If you haven’t noticed, it’s Valentine’s Day! Over on Twitter, Roxy has been sharing her best romance advice, to help you with your relationships – whether it’s Valentine’s Day, your Anniversary, or just because! To make it a little easier for you, she has insisted that I immortalised the advice here on this blog – so without further ado, here we go!
If you like someone, just lick them. All over their face is a particularly good spot, especially if they haven’t woken up yet.
If your other half is on the phone to someone else, show your displeasure by trying to get between them and the phone. Bonus points if you ‘accidentally’ press the end call button. All the attention, back to you.
Lavish your loved one with gifts. Dirty socks, lost hair ties, even dead rodents really say ‘I love you’.
Don’t subscribe to this ‘my side of the bed’ nonsense. Live a little. The best place on the bed is always where your co-inhabitor wants to sleep.
Stop worrying about morning breath. Expose your other half to it as much as possible, until they have no choice but to embrace it.
Want a manicure, but your subtle hints aren’t working? Dig your claws right into your loved one’s skin. The nail clippers will be out before you know it.
And that’s it! Roxy hopes these tips help you out with your future better halves – whether they’re feline or human!
The past year hasn’t been the easiest for my family. In the winter of 2016, I was on the phone with my parents, when they first mentioned something might be wrong with my sister Jessie’s eyesight. My phone signal was bad, and I was on a break at work, so I didn’t really get the full message. I guessed she probably just needed glasses – most of us in my family do.
It was only a few weeks later when I found out she had a referral to Moorfields Eye Hospital, that I really realised the severity of what was happening. By that time, her identical twin had also been to the optician’s and they had found similar symptoms with her – an unusual area on the back of her eye. It was the first of many appointments at Moorfields, one of the leading providers of eye health services in the UK. Each time, there was a little bit of hope that maybe it might not be that bad after all.
I remember the day of their final appointment pretty well. This was the one where we would be getting a definitive diagnosis, as well as an idea of how severe it would be. I was meant to be in lectures for my Master’s, but I didn’t feel I could sit through it without panicking. As a distraction, I ended up heading to the cinema to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’ – but when I left and headed to meet up with them post-appointment, the dread had set in again.
When I got to their hotel, they gave me the news. They were both given a diagnosis of Stargardt’s Disease – something that we had suspected for some time.
What is Stargardt’s Disease?
Stargardt’s Disease is a recessive, genetic disorder, that causes fat to collect on the back of your eye – specifically, the central part of your retina, called the macula. It’s the most common form of inherited, juvenile macular degeneration, and symptoms commonly appear in childhood or during your teenage years but can go unnoticed until later in life. In the beginning, central vision becomes blurry and loses colour, before losing sight in that area completely. It is rare for those with Stargardt’s to become completely blind, but many are left with only peripheral vision. It typically starts slowly, before becoming more rapid and then tapering off in later years.
The news broke our hearts, but obviously, the primary impact was felt by Amy and Jessica. They are both currently in their final year of university, and both previously took time out of their degrees because of poor mental health. The news came just as Amy was returning to her second year at Cambridge University to study Veterinary Science. Jessie was starting her year out from the University of Exeter, where she is studying Animal Behaviour. Both of their plans have had to drastically change following the news – Amy will not be able to practice as a vet (unlike doctors, vets must be able to conduct surgery, which you cannot do if you are visually impaired.) Jessie has always wanted to work with big cats but now has to decide what she can do with impaired vision. She recently had the opportunity to go to Africa with her university, which we made sure she could undertake – because we didn’t know if she’d be able to see them again.
Doing things because we don’t know if Amy and Jessie will be able to see them again is a common thing at the moment. And not something we ever thought we would have to consider in our family. At the end of the day, we are glad that we are in a position as a family that we can make these things happen – we know some other people aren’t fortunate enough to have these opportunities. We’re a strong family unit, that can support them, and each other, through the uncertainty ahead.
We will be taking part, as a family, in ‘Eye to Eye’, a sponsored walk raising money for the Moorfields Eye Charity. They support many individuals and families going through a similar experience, as well as funding new research that aims to make blindness a thing of the past. We are proud that as a family we can participate in an event like this to not only raise money for a worthy cause but raise awareness of sight problems like Stargardt’s.
I understand that money is tight right now – no one has as much of it as they would like! But even a couple of pounds thrown in our direction can make a difference towards our goal of £600. So please, if you can, make a donation. We would really appreciate it – and it would make walking for nearly four hours (with my family) seem worth it!
You can make a donation by clicking here.
Can you believe January is over already? The only silver lining is that it’s nearly February – which means my birthday, and I’m off to see to see Hamilton on the West End! But before that, let’s have a look at how I’ve been getting on with my goals so far!
Full Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links. When purchasing on Amazon after clicking the link, I get a little kick-back to keep the site going!
I love crafting (obviously) but there is one craft that has eluded me. I have tried for a long time to be able to crochet, but anything beyond a granny square was something that I just couldn’t get my head around.
I hate not being able to do something. My long-term anxiety has turned into a perfectionist trait, that I’ve never been able to get through. So I’ve been determined to get my head around crochet for a long time. I had numerous books and magazines with instructions, but after a while, I realised I was possibly starting off a bit too ambitious. Knowing that I could make a semi-decent granny square, I searched for a clothing pattern that made use of this skill, along with using up some of my yarn stash.
After a little bit of digging, I found this pattern posted by Lara on her blog, Thornberry, (Originally posted on a no longer available blog). It looked perfect – nice and simple, but still something I would wear often. I dug out my crochet hooks and some t-shirt yarn I’d been hoarding for a while and got to work.
It was great to feel like I was producing something, and the speed of crochet over knitting definitely makes it feel more rewarding! I did hit a couple of speed bumps. I was aiming to make it all purple, but underestimated how much yarn I would need! It’s been in my stash so long the manufacturer has long since disappeared, and I couldn’t find a close enough match elsewhere. So instead I went with grey, which will match most of my current wardrobe. The two colours seem to compliment each other well.
However, different manufacturer means a different feel to the yarn. The purple was quite stretchy, whereas the grey isn’t. In comparison, it’s rather stiff. The difference isn’t hugely noticeable when wearing it, but it did take some getting used to!
The finished item isn’t perfect – it’s a little bit heavy and feels a bit stiff under the arms – but I’m so pleased with myself for finishing it! It’s great for the current cold spell hitting the UK, and it’s been making my gloomy evenings feel a bit cosier! With the practice creating it gave me, I’m feeling a little more confident going into future crochet projects.
If you’d like to make one of your own, follow this link to buy the yarn that I used. (This is an affiliate link, so when you buy anything on Amazon after using it, I get a little kickback to keep the site going!)
What projects have you undertaken to challenge yourself? How great did you feel when you finished it? Let me know in the comments or over on social media!
Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through Amazon after clicking that link, I get a little kickback, which helps keep this site going. However, I did not receive anything in return for writing this review.
I have been playing computer games for as long as I remember. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. One of my first memories is sitting on my dad’s lap, playing The Secret of Monkey Island – still one of my favourites, especially now I understand the jokes that went over my head as a babe in arms. For my eighth birthday, my grandmother bought my two games: Tomb Raider II, and The Sims. And so began a lifelong love of simulation games. I remember spending hours playing that first Sims game, followed by every expansion pack. Even when I wasn’t playing, I was designing houses on sheets of paper, trawling through the official guidebooks to select furniture. This continued into Sims 2, 3 and now 4.
As a base game, Sims 4 has been my favourite yet. It received a lot of criticism for not shipping with certain features (basements, swimming pools, toddlers), but learning from their mistakes with Sims 3, EA has been careful to expand the game slowly through both free additions with patches and paid expansion, game and stuff packs. The latest expansion pack, Cats and Dogs, was no doubt the most waited for – but was it worth the wait?
As each version of The Sims has had it’s own pets based expansion pack, Cats and Dogs is no doubt the most thought out. The decision was made to restrict the expansion to just two additions. In contrast, The Sims 3 Pets added cats, dogs, and horses (including unicorns), plus small pets, which could be found all over the open world at random. The ambition is to be commended, but is it any wonder why that’s when it all started to go wrong for Sims 3? I personally never successfully added a horse to my sims’ family – it always crashed the game. So whilst it was a move that resulted in criticism from many, focusing on just two animals seems to have been a wise choice.
‘Create a Pet’ has brought back many customisation features that are missed elsewhere in the game, which possibly suggests a wider roll-out later down the line. Whilst I haven’t played with them extensively, the ability to literally paint spots on your dalmatian’s back is great for users wanting to truly make the game their own. Being able to put a piece of toast on my cat’s head was also much appreciated. But I kept it simple for my first playthrough, and just recreated a cat I know and love – Roxy.
Whilst pets aren’t playable characters this time around, you can give them traits that will influence their autonomous behaviour. Virtual-Roxy is affectionate, clever and spoiled – much like the real one. This made her act quite differently to the stray I later adopted, Tom, who was a free spirit, mischevious and a prowler. I found this actually made the game more fun, as I never knew what the cats were going to do next.
I, of course, can’t talk about the game without mentioning the new vet career. However, this is slightly misnamed. Becoming a vet operates more like buying a shop or a restaurant than getting a career. Whilst a great addition to the game, this does mean I haven’t explored the feature much yet – Gone is my excitement over designing buildings, and I don’t have enough time to play to make my sim rich enough to buy one. But the small elements I’ve played were enjoyable, and I look forward to exploring it more.
One of my few qualms about the game is this – for a game solely about cats and dogs, there’s really not that much for cats to do. As a regular cat walker, I wanted my sim to be able to harness train their cats and take them out too! (Maybe a future mod will fix this for me?) You also can’t teach them tricks, so you’re limited to getting them to run an obstacle course to build your Sims’ Pet Training skill in a cat-only household. Neither of these things are massive issues but would have added new features to the game that hadn’t featured in previous versions.
My main problem with the game is one that I have had for a long time. Whilst the overall aspiration system is, in my opinion, an improvement over previous games, giving you little goals to complete over a Sims’ lifetime, new aspirations have been few and far between. The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs adds only one, the Friend of the Animals aspiration, which even in my short time playing I’ve been able to complete. For a casual player, this may be less of an issue, but for someone like me who loves a challenge, I’d love to see more aspirations in the game in the future.
As in, graphics problems. I’ve never noticed any graphics problems in The Sims 4, until this expansion pack.
There are so many clipping problems.
And when it’s not clipping, it’s weird moments like the one pictured below.
Here’s hoping they get that cleaned up in a future patch. Until then, I’ve been turning a blind eye to those little problems!
So, there we have it. The Sims 4 Cats & Dogs – in my opinion, an essential addition to the base game. Just don’t be expecting anything revolutionary.
If you have been purr-suaded by this review, you can pick up the game by clicking on the picture above. When you make a purchase on Amazon through this link, you’ll also be supporting me and Roxy to keep this site going! Then, be sure to let us know what you’ve been up to in game!
Where has 2017 gone? I can’t believe it’s December already! As everyone gears up for the holidays, I’m looking back on my 2017 goals. So, let’s dive in!
1. Finish my Master’s Degree
This one was always a dead cert unless something went drastically wrong. There were a few weeks in August when I began to think about deferring my final essay until 2019 (this has been the year of continuous fatigue) but I manage to stick with it and get everything in. This was despite that fact that by that time I was basically working full-time! (More on that later). I knew that I probably hadn’t done enough at that point to get a distinction, but was happy with what I had achieved. I finally got my results back a couple of weeks ago, and not only passed by got a mark high enough for a merit – except my university doesn’t do them! Boo! Regardless, I am proud to have gone from a lower-second Bachelor’s degree to a Master’s degree, whilst also working crazy hours. I will be officially graduating on the 11th, and have basically been told I have to go because my family wants to come! I don’t particularly feel the need to spend a whole afternoon socialising and waiting for my name to be called, but there we are!
2. Fit in More Crafting
This goal has been a little bit up and down! I have added ten minutes knitting to my daily to-do list (although don’t really time it, I just finish one row of whatever I’m working on!). This has definitely helped, as it’s one of the easiest things I set myself to do. But, I’m still not managing to do it every single day, and non-knitting crafts have really fallen by the wayside. I’d love to be able to do some more papercraft and cross stitch, so think when my current knitting project is done I’ll have to mix it up again!
3. Develop My Career
This one has been a little bit of a rollercoaster this year! Way back in January, I was working as a stage manager for a brilliant new show. This was a fantastic opportunity to return to my first love, theatre. Shortly afterwards, I stage managed another show, this time a devised ‘dramatised tour’. Both experiences were great, I loved them – but they were so stressful. My anxiety and depression were all over the place, making it difficult to get anything done that wasn’t work. Not what you need when you’re also trying to finish a Master’s! I began to see that even though I loved the career, it wasn’t working for me. On top of my mental health, I’ve had more physical health problems during the year that, as of yet, the doctors have refused to diagnose. A job that requires lots of running around and late nights just isn’t healthy for me. I think I knew this four years ago when I first left, but because I had never loved anything the same way, I didn’t know where to turn.
I got lucky though. On a whim, back in February, I applied to do a marketing administration work placement for an arts organisation. I figured it would be good experience whatever I ended up doing. Well, soon after that placement started, their Student Recruiter left, and I was offered the position until that contract ended. Then, their Marketing Assistant left, and I was asked if I wanted to take on that role for an additional two days a week. Meanwhile, my previous experience working with adults with learning disabilities and driving minibuses meant I was asked if I would like to work with our after school disability programme, with the occasional Saturdays. ‘Why not?’ I said, suddenly working five and sometimes six days a week. By this point, I’d fallen in love with the organisation, and had found a new passion in marketing – something I never thought I would enjoy! But all of this was only until the end of 2017, when they were recruiting a full-time Marketing and Communications Officer.
Of course, I applied for the full-time role, really not expecting to get it but not wanting to let go of the job I’d fallen in love with. Much to my surprise, I found out last week that my application was successful! Plus, my manager wants me to continue my work with the disabilities programme, allowing me to be flexible with my hours to make that happen. I really couldn’t be happier, and am still riding on the high from the news!
Safe to say, I have achieved this goal for 2017!
4. Make Some Friends
This was always going to be a hard one. I did start off the year really trying, but as socialising isn’t always something I enjoy, it’s pretty easy to talk myself out of it. Now I’m starting to get a more regular timetable, I will continue to try to do this. I have been talking to people at work, and going out on our work socials. I just always struggle to trust people! But all I can do is keep working on it. I have been trying to at least maintain current friendships, which I guess is something?
This will have to be a goal that comes with me into 2018!
- I passed my Master’s degree, and didn’t just scrape through like I expected!
- I applied for and gained a full-time job at an organisation that I love.
- I’ve nearly finished another large craft project – this time, crochet, which I’m really not good at but determined to try!
Tune back in at the end of the year, when I’ll be outlining my goals for 2018 – and let me know if you have any suggestions or goals of your own!
Saying goodbye to the best stupid dog
It’s quite obvious that I am a cat person. If you didn’t know that already, then where have you been? I do have a special place in my heart for all the dogs we have had through the years though. One stupid dog in particular. But more on her later.
Offie (full name Othello), was my first dog. It took an exceptionally long time to realise that no, he hadn’t gone to live in the attic (a place four-year-old me wasn’t allowed to go). My parents had made the heartbreaking but wise decision that an ageing dog in the same house as four children under four wasn’t the best living situation.
It was a few years before we got Dizzy (full name Desdemona), an amazing Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I have an image in my head of Dizzy being quite a serious dog, but I know that in reality she probably wasn’t. She was certainly pretty well skilled with the ‘Toller scream’ (see – and hear – below). When she was a few years old, we decided to get a second dog, Mabel (full name Mabel.)
Mabel: The Best Dog Ever
I remember the day we went to get Mabel. It was quite a drive from our home, but I was so excited. It was unfortunate that when we got there we discussed she’d had a bit of a dodgy tummy, but because of the long drive, we had to take her home that day.
The smell of doggy diarrhoea is one I can remember vividly to this day. It didn’t help that my and my sister refused to put her in the boot because we wanted to play with the cute puppy.
Mabel seemed to stay as a puppy for most of her life, both in appearance and behaviour. When Dizzy was still around, Mabel was always beta of their pack of two, so never really needed to grow up. After Dizzy went over the Rainbow Bridge, we got Hector and Cassie. Mabel seemed happy to bow down to her feline overlords rather than acting like an adult dog. Even now, she has a cheeky smile as she climbs onto the sofa next to you, and she gets overexcited about any little thing.
She is getting older though. It’s what surprises me most when I go to my parent’s because I’m not there to see the gradual decline like when I lived there. When I visited last weekend, even sitting up made her pant. She wasn’t eating her food (although she was eating plenty of ice creams when offered) and would look at me in confusion when I tried to send her into the garden to go to the bathroom before bed. Whilst we’ve joked for many years that she was a dead dog walking, it became apparent that the date was fast approaching.
When I left my parent’s last Monday, I made my last goodbye to Mabel. I was half expecting her to still be dragging herself around the house when I return later in the year.
It’s a weird thing with pets, isn’t it? That sometimes we know they’re going to die before it happens. It’s written into the calendar as something that will take place at a certain time.
My mum phoned me on Thursday to let me know the veterinary appointments have been made. One on Wednesday, for a checkup. One on Friday for the procedure. Part of me hopes that the vet may still turn around and say ‘Don’t be silly, she’s got years left in her.’ But it’s unlikely.
I know it’s not a decision that has been lightly by my family. It’s a topic we’ve come back to again and again. It is a kindness, to have her put down. But it’s still heartbreaking.
Mabel has been around for half of my life. I don’t really remember a time before her. She’d been a constant companion – one of the best – and she’ll be greatly missed. Here’s hoping that my parent’s give her a good send off this week – with lots of ice cream.
A Good Send-Off
I’m going to be posting my favourite pictures of me and Mabel over on my Instagram throughout the week, so please check it out.
Love you Mabel, my stupid dog. Cassie, Moët, Chandon and Dizzy will meet you on the other side of the bridge.
Update: Good news! When Mabel visited the vets, they said they felt that there was one last thing they could try before putting her down. Something nmust be working, as at time of updating this post (1st Dec.) she is still with us! Fingers crossed we get to spend one last Christmas together.