Northern Blog Awards 2017, The Principal Hotel

Northern Blog Awards! #NBAs17

On Saturday night, I joined 200 other amazing bloggers at the first ever Northern Blog Awards!

It was a fantastic night and so I really wanted to write a post on it. I first heard about the event via Twitter, and, being a blogger based in the North of England, I thought I just had to go.

Northern Blog Awards - Getting Ready

Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to start taking my blog seriously. I have been blogging about my scoliosis now for about 7 years but it was my goal this year to really focus on it. I wanted to grow my blog traffic, raise awareness of scoliosis and to see myself as a serious health blogger.

When I saw the event on Twitter, I thought what better way to help me achieve my blog goals than to attend? I had never been to an event like this before and I wanted to use the opportunity to learn from other more established bloggers. Plus, it was an excuse to get all dressed up and have a posh night out. ๐Ÿ™‚

Most events like this are based in London and so it was AMAZING to actually have the chance to attend something like this up North!


Northern Blog Awards: About the night

Northern Blog Awards 2017, The Principal Hotel

The event was hosted at the stunning Principal Hotel in Manchester. I attended with my friend and fellow blogger over at Blog a Bargain (she is also trying to grow her blog so give her a follow!)

Northern Blog Awards - Before

We arrived to a glass of fizz and and a chance to network before being seated for a stunning 3 course meal.

Northern Blog Awards 2017, The Principal Hotel

It was then time for the awards.

It’s a big dream of mine to have my blog nominated at an event such as this (maybe next year? :)) So it was fascinating for me to see all the amazing blogs that were nominated and that won.

After the awards, there was a band on and a chance for more drinks and chatting (or dancing for some!)

Overall, we both really enjoyed the event. We met some lovely people and what was great was that EVERYONE was so open, friendly and approachable. It didn’t matter if you had a small blog and were just setting out, or if you had thousands of followers. I just love Manchester and the North for that!

Plus, the goody bag was beyond AMAZING!

I also wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you to the organisers. It was an incredibly well organised event and I predict that it will only get bigger and more special each year. I’m proud to have been part of the first ever one and I’m already looking forward to attending next year! ๐Ÿ™‚

Louise X


Photography by The Vain Photography

@thevainphotos


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Personal Update

Personal Update: Today’s hospital appointment

Hello ๐Ÿ™‚

I thought I’d write a quick post to update how things are with my back at the moment. Those of you who follow my blog may know that I’ve been suffering with leg numbess for a while now. I worked it out and it’s been almost a year now that I’ve had numbness down my right leg. I’m not getting any pain, it’s just numb which is weird.

I have been waiting for MONTHS now for an appointment at the hospital where I had my original scoliosis surgery (in Oswestry, Shropshire). Whilst waiting, I have had physio which to be honest was a waste of time. The physio was lovely but she didn’t really know what to do with me (a common problem). She thought it was probably a problem below my fusion (L3/L4) but without a scan of some kind, she didn’t know how to treat it.

In the meantime, I’ve been carrying on like normal doing my running, gym etc as I’m not sure what else I can do. It’s not causing any pain or stopping me from doing anything. It’s just a bit irritating really.

Anyway, today my eagerly awaited appointment arrived and I headed to Oswestry. To be honest, I was really nervous going back there. I thought it might bring back all those memories of my surgery 7 years ago. But they’ve done it all up and it looks completely different, which probably helped.

My appointment was at 2pm and, as with past appointments, I expected to be waiting hours and for it to take all afternoon. In the end, it was possibly the quickest appointment I have ever had. And after months of waiting, it was a bit of an anti-climax. The Dr I saw was nice enough (he was in my surgeon’s team – it’s rare to see the main man himself!) He asked me a few questions, asked me to do a few movements and then said I’ll need an MRI scan to find out what’s causing the issue. The whole appointment took less than 5 minutes!

He said it could be wear and tear below my fusion which can happen years after scoliosis surgery, but he said it’s odd that I have no pain. To be honest, I really think it’s wear and tear because of all the stuff I do. The problem with spinal fusion is the lower spine gets more pressure put onto it and the discs wear out quicker. ย I’m really worried that this is what is causing the issue and that I’ll be told I can’t do all the exercise that I love so much. If they tell me this I’ll be really upset. I did ask him about running and he said that if it’s not causing pain then it shouldn’t be a problem.

I’m just feeling a little fed up, as at the moment I’m in limbo. I’m worrying that I have caused the issue by doing too much at the gym. I suppose it’s good that they are looking into it though and all I can do is wait for the MRI scan and I’ll know more. It’s just a shame I had to wait almost a year to be told I need an MRI scan.. the damage is probably already done by now and my other fear is that the numbness will be permanent.

To be honest I didn’t think I’d be back at Oswestry again so soon after my surgery, but I guess the thing with scoliosis is that it is a chronic condition. It’s a condition that you can never really escape from, you just have to learn to live with it and even after surgery it’s not over.

I’m determined to stay positive though. If I can get through the scoliosis surgery, I can get through anything!

Louise X

Blog Survey

Help me to help you: Blog Survey

Hello everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the direction of this blog and I really want to make sure that the content I post on my blog is relevant, interesting and useful for those who read it. ย As, at the end of the day, for me my readers are the most important part of this blog.

So, I have created a really short surveyย (it takes less than 2 minutes to complete!)

The results will help me to make sure the content I post is what you want to read ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you soooo much in advance, ย I really appreciate your help!

Louise X

Click here to take my survey

September Link Up with A Chronic Voice

September 2017 Linkup Party with “A Chronic Voice”

Sheryl Chan over at A Chronic Voiceย (a great blog to follow by the way!) is having a September Link Up Party – the theme is to write about the following topics:

Resisting, Learning, Struggling, Supporting and Changing.

I thought it would be fun to take part and have tried to relate these themes to my scoliosis. I hope you enjoy reading ๐Ÿ™‚


Resisting

Feeling down about how my back looks.ย 

This is a tough one and I’m sure many of my readers can relate. Yes, I’ve had scoliosis surgery and my back looks “straight” but I still have a curve there. My ribs stick out on one side. My shoulder blade sticks out too. As I’m slim you can see my spine curve and you can see the screws through the skin. I have a large scar running down my back. Does all this make me self conscious? Hell yes!

In day to day life, when I have clothes on it’s fine and in all honesty it doesn’t bother me then, I forget about it.

It’s just in situations where my back is on display where I feel down about it sometimes.

When I was on holiday recently I saw a photograph of me from the back and it shocked me a bit because I didn’t realise how bad it looked (to me anyway). A few years ago, I would have spent most of the holiday upset about a photo like this, but this time I resisted. I wore my bikini and I refused to let my scoliosis make me feel bad about myself. I have been spending a lot of time this year in the gym and running and I am proud of my figure, so why should I hide it? ย I am proud of my scoliosis and everything I have been through has made me much stronger.


Learning

Scoliosis Quote - Success

Not to compare myself with others.ย This is something I do a lot and social media really fuels this. An example is my running. I love running and got into it earlier this year while training for the British 10K in July.

I now run a few times a week and do Park Run (weekly, free, times 5K runs) most Saturday’s.

I have seen a HUGE improvement in my running since January. In January I completed my first ever Park Run in 33 minutes, I am now completing it in around 28 minutes. Despite this, ย I still feel like I’m rubbish compared to other runners who can run much faster.

I see other people’s times on Instagram and Strava and it makes me feel bad about myself. Now, I am trying to improve my speed but it’s incredibly hard and I find if I push myself too much I get pain in my back/shoulder which is related to my scoliosis.

But instead of focusing on the positives, that even just running 5k/10K with my back is amazing and on how much I have improved, I focus on how slow I run compared to the other runners I follow on social media. I am really trying not to do this but sometimes it’s difficult.

I think the point is, everyone’s situation is different and the only person I should compare myself with, is myself! I know how difficult it is to run with scoliosis and I should be proud of the improvements I have made.


Struggling

I’ve been struggling with leg numbness over recent months and it’s really annoying me as I do not know what is causing it. It’s likely related to my scoliosis though. I have an appointment next week at the hospital where I had my original scoliosis surgery so hopefully they will look into it for me. I’ll update with a post after the appointment about how it goes.

My biggest fear is that there is a problem with my fusion, metalwork or that the discs below the fusion are starting to wear out. To be honest, with all the exercise I do I worry I have done this to myself by doing too much. An even bigger fear is that I will be told to stop doing all the things I love (running, gym etc).


Supporting

I love supporting others with scoliosis and I hope that I accomplish this with my blog. I always try to respond to all the comments and emails I receive as I think those of us with scoliosis sometimes just need the support.

Support is something I didn’t really have when I was first diagnosed with scoliosis. My family didn’t want to talk about it and pretended it wasn’t happening. My friends didn’t know as I was too ashamed to tell anyone. Facebook/Twitter/Instagram etc didn’t exist back then (yes, I’m olddd..) and so it wasn’t as easy to find and chat to others with scoliosis.

I’ve since realised that it’s so important to talk about things and I so wish I had told my friends back then and been more open about my scoliosis. As soon as I started being more open and reaching out to others with scoliosis I felt so much better and less alone.

Now, I really want to give something back by putting my story “out there” and giving my help and support to anyone who needs it ๐Ÿ™‚ If you need support, don’t struggle on like I did. You can email me or contact Scoliosis Association who are great for offering support to those affected by scoliosis.

I also wanted this year to be the year that I supported the Scoliosis Association/Scoliosis Campaign Fund by taking part in a couple of charity events to help raise money for them (British 10K) plus my upcoming Great Wall of China Trek (p.s you can sponsor me here…) ๐Ÿ™‚


Changing

Scoliosis Quote - Comfort Zone

One of my favourite quotes is “a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” This is so true.

So I’ll soon be pushing myself out of my comfort zone by undertaking a massive physical and personal challenge – trekking the Great Wall of China for the Scoliosis Campaign Fund.

I’m so incredibly scared as, although it’s part of a group challenge, I’m actually going by myself. I have travelled quite a bit but never alone and so I’m petrified. However, I love being active, pushing myself and taking on challenges so I know in the back of my mind that once I’m there I will love it. I’ll probably want to do another similar challenge after it’s done!!

I’m really hoping that this experience will help to change me for the better by improving my confidence as well as my fitness.


I hope you enjoyed reading ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re a blogger, why not join in on this link party? Alternatively, let me know your thoughts in the comments. How would you answer these word prompts/relate them to scoliosis?

4 days in Amsterdam - canal

4 days in Amsterdam!

4 days in Amsterdam


So this is a non-scoliosis related post (sorry!) But I have just got back from 4 days in Amsterdam with a friend and thought I’d write a post about what we got up to. It was our first time in Amsterdam and I have to say, I really enjoyed it!

Amsterdam is a very pretty city with endless canals, and is fairly relaxed in parts. That being said, other parts (i.e the Red Light District) are plain crazy and have to be seen to be believed! This post shows what we did in 4 days, which may help if you are planning a trip to Amsterdam in the future. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are a few things we got up to in our 4 days in Amsterdam…


Day 1

Free Walking Tour – Sandemans

4 days in Amsterdam - Dam Square
Dam Square

I find a great way to get your bearings in a new city is to do a free walking tour. I have been on the Sandemans free walking tour several times in other cities and have always really enjoyed it. The Amsterdam free tour starts in Dam Square every day (at various start times) and takes around 2-3 hours. We booked online in advance (recommended) and chose a start time of 12pm. It was a fantastic tour and gave us a great overview of the city and main tourist attractions.

Raw Herring: Frens Haringhandel

4 days in Amsterdam - raw herring

After the walking tour we wandered around a bit and were a bit peckish so decided to try the local speciality – raw herring! Served with gherkins and onions, it tastes a lot nicer than it sounds trust me… We came across the Frens Haringhandel stand which served Herring and other kinds of fish just outside the flower market. I have to say, it was truly delicious and you should definitely try this when in Amsterdam.

Flower Market

4 days in Amsterdam - Flower Market

The huge flower market in Amsterdam is famous, so we thought we’d check it out while we were in the area. Not really that much to say about it but worth a visit if you have an interest in plants!

Evening Canal Tour

4 days in Amsterdam - Canal Tour

With over 160 canals in Amsterdam, a canal tour is a must! There are many boat tours to choose from, however we chose an evening cruise (Blue Boat tours) and pre-booked online as it was cheaper. Overall, it was good value as it lasted a couple of hours and included a free drink. It was very relaxing and I would recommend doing a canal tour at night as all the bridges are lit up and it looks so pretty!

Leidseplein (Leiden Square)

As we were in the area, having got our canal cruise from here, we decided to have a drink afterwards and went to the Hard Rock Cafe bar. There are loads of restaurants and bars round here (and a casino). It seems like a popular area for a night out.


Day 2

Hire a Bike!

When you arrive in Amsterdam, one of the first things you notice is the number of bikes!

It is said that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam and I can believe it. Amsterdam is a very bike friendly city and cycling is the main way that the locals get around. There are cycle lanes EVERYWHERE. Bikes tend to have right of way and they even have their own traffic lights. For these reasons it is fairly safe to ride around the city on a bike, you just have to watch out for other cyclists and pedestrians. Also, as a pedestrian you need to be on the constant lookout for bikes when crossing the road etc!

So on day two we decided to hire a bike from our hotel (14 Euro for 24 hours) and explore the city like a local. You can also do a bike tour and there are many available (including Sandemans).

Vondelpark

4 days in Amsterdam - Vondelpark
Vondelpark – The Fish

We cycled from our hotel (which was about 40 mins out of the city center) through Rembrant park and onto Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest and most popular park. We spent some time here cycling round the park and I really enjoyed it. There were so many bikes though!!! The picture above shows the Picasso Fish sculpture at Vondelpark.

I Amsterdam Sign

4 days in Amsterdam - I amsterdam sign

As Vondelpark is close to the Museum quarter, we cycled there to check out the famous I Amsterdam sign. We chained our bikes up and took a few pictures while we were there. It was crazy busy with people climbing all over the sign! I reckon you’d need to visit very early to get a decent picture with only you on it.

Red Light District

4 days in Amsterdam - Red Light District

No visit to Amsterdam is complete without a wander through the Red Light District. After enjoying the Sandemans free walking tour so much on day 1, we decided to book onto their Red Light District tour. This is a two hour tour of the Red Light District, starting at 7pm on Dam Square. Of course, you can just wander around the area yourself if you didn’t fancy paying for a tour. I found the Sandemans tour really interesting though, especially hearing about the history of the area and stories about the prostitutes that work there.

All in all, I found the Red Light District fascinating (if a little disturbing in places!)

Dutch Beer

4 days in Amsterdam -Dutch Beer

After a drink near to the Red Light District area, we headed to a Dutch beer bar called Arendsnest, which does hundreds of different Dutch beers. I’m not a big beer drinker, in fact I don’t like beer at all! However, we asked the bar man for a recommendation for a sweet beer and the one he recommended was amazing. The first beer I have ever legitimately enjoyed. ย ๐Ÿ™‚


Day 3

Pancakes!

4 Days in Amsterdam - Pancakes

When in Amsterdam it is a must to try some pancakes. We found a really cute pancake place (called Mook Pancakes) quite near to our hotel via Tripadvisor. It was honestly AMAZING and they were the best pancakes I have ever had (I had their breakfast pancakes!)

Rijksmuseum

4 Days in Amsterdam - Rijksmuseum

After breakfast we headed to the highly recommended Rijksmuseum. We spent about 3-4 hours here in total and it was very enjoyable. A highlight for me was the Rembrant collection but the museum features a large collection of other Dutch artists.

Sex Museum

4 days in amsterdam - sex museum

Ok, so this one was a little less cultured but hey, when in Rome and all that. The Sex Museum is a bit of fun and it only costs 5 euro, so why not? Be warned though – this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and is definitely not suitable for those under 18.

China Town

4 days in amsterdam - china town

For our evening meal we decided to wander into China town and see what was about. It was quite small but there were a good choice of restaurants. Afterwards we headed to one of Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops (Abraxas) near to Dam square.

 


Day 4

More Pancakes..

4 days in Amsterdam - More Pancakes

We found another cute place for pancakes called The Happy Pig. You can take away or sit in to eat and they have a variety of sweet and savoury pancakes – yum!

Albert Cuyp Market & De Pijp

We decided to explore this area as we hadn’t been to this part of the city yet. The Pijp area is really nice and seemed less touristy – it’s near to the Heineken experience. The Albert Cuyp market is a huge street market selling all sorts including traditional Dutch food.

4 days in amsterdam - albert cuyp market

We bought some Stroop waffels from the market (called The Super Strooper… lol!) which were ah-may-zing. Afterwards we had a stroll round the park nearby (Sarphatipark) which was nice and chilled.

4 days in Amsterdam - Super Strooper
The Super Strooper…

In the afternoon we headed back to Dam Square and did some shopping, we also found the smallest house in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House.

Smallest House in Amsterdam

 4 days in Amsterdam -Smallest House in Amsterdam

This is actually a tea room but it’s so cute! We came across it by accident really, it’s off a side street near to the Red Light District.

Anne Frank House

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside the Anne Frank house as the queues were ridiculous. You have to book months in advance and people queue round the block! We did however sit outside it and take a picture. ย It was interesting and also sobering just to see it from the outside.

4 days in amsterdam - Anne Frank House

The Jordaan area

In the evening we headed to the Jordaan area as we heard that there were some nice restaurants here. It was a really pretty area with lots of narrow streets and nice houses. It seemed quieter and less touristy than the Dam square area. It’s a nice area to grab a bite to eat but I would recommend booking in advance somewhere as the places get quite busy. Also, it was pretty expensive round there. Although Amsterdam in general is very expensive, so if you do go, take plenty of Euros.


So, all in all, we had a busy few days. One thing I missed is on our first night we visited Foodhallen which was a short walk from our hotel. It’s basically a large food hall/indoor market type place where you can buy all types of food and drink. Recommended!

Other places we didn’t visit due to time/money etc include the Van Gogh museum and Heineken experience. I’ve heard both are good, depending on your interests! There are also loads more museums about if you have the time.


How did my back cope with all the walking?

In all honesty, my back did hurt quite a bit. I found that towards mid afternoon after walking round for hours it really started to hurt at the bottom. My memory foam trainers were a lifesaver! I found when I didn’t wear them one night my back hurt almost immediately so for me, they really helped.

If you are interested in how I cope when travelling with scoliosis check out my post – travelling with scoliosis – my 5 top tips.

Thanks for reading ๐Ÿ™‚ any tips, advice or questions let me know in the comments below!
Louise X

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4 days in Amsterdam