Getting A Nintendo Switch

I had been wanting to get a Nintendo Switch for a little while, after playing on our friends one, and once I found out that surgery was needed and there would be a lot of time spent doing nothing in the hospital and then at home afterwards it seemed like the right time to seriously considering investing in one.

After a lot of umming and ahhing my partner decided he would get it for me as an early birthday present, or at least put a fair share of money towards it being a present for me, so we trundled into town a few days after the news and got one. Naturally we went for the colourful controllers because it is a console all about fun and it seemed a missed opportunity to not have it externally reflecting that.

In time we will be getting a pro controller or two but at the minute, especially where it will be getting used handheld in the hospital, we have just stuck with the original red and blue ones that come with it which does make it particularly fun for two player games of Fifa. When you consider the price of the console itself or the bundles of the console with a game or two as well it makes the controllers seem really expensive; when you pay similar money for a PS4 controller it makes a bit more sense when you consider the initial financial investment involved there.

Speaking of games we actually opted for a reasonably good time to invest in the console. I managed to have a look around and get Fifa for £20 whilst we had got Zelda in the console bundle that happened to have a £50 off sale going on. There was also a decent sale on the Nintendo store at the time so I downloaded Thumper, a single player game where you move around a little metal bug on a track and hit certain buttons in time with the increasingly dramatic music, and added plenty of other things to my wish list.

I really want to get Splatoon 2 and Mario Odyssey over the next month or two as well as they both have great offline single player story modes but the team battles on Splatoon remind me a little of the different battles on Destiny (which was something I massively enjoyed) but obviously they are very rarely discounted due to their popularity so do have pretty hefty price tags attached to them.

It really is proving to be great fun though as something to do by myself, something to watch my partner go on or something for us to do together. We did play on the PS3 together but as our Fifa was increasingly old and a lot of the other games that could be done multiplayer are probably more my sort of thing, car racing for instance, it was more of a serious thing to sit down and do it together. Something about the Switch just feels so much more fun and collaborative and the way the store is accessed makes it a lot easier to search for fun games that we might both enjoy or at least be willing to try out.

Having it in our lives is something that I am really happy about and it has added another option of things for us to get up to as well as giving me something to do when I am in recovery. There is a wordsearch game that I am seriously thinking about getting because it is simple, will keep me busy without ending up with a stack of puzzle books by my bed after a week and is relatively cheap at around £7 but it does seem like an amusing thing to purchase; I guess that it is no different to people having a kindle with books for their holiday though as it is a space saver and at least with an on screen wordsearch I can always do them again another time!

Edit (Tuesday 24th April): There was a sale on in the store so I got Astrobears, a party game where you have to avoid clashing into friends trails, for an amazing £2.69. This is a game that we have played at our friends house and it seemed like a really fun and simple addition to have for if we have people round. In that same sale Oxenfree, a mystery adventure game that might give you mild creeps as you get stuck in a bit of a time loop, was available for £3.99 and given the number of good things I heard about it from the community it seemed like not getting it would be a missed opportunity.

Mud, Tooting

I wanted to go to the Mud in Boxpark, Croydon but never actually got around to it before it closed and returned to just having the proper shopfront in Tooting. Luckily my hospital happens to be in Tooting and my appointments are usually done with just enough time to get sitting on a bench in Mud before their 3pm deadline to order from the kitchen.

Luckily I had a friend that was happy to meet me at the hospital after an appointment and do a quick journey across to Mud for a bit of brunch. My appointment lasted a little longer than expected, not helped by the cardiologist running behind a little, but we made it to the door of Mud at 2:55pm and informed them we wanted to order food (which of course was okay with the very friendly staff).

Two brunch dishes

My friend had experienced the eggs benny with pork belly before and already had that decided upon whilst I had taken a look at the menu in advance and decided to give the breakfast muffin a try. When the dishes turned up the portions were great, the smells were delicious and the visuals added to the desire to tuck in as well and it was clear I was about to bite into a real joyfully tasty, fresh and well-cooked treat.

The egg was absolutely fantastic and the choice of egg, to give the vibrant orange yolk, really adds to the dish. The flavour of the egg and especially the yolk going down through the rest of the ingredients resting between the English Muffin made it delightfully rich and even a little creamy in consistency. It was a really enjoyable dish to tuck into and I was extra lucky that my friend offered me a bit of their pork belly to try too (which let me say was super melt in the mouth scrummy and full of flavour); At the end of the meal and when it came to being time to walk out and head to the bus stop I was absolutely stuffed but very content and quite liking the idea of having a post-food nap on the bus.

Mason jar juice and teapot

After spending so long trying to drag out a 500ml water bottle in the hospital, after getting ripped off for £1, I was pretty keen on getting liquid refreshments. After a little deliberation I went for a gunpowder extreme teapot because I love anything that is a green tea and find that the gunpowder extreme one has a really enjoyable flavour and smooth aftertaste to it.

I also went for a juice that was loaded with fruit and vegetables but mainly tasted of beetroot and ginger which is a super wonderful combination of flavours and really gave a fresh and revitalising zingy feel with every sip; I am sure the juice had natural sugar in it but it felt healthy and the consistency of the juice itself wasn’t thin like water but also managed to avoid being clumpy.

Then… A couple of weeks later we returned (again after a hospital appointment and a trip to Wilko’s because clearly we know how to lead the greatest lives) and I just had to try the full eggs benny with pork belly for myself. I was not disappointed. The pork was again so soft and melt in the mouth with a gentle crackle on the outside and being loaded with flavour and seasoning. On top of the hefty piece of pork were two really well cooked eggs, an amazing sauce and some cute little edible flowers. With the smells and the look of the dish I felt like I had already tucked in as my mouth was left salivating at the idea of tucking in.

Mud, Tooting eggs benny

We also opted for a side of sausages and baked beans which were again super well cooked and packed with flavour as well as cutely presented; our table looked like an absolutely joyful feast that any meat eater would be happy to have served up in front of them.

Mud is an incredible place to go for cooked food and drinks but they also do a mixture of cakes and pastries, the Oreo brownie is chocolate heaven, and I would 100% recommend it if you happen to be in Tooting or have an appointment at St George’s and are done before 3pm. The dishes do have a bit of a price to them with a juice, a teapot, the eggs benny with the added pork and one of the sides (as we split the cost in half) coming to just under £18 but if you are having this as a meal to catch up with friends or family and it essentially becomes your main meal of the day then the price is totally worth it.

If you have gone to Mud either when it was still in Croydon or at the original branch in Tooting, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Also if you have any spots in Tooting that are worth visiting for food then do let me know that as well!

And finally don’t forget that to see more photos like this and hear more about my food adventures to give me a follow on instagram.

My Life: An Update

Okay wow this is going to be a much harder post to write than I thought it was going to be. Before sitting down to write it I thought that everything would just flow but as I stare at the screen it is very clear how hard it will be to put everything into words.

About a month ago I talked about finding myself again and throughout recent blogs I have alluded to my current health, especially mental health, but have not really gone into anything super specific. That specific post came a short while before I had to have my yearly checkup at the cardiologists in St George’s to see how my aorta, valve and heart seemed to be getting along.

For anybody that doesn’t know I have a condition called Marfan Syndrome that means everything in the body tends to stretch a little bit and has a habit of not going back again. This stretching includes the aorta and results in it continuing to grow and thin down with every beat of the heart and sometimes medication and the body can help to regulate it for years, decades and even a lifetime.

Unfortunately for me, unlike a lot of people I know that managed to hold out until their 30s+, my aorta has grown an additional 2mm from the last measurements that I had done from an MRI in October. This growth take me to 4.6cm which is above the “healthy” and “safe” 4.5cm recommendations and as a result the cardiologist has sent me of to the surgical team to get the ball rolling to have it magically repaired over the next couple of months.

Part of me walked into my cardiology appointment and expected the news as I could feel that something was wrong deep inside and I woke up telling myself that “whatever they say, just accept it”. It resulted in me sitting there all calm and relaxed during the discussion and then in the aftermath of stepping back into the waiting room to meet my friend and dash for some brunch just sort of playing it cool but deep inside I was a little shocked and worried.

The shock and fear came out a little that first evening as I tried to go to sleep and instead just cried into my pillow. It is not the worry about how it will impact me or if anything goes wrong what impact it will have on my life but more if it goes wrong or seriously wrong then the impact it will have on family and friends. Death itself is not something that I tend to fret about but much more the devastating consequences it can have on other people and that is something that I am struggling to see beyond here.

Because I have always known that it is a risk and something that will probably happen it does not feel any more real yet than it did before I knew. My cardiologist says I am at no more risk now than I was at the last measurement but that I do just need to take it a little more careful and make sure I do not just lift something even as a one off. When I meet the surgeon and I get asked to go to another MRI and any other tests then my feelings might start to change but I will admit that it has started to mess with my mind a little bit and is bringing me down a little bit because since finding out it has become obvious how out of breath, sweaty and chesty I feel after even just walking to work.

The surgery does mean that I will be recovering for a minimum of six weeks and can expect it to take up to three months for me to feel my usual self again. I will be doing an update at the bottom of this post, with an edit when I have something extra to say, and going forward I will let people know what the situation is but it does mean that when the time comes my blogging schedule might end up completely ruined (trying to be the pre-scheduling queen though!).

EDIT/UPDATE Friday 13th April: I met with the surgeon earlier this week and she confirmed that she wanted to proceed with the surgery, informed me of various risk factors and statistics and did a little basic drawing to explain the situation. When it had initially being mentioned to me the cardiologist suggested to me that I have a think about when it might work for me and to discuss a time frame with the surgeon but it turns out that the surgeon wants to act pretty quickly and said six weeks. On hearing that news I went on a shopping spree and a brunch eating mission because that is moving a lot quicker than I could possibly have expected.

EDIT/UPDATE Monday 23rd April: I had my MRI test at the end of last week. They had a slot become available on the Friday so gave me a ring on the Thursday afternoon to ask if I would be able to go along as they want to get the surgery done at some point in May and therefore wanted the MRI to be done as soon as possible to avoid any extra time pressures because of there being bank holidays in May. Whilst I am not that keen on an MRI itself because you are stuck in a loud tube for over an hour the thing I despised, and I do not use that word lightly, was that they failed to put in four of the small canulas and in the end the registrar had to put a larger one in on my hand… I may have cried and now be covered in hands and inside elbow bruises.

A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

It has been several years since I first picked up this book and I actually worked my way through half of the eight books that I have back then but given it was such a long time there was part of me that just wanted to start again from the beginning.

As I had read A Study In Scarlet before there were parts of the story that I could remember in great depth but there were also bits that had slipped from my memory and it felt like it was being read fresh for the first time. For me being able to return to a book and it feeling new or at least different bits popping out is the sign that it is a worthwhile read as it has multiple levels of complexity to it that cannot be appreciated all in one sitting.

Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study In Scarlet

Copyright of book cover belongs to Penguin

Having read some of the books before the writing style of Arthur Conan Doyle for the Sherlock Holmes series is something that I knew worked for me. It works through in chapters and follows the journey of the detective, through the eyes of his companion Dr Watson, in a way that allows the reader to feel like they are also skulking the streets and sniffing their nose through cigar ashes with them.

This book does have a slightly different layout and approach to a lot of the other stories as it focuses on the mystery itself in the first part and then in the second part it provides a lot of background and a sequence of events that could stand as a story by itself without it resulting in an investigation. It is clear at this point that Conan Doyle was investigating with his writing style and figuring out what worked best for him and the characters in terms of making it into a popular and ongoing series to be published in the magazines.

The investigation, the detailing of the events and the descriptions of the people and their actions is really well put together and helps to build the story and in a way that allows it all to flow together instead of being jarring just to force clues and hints upon the reader. In many ways it does not attempt to give the reader too many clues but instead just lead them through the story in a standard fictional story way because the only person that is supposed to be able to understand the events and how the answers come to be properly is Sherlock Holmes himself.

It is just a really good classic book and a really friendly story to get you into the Sherlock Holmes stories. What I would say is that the books are completely different to the TV series and you cannot expect to like one and that you will automatically like the other as whilst there are some similarities it is certainly not a like for like comparison. Likewise if you have ever watched any of the films that attempt to retell these stories then you may get a completely different vibe from the book as I really feel that the way the reader gets brought into a Sherlock Holmes written story cannot be replicated by watching something that takes away many elements of the imagination.

Want to know what else I have read or am currently reading? Give me a follow on Goodreads to stay right up to date. If you have given this first Sherlock Holmes book a read I would love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below.

Under A Mackerel Sky by Rick Stein

I love seafood to both cook and eat so often enjoy watching and reading Rick Stein recipes and as a result I picked up a copy of his memoir Under A Mackerel Sky. I knew it was a bit of a long shot as good food, recipes or understanding of ingredients does not make for a great author if they actually choose to write their memoirs themselves rather than bring in a ghostwriter.

Under A Mackerel Sky

Copyright of book cover belongs to Penguin

Sadly the style of writing did not turn out to be a pleasant surprise and it was a little dry and felt lifeless throughout. There are some memoir books where it really feels that the person writing it, or sharing their ideas with a ghost writer, just is not at all comfortable with sharing things about their past and no matter how much they try to open up it just still feels really stiff and jarring for the reader.

There were certainly some interesting points in the book such as giving a glimpse into the fish/seafood scene and stock in the UK, especially in the South West, as well as how privilege functions for travelling and moving around. I didn’t feel like I learnt huge amounts, or really anything, but it is always good to see a different persons perspective on things especially when it is something that they are specialised in.

The layout of the book was nothing mind-blowing with just a few parts containing multiple chapters and with that it felt very structured and linear. It felt even more linear as a result of it starting at an early point in life and going through in a seemingly chronological order rather than connecting together different themes throughout. Usually such a simple book layout and timeline feel to a book is something that I appreciate, at least in a novel it jumping all over the place can leave me feeling a little confused, but for a memoir it felt like several points and emotions became repetitive as a result of the way it ordered in time or not.

On the front cover there is a quote from the Observer saying it is a “fine autobiography” and the word fine tends to have two meanings but in this case I cannot help but feel that this is just a mreh mediocre kind of fine because it is nothing groundbreaking, it doesn’t really feel like it lets the reader into Rick’s life or past that much and it doesn’t feel like it connects to the person that we know today but just another person in the cooking industry which is pretty disappointing.

It really just is not worth the read and you are unlikely to feel that you are learning much about the man that has spent so much time telling us about seafood, fish and various other produce from across the UK and beyond. The first few pages made it obvious that it was going to be a real slog to get through the book but I persisted on the hopes that it would warm up. Sadly it did not warm up and all and it became a real drag but I was in one of those moods where I was not going to openly admit defeat and wanted to at least read it so I could get it out of my To Be Read stack and even possibly into the Give To Charity stack instead.

Want to know what else I have read or am currently reading? Give me a follow on Goodreads to stay right up to date. If you have given this memoir a read I would love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below.

Updated Thoughts On Hello Fresh

Back in February I decided it was time to try and make life a little bit easier by giving Hello Fresh a try. My hope was that it would take away the need to think up meals off the top of my head, write down a shopping list and then go and get those ingredients; they are all super simple tasks but they started to feel a little overwhelming and especially where my mental health has been a little bit more miss than hit.

Wraps and chips

Not only did I find it making everything a lot more simple in terms of meals but it also made meals a little bit more exciting as even the more ‘basic’ family classic recipes have a little twist to them that helps to stop it from feeling drab. Getting stuck in a food rut is a hole that almost everybody falls into at some point in life and for me the end of 2017 and start of 2018 was that moment and it really made thinking about food incredibly unappealing. All the recipes come in card form as well so it means that in the future there are plenty of quick, interesting and tasty meals on hand to add into a week of cooking which really makes it a bit like a gift that keeps on giving.

Burger and chips

There are a couple of meals that have left me feeling a little underwhelmed but we are talking one or two in the entire time of us giving it a go and even then the meals were not bad or horrible to taste they were just not quite what I imagined them to be. Some of the dishes I have cooked have turned out to be some great discoveries and have really made me think about food differently; we very rarely, if ever, would usually cook a gnocchi dish but there are so many that have been super tasty and delicious that it is something that we would be more likely to consider in the future.

Risotto and salad

Hello Fresh is certainly something that we are likely to continue with for a while longer but I am not imagining it to be something that we continue to do all the way through to the end of the year as I feel that there might be a point where it feels repetitive and a little difficult to pick out new and exciting meals. Hopefully by the time that point is reached we will have a good bank of recipes and I will be feeling more up to figuring out a weekly food menu and getting all the food into the kitchen to make it happen.

Aubergine, cheese, freekah and salad

It does have a bit of a price to go with it, five meals for two people comes in at just under £50 a week, but given we were at a point of grabbing things for cooking from a local supermarket rather than a larger store and also being a bit overwhelmed at figuring out what the actually cook so ending up turning to a takeaway it doesn’t work out any more financially shocking than our previous spending. As we do attempt to switch back to doing all the cooking and planning ourselves we will go for a transition of getting the box that is three meals a week before stopping completely just to ensure that it doesn’t seem overly daunting.

Have you given Hello Fresh a go or are you interested in giving it a try? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! If you want to see more of what I cook then give me a follow on instagram.

Products I Want To Use Up In 2018 #4

Wow the product drought really hit this month. After finishing so many products in the first couple of months, combined with a month of not feeling that great and a little lazy, there was not a lot of products already on the go or a lot of products that were calling out to me.

Despite it being such a small amount of products I don’t feel disheartened but actually extra encouraged to carry on working through everything because small progress is better than no progress. And whilst the product numbers are low these are actually some hefty sized products that take a long time to use up so it reminds me that constant use and persistence was not as much as a meaningless exercise as it felt at points.

Things I Have Finished

Four product empties for the project pan

  • Lush Snow Fairy Shower Gel. This bottle was getting close to the end of its life as I got it over Christmas 2016 so I just used it as a bubble bath replacement given I am currently out of those. The main reason I was happy to use it as a bubble bath though is, shock horror to Lush lovers, Snow Fairy is probably one of my least favourite scents.
  • Baylis and Harding limited edition midnight fig and pomegranate three wick candle. This is a pretty hefty candle and I remember purchasing it around May 2017 but didn’t start burning it for quite some time. I love the scent, scent throw and even burn of this candle and it certainly makes me want to try more candles from the brand in the future.
  • Anatomicals apricot face mask sachet. Apricot was the OG of skincare back in the day and this threw me back to those days a bit. This was a gentle scrub on the face and did a little but nothing groundbreaking. I think I just need something super strong and vicious to tackle my face properly.
  • Body Shop papaya body butter. It was a consistently thick body butter and less of this was needed, even when we got further into the tub, than I find with some of the other scents from The Body Shop. The scent itself wasn’t my favourite but it certainly wasn’t bad either. Based on the formula I would certainly consider buying it again in the future, if it is on sale, but would not go out of my way to get this particular one.

Things I have Realised

Generally since the start of the year I have avoided bringing any new products into the flat, unless for my partner who ran out of shampoo, and actually there has been hidden progress on products that I cannot show after using (a lot of bath bombs and Yankee Candle votives being the main examples). Seeing the bath bomb stash slowly go down and resemble something a little more normal also reminds me that even if a product seems to last months and continues to take up room progress is being made and eventually that patience and determination will pay off.

Not bringing products into the flat is a lot easier than I thought it would be. Whenever I go around spotting something I am able to pause and reflect if I already have that product in the flat, if it is something that I will use and enjoy and whether the price tag on it is something that I am actually willing to spend. My willpower is actually a lot stronger on the product buying front than I thought it would be but this could be based on visiting the same shops regularly and choosing to not even step into the doors of somewhere like The Body Shop for safety.

Things I am Hoping For

As there was little visible progress this month I am hoping for another breakthrough at the end of April. There is certainly some good progress on a number of items, including a facial oil, and I am managing to use items again more consistently which of course helps.

I am still using shower gel as bubble bath so am hoping to get through another bottle or two of those and I am making sure I use bath bombs in every bath instead of treasuring them for some unknown and unlikely “special occasion”. Hopefully by continuing with this the bath bombs will all be able to fit into a square tupperware box in the bathroom cupboard rather than also being in a drawer in the bedroom. Whilst I love baths and the products that go into them I really want to cut down everything in my collection before opening the floodgates to new items coming in.

It seems increasingly possible that by the end of the year I will be able to know what type of products and what specific items I really enjoy having around or which just do not work for me; facial oils are surprisingly enjoyable whilst silicone primers are 100% not my jam.

How are you finding using products up so far this year? Have you hit a bit of a dry month when reflecting on your empties at the end of the month and if so how did you overcome it? I would love to hear more about your projects in the comments below.