Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Today's Workspace: Earrings Galore

While working on a fun wholesale earring stud order recently, I also made a couple extra to top up my own stock levels too for www.littlemissdelicious.com

Earring studs are one of the hardest to sculpt and paint, but also the most rewarding. The battenberg is definitely the most time consuming design I do, and for that reason I think it's also my favourite! 



Stud earrings vary in size, but most are under 1", making them very challenging to paint perfectly, but that's part of the fun! They can take a while to get exactly right, but it's such a great feeling watching them go from a lump of brown clay to little earrings I'm happy to send out.




As always, all designs are hand sculpted, then painted by hand and glazed for a super cute shiny finish. No moulds or stencils are used, making each piece special and unique in its own way!


Which design is your favourite?



Thursday, 18 June 2015

10 Running Tips for Beginners


 When I started training for the Great North Run last year, I never thought I'd still be running now - nevrmind actually doing it again this year! I was always the one that hid at the back in P.E class and avoided doing any exercise in life that didn't involve walking to a fridge or getting up to change the TV channel, so I never expected to get so addicted to running.

Despite running for over a year now, I'm still very much a beginner and thanks to my IC, my progress hasn't been as great as I would have like, but I still haven't let that stop me from falling in love with it. Since I work from home, it's the perfect excuse to have some time out of the house in fresh air, as well as just having some time to myself in general. It's way more therapeutic than I ever would have expected! It's free, you can do it anywhere and it's the perfect way to help boost your mood and clear your head.

I'm in no way an expert, but thought I'd share with you some tips I've learned along the way for any other beginner runners out there to help you in your running journey.

1. INVEST IN THE RIGHT GEAR
Running doesn't require much investment in gear or accessories, but it's so important to make sure you have the right pair of running shoes - you don't have to spend a fortune, but do your research and make sure you get the right pair to suit your needs and budget. It can also help to invest in running socks (your feet will be extremely grateful) and a good sports bra. The rest of the running clothing isn't as essential, but for longer distances it can help to have proper exercise gear. Most high street stores have sports sections now making it so accessible to work out but stay fashionable, and places like Sports Direct and TK Maxx also tend to have the basics at a super affordable price.

2. IT'S OKAY TO TAKE YOUR TIME
Ease yourself into running slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually - try to increase distance by no more than 10% a week. Don't be disheartened if you can't run non-stop for miles at a time right at the start - even if you're doing a short run that involves mostly walking, you're still doing more than if you'd stayed at home on the sofa. Build yourself up slowly and let yourself walk when you need to.

3. DON'T OVERDO IT
I never believed people when they told me running is addictive, especially after my first few runs when I genuinely thought I was dying ha! But you get hooked so quickly, and it can be very easy to try and do as much as you can as quick as you can, but it's important to remember to take a break. Your rest time is just as important as running - you need to give your body time to heal after each run to avoid injury. I try to aim for 2 runs a week, and mix in yoga and cardio workouts on my days off.

4. STICK TO A SCHEDULE
Plan your runs in advance. One thing I really struggled with was trying to consistently fit running into my weekly routine. Running my own business means I work over 15 hours a day, so the idea of being able to fit exercise into that too terrified me. But I've found if I schedule out my weeks in advance, I can set a realistic amount of time aside for running, and it helps keep me motivated if I know I have set running days. Work out when and where you're doing to run in advance, and keep it in a set schedule or diary to help you keep track and make sure it doesn't slip your mind.

Keeping a diary of your runs in general including your route, distance, time, weather conditions and how you felt is a great way to help keep you motivated - when you feel motivation flagging, you can look back and see your improvement.
5. APPS ARE YOUR FRIENDS
There are so many fitness apps out there, and it can help make all the difference when keeping track of your progress. My personal favourite is Map My Run, which I use to keep track of distance, average pace and pace v elevation. It's free and can also be used to keep track of other workouts too.

6. MAKE THE RIGHT MIXTAPE
I'm not sure about others, but I personally find running to music really helps. When I first started, I loaded my phone with all my favourite songs and off I went, but over time I've learned there's a certain beat per minute which really helps me keep my pacing, and oddly it's not the music I would usually choose to listen to! I need faster dance music to help with my pacing, so I've now made myself a playlist specifically for running, with a few wildcard songs added in to give me an excuse to walk for a few minutes every so often.

7. SET YOURSELF GOALS
Whatever your level, setting challenges is a useful way to stay motivated. This can be training for a specific race, distance or even just how you pace out your runs. When I first started I found it easiest to walk for one song, run for one, then repeat until I started feel confident enough to run for two songs, walk for one etc. It also works if you use the same system but with set amounts of time or a set number of lampposts to help structure your run and keep track of your progress.

8. INCORPORATE OTHER EXERCISE
While running can be great for you, it's important to try and incorporate other forms of exercise if you can too. At least 5 minutes of warm up and cool down is absolutely vital before and after you run to make sure you minimise any chance of injury as well as making it a little easier to walk the next day! There are plenty of other forms of exercise that will help you improve your running. Trying to add in some extra cardio and strength exercises throughout the week can really help too - pilates can help build core strength and swimming can even help stretch sore muscles. Incorporating other exercise means if you're injured or just can't face running, you can always do something else that day to help keep fit.

9. STAY HYDRATED AND EAT WELL
The few times I've gone out for a run and forgot my water have definitely been the hardest. It's important to not only replace the water you lose via sweat while running, but you should make sure you drink plenty before and after running too. Never underestimate the importance of staying hydrated! You should also try and have a little snack an hour before running, and a post-workout snack within 30 minutes afterwards. I tend to have banana or honey on toast beforehand, then a peanut butter, banana and almond milk smoothie afterwards. If I don't have time to make a smoothie, chocolate milk is always a good shout too as it's supposed to have the perfect post exercise carb/protein ratio!

10. ENJOY IT!
If you don't enjoy it, you won't carry on. Keep your runs interesting by adding variety. Running the same route over and over again can become boring, so try to vary your distances and routes. Find beautiful local areas to run in, make sure you tailor your music so it's something you enjoy or even listen to podcasts while you run if that works for you. Appreciate the positives even when it gets hard. It can also help to have someone of a similar ability to run with to help spur you on and keep you motivated.


I hope you find these tips helpful - I know it can be hard when you're first starting, but don't give up! Don't be disheartened if you don't see huge amounts of progress straight away, just be proud of the fact you've put on trainers and left the house. 

Are you training for a specific race or fancy trying running in general? If you have any tips or suggestions, please do share them in the comments below!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Shop Update: Happy Ever After Collection

For some reason I go through phases were I just can't bring myself to watch anything but Disney, so thought it only fitting to do a mini collection full of enchanted inspired treats! 


The new Happy Ever After Collection is full of dreamy castles, magical mirrors and other fairytale favourites.

 


 
As always, each piece is lovingly hand sculpted, then delicately hand painted and glazed for a shiny finish. No  moulds or stencils are used in the creation process, making each item completely unique and special in its own way.  



It's also the first time I've ever used glitter in the varnish to seal each piece, and it turned out even better than I expected!


http://www.littlemissdelicious.com/ourshop/cat_975384-Happy-Ever-After-Collection.html


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Brownie, Peanut Butter and Snickers Cheesecake Recipe

As some of you may already know, we moved home last week and it's been so unbelievably stressful for so many reasons - I can't believe so many things can go wrong at once! Everything started to get on top of me a little bit too much, so to help me take some time out I thought I'd have a go at a recipe I've been drooling over for months but never actually braved attempting - the Peanut Butter Snickers Cheesecake Brownie Pie on Inside BruCrew Life. They do say stressed spelled backwards is desserts, so it seemed like the only sensible option ;)


Cheesecake with a brownie base, peanut butter and Snickers filling and whipped cream topping - I've officially found my food heaven. It was my first time making pie crust and whipped cream - even just my first time attempting a full cake really! There are definitely things I need to improve next time (especially rolling the pie crust the right size) but I've never been so proud of myself, or so ready for a food coma.

It's definitely not for the calorie counters or healthy eaters since it's a bit like diabetes in cake form, but it's a treat that is definitely worth the inability to move afterwards!

The original recipe features lots of cheats like a pre-made pie crust, brownie mix and tinned whipped cream. I tried to make it from as scratch as possible, adapting Hummingbird Bakery recipes for what I needed, but I wasn't brave enough to make the brownie base from scratch - I still haven't managed to make brownies I'm happy with, so wimped out and got the Betty Crocker mix! I found the Hummingbird Bakery pie crust a little dry and flavourless, but since the filling was so rich it wasn't really an issue.

Recipe

Basic Pie Crust
  • 260g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 110g unsalted butter
Grease a 23cm pie dish. Put the flour, salt and butter in an electric mixer and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Add 1 tbsp cold water and beat until well-mixed. Add a second tbsp cold water and beat until you have a smooth dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for an hour.

Roll out on a floured surface with a roling pin and line the pie dish, trimming the edges with a sharp knife. Crimp edges if desired.

Brownie Layer
  • 1 packet of brownie mix
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
Mix the ingredients in a bowl until combined. Spoon the thick mixture on top of the unbaked pie crust and spread it out evenly. Bake at 180c for 35 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out without any mixture stuck to it.
 
Cheesecake Layer

  • 227g cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 bag Peanut Butter Snickers Minis, chopped into quarters (326g) 
While the brownie base is cooking, beat the cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla, and peanut butter and beat again until creamy. Stir in the Snickers by hand. When the brownie base is finished baking, remove from the oven and gently spoon the cheesecake batter on top of the brownie. Cover the edges of your crust with foil to keep them from burning. Return to the oven and bake another 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Refrigerate until completely cooled.

Whipped Cream
  • 250ml heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Whisk cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, cream will then become lumpy and butter-like. I used an electric whisk and it only took a couple of minutes! 

Top the cheesecake with the whipped cream, and add chocolate sprinkles if desired. Cut the cake into the desired amount of slices, and keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days - but there's very little chance it'll last that long ;)


If you try this delicious cake, do let me know how it turns out in the comments below!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Shop Update: Sweet Spring Collection

The latest collection to hit www.littlemissdelicious.com is definitely one of my favourites I've made so far!

Inspired by all things Spring, the Sweet Spring Collection is full of cute daisies, bouncing bunnies and delicious Spring snack favourites. 




The Delicious Daisy Chain is one of my all time favourite designs, mostly because it's the first time I've ever attached charms together in a chain in that way, and I'm so so happy with how it turned out!




I had so much fun researching Spring favourites, and even more fun making them. Nothing beats binging on hot cross buns and being able to call it work ;) Stock is super limited, so don't miss out on all the new Spring goodies! Shop now

http://www.littlemissdelicious.com/ourshop/cat_959910-Sweet-Spring-Collection.html

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

What I Learnt From Actually Being On Embarrassing Bodies

Just over a year ago I did a blog post about What I Learnt From Applying to be on Embarrassing Bodies, feeling very positive about even just being open about suffering from Interstitial Cystitis (which you can read about in more detail in my Living With An Invisible Illness post), something I've rarely talked about openly until the past few years.  

I was in town one day and was absolutely fine before I left the house, but found myself in the middle of an extremely painful flare up while by myself, leaving me unable to move, and it just so happened an Embarrassing Bodies truck was outside. I jokingly posted on Facebook about how I wish I had no shame for the chance to get free private healthcare, and surprised everyone (including myself) by going over and talking to them. 

A few days later they rang and said they didn't feel my case was strong enough to feature on the main show, but instead offered me the chance to have a Skype conversation with one of their in-house GPs instead. I was surprised that this disappointed me, realising by signing up I wanted to help raise the profile of the illness for IC sufferers everywhere, as well as people that may have it but don't realise because it's an illness that is often wrongly diagnosed or the symptoms dismissed since they can't always be proved physically. 

I was looking forward to at least getting the chance to speak to a private urologist, something I never thought I'd ever have access to - just to find out it was in fact going to be televised. I didn't expect to feel so emotional about it all - I spend most of my life with people not believing I'm in pain every day or telling me to suck it up because it's only a bit of tummy/back pain (obviously people that have never had IC or understand what it must feel like to have a constant kidney infection but 10x more painful), and only recently found a specialist that understands my condition and how debilitating chronic pain can actually be, so being able to talk to someone in private healthcare that understands just felt life changing.

I was told that after my couple of minutes on the show, I'd get an hour long private one-to-one with the specialist, then an email listing all the advice he gives. I figured even if I didn't learn anything helpful, even just getting recognition that someone actually understands the daily struggles I face and being able to help others that suffer the same was worth going on national television and talking about how I have to go to the toilet 30+ times a day (because obviously they wanted to focus on the more embarrassing side of the illness, rather than the fact my pain was my biggest daily struggle at the time).


The day came, and I was so excited to raise the profile of IC and potentially help others. I went on the show to help raise awareness about an illness that's often misdiagnosed (as discussed at length with various members of the EB team), and then ended up getting misdiagnosed by the consultant live on national TV, despite the fact he knew it was IC. And to make it worse, he suggested it was behavioural. 

It felt like my whole life came crushing down around me - weeks of nerves, just to be misdiagnosed in front of the nation, despite the fact I had told them I was already disagnosed with IC in my application form, he'd written down in my notes that I definitely had IC before the show, and had already apparently created a treatment plan for me that treats IC. But no, while live on air, IC was not mentioned once, instead he said I have an overactive bladder - something I specifically said in my notes that I have previously been diagnosed with but it was ruled out very quickly when the treatment made me worse - and the fact it is so different from IC! That I might have infections - the main way IC is diagnosed is because there are symptoms like those from reoccurring bladder/kidney infection but there are rarely actual signs of infection. And even a year later I still can't think about the fact he suggest it was behavioural.

It took so much not to sit and cry. I was still at the laptop connected to a mic with 2 members of crew around me, and even they didn't know what to say because they knew the reason I went on and knew how angry and upset I was that the complete opposite had happened. I've suffered from IC since I was 4 years old, but it took until I was in my 20s to get a diagnosis, constantly fighting with doctors to get hospital referrals/anything stronger than paracetamol because they just wouldn't listen when I was trying to explain the pain was so bad I couldn't physically get out of bed. After years of being made to believe the pain was in my head, someone saying that to me live on air was a huge slap in the face and something that will stick with me for a long time, even if he wasn't specifically relating it to my condition  (which he couldn't have done considering he didn't even mention IC). Living in pain every day is definitely not something I'd do by choice.

Then came the 'hour long' consultation with the specialist, which was more 10-15 minutes as he was 'very busy'. The first thing he said on the phone was that it's obvious I have IC. I had to laugh to stop myself from crying. I asked why he said overactive bladder on the show, and he said he had to keep it general for the public, completely defeating the point of why I went on the show in the first place. I'd told every person I spoke to I was okay being televised because I was happy to raise the profile of the illness, nobody ever once mentioned they'd be keeping it simple and not actually talking about the illness I went on about. He did then go on to suggest various treatments I haven't tried before, so I was looking forward to bringing them up with my urologist to see if he agreed with any of them.

I hadn't taken any notes while on the phone, because I was told I'd get it all in an email and I wasn't sure of the spelling for many of the longer names he'd listed for medicine recommendations. The email I got was THREE LINES long, very general and only mentioned one medication. The first thing it said was that infection may be the cause of flare ups - something that just isn't present with IC! To be completely honest, if he believes infections are the cause of my flare ups (even after specifically telling him on the phone my tests have always been negative for UTIs) he could not have researched the condition that greatly, as there are a wide range of causes for flare ups beyond infections - which is a very rare cause!) This left me with very little faith in his knowledge of the illness, and made me appreciate my specialist even more. The email also mentioned considered other types of bladder instillations, something I told him on the phone made me worse and I wouldn't try again, but didn't actually mention which types making the advice very unhelpful anyway.

They apologised about how upset I felt after my experience on the show, said they'd listened back to it and the specialist didn't imply my IC was behavioural, but instead was a general comment about the condition. Everyone I know that watched the show saw my reaction when he uttered the word behavioural, and also saw it very differently to just being a general comment. And I wasn't upset that he'd suggested my personal experience with IC was behavioural (because I know for a fact it's not), but more even just associating that with the illness at all, even though it wasn't mentioned by name until after the call when Dr Christian mentioned it at the same time as cystitis - which is a massively different condition.


Even a year later, I'm just as angry as I was at the time. An illness I wanted to highlight as it's often misdiagnosed, ended up being misdiagnosed by a professional that was well aware of my condition, and I don't think I'll ever forget how that felt. 

Luckily I've managed to get my daily pain levels under control myself, which you can read about here.
The only positive that came from it apart from knowing I can be confident enough to openly discuss my illness, is that the next night while out for cocktails someone stopped me to ask if I had been on Embarrassing Bodies the night before but I couldn't stop to talk because I was on my way running to the toilet - oh the irony!

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