By Aislinn De'Ath

By Aislinn De'Ath
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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The lessons learned from reading...

Reader, one of my favourite authors/poets died today-the wonderful Maya Angelou who wrote 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' and 'Gather Together In My Name'. Recently, another favourite (although entirely different) author passed, Sue Townsend who penned the hysterical Adrian Mole series (as well as The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year and the brilliant play Bazaar and Rummage). These deaths have made me think a bit about how important books have been to me in my lifetime.

When I say important, I feel like I'm not giving books enough credit. See, when I was a kid, I didn't have many friends. In fact, I got bullied, pretty severely. I learned to read really young (by about 8 years old I was reading books written for young teens quicker than most 15 year olds) and it became a massive form of escapism for me. I may have had to put up with insults and violence, but I could hide in a corner and become Anne Shirley (of Green Gables) or Matilda or Nancy Drew and have adventures in my mind for a few hours.

Before I even left primary school, I had finished all of the books in the school library and within a year of going to high school I'd also chomped my way through all the 'young adult' books in my local library too-so my mum started giving me her books, with the instruction that if I didn't understand any parts of them, to come and ask and we'd talk about them. My mum was pretty liberal, so she let me read books with more mature themes-Daphne Du Maurier, Sue Townsend and Maya Angelou found their way to me and I would sit for hours transfixed by the stories. They taught me how to deal with bullies (by being kind back-it confuses them-and then living a life that makes you happy), what it might feel like to fall in love before I'd even really met any boys, how as a woman you have to know yourself, because the world will try telling you who you are from when you first sprout hips and breasts, that the best heroines have to go through a ton of difficult stuff before they get their rewards, that freckles are not a bad thing, that gumbo tastes wonderful and that porridge can either be the worst thing in the world or the best depending on how it's described, that men who have silver tongues rarely have golden hearts and that love is the most important thing in the world.

Having a well stocked book case in the home is essential for kids. I learnt more about sex (and the consequences of having it) from books than I ever did from sex-ed classes. I also learned about the darker side of humanity-when my friends wanted me to lie to their parents about where they were when they were off with boys they didn't really know, I wouldn't do it, because I'd read tales where things had gone horribly wrong. I was a super safe teenager, because I knew exactly what could happen from all the crime books I'd read. I could explain a number of philosophical and psychological ideas from what I'd read and had a much greater understanding of the greater world than most teens of the same age. Whenever I had a problem, there was a book I could go to that would give me someone else's experience. My life had been lived by a million characters and they were all waiting on my shelf to give me advice.

Give your kids books parents, so they can learn too,

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

How to make cookies the Ash Acting Up way....

Step one-oversleep.

 Step two-remember that it's your friend's birthday and you decided to bake as a gift, but you don't have any ingredients in the house

Step three-frantically get ready to dash down to Asda-overdress a bit (which is what inevitably happens when I rush to get ready)

Step four-buy too much chocolate because you can't remember what the actual measures are. Also buy some peanut M&Ms and Peanut Butter Cups because they were on sale and it would have been a crime not to.

Step five-set up array of ingredients. Be smug about your vintage mixing bowl.

Step six-220g of softened butter

Step seven-200g sugar (half brown, half white) 

Step eight-cream together, also coating everything nearby in the mix. Get annoyed because you can't hear your tv show over the blender

Step nine-chuck in an egg and a splash of vanilla extract. Spill a bit on your hand. Lick it off. Regret licking it off. Make cat-licking-a-lemon faces

Step ten-get distracted by an uplifting video about old ladies (you can watch it here:

Step eleven- realise that you still need another egg, since you misread the instructions. Bollocks.

Step twelve-chuck in 230g plain flour. Decide that since it's wheat free flour, that makes this a very healthy recipe. 

Step thirteen-add pinch of salt from adorable Christmas themed shaker, despite it being practically summer and mid-muggiest day ever rather than December

Step fourteen-a teaspoon each Bicarb of Soda and Baking Powder. Think about doing that teeth whitening thing you read about on Pinterest. Decide not to bother as it sounds gross and you can't remember whether it was bicarb soda or baking powder that you're supposed to use.

Step fifteen-60g of coco powder. Wonder how you make coco powder. Spend 2 minutes imagining a desert of coco powder instead of sand, with mirages of liquid chocolate fountains.

Step sixteen-mix motha fudger, MIX

Step seventeen-Resist urge to eat batter

Step eighteen-Chop up more chocolate than entirely necessary. (450g in this case....mmmm...)

Step nineteen-Get bored chopping. Wonder why you didn't just buy bags of chocolate chips. Remember that bars are far cheaper and you are an impoverished actress. Resume chopping but now also dream of winning the lottery.

Step twenty-Have a 50's housewife moment as you stir in your chocolate mountain

Step twenty one-Shape into small balls and place on greaseproof paper covered baking tray. Sing 'Salty chocolate balls' under your breath and snigger. Because you have the sense of humour of a 12 year old boy.

Step twenty two-Realise that you forgot to preheat the oven. Swear more.

Step twenty three-Set oven at 190 degrees. Go have a drink while the oven heats up.

Step twenty four- Put the cookies in and go do some work while they bake (apron optional)

Step twenty five- After aprox 15 mins, retrieve first heartachingly perfect tray of cookies from oven

Step twenty six-Go to line the next tray and realise you're out of greaseproof paper. Swear.

Step twenty seven-Grease tray with 1cal spray and hope for the best

Step twenty eight-Wonder if you have potentially made too many giant cookies. Eat 3 just to even things out a bit

Right reader, I am going to go and collapse in a chocolatey mess. Have a great day, and bake well!
P.s. Don't forget to go check out my most recent vlog!

Friday, 16 May 2014

S*** no one tells you about depression...

So Reader, one thing you might not know about me is that when I was at university, many years ago, I was diagnosed with depression. Now, don't freak out on me (people have done in the past), this doesn't mean what the media sometimes makes it out to mean. I'm not suicidal, I'm not really sad all the time, nor am I the quiet po-faced one in the corner at parties.

First off, I am actually very lucky. I'm on the much much lower end of the depression spectrum compared to most people. A couple of times in a year, it flares up a bit, and it's like the chemicals inside my brain go a bit out of wack when it comes to coping with things and my emotions. The rest of the year, I am an incredibly happy little bunny. I have been known as 'Little miss optimist' and 'Lady cheery' in my time. I am inevitably the one offering solutions to problems with a side of cupcake and wishing on stars and generally acting like a Disney princess on a lot of sugar. In the times that I am sad (which I what I normally say, as the term 'Depression' never seemss quite right), I will rarely tell anyone, which is why very few people know I have the big D (yes, I just laughed at the innuendo there too). Most of the time I don't even realise it's happening until I'm deep into it and then I go 'Oooohhh, yeah-that's what that is!' I don't medicate, when I was at uni a really lovely doctor gave me great lifestyle and food advice to help as I wasn't up for taking anything strong and I find that stuff like eating nice food and getting light exercise and as much sunshine as possible tends to help. Even when I am suffering from a bout of it, I'm pretty functional and able to laugh and socialise with my friends and dates etc. What is pretty interesting to me though, is that, because I only developed depression later in life, I had read a lot of mentions to it in books and magazines, and seen it on films and tv, which I think is why I didn't recognise it when it happened to me-because it's actually different for everyone, which the media doesn't really show. So here's a little list of some things I discovered myself...


  • You're not necessarily sad

I'm going to be honest with you folks, the sad bit doesn't always turn up. Sometimes it does, and that sucks in its own special way, but a lot of time in my experience, depression is like the absence of emotion. Nothing affects you. It's like you're down a well, or as my dear friend says 'bubbled'. I tend to find that I veer from being utterly unable to feel or be affected by anything to being panicky and sad in one fell swoop-usually I won't even know what about. Which reminds me....

  • There is rarely a reason for you being depressed

When they hear I'm depressed, usually the first thing they ask is 'Why?' More often than not, the answer is 'I have no freakin' idea!' Although situations can be the trigger for depressed phases, more often than not it's just your body chemistry being a twat. Women with depression often find that flare ups happen pre-period or around pregnancy, because hormones also play a huge part in it (but ask if we're sad because of our period and you will likely get a punch in the face). Despite this, sometimes it helps to rant about everything that sucks in your life and cry about it (note, most of the time I think my life is awesome and wonderful-when I'm depressed everything develops a really long shadow and my mind palace turns into a mind dungeon, where even the nice things are slime-covered. Metaphors for THE WIN). I actually did this a few nights ago with my parents (my mum has a terrifying ability to notice I'm on the edge of emotional freak out before even I do) and it really helps. 

  • Depression makes your sleep cycle freak out

One of my friends can't sleep when she's depressed. When mine flares up, I am constantly exhausted and tend to need naps, early nights and still can't function without caffeine. For me, the trick is to push through that and go on walks and do exercise classes. When I was first diagnosed, I would wake up in the middle of the night and have to clean my room or check my banking stuff. Now I just fall asleep everywhere-on buses, sofas,'s pretty weird.

  •  It can make you super productive...or unable to do anything

One of the few ways I know to escape my depression is by making myself keep very busy (which ironically is how I sometimes wind up having a flare up) and because my brain doesn't want to think about the chemical chaos going on inside it, it's only too happy to allow itself to be distracted. So sometimes in the midst of depression I'm wildly productive, cleaning my room within an inch of its life, bleaching floors, doing so much admin my laptop smokes-and then at other times, the lethargy takes over and I have such small amounts of energy, even the thought of getting out of bed seems like the most impossible thing in the world. The latter is obviously far worse, because the more you feel like that, the harder it is to battle out of the murk. And given that I'm a freelancer, time not spent working is time that I don't get paid-not ideal to say the least. Interestingly, I've never found it's affected my ability to perform-even at my worst, I've been able to get up, go to rehearsal and do my best. I find that because I'm focussing on the character's issues rather than my own, I'm able to escape from it all for a while, or at times, use it to give the character more honesty. Which is one of the reasons that I think the prospect of schools removing drama from the syllabus is ridiculous, for some kids drama is a lifeline. Sadly our conservative government doesn't realise how important a wide range of classes truly is. 

  • You can sometimes go for a few years without a flare up

For a while after drama school, my depression didn't flare up at all. I had about a year and a half where I had normal emotions, normal reactions to things and I sort of thought I'd escaped it. When I was sad, it was normal levels of sadness. When I was stressed, it was normal levels of stress. It was fabulous! And then, without warning, one day it hit again. I felt so ashamed and sad that it was back that I hid it from everyone until it had passed. My ex didn't even know I had depression until the 4th year of us being together, mainly because I didn't tell him until we were living together and I had my first flare up in ages. This is a bit of a routine, the shame and the hiding. I think everyone normally sees me as so positive they could puke, so when I can't be like that I feel like I've let people down. And the guilt of being so unhappy when there's nothing really 'wrong' is killer. I've got a lot more used to it over the years, but I still have issues talking about it and vocalising how I'm feeling. I've never been particularly good at accepting help. 

  • Talking about it doesn't always help

Sometimes it does. Sometimes I really don't want to discuss it. Because it will make me think about it more. And actually, pretending it's a small child having a temper tantrum is sometimes the best way to cope with it. Don't get me wrong, at times a good talk is very much needed, but on days where I'm just about holding it together, I don't want to explain my feelings because I have too much to get on with to wallow in it. Which brings up another point...

  • It's really hard not to wallow in it

Depression is like really warm, comfy quicksand. You know it's bad for you. You know the longer you're in it, the worse it's going to be for you in the long run, but it's so easy just to lay back and let it happen. One of the hardest parts for me in a flare up is not indulging myself, because it would be so easy just to stay in bed all day, lock my door and cry. When I'm feeling like this I keep reaaaally busy, so that I don't even have the choice to stay in all day. I know out of experience that if I give into it, it's much harder to lever myself out and into normality. But this has to be something that I do myself-if someone who doesn't know what it's like were to tell me to 'snap out of it' it would increase the guilt, worry and panic ten fold. 

So yeah! Some stuff about depression and some of the crap that the books don't really talk about. The thing is Reader, it's completely different for everyone. I cannot stress how lucky I am that I only have to deal with this crap a couple of days or weeks in the year-I have friends that deal with it on a day to day basis and I can't imagine how hard it must be for them. I have friends who have manic depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar who you would never guess had it because they are incredibly good at hiding it. 

Anyway, cheerio Reader! I hope you've learnt things from this little blog entry!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Wedding survival guide for singles...

Reader, it seems like everyone is either getting married or breaking up at the moment. Lovely though the former is, my purse is paying the ultimate price and as a single woman, there's something rather gutting about your loved up friends asking if you're bringing a plus one and having to reply...'nope...just me...' Now, I actually rather like being single. I like the excitement of dating, I find not being in a relationship means I have more time to focus on my career and I have a lot of travelling planned over the next year or so which wouldn't go particularly well with commitment. But there's something about being in your late twenties which means you get a slight pitying face when you go to a wedding alone. I only know this, because I went to weddings with my ex, and it was lovely and romantic and full of hope. When you're single, it's still lovely (because obviously you're overwhelmingly delighted for your loved up friends), but it also gets an extra layer added to it. Something I like to call 'The Single Girl Veil'. So I've made a little survival guide for all you single guys and gals out there, so you don't hulk out this summer at the 10th wedding you attend...

The Ash Acting Up Wedding Survival Guide for singles...

  • Bring a cereal bar. The photos take forever and you'll be fainting by the time the food (in inevitably tiny portions) appears.

This is actually good advice for everyone, but particularly the singles. You don't want to be that person obsessively talking about food, or chasing down the (ridiculously fast) canapé waiters. You'll miss all the good conversations! People in couples usually tag team and have one person looking out for food at any given time. You have to look out for yourself, kid. Survival of the fittest! Or, least famished...

  • Don't get too drunk

This one is for a number of VERY IMPORTANT REASONS. 1) It's someone else's day. Don't be a selfish twat. 2) People in couples have a partner to help them back to the hotel. You do not. 3) People might assume you're getting drunk because you're sad that you're single. I know, fuck em, but they do not understand that wine is simply delicious and there was NOT ENOUGH FOOD. 4) You might accidentally get off with someone you hadn't intended to. Which reminds me...

  • Don't kill the bride when she's set you up with the only other single there, who makes children cry and dogs whine when they walk past

If you're single, I can promise you that it's highly likely you'll already have been auctioned off to the highest bidder without your knowledge. And then you'll get to the wedding and there will be the most awkward introduction in the history of awkward introductions. And inevitably, in some kind of strange Bridezilla/Groomzilla meltdown, they will have remembered ONE THING that you are attracted to and attributed it to someone you would have to have consumed A LOT of booze to spend an hour with, let alone the whole night. 'We remembered you liked creative guys! Jeremy here plays the kazoo!' Even sadder than this is when you first see the guy that they've set you up with and he's gorgeous, poised and well dressed, then you talk to him and he has the personality of a mouldy pear. Remember, it's their big day, deal with the situation elegantly (and don't then get pissed and shag him anyway. I have a friend who did this and still gets hopeful calls from the bloke. Silly girl)

  • Don't be bitter

This one is very important. Remember, this day will probably only come once in your friends' lives. You may have been to 4 weddings this month, but they only get one day which is all about their love. Allow yourself to enjoy the romance of it, feel hope that one day you'll meet someone who will want to be legally and spiritually bonded to you and act like a kind and loving fairy godmother/father who has come to bestow good will and charm. Sending out death rays when anyone mentions love doesn't go very well with the day. And it might give you indigestion. 

  • Don't let other people shame you about how much you've spent on the gift

As a single person, you have half the income they do. You've had to spend more on a hotel room, more on the trip up and you pay more tax than smug marrieds. So what if you hand made the gift? BUGGER THEM. It's sentimental. Or something.

  • Wear good pants

There is a small chance someone might see them. Sex happens at weddings. A lot. My friend was conceived at one (don't you love mums who don't know when to stop talking?). On that note, also bring condoms. There's never any shops near by.

  • Don't be ashamed to crack out some classic moves

Look, let's be honest. How likely is it that you're going to meet the person of your dreams at this thing? Not very, I'd say. How likely is it that getting crazy on the dancefloor to Cotton Eye Joe will make you fabulously happy? SUPER LIKELY. Be the first person on that floor. Get everyone jumping, from the 6 year old flower girl to the groom's 82 year old great uncle. Joy is infectious! Who cares if you look like a complete weirdo? You'll spend the night laughing! 

  • Don't be the crying girl/boy at the party

This may be harsh, but I have NO TIME for people who get pissed and cry at other people's events. It's not cool. If you're sad, excuse yourself and go home for a little weep. If you are likely to cry after 2 glasses of malibu and lemonade, then don't drink. This kind of relates to the point about getting too drunk and being bitter, but it's essential. Cry with happiness. Cry because the bride looks beautiful, or the groom said something heartbreakingly lovely in his speech, or at the moment when they mention a special person who couldn't be there. That's fine. But don't cry for yourself at a wedding. Or a birthday. Or a christening. Or any event that celebrates someone else really.

  • Bring business cards

I know this sounds a bit cagey for a wedding, but what if you meet a supremely awesome business contact? Or make friends with someone whilst dancing to YMCA? Or meet the person of your dreams? Business cards not only mean networking is easier, but if your phone dies you still have a way to keep in touch after the party!

  • Don't wear a big hat

You will misplace it. And no one will be able to see if they're sitting behind you.

Well gang, however many weddings you go to this summer, I hope you have a fantabulous time!
p.s. Remember to go watch my vlogs and subscribe to my YouTube channel! I now bring out new videos every Tuesday and Friday!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Nostalgic Nelly...

Reader, I have recently been watching Sabrina The Teenage Witch whilst I work and it's fabulous-the high jeans, the sporty crop tops, the random plaits in's like being magicked back to the late 90's/early 2000's. But coming back to a show I've watched has massively surprised me-there were some things that I definitely missed the first time round.


  • Sabrina is kind of a douche. She cheats on poor Harvey with two different guys, uses her magic to give her a massive advantage at school and then constantly complains about her life.
  • Harvey is adorable but a bit of a doormat-he's always acting like it's ok that Sabrina treats him like he'll do till someone better comes along. Saying that, he's way sweeter than most boys I knew when I was a teenager! Kisses on the cheek, taking her out for dates-the girl got LUCKY!
  • Buuuut she never 'got lucky'. For the first couple of seasons of Harvey and Sabrina dating, all they do is hold hands. Yes. Seriously. Aged 16 and hand holding is portrayed as practically scandalous.
  • Vice Principle Kraft has a straaaange relationship with the bully, Libby. So flirtatious I'm pretty sure the Daily Mail would have a field day.
  • The kids are all awfully thin given that they eat enormous trays of burgers and fries for lunch every day then go to the pizza place every evening  (were there no chubby kids in the 90's? Apparently not!')
  • Her 'Spinster' aunts are ridiculously gorgeous and fun-and still can't get dates. Oh good.
  • The show has THE BEST supporting cast. Turk from Scrubs is Sabrina's date for a whole season, Brain Cranston, Paula Abdul, Coolio, Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys....every episode has a least one moment of whooping and pointing at the screen.
  • Josh (the college boy she crushes on, and her boss at the coffee house) is DREAMY (and definitely much older than a college kid)
  • There are constant jokes about how the actress who plays Hilda is Canadian (and very obviously so. More 'Oots' than you could shake a stick at)
  • Prunes and prune juice are seen as PRIME HUMOUR.
  • For a show that preaches being yourself, Sabrina is CONSTANTLY changing herself. Like-EVERY EPISODE.
  • The Salem puppet is actually pretty amazing for its time
  • Season 4 is ever so slightly heartbreaking-even if Sabrina did bring it on herself by kissing Josh when she was still with Harvey
  • Sabrina is a big fan of twinsets. Matching tops and cardies ALL OVER THE PLACE.
  • I still wish I had witchy powers!
Go back and watch it Reader, it's aged remarkably well!