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We are made of starstuff

During my English A Level, I remember a lesson about abstract nouns.  Our teacher explained to us that they are things you cannot touch or sense, they have no physical existence.  "Like democracy, bravery or sadness," she said.

She was wrong though, I think.  This sadness is not abstract, it is concrete.  You can put your hands around it or feel it sitting in the pit of your stomach, as if you swallowed a rock.  It is as physical as a punch in the stomach; it possesses a sting like biting through your tongue.  I would dispute with my English teacher that you cannot sense sadness, or that it is somehow intangible.  It is a clear and present thing that can wake you by pressing on your chest, or be lurking unexpectedly around a corner.  It is an ache that painkillers cannot soothe.  It is the feeling of being dug out with a spoon, hollowed somehow.  I press my fingers into my belly where it hurts.  Itisreal itisreal itisreal.

At my parents' house I sleep with the blind pulled up.  When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see trees against the night sky.  I watch the trees flounder and grow wild in the wind (especially last night; thrashing and twisting in the storm that grew and grew throughout the night).  I am reminded that through wind and rain and as time passes, trees grow roots for stability.  The roots push through the dirt and rocks and hold the tree fast, through still or storm.  I imagine myself pushing my fingers into the mud and grasping, holding tight; clenching pebbles and dust and worms and hidden things.  If I stand steadfast and root myself to the ground, will I weather this storm? Will the rock in my stomach subside? (Everything in life is a metaphor for everything else).

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see lights on in the bedrooms of the people who live opposite.  I watch their silhouettes move around their room; dancing and laughing and sitting and living, just living on and on and on.  I am reminded that through darkness there is lightness and that life goes on.  There are periods in life when you dance in the kitchen, and periods in life when you do not leave your bed, but still time passes.  I imagine that in another lifetime I will be living in a different house and I will be the silhouette and someone else, ensconced in sadness will stare at me through their blinds and realise that life goes on regardless.

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I can see the stars, like tiny pinpricks in the sky that the light is leaking through.  A friend told me today that using the Hubble telescope we can see the light from the Eagle Nebula, which takes 7000 years to reach the earth.  What would I do with 7000 years, I think.  Would this still hurt as much? Would I still love as hard, ball my fists, clench my teeth and hold on to things not meant for me? Would I still feel as scared? Carl Sagan said,  “The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” I cannot believe it right now, but one day I will.  The universe is so vast, and we are so small and we are all made of stars.

When I lie prone, with my head tilted to the side, I tell myself that I will grow roots, that one day I will dance in the kitchen again, and that I am made of stars.  Sleep finds me, and I do not wake until the morning.  The storm has subsided now.  There is a silence and stillness that feels, somehow, concrete.

Savouring Dinnertime

I’m one of those people truly plagued with an overactive mind – someone who constantly worries about anything and everything, and over-analyses the day’s events in slow motion and HD quality (particularly if I said a stupid comment, did something I regret, or there’s a chance to convince myself that someone doesn’t like me). For this reason, I’ve long been searching for a hobby or activity that takes up so much of my energy and brainpower that I switch off from replaying the faux-pas I made in the meeting and just absorb myself in what I’m doing.

Unfortunately I’m far too messy for sewing or knitting, get completely distracted when trying to read a book or watch a film, and the last time I went to a yoga class I spent the entire time worrying I’d ripped my leggings (I had). One thing I have rediscovered lately is the absolute joy I find in cooking. At the moment, I’m currently living at my parents’ house which has been a bit unexpected and just as odd an experience as you might think (I haven’t lived at home since I was 18!) With the weather being pretty horrendous lately and the winter darkness setting in around 4pm, sometimes the evenings stretch out ahead of me and I find myself getting far too introspective (and sometimes a little bored). 

A few weeks ago I decided to start cooking for my parents once or twice a week, and trying to cook a meal that I could take my time over preparing (not just fishfingers, chips and peas!) I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. There’s something so cathartic about chopping vegetables, preparing sauces and watching things bubbling away in a saucepan. After a long day at work (and a long drive home thanks to a much lengthier commute) I can feel all of the worries of the day ebbing away as I prepare a meal. Over the last few weeks I’ve been trialling the HelloFresh boxes, and it’s been a total joy making (and eating) the meals they’ve sent. For those of you that don’t know, Hello Fresh is a delivery service that delivers the ingredients for three or five meals a week. They deliver the entire ingredients for a meal, right down to seasonings, stocks and even small things like garlic cloves or butter. They also send out recipe cards with step-by-step instructions for each meal. You can swap the meals if you don’t fancy the menu that week, and there’s also veggie options for people who don’t eat meat. We actually often order Hello Fresh boxes, usually for the first week of the month when we’re feeling a bit lazy and want to treat ourselves to some easy dinners!

Red Thai Prawn Curry - Recipe here
I think it’s common these days to end up coming home from work in a state of total exhaustion, foraging for something quick and easy to cook in the kitchen (or grabbing a ready meal or a takeaway) and then eating it in silence in front of the TV. I know many of my evenings often end up looking like that. One of the real pleasures of Hello Fresh is not only that it takes time to prepare the food in a mindful and slow way, but also that making that effort forces you to savour the meal too. After the meal is cooked I always take time to sit at the table and really take time to enjoy the fruits of my labour; chatting about the day and usually enjoying it with a glass of wine and some candles burning. My Mum has a rule that we’re not allowed phones at the dinner table (I still can’t get over how pathetic I feel saying that I’m back living at my parents’ house!) and whilst I initially found it annoying, I must admit I do actually really enjoy just sharing news and catching up rather than scrolling through Twitter. Sadly enough I’ve realised that cooking and eating is probably the only time when I just do nothing but focus on the meal (or the eating!) without having my mind on what’s going on on social media, or what I’m going to do next.

I think one of the reasons I love Hello Fresh so much is not only because the food is frankly delicious (I can’t even explain just how many ‘mmm’ noises have occurred from all around the table since I started cooking them), or that all of the ingredients are fresh and good quality, but just for the sheer experience of preparing the food and enjoying it around the dinner table. This is definitely a habit I’ll be keeping up (as well as the Hello Fresh subscription – there’s no way I can live without dinners like Sweet Potato Cottage Pie, Mexican Spiced Tostadas or Cajun Pork (I’m getting hungry now…)

If you want to try Hello Fresh you can get £25 off your first box here.

*This is a PR collaboration but all opinions are my own

Self-Care on Valentine's Day

It's generally acknowledged that Christmas can be a difficult time for people who are on their own, but once the festivities are over and the New Year is upon us, I also think that Valentine's Day is another day that people often dread.  I have to admit that I am not exactly looking forward to Valentine's Day this year, and know several people who are in the similar position of seeing that date on the calendar and hoping it whizzes by as quickly as possible.

Personally whilst I obviously have no plans on Valentine's Day, I've decided to keep this Tuesday as an evening dedicated purely to self-care and chilling in at home (just like every other evening, I hear you say, and you would be right).  Kraken Rum kindly sent me a little Valentine's kit to share with a special someone (this year, that being me, myself and I) complete with black roses, black candles and the ingredients to make an 'Any Port In a Storm' cocktail.  Kraken has long been my favourite rum, and whilst I'm usually found ordering it with Diet Coke in a bar, I'm excited to settle down on Tuesday evening with a glass full of my favourite spirit and a different recipe to whip up.  I somehow feel like staying in with a bottle of wine and a boxset on my own paints a different picture to staying in with a glass full of rum and some black candles burning away in the background - I'm pretty sure that's what badass people do on their own on V-Day. 

Aside from sipping rum, there's several other things I have planned for my Valentine's Day evening.  At the moment with the weather how it is, it's absolutely imperative to come home from work, put the fire on and get snuggly underneath a blanket.  I'm pretty sure that when it reaches 2 degrees or under it makes it absolutely legitimate to get straight into your pyjamas and slippers even if it is only 6pm.  On Valentine's Day I'll be making sure my favourite PJs are freshly washed (I may even put my dressing gown on the radiator to warm it up - never let it be said that I don't know how to celebrate special occasions...)  

 Of course if I'm ensuring I'm treating myself to all of my favourite self-care activities, it wouldn't be a Rosie night in without a long, languid bath with some kind of Lush bath bomb.  I treated myself to a few things from their Valentine's range, and my favourite is the Unicorn Horn bubble bar.  Can you think of anything more perfect than settling into fairytale, fragrant bubbles on Valentine's Day? I'll definitely be lighting candles and making sure there's a rum-filled glass within easy reach.  I've also been bringing in a little speaker to the bathroom and listening to podcasts or audiobooks whilst I'm soaking in the tub - it's the perfect relaxing evening activity (or it would be if I didn't mostly listen to podcasts or audiobooks about serial killers).

At the moment I'm really trying to focus on my self-development and staying inspired and creative even through what is quite a tough time.  So, on Valentine's Day I'll be giving a nod to awesome, independent ladies everywhere by dipping into Radical Self Love by Gala Darling (seems apt for Valentine's Day!), one of my favourite poetry books, and my Christmas present from Emma - Bad Girls Throughout History.  Of course these books will be enjoyed under some sort of blanket, with my cosy PJs on, and maybe with some sort of bowl of snacks to hand.  I feel like self-care and nachos are pretty inextricably linked, so I can imagine whipping up some sort of crisps and dip combo, and then maybe an indulgent dessert.  Nothing says radical self-love like a slab of New York Cheesecake all to yourself.

Will you be celebrating Valentine's Day with your significant other, or planning a night of self-care like me? Whatever you're planning, I highly encourage you to check out some of the awesome things that Kraken Rum have been doing throughout Valentine's Day by looking at the #Rumantics hashtag - which include matchmaking a couple for a date via the excellent blind date planning skills of Ken the Octopus (you can read how their date went here!

*Post in collaboration with Kraken Rum, all opinions my own