The Promise by Teresa Driscoll - cover art

‘The Promise’ by Teresa Driscoll – A Review

Trying something new on The Self-Care Sloth today… I am an avid reader and massive book-lover. I always have been. So it seemed silly to shy away from bookish content on this blog. Reading is definitely a self-care activity for me, so I thought it might be nice to start sharing some of the books I read on here.

the promise book review overview

This month, I discovered Prime Reading. How had I been using Amazon Prime for months without realising this feature existed? I don’t know! But I discovered it, very quickly downloaded the Kindle app to my phone and started searching for new titles to enjoy. I was so excited!
(If you’re as unaware as I was, Prime Reading is Amazon Prime’s reading feature that let’s you download and read thousands of books and magazines to your Kindle or Kindle app. You can’t access all of the Kindle library on there, but there seems to be quite a lot.)

Disclaimer: I have absolutely no affiliation to Amazon or Kindle, but I do have an affiliate code for the Book Depository. So any links in this post that direct you to the Book Depository will earn me a small commission if you decide to buy the book. It won’t cost you any extra.

The Promise

While searching through the Discover tab on my Kindle app, I kept coming across ‘The Promise’ by Teresa Driscoll. I don’t know Teresa Driscoll at all, have never read a book by her, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it looked like my kind of thing. I was right – definitely my kind of thing!

What is ‘The Promise’ About?

‘The Promise’ is marketed as a psychological thriller, which is definitely a favourite genre of mine. I would definitely agree with that description, there are a lot of psychological twists and turns to keep you turning the page.

It was their darkest secret. Three schoolgirls made a promise – to take the horrible truth of what they did to the grave.

The book mostly follows a character called Beth who, although now married with two children, spends a lot of time thinking about what happened in her past. From the outset, we know that something dark happened between her and her two best friends, Sally and Carol, whilst they were at boarding school. We get a lot of hints about what happened, but even when we learn that secret, lots of others continue to be uncovered.

The book begins as the women receive an invite to visit their old school before it is demolished. This starts to bring up the past and Beth starts to look for Carol, who has been off of everyone’s radar for quite a while.

…when some shocking news threatens to unearth their dark secret, Beth enlists the help of private investigator Matthew Hill to help her and Sally reconnect with estranged Carol – before the terrible act they committed as teenagers is revealed.

What Did I Think?

I often go into modern thrillers with some trepidation. I don’t know why – I usually enjoy them. I just think it is a hard genre to get right, without going over-the-top with twists and reveals, but Teresa Driscoll got it spot on.

I couldn’t put this book down and it’s by far the quickest I have read a book in the last 6 months. The steady flow of secrets being revealed and questions arising kept me on the edge of my seat. The tone of the book is just right – even during quite dark or violent scenes, the tone of Driscoll’s writing was sensitive, mature and kept the pace moving.

I really liked the main characters of Beth and Carol. Carol in particular was kept so mysterious right until the end, that there was no way of knowing what the truth was. I enjoyed being kept guessing and I certainly didn’t see any of the twists coming! (Although, for someone who loves a thriller, I often don’t see the twists coming – that’s not to say that you wouldn’t either.)

4 out of 5 stars – I would definitely recommend to any fellow thriller enthusiast.

Have you read ‘The Promise’? What did you think?
Are there any other good thrillers you would recommend?

(P.S – if this seems like your kind of book and you want a hard copy, there’s currently 37% off on the Book Depository! Here is the link.)

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Trying out Baking for Self-Care

Quite often, when I’m having a down day, I find myself drawn to the idea of baking.

Do I ever usually bake? Nope. Have I ever leaned in to this feeling and tried baking myself out of a slump? (Well, the way I’ve worded that sounds painful…) Nope!

The truth is, I’m not a very natural baker, I can’t usually decide on a recipe and when I’m having a bad day I’m far too lazy to shop for ingredients!

But today, I decided to go with my gut and see if it worked. Surely, if my brain kept turning to baking when I was in a slump, it must mean something? It might make me feel much better. And if not, at least I might get some cake out of it!

So I turned to the ever-trusty BBC Good Food and chose this recipe for banana and blueberry muffins. (I’m in no way sponsored or supported by BBC Good Food, I just love their recipes) I won’t talk through the whole recipe in this post, so if you want to have a go yourself then please head over to their website.

Banana and blueberry muffins

First mountain to climb – going out to buy the ingredients.
I really wasn’t feeling like facing the outside world this afternoon, so I asked my fiance to come with me. We quickly had everything we needed (plus a few things we didn’t need!) and I could get home to start baking. Getting out in the fresh air did actually help to pick my mood up, and I found that I starting to feel excited to get back to the kitchen and start creating – maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all?

ingredients in trolley
Ingredients found – and mini eggs to eat whilst baking, of course!

Once I got home, I laid out all my ingredients. In all honesty, I think that going through the process of laying out the ingredients and taking pictures for this post really helped me to see the process through and make sure that I was being methodical about it. (By the way, please don’t expect very professional-looking photos! No idea how you baking bloggers do this!)

banana and blueberry muffins ingredients

The ingredients you need for this recipe are pretty simple and easy to get hold of. Just what I needed for an easy Sunday self-care bake.

The Baking.

This was such an easy recipe. If I can do it, anyone can!

All you had to was mix together the dry ingredients and leave them to one side whilst you mashed the banana and mixed that together with oil, buttermilk and egg whites. The hardest bit was separating the egg whites – look what a mess I made of it!

stages of baking muffins
Nothing looks good before it’s cooked!

What I really liked about this recipe was that it included hints and things to look out for. For example, it warned me that the muffin cases would end up very full with this amount of mixture. This was helpful, because otherwise I would have under-filled them and been left with leftover mixture.

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Ready for the oven 🙂

In the end, I don’t think I did such a bad job. These were tasty, not too sweet, and just the right size for a Sunday-blogging snack.

Conclusions

So… was it therapeutic getting the kitchen messy and making muffins? Actually, yes it was. I can see why so many people turn to baking and cooking to calm themselves down or cheer themselves up. I felt productive, creative and purposeful. I did cheer up and I enjoyed the process. Of course, having delicious baked goods at the end of it is always a bonus too!

I think that I’d always avoided baking or cooking when I felt depressed because I was scared of it going wrong – I’m not a natural cook – and then feeling worse. However, if I give myself a little bit of forgiveness to make mistakes, go with an easy recipe, and just let myself enjoy the process – this could be a good new hobby for me!

I was surprised just how much this picked up my mood on an otherwise gloomy Sunday.
Do you like baking? I’d love to know what you like making and any tips you have for a novice like me.

Banana and blueberry muffins

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What Self-Care Looks Like To Me

Well, it’s been a while!

I haven’t written a post in quite a few months, which I’m sure not many people have noticed, but I wanted to get back into the swing of things and start blogging more frequently again.

So, this #SelfCareSunday, I thought I’d talk a little bit about what self-care looks like to me…

Preventative Self-Care

barbell on the floor
Photo by Leon Martinez on Pexels.com

I’ve been trying to put more of my time this year into preventative self-careThat is, taking care of myself to keep my body and mind healthy, to avoid any down-turns in my mental health, rather than waiting until I feel the need to use self-care to recover.

One of the main ways I’ve been doing this (hint the picture above…) is heading to the gym. I have a real love-hate relationship with exercise on the whole, but I do know that if I drag myself out the house and go for a jog, or sweat my way through a gym class, I do feel better. This works if I’m in a bad mood, but I have also noticed that on the weeks that I put the effort in to work out more often, I feel better on the whole.

I also like to make sure that I am always getting enough sleep. I am someone who needs plenty of sleep to function properly! I know this fact about myself, so why starve myself of sleep? For me to feel calm and prepared for the day ahead, I need to have had a good night’s sleep.

Self-Care First Aid

white bed comforter
Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com

Sometimes (frequently) you have a bad (awful) day, filled with stress and panic, and you need some serious self-care time that evening to recover.

On those days (and there are plenty of them, believe me!) I like to take time to myself to calm down, relax and repair. This will look different all the time, but it usually involves some of the following:

  • Climbing into bed early.
  • Curling up with a good book. (Have you read my post on The Best Book Genres for a Cosy Night In?)
  • Watching Netflix. (I might write a Netflix recommendations post soon, if you’d be interested in reading that then please let me know in the comments!)
  • Cuddling my cat.
  • Cooking up some delicious comfort food.
  • Taking a bath with lots of Dead Sea salts.
  • Stretching/attempting some funny-looking yoga.

 

I have found that doing some more pro-active and preventative self-care has lessened the frequency of those ‘first aid’ days, but sometimes you just have to spend a few hours recovering.

What does self-care look like to you?

 

If you want to read more about my self-care habits, I have written posts before on winter self-care ideas and low energy self-care activities.

 

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What I Learnt from Being Stuck in Bed for Four Days.

Grab a cuppa – this is a long one! 🙂

About a week ago, I was more ill than I have been for ages. (That is an occupational hazard of teaching though – a lot of sickness bugs get shared around the school!) I had some kind of bad cold/flu that knocked me sideways for most of the week. I fell ill on the Saturday afternoon, and by that night I was feverish, coughing, and generally just feeling pretty awful. I stayed in bed all of Sunday and then, quite reluctantly, dragged myself to work on Monday. That was a bad idea.

I struggled through Monday at school, feeling lethargic and low in energy. I was coughing and wheezing through all my lessons, trying desperately to seem upbeat and positive. By the end of the day, I felt 10 times worse and my line manager promptly sent me home under strict instructions to get better.

So, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday at home. In bed. Feeling utterly useless.

And here’s what I realised – although I knew that I needed to rest, and I would be advising anyone in the same boat as me to do exactly that, I felt incredibly guilty for taking two whole days out of work and out of my routine just to rest. I tried to go ahead with a personal training session but was luckily told by my trainer not to turn up at the gym, I felt awful for ‘making’ Chris prepare dinners and sort out the house, when actually it was totally his choice. I really didn’t know how to handle being this ill or, more accurately, how to hand over the control of my life to other people. I felt lazy and was itching to get back to school so that my colleagues wouldn’t think the same. (Spoiler: They are lovely, caring people who would never say that about anyone who was ill.)

So why all the worry? Why did I find it so hard just to rest and recover?

I suppose I’m just so used to being busy.
My job means that I’m on the go all day, often taking work home with me as well. I work at weekends, go to the gym when I can, wake up early to fit more into my day and spend my evenings wedding planning. I love being busy and it’s just become part of who I am. However, the shock to my system when I was forced to give all this up for a few days was unbelievable. I couldn’t adjust to suddenly feeling helpless and out of control. All I had was a cold, why on earth couldn’t I just get out the house and get stuff done?

Then I realised – I needed the rest.

My body needed to rest. It was unwell and it was never going to get better if I forced it through a school day, a workout and a few hours of admin. I needed to sleep, relax and recover.

Once I found peace with that, I coped a lot better.

I’m interested to know if any of you have been in the same situation – I’m sure that any of you who, unlike me, are self-employed or work from home, have certainly felt this guilt when you can’t do anything. But it is so important to give your body what it needs. Whether that is good food, lots of water, some exercise, or just complete rest. I got back to work on Thursday and now feel pretty much back to normal. If I hadn’t let my body recover for a few days, I’m certain that right now I’d feel just as awful as I did last weekend. If not worse.

Next time you’re ill and stuck in bed, try to see the upside. If you can, read a book. Or watch Netflix, or listen to a podcast. Enjoy whatever hobbies or relaxing activities you never normally have the time for, but can do with very little energy. Have a bath, curl up with your pet, eat comfort foods and drink Lucozade. When you decide to see this as a self-care opportunity rather that forced bed-rest, your mentality shifts to one of positivity and health, rather than negativity and sickness.

I hated being forced to rest, until I saw that it was exactly what I needed and that I could draw some positives from it if I really tried. I hope that in the future you can do the same 🙂

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5 Winter Self-Care Ideas

There are lots of things to moan about in the winter – who really likes the dark evenings and stepping in a huge puddle? However, there are also lots of things to love about the winter too. Like the lighter mornings, the crisp, clean feel to the air, and the atmosphere of celebration around the holidays.

The cold weather and the dark can take their toll on your mood if you’re not careful – as can the holidays, which are often difficult times for people, for all sorts of reasons. For these reasons, it is really important to take care of yourself in the colder months. Self-care can be a solution to a bad day or, even better, a preventative measure, carried out little and often to help keep those low days at bay.

Here are 5 simple self-care ideas for you to try out this winter:

  1. Put on clean bed sheets. (Bonus points if they have a wintery pattern, are fleecy, or accompany your change to the ‘winter duvet’.)
    There’s nothing quite like climbing into your bed at the end of the day when the sheets are brand new and super comfortable. If you’re having trouble sleeping, make sure your room is at the right temperature for you and perhaps try a sleep spray or a hot milky drink as well.

    white bed comforter
    Photo by Jaymantri on Pexels.com
  2. Bake a treat for someone.
    Baking on its own is often therapeutic, but why not add on the additional joy of taking what you’ve made and sharing it with someone. Maybe your co-workers would like a Monday pick-me-up, or an elderly neighbour would really appreciate the gesture? If you’re not a confident baker and want to start off with something more simple, the packet mixes you can get from supermarkets that just involve adding water or eggs are brilliant. They are also great for baking with young children!
  3. Wrap up warm and go for a walk.

    a thick scarf and a hand holding a hot drink
    I love to grab my collapsible coffee cup, put on a thick scarf, and go for a long walk.

    This is one of my favourite activities, despite the cold weather. When it’s a dry but cold day, I love to wrap up in my cosiest jumper, a thick scarf and a woolly hat, and head out for a walk. If I’m going by myself, I’ll often take a book to stop off somewhere and have a read, or I’ll listen to a podcast whilst I walk. If it’s me and my fiance walking, we’ll often play Pokemon Go on our route, or just enjoy the time to talk with no distractions. My reusable cup filled with coffee often joins us on the walk too! This activity is great for your mind, as well as getting your legs moving and incorporating a little bit of exercise into your self-care routine.

  4. Read a book in bed.
    Simple, classic, and a perfect activity for a wet and rainy day. Grab a hot drink, curl up in your duvet and appreciate having the time to do nothing except read your favourite book. For winter reads I particularly love horrors, thrillers, historical fiction and crime novels.
  5. Have a totally indulgent hot bath or shower.
    bath-blur-brush-275765.jpg
    I know that I’ve said before that self-care is about more than just hot bubble baths, however sometimes that is exactly what you need. Treat yourself to a warming and relaxing bath to escape the cold weather and relax. If baths aren’t your thing, just allow yourself the indulgence of not worrying too much about the hot water bill for a few minutes and whack the heat up on your shower. Choose a luxuriously scented shower gel, sing as loud as you like and feel the tension melt away.

 

What do you love most about the colder months?

Hopefully, if the cold weather has got you feeling blue, there are a couple of ideas here that can help you take care of yourself. (If you think you’re low feelings are more serious, or that you may be suffering from SAD or similar, I urge you to seek advice from a professional.)

Happy winter!

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Buddy Box Lite and contents

Buddy Box Review

Last month, when I was feeling down, I ordered myself a Buddy Box from The Blurt Foundation as a pick-me-up. I totally forgot about it and had a lovely surprise when I picked up this mystery parcel from the delivery office. If you saw my ‘How I’m Dealing With Stress’ post, you’ll know I had been having a bit of a rough time, and my Buddy Box just made my day.

I have followed and loved The Blurt Foundation for a few years and I think they do a great job. Their aim is to increase awareness and understanding of depression, as well as providing support and resources to those suffering from depression. It’s a fantastic cause, and one very close to my heart, and I would really recommend giving them a follow on Twitter or checking out their website.

buddy box

Their Buddy Boxes are subscription boxes that you can order for yourself or someone else as a sort of care package. As Blurt explain:

Packed full of thoughtful, mood-lifting treats, the BuddyBox comforts, delights and gives you that warm, ‘I’ve been cared for’ feeling inside. In other words – it’s a hug in a box.”

And who doesn’t want a hug in a box?

You can subscribe to the boxes or buy a one-off box. Personally, I bought this box as a one-ff. I bought the Buddy Box Lite, which contains 3 items. The original Buddy Box contains 5. The theme of my box was ‘Become a Rhino-Snore-Us’. Sleep is something I think is really important and one of many things that make me happy! – and it contained some lovely sleep-themed items that I’ll briefly talk about below…

  1. This very cute postcard, that says ‘But first, sleep.’

    I think this is really cute and I might put it up somewhere in my bedroom.
    postcard that reads 'but first, sleep'

  2. The Blurt zine.

Blurt produce this zine that goes in every BuddyBox. It’s full of sleep tips and information.  A really helpful, quick read. This gives the BuddyBox some really beneficial substance that perhaps the products on their own would lack. I think this is a great addition to the box.

Blurt Foundation zine and cat post-it notes

3. To-Do Post-It Notes

Although I do think these have a bit of a tenuous link to the ‘sleep’ theme, I do like them. They’re very cute and I always love a new piece of stationery. Particularly novelty post-its. These are by Gemma Correll and I will definitely be checking out the rest of her stuff if I can.

4. Scentered De-Stress Balm.

This Scentered de-stress balm is a stick of lovely aromatherapy scented balm, which you rub on your pulse points (Your wrists, temples or neck.) to help you feel calmer and hopefully get some sleep. I really like the scent of this and it is really calming to smell when you’re feeling worked up or stressed.

5. Fluffy socks

I’ve saved the best until last in my opinion. Look at these socks! They are fluffy, soft and very, very comfortable. They’re also really long, reaching nearly up to my knees, which I love. These are great for the chilly evenings that are creeping in at the moment and they are my favourite thing from the Buddy Box.

 

So what did I think?

All in all, I really liked the products sent in this box. It really perked up my day receiving the box in the post and the items in it are comforting and great for self-care. My most used item so far has been the gorgeously cosy socks and I have used the de-stressing balm on occasion. Although I liked the post-it notes a lot, I do think there could have been something more relevant to the theme.

Overall, I’d say that if you’re going through a tough time, or you know someone who is, and can afford to splash out a little bit of money (it really isn’t that much actually) to get a Buddy Box sent to your door, it is definitely worth doing. And you know your money is going to a really worthwhile organisation.

Self-care all the way!

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50 Things That Make Me Happy

50 Things That Make Me Happy

Two tag posts in a row? I know, lazy blogger! But I couldn’t resist jumping straight into this wonderful post, listing 50 things that make me happy. I was very kindly tagged by Colourful Hope, whose post is here.

I think the idea of listing 50 things that make you happy is brilliant. It’s a list, so it sounds simple – but 50 is a pretty big number! (The most I’ve dared so far is 26!) Having to think of 50 individual things that make me feel happy can only be a good thing for my wellbeing. So, here goes!

50 Things That Make Happy

  1. Spending time with my cat
  2. Autumn walks with my fiance
  3. Wedding planning
  4. Reading a good book
  5. Smashing a workout
  6. Finding an outfit that looks really good
  7. Chocolate
  8. Catching up with old friends
  9. Going to the cinema
  10. Big bowls of pasta
  11. A clean and cosy house
  12. A clean car
  13. My hamster
  14. Seeing my family
  15. Having a cup of tea with my mum
  16. My job
  17. Running with my best friend
  18. Music
  19. (more specifically) Neil Diamond’s music
  20. Watching comedies (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Friends, OITNB…)
  21. Libraries
  22. A good cup of coffee
  23. Comfy blankets
  24. Learning something new
  25. Being brave and it turning out well
  26. Giving people gifts
  27. Coffee shops
  28. Looking at homeware
  29. Theatre
  30. Watching stand-up comedy
  31. Singing along to musicals
  32. Falling asleep watching a film with my fiance
  33. Setting goals and planning
  34. Listening to My Favourite Murder
  35. Long, lazy mornings with breakfast in bed
  36. A really tasty cocktail
  37. Playing board games
  38. Pizza
  39. When there are amazing vegetarian options at a restaurant
  40. Pretty book covers
  41. Recommending books to people
  42. Comfy jumpers
  43. Playing Skyrim
  44. Hot chocolate
  45. Museums
  46. Disney films
  47. Ticking off my to-do list
  48. Roald Dahl books
  49. Stationery
  50. Spending time with my friends

 

Well, that was great! It pushed me to think about everything that makes me happy and now I feel really good. I’d like to pass that good feeling on, and I tag:

Kelly at Paperback Adventures
Pigletish
Nic’s Healthy Life