stay wonderful 😉

Skinny Bakery

No clever or witty title required here. Skinny Bakery, deserves its own unadulterated title.

Hi wonderlanders! I have an amazing discovery to share with you all, particularly those trying to trim down just in time to pile it back on for Christmas (or not, if you are particularly well-disciplined!). For a long time, I have seen Skinny Bakery advertised to me on Facebook and I have been mulling over for some time if I should bite the bullet (and the cake) and give them a go. All I can say is: “why did I wait???!!!!”

Skinny Bakery are a baked goods company that freshly bake and deliver to your door, small pots of cake “pearls” (although they also do donuts). When you check the Slimming World app, they give you the syn value PER POT, not per cake. Most of these pots are about 10 or 10.5 syns (or in the region of 40-50 calories or 2 syns per pearl, I believe). Now, I don’t have to tell anyone who’a been on a weight-loss journey that generally, low fat cake tends to be a bit….well….not cake…. These cake pearls on the other hand, actually taste and feel like actual cake!!! I ordered 6 flavours to try (one of them was for my partner. Sharing is caring); black forest (limited edition), chocolate, cookies and cream, cherry bakewell, chocolate and caramel and victoria. They have a wide range of flavours and also do seasonal flavours (they have gingerbread flavour at the moment). My top 3 flavours by far are definitely cherry bakewell (they taste just like a bakewell tart!), black forest and cookies and cream, but the other flavours are still pretty amazing.

The products are baked to order and delivered to you on a day of your choosing. They can keep for a few days either in the fridge or cupboard but are also freezable for up to 2 months (so you can buy in bulk ;)). There is a mininum spend and the pots are £2.99 per pot, but to be honest, for a treat that is low syn and tastes this good, I am more than willing to pay it! They do also offer a subscription box, selection boxes, hampers and gift vouchers.

Since I have tried these cakes, I have been preaching the good word of the Skinny Bakery to literally anyone that will listen (and several that probably were just too polite to back away slowly). I did, however, also encounter several people that had seen them advertised and not been too sure about ordering and are now considering it after my feverish ramblings. So maybe some good has come of this.

Long story short, Skinny Bakery now has at least one extra customer who will certainly be returning to bankrupt themelves buying all of the delicious little cakes, and hoarding them in some strange cake-dragon-type fashion.

Find them here and until next time, stay wonderful 😉

More food swaps

Good day wonderlanders!

I hope everyone is doing ok and surviving this delightful global trauma. I’ve recently been gradually trying to get back on top of everything that fell by the wayside whilst I was particularly poorly, even if I’m not fully back up to speed yet.

One of the things I have re-focussed with is my weight loss. Although I have not lost a great deal of weight this year, I can be safe in the knowledge that I am on track to leave 2020 at least slightly lighter than I entered it.

On my journey recently, I have decided to try and be somewhat more strict and add in a few days that Slimming World refer to as “SP days”. What that basically means is that you are more limited as to the types of food you can have on those days in order to give your weight loss a boost. Some of the things you can’t have are: rice, pasta (including spaghetti), potatoes etc. On these days I needed to be a bit more creative as to how I could have nice, filling meals that included all the right elements that I’d still enjoy and wouldn’t make me curse the day I ever first picked up and drank half a litre of double cream (my eating habits before Slimming World were nothing short of terrible and there are many reasons I ended up as heavy as I did!) I decided to try vegetable alternatives to these things. Yes, you heard right, hear me out though. When I first found out that butternut squash noodles, courgetti and cauliflower rice existed, it sounded pretty horrific, but I decided, with enough of the rest of the meal with it, I’m sure it can’t be that bad. With grim determination, I warmed up the butternut squash noodles to accompany my spag bol and my daily rationed amount of cheese, served it up on my plate and took a hesitant nibble. Whilst I will admit, on their own, they aren’t too flavourful, with the rest of my meal, it actually was pretty palletable. I would even go so far as to say that I would eat it again. I would also imagine that you could make the noodles more flavourful by adding some seasoning, although I found that the meal all together was still pretty damn tasty and filling too!

On to the second experiment, cauliflower rice. I paired this with some chilli (this wasn’t on an SP day, but I decided to experiment for future reference). I was somewhat dubious about this one as I had heard from fellow group members that it can be quite mushy. Also, cauliflower tends to not be particularly flavourful and I generally eat it with a healthy serving of gravy. Once more into the microwave (as both of these concoctions came in microwave bags), and the smell was certainly not particularly enticing. I pictured my poor gut dealing with a hearty helping of cauliflower AND chilli simultaneously and internally apologised to my digestive system. But, I was once again, pleasantly surprised. I feel that the chilli really did save the day with the flavouring (and of course, the cheese rations as I generally have cheese on my chilli) but I have also been given tips by someone in my group as to how to give it more flavour. Again, I would actually eat this again. It helped to make my meal more filling and although it wasn’t as firm as rice would be, it also wasn’t mushy.

I still very much want to try courgetti and another person in my group mentioned brocolli rice, which I’d also happily try. I’d say that although something may sound odd, until you give it a try, you never know. I wanted to be able to still eat meals I would enjoy on days when I am being more strict and this has given me the opportunity to do so. If you’re trying to get more veg into your diet, or trying to shave off a few pounds, these things could help, so just thought I’d share my experiences. Until next time, stay safe and always, stay wonderful 😉

I’ve been reading: Christina Henry

Hi Wonderlanders,

I decided to write a post about an author I have been reading a bit over the past couple of years. I may turn this into a bit of a series about authors if I find any others that I find myself reading regularly (hence the title, it may be called the “I’ve been reading” series). Yes, I do occasionally find time to read full novels in between all my manga reading, but I must say, I have a massively long reading list of books that are sat on my bookshelves waiting to be read (part of the problem with being a slow reader, having poor concentration and feeling as though hobbies need to be productive!). So without further a-waffle, Christina Henry!

I’m not going to start this with a bio or facts about the author, because this post is focused on the author’s works. I have read a number of Christina Henry’s novels and have found them to be very engaging. I was first drawn in by her book called “Alice” (yes, big surprise). It is a different take on Alice in Wonderland and follows Alice’s journey escaping from the asylum that is on fire, accompanied by “Hatcher”, another of the asylum’s patients. The story itself is a much darker re-imagining of the concept of Alice in Wonderland and although it doesn’t strictly follow the same story line, many of the characters are based on the originals but a version you may encounter in your worst nightmares. This is a gritty version of the story that is as far away from a “wonderland” as you can possibly imagine and the main story is set after Alice’s initial adventure to “wonderland”. There is gore a-plenty as Alice and Hatcher make their journey and this is definitely not a version of the tale that is suitable for children. There are two follow-up books in the Alice series, “Red Queen” and “Looking Glass”, which I’ve not yet read, but look forward to reading in the future.

Another of Henry’s tales is “The Mermaid” which takes on the story of P.T. Barnum’s Fiji Mermaid, following the mermaid’s life, first as a curious mermaid, becoming a fisherman’s wife when she ventured to the shore, to becoming a widow due to her unnaturally long life, becoming a museum exhibit and eventually escaping. There is a definite focus on a strong female character as “the mermaid” definitely doesn’t take shit from anyone. If she’s going to be an exhibit, she’d do so on her own terms, and make her own money. She eschewed all of the behaviours that were “proper” for a woman, including the expectation to wear lots of heavy and fancy clothes. This story includes such depth of character and excellent descriptions that make it easy to become lost in the story and the imagery, and I found myself progressing through the story at quite a pace.

“The Girl in Red” I was able to listen to as an audio book. I found this to be rather valuable when I was still quite ill with Covid, unable to sleep and couldn’t focus enough to read. Another very involving story based on Little Red Riding Hood. This was a thoroughly modernised version of a harrowing trip to get to grandma’s house in a world where some type of “virus” and “species” has been unleashed (yes, I saw the irony of the situation, especially as the “virus” started with a cough…). It even takes on the issue of racism with racist gangs wiping out certain parts of the population under the guise of controlling the outbreak. With the military trying to round up survivors to take them to camps, and gangs of survivors taking the law into their own hands, its a matter of knowing how to survive. The story focuses on Red, a young woman who was the only one in her family who had taken the precautions to prepare for the situation that she predicted unfolding and meeting other characters along the way. Definitely a very current and fitting story, as much as it was kind of topical, I still found it to be an enjoyable escape.

I’m currently working my way through “The Lost Boy”, which takes on Peter Pan and his lost boys from the perspective of one of his lost boys. Peter, who has his own island and abducts boys from the main land who are orphaned and would otherwise be living on the streets, with promises of adventure and living forever young. But what happens when you put a group of “lost boys” together with the promise of never having to grow up? Lets just say, it goes about as well as you can expect. I’m really enjoying this one and looking forward to seeing how it all concludes.

Henry has a number of other books with different types of story, but I have been enjoying the “re-imagining” style books that I have read so far and am looking forward to reading more of her works in the future. I thoroughly recommend checking out her work if you enjoy a somewhat twisted, gory and gritty take on so-called light-hearted stories, fantasy or fairy tales. Until next time, enjoy your reading, take care and of course, stay wonderful 😉

Its been a while…

…*looks a bit sheepish* Hi Wonderlanders,

It feels like this year I have spent most of my time apologising for my absence and writing updates explaining why I haven’t posted. Not exactly quality content, for which I apologise…again… So I decided to write a mini update (sorry again) and then there will be a proper post with some actual content to follow in quick succession! Promise!

Since my previous posts, I have not been up to much of note (what with the virus restrictions, not being able to go anywhere and having no energy). Regarding my own health, I am still struggling with the aftermath of Covid (a condition that is being referred to as “long covid” in the UK, where you are stuck with symptoms for months after testing negative). They are also discovering all of the long-term conditions that you can end up with as a result of Covid. I am waiting for my hospital appointment with respiratory to see if I have a long-term condition, and explore what we can do for rehabilitation.

Apart from that, when I have had the energy to, I have been getting on with some crafting. I have made some items to help with fundraising for UK wildlife charities, which I recently posted off. I have spent alot of time resting and sleeping because I’ve needed to, really. We have had to postpone our wedding due to the Covid situation, so alot of the crafting I was doing for that has been put on the back burner until next year. As the UK heads into another lockdown, I will most likely spend more time crafting (as I have the goal of trying to look forward to Christmas this year as I usually don’t), reading and spending some quality time with my Nintendo Switch. I have to keep reminding myself that its ok to “waste time”, that is, spend time with hobbies that are not productive.

I hope everyone is staying safe and virus-free. Look forward to the next update…(or don’t?) I promise the next one will be some actual content! Until next time, stay wonderful! 😉

Enforced positivity

Hi wonderlanders!

I have decided that I need to shoehorn some positivity into my blog as it has been pretty negative so far this year. Pink and fluffy feelings only from this point forwards in the post (I can’t guarantee it will happen for the rest of the year as that would mean not being a pessimist. I have limited stocks of optimism and an abundance of pessimism, sarcasm and dark humour even at the best of times). Please note, this post is fuelled by Absolut vodka in order to get me to be vaguely positive and hopefully mildly entertaining and humorous, and I absolutely cannot guarantee this post won’t contain sarcasm (I think that may be asking a bit too much from a beverage) So, on with the pink and fluffy! What are some of the positives to come out of this year…

….

….urm…there’s….urm…

…hmmmm

…. (sorry, couldn’t resist. There’s that vague attempt at humour I was talking about earlier!)

As much as lockdown has been difficult for a large number of people (which I can understand), there have been some upsides. Firstly, as much as I have missed going to gigs and events, by not going to such things I have saved quite a bit of money. Due to saving for our wedding and a few other things, this has been a bit of a blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong, if my missing of gigs and events was not enforced by a pandemic, I would not have missed them by choice (because I really do miss them and I am having gig withdrawal regularly at the moment), but if I have to miss them, something positive may as well come from it.

Another positive side effect from lockdown is that introverts everywhere are able to exist in their own comfort zone without being either nudged or forcibly dragged out of it, because for once, it is socially acceptable to stay away from people! As much as many people don’t think of me as an introvert (because I often over compensate for my general feeling of social awkwardness by being obnoxiously loud/crude/brash) I actually do consider myself quite introverted. (Yes, underneath that layer of dark humour and crude comedy is in fact someone who is exceptionally awkward and enjoys sitting in corners until they are fostered by an extrovert. Please, for the love of vodka, just talk to me about yourself so I can stop filling the silences with awkward stories about me…)

By not having social engagements to attend (oooh look at me sounding like I have a social life!), it also means I have more time to do other things that I enjoy. My enforced rest for recovery has also contributed to this. I have been more able to spend time playing on my Switch, engaging in many Pokemon-related shenanigans (who doesn’t love giving their Pokemon entertaining nicknames and collecting like 20 Digletts just for funzies? My favourite is named “Diggy Dug”. Why do I need a Dugtrio, can’t I just glue 3 Digletts together?) and completing some of my games! I have had more available craft time (not that I have been as productive with it as I would have liked, but 3 new sets of cyberlox will appear at some point???). I’ve also been able to spend time resting (ok, so that’s been kind of forced) but my body has not really experienced this for any length of time for a number of years (because apparently rushing around and doing too much stuff is just how I seem to live my life?)

Despite some of the times where it has been a struggle to remain on track with my healthy eating due to the mass consumption of medicinal donuts, I have actually come through lockdown slightly lighter than I went in. I continued with virtual Slimming World via Zoom and I think we kept each other slightly sane (ish?) without resorting to utterly destroying every take away in a 5 mile radius or just laying siege to the nearest Krispy Kreme (don’t get me wrong, I was sorely tempted). We are now back to a socially distanced group and it is so great to be seeing everyone in real life again. I feel we are all now exceptionally closer than we were before due to the experience. (aww, bonding!)

Last but by no means least (because I don’t think I can remain this pink and fluffy for much longer and I’m running out of Absolut…) I have been able to spend more time with my partner. Due to him working from home, me having the plague and both of us having no social engagements etc., we have spent considerably more time in each other’s company than we have since our student days (when we basically lived in one room so were pretty much just always around each other). Some people are driving each other up the wall sideways during lockdown for this very reason, but for me (I can’t speak for him, perhaps he is ready to suffocate me with some form of donut), it has been rather nice. (Aren’t I a total romantic? Nope, not really!)

I am sure that my next post will return to my usual self (maybe?), if you enjoyed this type of post, leave me a comment and let me know. Until next time, either find some positivity or stay positive, and most of all, stay wonderful 😉

Rant imminent…

…that is all the warning you will get. Hi wonderlanders! As the title suggests, this will be a rant post. I know some people enjoy my rants, so strap in for a new one! This rant will be known as: The Green Flag rant. On a side-note, this was mainly written weeks ago but time has rather run away from me. I can’t believe it is September in a couple of days!!! Anyway, on with the rant…

For those who are unaware, Green Flag is a UK breakdown roadside assistance company. The idea is that you pay a yearly fee and if your vehicle breaks down, you can phone them and they will come to try to fix your vehicle by the side of the road. If your vehicle can’t be repaired there and then, they recover it to a location of your choosing so you can have it fixed. So why am I telling you this and about to have a rant? Well, I had the misfortune for my car to break down on my way home from my dress fitting recently.

I broke down on a motorway and managed to just about limp my car off the road and into a kind of layby. I went on the Green Flag app to try and report my breakdown and request assistance. This was the first problem I encountered; the app did not recognise my car registration or the policy number that were associated with my account and told me to phone them instead. My phone battery was at 40% at this point as I had been using it as a sat nav to get me to and from my fitting. I tried phoning them and after being told by the recording to use the app (urm….really?), I was informed that the wait time was over 15 minutes and I could either stay on hold or request a call back when it was “my turn”. This was at around 6:45pm. I was expecting the call back to be in maybe 20 minutes or something as if the wait was going to be alot longer than 15 minutes, surely the recording would have said “the wait is currently in excess of 30 minutes” or 40 or 50 minutes. Around 45-60 minutes later I had my call back. Bear in mind, this phone call was to report the fact I had broken down on a busy motorway. I was able to report the breakdown, but because the app is so terrible, the location the app thought I was, was not even close to my actual location. I had to use the “what three words” app to report my location with any form of accuracy so that they may actually be able to find me to recover me.

Once I had reported the break down, I had a text telling me when the recovery driver would arrive. To their credit this was to be in about an hour and the recovery driver arrived before the specified eta. They tested my vehicle in the tiny space we had, and it appeared to work but because the fault was intermittent and I still had a way to go on motorways, they decided it was best to recover me anyway. My car was loaded up and we were on our way, I thought I could relax (even if the recovery driver was a bit liberal with his speed and lane changes on the motorway and terrible music choice. But hey, I was being rescued, beggars can’t be choosers and I wasn’t about to complain). This was around 9pm.

An hour later, we pulled in to a service station, which I thought was just the driver taking a break due to the long drive. He then informed me that it was going to be a relay recovery with another driver taking me the rest of the way. He said he had organised for another driver to pick me up and that I could either wait in the services or in my car, and that I should ring Green Flag for an eta. This was about 10pm, I didn’t know where I was, other than seeing the postcode on the driver’s phone. My car was unloaded and I was left there, alone, in the dark, in an unfamiliar area. My phone battery was getting ever lower as I hadn’t taken a charger, not expecting to be out that long. I also had no form of jacket or hoody and was in a vest because it had been warm in the day time. If I didn’t keep a blanket in my car for emergencies, I don’t know what I would have done, I was so cold. As I was left as far away from the services building as possible and it was dark, I was quite scared to leave my car as I didn’t feel safe. I had texted my family to let them know the situation, so my mum was phoning Green Flag to try and find out an eta for me due to my battery situation. After she was kept on hold for an hour, her call was dropped, so she tried again and finally spoke to someone after about half an hour. She was informed I should not have been left alone and that the driver was supposed to stay until the next one arrived. As bad ass as I can be, its difficult to feel confident in a pair of dolly shoes and a vest in a car park, in the middle of nowhere, late at night when you are shivering fairly consistently.

Ever more concerned about having the ability to contact someone in case of further emergency, I decided to bite the bullet and go in to the building to see if I could buy a power bank. I was also in desperate need of the toilet by this point, having not been able to go since 4pm (and it was now around 11pm). I was able to buy a power bank and a charging cable, and thankfully there was some charge already in there so I was able to give it a bit of a boost. I had contact from my mum who told me that Green Flag were struggling to find another recovery driver and would I be ok with a hotel for the night if they weren’t able to find me a driver. This was all well and good, but how I was supposed to get to a hotel from a motorway without a working car and not really knowing where on earth I was, I am not sure! Eventually, another driver was sourced and I received a text that I’d be picked up at 1am. By this point, I had been at the services so long I would have to pay parking. I asked in the service station about payment and they validated my parking as I’d broken down and were genuinely lovely people.

Finally, the recovery driver arrived, on time. By now, my parents were so concerned for my safety that my Dad drove out to at least sit with me until the recovery driver arrived. We got my car recovered and finally, by the time we had put the car away at the recovery point, it was about 3am. Apparently, their policy as a company is to prioritise lone females who have broken down. If this is how they treat a priority case, how on earth would they treat someone who isn’t?! We put in a complaint to them and eventually I was issued with a £35 good will payment. This was after my dad having a number of E-mails and phone calls with them and them not being able to reassure him, particularly, that this would not happen again. Having read some of the reviews on Trust Pilot, and attempting to add my own (which mysteriously disappeared quickly after it was posted for violating the guidelines, which I checked. It didn’t violate any of the rules.) I noticed that I was most definitely not the first person to have such issues with their service. Their excuses throughout the complaints procedure were to do with being too busy and not being able to source drivers, and I’m fairly certain they reduced their call centre staff, pinning their hopes on the app that didn’t work. I suppose it would be difficult to source a driver when you don’t have your own fleet and are outsourcing all of your rescues. I would say they couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery, but I don’t think they’d even be able to find the brewery considering their terrible location settings on the app!

So why am I writing this rant when its not going to change or fix anything? Well, it was extremely upsetting, frustrating and anxiety-inducing and I felt like I needed it out of my system, ranting makes me feel better and people weirdly enjoy my rants. I also thought it would be helpful for others to have some understanding of their service due to the apparent gate-keeping of their reviews. I’m not saying if you should or shouldn’t use their services, but I feel that people should be able to have balanced reviews.

So that is that, rant over! I feel cleansed. I hope you’ve found this an interesting read and I will try to make some of my later posts more positive or at least entertaining! Until then, as best you can, stay healthy and stay wonderful! 😉