Vegan Mofo 2017 #31: Chocolate Black Bean Brownies with Pumpkin Pie Swirl

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

I can’t believe it, we’re on the final day of Vegan Mofo 2017! I don’t really care about Halloween but it’s a good excuse to use pumpkin even more than usual, so I made a sweet treat to finish off Mofo.

I came back from work on Sunday super tired but determined to prep loads of food. I didn’t manage to do much, but I did manage to cook a ridiculous amount of black beans in my slow cooker. I’m not sure what I was thinking I would make with them all, I have LOADS in the fridge ready to use.

I’ve always been scared of black bean brownies but thought this was the perfect time to give them a go because why would I want to use all those beans for savoury dishes when I can add chocolate and sugar to them?

I also had a pumpkin in the kitchen that was just begging to be used for this…so here we go Chocolate Black Bean Brownies with Pumpkin Pie Swirl

Chocolate Black Bean Brownies with Pumpkin Pie Swirl

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Ingredients for the Brownies:

  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup non dairy milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence (if using an extract over flavouring, reduce by 1/2)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of chocolate chips

Ingredients for the Pumpkin Swirl:

  • 1/2 small pumpkin, seeds removed, roasted
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tbsp sweetener (I used rice syrup)
  • 1/2 tbsp arrowroot/cornstarch

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C and line a tin with baking parchment
  2. Put all of the ingredients for the brownies except the chocolate chips into a food processor and blend until smooth
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth off the top
  4. Add all the ingredients for the pumpkin mix to the food processor and blend until smooth. Taste to check it’s sweet/spiced enough for your liking
  5. Spoon the pumpkin mix on top of the brownies and then use a toothpick or knife to swirl into the brownie batter. Scatter the chocolate chips on top
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until you can place a toothpick in the centre and it comes out clean

These were so simple to make, I couldn’t believe it! I also couldn’t believe how rich, chocolatey and delicious they were. They are so fudgey and moist, I love them! I think I might be converted to these gluten free bean brownie things. That’s something I never thought I’d say

But anyway, there you go. Short and sweet today. Thank you all for this amazing month of blogging, I’ve loved it! I’ll probably take a short break but I have a huge list of places to review, especially in Edinburgh, so may do a special Vegan Edinburgh week to power through them all.

Watch this space!

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Vegan Mofo 2017 #30: Special Thanks

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

This was planned to be my final post for Mofo this year, but as tomorrow is Halloween I’m going to try and whip up something tasty to share with you as a farewell post before I take a week or so off blogging to recover!

I wanted to do a post thanking a lot of wonderful people who really helped me during recovery, without them I think I would have found the whole experience a lot harder than it was. Going through something like this really does make you realise how lucky you are to be surrounded by awesome people.

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So, thank you Bryn for looking after me, keeping me smiling, laughing and happy during the most uncomfortable, painful and strange weeks during recovery. You have been so kind and made my first week post surgery a piece of cake. Also, I will never forget you sharing mac n cheese with me, or for bringing me cake.

Thank you to Dave who drove all the way down from Manchester to Brighton and back up again, just to get me home comfortably. This was such a big help and I appreciate it all so much ❤

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Thank you to my amazing, patient, caring and hilarious boyfriend Logan, who took me in and took the best care of me for 7 weeks or so. Watching Steven Universe together, napping together, eating Chinese noodles or mac n cheese and colouring together was amazing and special. You are the best

Special thanks to Susan and Jayson for your amazing care packages. These brought me so much joy and all the tasty things so thank you so much for thinking of me

Thank you to Jack, Joanna & George for visiting me in Brighton. It was so good to see your wonderful faces.

Thank you to my ex and housemate Jake who looked after Kobi while I was gone, also a shout out to my awesome friend Isobel who stepped in and looked after him when Jake was busy

Thank you to my amazing friends, queer family and work colleagues who sent me funny, cute, supportive messages during my time off. I know I was shit at replying but I did appreciate them

I also want to thank the amazing cats who all looked after me in their own ways during recovery

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Sidney was the most amazing post surgery nurse. She kept me company by snuggling up to me while I was chilling and sleeping, generally being cute, gentle and lovely. I was really sad to say goodbye to her, she definitely had healing powers

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Bo, who is such a lovely, timid and adorable ball of floof. We’ve really got to know each other during our stay at Logans and he was so lovely and cute to me. I feel like we had a lot of special bonding moments and he was very careful not to hurt me during my fragile early days

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And finally, to Kobi. Who I sadly saw very little of during recovery, but who kept out of trouble and has been super affectionate and lovely since I returned home. I was worried he would be mad at me but all has been forgiven and we have had some amazing cuddles.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has been reading and leaving such lovely supportive comments during this month. I definitely feel like this theme was the right thing to do for me and the blog at this time, I’m so glad folk have been enjoying it and finding it useful

I will be back tomorrow for my final post of Mofo 2017!

Vegan Mofo 2017 #28: Welcome Back Pizza at The Old Abbey Taphouse, Manchester

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

I had my first day back at work on Thursday and spent the day before travelling back down to Manchester. It was sad to leave behind Logan, Edinburgh and my Pressure King Pro but it also felt like time to get back to normality too.

I’m on a phased return for the first two weeks, so my first day back wasn’t too horrendous but I was incredibly tired by the end of it. This was partly to do with the fact I wasn’t napping and was active that day, also because Michael C Hall popped in to get some shopping and I lost my shit and went round telling everyone how exciting I found it. This was legit my face.

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I was super pleased when a work friend suggested going out for pizza when we finished our shift. This was a good idea because 1) Pizza 2) It stopped me falling asleep as soon as I got home and 3) Pizza.

We had planned to go to Double Zero in Chorlton, who do amazing sourdough pizza bases and vegan cheese, but when we arrived at 7pm to a 2.5 hour wait we decided to head further afield. We were keen to stick with pizza so I suggested we jump on a bus and visit The Old Abbey Taphouse, which I have heard so many good things about.

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We arrived at around 7.30pm and unfortunately there were no tables inside for us to sit at. Two large groups were taking up the space and there was also a band setting up. This place is very very small, which I didn’t expect, so I’d recommend getting stuff to takeout or going when the weather is okay enough to sit outside. It wasn’t too cold so we grabbed a table outside and looked at the menu.

There were quite a few vegan options; Roasted Veg Sandwich, Vegan Chili, a selection of pizzas and then the option of chips to go with. There were also vegan milkshakes and a selection of ice creams & Brownies for dessert. I chose to go for a Chocolate Milkshake and ordered a Zucca Pizza (White Base, Spinach, Roast Squash and Roast Garlic) with chips.

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The milkshake came first and I was eager to get it in my face as quickly as possible. Oh yess, this was tasty. Not my favourite milkshake (I have a milkshake I created over at The Ice Shack that is awesome and I love the V Rev Cookies n Cream Shake) but it was rich, chocolatey and had a really tasty whipped cream on top, so it’s up there on my list of shakes for sure.

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Then the savoury arrived. This pizza was really really tasty. It was absolutely swimming in vegan cheese, which I loved and the toppings worked really well together. It was pretty rich because of all the cheese so I was absolutely stuffed when I finished that and the chips.

I was so sad that I was too full to try ice cream and brownie but very satisfied with my meal. I’d definitely like to go back there to eat, maybe more in the Spring/Summer as we did start to get cold sitting outside.

The only thing that disappointed me was that I was under the impression that all the pizzas had a vegan option, including the ‘meaty’ ones. When I arrived and saw just a handful with VV next to them I was a little bit sad but assumed that maybe I’d remembered wrong, but having checked the website it does state they offer vegan options for every pizza. Maybe this has changed as it seemed odd to have VV next to only a few dishes. When I next go I’ll check as a fake meat pizza would be a great addition on the menu

I definitely recommend heading over or grabbing a takeaway from The Old Abbey if you get a chance. It was a great welcome back meal and a good chance for me to catch up with a friend, I can’t wait to go back and try dessert!

Vegan Mofo 2017 #27: Day Trip to Glasgow

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

A month into recovery myself and Logan got offered 2 free tickets to see a double bill of Adam & Eve at The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. We were both still pretty fragile and tired but decided to go along anyway and make a day of it so we weren’t rushing all the way to Glasgow and then heading straight back.

As you know from a previous trip I blogged about, I love Glasgow! It’s one of my favourite cities, I spent my birthday there this year just so I could spend a weekend enjoying all the amazing vegan food. I was really excited that we were popping over for the day.

The first thing I did when arriving at Glasgow Central Station was to swing by Gordon Street Coffee Cafe (which sits right at the entrance of the station) to pick up some sweet treats from Big Bear Bakery. These guys are awesome and I’m sad that I haven’t got round to blogging about them sooner as they made me a load of amazing Vegan Brioche Doughnuts for my birthday celebrations in April. These doughnuts are incredible so I was desperate to get my hands on them again. Luckily Gordon Street Coffee has a great selection of their goods, so we swung by there and picked some up. I can’t find my own photos of their doughnuts, but this is what they look like

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Big Bear

We decided to return to a restaurant that we both went to on my birthday weekend in April. Now, it’s the most non vegan sounding place you can imagine, but the vegan options are pretty damn incredible at Steak Cattle & Roll.

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What originally convinced me to try them was their dairy free Freak Shakes. I’d never had one of these before and they turned out to be pretty damn incredible. On both visits I’ve had the Whisk It Biscuit freak shake which consists of vanilla ice cream, biscoff spread and banana chips. Oh yes please

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This is so sickly and delicious. It’s probably a good thing we have to travel an hour to get to Glasgow, or I’d be there at least once a week for one of these.

They also have a good selection of savoury dishes for vegans. There are 4 vegan burgers on the menu, including one made with seitan chicken tenders. You can also get loaded fries, onion rings, wraps, salad and side dishes of the chicken tenders.

This time round I decided to go for the China Town Burger, which is a pattie with carrot and cucumber ribbons, avocado, chunky cauliflower and beetroot salsa, sweet chilli mayo, smokey ketchup and bacon bits. Hnnnggghhh

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This was so good. Absolutely massive and pretty hard to eat as it wouldn’t fit in my mouth, but my god was it delicious.

Logan and I decided to share the Vegan Loaded Fries, which are topped with caramelised onions, aioli, hot sauce and bacon bits.

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We did not expect such a massive portion and when Logan declared himself full after his burger, I knew we were in trouble with these! I managed to cram my half in, they were so so tasty but I probably would only get these again if I was sharing them with at least another 2 people!

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I’ve had the Chicken Burger before and know just how good the chicken is, so I ordered a side of the tenders too. I could barely eat them as I was so full, but I was more than happy to take these to go home with. They were amazing in a sandwich the next day.

We were relieved that the Citizen’s Theatre was a nice long walk away as we were both so ridiculously full. We slowly made our way down to the theatre ready for the shows. Here is a little bit of information on what we saw that night

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Adam and Eve, two complementary pieces exploring trangender and non-binary life can be seen together in one evening. 

National Theatre of Scotland presents two new groundbreaking productions exploring extraordinary lives in transition.

Adam, by Frances Poet and Cora Bissett (Glasgow Girls), is the remarkable, true story of a young trans man and his fight across borders and genders to find a place to call home. Featuring a 120-strong virtual choir of trans individuals from across the globe. 

In Eve, legendary playwright, performer, father and grandmother Jo Clifford tells the story of a child raised as a boy, when she knew all along that was wrong. What does that do to our understanding of what it is to be human in times of revolutionary change?

These were both two amazing plays and we really enjoyed them. Adam was my favourite of the two but quite difficult to watch, it was very sad and emotional. I definitely recommend going to see these if you get the chance, they were great and they both seemed to have an impact on the audience.

Once the shows were over we were exhausted and very ready to head home to bed. We had to recover from this for a few days after but it was definitely worth it for all the food and fun we had that day. I can’t wait to go back to Glasgow again!

Vegan Mofo 2017 #26: Adventures in Pressure Cooking

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

A month or so before surgery, my good pal Jenny Marie was telling me about how she had decided to order in a Pressure Cooker to help make quick, easy and healthy meals. I was intrigued by the idea of a pressure cooker but have only ever experienced the old school stove top kind that make loud, terrifying whistling noises and blow steam aggressively from the top. I listened in amazement as Jenny told me about how quickly these appliances could get a meal together.

The idea of a pressure cooker sort of left my mind after that chat. I dismissed it at first as I already have a super large slow cooker at home and not much room for new appliances. It wasn’t until I started binge watching the amazing YouTube Channel Hot For Food (seriously, go check it out, it’s awesome) that I spotted a recipe video using a new electric pressure cooker that made me start thinking it through all over again.

Look how simple and easy that looks….and these new pressure cookers are so much less scary! I had a long think about it, putting it out of my mind when I thought back to my crockpot and then bringing it up and rewatching the video over and over again. I wanted one so badly. When I realised that they also have a slowcooker function I got even more tempted. And then when Logan came home from work one day, exhausted and too tired to prepare a meal, I asked him how he’d feel about having a pressure cooker here. He wasn’t as enthusiastic as me but was open minded to the idea of a 5 minute mac n cheese.

I went ahead and ordered one. I decided to go for a Pressure King Pro over the all popular Instant Pot that everyone gushes over. I looked at some comparison websites and the PKP offered everything I was looking for, so I went for that at £60 over the nearly £100 that the Instant Pot sells at.

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I was thrilled but anxious when it arrived, but I really had nothing to fear. It’s been so easy getting used to cooking with this beast and I love it. Here’s a few things I’ve cooked so far. I won’t be sharing recipes today but I’m planning to get some on my blog in the future

Peanut Veggies and Faux Chicken with Coconut Rice – The veggies only took 4 minutes in the cooker, the rice wasn’t much quicker than standard rice but I threw it in with coconut milk, water and salt, left it to do its thing and came to amazing sweet, sticky and perfectly cooked rice.

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Seitan Sausages – These took 40 minutes to steam, so not quicker but much less clean up and pot watching involved

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On this day I made a Mushroom & Meatball Pie Filling in just 5 minutes and then did a 4 minute garlic parsley mash to go with it. It was delicious!

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I managed to use the leftover mash to make amazing fried potato to go with leftover pie the next day. These 3 minute maple mustard sprouts were a perfect addition

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And finally, Mac n Cheese sauces! I cooked potatoes and carrots for the base of my cheese sauce in just 3 minutes. Then while the macaroni cooked for 4 minutes I blitzed it up in the blender with nooch, oil, seasonings and pickle brine to make this super tasty cheese sauce that I just stirred through the pasta and baked. It was so simple!

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Whilst the Pressure Cooker sadly can’t prep veggies for me, this gadget has made cooking in the kitchen so much quicker. I’m finding myself so much more motivated to get up and chop veg knowing that I don’t need to stand over the stove and that it will be ready in just a few minutes. Also the flavours of the foods made in this are so good, it tastes as if they’ve been slow cooked. The pie filling in particular was magic.

I wish I’d ordered this earlier on in my recovery because I do feel like it’s been easier to eat healthier using this. I’m keeping this at Logan’s for now as he can make use of it too, but I really think this will help me out when my mental health isn’t good and I don’t have the energy to make proper meals.

I’m really keen to make more things in my Pressure Cooker, so please share any recipes if you have them!

Vegan Mofo 2017 #24: Loaded Potatoes

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

I’m due to head back home to Manchester tomorrow in preparation for my first week back at work. I’m really sad to be leaving Edinburgh, I love it here and of course being with my partner has been wonderful. I do have a cat I’ve been apart from for 2 months who I am desperate to see and I think it’s about time for me to get some routine back in my life.

While I’ve been staying here I’ve managed to fill Logan’s fridge and cupboards with far too much food, so I’ve been on a mission to get through as many leftovers as possible before returning home.

I had some BBQ jackfruit that needed using up, some leftover potatoes, a carrot and a pepper that was starting to get soft. This all looked perfect for nachos but I figured why not use the bag of new potatoes instead of tortilla chips? And that’s how these Loaded Potatoes were born.

Loaded Potatoes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small bag of new potatoes, parboiled and halved
  • 1 pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a large tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 pack of Upton’s BBQ Jackfruit (of course if you have leftovers or jackfruit and BBQ sauce then sub for this)
  • 2 handfuls of greens, torn

For the Nacho Sauce:

  • 1 large potato, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 4 jalapenos slices
  • 3-4 tbsp pickle brine (or lemon juice)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup non dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp tapioca starch

Extra Toppings:

  • salsa
  • sour cream

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 200 C and grease a large baking dish.
  2. Scatter the halved potatoes on the dish and spray with oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for around 30 minutes
  3. Boil the carrot and potato for the nacho sauce for around 15 minutes, until soft.
  4. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the pepper, jackfruit & sweetcorn. Add a little water and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Then add the greens and leave to sit with a lid on top to keep warm and cook the greens.
  5. Once the carrot and potato is cooked, drain and place back into the pot. Blend with the rest of the sauce ingredients until smooth. Return to the heat and cook through stirring until it thickens
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven and plate! Top the potatoes with the BBQ jackfruit mixture, lots of nacho cheese and then extra salsa and sour cream

This was so good, all of these toppings worked so well together and it was a really comforting and filling meal.

Definitely not something to make during the beginning of recovery, there are quite a few elements to it with all the parboiling and making the nacho sauce. I pottered about all day making these bits individually rather than in one go. I now have plenty of leftover nacho sauce though so I’ll be freezing that and making this again when I’m next visiting.

This would also work well with black beans and sweetcorn instead of jackfruit and of course if you can’t be bothered to parboil potatoes then just slice and roast a little longer in the oven.

Vegan Mofo 2017 #23: Post Surgery Feels

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A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.

Monday probably isn’t the best day to share feelings, it’s the start of the week, the sky is grey outside, I sense rain coming on…but I’d like to get this post out of the way because I’m going to chat about mental health post surgery and I start work later this week so want to do it while I have the head space to write openly.

The whole process of getting to surgery, having it and recovery has been a bit of a rollercoaster emotions wise, so when I was thinking about expectations beforehand, I expected to have some difficult feelings surface. For anyone who has read my blog over the years, you all know that I struggle with my mental health a lot. I knew this would be an amazing time for me, but I knew it wouldn’t be without its problems.

I was surprised at how good my mental health was for the first few weeks. I think I was so relieved and happy I’d finally had surgery that I felt a bit invincible. Pain wasn’t bringing me down as much as I expected, I was feeling pretty awesome!

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As my recovery time went on, I started to struggle with a few things. The first thing was anxiety going out in public. I didn’t really expect this but going from having a massive chest I couldn’t conceal to a flat one, I didn’t know how I would be read in public. I went from being consistently misgendered to suddenly have folk in shops and restaurants referring to me as Sir or looking confused. Of course it’s been great that I’m misgendered a lot less but I think it was hard to get used to it when the change was so sudden. A lot of people have a more gradual transition into this, which can be distressing in itself. This was something I hadn’t quite prepared for and I spent a lot of time avoiding the outside world.

Showing affection to my boyfriend in public is now something that gives me a lot of anxiety. Getting strange looks from people if we hold hands or kiss. Deciding a certain area doesn’t feel safe to hold hands. I worry about it a lot, but also it’s just quite sad that this is the way it is sometimes.

After the first 5 or so weeks of recovery I’ve had some really low moments. I think a lot of this has been my lack of routine, frustration at feeling so wiped all the time and the isolation from spending most of my time sleeping or resting inside the house.

I tried to get a little bit of routine, such as leaving the house for short walks, giving myself 1 thing to do during the day, attempting to get up early. I think pushing myself to do some of these things has definitely helped, but I’ve struggled a lot with my sleeping pattern, being up until the early hours of the morning, sleeping through a lot of the following day and then having guilt about it.

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Sad, Exhausted Instagram selfie

The most helpful thing during this time has been having a supportive partner who has been super patient and lovely to me. I’ve got some really nice support groups online that have been a lifesaver and made me feel a lot less isolated. Self care has also been really important. I’ve had a lot of cake the last month or so, a lot of mac n cheese, I’ve drowned everything in Siracha. I have gained weight but I’m trying not to feel bad about it because my big squidgey belly is beautiful and I deserve nice things at the moment.

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Steven Universe

I feel like the last week or so my mental health has started to improve, which is good as in a few days I’m due to start back at work on a phased return. I am anxious about it, but I feel a little more prepared. I’ve also been able to have a proper think about where I’m at and what’s best for me, requesting a second week of reduced hours instead of just one. I would have been in denial about this a few weeks ago, so this is a good sign.

I expect a lot more feelings with surface once I’m back at work. Returning after so long away is always overwhelming, even if folk are happy to see me, it will be emotional. Also having a job that involves working with the public will bring on new challenges with how I’m feeling about myself and my body right now. There are even new colleagues who have started working at my shop since I’ve been gone, so I have new people to meet with my new flat chest. Weeeiirrrdd!

I think that’s all I can manage to write right now, but that’s the jist of what my head has been like the last few weeks. Thanks for reading lovely people and I’ll catch you all with something a little cheerier tomorrow!