Friday, November 9, 2018

Spoonie Musings // No Sleep and Holidays

Here I am, sitting down to type. Just sending a little note out into the void. Hello, void! It's nice to see you again. Though perhaps it is difficult to actually see the void, given that it isn't a specific entity, nor does it have form... We could get pretty deep here, so I am just going to move on.

Last night I had basically... two hours sleep. For those of you reading who are fellow spoonies, you will most likely empathise, but also know that such an occurrence is not exactly rare. It happens. For whatever reason. I have tried to explain it to my husband before, with mixed results. Sometimes there is an obvious thing happening within my body that prevents me from sleeping - a flare up of one illness or another, perhaps a migraine. Other times it is more that my mental health is suffering, and sleep just... can't happen. Usually this is due to a rapid rise in anxiety, making sleep a (forgive the pun) distant dream.

And then there are times when I just feel too sick and tired to sleep. It's these times that are difficult to explain to others, as I have difficulty understanding them myself. They just kind of are. I can hear my pulse beating throughout my body - sometimes I can even see it as it shakes my skin (tmi? apologies.). Everything just feels off, and I can't even think of sleeping because what would be the point in trying? I would just lay awake for hours feeling sick, in the dark, most likely listening to my husband sleep blissfully next to me.

Anyway, I just couldn't get to sleep last night. It was a mix of reasons, but I think mostly anxiety. The holiday season is coming and I find myself slipping down the rabbit hole that suddenly engulfed me towards the end of last year - a mix of overwhelm, exhaustion, 'sicker-than-usual', and depression/anxiety. It's a toxic cocktail that I would rather than drink, but somehow can't seem to stop, like it's already in my blood. I find myself having trouble remembering how to do the things I like to do (barring reading, thank GOODNESS that's still happening), and having to desperately try to remember normality (my version of normality) so I can get on with my day. Everything is just starting to feel that little bit too difficult.

I'm not going to say that I don't have good days - I definitely do, I'm just very aware of the holidays coming and of my pretty much never-increasing energy levels. I have very few effs left to give about a lot of things at the moment, but I am fighting to restore them. I can't really tell sometimes why I am fighting - perhaps I just need a holiday from the holidays? XD

Not sure how to finish this one, but I'm going to send lots of love and sparkles out to anyone else experiencing this end of year slump and overwhelm. It's rough. Look after yourself.

Love to all who read.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Cookbook Review: Eat Your Greens by Pete Evans

Title: Eat Your Greens
Author: Pete Evans
Publication Date: 30th October 2018

Synopsis: "Pete Evans makes eating green easy with more than 130 mouth-watering dishes that take veggies from sides to stars.
Even the pickiest eater will be won over by crispy carrot fritters with garlicky yoghurt dipping sauce, oh-so-simple sweet potato waffles topped with guacamole and a fried egg or the oozy deliciousness that is eggplant parmigiana.
Eat Your Greens also includes simple tips on:
- increasing your family's veg intake for breakfast, lunch and dinner
- buying and growing seasonal, organic produce 
- harnessing the health benefits of different veggies."

My thoughts: My husband and I don't eat too much meat, so veggies are necessarily the stars of most of our meals - with the occasional foray into tofu territory. So when I saw that Pete Evans was coming out with a new book all about making veggies the star of the show, I was definitely intrigued.

When you first open this book and begin to read (yes, I read my cookbooks from front to back when I first get them... doesn't everyone?), you will find a lot of information about keeping your diet varied and what veggies are important to include more regularly. I really loved this information as it reminded me not to fall back on just eating potatoes all the time (even though potatoes are probably my favourite food...). Evans has done a fantastic job here of reminding you of other veggies, and also teaching you about some that you may not be including in your diet, such as hemp or native Australian ingredients. This information is just fantastic to read about, so I highly recommend checking out the relevant sections.

As you move into the recipes themselves, there are quite a few that seem relatively easy to put together, with ingredients you would recognise at your local supermarket or farmers market, and then some that might seem a little outlandish at first if you haven't come across them before (mushroom latte, anyone?). My husband and I tried out the recipe for Bok Choy with Garlic, Ginger and Mushrooms, pairing it with some simple soba noodles, and found it to be wonderfully flavourful and not super fiddly. There is no shortage of fantastic dishes in here, and the flavour combinations sound extremely enticing.

One thing I will mention in the negatives, though, is that while it says in the synopsis that Evans is trying to 'take the veggies from sides to stars', this often isn't really the case. Evans and his family follow the Paleo diet, so generally in each description before the recipe, Evans will recommend what meat to pair the dish with, and there are a lot of eggs used throughout the book, so this is something to note if you (like me) have an egg allergy or are perhaps vegan. I have gotten more used to flipping through cookbooks and just immediately ignoring the ones with eggs, but it can be a bit tiresome with this cookbook as I was often flipping past multiple recipes at a time before finding one I could actually consider for myself.

Overall, a wonderful book for those who follow the Paleo diet, or are just looking to get more veg in their diet. I would also recommend this for those that want to try new flavour combinations on their veg - Evans has some really winning combos in here!

{I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much!}

Next recipe I'd like to try: A tough one to pick, but with the Spring veggies coming in properly now, I think I'd like to try Mixed Greens with Lemon Dressing.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Why not try the Pumpkin Spice Latte in the front of the book, and drink it whilst perusing the other recipes?

Rating:  7.5/10

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reading // October 2018

Guess who is actually on time (and not over a month late) to posting their reading wrap-up post this month? I actually managed to remember that this is a thing I sometimes do. Ten thousand sparkle points to me and on with the post!

books read:
~ Ashling (The Obernewtyn Chronicles #3) by Isobelle Carmody
~ Homecoming by Robin Hobb
~ Franklin's Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett
~ Franklin and Luna Go to the Moon by Jen Campbell, illustrated by Katie Harnett
~ Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
~ Defy the Stars (Constellation #1) by Claudia Gray
~ Natsume's Book of Friends vol. 1, 2, and 3 by Yuki Midorikawa
~ A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V. E. Schwab
~ Slow by Brooke McAlary (reread)
~ Eat Your Greens by Pete Evans (review coming soon!)
~ Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

currently reading:
~ A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V. E. Schwab
~ Blackwood (Perth Shifters #1) by Pia Foxhall (review)
~ I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller (review)
~ An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

A relatively slow month for me (no, really! a lot of the books I've read are manga/cookbooks/picture books which I could finish in an hour or two, quite leisurely). Mostly this was due to being pretty darn sick this month - I suspect a delayed reaction to moving house and also serious weather change magicks happening (is it a repeat Autumn here, or maybe it's Spring? Who really knows!)

Either way, there were a few things that really stood out to me.

Homecoming was the first of the Robin Hobb shorts in a project that Katharine of ventureadlaxre and I have embarked upon together - I swear I will do an announcement post of that sometime soon! For now, have a link to her announcement post, with accompanying details!

I have wanted to read Jen Campbell's picture books ever since I heard she was writing them, and I am so glad one of the libraries I am a member of got some copies in - they were everything I wanted and more - Katie Harnett's illustrations are a delight, and the story just made me heart breathe a happy sigh.

Defy the Stars was one that I just grabbed out after watching booktuber ReadywithCindy chat about how much she really liked the relationship between the main characters - and then I proceeded to devour it in about three days. I really loved it, and have since borrowed out the second book... and am barely restraining myself from starting it (as you can see above, I am reading quite a few things at the moment!).

Finally, let's talk A Darker Shade of Magic. My aforementioned dear friend, Katharine, absolutely loves V. E. Schwab's writing, and I follow the author on instagram and love her as a person, but have not always been as passionate about her writing (granted, I have only read one book by her...). Katharine seems to have made it her personal goal to get me to read and fall in love with her writing now, and... well... she succeeded. I admit that I have been missing out. Dear Katharine, if you are reading this, thank you. I have almost finished book two at this point, and am so excited (and terrified) to get to book three. Anoshe. I submit to the greater wisdom of my fellow book blogger.

Anyway, that's October! What have you been reading? I would love to know!

Love to all who read!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Picture Books I've Been Reading Lately #3

I have been a bit in burnout mode lately and, while reading is still happening, I find I go best with small, easy-to-consume stuff. Picture books fit the bill quite nicely. So here are another few that I have read - my favourite from this roundup? Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna.

When I was a Child by Andy Stanton and David Litchfield (published by Hodder Children's Books in October 2018)

book depository

Absolutely glorious images in this one - beautiful and evocative of what it's like to use your imagination in childhood - and in adulthood. I found myself poring over the images trying to find all the little things secreted away - a wonderful thing to do alone or with a little-un. 

I personally found I didn't relate to the story terribly strongly with this one, but honestly found that the images more than make up for that. A beauty to admire.

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (published by Flying Eye Books in September 2018)

book depository

I am so blown away by this book. The art style is absolutely wonderful and makes me feel joyful just to look at it - I think the colour scheme is also really wonderful as the oranges and blues dominate a lot and just seem to really work here. The story itself - about a little girl moving to a new country and how her fear (which is given form in this story) grows with the move - is just wonderful and I really connected to it. I haven't had to move to a new country myself, but I really liked the idea of others being able to see my little (or not-so-little) fear buddy and be able to show me their own. A lovely book that I highly recommend to everyone.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Spoonie Musings // Guilt and Relationships

Many of you know that I am married and have been with my partner Xin for almost eleven years now (married for almost three). We got together towards the end of our high school years, which meant that Xin has been there for a lot of my spoonie diagnoses, tests, and operations. He is a wonderful partner, a wonderful person in general, and I love him deeply.

And yet, being chronically ill in a relationship is seriously hard sometimes.

I can't work - at least, not in the typical 9 to 5 way, and not really shift-work either (I can do some editing and writing work online but it depends how I am travelling at that point in time - ie. am I having any random flares at the moment?) - so making money is pretty much all up to Xin. He supports me financially, as well as our cat, Peppermint. Money is rough for any spoonie - shelling out the bucks for medications, treatments, surgeries, health insurance (if you're lucky enough to have it), all of it means you are paying some big moolah. I have a very specific diet that I have to follow if I want to remain even slightly healthy, and sometimes that can add up, too. Financials are stressful for any relationship, and then for spoonie relationships it is a whole new thing.

Going on dates is a somewhat difficult topic, too. Some days I can totally manage it - absolutely no worries, having a pretty good day, minimal pain or discomfort, and I can walk unaided. Score! And my stomach is okay with me having tea that day! Double score!
Then there are days when I need assistance - pain levels may be higher, discomfort present, I can't do certain things like see movies because I have a migraine on the way, or I need to make sure that I won't need to walk up loads of stairs or I have access to a cane to assist me. Toilets need to be present - alwayyyys. Just in case. Better safe than sorry. All those random cliche things.

And then... there are days when we have planned for a date and I wake up that day just feeling rubbish. Too sick to get up, heart working way too hard, standing or walking are pretty much off the table. How do you have a decent date when you can barely manage a conversation?

Guilt can rush in really quickly in times like this. And the 'if onlys'. "If only I could work a little bit, or do this thing, or that other thing, then I could make more money and there would be less stress and strain on my partner to bring home money." "I wonder what ways there are for me to make money from home (does the thing and slowly gets burnt out completely and can't even do the dishes anymore)"
"If I hadn't of >insert item eaten, activity done, thought considered here< then I would be able to go on that date today! Dammit." "I wonder if my partner minds that I can't go on dates often - it must be so hard for them, etc. etc. >making assumptions and vastly blowing everything out of proportion without actually asking partner anything<"

You can see how it can kind of get out of control.

Do I have any recommendations here? Honestly, like many spoonie conditions, I don't think there is a solve-all pill here. There is no instant cure or 'if you just remember this one step everything will be fine!' amazing result. No, this is always going to be hard - it always has been, in my experience. But I have a couple of things that I would like to suggest (and have written down so I can refer to it myself, because yeesh I forget this stuff so often):

  1. Communicate communicate communicate. You need to stop making assumptions about how your partner is feeling and actually talk to them. Seriously, I know this is really scary sometimes - what if all your worst fears are true? Well, what if? Your partner will most likely want to work through them, too, and you will grow even closer to them in the process. Bottom line: nothing is going to get any better if you're not on the same page.
  2. Compassion is a necessity. Towards your partner, towards yourself. Towards the person who is taking a superrrr long time to get out of the bathroom. I know it sucks, and it hurts, and everything feels really gross and hard, but if you can show people a little compassion - including yourself - sometimes that can make things easier. Remember - your illness or condition is already difficult enough to deal with. Don't compound that and make it doubly hard by punishing yourself in your mind.
  3. Take three deep breaths. Even just this little routine can give you a little distance from the issue and stop you from spiralling down into nothingness. Take three deep breaths, think through whether you've been down this guilt-trip before, think about whether it is helping. Repeat until things feel less awful.

I just wanted to write this for anyone else struggling with this sort of guilt - I am getting better at recognising when it comes by, but I'm still not great. It's all a process, I guess!!

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Book Review: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: The Boneless Mercies
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Publication Date: October 4th 2018

Synopsis: "They called us Mercies, or sometimes Boneless Mercies. They said we were shadows, ghosts, and if you touched our skin we dissolved into smoke...

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are Boneless Mercies - death-traders, hired to kill quickly, quietly and mercifully. It is a job for women, and women only. Men will not do this sad, dark work.

Frey has no family, no home, no fortune, and yet her blood sings a song of glory. So when she hears of a monster slaughtering men, women, and children in a northern jarldom, she decides this is the Mercies' one chance to change their fate.

But glory comes at a price..."

My thoughts: Oh my goodness. This book just held me enthralled. The amazing story that Tucholke has created here is just mystical, magical... Dark, and beautiful. Just wonderful. I may just be gushing now so I'll try to get down to some specifics.

The characters each have their own tale to tell, but you get precious little from them initially. Even Frey, the character we walk with, tells you little of her own story, and focuses more on the present - the next mark, the next meal, the next town. Each character is so wonderfully unique, but similar in being drawn together to do their dark work. Another character, Trigve, fascinated me as well, but honestly I was most fascinated with Juniper - her tale is just magical.

This is a retelling of sorts of Beowulf, and I could see the similarities throughout the story, but never really felt like I was reading a direct copy or anything like that. Tucholke has created her own magnificent world here, and her writing is just captivating and beautiful all at once. I often had to sit back after reading a particular sentence to just marvel and the mastery that she seems to have over the words - this is definitely a writer that I need to read more of.

Anyway, if I haven't gushed enough already, I think you ought to try this book out if you're fond of darker fantasies. Highly recommended.

{I received a review copy of this book from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'We walked slowly through the village of Hail the next morning, to let them see us, the people with death on their minds. It was market day, and busy, but the villagers parted to let us through. None made eye contact - no one wanted to be seen trying to catch the attention of a Boneless Mercy. They gave us a wide berth, so the edges of our cloaks wouldn't graze them as we passed.'

You would like this book if: you like dark fantasy; you enjoy a tone of mystery and women good with a knife.

Rating:  10/10

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Book Review: A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier

Title: A Curse of Ash and Embers
Author: Jo Spurrier
Series: Tales of the Blackbone Witches #1
Publication Date: October 1st 2018

Synopsis: "There are some problems only magic can solve.

Some people knit socks by the fire. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters. But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it's Elodie's job to clean up the mess.

When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she'd find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.

Gyssha's final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie's help, whether she likes it or not.

And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it's still better than going back home."

My thoughts: This was seriously just a really nice romp in a fantasy world - filled with magic, interesting characters and creatures, and of course the requisite evil old witch character lurking in the background.

The characters in this were quite interesting, though quite a few of them didn't hang around in the story long enough for me to get to know them very well. The main character - Elodie - intrigued me. Most of the time it seemed like she was trying to repress her emotions: she just had to deal with what was happening and that was that. But every now and then a truer, more intense version of her shined through, and I found myself getting drawn in deeper because of those flashes. The other character, Aleida, was fascinating, too, though I didn't find her to be as grumpy and prickly as the synopsis seemed to make out. The more I found out about her, the more interested I got, and it was surrounding these two characters that I felt the whole story was built and revolved.

The prose is eminently readable and flows really nicely. I didn't find any of the lyrical beauty here that I found in The Boneless Mercies by April Tucholke, but what I did find was a tale that twisted, turned, and kept me spellbound every time I picked it up. I really just loved getting to know the world and the characters of this book - and I love that this is the first book of a series. I could see myself impatiently waiting for each instalment (as, in fact, I am already doing) - and I really thought it was fantastic that there was a sample of the next book at the end of this one - it fed my appetite a little, enough that I definitely want more.

Overall, this is a slowly addicting novel, with enough magic and whimsy and action to keep you glued.

{I received a review copy of this book from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: ''Gyssha,' she interrupted. 'She's dead.'
'I, I'm sorry to hear that.'

The woman snorted. 'You wouldn't say that if you knew her.''

You would like this book if: You like a magical tale with witches and dryads and monsters (oh my!); you enjoy the odd magical battle with cottage-living.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I would recommend a dark black tea, or some fresh mint tea - both are favoured in the book. Though I believe Aleida is more partial to coffee...

Rating:  7.5/10

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