Thursday, 11 January 2018

Inked: My Tattoo Experience

If you follow my Facebook page you may have seen me post about my new tattoo. This is my second tattoo now and I'm thrilled I finally got it done. I won a voucher ages ago for Urban Gorilla Tattoo in Sligo and because of college and trying to decide what design I wanted, I only just got around to using the voucher. My mum and I were booked in to get it today (Thursday) but got a text from Diana yesterday to say she had some free time if we wanted to get it done. We jumped at the chance as we both were eager to get it over and done with (mum especially, as it was her first tattoo!) and of course we were excited.

We headed to Urban Gorilla which is located on Water Lane, by the Garavogue river in Sligo. As soon as you walk up the stairs you can smell how clean the place is by the smell of disinfectant - I always think this is a good sign that the tattoo parlour is hygienic. Wally in Urban Gorilla did my first tattoo (an elephant on my shoulder blade) so I knew I was going to get friendly service and a good quality tattoo. Wally makes you feel really comfortable and isn't intimidating at all, which is great considering getting a tattoo is quite a daunting experience!

Diana printed up our designs and did a rough outline of them. After a short wait it was my turn to be inked. Because I wanted the tattoo to be on my ankle, Diana had me lying down on the bed with my ankle slightly twisted so she could see what she was doing. Everything was sterilised and Diana regularly changed her gloves each time she touched something, as well as wrapping the tattoo gun in clingfilm. After wetting down my skin slightly in the area where I wanted my tattoo, Diana placed a transfer of the outline of the tattoo on my ankle and told me to look in the mirror and tell her if it was positioned where I wanted it. I gave her the go ahead - and then the real fun began!

I know the biggest question people usually ask is "Does it hurt?" With my shoulder tattoo, I didn't find it hurt very much at all - only in places where the needle went over the bone. A lot of people say it's more annoying than anything and feels like someone scraping or burning the surface of your skin, and I would agree with this. With the ankle tattoo, it hurt a lot more than my shoulder. I'm usually quite good with pain but I was gritting my teeth and clutching the edge of the bed in some parts. I found the upper part of my ankle hurt more than the lower part of my ankle (near the ball of my foot), which surprised me. Thankfully the tattoo only took about 40 minutes - it was over before I even knew it. 

I'm absolutely thrilled with my little fox tattoo, I can't stop admiring it. I have it covered with clingfilm and medical tape for the first 36 hours and have been cleaning it and applying aftercare cream made with hemp oil, which you can also get at Urban Gorilla. It seems to be healing nicely already! So that was my tattoo number two experience. If you have any questions feel free to ask and check out Urban Gorilla on Facebook here.

Monday, 1 January 2018

A Clean Slate

I know a lot of people get sick of the 'New Year, New Me' thing every year, but I love having a clean slate and a fresh start to the year - even if it does only make me feel motivated for a week or two. I like to look back over my blogs and Facebook posts to see how my year went at a glance. 

I have to say, 2017 wasn't a great year for me - and a lot of people, I'd guess - it came with a lot of challenges, knockbacks, some health issues and plenty of obstacles. But here I am, going into another year and feeling pretty happy with life at the moment. I truly believe all the crap and bends in the road life throws at you help you get stronger and deal with everything. The way I see it you can either pick yourself back up and dust yourself off or let life pull you down with it.

In 2017 I went into my second year of college, went to Newcastle, a photo I took won a photography competition, got a First in my exams, suffered from depression (probably my biggest challenge of the year), attended counselling and got the help I needed to overcome that challenge, dabbled in upcycling/craft, and felt like I (mostly) got my shit together.

In terms of what I'm hoping for in 2018, and my sort-of New Year's Resolutions: I'd like it to be a year of health, more adventures and trying different things, being healthier (this is a big one), putting more time and energy into the blog and blogging about things I really want to write about, whilst trying to figure out if the 3rd year of my college course is going ahead or if I'll have to try and get a job - if any employer in Sligo or Athlone is reading this please keep me in mind for next summer! I'd also like to upcycle and craft a bit more because it has piqued my interest lately, so watch this space.

So that's my hopes and dreams for 2018. I hope it's a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year for you all. Let me know what your ideal 2018 looks like, and as usual, thanks so much for all your support. Happy New Year!

Friday, 22 December 2017

Sligo Is Sweet

Mum and I recently decided to try and find out what Sligo had to offer in terms of sweet treats. We initially had serious notions thinking we'd be able to eat '12 Treats of Sligo' in one day but because 1) we would have had to take out a mortgage 2) we quite enjoy having teeth and 3) we felt ill about 3 desserts in, we managed about 4 or 5 before admitting defeat. However, for the purpose of the blog I will include more than that so there's a variety of goodies. If you're heading in to do some last-minute Christmas shopping in Sligo tomorrow, why not try one of these delicious offerings to get your energy back up?

1. Mint Aero Hot Chocolate, The Blind Tiger

This is a firm favourite of mine and a good way to warm up after the Christmas shopping. I think this is one of the nicest hot chocolates I've ever had - proper melted chocolate is ladled into a mug with hot milk, topped with plenty of whipped cream, crushed Mint Aero, and some more melted Mint Aero around the rim of the mug for good measure. You'll be tempted to lick the mug.

2. Peanut Butter Stack, The Swagman 


Again, a definite favourite. This is definitely at the top of the dessert list for me. Layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter and chocolate mousse, caramel sauce, topped with crunchy peanuts, crispy pieces and chocolate sauce, served warm with cream and ice cream. Heaven. If you haven't had this yet, go try it - you'll be blown away.

3. Baked Alaska, Eala Bhán

The desserts in Eala Bhán are really special and very reasonable for the quality and service you get. This was my first time trying Baked Alaska but it was lovely. Soft fluffy meringue on the outside with ice cream and sponge in the middle made for a very interesting treat - and mine even looked like a Christmas tree!

4. Knickerbocker Glory, Hooked

I mentioned this in my previous blog post, but it deserves a mention in this too. Meringue and brownie pieces, fruit, butterscotch chunks, ice cream, all topped off with cream, this is a proper ice cream sundae. 

5. Healthy Vegan Treats, Sweet Beat

This is a nice option for any vegans out there or just anyone who wants something slightly healthier. I've had some gorgeous desserts from Sweet Beat such as their brownies, Rice Krispie squares, and vegan Snickers cake. They're really yummy and guilt free too!

6. Toblerone Cheesecake, Le Fournil

Le Fournil are a gorgeous French bakery in Sligo who offer homemade cakes, artisan chocolates and beautiful fresh bread. Everything is quality and really special - the chocolates are fantastic. We shared a little Toblerone cheesecake which was yummy, and I loved the little chocolate gingerbread man on top! They have sweets for all tastes so do pop in. 

7. French Apple Tart, Cawley's Hotel Tubbercurry

By far the nicest apple tart I've ever had, and look at that presentation! Cawley's is a lovely spot for lunch, I think it's a hidden gem. If you're passing by Tubbercurry definitely pop in. They also do gorgeous cheesecakes and lunch.

8. Unicorn Hot Chocolate, Nook

I'm not 100% sure if Nook still do the Unicorn version of their hot chocolate, but they do amazing hot chocolates nonetheless like their winter hot chocolates in all different delicious flavours. They also have wonderful sweet breakfasts and cakes on offer. Do pop in if you're in Collooney. 

So that's just a roundup of some of the tastiest treats in Sligo - will you be indulging in any of these this Christmas time?

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Hook(ed), Line & Sinker

I'm sure most of my Sligo-based readers have heard the buzz about Hooked - Anthony Gray (of Eala Bhán)'s new restaurant in Rockwood Parade. Hooked is very different to Eala Bhán but the ethos of fresh, creative food and local producers is still there, as is the beautiful decor (a boat hanging from the ceiling and a mural made entirely of Sharpie writing and drawings!)

The excitement around Hooked isn't unwarranted - I went to check it out last week and was very impressed. Anthony focuses on quality ingredients and dishes with a creative flair. The menu includes fish and chips, gorgeous salad, the famous Joe Gray sausages, and heavenly desserts. There's something for everyone at Hooked.

I went for the skinny egg white muffins on avocado almond butter toast, which ROM came up with (so it's definitely very healthy!) and it was divine. It's quite unusual to see such a dish but it's right up my street. I'd like to recreate this myself at home!

To ensure I was getting a balanced lunch (ha) I had to share a knickerbocker glory with mum - and I'm glad I did. It was gorgeous - butterscotch pieces, brownie and meringue pieces, and smooth sweet ice cream. Swoon.

We left with full and satisfied bellies, and I swear I dreamt about the knickerbocker glory that night! I'll definitely have to go back to Hooked and try out their chocolate brownie next time - for research purposes, of course. 

Best of luck to Anthony and the team on their new venture, go try it out for yourself - you'll be Hooked.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Healthy For The Holidays

I thought I'd do a quick health update. I know that a few of my readers wanted me to keep them posted about my migraines, depression and anxiety, so I'll give you guys a brief overview of what's helped me and how I'm doing now. 

I'm delighted to say I'm doing so much better than I was in August, when I was first diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression. I've been on medication since then to try and make my emotions a little less like a rollercoaster. Initially, the side effects were awful and I could be laughing one minute and hysterically crying the next! Not really a great way to go back to college. After a while (and I mean a while, probably about 8 weeks or longer) things finally started to stabilise themselves and I slowly started to get better. Healing from anything mental health related is a slow process, I had days where I felt as though I was improving and then the next day even dropping a slice of toast on the floor was enough to set me off again. It's completely natural. You wouldn't expect a broken arm to heal as soon as the cast goes on so why should your mental health be any different?

While medication can help for some people - and I am a firm believer in 'if it works, stick with it' - I think feeling better is a holistic thing. As well as my tablets I tried to get up and go to college as much as I could, do the things I used to enjoy, keep in touch with friends, try and cook healthy meals and, most importantly, talk about it. I'm very fortunate to have a strong support network around me and I live with my fantastic boyfriend Laurence who is always on hand if I need a cuddle or some reassurance. 

I also had 6 sessions of counselling which I found helped along with all the other things I was doing, but I wouldn't say it was solely the counselling that made me recover. However, everyone is different so what works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

With regards to the migraines, I posted last month that I got a daith piercing (a part of cartilage in my ear) as I'd heard it can help with migraines. My migraines had gotten so bad I was getting one every week which lasted 2-3 days. They were so severe I'd collapse on my way to the toilet and couldn't stop throwing up. Glamorous, eh? I've also gone on beta blockers since then which are a commonly prescribed migraine preventative treatment. I don't know if it's the piercing, the beta blockers or a combination of both, but I haven't had a migraine in 3 weeks now, which for me is incredible. I honestly feel like my life has changed. I was taking so much time off from college due to my migraines and now I feel as though they're not impeding on my life anymore. So if any of you reading this suffer from migraines, it may be worthwhile to try the piercing and the beta blockers - they definitely helped me.

To conclude, I'm so much happier and healthier than I was a few months ago. I am a bit worried I'll have a relapse of sorts and fall down again, but as my counselor said: "You're going to have bad days again. That's life. But I don't think we ever quite go back to where we were, no matter how bad it gets."

If you need to talk to someone here are a few useful numbers:
Samaritans 116 123
Aware 1800 80 48 48
Pieta House 01 623 5606

Or don't hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Useful books for depression/anxiety:
"Owning It: Your Bullsh*t-Free Guide to Living with Anxiety" by Caroline Foran
"Shoot the Damn Dog" by Sally Brampton
"The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris

Love Local: Irish Christmas Gift Ideas

I'm one of those people who gets panicked when I don't have my Christmas shopping done in like, July. I'm terrible for wanting to be overly organised to make sure everything is done in time for Christmas. I end up buying loads of stuff I forget I've even bought. However, this year is different. Since going to college and moving out, obviously funds have been more limited, so I haven't had the opportunity to get my shopping done early. Finally, though, I have some money in da bank so I can start getting everything done - yay! 

Some of my favourite types of gift to receive and to give other people are quirky, unusual gifts that I know the person will really appreciate. Bonus points if they're Irish made. I love a gawk in Penneys as much as the next gal but sometimes you want something that little bit special and different. Of course, it's great to support local designers and businesses, some of them don't get the exposure and love they deserve. Here are just a few ideas of gifts from Irish creators and businesses. I've tried to include presents for every budget, as well as different tastes, hobbies and personalities. Enjoy!

For The Foodie
1. Kate's Kitchen Voucher 2. Ostá Hamper 3. Eala Bhán Afternoon Tea

Kate's Kitchen do amazing food and gifts for foodies, so a voucher for their shop would be perfect for anyone in your life who likes the finer things in life. Similarly, Ostá have a wide range of lovely nibbles, drinks and edible gifts (and they do great food) - all of which would make a beautiful hamper. For something that little bit special, a voucher for afternoon tea in Eala Bhán is sure to wow whoever receives it. I've had the afternoon tea there twice now so believe me when I say it is outstanding!

For Him
1. Flying Lesson 2. Looney Creations 3. Home Brew West Voucher

A flying lesson at Sligo Airport in Strandhill is a really quirky gift for the thrillseeker in your life. Not many people can say they've flown a plane! Looney Creations have a pop-up shop beside Ostá in Sligo or they're also on Facebook. They do special personalised coasters, slates and plectrum necklaces with song lyrics on, which I love. For another quirky idea, why not get that special someone a voucher for Home Brew West? They're based in Galway but have an online shop, so whoever you get the voucher for could pick out some at-home brewing kits to make their own booze, which is pretty cool! Obviously these gifts aren't just for him, they're for anyone who likes something a bit different.

For Her
1. Martina Hamilton/Triona Jewellery 2. Voya Seaweed Bath 3. Lorna Watkins Studio Near The Sea Voucher

I just love Martina Hamilton's jewellery - it's so beautiful and elegant but also unique in its designs. These shell inspired earrings are gorgeous and so simple, just one of many of her seaside themed pieces. Tríona (also known as Modafix!) has recently designed her own nature inspired jewellery collection also - I just love this cloud outline rose gold necklace. So pretty. For those with a creative flair, a voucher for Lorna Watkins' studio near the sea is a great idea and can be used on Lorna's classes or online shop. And last but not least, you can't go wrong with a seaweed bath. Voya in Strandhill do heavenly seaweed baths - and bonus points if you treat the person to lunch in Shells café afterwards!

For The Little Ones
1. Sligo On Ice Voucher 2. Shells Little Shop 3. Liber Bookshop Voucher

I couldn't leave out the little ones now, could I? If you're looking for something other than the latest toy in Smyths, why not try taking them to Sligo On Ice so they can try their hand at some ice skating? Or, pop into Shells Little Shop in Strandhill and check out their variety of gifts for all ages - they have some really gorgeous things there. For the book obsessed, Liber Bookshop in Sligo has a great selection of books, stationery and cute notebooks, so there's something for everyone.

So those are just a few local gift ideas from some of my favourite places. I'd be thrilled myself to receive any of them for Christmas! Hopefully this was helpful for some of you who are at a loss and looking for something special. Thanks for reading!

Thanks to Val Robus aka magnumlady aka my mum for some of the pictures on this post!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Dabbling in DIY

I'm shite at most things creative - I can barely even draw the curtains. But lately I've found myself spending time on Pinterest looking at '500 things to do with empty toilet roll holders!' and '25 autumn crafts!' type things, even though I've never really been the crafty sort. However, over the past couple of weeks I've been telling myself to just bite the bullet and try my hand at a bit of DIY. 

I decided to decorate a trinket box to store my makeup in. This is kind of cheating seeing as I bought the box ready made but it did take a bit of time and effort so that counts, right? I got most of my craft supplies from The Art & Hobby Shop, Dealz, and The Works in Athlone. All of these shops are brilliant for little bits and bobs to make cards or just decorate things. I was tempted to walk out with all sorts of random knick knacks but managed to resist.

To start, you'll need a wooden box that's been sanded down, so that you can paint it. Mine came with a heart shape cut out on top with a sheet of perspex under it (which I removed so it was more open) and was €4 from The Works. They sell all sorts of different ones too and they're really nice quality. You can design the box in any way you want - go mad with it! I used washi tape, copper paint, blackboard effect spray paint, blackboard tags and stickers. I wanted my box to be quite autumnal themed, hence my choice of colours and stickers. You'll also need some newspaper or something to put down, and some paintbrushes.

I started by carefully painting the top of the box with my copper acrylic paint, making sure it was as neat as possible. For the main part of the box I used blackboard effect spray paint, which was a bit of a faff as there wasn't much control and I ended up getting a splash on the copper part (which I painted over, so it was ok). I used polka dot washi tape around the edges, originally to make sure the paint didn't go over them, but in the end I really liked how it looked so I kept the washi tape on. Side note: if you are using spray paint make sure you're in a well aired room. I was high as a kite after inhaling so much of the fumes!

I left my box to dry overnight and the next day, when it was dry, I added my stickers, touched it up a bit, and then tied a blackboard tag to the hook that opens the box. Voila! A unique, simple trinket box to put all my crap treasures in. Doing this little project has inspired me to turn our spare bedroom into my makeshift craft room - watch this space...