Sunday, 30 July 2017

Sunday Favourites #286

Who's up for another batch of my Sunday Favourites?

How beautiful is this artwork by Carolyn Gavin?!

I love these beautiful hand embroidered purses from Oliness Art Studio.

Aww Sam's cactus doughnuts might just be the cutest doughnuts I've ever seen!

I need to make this DIY flamingo pool float pillow, also by Aww Sam. Best cushion ever!

These ice cream sundae cakes from A Beautiful Mess are adorable.

I really like this piece of colourful DIY hanging wall art from Bash Studio. I may just have to make one of these, too.

These DIY watercolour clay bowls from Craftberry Bush are so pretty.

Everybody needs a doughnut colour wheel in their lives, like this awesome one from Oh Happy Day!

Beautiful embroidery by Alyson from Bash Studio.

Pretty planters.

This lovely print from Have A Nice Dayy.

This photo is hilarious!

Artist Zinteta turns stretch marks and other body "flaws" in to beautiful works of art. I kinda wish my stretch marks were rainbow-coloured like those in her art work; they'd look a million times prettier!

Oh Happy Day's Colour Factory looks amazing!

Artist Ligia Fascioni takes photos of fragments of the Berlin Wall and uses them in the backgrounds of her beautiful art.

The Foster Dogs NYC adoption photo shoot is the sweetest thing!

Lovely Links

♥ When chronic illness isolates you. Can so relate to this.

♥ This woman had a complaint made against her after she mentioned her period pain at work. Apparently using a hot water bottle for her pain while she worked made her boss 'uncomfortable.' *Rolls eyes.*

♥ 11 visible signs that provide evidence of  an 'invisible' illness. Invisible illnesses are usually more visible than you'd think; you just need to pay attention.

♥ This woman shared how traumatic it is to fly as a fat person. It breaks my heart that she and countless other fat people are subjected to this degrading treatment, ridiculous rules, and mental trauma whenever they fly. How is it still acceptable to treat another human being like that in this day and age??

♥ Saggy boobs matter! They sure do!

♥ Shocking photos reveal what it's like to live in Hong Kong's 'coffin cubicles'. This made me so sad for the people who have to live in them. It must feel so claustrophobic. 

♥ Heartbroken pit bull cried after his family left him in the shelter. This broke my heart, but I promise it has a happy ending!

If you'd like to see more stuff like this, check out my Pinterest and Tumblr. You can also find all previous Sunday Favourites posts here.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Another Boring Health Update

It's been a few months since I last sat down and wrote an update on everything that's been going on with my health, so I thought it was about time I wrote a fresh post to fill you in.

If you read my last health update in March, you might remember that in February I suddenly began experiencing some pretty intense tachycardia and palpitations that resulted in an emergency visit to A&E for an ECG. I had numerous tests at the hospital and with my GP, but the doctors couldn't find the cause of the problem because all of the other tests came back perfectly healthy, and the only conclusion was that my medication could be to blame. However, weeks after I was taken off the drug, my heart rate wasn't showing any signs of slowing down, so my GP eventually decided to refer me to a cardiologist for further tests, and an expert opinion.

And so I waited.

I eventually got an appointment through for the end of May, three and a half months after the symptoms began, which was a long, worrying wait when your heart is racing continuously, and you have no idea why. I have to admit that the length of time I had to wait scared me to begin with, because not knowing what was going on with my heart, I didn't know if my heart was going to hang in there long enough to get me there. I know that makes me sound over-dramatic, but three and a half months feels like an eternity when an organ you rely on to live is suddenly malfunctioning, and you have no idea why. All I could do was pray my heart kept beating long enough to get me to the appointment.

In the meantime, I had a number of appointments and blood tests with my GP to keep an eye on things. Thankfully, all the tests came back perfectly healthy, apart from my heart rate, and the usual high inflammatory and parathyroid levels which have been abnormal for years.

My GP was eager for me to go back and see my rheumatologist as a few months had passed since I'd last met with him, although I was waiting for the issues with my heart to stop before I continued with his care because it was more than I had strength for, and at the time, travelling was only increasing my heart rate. Of course, not long afterwards I received an appointment slip through the post... three days after the stated appointment date. I still have no idea who made the appointment. My GP didn't know anything about it, but she had contacted the rheumatologist to fill him in on the latest developments with my permission, so perhaps he made it. In the end, I had to rebook an appointment to see him, even though I knew it would be a complete waste of time and money because I couldn't take any new medicines, try any new treatments, or exert myself with exercise until I knew what was going on with my heart. It turns out, I was right; my rheumatologist wasn't willing to proceed with treatment until I'd seen the cardiologist, and we knew what was going on. He wasn't convinced the sulfasalazine tablets were to blame for my increased heart rate and palpitations, but he ran a few tests on me, and took my pulse, which was still beating away at around 120BPM! He was baffled, and curious to know what was going on.

While I was there, he suggested a couple of new anti-inflammatory drugs we could try once the heart issues were resolved as a replacement for the sulfasalazine, and talked about the results of my blood tests. My parathyroid, which is the thyroid which regulates how the body uses and stores calcium in the blood and bones, is still very high, and apparently if the hormone remains high for a long time, it can do so permanently which can lead to all sorts of problems like softening bones and kidney failure. If it remains high much longer, I may have to have surgery to remove the parathyroid glands from my neck, but if it happens, it happens. I'm told it's just a simple procedure so I'm not worried. Whatever I need to do to keep myself in working order. I'd rather go through the surgery than further health issues as a result of doing nothing.

There wasn't a lot else he could do until we knew what was going on with my heart, so we agreed to put care for my chronic illnesses on hold until I'd met with the cardiologist, and left it at that. That was £95 down the drain.

With everything going on with my heart,  my chronic pain and chronic illnesses have had to take a back seat, so I've had very little care, and no scans or treatments so far this year. I've not been making any progress, but as no painkiller or treatment has ever reduced my pain, or improved my mobility, it hasn't had a negative impact or made any difference to my life. I would just like to resume my care with the rheumatologist and spinal surgeon soon to try to find something that might help me improve enough to get some resemblance of a life back.

Between that appointment in April and the appointment with the cardiologist at the end of May, very little happened with my health care, apart from more blood tests to keep an eye on things. My heart continued to race uncontrollably at various speeds, and while now and then it slowed down a little, it's not gone back to normal since it all kicked off in February. There were a number of days when it raced so fast I was on the verge of going back to A&E because it was scaring me so much, but I didn't bother because I knew they wouldn't be able to do anything, and I'd have just been wasting their limited time, and resources. I had and continue to have a lot of sleepless nights because when your heart is beating uncontrollably fast it's not only uncomfortable, but surprisingly difficult to relax, and switch off enough to drift off to dreamland. On the particularly bad nights, the speed of my heart puts me on edge, and every time my eyes grow heavy or I feel my heart slow a little, I jolt awake with a fright, scared I'm about to die instead of go to sleep. It's exhausting.

At the end of May, I finally had my appointment with a cardiologist at the John Radcliffe. First I had to have an ultrasound on my heart, which included scanning my chest and left breast up to and including my neck. It was no big deal at all, except that it was actually quite uncomfortable in places, particularly when she scanned my throat, because they have to press down so hard with the Doppler to get a clear image. I also had another ECG- my heart rate was still around 120BPM- and my blood pressure was taken, which was completely healthy.

After the tests, I had to wait around for a while to see the cardiologist for the results. It turns out my heart is perfectly healthy and functioning at it should- apart from beating much too fast, of course. They don't believe my heart complaints are the result of a heart condition, which was a massive relief to hear, but in another way, it's frustrating because I still don't know what is causing the problem. When I asked the cardiologist if X, Y, and Z could cause tachycardia, he told me it could be caused by pain, stress, medication, anxiety, caffeine, other health conditions, nothing at all, and all sorts of other things, and then kinda rudely implied that he thought I looked like the type of person who would be overly anxious. I have to say, I was really offended because I'd only been in the room about thirty seconds, and had barely had a chance to open my mouth. Yes, I do suffer from anxiety but I wouldn't call myself overly anxious these days, as it's currently well-managed, and affects me more in social situations. I know it's not the reason because I've not been feeling anxious at all lately. I've noticed stress aggravates my symptoms, but I don't believe that's the cause, either. I still think the medication, or the strain of almost six years of constant pain is to blame, but lately I've been wondering if my laptop could be contributing to it because I use it so much when I'm propped up in bed with it sitting against my legs and stomach. Although, it was still racing like crazy when I was in Cornwall and away from technology for a week, so who knows. Perhaps I'll never get to the bottom of it.

The cardiologist suggested prescribing me some beta blockers to help slow down my heart a little, but advised that they have a tendency to cause extreme fatigue, which isn't what you need more of when you're living with fibromyalgia!

I finally began taking the beta blockers a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, all they did was increase my heart rate further, give me palpitations, and make me ill, so I had to stop taking them. I still need to speak to my GP about it, and find out if there's an alternative I can try, but I don't want to continue taking them.

I also recently went for an ultrasound on my ovaries to investigate the pain I was getting in my ovaries, groin, and abdomen at the same time my heart first began to race. I don't know if it was connected, but it seemed important to find out in case something in that region could be the cause. I noticed the pain was returning in monthly intervals and seemed to be be coming from the area around my reproductive organs, so I brought it up with the doctor, who wanted me to get an ultrasound to see what was going on. The scan was more to find out if I have PCOS, which I've always been pretty certain I have because I've never functioned normally, and it runs in my family, but I had never talked to a doctor about it. To be honest, it's never bothered me and I don't particularly want kids, so I never felt the need to. I'm still waiting for the results, but it'll be interesting to find out if anything is going on there, and if the results could give a reason for my heart issues. 

Everything seems to be a bit faulty with my body these days. I think I need to go in for repairs or a full body transplant! Haha!

So, it's been an eventful few months, and a lot has been happening, but it could've been a lot worse. My heart is still racing away five months down the line, and I still have no idea why, but the main thing is I'm still alive and fighting, and getting by just fine. I'm not giving up just yet! The grim reaper will have to try harder than that if he wants to catch me!

Well, that's me... how have you been?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Wednesday Wish List

These are some of the fashion pieces I've been coveting this week...

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I'm in love with practically everything on the Hellbunny website at the moment, and I'm particularly enamoured with these ten dresses and skirts. The shapes and styles are perfect, and those prints are all to die for- especially the shell print of the Maya Bay! 

These are all plus size pieces which cater up to a 4X, but they also have straight size variations of each piece on the website.

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These gingham and peach motif bags from Skinny Dip are pretty darn cute. I love me some gingham and citrus motifs.

I also really love Skinny Dip's sweet red lobster cross body bag. It would be perfect for a day out on the coast or at the seaside.

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Lady Vintage's new Lily sweetheart dresses are all so beautiful, especially in the teal cupcake print. I still need something in that print in my wardrobe; it's scrumptious!

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I'm becoming a little obsessed with these amazing novelty bags from Betsey Johnson, which are currently available to preorder but not to purchase just yet. The Webmaster crossbody (#2) is my favourite, with the Pumpkin Spice Latte (#1) coming in a close second, although they're all fucking awesome! I need more Halloween-themed bags in my life.

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Vendula London's new sewing box wallets are so lovely. I love all the little details, and the fact that they're all made from vegan leather, so you can rest easy knowing they're cruelty free!

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These red rose print and embroidered pieces from Boohoo Plus are all so beautiful.

ASOS Curve Sushi Print PJ Set

How cute are these sushi print pyjamas from ASOS Curve?

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And last but not least, I'm smitten with these lovely fruit and bluebell brooches from I Am Acrylic.

If you'd like to see more of the fashion pieces on my wish list, check out my style wish list boards on Pinterest. You can also find all previous Wednesday Wish List posts here.

What's on your wish list this week?

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

50 Things I Would Love To Learn How To Do

Even though my school days are loooong behind me, there are still so many things I would love to learn how to do in life. I'm quite an ambitious person and call me a nerd, if you want, but I enjoy learning new skills, and have this urge to dip my toe in to all kinds of things before I die. I want to try a bit of everything.

There are life skills like learning how to drive and speaking another language that would sure come in handy, and then there are countless crafts, hobbies, and skills like crocheting and photography I would love to try or perfect just for fun.

In an effort to motivate myself in to learning one or two of them, I thought I'd share a list of 50 things I would love to learn how to do with you today. So, here they are...

I would like to learn how to...

1. Play the piano
2. Use all the manual settings on a camera properly so I can take really great photos.
3. Edit my photos properly, because it's one thing I really struggle with.
4. Crochet- particularly, how to crochet a granny square blanket.
5. Use a sewing machine.
6. Make my own dresses and skirts.
7. Make candles.
8. Needle-felt something cute.
9. Use water colours, oils, and acrylic paints properly.
10. Use soft pastels, oil pastels, and charcoal properly.
11. Ice / decorate cakes like a pro.
12. Play the violin.
13. Embroider all kinds of different stitches. My sewing skills are currently limited to cross stitch, back stitch, and french knots.
14. Make my own jewellery.
15. Make a notebook.
16. Book-bind.
17. Speak another language fluently.
18. Make awesome greeting cards.
19. Make a patchwork quilt.
20. Create quality images for my blog.
21. Decoupage something.
22. Fix a socket; it seems like one of those things I should really know how to do.
23. Surf some killer waves.
24. Write beautifully with calligraphy.
25. Drive a car.
26. Die-cut something.
27. Perfect winged eyeliner.
28. Bake / make home made dog treats for Rosie.
29. Knit a scarf.
30. Customise clothing.
31. Arrange flowers in to beautiful arrangements.
32. Keep plants alive.
33. Make a dream-catcher.
34. Create a pretty vivarium.
35. Linocut something.
36. Make my own ink stamps.
37. Make some pretty bunting to string up in the house.
38. Weave on a loom.
39. Upcycle a piece of furniture.
40. Applique something.
41. Make a mosaic.
42. Make something out of clay that doesn't look like it was made by a five year old.
43. Train Rosie to come when she's called, and to stop barking at every little noise. Nothing has worked so far.
44. Bake / make macarons and chocolate truffles.
45. Make soaps and bath bombs to enjoy.
46. Sew a Christmas stocking.
47. Play the guitar.
48. Use photoshop / photo editing programs and tools properly.
49. Create gorgeous flatlays.
50. Make something out of stained-glass.

So, those are some of the things I would like to try. What do you want to learn how to do?


Monday, 24 July 2017

Cornish Adventures Part Two: Newquay Zoo

While we were on holiday in Cornwall last month, we didn't have any of our time planned out, but there were a few favourite places we all agreed we had to visit before the week was up- St. Ives, Perranporth, Padstow, Rick Stein's fish and chip shop, and Newquay Zoo.

On the Tuesday morning, we decided to check another place off the list, and headed out bright and early to visit the zoo, set on the outskirts of the popular seaside town of Newquay.

We arrived at the zoo just before opening time, but we were able to park up, and happily waited for it to open. When 10am came and went with no sign of the gates opening, my first thought was that they must had suffered some damage during the storm the night before. We'd had a full day and night of heavy rain and 100 MPH gale force winds on the Monday which felt borderline apocalyptic, so it seemed like the most plausible explanation.

When the gates finally opened twenty or thirty minutes late, my suspicions were confirmed. They'd had to close half of the zoo to the public because of damage from the storm, but they were offering half price admission, and free entry if we returned again with our tickets during the following seven days. Since we had all visited Newquay Zoo countless times before, we were happy with that, and decided to go in anyway, which only cost us about £7 each. Result! Cheap day out!

My sister and I have been visiting Newquay Zoo since we were kids, and have probably paid a visit to the place during every holiday we've ever taken to Cornwall (which is many), so we know the zoo well, and didn't mind that we couldn't see everything because we'd done it all before. They'd said about half of the zoo was cordoned off, but it was more like a third, and luckily turned out to be the area with few animals and more plant life, so we didn't miss out on too much.

We spent about two hours wandering around the zoo enjoying the sunshine that had finally put in an appearance, and of course, all of the animals that we saw- monkeys, macaques, lions, capybaras, penguins, lemurs, warty pigs, parrots, lizards, snakes, farmyard animals...  to name but a few. My favourites had to be the adorable slender loris in the nocturnal house, the armadillos, and the tapirs, which are one of my most favourite animals. What can I say? I like the weird ones! Did you know tapirs are closely related to rhinos, and that they can whistle? No? Well, you do now!

I was a little disappointed that we couldn't spot the lynx, and that the area with the otters was cordoned off, but we did get to see a peacock displaying his pretty feathers when we stopped for a drink at the kiosk. I would've liked to have got closer to him to take some better shots, but he wasn't a happy peacock, so it was safer to keep my distance, and make do with these crappy photos instead. (Sorry for the quality of these photos; I was using an old point and shoot because Rosie had broken my Canon with her teeth, and I couldn't afford to replace it).

Newquay Zoo doesn't have many large animals- lions, lynx, and tapirs are about it- but they have a wonderful menagerie of smaller animals, and enough variety to keep a visit interesting for people of all ages.

It's quite a small zoo- smaller than The Cotswold Wildlife Park and Twycross Zoo, to give you an idea- but it's a lovely little zoo, and beautifully designed with lots of trees, plants, and flowers everywhere, and even a small lake. It only takes a couple of hours to walk around the entire zoo to see everything, but it's the perfect amount of time for a day trip by the coast because it leaves you more time to spend at the beach afterwards! You could stretch it out to a full afternoon if you took your time watching all of the animals, stopped for a bite to eat, and took your kids to the playground, but it usually takes us no longer than three make it out the exit after an enjoyable visit.

You have to exit through the gift shop, so of course, we gave it a good browse before we left. I came away with a couple of small dream catchers- one for myself, and one to take home for my younger sister.

We all had such a great time at the zoo, and I don't think any of us felt our visit was spoilt just because a good chunk of it was inaccessible. We were more than satisfied with all the adorable animals we did see.

As a huge animal lover, I've always loved  a good day out at the zoo. I've even done work experience in a couple! I just love being around so many weird and wonderful animals. Whenever I take a trip somewhere and there's a zoo nearby, you can be sure I'll find time for a visit; even if I've already been there before, like I have Newquay Zoo.

When I was seventeen and planning to go to uni once I'd finished my National Diploma in animal care, I was actually all set to study a foundation degree in Newquay's Cornwall College very close to the zoo. The course would have actually involved some work with the zoo, and part of my interview involved doing a project there with a few others. I can't remember exactly what it was about, but I think we had to evaluate or come up with improvements for a habitat. I just remember that we chose the tropical house because it was February and fucking freezing outside! I ended up getting cold feet about moving away from home a month before I was due to start the course because I was so incredibly shy at the time, so I dropped out, and I still regret it all these years later, even though I know I wouldn't have coped. While we were at the zoo, I couldn't help thinking what could have been, and what my life could have been like now if I had gone through with it, but I guess I'll never know. I just know I would have loved it if it meant I got to work at Newquay Zoo now and then!

We did consider returning to the zoo again later in the week to do the sections we missed out on, but we never made it back in the end. We were too busy visiting lots of other awesome places. After our trip to the zoo, we headed back to the holiday park for a rest, and later Marie and I went in to Perranporth, browsed the seaside shops, and sat looking out over Perranporth beach with the most amazing Snickers ice cream from a local ice cream parlour. It was heavenly.

If you're an animal lover and you're ever in Cornwall, you need to pay Newquay Zoo a visit! I promise you'll love it as much as we do.

Look out for the next post from my Cornish adventures, which will be all about our visit to Padstow. Coming soon...

Do you enjoy a trip to the zoo? Which zoo is your favourite?

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