An oh so cosy Autumnal feeling.

Every year my aunt and I take a walk through the pumpkin fields, it has turned into quite the tradition and each year I seem to enjoy it more and more.

This is my second favourite walk of the year, the first being the walk I spot the first of the Spring lambs. I guess I am a little bit in love with the change of seasons and well, as much as I love Spring, my love for Autumn comes close.

Our pumpkin walk never fails to fill me with that oh so cosy Autumnal feeling. This year we added to our tradition by putting Osca into a little pumpkin costume, isn’t he truly adorable? I think he was glad of it to as the wind soon picked up.

I came home to two sleepy dogs, the fairy lights on and a salted caramel candle lit. Now to finish my lovely Sunday with a cosy evening catching up with some work followed by a couple of episodes of Gossip Girl, my new but actually old obsession and a hot chocolate, if only I had bought another one of these sweet chocolate covered marshmallow sticks .

What is your favourite walk of the year?

Wishing you well, Nicole

There for me.

For those who have experienced any illness will know how much of an impact it can have on relationships and how easy it is to remember all of the negative effects it does.

Today I chose to look back at the positive relationships in the hope sharing them might help someone support or be there for someone else. It is hard to know what to say or do when supporting someone with an illness and I hope this helps in someway.

An open letter

I am writing this to thank all that helped me when I needed it. You may not know that you helped but after reflecting I feel very grateful for the way you acted and I cannot thank you enough.

To my loved ones for never giving up, for trying their best to understand and for being there no matter how I treated them.
To my mother who no matter how hard, never got angry with me and reminded herself that I was ill.
To my father who reminded me to keep going and of all that made me, me.
To my sister who reminded me of what happiness looks like.
To my brother for wrapping me up in a blanket.
To my grandparents who did not judge and always looked to my future.
To my best friend who spoke to me about everything and anything.
To the lady who asked ‘are you okay?’ whilst I was crying on the park bench.
To the woman in the supermarket who didn’t stare but instead smiled and looked me in the eyes.
To the hospital staff who spoke to me like a person not a patient.
To all who shared their experiences and reminded me recovery is possible.
To those who never stopped seeing Nicole.
To everybody who stands up to stigma and to those who have changed the way they think and act about mental health.

Thank you for being #thereforme

I wrote this post a couple of weeks back but didn’t feel it expressed just how thankful I am. I wanted it to show that supporting someone experiencing ill mental health is nothing to be feared but I didn’t quiet know the words to say it.

This morning on World Mental Health Day, Heads Together teamed up with The Mix and Dixons Carphone to create the #thereforme campaign. The campaign expresses everything I wanted this post to.


World Mental Health Day 2016.

Today is World Mental Health Day- a day to talk. Along with Time-To-Change, today I wanted to share with you here a small part of my experience with mental health.

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years hiding my mental health, partly because it was never spoken about, I didn’t know what mental health was and the little I did know was based on what I had seen on the television. I grew up believing that a person had to be thin to have an eating disorder and that mental health hospitals were all straight jackets and restraints, my beliefs were wrong. It was because of these beliefs I hid more, I never spoke up or asked for help, I was ashamed, confused and lost.

From the ages of thirteen to twenty-one I hated myself; my mind, my body and my whole existence. Don’t get me wrong, I was still able to smile, enjoy days and have some good memories to but underneath it all, at the back of my mind, I wanted to disappear.

wmhd-graphic.pngI remember friends saying to me ‘you have the mind of an anorexic’- healthy on the outside yet living a life of obsessive calorie counting, food restriction and over exercising. Those friends soon disappeared, as did I, loosing myself more and more each day. My life became what I can only describe as a nightmare, I was a puppet to the voices inside my head, the ones that called me fat, ugly and pathetic, the ones that were in complete control, pushing my friends and family away, taking everything I was. I became weaker at every moment and felt utterly exhausted both mentally and physically.

If only somebody could have seen, not my body or a number on the scales but what the illness was doing to my mind. If only more people didn’t believe in the mental health stereotypes seen in the headlines and knew that eating disorders are mental illnesses, not physical, not based on appearance.

At the age of nineteen and after just finishing a very dark first year of university, I was diagnosed with ‘Anorexia Nervosa’- finally a name, something in black and white, an illness, something to end the confusion and feeling of being completely lost. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that, a diagnosis is no cure, it is just the beginning. People would stare, point, blame my family, say it was ‘a phase‘, that I was ‘attention seeking‘ and that I ‘just need to eat‘.

After a very long up and down journey, at twenty-one, I was admitted to a mental health hospital. I spent six months there and for the first time in what felt like a lifetime of being alone in it all, I met people who truly understood. I was given the right treatment, taught how to feed myself, cope with fears, anxieties and truly begin my recovery. Like the diagnosis, hospital didn’t cure me, there was no ‘quick fix’, recovery is a journey and one that takes time.

My time in hospital is one of the hardest, most challenging things I have ever and probably will ever do but I did it and it is something I am now extremely proud of. Thanks to organizations like Time to Change I no longer feel the need to lie about why I left university, the two years missing from my CV or the time I spent at hospital, because of it I am who I am today. I am strong, brave and no longer the girl wishing to disappear instead wishing to be seen and more importantly wishing to be heard.

The stigma and discrimination around mental health is partly what led myself to suffer in silence, to feel ashamed and confused. The mental health stereotypes people often believe in led me to think I was not ill enough, that I did not deserve help and allowed the illness to go unnoticed by those around me.

no-one-should-feel-ashamed-1Please let what I, and so many, have experienced teach us that we must stand up to stigma and discrimination, we must try to understand, educate future generations and hopefully prevent anyone who experiences a mental illness from feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

Today is the perfect day to talk mental health, make a pledge to help challenge mental health discrimination and of course do something for your own mental health and wellbeing, whatever it is that makes you feel mentally healthier.

Thank you for reading,


ttcchampslogothumb Helpful links: Mind, Rethink, Sane, Heads Together, Student Minds, Young Minds

Personal links: Mental health postsMy first blog post for Mind, WMHD 2015, Time-To-Change

Five simple ways with almond butter & product review.

Since becoming gluten-free and vegan I have tried all kinds of healthy, organic superfoods and finding the right ones for me has been harder than I originally thought, that’s why I thought I would share with you two easy to have, daily superfoods that help me feel super (sorry could not resist!).

First up, if you haven’t already guessed by the title is almond butter, I am sure by now you all know how much I love almond butter and if you don’t this post will show you. I like almond butter on pretty much everything, but liking every jar of almond butter is impossible. Call me fussy but I do not understand how a one-ingredient almond butter can taste so different. I have tried countless brands and even made my own but none compare to finding a good tasting, easy to buy, ready to use, jar of almond butter.

Last week I tried Indigo Herbs Organic Raw Almond Butter, my first time trying a ‘raw’ almond butter and I am surprised at how creamy it is, I am not sure if this is because it is raw but I find it a lot creamier than the other brands I have tried and there is no need to stir in the oil either! The almond butter has strong nutty taste yet it is far from sickly, the perfect jar to show you (and enjoy eating) my five simple ways with almond butter, let’s get started!

1. Porridge topping! To some it sounds so simple, to others it sounds like a different language, I remember the first time I ever tried it and it blew my mind. One of my all time favourite breakfasts and one that needs to be shared. Again, the creaminess of Indigos almond butter makes the porridge even more satisfying and fuels my oh so busy mornings. Simply add a dollop to your already made bowl of porridge, stir in or enjoy scooping a little with each mouthful. I made this bowl pretty on my day off, of course busy mornings call for those messy, chuck it together and hope for the best kinds of porridge bowls.


2. Frozen banana & almond butter dip. Again it sounds so simple, it is so simple and truly enjoyable. I find this great for my after swimming snack, is it just me who gets unbelievably hungry after swimming? The frozen banana is most enjoyable after drying my hair to.. Talk about needing a cool down.


3. Almond butter on toast. Such a classic and one that can make a quick breakfast or snack, probably another favourite.. See what I mean about my love for almond butter? They are all my favourites! Finding a gluten-free, vegan bread that doesn’t taste like cardboard can be hard but pop it in the toaster and spread over a spoonful of Indigo’s raw almond butter and you have yourself a very delicious and satisfying snack, completely transforming your gluten-free bread, oh the magic of almond butter!


4. Sweet potato toast? Yes that’s right sweet potato toast, a few weeks ago I saw this floating around social media and I couldn’t not give it a try, after all it seems to be quicker than roasting and I am all for those quick meals. Here I tried slicing and toasting a sweet potato, completely shocked that it actually works, I had to put my toaster on quite high as I think I cut the slices too thick. I took the toasted sweet potato and topped it with almond butter, I felt it needed a little something else so feeling experimental I added some cucumber and pepper, strangely a great combination and perfect lunch.


5. Apple slices complete with all the toppings! This makes such a perfect mid afternoon or late night snack. Simply slice up an apple, smother the slices in almond butter and top with whatever takes your fancy! My favourites are chocolate sprinkles, cinnamon, raisins, chopped dates or oats. Syd and Archie get to share the apple core and maybe a little almond butter to, if I’m feeling generous.


So there they are, my five simple ways with almond butter, what is your favourite way?

The second daily superfood is the Organic Spirulina tablets also by Indigo Herbs. I have lost count over how many times I have tried to incorporate superfood powders into my lifestyle. As much as I hate to admit it, I would rather spend my time elsewhere than cooking up a recipe each morning. So including superfoods and giving myself those extra key vitamins and minerals whilst being on the go has proven difficult.



Luckily Indigo Herbs have created these Organic Spirulina tablets, amongst others. Here they have simply pressed the powder into a tablet form making adding them to my morning routine as easy as possible. When I first received this packet I assumed the powder would be in a capsule but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the tablets are 100% spirulina, absolutely nothing added, completely organic, gluten-free and vegan. Unlike other natural tablets I have tried, these don’t have that ‘herbally’ smell again, making them even easier to take! The packet itself is small, re-sealable and air-tight adding to the easiness of the tablets.

If you are looking for simple, natural and organic ways in which to feel great I highly recommend both of these products and I am already looking forward to ordering more products from Indigo Herbs, I have my eyes on their raw chocolate! If you have any other simple ways to enjoy almond butter or any other superfoods please do let me know.

Thank you for reading,


My kitchen cupboard essentials (gluten-free, vegan & affordable)

Herbs, Spices & Seasonings: Chilli, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, ground ginger, garam masala, pepper, smoked paprika, parsley.. ALL THE FLAVOUR. Many moons ago, before I had even gone vegetarian, spice and flavour did not enter my diet, not much anyway. Now, they are one of the things I love most about experimenting in the kitchen. I love finding flavours that go well and creating my own sauces and dressings, making all kinds of combinations. My cupboard filled with tiny jars doesn’t just come in handy when I am cooking but also with the simple things like cinnamon sprinkled onto fresh fruit and ginger stirred into porridge. You can pick them up in pretty much in every supermarket but always check the back as sometimes the mixes can contain wheat flour.

Nutritional Yeast: Please don’t be scared (as I was!), I have mentioned this in previous posts and I can not recommend it enough, it creates the most creamiest sauces, seasons crispy kale and gives toast a nutty taste, a lot of people say it tastes cheesy but I find it more nutty. Simply mixed with water, herbs and a little tomato sauce and you have a great pasta sauce. It is in most health food shops now but I just order mine online, it seems pricey but one tub goes a long way, it also contains vitamin B12, bonus.

Sauces: I am a huge lover of tomato, soy and hot sauce, I wish I had miniature versions for when I’m eating out. Tomato and hot sauces are usually always gluten free and vegan but I would double check just to be sure, more often than not there is no need to buy a special free from sauce. As for soy sauce you have to buy the gluten free one, which is usually double the price but I assure you it’s worth it.

Nut Butter: Almond is my personal favourite- M&S’s if I am being particular, I also like Meridian’s cashew butter but of course peanut butter is probably the most popular or at least it is with Syd & Archie. Whatever your type nut butter has to be an essential! It is so handy to have in the cupboard although a jar never lasts long, maybe buy two.. just in case. Nut butters are great and can completely convert a plain and boring meal or snack into something truly delicious, nutritious and satisfying. My favourites have to be a dollop of almond butter in my porridge or on the side of my apple slices and cashew butter smothered on toast.


Chickpeas, Lentils & Beans: Of course chickpeas are here, I don’t think I go a day without at least some form of chickpea, whether they be roasted, boiled, in a curry, stir fry, soup or stew, made into falafels or hummus, chickpeas are great! As beans are to, my favourites are butterbeans, haricot, mixed beans and of course Heinz baked beans to. I did go through a faze of soaking my own overnight and then cooking them but call me lazy, it’s just too much faffing and canned in water are very cheap to buy and handy for just one.


Quinoa, Brown Rice Pasta & Rice: I have put these three together as I pretty much use them the same way with most of my meals, all can be bought at supermarkets and are long lasting, which is perfect when you are cooking for one. Again, being a little lazy I love microwave rice & even quinoa to but I only buy these when they are on offer.

Oats & Cereal: Call me a creature of habit but starting my day with a bowl of porridge sets me up for the day, not all people with a gluten intolerance will need gluten free oats however I am one of those who do, luckily the price of gluten free oats have come down in price and it always surprises me how long a bag can last. Cereal is a little more expensive I like to buy plain cereals such as rice and buckwheat puffs and add my own flavours with almond milk, chocshot, dried and frozen fruits. Both always come to the rescue after a busy day or when dinner hasn’t quiet hit the spot.

Dark Chocolate: A bar of dark chocolate is a must or a packet of dark chocolate buttons.. Ooo dark chocolate buttons. Stay on track, gluten free, vegan chocolate isn’t hard to find and there are plenty of supermarket, affordable options. Me being me I am a little bit of a chocolate snob but I don’t mind paying a little bit extra for a nice bar. I have to be careful I don’t eat too much late at night as dark chocolate contains caffeine and I am a little caffeine sensitive.. It’s just one of those staples that is great to have in for when I need a little boost, to have along side a coffee or even a square or two added to some porridge.

I think I will have to stop myself here otherwise this list will go on, maybe I will have to write a fridge and freezer essentials post to! What is your favourite kitchen cupboard essential?

No number will define me.

No matter how far a long in my recovery I get, being weighed always gives me that feeling, the feeling that my whole life depends on the number on the scales. I guess standing on the scales, waiting for that number to appear, once a week for almost four years will do that to you.

When I was ill, I believed all Anorexia told me, I really did believe the lower the number- the better I would feel but of course the number was never low enough and I never did feel any better.

When I was recovering, I tried to believe the higher the number- the better I would feel, but of course trying to believe something that goes against everything Anorexia makes you believe is really rather difficult and for me, it was almost impossible. The small part of me that did believe it began to measure my recovery on that number, if it didn’t go up- I hadn’t tried hard enough, if I didn’t gain weight- I wasn’t recovering well enough.

And the part of me that still believed in Anorexia’s thoughts saw this as; if I wasn’t recovering well enough- I might as well not recover, which is just what Anorexia wanted.

Okay, I know this sounds confusing, trust me I am going somewhere with this..

The thoughts about not recovering well enough were somewhat reinforced when my time out of hospital became solely measured on how much weight I had gained. I am not saying weight gain isn’t important during recovery, I am very aware of how important it is but recovery isn’t measured on it alone. Anorexia is a mental illness and mental progress cannot be measured with scales.

It took a while but with help from therapy and mindfulness I began to distance myself from that number, until I felt it really no longer mattered. This worked well for me and I began to measure my recovery and health on how I felt, physically as well as mentally; feelings over numbers. This allowed me to change the way I viewed recovery as well as how I viewed myself, I started to notice all the things that made me, me, and guess what? Not a number in sight.

I went a good couple of years without weighing myself, something my nineteen-year old self would have found impossible, this helped and lead me to fully believe that the number on scale would never define me.

That was until yesterday when my GP asked to weigh me today, being instantly reminded of every past belief and thought about that number; what it would mean if it was higher or lower, how it would make me feel, left questioning myself, my journey and my recovery. I spent most of yesterday trying to remind myself that no number defines me, repeating it over and over again.

This morning those worries still running through my mind and before I knew it I was on the scales and back off again, with a huge sigh of relief. There was no need for me to question myself or my recovery, even comparing how that number affected me years ago to how it affected me today shows me how well I am. I felt nothing towards it, okay I admit- I felt relief that my GP could happily tick a ‘healthy box’ but other than that nothing.

Growing up my mother never had scales in our house, she told us that we should only measure ourselves on how we feel. It might have taken me a long and windy road to understand what she meant but I finally got here.

I hope after today the next time I am weighed, for whatever reason, I don’t feel that dreaded ‘my whole life depends on this number’ feeling because although it didn’t last long, it was still a complete waste of energy.

I know this is a rather personal post and it won’t be relatable to everyone but for those who weigh themselves or get weighed, recovering or not recovering, wanting to be higher or lower, please believe in no number defines you, know that there is so much more to you than a number and that a scale can not measure what makes you, you.

Thank you for reading,


Three weeks driving.

Last month I (finally) took and past my driving test! I have never really seen myself as an anxious learner but driving solo is completely different to having lessons and even being with someone else in the car. When I past my test the examiner said to me ‘now you start to learn to drive’, this couldn’t have been more true, in the last few weeks I have learnt so much and here is just a few of them..

  • This might just be me but the louder I sing the faster I go, scarily without even realising! Note to self; do not get too into that song, not even Adele or Demi.
  • Do not wear a jumper on a long drive, it gets hot and you will have no choice but to sweat it out, lesson learnt.
  • Flashing lights are very distracting, do not look into the lights.
  • Do not drink too much coffee or anything for that matter but especially coffee before a long drive, you will need a wee and there will be no toilets, story of my life.
  • The motorway is kind of wavy and if you go too fast you will feel sea sick.
  • North wales does not always mean home, confusing I know but signs don’t always make sense.
  • Your back will hurt, always stretch after driving, another reason to do more yoga.
  • Do not let the sky distract you, not even the sunset, not even if it is as beautiful as the lion king sky, no.
  • Always have sunglasses at the ready, especially my fellow Brits, you really never know when the sun will make an appearance and oh gosh it burns.
  • Sneezing whilst driving is scary, keep your cool, hands always on the wheel and always stay alert.
  • My parents always had a no swearing rule, I grew up never swearing, I still don’t, until that is I am driving. Road rage happens and no amount of breathing can help, it is okay to fdh**j@dh it out.

How I have been dealing with the more serious kind of driving anxieties:

  • When I’m unsure of my route or panicking about being in the wrong lane I look for a car that someone I know has, I then imagine it’s them driving and I know it sounds silly but it helps, imagining someone I know on the same road.
  • A few times I have been a little paranoid and anxious over something being wrong with my car, the brakes, gears or wheels, when this happens I take a few deep breaths and look for somewhere I can safely pull over if needed, reminding myself that I am in control, just planning what to do in my mind makes me feel more at ease.
  • If those anxieties do come true (touch wood), be prepared, I have all my breakdown information stored in my phone, if anything were to happen I know exactly who to call and what information I would need.
  • Something that always triggers anxiety for me is rushing, having to be somewhere on time, to avoid this when driving I have been putting more than enough time in the parking ticket machine and making sure I leave home earlier than needed.
  • I have found listening to chilled music so helpful with taking my mind away from the anxieties, I don’t think I could listen to anything too fast or loud but chilled music has definitely been helping me feel more calm.
  • Going the wrong way, it happens to most of us, my dad being the exception, when this happens I always think to myself ‘what is the worst that can happen’ of course stopping my mind from over thinking the answer. The worst that can happen is I end up somewhere else, I automatically take a different route or I stop somewhere  safe and plan another route, all non life or death situations and all completely manageable.
  • With independence comes responsibility, I don’t know who said that but it could not be more true, for me anyway. Not being able to drive has meant or at least had been an excuse to rely on my parents for quite a bit, more than I would like to admit. Since driving I have felt that independence I needed however, with that I have also felt the responsibility. Feeling (almost) fully responsible for myself, if I need something I have to go and get it, if I am going somewhere I have to go, I don’t have to wait anymore and I can’t make excuses either. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much enjoying it but the fear of not enjoying it is there, the fear of anxiety, feeling anxious over feeling anxious. I am choosing to embrace this, regardless of anxiety, I choose to embrace the change and the feeling of growing up, finally feeling twenty three. Wow that got deep.

Is this all just me? What have you learnt since learning to drive?


Up, up & away.

Yesterday evening my family and I decided to walk up Dinas Bran, Llangollen, it was not a surprise to find we weren’t the only ones there, with it being the weekend of The Wales International Balloon Festival, the castle (mountain top) was filled with people all hoping to see a sky filled with balloons. After a while waiting and wandering if we had got the right time, I was all set to give up with the views being beautiful enough not to feel disappointed, when one by one they started to appear. Floating over the town and up into the sky, so colourful and calm, it was a truly beautiful evening. Here are some of the photographs I took, it was a little hard to stop myself from snapping away, I even dangled out of the car window a few times on the way home. The balloon festival is also on today and hopefully weather permitting the sky will again be filled with balloons for people (and dogs) to enjoy.

Time to Change Young Champion.

You may remember a few weeks back I posted ‘Find a Penny’ and about receiving some very exciting news, well, the exciting news was I was accepted to become a Time to Change Young Champion and this weekend saw my first training sessions.

I can not put into words how inspiring the whole weekend has been, I have met some truly incredible people and I am so very excited about working with everybody at Time to Change.

Being in a room filled with people who share the same passion and determination to end the stigma and discrimination around mental health felt very overwhelming, in a good way of course. Surrounded by such bravery, honesty and positive energy left me feeling empowered to make a change, knowing we can and we will make a difference.

I am overly excited about the up and coming future and really cannot wait to begin. I feel very thankful for this opportunity and would just like to thank everybody from this weekend and all who made it possible, you are all truly wonderful!


Roasted vegetable & chickpea curry.

September is here which means I am back to creating warming dishes for cosy evenings. I love experimenting with vegan curries, that also happen to be free from my allergies; gluten, onions and garlic. This recipe is also free from oil, nuts, mushrooms and coconut. The curry is super easy to make, takes less than an hour, can be made the day before, frozen and will leave even non-vegans wanting more! What more could you ask for?

Continue reading “Roasted vegetable & chickpea curry.”