Storyland by Bryan W Alaspa (BLOG TOUR)

As an avid reader, I’m always on the look out for new books to read and I am totally open to new authors and genres. I’ve found having this blog (entitled ‘Stories Can Make Us Fly’- can you tell I love literature?) has opened so many doors for me into finding new authors and reading books I wouldn’t usually pick up in Waterstones or your local independent bookstore. I am very lucky to be a part of another book tour, this time for ‘Storyland’ by Bryan W Alaspa. I don’t think I would have known about this book if it hadn’t been for having this blog so I feel very lucky!

I have very much enjoyed reading this book and hope you do too. Without further ado, here’s a little segment for you to enjoy.

Excerpt

As I drift off, I start to dream. It’s one of those cases where I am aware I am dreaming, standing beside and above myself, watching. How much of this is actually happening or happened, I don’t know.

Martin and I are at the schoolyard not far from our house. One of those rare days we are not just inside playing Storyland or out in the woods doing the same. We’re just there, on the swings for hours and then on the slide. Finally, as it gets near lunch, we sit on the monkey bars. These are old and rusty things and the ones we sit on looks kind of like stubby bullet dropped on its flat end, the rounded, bulbous, nose pointed at the sky. Kids sometimes go the top and hang from the bars forming a slight dome and try to knock each other off. We’re just sitting up there, legs dangling down into the middle section and our arms around the bars. We’re talking. I don’t remember exactly what we’re talking about – perhaps Storyland or baseball or something.

We hear the sound of a bicycle and turn around to see who else has come to the yard. I remember turning around and looking and see this kid coming. In my memory, now, he is wearing the red hoodie, but it was summer and he must not have been wearing something too heavy. However, in the dream, he is wearing the red hoodie and on the red bike. He’s a kid  we don’t really recognize.

Billy had just moved to the neighborhood. Martin and I find out who he is and where he’s from days later. He’s from Pittsburgh, originally, but a job transfer for his father has brought him here. His dad works for a railroad and has been put in charge of a rail yard near our new home. It’s a promotion, but Billy is pissed he no longer has his friends from Pittsburgh to hang out with. The day we meet him, we learn years later, he has had a fight with his mom about their new home and he heads out with a head full of anger. When he spots us, it’s like a gun has set its sights on a victim. Billy is just a bullet and we are the targets.

He is not pedaling in a threatening way. In fact, he waves to us as he comes over and we wave back. Billy is handsome, with a crew cut and a rugged, if slightly wide face. He even has a small spray of freckles across the bridge of his nose and across both cheeks. He couldn’t look more like a Norman Rockwell drawing of a typical American kid right out of the 50s.

We don’t know who he is. We don’t know about his father and his transfer. We don’t know his father tends to get angry because, although this new job is more money and technically a promotion, he, too, feels like he’s been exiled to Siberia and being punished. It is a home that is more full of anger than anyone realizes.

None of it matters now and neither I nor Martin know it. If we did, it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Those things never matter to kids, right?

“Hey,” I remember saying.

Billy rides over and he’s smiling and seems so friendly. “Hi guys!” he says brightly. “Do you mind if I come hang out with you?. What ya, doin’?”

“Just hanging out here,” Martin replies. There is a wary look in his eyes I can remember to this day. Martin wants the world to be him and me and that’s it.  Now there is a third party and not of his choosing. Whenever others in our class have been part of our party, Martin has agreed to it, even suggested who gets to play with us. “Who’re you.”

“Name’s Billy,” he says as he casually drops his bike and starts to climb the monkey bars to join us. He moves with the casual grace and speed of a born athlete. If Billy had not vanished when he did, he could have easily become the captain of the high school football team and probably gone on to get a college scholarship. “We just moved here.”

He joins us at the top, his legs hanging over the edge. His eyes are bright, but they shift back and forth between me and Martin. I smile and ask questions. Martin is wary and unsure of things, not contributing much to the conversation. He’s shy, I tell myself. This is how he is with new people – strangers.

“What’s there fun to do around here?” Billy asks. “Do you guys play baseball or anything like that?”

“Not really,” Martin replies. He has never hidden his disdain for the very idea of organized sports. I at least follow the Pirates and the Chicago White Sox and some other teams. My dad and I talk about baseball and there have been times I have been tempted to sign up for little league. Martin routinely makes fun of athletes and organized sports. “Organized sports are for idiots who don’t know how to use their imagination.”

This might have been the sentence right there that turned Billy against us. He came over angry, but perhaps seeing some other kids had given him hope. Hope maybe he had found some kindred spirits who would join him in playing baseball and football and other sports. Kids who could go with him to watch Pirates games on special field trips and listen to games on the radio. All of it was gone in a flash.

“Oh, really,” he says with a crooked smile. “What do you guys do instead?”

“We play a game,” I reply and there is a flash of anger from Martin. Given the years, I think he was trying to warn me right then and there not to say anything more. I don’t pick up on the warning. “It’s called Storyland. It’s a lot of fun. Martin here comes up with the best stories and adventures.”

Billy lets out a bray of laughter. I instantly realize something between all of us has changed. There is a sinking in my gut and a clutching at my heart. I look at Martin and he cannot meet my gaze. Instead, his face is red, right up to the tips of his ears, and he is looking down at his feet.

“Seriously?” Billy asks. “Baby games? That’s what you guys do? Do you dress up like wizards and crap? Run around in the woods throwing bean bags at each other and shouting ‘lightning bolt!’ ‘Lightning bolt!'”

He rears back and laughs so hard he has to hold onto his stomach. I can tell Martin is getting mad. It takes a lot to get him there, but you can tell by the shades of red on his face and neck. He is nearly purple.

“It’s not a game for babies!” Martin says. “It takes intelligence and imagination to create complex stories and characters. It takes being plugged into something not everyone can be plugged into. Storyland is a real place!”

I cringe when he says that. No, I think, don’t start with that stuff. This kid already thinks we’re idiots and now he’s just had it confirmed we’re crazy.

Billy laughs even harder. His face is red and he can barely catch his breath between the gales of laughter. He slaps his hand against the metal bars and the entire set of monkey bars vibrate from him striking it. I want to crawl away. I want to get down off of the monkey bars and run back home.

“You have got to tell me you’re kidding!” Billy says between deep whooping breaths. “You have to be kidding! A real place?”

He sets off into more gales of uncontrolled laughter.

Marin slaps the bar in front of him. “It is a real place! Ned and I are tapped into it. We can see what happens there. We get the stories. Just because you’re too much of a moron to see it and understand it doesn’t make it less real, it just makes you an idiot. Not smart enough to understand it. Too stupid to appreciate there’s more to the world and living than smacking into each other playing some stupid, pointless sport!”

The words come tumbling out and halfway through his rant, Billy stops laughing. In fact, as I watch, I see a fuse has been lit the moment Martin suggests he’s an idiot. Martin is so into his rant and so determined to shut Billy up he doesn’t realize the bomb he is about to set off. Martin has lived a sheltered life, without bullies and without guys like Billy. I have seen guys like Billy before, back before we moved here, and I can tell the danger is building and real.

Billy reaches out with one hand without warning. One moment he is listening to Martin as my friend repeatedly tells him he’s an idiot and unable to comprehend the world and some kind of caveman. Billy just extends his right hand, ending in a fist, and there is a meaty slap as he hits Martin directly on the left side of his face, just above his lower jaw and just below his ear. It’s like hearing someone punch a slab of beef. Martin lets out a grunt and a sigh and his eyes glaze over for just a moment and he rocks to the side, nearly falling off the monkey bars.

The reaction Martin has is instantaneous and dramatic. He lurches backwards and makes a horrendous noise. There is a deep and pained moan which starts in his chest and roars out of his mouth. He grasps at the monkey bars and catches himself, but it’s a near thing and he nearly falls over backwards.

Did you enjoy this excerpt? Get your hands on a copy of Bryan W Alaspa’s ‘Storyland’.

Whilst reading Storyland, I found myself constantly on the edge of my seat. It’s full of mystery and the characters are beautifully written. I loved the point of view it was written from; it gives the reader a strong involvement and for sure, it makes you feel like you are there, watching the sequence unfold.

If you want to know more about Storyland following my excerpt, these other wonderful bloggers are part of the blog tour:

Love always,

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Blogmas day 9: Vegan treats review.

Have your self a very treat-ful christmas… Let the Yule…. log be eaten…. apart from the fact it’s probably not vegan so I’ll just watch people eat the cake.. Anyway.Hello and welcome to the wonderful world of Stories Can Make Us Fly. Today is day 9 of blogmas and I’m feeling pretty good! That probably has something to do with a very lovely vegan treat I have discovered… 

I remember the days of Christmases past were filled with chocolate and sweet, creamy aromas… unfortunately, chocolate is something I cannot have. No after eights. No roses. No nothing (well, that’s not strictly true… if it’s dairy free, it will be in my tummy!!!)

It was just as well I stumbled over this new treat:

I have been trying so hard to routinely eat to care for myself. Some days, I’ve known what I wanted; salad to steakless bake to chips from five guys, whatever that day’s craving was, I’ve let my body have it. 

One of the days this week I truly have not known what I wanted and found myself wandering. My wander took me to the other end of town and as I still had no idea, but needed energy, I went into the nearest store, Boots. 

Once in there I was attracted to the Graze section. I managed to wander out with pineapple and a flapjack for lunch (weird, as I don’t eat cookies/flapjacks on the regular). The flapjack I had was Graze’s Cocoa and Vanilla flapjack which, funnily enough, is vegan! I was initially disappointed as the regular and lemon drizzle flapjacks are not but I was over the moon to find out this chocolate tasting treat was. I tried it and honestly? Best snack of my life. 

Usually I would be overcome by negative thoughts eating this, so not actively think of it, but once I finished my shift, I popped straight back down to Boots and bought a few to pop in my cupboard for snacks. Why the he’ll not?! I really enjoyed it and would love to in the future again too.

The flapjack itself is cut into 3 small pieces inside the packaging. I guess for £1.29 it is quite dear in price, but it’s graze! What do you expect? I love graze so much but it truly is expensive, sometimes! Online,you can get them cheaper at £5.99 for 6 packs.

The quality, however, was top notch. I seem to remember some flapjacks I’ve had being too sweet or almost too sticky in your mouth, and some with an unpleasant texture, but this was perfect. 

The balance of oats-to-everything-else was wonderful! It also had little surprise crispy bits (a bit like coco pops) which gave the consistency (and the taste) a little zing.

Unfortunately, these are not suitable for soy-free vegans as they do contain soya (I try to cut down on my soya due to ethics and health but am not soy-free myself) and they do contain whole oats, but there is no info suggesting whether it is gluten free or not (I am not 100% educated on this ans have heard oats are gluten free from some people, but aren’t from others). 

They also have a wonderful source of fibre in them!

It’s a great, healthy snack whilst being indulgent. I hav no guilt in stocking up on them and cannot wait to treat myself more this festive period. It is a great cake-y snack for vegans to make up for the lack of Yule log we’ll be getting

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did,

Love always, 

Blogmas day 8: We’ve lost the pot!

I’ve always loved a little bit of Lush in my life, and that obsession only grew with my age. For years now I’ve been a ‘Lushie’ and a total fanatic of the company and ethics, so getting a job there summer last year was the total dream for me. Now I work for the company full time and have endless praise for them.

Something my family will vouch for is the fact I’ve always been an ‘eco-warrior’. I headed the eco committee in primary school, even, from the youthful age of eight and was always seen as a ‘hippie’ because of it (I guess you could say it… I am a total hippie). My love for the environment, sustainability and all the ethics surrounding it has only grown over time; now I am vegan, I use a bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic and toothy tabs instead of fluoride packed tubes, and pride myself on the many ‘naked’ products I use.

‘Naked’ is the key theme of the post.

The naked products I use, to name a few, are:

Shampoo bars, conditioner bars, naked deodorant, naked shower gel.

Pictured: Karma washcard (top left), Jason and the Argan Oil shampoo bar (left), Sunflower deodorant (bottom right).

Fun fact: From selling shampoo bars alone, Lush save over 6 million plastic bottles a year.

Naked shower gel? Isn’t that just soap? My dear friend, it is not.

If you’re a long time follower of this blog, you may recall I did a post on Lush’s Naked House back at the end of summer. If not, you should totally check it out, but I will be covering the landmarks in this seasonally-naked post!

Naked shower gel is not soap.

Key differences

Soap: Traditionally made from an oil base (most companies use palm oil but I cannot get behind that, and nor do Lush. It is so morally awful and has the worst environmental impacts), such as coconut or rapeseed, the other ingredients are added after the solid soap base is created. The soap lathers up to suds straight away.

Naked shower gel: Think bottled. Your shower gel is created as if it will be poured into a plastic bottle. At the last minute, sodium stearate is added and it is, instead poured into a silicone mould. This has a double lather. The first lathers into your average shower gel feel, and the second lathers as your bottled shower gel would.

Fun fact: Lush used to use their standard mould to create the punny bottle-and-top look for the naked gels (materials which would be recycled in the ‘green hub’), but they have now developed several silicone moulds! The silicone is more environmentally friendly to wash and re-use which sticks with company ethics, and of course, the whole ‘naked’ project.

Picture one shows the original, recyclable mould, and picture two the silicone mound (both filled with naked shower gels in progress).

Related to the above fact, Lush have also actually been a full cycle company since 2013! Four wonderful years without making another black pot and counting.

Above pictures the start of the recycling process of Lush moulds. Black pots are broken up for recycling in the same way.

The Christmas range

Many people will know lush for it’s ever popular festive product, Snow Fairy. Over the years the snow fairy range has only grown; bath bombs sharing the scent, dusting powders (now Sparkle Jars), and now Naked gels and body conditioners! And that’s to name a few. Snow fairy is not the only festive scent to be held in Lushies’ hearts. Popular returns of the year are:

  • Rose Jam (shower gel)
  • Bubbly (shower gel)
  • Twilight (shower gel)
  • Lord of Misrule (shower cream)
  • Christingle (body conditioner)

And our new friends include:

  • Santa’s Christmas (shower cream)
  • Butterbear (washcard)
  • Buck’s Fizz (body conditioner)
  • Berry Berry ChristmasSnow fairy naked shower gel, in production.

Our festive shower gels and creams (aside Lord of Misrule as it’s a Halloween product) have all been released in the naked format. Exciting!

Of course, choosing the shower gel for you is all about preference. If it’s not for you, it’s not (for example, I’m hardly the biggest Lord of Misrule advocate but controversially route for Karma scented anything, any day- it’s just like smell!). However, just think. Some people are dead set against naked from the beginning. Maybe they don’t like change. Maybe they think it’s ‘just soap’ and won’t be swayed. Maybe they’re buying a gift and ‘just want to be safe’.

But environmentally? That’s not safe.

It is a known fact we use too much plastic. We rid of too much plastic. Our oceans are being impacted by this waste.

My verdict

Personally, I stand by the naked products. It helps me cut down on my packaging and wastage (though I, of course, recycle all I can) and I strive to live a plastic free life in the near future.

My favourite shower gel, for sure is Berry Berry Christmas. This was the first naked gel I tried (picking one up the week I worked in Oxford Street, before they hit the shelves in other shops) and I was sold. Truly, there is a double lather so it feels as if you’re using bottled shower gel, but it’s handy since you can’t use an excess (you literally get a lather of the perfect amount). The smell of all things Berry with citrus notes and a green glimmer of glitter are perfect for your morning shower to uplift you, but it also feels like a warm hug that could relax you in the evening.

Below: Berry Berry Christmas via. Lush

*Debate: Is it blue or green? I’m a firm believer that it’s green, but this is a much debated issue. Leave me your thoughts in the comments or pop me a tweet @laurbethany.

I’m glad packaging free versions of popular products have been released (the shower gels, lip scrubs, body lotions and conditioners…) and hope this will transform us to an even more sustainable company (it is a fact that over half of our products are naked, anyway), and seeing so many people opt for the naked version gives me a lot of faith!

Which way do you swing? What’s putting you off the other option?

Please, please, give this sustainable attempt at living a chance to show it’s glory!

Love always,

Blogmas day 7: Cocoamas (vegan advent calender battle)

I remember going into Holland and Barrett last year and noticing a vegan advent calendar, but also noticing that within days, it was gone. At the time I was not vegan so it didn’t hugely impact my life, apart from when I was searching desperately for one as a present for my vegan friend. Sadly, I was informed they had sold out. SOLD OUT?! I was shocked. Surely once they sold, they could make more, right? Or not. Demand was high, so you had to snap that advent up quickly. 

This year when it hit the shelve in early October, of course I had to pick one up straight away. How could I live without an advent? I am a big child, and a big vegan child at that.

The advent calendar filled with dairy-alternative treats was left at the house wherein my mother and sister reside, and I hadn’t had a chance to move it to my own place before, so last night, it was dropped off to me (big up, mother. Big up). 

Not only did she bring me my own, but she also bought me a second one!!! This one was by a second brand called ‘Chocologic’
Chocologic specialise in ‘free from’ chocolate, though it is not always vegan: They have milk chocolate free from SUGAR (obviously not vegan), and gluten free options, but the one I went for was, of course, the free from dairy one (indeed, it was also gluten and wheat free!!!).


Today, I thought I’d review and compare the two advent calendars. 

Us vegans don’t quite have the same choice as milk-drinking folk do when it comes to chocolate and sweets, so the vegan advent calendar market certainly is a tiny proportion of the many in the market. 
Holland and Barrett (£3.99)
As this was my first port of call and the first I bought, I thought I’d review this one first. 

To try and get a good balance I decided to wait for two days and try it first one day and second the other, in case my opinion was swayed by e.g. a chocolate overload.

I have to be honest, I was kind of disappointed with this advent calender.

 It wasn’t very sweet, which I actually think is a great thing as in my experience, vegan chocolate can be waaaaay too sugary sometimes, so I was pretty satisfied. 

It was also a lot creamier than most vegan chocolates- again, this is good because vegan chocolate can frequently taste like cheap goods, so this creamier chocolate is a good change.

In my opinion however, this combination worked against it; it was too far the other way. They tried so hard for a milk chocolate style that it ended up being too sickly. It quite honestly tasted too much of soya, and I find soya totally sickening (I know, am I even vegan?!*) 

This heavy and overly creamy soya taste was not particularly pleasant, especially when accompanied by a bitter sort of cocoa (due to she lack of sweetness) so I honestly did not particularly enjoy eating this advent.

The texture was also a little too creamy for me with regards to chocolate, and instead of being thin the block was too thick for such a strong confection. 
*Contrary to popular belief, soya is not a vegan staple due to the environmental aspects. Soya is not a friend of the green warrior, so many vegans live soya-free lives. Personally, I refrain my soya consumption as much as I can partially for this reason (though, I have not been able to cut it out totally yet fro the sheer amount of food and drinks it is in), and it genuinely makes me feel unwell. 
As I said above, I did trial this as both my first and second chocolate, and this was because on Day 1 it was my second chocolate. I was, therefor, unsure if it was eerily the fact that I had already eaten enough chocolate from the morning.

Result: I felt the same even when I ate it first. 

I do not totally slate Holland and Barrett; all of their other stuff is staple to my life and they at least tried to make this calendar unlike many other companies, but it was not my favourite. In all fairness, I do believe my bias against soya probably impacted this review however.
Chocologic (£2.50)
This calendar was a total surprise for me, and after hearing the last review you know I was probably glad to receive it.

This one was picked up from Tesco for just £2.50, just over half of what the H&B one cost.

This is the one I’m writing about second, and last, not only because I got it afterwards (and didn’t actually know it existed unti then), but because I wanted to end it on a high note. 

This truly exceeded my expectations; I didn’t really know what to expect from either, of course, but this ended on the total other end of the spectrum for me. It was a perfect balance.

The chocolate was sweet but not too overwhelmingly sugary. You could taste that it maybe had a little more sweetness than dairy based chocolate, however, it was not overpoweringly sugary like many other vegan chocolates I’ve tried. This meant it really didn’t taste like ‘cheap’ chocolate. I found it truly was just right!

It also wasn’t too creamy. I know you’re thinking it must need a somewhat luscious creamy taste to taste like a chocolate treat but it really doesn’t need to. It was the right amount of milk-alternative, and subsequently had me craving more chocologic in my life. 

The pieces were also a lot thinner than the Holland and Barrett one. Again, you must be thinking ‘but I want more chocolate!’, but trust me, for an advent, I found the Holland and Barrett chunks too thick. The chocologic one was thin enough to not sicken you, but thick enough to suffice. They’re also shaped in little festive molds!

As you can probably tell, I rate chocologic’s calender as number one, and Holland and Barrett does fall behind quite a bit. That doesn’t mean I don’t rate them as a company, I just didn’t get along too well with their product this time.

I am, following this experience, dying to get my hands on more of chocologic’s vegan goodies and cannot rate the company more.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blogmas! Love always,

Blogmas day 6:The Christmas tag

The Christmas tag? In the middle of the week?! What could you love more than that! I did plan to post this on Monday but if you’re able to give my past two posts a read you’ll understand why it’s not been posted. I still wanted to do it, though, so did a little rejig.

Here goes!

Do you wear PJs or dress up on Christmas morning?

Haha, you’re trying to confuse me here! The morning starts in PJs and we tend to do good old present opening and morning activities in warm jimjams, but always dress up in the day! Whether that’s dressy or more comfy, indeed I do dress up.

I won’t expose all of my past looks to you as I plan to do a whole other post on that, but here’s an example of a dress up but a bit dressed down look:

If you could only buy a present for one person this year, who would it be?

This is so hard!!! I love gift buying and watching people unwrap gifts so I honestly would be heartbroken if I had to narrow it down.

I am going to give two answers…

If I’m honest, it would probably be my amazing boss, Aida. She cares for me endlessly and make my days full of glitter and rainbows… I owe her the entire world. Also, a few weeks ago I bought her a holographic unicorn horn, and seeing her face light up when it was placed on her head truly made life worthwhile.

The other person I’d love to give a present to would be Jadey. I mean, she’s pretty freaking amazing, and I would love to give her something really creative that I’d put a lot of thought and effort into, and watch her open them!!!

Do you open presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

Christmas day, every year.

What do you do on Christmas Eve? 

There’s no set one thing we do. As a child, a christmas tradition was always a lush bath… I remember one year, the product I wanted was sold out the whole week run up to Christmas (I only became a lush hoarder about 3 years ago!!!), so when it got to the 23rd, my dad ran all around London (over 6 shops) just to find the specific bubble bar I wanted… I didn’t even know he did it though, I would have settled for another! But when he came home with it I was over the moon!

We did used to spend the time with a group of family friends we called the ‘Gymbos’ (friends through going to the same gymnastics school), but that stopped a few years ago and we’ve all lost touch a little.

Do you prefer Candy Canes or Gingerbread?

Awh man!!! Don’t do this to me!!! I’m going to say… candy cane flavoured gingerbread? Gosh! I don’t know. Candy canes, probably, because most gingerbreads aren’t vegan but it’s easier to find vegan candy canes.

Have you ever built a snowman?

Yes! Many, many, many. Never on Christmas Day, though!

Do you prefer white lights or coloured lights on your tree?

This made me think! I’ve always had coloured lights on Christmas trees and think I do prefer them, but I love white lights for general decor? I love fairy lights and have some beautiful rose gold ones in my bedroom.

What is your favourite Christmas scent?

Christmas scents are my favourite kind of scents!!! I have so many. I currently have an orange and cranberry Christmas spice diffuser in my room, but I’m also going to give this a Lush twist. My favourite Lush scents are:

-Man in the moon bubble bar (Calacas scented)

-Christmas sweater (sort of a spicy cinnamon scent)

-Plum snow (plum rain)

What tops the tree at your house?

It’s always been a snowy white and silver Winnie the Pooh angel! For as long as I can remember, and it’s so beautiful. It holds many amazing memories in my heart.

I don’t know about this year, however. I know me and my housemates are doing a sort of Christmas (though I’m not sure when), but it won’t be this since I’m living in a new place now. I am excited for pre-Christmas Christmas with these girls though!

Where do you spend Christmas?

It’s always been at my grandparents! Apart from one Christmas where they came to our place, every year I’ve spent Christmas at my grandparents. This year, I had to make a hard decision about not seeing certain family members whilst sticking with tradition and it was not easy. None of it was and it does make me anxious about Christmas.

And that’s that! If you’re reading this and want to give the Christmas tag a go, feel free to nab these questions from me (I merged a few Christmas tags together so I got to most relevant questions to me).

Love always,

Blogmas day 5: Merry Pupmas

Hello, hello, hello!

You may have noticed my absence yesterday,or maybe not. I did make it up to you earlier by still honouring day 4 of Blogmas… just on day 5. In my defence, I truly needed to put my health over anything, including this blogging thing I love to do, as aforementioned.

I mention this absence as, as I touched on in the post I put out earlier today, I ended up, instead of sharing the words I intended to share with you, I cuddled up with my baby angels (my dogs). I have decided to do a ‘pupmas’ post, as who doesn’t love dogs? And I have never introduced my dogs to you guys properly.

So, it’s time to meet my favourite little things to ever exist:

Meet Mollie and Louie:


The smaller doggo is Mollie:


and the bigger one is called Louie:


Contrary to popular belief, Louise and Mollie are siblings! They’re both Jack Russells, but they’re from different litters meaning that Louie is a long haired Jack Russell and Mollie is short haired. 

Louie’s the older dog, hence being bigger, and he is now 7! Mollie is 2 years old and as well as being the youngest, just doesn’t seem to be growing meaning we think she will stay as a smaller Jack Russell. She still looks like a puppy but the girl’s aging fast. 

Louie is a restless fella, and won’t sit in one place for 30 seconds, but it also super clingy. I adore him to pieces and don’t know what I’d do without him constantly on his back wanting a belly rub and whining if I don’t give him a cuddle there and then. Though he’s not so on-your-person huggy, when he wants a hug he nussles his neck against your face and doesn’t allow you to move anywhere else! He also does this when he know you need a hug and it’s so adorable.

Mollie, on the other hand, is a hugger. She sits on my tummy 24/7, or my chest and tucks her head into the smallest space there is. She’s also got a strange obsssipn with shoulders so if you’re sitting up, will probably sit on your heck or shoulders. She sits in the strangest spots at the weirdest angles and sometimes I honestly wonder: how is it even comfortable?! If she sees you crying she licks the tears away and also nussle hugs like her brother, but is more or less close to you at all times. She is independent though, and knows when she wants to be alone so sometimes will sit on the empty sofa instead or go upstairs alone. When she goes upstairs it’s usually to my room, where she has her little familiar spot.

They both lick, a lot. If you have any skin showing they’ll probably lick it and love to use that as a way to show affection. They also like to hold my hand which is the cutest thing!!!


I could tell so many stories can tal about the many quirks of my doggies for hours, but instead I’m going to leave you with a million pictures of them:


AND assure you that yes, I am that person who FaceTimes them when I’m not home (more so now as I have moved out!!!):

I love them more than words can describe. My Instagram 100% will always be bombarded with dog pictures (whether as a post or on my story), so for more, give me a follow!

Happy #NationalDogDay 🐶🌞💘

A post shared by Lauren 🌱 (@laurbethanyc) on

Love always, 

Blogmas day 4: (self)care at Christmas

The Christmas period can be a pretty overwhelming time of year; whether that’s due to changes in your physical and/or mental health, or your job picking up the pace a little, or just the stress of present buying, fitting seeing everyone important to you in and the general family stresses you face on the day.

Personally, it changes everything for me. Today, for example is a year since I landed myself back on crutches with a displaced hip, unable to walk for two months, and here we are again, with a dislocated ankle. A year ago today, my ME and fibromyalgia also flared up alongside this incident caused by EDS, and I would say the day and surrounding period was a very significant turning point for my disabilities (for the worse). My mental health also landed itself on this downwards-facing hill, and it has drastically impacted me since. I can definitely vouch for the fact my mental health is at a low point currently (and has been for the past few weeks) and maybe that is impacted by the weather. Maybe not, but it would be a hearty coincidence if that was the case.

As a result, I just wanted to talk about the importance of self care in this period. Caring for yourself on the daily can be difficult when you’re struggling, and the little things can easily get forgotten or ignored.

Yesterday, for example, I forgot to take most of my medication. I did realise at a point early in the day, and was too on-to-go to think it a priority. I mentally noted it for after I’d finished this, that and the other, but by the time it got to a point I was going to do it, I… simply didn’t. It had left my mind (likely from brain fog- I’m your #1 sufferer) and it wasn’t until around 5:30pm I remembered. At that point, I thought, what was the point? Where was my sense of routine? I couldn’t take it then, as I’d have to wait until then tomorrow to take it. So I left it, and I suffered.

Medication is important.

I am prescribed medication for a reason, so not taking it messed with me. I had been too busy to pre-write yesterday’s blog post, and I was totally unable to do it when I got home. I was in immense amounts of pain, physically, and exhausted, mentally. I could barely walk home and ended up snuggled on the sofa with my dogs for hours. The comfort of snuggling with my little pups was all I needed, but I knew I should have done what I truly needed, as I was sitting in pain and unable to cope with life.

This could have been caused by anything, but not taking medication is probably a key reason for it when you take 101 tablets every day (an over-exaggeration, of course, but it’s close enough).

I decided to try and combat this and do a little self care; I had a bath and allowed myself to ‘chill out’ whilst I did so. I didn’t manage to do this, but the cedarwood oil in the bath helped to soothe the chronic pain I felt, and of course the colours put on a show (I used lush’s ‘intergalactic’ bath bomb- I know, it’s a ‘basic’ bath, but it’s good for chronic pain (with 93,000 miles shower jelly) and I haven’t used the guardians of the galaxy inspired beauty in agessss!)

Anyway, the point of this post is… self care is important. Don’t forget the things you need to do to look after yourself just because it’s Christmas. Even if you’re full of Christmas cheer, and partying away on the daily, you may still feel down, you may still be in pain, and your chronic illnesses will not have disappeared, even if you managed to ignore their presence (which I attempt to do out of a, still, lack of acceptance they exist).
You need to do what you need to do:
Take your medication.
Eat.
Shower and/or bath.
Do your physio.
Attend your appointments.
Drink lots of water
Make yourself a cup of tea
Hug someone
Hug something
Remember; You are not obliged to say ‘yes’ to anyone or anything.

First and foremost, look after yourself. Whether that means asking your friends to see you last minute or cancelling plans last minute, do what is right for you.

Do not ever feel like you have not achieved something. Breathing is an achievement. The little things are achievements.

Even though social media can sometimes be toxic, it’s at times like this I turn to my favourite instagram accounts:

‘makedaisychains’, the one most relevant to this post, is a wonderful source of inspiration. Boring self care makes me feel so, so valid

Day 25: #boringselfcarenov – TOOK MY MEDICATION AS PRESCRIBED . Why is this so hard to stick to? Some questions to think about when posting: – What does it feel like to do the task – Do you need help? What help? – Have you adapted the task? How? – Does your mental health impact? – Does your physical health impact? – Are you neurodiverse, does this impact? – What about your environment? Eg shared housing, homelessness, safety etc – What could change to make the task easier? – How did it feel to think about this task today? – Does your work affect this task? – Do being on benefits or lack of access to benefits affect the task? – Do you know how to do the task? – Does motivation play a part in why this task is difficult? – A goal for the future. . #boringselfcare

A post shared by Hannah Daisy 🏳️‍🌈 (@makedaisychains) on

There are many other accounts I find a source of inspiration, too:

http://www.instagram.com/jessicajumpers

http://www.instagram.com/selfloveclubb

http://www.instagram.com/pixietrash

To name a few. I think i’ll make a post in the near future centering my favourite inspirational instabloggers, but for now, I want to focus on me, you and our self care. These accounts truly have helped me through the day, though.

I hope you don’t mind me posting this a day late (hopefully my day 5 will still come on time, today) and understand. Alike many other humans, I am struggling, but I am doing the best I can. I just don’t want you to forget the little, but very important, things as I have

Love always, Lauren.