Reasons to stay alive - Matt Haig

Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig

Another book in my quest to read 50 before I hit 25.

Let's start this off by saying I love Matt Haig. I read The Humans and loved it so much I bought this and The Radleys straight away from Amazon. It was only when I looked into the author slightly more that I realised the Humans was so much more than I thought.

Turns out, not unlike a lot of us, Matt suffers from depression. I have been lucky in that so far, I have not had any issues with my mental health on a large scale, but this isn't true for some of my best friends and family. 

This book is not a story book, nor is it an autobiography. I honestly don't know how to describe this book, but I read it in one sitting. 

It is a look into the mind of someone who struggles with depression, and is one of the most candid, and surprisingly uplifting books I have read. There are some nuggets of advice to live by in this book that I have photographed on my phone and kept with me. There are some insights into what it is like behind the fog, and the idea of it terrifies me.

I can't really review it because I don't know what to say apart from I think everybody should read it. It isn't a work of fiction for me to pass judgement on, and as it is something so personal to so many people, I don't think I'd dare even if it was.

This book is physically easy to read, and you'll be done within hours, but it will stay with you forever.

Read this book and tweet me your thoughts.

P.s. Go support Mind after.

Adventures at Wisley Royal Horticultural Gardens

RHS Wisley

Little known fact about me: I LOVE walking round gardens. Like, properly love exploring them. (Especially the Eden Project!)

 I also love butterflies. 

(Weirdly, I'm not too fussed yet about the flowers at my wedding, but I'm sure I will be soon.)
 Knowing this, my parents in law kindly got me a year's membership to the Royal Horticultural Society, and a few weeks ago took me and James to the butterfly rooms at Wisley! (I think this was a temporary installation, but there's loads around the country - I know the Natural History Museum does one in the summer!)

I thought I'd share some pretty pictures from our trip. It's definitely worth a visit if you're near - we were there the whole day and apparently didn't even cover half of it!

How beautiful and vibrant are these grasses? They lined some path ways and a pond with different hues of red, silver, purple and green - so so pretty!

RHS Wisley

Pretty purple crocuses breaking through!

RHS Wisley


RHS Wisley

Outside waterfall in the rockery...

RHS Wisley

Succulents in the rockery...

RHS Wisley

Waterfall inside the tropical glass house.

RHS Wisley

Not sure what this is...

RHS Wisley

Butterfly up close...

RHS Wisley

They land everywhere!

RHS Wisley

We also had a gorgeous round of coffee and cake in the cafe, and a lovely meal in the restaurant - such a nice day!

Have you ever been to Wisley? Tweet me your recommendations of other gardens!

DIY Wine bottle lights

DIY wine bottle lights

If you know me, you will know that I love making stuff (check out my other craft posts), and I always have a project on the go. My latest project is these wine bottle lights! I came across something similar in an interiors magazine and thought I could make them myself, so gave it a shot the next day!

Luckily James is part of a wine club, so we have a LOT of wine in the flat, and thus lots of different bottles - we currently have about 6 lined up on the window sill ready for me to use.

I think these look really cool and add an industrial type vibe to an area, but you can do what you want with them - they'll look especially cool with different bottles - think different shapes, glass colours etc...

You will need:
A glue gun, or some form of strong glue (mine was a fiver from of my most exciting purchases ever)
An empty, clean wine bottle, with the label removed*
Fairy lights and batteries

*I found that different bottles mean different labels and thus some peeled off perfectly and others had to be soaked and scrubbed. So far the best trick I have found is to soak in warm water overnight, scrub off the next morning, and use a mix of bicarb and cooking oil on the residue...

Feed the fairy lights into the bottle (mine were £2.50 from Primark...) and shake about so that there is an even distribution of lights within the bottle...

When you are happy, glue a line onto the back of the bottle and place the battery pack onto this, with the switch side facing forward, so you can change the batteries if needed!

Position the bottle so the battery pack is at the back and switch on! 

Ta da! Very cheap and easy lighting to spice up your home.

What would you use these for? Are there any other DIYs you'd like me to show you? Tweet me!

10 things no-one tells you about...being ginger

Ginger hair

Welcome to the third instalment of my '10 things' post - basically a series for me to jokingly rant about issues close to my heart...check out the previous posts in the series here.

This month the focus is on being ginger! 

1) Heads up. Secondary school can be hard, and kids are cruel. My hair was a non-event in primary school, bar the odd teacher saying how nice it was, but the second I got to secondary school, kids I had known for year turned on me like I was some kind of alien...I actually ended up winning an award for spending the most time in the library during playtime - three guesses why that was my place of choice...

2) Weirdly, as soon as you turn 18, your hair is suddenly hot... The same boys who just three years ago were throwing stuff at you will message you on Facebook asking you out...You are allowed to take much glee in turning them down and calling them out for being awful.

3) If you dress head to toe in black and start learning martial arts, you will feel like Black Widow. However, you won't be Scarlett Johanssen and you won't actually be a super hero. (You'll be pretty close though...)

4) In the celebrity lookalike game, you will be referred to as Lindsey Lohan, because no-one can think of other famous red heads. Used to be cool about 10 years ago...not so much now...

5) Every Autumn, there will be a wave of your friends suddenly dying their hair shades of red and talking about how much they love it. Rest safe in the knowledge that theirs will fade, and they will have no clothes to suit their new found locks...

6) Green looks good on you. Trust me. As does mustard.

7) Every few seasons, Topshop wheel out their long auburn wigs and you will feel like the height of fashion. (Until they swap them back out for the platinum blonde ones...)

8) You actually quite like being a rare species. If you are put in close confines with another ginger, and you start sizing each other up....being ginger is 'your thing'...

9) You will spend your teenage years longing to be blonde, and eventually then grow to love your hair and dye it AS GINGER AS POSSIBLE!!!

10) Every so often, articles like this pop up and you will get sent the link by everyone you know. Oh, and told to attend National Ginger Day, and be reminded how we're 'dying out' etc etc. As though you've never been told before...

At the end of the day, it's just a hair colour, but I wouldn't change mine for the world!

Though the following definitely aren't defined by their hair colour, I thought I'd share some of my favourite ginger bloggers to keep to the theme!

Do you have red hair? Would you ever go red? Tweet me!

The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project
The latest book, and one of my favourites so far in my reading quest, is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
I actually saw this book when it first came out - I put off buying it for ages as I didn't think I'd enjoy from the description, but once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down.
The story focuses on Don, a genetics professor, who...slightly doesn't fit in. He has had terrible luck dating and thus devises a questionnaire in order to meet his ideal girl, 'The Wife Project', Along the way he comes across Rosie who...also slightly doesn't fit in and who wants to find out who her biological father is. This becomes 'The Father Project' and runs alongside Don's quest for a wife. The book follows Don and Rosie along the way, and I bet you can guess what ends up happening...
(I say that, but there are quite a few stories running within this book - Don's quest, Rosie's quest and Don's best friends relationship with his wife - it's all super captivating.)
This book is so so cute - nerdy and funny and romantic and very well written. It actually reminded me of someone at work, but James told me I probably shouldn't lend it to him in case he got offended - it's probably true in hindsight...
There is a sequel to this called 'The Rosie Effect' which I'll get as soon as my book pile starts to dwindle again!
Annoyingly, a bit of googling shows me that there are film rights to this, and Jennifer Lawrence was supposed to play Rosie (she would have been perfect!) but unfortunately she has pulled out :(
Have you read this, or the Rosie effect? What did you think? Tweet me!

Maple Walnut muffins

Maple Walnut muffins recipe

So it turns out, Starbucks in the US has very different food to that of the UK. James discovered some form of maple walnut muffin when he was over there in January and I decided I just HAD to make my own.

(My recipes seem to be working out quite nicely - something I did not expect. Check out some others here...)

This is actually a very simple recipe! You basically just whizz together all the ingredients, bake and hope for the best.

The below is what I used in my attempts - I'm very much a pinch here, a pinch there, ooops that needs way more flour...sort of person, so it's not an exact art!

You will need:
200g light brown sugar
100g plain flour
200g of oats
250ml of buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
a teaspoon of baking powder
100g of chopped walnuts
100ml of maple syrup

Whizz everything bar a few of the walnuts and half of the maple syrup together. 

Please enjoy this gratuitous shot of the beautiful Kitchen Aid my rather wonderful in laws got us as a Christmas/engagement present....

Spoon into muffin cases, and place a walnut half of top of each. Bake in the oven for 30 mins until risen, firm and golden. (Half way through, take out and glaze with the remaining maple syrup).


(Not as healthy as they look unfortunately...)

Ta da! 

What's your favourite type of muffin? Have you ever come up with some concoctions? Tweet me!

Las Iguanas, Basingstoke

Las Iguanas Basingstoke

 A few weeks ago an email popped up in my inbox inviting me to Las Iguanas' opening night in Basingstoke to come and sample the menu*. I get told a lot about stuff happening back home (my parents still live there - I've fled the nest 30 miles down the M3 to Southampton at the moment) but I can never usually make it as I'm working in far flung places.  (This was the last thing I managed to make...)

Luckily for me, the stars aligned and it happened to be a night I was actually in Southampton during the day, and the boy was working in Bristol so I had a free evening. Cue a phone call to my mum saying she's going to have to keep this night free as I need company, and the rest is history.

Las Iguanas Basingstoke Pina Colada

Las Iguanas is one of those restaurants that either you've heard of and love, because there's one down the road, or you haven't, because there's not one near. If you don't know, it's Mexican food, with a heavy focus on cocktails. (Menu for the curious...)

Personally, I'd been to one in Cardiff about 4 years ago, and then didn't really head back as there's SO much to do there, but I remember loving it when I did go, so expectations were high....

Las Iguanas Basingstoke Menu

When we got there, I was struck by just how busy it was (not like a bad ohmygoshIcan'tmove busy, but a 'woah, everybody's here') kind of busy - it had been unofficially open for a couple of days and word had clearly spread like wild fire! Everyone seemed to be loving it, and there was a lovely excited vibe about the place.

(On a side note, my brother and 13 of his friends had a free period at college and went the next day - just shows how refreshing it is to have something a bit different in Basingstoke!)

Las Iguanas Basingstoke Cocktails

We actually started the evening with a cocktail making workshop - Joe from the Brighton bar was showing us how to make the signature Caipirinha - a very strong cocktail consisting of sugar, lime and cachaca. I was driving however, so I had to give my efforts to mum to drink - she seemed to like it, so I clearly haven't forgotten my cocktail making skills from my uni pub days...

Helen Louise

The driving however didn't stop me from enjoying some coolers and coffee once we were shown to our table - I'd definitely recommend the raspberry cooler! (Though this photo is of the lemon one...)

I've got to admit, I'm a bit of a bad blogger - I didn't manage to get any photos of the cool decor - a bit of a colourful recycled vibe going on, but there were so many people, all my photos have a random head in the corner! You'll have to go yourself and check it out...

I also have to admit the food was so delicious, it didn't hang around long enough for a photo - I had the BBQ jerk chicken with sweet potato fries, and mum went for a burger - neither of us could find fault with our meals, though there was so much on the menu I wanted to try! Don't these fajitas look amazing?! Next on my to try list...

All in all, it was a really lovely night, and I'll definitely be back if I'm ever in the Basingstoke area! For those of you that are, it's just down by the cinema in town, where La Tasca used to be!

Have you ever been to Las Iguanas? What's your favourite restaurant? Tweet me!

Creme Egg Brownies Recipe

You will need...a tonne of chocolate and cream eggs!

Creme egg brownies

A bit of a quick post today if you're stuck for ideas as to what to do with your left over Easter chocolate - brownies!

I've developed a brownie recipe which has become my perfect base - I've now just started experimenting with putting in different chocolates - we've had Mars, M&Ms, Toblerone and more in this.

Creme egg brownies

You'll need the same ingredients and method as here, just without the salted caramel sauce, salted caramel chocolate and salt!

I used a mixture of full size creme eggs cut in half, and mini creme eggs to hide in the mixture whole.

Creme egg brownies

Pour in the first layer of brownie mix into a lined tray and smooth over.

Creme egg brownies

Drop in the mini creme eggs, and smooth over the rest of the brownie mix.

Creme egg brownies

Place the half creme eggs gooey side up, and bake in the over for 30 mins.

Creme egg brownies

Tada! These are potentially my second favourite brownies I've made, beaten only by the salted caramel!

What do you think? Would you give these a try? Tweet me your results!

Check out my other baking escapades here!