Monday, 26 August 2019

Managing An Assistance Dog With A Chronic Condition


Being a young, chronically ill woman I crave an independent life. After being poorly for over a decade, in a bid to keep as much freedom as I can, I convinced my parents that it was the right time to apply for an assistance dog. Just under two years later I received my phone call saying I’d been ‘matched’ with a dog. Little did I know just how much four paws were about to transform my life. 

Spencer is a labrador-retreiver, and because of this, I assumed he would be a golden colour. So, when a stunning charcoal black dog bounded through the door at our first visit, my first words were ‘I’m not sure that’s my dog, Mum’. After we laughed about the mix-up, I was hit with a wave of emotions and soon realised that he was perfect for me.

Spencer and I have now been partnered for over a year now. I see him not just as my dog, but my colleague and my companion. His task-list is ever growing and adapting with my needs. He helps me with personal care like getting undressed and even bringing a towel for me after I wash. He helps me around the house by fetching the phone, pressing a ‘help’ alarm if I fall and even putting the washing in the machine. He also helps me out and about by picking up dropped items and with general companionship which aids my anxiety. 

Having an assistance dog isn't an easy option, however, and we have hit multiple bumps along the way. It wasn't until we hit around the 6 month mark of our partnership when I felt like I actually started to save energy, as looking after a dog is tiring work. It involved getting up early for toileting, feeding and walks. It involves constant training. And, it involves you to put in a lot of effort both physically and emotionally to keep the bond between you as strong as possible. 

I now get extra help looking after Spencer, which means my family, carers & dog walker can help with some of his care. But in the first 6 months, most charities have a 'hands off' rule which means you are solely involved in their care, so, it takes a lot of energy. It's certainly wise to think about how much 'spare energy' you do have when taking on an assistance dog and also the intense training process. However, this pup has certainly enhanced my life in many ways and I honestly can't imagine life without him now. 

Kate x

Facebook and Instagram: @spencerandkate

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Craft Yourself Calm (#gifted)


I am a person who truly believes that crafting has therapeutic values. Through my own mental and physical health struggles, crafting has provided me with an outlet, focus and comfort.

Once hospitalised for severe mental illness, I had over a year's art therapy where I tried to let go of my perfectionism and enjoy the flow of being in the moment of crafting. I have also ran a small crafts business for many years which encouraged me to eventually complete an A-level in both textiles and graphics; each of which I excelled in. To this day I still am engrossed in crafts, from making handmade Christmas presents to creating leads for my dog. So, when the 'Make & Mend Co' invited me to their festival (#gifted) I was buzzing at the thought of getting stuck into some new art forms.

Survival Techniques Mural

Rachel and Lydsay are the creators of the 'Make & Mend Festival'; hoping to spread a passion about restoring, repairing and rejuvenating. It is held each year at the stunning Preston Hall Museum in North East England, which holds a glorious walled garden, grand ballroom and even it's own old-fashioned sweet shop! No expense had been spared on the decoration, making it a totally instagram-worthy location filled with art from Survival Techniques, banners and a large centrepiece in the ballroom. 

Mum and I were booked onto a workshop in the afternoon but arrived early so I could have a look around first. We saw a whole array of workshops including bookbinding, macrame and flower arranging. Each workshop cost a small fee of £10 which I personally think was extremely reasonable for the crafts which were being created. We carried on through the village square, where a number of free drop-in workshops were present and had a look around the craft market.

 Bookbinding with Cloe Sparrow. Macrame hanger with Naomi Graham. Summer wreath by Blummin Nora.  Origami lampshade by Namita Vijayakumar.
Following through the walled garden, we arrived at the wellbeing garden just in time for some relaxing yoga. This was one of my favourite activities because Kerrie Murray who ran the class was extremely inclusive in the session. Being a wheelchair user, any activity (especially one involving anything which involved movement) means I have to sit out or the instructor panics. Not this time. She explained the exercises I could do sat down and asked me to use imagery when the rest of the class were standing up to ground myself; as a disabled teacher myself I was very impressed!

Kerrie Murray Dru Yoga

Lunch did not disappoint us with both vegan, gluten and diary free options on the menu (WHAT?!) meaning we could relax in the sun whilst enjoying our food. It was time for our workshop with The Crafthood and we were making knitted necklaces with recycled t-shirt yarn. The workshops was fantastic! The instructions were easy to follow, we both made a piece of jewellery we would wear and on the way home I ordered 2 large balls of yarn so we could make more - officially hooked! I particularly love the way that the yarn used is all recycled because of the huge amount of waste in the fashion industry. Also, I also love The Crafthood as a business with their 'buy one, gift one' scheme which gives back to the community through donating a workshop to a local charity when you purchase a workshop. Fabulous work!

 Workshop with The Crafthood. Lunch at The Sitting Room.

Overall, we had a fantastic day out and will definitely be putting it in our diary for next year. It reminded me the importance to put some time aside for self-care again and that I can incorporate things I love, such as crafts, to relax and rewind. A very regenerative and restorative day - thank you Make & Mend Co!

Kate x

Sunday, 14 July 2019

So you want to be a model...


The modelling industry is known as being competitive, fierce and fast-paced. I have grown up watching programmes like 'America's Next Top Model' which has both scared and inspired me to take my own plunge into the modelling world. And, I'm here to provide you with an honest documentation of it. 

As a 6'1-6'2, long legged, slim girl, I was scouted for modelling at a young age. At 14 I was picked up by STORM where I seriously considered a modelling career. Then, illness hit. I became a wheelchair user and thought my modelling days were long gone. Over the years I'd do the odd (usually time-free) job modelling bridal wear but  in doing so I'd try hide my disability.

After battling with my conditions for several years, now knowing that it was life-long, I decided to go for my first modelling experience in my wheelchair. I was invited along to a casting for a pageant/agency and as soon as they saw my wheelchair I was completely blanked. I left in tears, followed by my furious mum and it put me off both the profession and the people involved.

Fast forward many years and I hear of Zebedee Management as a mutual friend recently signed with them. Zebedee are an inclusive agency, representing models with all kinds of disabilities and that's why initially caught my eye. Reading into the agency further, I saw they had some absolutely fantastic success stories with amazing brands and were really pushing boundaries in the fashion industry (and beyond). I am majorly into inclusivity as I focus a lot of my public speaking on it, so seeing an agency with this as a top priority really drew me in. 

I decided to apply for the agency and after a test shoot I was signed. It was a big step and I have to say, a risky one too. Would I get a job out of it? Would my health manage? Is this just going to be a costly hobby?

So, after being with Zebedee for a few moths now I wanted to share with you 5 things you should know when joining an agency like Zebedee: 

  1. You need to be super flexible. Train at 9am tomorrow? Of course.  Many brands work to short time scales and also give you details last minute. It isn't unheard of to get details the day before. Flexibility is key and can be hard with a disability, which is why agencies like Zebedee do their best to negotiate start times/stays/etc. But, sometimes a brand needs someone urgently! Being near London is a bonus because most jobs are based there, but if you're not in the capital, you definitely must be able to travel. 
  2. It is going to cost you money. We won't beat around the bush about this one. The test-shoot costs money. The agency takes a cut of any earning. Traveling costs money. This is all totally normal. It's up to you to decide how much you can spend on this and what jobs you're willing to accept. Sometimes, the experience is worth the cost to get your foot in the door. But don't go into this thinking either you don't need to invest money in it or you're automatically going to suddenly be a millionaire.
  3. Your disability matters a lot. So do your talents. Unlike your 'average' agency, Zebedee are obviously representing those with disabilities. You will be casted because of your disability which is actually such an amazing thing. Your talents matter too, whether you have experience in sport, public speaking or magic... you'd be surprised at what directors specifically cast for.
  4. The days are long. My first job was for a TV advert and I had a 12 hour shooting day. You start early with hair & make-up then have the rest of the day on set. It does depend on the production but especially with TV it's not a quick 1hour job. The good news is that the crew were fabulous with my disability. I usually only get up out of bed for 2 hours a day so you can imagine how much I pushed myself to film. I had food/water breaks, always had my legs elevated, rests to lie down and was kept warm. But, it's something to bare in mind when applying. 
  5. Nothing is guaranteed. But, you could get the most amazing experiences. I'm not going to sit here and type 'You'll 100% have a job within 6 months' because not one agency could guarantee that. But, I can share my experience. I have worked my bum off behind the scenes and it paid off. Not all of it is about the agency pitching you, it's about improving yourself and making those opportunities come to you too. I've been incredibly lucky that I have had 2 jobs come through in just a few months with the agency but I know that it's not going to be guaranteed regular work and because of this it could never be my full time profession. But, I have loved each experience and happy-cried at each one thinking 'wow, Kate, look at you go' because I couldn't believe the opportunity. And, it's worth every penny and every ounce of energy.

If you are a committed person, who is in the position to be able to travel and willing to initially invest then I honestly would definitely recommend it. The hardest decision for me was whether joining the agency would affect my health and in all honesty, it did. But, I'm the kind of person who has the ability and the support at home to grab every opportunity then pay for the consequences later. And, I make that decision. It's so so worth it. Zebedee is an agency who is there to support you every step of the way and I 100% can honestly recommend them, I've already just recommended one of my friends to them. I'm incredibly excited to see what my future brings and have my eyes firmly set on being able to model for a big brand one day! 

Top - Zebedee Shots         Bottom - Joe Laws, Katie Meehan, Brook-Rose O'Brian

Follow my progress at @katestanforth on instagram 
My Zebedee Profile - If you want to have a nose.
Zebedee Website - Accepting applications until end of July - let me know if you apply!

Kate x

Monday, 8 July 2019

Sunderland Beauty Week #gifted


Sunderland Beauty Week
It's been Sunderland Beauty Week, and boy, did they deliver. Now, I'm not going to pretend I'm your average beauty blogger. Disclaimer: I'm not. But now I'm venturing into the world of both beauty and lifestyle I want to share both my journey and tips with you, so here we go!

My Background
Background: I am a disabled model with zebedee. Often seen sporting an inspirational tee, bold lower eyeliner and a cute AF assistance dog. With limited energy and high pain levels, unlike many other bloggers, comfort is my fashion choice and easy is my beauty regime. 

Getting Lost
I was kindly invited to Sunderland Beauty Weeks VIP night (#gifted) and we went on a beauty safari around the centre. Firstly, what I'd like to say is I found the centre both very welcoming and accessible (I will be doing a full accessibility review soon) so if you are someone with additional needs, it's one of the good'uns. We set off on our jolly way to visit a whole array of stands and after the first stand... I got lost. Yes, I was slightly sidetracked speaking to a lovely woman and lost my group, meaning I trekked around the centre with security for a good 10 minutes to find they were just at the counter behind me. That's how I (literally) roll. 

The Good Stuff
We were lucky enough to have some fantastic talks, workshops and samples. Over the past few days I have been trying out some of the products and I've chosen my 5 best picks which I think are good buys, especially if you are an energy saver. What I mean by this is I admire the people who do the 3-step skin routine followed by the exfoliate, cleanse, tone, moisture, muslin, etc but I'm just not that girl. I'm making a conscious effort to take better care of my skin but it has to be quick and easy, so here are my top 5 products I'd recommend!

5 Easy Products For A Fresh Face
  1. Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter - I saw the lady from body shop use this to remove make-up and everyone was raving about it. I tried it that night and have used it ever since!
  2. No7 Skin Illuminator - I had a no-make up day and popped a bit of this on to make my skin glow.
  3. Benefit's 'Precisely, My Brow' Pencil - I swear by their brow gel so you can imagine my excitement when I saw a mini brow pencil in my colour (I wear 4) in my goodie bag. Filling in your brows makes a huge difference to your face, even on no make-up days, so it's well worth the investment.
  4. Bobbi Brown Colour Corrector  - Not a stand we visited but I could not live without this product. I have such dark under eyes and the colour corrector makes the world of difference. Try using a peachy tone for dark circles.
  5. Lush Fresh Face Mask, Rosy Cheeks  - As a pamper night I love a face mask and with sensitive skin a clay based one like LUSH is perfect. LUSH hosted a fabulous workshop for us on the evening and were definitely the most disabled-friendly hosts, well done!
All of these products can be purchased from The Bridges Sunderland - Happy Shopping!

Kate x

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Northumberland Day - Top 3 Accessible Days Out


It's Northumberland Day and I am so blessed to live in such a gorgeous part of the UK. One of the many challenges I face as a wheelchair user however is that the rather hilly countryside isn't always the most accessible. Thankfully, many locations are making adaptations to accommodate people with disabilities so here are my Top 3 accessible days out in the region.

Calvert Trust Kielder

Calvert Trust is an award-winning activity centre which caters for people with disabilities. Whether you're able bodied or not, anyone can join in the activities which range from canoeing to their brand new zipcoaster! The paths around Kielder Water are also accessible and there are lots of nice cafe's which cater for many dietary requirements. One of my favourite trips out! 

Alnwick Gardens

I absolutely love Alnwick Gardens, especially in Spring, with my favourite part being able to visit the famous tree house! Although on a steep hill (so I would recommend a powered wheelchair for this trip) most parts are accessible and their new children's playground which is also getting built I've been told will have an accessible section too. Being able to weave in and out of water fountains, get nose to nose with flowers grown at heights to suit all abilities and even go through their maze shows they put a lot of work into making the venue as accessible as possible. 

Wallington Hall

Owned by the National Trust, Wallington Hall is somewhere we used to visit regularly when I was younger. With a mansion, walled garden and lots of walks there's plenty to see. You can hire scooters from the National Trust including a very sturdy off-road scooter which can tackle the woods & surrounding paths with ease. Not all of Wallington is accessible, but it is so big that you can still make a good day out from it!

So, there you have it. I'd be really interested if anyone has any other recommendations for accessible days out in Northumberland, as I still think it's quite hard to find (and hear about!) them. 

Happy Northumberland Day!
Kate x

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 - The Lone Wolf Pack


Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 - The Lone Wolf Pack

With 1 in 4 people in the UK currently experiencing some form of mental health problem, awareness and support for the condition is vital, which is the main aim for Mental Health Awareness Week.

My background 
I, myself, have a long history of mental health problems which includes a long stay in a psychiatric unit when things were at their worst. I have been campaigning for increased support to be provided for people who have mental health issues and through getting to know people who are making a difference in my area, I reconnected with Georgia, from The Lone Wolf Pack.

Georgia with her dog, Burton, and my assistance dog Spencer. Both of whom have helped us during difficult spells.

Introducing The Lone Wolf Pack
Georgia used to attend Prudhoe High School, which is where I first met her; in art class actually. Now, she has set up her own clothing company for the mind. Set up to raise awareness and start a conversation, The Lone Wolf Pack designs products with mental health as it's inspiration. Each design tells it's own story and 10% of all sales go to the charity, Mind.

Georgia has suffered with years of anxiety, depression and PTSD, setting up The Lone Wolf Pack to create something productive from the experience. After realising she had both a passion and a talent for Computer Aided Design, she combined her knowledge of mental health and creativity to start making t-shirts.

Georgia working at her home office

This year's campaign; body positivity
Body positivity is now a huge topic, especially with campaigns such as I WEIGH hitting the news. This year's MHAW is focused around body image so I asked Georgia how she felt about her own and how her brand reflects body positivity.
'I have always struggled with body image, which only heightened once I started self harming. It took me a long time to accept my scars as part of my body and be willing to show them too. In the end, I got them covered with a tattoo and that gave me some level of self confidence back.' 'As a company we hope to appeal to as many people as possible.' 'I'm happy to have the design printed into a different shape tee for my customer if they want. I also sell other products which aren't clothing like prints or notebooks for those who don't want to wear a t-shirt'.

'You are enough' tee

What I love about The Lone Wolf Pack
The fact Georgia has not only set up her own brand, but raised nearly £300 for Mind, is absolutely incredible; especially for someone with their own mental health battles. The designs have had a lot of thought put into them and have been executed so well, with a clear style throughout meaning they work well as a collection. I can't wait to get my hands on some tee's when I go to see the new range next week and I really would encourage you to support The Lone Wolf Pack, I think it's one to watch!

The Lone Wolf Pack at Tynemouth Markets

Where to find The Lone Wolf Pack
The Lone Wolf Pack can be found here or on social media at @thelonewolfpackco. They currently have a weekly stall at Tynemouth Market but would love to attend more events, markets & festivals in the future - so keep an eye on their media for where they are!

Help Information
Mind - 0300 123 3393
Samaritans - 116 112
Young Minds - text 85258

Kate x

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

3 Reasons Why You Should Save The Haven - Accessibility


Save The Haven

The Haven is made up of ten accessible bungalow in Prudhoe, owned by Karbon Homes. Karbon plan to demolish it, with no clear plans of where to house the elderly/disabled residents and replace the buildings with 'family homes'. I have been campaigning behind the scenes and have contemplated whether to keep it this way or publicise some of the reports I've presented. There are many, passionate people who are campaigning to keep the bungalows which is fantastic news, but we need as much support as possible. I have gone down the accessibility route, since this is my area, but others have campaigned for different reasons so please do check out the latest posts available on social media!

93% of homes don't meet accessibility standards. The Haven provides accessible homes for the elderly and disabled.

Over 11 million people have lifelong illnesses, impairmaints or disabilities which now affects 16% of working aged adults and 45% of adults over state pension age. Yet, 1 in 3 people still live in non-decent accomodation. (

The English Housing Survey showed that 93% of homes don't meet accessibility standards and many developers are not building for people as they age. With nearly three quarters (72%) of UK adults thinking all homes should be built to be suitable for all ages and abilities, the lack of accessible housing being built & maintained is astonishing.

Karbon Homes stated 'There is less need for older, one bedroom bungalows'. Currently, they are all occupied which proves there is clearly a need for the housing. Because of the lack of accessible housing not only in the area, but nationwide, finding 10 accessible houses in close proximity will be almost an impossible task. Karbon say it might take a year to move residents out and my greatest concern is that they will be moved to inappropriate accommodation.
Because of the extreme shortage for accessible housing not only in the area but nationwide, I do not think there would be an issue filling a vacancy if someone was to ever leave The Haven, which could be a concern of Karbon's, and in the report above it shows that younger home owners are also willing to look at accessible homes.

The impact of not having a suitable accessible home includes poor mental health, social isolation, mobility problems and the indignity of not being able to live independently. 

The impact of not having a suitable accessible home includes social isolation and anxiety, poorer mental health, mobility problems, indignity of not being able to live independently and being 4 times less likely to work. Having an accessible home means that older relatives or disabled people can visit, so there is still a need for these homes even if it's not directly for the buyer.

Currently, the locations for The Haven is important to all residents for accessibility and is close to a bus stop, doctors, pharmacy, local amenities and socialisation. Moving the residents to a different location could have a dramatic effect on health, socialisation and general happiness of residents. It is also important to note that many of the occupants are elderly or have health problems, the stress caused by this and the move could be detrimental to their health.

Many residents have just had refurbishments and adaptations made on their house

Residents have recently refurbished housing to a high standard and have been offered a sum of £6,100 for their home loss. Speaking to one resident who had decorated including laying carpets, lino & blinds it seems a small sum for the amount of work put into the house but also a waste of the love & effort put into the property. Others have had work done such as ramps and wet rooms which the council only provide a contribution towards (usually £1,000) and the rest comes from your own funds. Will this be paid back to the residents and will they get the same facilities in their new home if The Haven is demolished?

The residents of The Haven want to stay, the town is backing them, will Karbon agree? Let me know your thoughts! 

Sign the petition here

Kate x