A while back I decided to do a Q&A and loads of you tweeted me lovely questions. Thank you so much to everyone who took part, I was so nervous no-one would ask me anything!

Erika (@TheWeInMe) asked,

‘If you could only choose 1 thing-one sentence of support-to say to someone struggling with mental illness what would it be?’

I would say that recovery isn’t a straight line. You’ll have good days and bad, ups and down, but in the end you will get better. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that be to your loved ones, a counsellor, or your GP. You are not selfish for telling other people what you need, and it’s OK to not be OK. Be kind to yourself.

Oops, that’s more than one sentence.

Joe (@themanicmedic) asked,

‘If you had control of all the penguins, how would you take over the world?’

I love this question! I would command the penguins to do a giant flash mob to ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain. This would undoubtedly be the cutest thing ever, and would eventually become the most successful viral video the world has ever seen. With the vast amount of money I would make from this, I would start to solve the world’s problems one at a time, and quickly be elected Prime Minister. My cabinet would be the penguins, and we’d travel the world together using the power of sheer cuteness, whimsy and joyful dancing to bring peace to every nation.

Laura (@lauradavis_96) asked,

‘What and when were you diagnosed with and how did the diagnosis make you feel?’

This is a tricky one as I’ve never really been formally diagnosed. I’ve always known I have emetophobia, but didn’t really know I also had OCD until my counsellor suggested I might. I was in denial initially, until I realised she was right. Having a label for it and a better understanding of what I was going through was actually a huge relief. Throughout counselling, everything clicked into place and I realised that I’m not alone which was a huge comfort. Finally I understood myself better, which is definitely the first step to recovery in my opinion.

When I saw my GP he didn’t officially diagnose me with anything, but he prescribed anti-depressants. I have also been prescribed beta-blockers for anxiety. So to an extent, as far as my doctor is concerned, I have depression and anxiety.

Depression is a serious illness so I’m careful not to throw the word around lightly. To be honest, I’ve always wondered whether it was just a series of very shitty events that made me feel the way I did, rather than an actual medical reason. All I know is that my medication is helping me and that’s all that matters.

Hannah (@hannahrainey_) wondered,

‘What is your greatest achievement? Something you’re really, really proud of yourself for?’

To be honest, surviving last year and coming out of it stronger than ever. I sought out the help I needed, took some huge, scary steps and put myself through a lot of pain, all the while learning to trust myself to do what’s right for me. I learned to put my needs first and gained the strength to open up to those around me.

I learned that the right course of action is sometimes the hardest, but in the end you’ll only come out stronger than before.

I’m proud of Geek Magnifique, and the amazing people I’ve meet through blogging. I’m proud of myself for following my dreams and landing an amazing job.

But most of all, I’m proud of myself for not giving up.

‘If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?’ 

– Rich (@RichBiscuit21)

It’s a tough one. Probably my Grandpa, as I never got to know him, but I’ve been told he was the loveliest man.

Possibly my Dad, to try to right some wrongs and repair our relationship.

Or maybe Louis Theroux. Because, well, Louis Theroux. *Heart eyes*

Charlie Brooker is also very high on my dream dinner party guest-list as I reckon we’d really hit it off. I think we have similar views on the world, and I’d love to pick his brain as I think he’s an absolute genius. He’d be amazing to chat to, and he suffers from emetophobia like me, which makes me like him even more!

Kat (@thekatway) was curious to know,

‘Who made your profile picture? And what good things have come from being a MH advocate so far?’

My profile picture (below) was made by the supremely talented, and wonderful, @AlohaLolaCards – check her out!

Cartoon image of me

The best thing about being a MH advocate is when people tell me I’ve helped them. Knowing that I’m helping people to feel less alone is a wonderful thing, and I feel honoured to have met all the incredibly courageous, inspiring people I have through blogging.

Mel (@melreylaw):

‘Do you ever get comments from people who think social media jobs are easy? What’s your response?’

I definitely get a lot of, ‘So what do you actually do? How is that a full time job?’ as people just imagine I’m sitting on Twitter all day. I explain that there’s a lot of planning and strategy that goes into it, and that my role encompasses many other things, for example writing blog posts and email marketing. To be honest, I’ve learned it’s easier just to say I work in marketing! Less questions that way. That or I joke that I’m a ‘professional tweeter’ and have a laugh about it.

And finally, another lovely question from Laura:

‘Name five things you’re grateful for.’

  1. My friends and family. Of course this includes my wonderful husband!
  2. Having a home and stability.
  3. Doing a job I love.
  4. Animals.
  5. Pizza.

Puppy eating a slice of pizza

I’ve been mulling over the latest series of Mr Robot, in particular the complicated relationship between Elliot and Tyrell, and I have some theories.

First of all, while there’s no way Elliot could have completely made up Tyrell (there are far too many holes in that theory), I definitely believe he’s ‘glamorized’ him somewhat, and let his imagination fill in some gaps.

Tyrell has too much power

Elliot has made E-Corp the enemy in his mind (case in point, the fact he refers to it as ‘Evil Corp’), so it makes sense that Tyrell would be an embodiment of this idea. He takes on the role of the ‘classic corporate bad guy’ right from the start, when he ‘kidnaps’ Elliot and has him brought to his boardroom full of lawyers.

Even as interim CTO, it’s hard to believe that he would have that kind of influence, to the point that even the police turn a blind eye. He has a table full of lawyers for a meeting with Elliot, which seems as unnecessary to me as it does unlikely. I suspect that this whole encounter has been warped in Elliot’s head. He even questions it in his mind – ‘Please tell me you’re seeing this too?’

In contrast, when Elliot as Mr Robot meets with Tyrell, it’s very much on his own turf. Tyrell goes out to Coney Island, where Mr Robot leads the meeting and even manages to intimidate him. The balance of power has shifted, and the way the scene is shot is darker, gloomier, and missing the gloss of the earlier boardroom scene.

Tyrell Wellick

Tyrell represents what Elliot wants

I believe that on some level, Elliot wants what Tyrell has. Not the money or power, but the family. Elliot on numerous occasions references his own loneliness and desire for ‘normality’, and as far as I can tell, Tyrell is the first person to enter his life who has that, or at least a version of it.

His therapist has had a string of failed relationships, Angela is dating a douchebag who cheats on her, his sister has commitment issues, and he grew up in an unhappy household. Tyrell on the other hand has an outwardly perfect life, with a beautiful wife, nice home and a baby on the way.

Elliot romanticizes this life. When he meets Joanna for the first time the sky noticeably brightens behind her and the focus softens. In contrast to her threatening words, the scene has an eerie serenity about it, a visual representation of the rose-coloured glasses Elliot sees the Wellicks through.

Joanna Wellick

Tyrell’s life is exaggerated

While it’s clear that Sam Esmail enjoys throwing in homages to classic movies, I think there’s more to it than that.

The American Psycho references turn Tyrell into an extreme version of the typical ‘corporate villain’, and while Tyrell has obviously done some very questionable things, I think there’s an element of exaggeration on Elliot’s part here.

The salute to Fight Club towards the end of season one (‘Where Is My Mind’ playing softly as Elliot and Tyrell stand together in the arcade) led many to believe that Tyrell was Elliot’s Tyler Durden. As I’ve mentioned already, I don’t think this is the case, but I think it could be a subtle suggestion that there are elements of Tyrell’s life that Elliot has made up or embellished.

Fight Club

Another thing I noticed was that we only ever see Joanna eating pickles. It’s the ultimate pregnancy cliché, and perhaps the sort of thing a person like Elliot, whose limited understanding of pregnant women probably comes from movies, would come up with. This one’s a bit of a stretch, as Elliot never actually sees Joanna eating, but I think it’s another subtle suggestion that there’s an element of fiction to Tyrell and Joanna’s life together.

Tyrell’s Facebook profile, where he lists Swedish Hard House as his favourite music and lingonberry jam as one of his likes, could either be interpreted as Tyrell messing with Elliot, knowing he was going to try to hack him, or it could be Elliot’s mind filling in the gaps with Swedish stereotypes. What if he never actually found Tyrell’s profile?

During the sitcom episode in season two, Tyrell continues to be somewhat of a caricature, caring more about his designer shoes than his own well-being. Obviously this whole episode is meant to be darkly funny, but the humour relating to the other characters stems from much deeper things (the abuse Elliot and his sister suffered as children, for example), while Tyrell’s never scrapes below a superficial level. He remains comically shallow, suggesting a lack of deeper understanding of his character on Elliot’s part.

We know that Elliot is an unreliable narrator and we also know that Tyrell is a very complex character. I think in general there’s so much about most of the characters we’re yet to learn, but I predict that the biggest surprises in store will be to do with the Wellicks, and the dynamic between Elliot and Tyrell.

 

So on Monday I tweeted that I’d had some really exciting news. I was going to hold off sharing it until things were a bit more definite, but I can’t wait any longer.

We found our dream house!

Our offer has been accepted and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

It could obviously all fall through, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up too much, but I keep finding myself mentally decorating every room (I can already tell you, there are going to be fairy lights EVERYWHERE!) and browsing furniture websites. I can’t help it, I’m excited!

I can’t wait to share the process with you and start bombarding you with pics on Twitter. Sorry in advance. 😉

Girl dancing excitedly

A few months ago, while I was going through a difficult time with my mental health, a very good friend sent me a Get Well Soon card.

It was such a kind gesture, yet the card itself didn’t feel quite right. When you suffer from a mental illness, the thing you most want is to feel reassured and understood. My anxiety shakes my confidence and makes me question what others might think of me. So many times I’ve longed to hear a gentle, ‘You’re doing just fine, don’t worry’.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce:

I’m going to be launching my own range of mental health focused greeting cards, Honey Bee Cards.

Those who know me know I’m obsessed with cards. I have a drawer full of them (for all occasions!), and I could quite easily spend hours browsing through card shops.

Honey Bee Cards will feature cute designs, messages of hope, and most importantly the reassuring words it’s sometimes hard to find when a loved one is struggling.

I’m hoping to launch the shop on my blog within the next month, so keep an eye on Twitter for updates, and if you fancy it, you can follow Honey Bee Cards too!

I can’t wait to share the first designs with you.

Excited woman

 

Now, I love me a good lasagna and I pride myself on making a pretty mean one.

Today though, I had the opportunity to make one for someone with a very specific diet and I had great fun rising to the challenge.

I had to make it completely gluten free and substitute cows’ milk and cheese for goats’ as well as switching several of my usual ingredients.

Here’s what I used!

  • Buckwheat flour
  • Just under two boxes of gluten free dry lasagna sheets

Lasagna ingredients

For the red sauce:

  • 2 bottles of passata (I would normally use tinned tomatoes)
  • Small bunch of fresh basil
  • Dried oregano
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 aubergine
  • Most of a large bag of spinach

I chopped the aubergine and courgettes into small pieces and fried in olive oil until lightly browned. Usually, a little before this point I would add in some finely chopped garlic, but I had to forego it this time. I also normally use mushrooms, but I substituted them for aubergine.

I added the passata and threw in some salt and pepper to taste (sorry, I never use measurements!) as well as finely chopped basil and dried oregano.

While that bubbled away nicely I set to work on the white sauce. I just added the spinach in right at the end so it didn’t overcook.

For the béchamel:

  • Butter (I used regular butter as my friend didn’t mind)
  • Buckwheat flour (I thought I had gluten free flour, so had to improvise)
  • Semi-skimmed goats’ milk
  • Nutmeg
  • Small block of hard goats’ cheese

I wasn’t sure the sauce would thicken as it normally would, as I was unfamiliar with the textures of the flour and cheese I was using. There was a worrying moment when I didn’t think the cheese would melt either, but thankfully it all came together.

If you don’t know how to make a béchamel, it really is quite simple.

Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan (I used two very generous ice-cream scoop sized knobs of butter as I was making a lot of sauce). Once completely melted, slowly sieve the flour into the butter, stirring gently as you go. Keep adding flour until the sauce reaches a thick, sticky consistency. I roll it into a ball, as it makes the next bit a lot easier.

From there, slowly keep adding dashes of milk, while stirring gently. It’s important to add the milk gradually and keep stirring so you don’t get lumps. The key is to keep stirring the sauce over a low heat so it doesn’t go lumpy or stick to the pan.

Once you’ve got a good amount of sauce and it’s at a consistency you’re happy with, gradually start stirring in the grated cheese. I used most of the small block, saving a little bit to put on the top.

Once the cheese is all melted in, you might need to slowly add more milk in. Again, I never use measurements, I just keep throwing things in until it looks and tastes good!

Then I added in salt and pepper to taste, and grated in some fresh nutmeg (you can also use the pre-ground nutmeg). Again, I add this to taste, but have to be supervised as I’m notorious for using far too much nutmeg. I love it so much I think I’ve gone mouth-blind. Is that a thing? Like nose-blind?!

To assemble the lasagna

Line the bottom of a large glass dish with some lasagna sheets. You’ll need to snap some into small pieces to fill in gaps, unless you happen to have the perfect sized dish. Word of warning, gluten free lasagna sheets are harder to snap than regular ones – I got shards of pasta sheets everywhere! The pack did suggest blanching them first which would probably have helped, but I personally never bother with that.

From there you just layer pasta, white sauce, pasta, red sauce, and so on. The last layer should be sauce, not pasta, and then I like to sprinkle a bit of cheese on top.

Lasagna

Pop in the oven at 180° for 45 minutes. This will vary depending on size, but I just wait until the top looks nice and brown, and I always cut through to make sure the pasta sheets are soft enough.

Serve up and enjoy!

My verdict

I’m a huge fan of goats’ cheese so I absolutely LOVED the flavour of the béchamel sauce. I found the buckwheat flour gave it a slightly grainy, mealy texture, but I still really enjoyed it.

Using passata instead of tinned tomatoes made the sauce a lot smoother, which was quite nice. While I missed the mushrooms I enjoyed the aubergine. I don’t know why I haven’t always been putting it in my lasagna! I found it difficult not being able to use garlic, but with fresh basil and the other seasoning, I thought it still had a really nice flavour.

I didn’t love the texture of the gluten free pasta sheets, but that could have been my fault for not blanching them first. I just found them a bit chewy and grainy.

Overall though, I would definitely make this again. I didn’t feel as bloated as I normally do after lasagna, and the flavour of the goats’ cheese was a winner in my book.

Lasagna

Just look at that bubbling, cheesy goodness!