Tuesday, 7 November 2017

If You Wear Contact Lenses You Need To Read This!

This is a cautionary tale about the over wearing of contact lenses.

Now just to be clear this isn't a lecture this is an experience we went through recently that will forever be a lesson to us and anyone we know who wears contacts.

Laura and I both wear contact lenses. We have both over worn contact lenses. We've slept with them in, gone days without taking them out and never quite known when our month runs out for our monthly. In all honesty we broken all the rules.

Or should I say we did we in the past.

Earlier this year I had an eye infection that would not ease up. I took my contacts out and wore glasses for over week and nothing eased it. It wasn't until I got medicated eye drops and had another week wearing glasses that things started to improve. It scared me enough to make sure I take my contacts out every night and thoroughly wash the container. Thankfully I haven't suffered since.

Then I came across this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5033087/Why-NEVER-wear-contact-lenses-shower.html and it scared the life out of me so much that I forwarded it to Laura. Now the content of this is unpleasant! And I'm not sure how you shower without contacts if you are blind....I mean leg shaving requires sight! Nevertheless it is worth a read.

Anyway the article prompted an immediate reaction from Laura and her contacts that had been in for a week came out that evening.

A week of wearing glasses and Laura was ready to get her contacts back in - anyone else suffer with heavy glasses after a while?! Or start to miss peripheral vision?! It was Sunday morning and we were heading out for a dog walk with friends. On the drive over to the walk Laura started saying her contacts seemed cloudy - strange but not unusual, I thankfully had some contact lens solution and suggested rinsing them.

It made no difference and within the half an hour drive Laura's sight had become completely cloudy even without contacts. We were freaked but thought the fresh air might make a difference.

It didn't!

Some 3 hours later nothing was making a difference. The contacts were out and glasses back on but the vision was like being in a smokey kitchen. We rang 111 (UK non emergency healthcare line) and ran through the symptoms. They asked Laura to touch her chin to her chest, and if there was dizziness or blurriness, nothing gave them a clear indication of the problem and we told to get to A&E ASAP. In fact if I wasn't around they would have sent an ambulance.

We were freaked.

Arriving at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth hospital we headed into A&E and were greeted with a fairly empty waiting room. A doctor saw us within 40 minutes. Great we thought until all his eye tests proved inconclusive. He seemed more concerned about figuring out if the eyesight was deteriorating than addressing the cloudiness. We sat patiently as he called the Birmingham eye hospital and asked for their thoughts. The conclusion was that they needed to see her.

It was almost 9pm by this point and we got the car out of the £4.70 (how do hospitals get away with such rip off charges!!!!) car park and drove the 3 miles to the central Birmingham hospital. Our instructions were clear - check in at A&E and ask to be directed to the eye department.

On arrival a mentally disabled vulnerable adult was mid fist fight with a nurse (they really are heroes) and we stood patiently by waiting for our chance to cross and check in. From there we had more instructions.....to get to the eye department go down the long corridor, turn left, through the double doors, past the cash machine, take the exit doors to the right and cross the car park towards the red building!! Simple. Actually hell no! That car park was massive. There were no obviously red buildings at 9.30pm and no signs. The main path wound past bins and piled rubbished and ended in a yard. There were dozens of pathways and no obvious choices. We ended up in a delivery area. We found abandoned buildings. Buildings in complete darkness and just when we were giving up hope a small building with lights on in the far distance. That was the eye department. We had walked for 20 minutes!

We were seen as soon as we walked in and the Doctor was reassuring from the off. Sight was perfect - check. No obvious signs of degenerative disease - check. Macular degeneration stable (remember that story about Laura's eye developing a hole? It's here)- check.

A few tests more and a conclusion was given. Overuse of contacts has dried Laura's eyes so much that when she put her contacts in after a week they burnt the surface of her eye! THEY BURNT THE SURFACE! That cloudy/burnt kitchen was burnt eyeballs. There is no reason why it happened at that exact moment, it could have been the case the contact had been stored in wasn't clean. It could have been something on the lenses. It could have been bad luck. One thing was clear though, over wearing contacts dries out your eyes and leaves them susceptible to this. No matter how long you take them out for to give them a rest. It's all about how dry your eyes are.

It's 2 days later and the cloudiness has subsided, thankfully. Laura was prescribed lubricant drops that she finds eases the dryness and glasses are on for at least a week.

It was a horrible, horrible, frightening lesson but one that has made sure we will never take wearing contacts for granted again.

And nice to see hospitals embracing the gender neutral bathroom approach!

Friday, 3 November 2017

National Jigsaw Day!

That's right you read it right....it's National Jigsaw Day!

The 3rd of November is a day that all jigsaw fans, young and old can come together to celebrate the past time of many that is rarely discussed - or celebrated!

The 2017 Jigsaw Day Jigsaw Party is hosted by Wentworth Wooden Puzzles who you can find out about here. The party starts at 1pm on Twitter you just need to find @WentworthPuzzle to join in. Oh and hashtag for the party will be #NationalJigsawDay

If you, or a loved one, enjoy puzzles it's worth checking out as the hour long party will include giving away spot prizes and limited edition National Jigsaw Day puzzles. All you have to do is join in - simples! Even Radio 2 are getting involved....

This will be the second year of celebrating all things jigsaw (and not the scary horror movie version). We are talking about puzzles, the nice peaceful past time that you used to do as a kid and gradually find yourself doing more and more as you get older. Even in a world of online games, brain training and puzzles there there is something relaxing about switching off technology and completing an actual puzzle. We often do it on holiday and love when an AirBnB we stay at has their own selection.

The strange thing is as a kid I used to be very particular about my puzzles - I had to complete them alone. Piece together the outside then work in. Help was a distraction and I wouldn't move until it was complete. Nowadays though jigsaws are an activity I enjoy with Laura. We both use the method of 'getting the edge first' which means I find it less confrontational.

To help us get involved this year Wentworth have kindly sent us a limited edition jigsaw that I'll be trying to complete during the party and they have kindly offered to give one away to one of our lucky readers.

So if you used to love jigsaws but it's been a while or you're an avid jigsaw completer let us know in the comments, on Twitter @SarahplusLaura or on Facebook @SarahplusLaura and we will put your name in the draw to receive your very own puzzle!

Even if you don't win check out Wentworth wooden puzzles - they make a great gift and count as brain training so are perfect for any age. Plus there jigsaws range from 25 pieces to 1500 so you can be a beginner or hardcore veteran there's something for everyone!

Happy National Jigsaw Day

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Is Halloween Overrated?

So before we race of and start getting all festive-y I thought I would take a quick moment to ask a big question..... Is Halloween Overrated?

Here in the UK Halloween has historically been about dressing up as a kid usually in something scary and maybe knocking on a few people's door when trick or treating. It was never a major holiday. No-one ever decorated their house unless it was for a party.

Fast forward 20 years and Halloween has become so much more, well for me. We can blame the Americans, I blame my American, we can blame commercialism or we could just accept that people love the opportunity to dress up and Halloween is the perfect excuse.

Over the years this blog has featured many of our Halloween celebrations. A lot have included a night at the Rocky Horror Picture show but more recently it has involved family costumes. The change happening when we bought our house and could actually decorate and welcome trick or treaters.
This years Rocky Horror Picture Show outfits!
As with most things I took some convincing on Halloween. I'm not a fan of scary things and I used to prefer to turn off the lights and wait out the trick or treaters rather than encourage them. But then I realised it was me missing out in that situation. I was the one wasting an evening avoiding Halloween.

The first time I embraced Halloween as an adult was at Uni. Thankfully there are no photos in existence but I can guarantee 'scary' and 'not wearing much' would have both featured. Ah the shame!

Then when I moved to London, just before Halloween, it seemed like a great theme for a housewarming party. The only challenge was with everyone fully embracing the dress up, my 3 housemates and I had no idea who people were and it turned out by the height of the night we had a ton of strangers as well as friends. Thankfully we and the flat survived!

That year was the year I met Laura. We had just started working together and Halloween was some of our first pictures together. I should have sensed then that Halloween was going to be something I celebrated every year!

It's fair to say that we have celebrated Halloween in some way every year. Even our low key Halloween nights involve a fully decorated outside - complete with spider webs on the bushes and purple covers on the lights. For added scariness this is also scary music playing when the door opens.

Laura's proudest Halloween achievement is that in 3 years we have gone from being the only decorated house to now being one of 5 - all because of her :)

Last night we had a record 100 pieces of candy and we still ran out! That's 3 years in a row we have had to put out a sign saying 'Sorry we have run out of candy'. That also involves giving away our favourite pieces that we save till the end in the hope that we get to eat them :)

This year was fairly low key though, well for us.

Previous years Laura had baked for work and held party games, see the outcome here and here.

Or there was the year we bought Paul the Pumpkin into the world and spent the entire evening making him do things pumpkins shouldn't do! Check out the photo shoot here.

A personal highlight of that night
Last year studies by Mintel showed that spend in Britain now hits £300 million on Halloween! With 40% of adults saying they would do something for Halloween. That is a significant increase from the previous year in a trend that is set to grow.

So whether you are a Halloween lover or hater one thing is clear - it's only getting bigger! If you think it's overrated now, prepare yourself it's only getting spookier!

I've accepted it for all the joy it can bring. Seeing kids faces when Bisbee shows up in her outfit, the sheer confusion on their faces when Laura asks who they are dressed as (either it should be obvious or their parents have just chosen a random outfit and they genuinely have no clue), the fear and anticipation of the first trick or treater. Laura's always convinced it's going to be teenage boys, it never has been. Laura's strict 'TAKE ONE' rule that I find so awkward (it's being British I think) but if she didn't do it we'd run out far sooner so I know it needs to be done.

It's a shame Halloween is but once a year!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Birmingham's Best Dog Walks!

As dog owners there are few things better than a long stroll in a beautiful location where your dog can run free safely. We are lucky that Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in Europe so wherever you are you're never far from a park. It's one of the reasons we choose to move here.

So in no particular order here are our recommendations for parks to enjoy with your four legged friend!

Cannon Hill Park
Depending on what you want from your park you can find playgrounds, mini theme parks, lakes, rivers and mini golf! One park combining it all is just outside the city centre and is called Cannon Hill park. Complete with a cafe and plenty of space for dogs to run free or chase squirrels this park is family friendly and great on warm summer days.

The MAC is an activity centre that holds art and music fairs on a regular basis and there are tennis courts if you fancy trying your hand. Plus it has a cafe and toilets so you can spend the day in the park and have everything you need.

Or if you feel even more energetic Cannon Hill also does park runs at the weekend! Turn up at the wrong time and you could well find yourself swept up in a crowd of joggers.

The only downside is you have to pay for parking (£2 for 4 hours or £3 all day - at time of publishing).

If you want more info and location details all park related activities and details can be found here.

Kings Heath Park
Not far from Cannon Hill is Kings Heath Park. This park has the added benefit of a garden centre if you time it just right - it seems to open odd hours but mostly during the week. You can also find puppy schools and dog socialising classes. The reason we love Kings Heath park is an area towards the back of the park, there is a mix of woods and a sunken garden space. It's the perfect spot to let dogs wear themselves out. Every single time we've been we have met lovely dog owners who have had the same idea. It's a safe, enclosed area that means you can easily keep an eye on even the most energetic dog.

Car parking is free but is often busy but you can park on the street near by.

All park details can be found here.

Warley Wood
Our recent favourite discovery is Warley Wood. A green flag park and one of the UK's current top 10 parks this area has a history that you can explore inside the grounds. With trails for Halloween, dog socialising events and plenty of other activities this park has a lot to offer. There's even a golf course!

The signs tell you the history of the park and the fact that it goes back over 500 years. Originally it had Warley Abbey within the 100 acres but only the gardens still exist. (Some of us were more interested in the signs than other...Bisbee!)

Located at the end of an urban area of Bearwood in the area of Smethwick we spent the drive up convinced the Sat Nav had the wrong place. Thankfully it didn't and the unfolding green space provides the much needed breath of fresh air.

We parked in the street but there is a car park.

The area is one third woodland and with 450 million leaves falling in the park each autumn it's the perfect location for dogs who loves leaves or just for autumnal strolls. However if your dog is an all out runner the slight hill that leads up to the woods is a perfect place to wear them out.

The circular routes around the park take less than an hour so it's great for an easy walk but still offers the variety of scenery you'd get to enjoy from the bigger parks.

You can even find fairy doors on some of the trees....this puppy was happy about that!

All details can be found here.

Wasley Hills Country Park
A long time favourite park of ours is Waseley Hills Country Park near Rubery. As the name suggests the area is hilly but it is beautiful. Voted the number one dog park in Birmingham we tried it out over a year ago and have taken everyone we know, and their dogs there. The park has a small cafe and toilets but after you head through the first gate you are in the country.

Highlights for us include the wood that fills with bluebells in spring and the hilltop views over the Cotswold's and Malverns. You also get a great view of Birmingham city if you follow the suggested loop. There are actually a few trails you can follow but we have learnt to go our own way. It's hard to get lost.

We've bumped into cows grazing and have often taken picnics to sit and enjoy the view. We have watched Bisbee run up and down the hills until she's laying out huffed and puffed and we managed to walk 5 miles without noticing. It really is a great location to stretch your legs.

With 150 aches in total this area has plenty to explore.

We do suggest taking at least a drink but a picnic is always appreciated after the hill walking. It's also a good idea to take stuff you can carry easily as there is a lack of bins.

It's also worth noting that you have to pay for the car park. It's not much but does require change and there is no cash point for miles!

All details about the park can be found here.

Clent Hills
10 miles south of Birmingham and technically in Worcestershire are the stunning Clent Hills. Owned by the National Trust this beautiful park has plenty to over - especially if you have 4 legs! Although for those of us on two the views alone are worth the walk.

The National Trust has put in an accessible path meaning those with buggy's or that struggle with uneven surfaces can get to the main vantage point. You know when you get there because of the Clent stones.

Although if you fancy a more adventurous ascent try the horses mane - starting from the road this route is steep and under the cover of trees. Bisbee loved it as there were plenty of squirrels to chase and trees to runaround. We liked it because it was shaded from the sun.

From the top of the hill you can make your way down into woodland towards an abandoned tower or through into open fields. Like the Wasley Hills you are surrounded with great views - the Cotswold's, Malverns and Birmingham are all visible on a clear day. There are also plenty of suggested trails to follow.

This park also has toilets and a cafe. If you are a National Trust member the car park is free, if you aren't you do have to pay. Or there is plenty of road parking.

You can find all the details here.

Have we missed any?

Happy Autumn