As a little girl Dawn seemed to have a charmed life, but she was hiding a dark secret: that her older brother, John, was abusing her. Then, aged fourteen, she was groomed by the father of a schoolfriend, a local businessman who seemed to love her. She ran away from home to be with him. Pregnant at sixteen, rejected by her parents, she ended up marrying him. She had no idea that he was a notorious criminal.For years, Dawn suffered horrific abuse from her husband and was frequently hospitalised. She was also forced to work all hours in the bars he owned and realized she was good at business – better than him. As her confidence grew, she found the strength to tell the police about her brother. Gradually, Dawn realised she was more than a battered wife – she was a survivor. When she fell in love with a genuinely good man, she hatched a dangerous plan to free herself from her abusive husband and take the thing he cared about most – his money.

I warn you now, this book will be uncomfortable read, involving child sexual abuse, grooming, domestic abuse and controlling coercive behaviour, but it is uncomfortable in the right way.

I found this book refreshingly written, as too many shy away from some details when tackling the theme of child abuse as if they are ashamed or too scared they will shock and horrify, or they try to be overly clinical – but this Dawn gives enough detail  to help readers understand the reality of what happened to her, and tackles the topics in an open way that gives a very real insight into the world of a victim turned survivor. You will feel both disgusted for yet also inspired by this young girl as she grows into the strong woman she becomes.

I found this book unputdownable. I started it and quite simply could not put it down until it was finished. A very gripping and compelling autobiography. The book very clearly illustrates early sexual abuse and coercive control and how such experiences affect the victim’s sense of their own self-worth and what is normal behaviour in a relationship.

Dawn said in an interview:  ‘Today, my freedom and independence mean the world to me. I believe that everybody has the right to be where they want, with whomever they chose. Now I want to inspire others to find the confidence to search for that freedom too.”

If you need help, call the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Trained counsellors are there to listen and provide practical information and emotional support, every hour of the day.

I Own You is out now, at £3.80 for a Kindle Edition, or £4.00 for a paperback.

I’ve got to say, I absolutely abhor protein shakes. Absolutely gross! No matter how tasty the first sip is, I also find swallowing it gross and gag-worthy, no idea why. I’d rather just smash a boiled egg after a workout than mixing grim powders with milk or water.

However, I got the chance to try Savsé protein smoothies – a brand created by Guka Tavberidze.

A lot of smoothie-type drinks use heat pasteurisation to make the product last longer and kill bacteria. The ingredients are boiled at 78 degrees, which strips out the goodness. Savsé smoothies are different as they’re cold pressed.

They use a method called high pressure processing (HPP) to make their smoothies. The fruit and veg ingredients are packaged in plastic containers and put in a high-pressure chamber filled with water. When the chamber is switched on it reaches pressures of 87,000 psi. Everything is completely fresh and the process gets rid of bacteria and gives the product a longer shelf life

You can look at the range here, but I tried Protein Blast, Protein Smash and Protein Punch – perfect when you’ve just had a work out and nicely refreshing too.

My favourite was definitely Protein Punch. Here’s the description:

“We took the classic Piña Colada and stirred it up, Savsé style, to make drinking protein a whole lot tastier. What’s more, this is the UK’s first cold-pressed protein drink preserved using HPP. This smoothie is a great way to pack protein into your diet and help repair tired muscles.”

Ah, modelled after an alcoholic drink. Probably why it’s my favourite. Go me. I’ve popped the nutritionals below – I’m a big calorie-watcher so 70cals was nice to see:

Honestly, take a look at the range – I’m a big fan now and will continue to be. The range can be found in Boots, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and more.

I was also sent some other goodies to try out to help me on my way to fitness, and I have been really enjoying the water infuser from Bobble. Priced at £10.49, Bobble is a stylish, reusable bottle that filters water as you drink, using an ingenious replaceable carbon filter. when water passes through the filter, the carbon removes chlorine. bobble is intended for municipal tap water making water better, with every sip.

I’ve been drinking so much more water!

In addition, these Happy Plugs earphones have come in handy, both when working out and when listening to playlists during work hours. They come with different sized ear buds, such a good idea for those with little ears!

 

images courtesy of savse.com, water bobble.uk

If you didn’t know already, I’m heading to Thailand in April and I’ve been trying to get this ass in shape. Problem is, I’m really lazy with my food at the moment, especially seeing as I’m still living in a studio flat (until 25th March!) and cooking / creating anything is a full blown operation.

Enter Lizi’s Granola. I’ve always avoided granola as I find it difficult to find some without loads of sugar or without mountains of dried fruit (gross).

Lizi’s Granola looked really interesting with plenty of varieties in the range; I’ve been trying out both the low sugar and high protein products which are suitable for vegetarians, vegans and are GL tested (the science-y thing that works out how to make us fuller for longer).

I mixed mine with Greek yoghurt, but often just had it plain with semi-skimmed milk and either chopped up banana or a few raspberries chucked in.

I’ve got a really weird thing about soft cereal as well so if it’s been sat on a shelf for a while I’ll just throw it away (I know, I know) – but these have a resealable top so there is no issue here!

The granola kept me full until lunch as well, something really important if you don’t want to be reaching for the biscuit tin at 11am! In short, I’m a big fan of this stuff – I hope you will be too. Enjoy!

images courtesy of lizis.co.uk and http://www.freshmarketing.eu

Literally can’t get over it. Thailand has been at the top of my travel list for absolutely years – destination numero uno. I think my longing to go there stems as far back as watching The Beach for the first time (hellooooo early 00s Leonardo!)

It’s always been one of my major goals – earn enough money to pack a back pack and piss off somewhere and not even worry about it for a bit. I’ve been through a lot of changes over the last year and had planned that I would definitely go to Thailand in 2017. Enough fannying around, time to go. On my own if necessary.

I’d mentioned it to Will about a billion times. I was probably (definitely?) on the verge of boring. Skip to a few weeks later and I’m in the pub showing him flights on the Skyscanner app, showing him Instagram pictures of beautiful island beaches, that prices of Tuk Tuks aren’t that bad and CLEARLY eating a scorpion on Khao San Road is beneficial to my health – he just turns to me and says: “Okay, book it.”

Cue Ella’s jaw hitting the table and almost knocking over my ridiculously overpriced Pino. 2017 achievement goal unlocked.

Taking no chances, those flights were booked in five minutes flat, and my 65L backpack was on Express delivery so fast Amazon didn’t know what had hit it.

We’ve planned roughly where we want to be and when, but obvs don’t want to plan too much – but I thought I’d share it to open up our itinerary to suggestions of experiences, places to stay …and bars obviously. Also I’m so damn excited I just have to get it out there boiii.

Flying into Bangkok
We fly into Bangkok early as hell in the morning and are staying at some guest house. We haven’t planned to do anything, except go to Khao San Road in the evening. The research I’ve done suggests this is the vanilla tourist approach, but I don’t think I can NOT go! I’m also hella intrigued to see what the gogo bars are like out there. I went to the Red Light District in Amsterdam and for some reason places like that, rightly or wrongly (discuss?) hold a strong fascination for me. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that it’s a life being lived that’s so far flung from my own, or what.

I’m also going eat a few insects. Because you’ve got to, haven’t you?

Flying to Chiang Mai
I was a liiiiittle disappointed as I really wanted to try out the sleeper train to Chiang Mai – but looking at the prices vs time spent travelling, flying won out every time. We’re again, staying in a little guest house. I thought it was pretty cute that they had a MASSIVE SERIOUS disclaimer on the website that WARNING, breakfast WILL BE CHARGED AS EXTRA. Putting the price into the currency converter told me we can receive that luxury for the grand total of £3.50 each. Banging.

We haven’t planned anything except visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, which we’ve booked ahead. I’ve heard all about the bad things that happen in elephant ‘sanctuaries’, plus the drugged tiger thing. I don’t want to contribute to that. I spoke to a lot of people, did a bit of sleuthing and I either read reviews mentioning the poor treatment of the animals or saw that riding the elephants would be part of the program (no no). EJS came out on top.

This was the one massive thing on my bucket list and I wanted to make sure we did it right. See the below from the website:

  1. There is no riding of the elephants – despite their large and strong build, elephants do not have the spines to support a rider. Long days of being ridden, either bareback or with a saddle, can cause painful damage to their spines not to mention the additional pain caused by the saddle itself and the wear on their feet from walking all day with improperly supported weight.
  2. Chains, bull hooks and the like are not used to subdue, coerce or manage the elephants.In Thailand, there is a long-standing tradition of training elephants for the tourism industry. The training method, called the Phajaan or crush, is exactly as it’s English translation would suggest – a method to crush the spirit of the animal. Bullhooks and chains are part of this method and are usually continued to be used while tourists are enjoying their ride through the jungle.

We’ve got a few days here. What else shall we do? I heard about a day-trip to Chiang Rai, is it worth it?

Flying to Phuket
Again, we’re flying to save time. We haven’t booked anywhere to stay yet and are toying with the idea of staying in a hostel dorm. I have never done it – not even in Amsterdam – and it’s not a very ‘me’ thing to do, but…YOLO right (sorry).

Where should we head?

 Island hopping, yah?
Obviously this was going to feature. We just want to lie on the beach with beers and pretend we’ve not got real life to go back to. Koh Phi Phi is top of the list. I never realised there was so many though – it’s difficult to choose what to do in the time that we have. Incidentally, we haven’t booked anywhere to stay as we don’t know where we’re going to be. Is it worth chancing it and just turning up to find somewhere to stay on the day?

I’m super excited to get some more stamps on my passport, and I’ve already got a mental list of the other places I want to visit over the next few years (sorry Will).

So, what do you think of our plans so far? Have we missed anywhere that we really should visit? Let me know, I’ll add it to our itinerary. Otherwise, I’ll update you when we get back…!

We were invited to Phở’s soft launch at its new restaurant in Kingston this week, and it’s fair to say that we were Phở-king loving it (sorry).

Stephen and Juliette Wall opened Pho, London’s first Vietnamese street food restaurant, in Clerkenwell in June 2005 after they travelled to Vietnam and fell in love with the food. They made the decision to start a restaurant serving pho while sat on high stools, slurping pho bo, around the shopfront of Pho Quynh in Ho Chi Minh City (323 Ð Pham Ngu Lao, if you’re heading there soon). Eleven years later, Pho is still a family-run business serving great value, authentically prepared Vietnamese street food, with restaurants in London, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge and Bristol.

Importantly, the food is made FRESH and in-branch everyday.

Phở [pronounced fuh] is the Vietnamese national dish; an aromatic, nutritious^ and delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please. The addition of these herbs and table condiments is an essential part of eating phở and adds another dimension to the dish – our chilli paste for a kick, fish sauce for extra saltiness, garlic vinegar for sourness.

Here’s what we had:

Muc chien giòn – tender friend baby squid with a salt, pepper and lime dip
Chå giò – crispy pork spring rolls
Pho chin – tender beef brisket slow cooked in broth
Pho tái chin – steak and brisket slow cooked in broth

The meat was amazing and there was absolutely loads there. It sounds gross, but I could have actually just drunk the broth, it tasted increds. 10/10 would recommend for a lunch break or dinner.

Head down to Kingston’s new restaurant now to experience proper Vietnamese food, or visit the website for more details – http://www.phocafe.co.uk/