Monday, 18 June 2018

Discoveries...

1. The joy of a summer duvet...
I realise that what I am about to say is going to make me sound very, very old but have you discovered the joy of a summer duvet yet?! Oh my! This is a recent discovery to me and Dave and it is truly wondrous. Coming in at 4.5 tog, it's the lightest, most coolest way to sleep and it's just lush. No more waking up in the middle of the night, tangled up in the massive 13.5 tog layer of thickness of our former duvet, desperately trying to just get one foot out there so that you can cool off. Nope - the summer duvet is perfection and right now, it is life. No more words are needed. If you don't have one, go right out and get one now. Seriously, it WILL change your bedtime life! 

2. David Beckham on Instagram...
The man is beautiful. Definitely falls into the category of "growing into his looks" Those wrinkles around his eyes...just oh! Did I mention he does Instagram Stories too? I'm smitten...as are the 47 million other people who follow him I reckon...

3. Looking up...
Blue skies? Red brick buildings? Few clouds dotted here and there? Quick, take a photo! I've always had a fondness for looking up but at the moment it's turning into a bit of an obsession and it's like I'm discovering Middlesbrough for the first time all over again. Have you ever actually looked up while you're wandering around there? The architecture is stunning! Heart eye emojis at the ready cos you're going to need them...


4. Call me by your name...
I know that I'm way late to the party for this one but I've finally got round to reading this book and to say I'm utterly charmed would be an understatement. You can almost *smell* the hazy summer sunshine. I'm only on to chapter three but I can feel that it's going to be memorable. (sidenote: my pile of books to take away on holiday is pretty large but there's a couple of brand new shiny ones in there so I might even do a review or two upon my return...)

5. Mellow yellow...
Last week I attended an Insights session all about colour analysis. Call it hoo-ey, call it science, honestly call it whatever you like, but I will never get over how flipping accurate that 18 page document was when describing me. I showed it to Dave and he howled his way through it, while secretly taking notes in the "how not to speak to Claire" section *chuckles* The biggest discovery for me was how much I loved doing the people watching. Don't get me wrong, there were moments when it was almost torturous to watch the people because of the nightmare they were going through (poor blues, my heart goes out to them) but it made me realise all over again how fascinated I am by body language and the unspoken words that people use to communicate. Maybe that whole thinking about Psychology as a career when I was 17 wasn't such a bad call after all...

Made any interesting discoveries lately? Do tell...

Sunday, 3 June 2018

What was I just doing...?

Do you ever get that thing where you're in the middle of something, someone asks you a question, you deal with that and then you try to go back to what you'd been doing in the first place and you have no memory of it? I swear in the last year or so I've turned into a goldfish with a two second memory span. If I don't write stuff down I might as well just forget about it cos I don't stand a hope of it having sunk into my overly crowded head. I know I'm not alone in this. Our attention spans have seriously hit the deck with a very loud (and forgettable) thud. 

I wanted to talk about this today and how it's affecting blogs and overall reading in general. Be honest, how many blogs do you actually subscribe to? Do you faithfully read all their posts? My Bloglovin' inbox has reduced loads in the last couple of months and I have to be honest - it's been a conscious uncoupling on my behalf (haha, I love that phrase so much - it's so ridiculous that it's funny!). 



I don't want to be the person who says this, but life truly is too short to spend it reading stuff that isn't giving you any enjoyment anymore. Only a short two years ago I would have said that reading blogs was one of my favourite past-times but now, they just don't hold my attention in the same way. A lot of this has to do with me and my own attention-grabbing limitations, but also I just don't FEEL the love from a lot of the authors anymore. The ones I've recently unsubscribed from just don't feel genuine at the moment. The focus is just a bit 'off' and it's been enough for me to turn off. No grace period either, just to see. Nope - boom, goodbye and goodnight. 

I can't quite pin down what it is either. I think it's common knowledge that numbers are falling. The short attention span problem has hit bloggers hard and even the big names are losing page views - pretty dramatically too I think. But I definitely think it's fair to ask the question - if they're not feeling it, why should we? 

As a way-way under the radar blogger myself, it's not that big a deal. I don't rely on page views for anything at all and my ramblings are enjoyed by a small handful of loyal readers...I also can hardly tell you that I spend hours and hours writing blog posts for your enjoyment as that's absolutely not true...but it must be so disheartening when people do spend hours, and it's their income and the attention span of people is so low that they might look at the first paragraph and then move swiftly on. Ouch! 

Where was I again? Yep. It's happened again. I've written a few paragraphs and I've forgotten what my original point was supposed to be. Sheesh - the shame! 

Oh yep, attention span. Not being able to read much without being bored. Is anyone still with me? It totally saddens me to think this may be the case with books too. I will always choose book reading over any other favourite past time - it's been a constant in my life since I was born and long may it remain that way. But imagine if the teenagers coming up behind us now don't read anymore? What will happen to authors? No, I can't even start to think about it...

The thing is, I don't think there's a solution to the short attention span problem. The more information and content that is out there, the more we'll try to consume and our brains might just explode. Eep! I try to expand my concentration by spending time reading things and looking at blogs, but then I might get a notification on my phone and I'm instantly distracted. And therein lies the crux of the problem...the solution is probably to spend less time on my phone/being distracted by my phone, but I like it! The defence cried out across the land m'lud - we all like our phones...

Probably too much...

Definitely too much...

I bought a book called "How to break up with your phone". I haven't read it yet. It's got really small writing and I'm worried that it won't be interesting enough to keep me engaged...

See? We're all effed! 

Someone save us! But do we really want to be saved? 

Answers on a postcard, or in the comments below. If you can be bothered...  

Sunday, 13 May 2018

The week of eating

I've been out for food three times this week. THREE times! I don't think I've ever done that, even when I've been on holiday. We were actually supposed to be going out tonight as well but then the sunshine suddenly decided to come out to play, and sunshine = BBQ, so we're staying in. I'm honestly not sure I could manage a fourth trip out. The whole food outside of your own house situation is lovely, but there's always way more than I would normally eat. And I always have to get pudding too. And then three meals later I find myself rolling home...

Anyhoo, I thought I would let you know about some of the places I've been to because they were all mighty fine! 

First up, The Wellington in Wolviston. We were originally going to go to the pub over the road from this one, but then we found out it only had a 2 star food hygiene rating and that is not good at all, so we opted for this one instead. And I'm so glad we did! Other than Dave accidentally ordering me the wrong burger (so forgetful!) which actually made no difference at all as the one I got instead was equally as delicious, the whole meal was flipping delicious! 

Dave got the lamb shank which looked so tender that it was just falling off the bone, with chips and seasonal veg. His mam opted for a chicken and brie pie, lose the chips/mash option, also with seasonal veg. And I had the chicken stack burger with chips and salad. I thought it was great that they were willing to swap your options around or indeed not even have one of the things listed on the original order in the case of Dave's mam's no-potato choice - this is great if you have any fussy eaters with you who will only have certain foods in certain ways. I'll tell you what else was great - the chips! Definitely homemade, most certainly chunky and oh so tasty. This is probably going to sound so northern but you really can tell the quality of pub grub when they take the trouble to make their own chips.

Shall we talk puddings? Their brand new menu offered the option of 4 mini puds - of course that was the one I went for. I never can make my mind up what I want anyway, why not get to try four of them out! Dave's mam went for crumble and ice-cream, but that's mainly because she is an ice-cream fiend and will always choose it off the menu! My four puds were blueberry and prosecco cake, cookies and cream profiteroles, tiramisu, and a salted caramel chocolate brownie type thing. Honestly they were all delicious but I'm still trying to decide for top place between the profiteroles and the salted caramel brownie - SO GOOD! 


I would 100% go back there again, mainly so I can try out the original veggie burger that I ordered, and also to try more puddings. Yass! I've also recommended it to my parents which is always a sign of a good eating place. Take a trip sometime - you will enjoy! 

Next up! Restaurant Week in Middlesbrough. The concept of this is that restaurants put on offers for one week only to encourage people to go out to eat, try new places, that kind of thing. Me and my work wife Rach opted to go and try out an Italian place that I'd heard good things about but had never been to. Step up Elianos Brasserie - to be found located down what looks like a v. dodgy road but don't let that put you off. Once you're inside it is charm personified! 

It's honestly like stepping into another world. Full of rustic charm, checked tablecloths, wine bottle candle holders with wax dripping down the edges, warm wood from floor to ceiling and lots of nice space between tables so you don't feel like you're eating with the next door table that you've never met before! 


The portions are huge, the food is delicious, the lemonade is Sicilian - sharp and tangy just the way I love it, and the puddings are the size of small babies. I had pasta (of course) with chicken, roasted veggies, toasted pine kernels and parmesan shavings, all in a dreamy creamy sauce, topped with lashings of black pepper and more parmesan (those last two were entirely my own choosing by the way). Boy it was good! And even though I felt so stuffed I'd already ordered the cheesecake so I just had to man up when this quarter slice of lushness arrived piled high with fruit (had to be at least 2 of my 5 a day) and cream on the side. Oh man. When I stood up from the table I honestly wanted to just find somewhere to lie down. 


It took me until at least lunchtime the following day to genuinely feel hungry, so bear that in mind when you go. And I urge you to do so - as soon as possible. It was pretty empty when we were there, but when I posted about it on my socials it turns out that it's a proper little gem that people seem to keep to themselves in case everyone else starts going. Well I think everyone should go, cos it was flipping fab! 

And now for my final meal of the week. Are you feeling as full as I have been yet? I was out and about in town yesterday after getting my hair did, doing a spot of holiday shopping and I was getting more and more hungry so food was definitely needed! It's a regular haunt of mine but I popped into Baker Street Kitchen for some lone lunching. I had my book with me at first but once my meal arrived I put my book aside, and basically chomped my way through my lunch. 

I opted for one of my faves - the open toasted sandwich with mozarella, tomato, pesto, rocket and parma ham. When it arrived it truly looked beautiful and it took all of my willpower not to grab my phone and take a photo. I'd earlier decided that I was going to live solely in the moment and not take any photos, which I regretted almost instantly cos my dinner was sooo pretty, but (self-imposed) rules is rules. 

To see the prettiness for yourself you'll have to pop along and see their newly refurbished place. It's worth a visit for the floor tiles alone, as if the totally divine sounding sandwich isn't enough to convince you that you need to go. They also had a lush looking strawberries and cream cake on offer but I manfully resisted this and called around the corner to Bedford Street Coffee to bring home a brownie for me and Dave. 

Just on a one woman mission to keep the economy of Middlesbrough alive in one day there! 

Where have you been out to eat lately? There's so many cool new places popping up that I want to try - I can't keep up with them all. And neither can the button on my jeans - meh. Bring on all of the food, I love it so! 

Sunday, 6 May 2018

B U S Y ?

A couple of weeks ago I read this great blog post from The Anna Edit all about how not to get consumed and overwhelmed by being busy and it really got me thinking. The word busy is everywhere - you read it, you hear it, whenever you meet up with people you haven't seen for a while it's almost always the first word that is spoken by both of you - it's definitely a way of life now rather than just a word. The thing that tipped me over the edge and prompted this post was an email I was copied in to, in which someone had replied to the question 'how are you?' with (and I quote word for word here) "Frankly, I am insanely busy" ... I'd never seen anything like it! Such a weird thing to say to people that you have never met! 

So are we all busy? Or is it, as I've suggested above, really just how life is these days?


If you're going to be literal, then yes, I am very busy. I rarely have time to myself, I often don't sit down on an evening until 9pm, on weekends we have commitments and family responsibilities, but do I think of myself as busy? Not really, it's just kind of what we do. 

We always have the olds in our family expressing concern for us both - oh life is so changed these days, everyone is so busy, there's no time for people to catch their breath. I wonder what it must be like to look at it from the outside? Does it look like a massive whirlwind as people rush around from one thing to the next? And the biggest question of all, was life really slower back then? Or was it just simply different? 


What do you think? Honestly I would love to know. Are you busy? Or do you agree that it's just how it is now? I reckon it's fair to say that anyone who is working right now knows all about being busy - employers expect a LOT for little in return. There's increasing pressure on people as teams get smaller but workloads get larger, more demanding and everything needs to be done yesterday. I tend to think of myself as being constantly reactive and then times when I can proactively plan ahead and get things done feel like a real win...

But here's my next point. If you're bopping along being all busy, when you actually do stop, have some time to yourself, to refresh, it's truly AMAZING! It feels soooo luxurious, lush and pretty special. Even if it's only thirty minutes on the sofa before bed with my current read, it's flipping lovely and does me the world of good. But would I want to do it all the time? To have hours on end stretch ahead of me with nothing to do? Nahhhh I don't think so! I think I might even be in danger of being a bit bored... 


It's fair to say that I'm probably guilty of taking too much on at once. We both are, me and Dave, but it truly has become kind of what we do, who we are. And I think as stuff around you happens (like big life stuff) it makes me more and more aware that you gotta live this life up right! I want to get to the end and say YASS that was so much fun! I had an absolute blast! If you want to get all deep and meaningful about it, there's a whole eternity awaiting of doing absolutely nothing - give me the busy-relax-busy-relax-busy thing right here, right now! 

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Very Important Cakes

Ask anyone who knows me, even if they've only met me once, and they will tell you that the number one thing I love is cake. In all shapes, flavours and forms, cake is truly one of life's delights - eating it, baking it, drooling over photos of it - I absolutely flipping love it and I'm not afraid to shout it loud from the rooftops! 

Which leads me to a very special evening last week. First of all it was invite only, second of all the whole purpose of the evening was to EAT CAKE and third of all it was for VIPs - very important people who can scoff cake like it's going out of fashion... Sign. Me. Up. 

Let me take you along for the ride and while I'm there introduce you to Bendelow's Kitchen: Catering/Baking/All Occasion Goods run by Dominique Bendelow. 


I'm going to start right at the beginning because the first thing I saw when I entered the event was lines and lines and oh so beautiful looking scrummy lines of mini cheesecake pots *D R O O L* I managed to remember my name (just!) and sign myself in before deciding right there and then that it was going to be a mighty fine evening! 


The whole place was filled with cake. Oh my, it was a dream come true. There were cupcakes, mini puddings, pieces of fudge, millionaire's shortbread, meringue kisses...I lost track of it all while figuring out how many things I could eat without looking like the greediest one in the room (as if I really cared, ha, bring it on!) 


So what did I try? First of all I had churros with a chocolate dippy sauce. Fluffy, sugar sweet, oh so light and very very tasty indeed - the perfect starter course. For mains I moved on to the sticky toffee pudding for which there are no words. One of the nicest versions of this famous pudding I've ever had, and trust me, I've tried many. For pudding I opted for the cheesecake - shaved chocolate on the top, the richest most heavenly chocolate sauce, dipped right into a creamy cheesecake filling and crumbly biscuit to finish. I honestly contemplated if I could fit one into my handbag to bring home for second pudding. Instead what I actually had for my next pudding was the scone that I got in the goodie bag which was also exceptionally fine! 


Oh what a night! It's basically like it was made just for me! If you fancy trying out some of those deeeelicious treats for yourself you can follow Bendelow's Kitchen on Facebook and drop Dominique a message to talk all things cake. Obviously I can highly recommend you do just that! 


A big thank you to Bendelow's Kitchen for my invite and all the tasty delights - I had the most lovely evening! My big love of cake is entirely my own and can previously be found documented pretty much everywhere.  

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Life is too short for rubbish moisturisers!

I LOVE a good empties post. Call me weird but there's something oddly satisfying about seeing or reading all about products that people have loved so much they've literally scraped every single last drop out. I'm more than happy to stand alone on this one, but just in case you're like me, I'm coming at you today with a few of my most loved, used, scraped out - hell I've even cut one of them open - lotions and potions from the last few weeks!  




Mixa Restoring Body Lotion
Since I went all out there with the drama about cutting things open, it makes sense to start off with Mixa - the bottle that had the scissors taken to it! As with most things that we consume these days, I first came across this brand via at least three of my bloggers/vloggers/YouTubers/Influencers - whatever you want to call them. They all talked about how fantastic the brand was, how much good the lotions and potions were doing to their skin and most of all, how purse friendly it is. I have to agree, they were right on all three counts. 

There's nothing fancy dancy about Mixa at all, it doesn't particularly smell of anything, but it is indeed flipping good lotion that will do good things to your skin. This particular one worked wonders on my red patches from so much cold weather (COME ON Spring, what you playing at?!) and I was genuinely upset when the lotion stopped coming out via the pump, hence the dramatic scissors whereby more and more product just kept coming out for about another week, yay! I initially had to order this via Boots online, but I've since seen the brand in person in Superdrug in Middlesbrough so if you're interested, I would definitely head there first. I would like to think that the cut open packaging/scissors story speaks for itself, but it's safe to say I can highly recommend Mixa and I look forward to trying more. 

Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter
This is my third repurchase of this really flipping good cleansing balm. At just over £10 for the tub, it's a decent size that lasts a reasonable amount of time and does a really good job of removing all traces of makeup. I like that it's very, very light on fragrance, that it's super effective, it's really easy to travel with (she says, as if always off to far-flung destinations when in actual fact it's been no further than UK holidays), and I sometimes end up getting it for slightly cheaper if I have Body Shop points saved up. The only reason I haven't bought this again is that I've got a real hankering to try the Clinique Take the Day off cleansing balm so I'm saving my pennies up for that! (sidenote: way to tell that this blog is strictly amateur hour - when was the last time you heard a blogger say they needed to wait for payday for anything?!) 



Lee Stafford Sea Salt Spray
Boy, is this packaging pink! I inadvertently ended up buying two things from this range and the overwhelming PINK in my hair stuff basket was hurting my eyes! Rainbow bright packaging aside, this is a crackin' sea salt spray that has basically been making my life, now that my hair is 7 inches shorter than it was and back to being all bouncy and full of life. Spray in, quick scrunch and job is a good'un! Not sticky, not crispy, indeedy not rubbish at all. I can highly recommend! Once again, the only reason I didn't buy it again straight away is that I like trying new stuff out so I've currently got a blue one from L'Oreal. All the colours of the rainbow!


Lee Stafford Air Dry Foam
I'm definitely going to file this one under the category of fail. I don't quite know why I was so intrigued to try one of these 'air dry' products when in actual fact I air dry my hair every time I wash it (translation: can't be bothered to get the hairdryer out so leave it to dry naturally) and don't really need a product to help me do that. It was faffy, sticky and didn't really do anything at all. Very much a 'meh' from me. 


Bionsen Caring Touch deodorant (aluminium, paraben and alcohol free)
Over the past few years I've made many a foray into the natural deodorant world. The first one I ever tried did not go down well at all and basically gave me a kind of prickly heat rash in my armpit. 


Pleasant. *sarcasm* 

I have to admit that after the trauma of that it took me a good two years to be brave enough to try again. The next attempt was with the crystal style one. I'm still trying to figure out how that one works...when I saw this Bionsen one I was really intrigued. It looked like a normal deodorant, smelled nice, and didn't seem too scary, and it was about £2.50 so definitely not bank breaking at all. 

I've been pretty chuffed that it's turned out as well it has. I really, really like it and use it on weekends and when I'm working from home. I'd like to say that I use it everyday but I work in what is basically a sweatbox so if you don't have 48 hour Mitchum protection type deodorant on you might as well forget wearing any colour except black... 

Botanics All Bright Radiance Concentrate Serum
Excellent price point, very easy to buy (just pop into your local Boots) and a nice, sinks in quickly and moisturises at the same time serum. It ticks all the boxes but there was just something about this that didn't really float my boat. I bought a second bottle just to make fully sure, but the second attempt didn't really excite me any further. I think it's perfect if you're looking for an entry level serum but for those of us that might require a little more assistance in the hydration department, the big guns are needed and this cute little bottle just isn't big and doesn't have enough ummmph behind it. 


And there you have it. A whole heap of empties and a mini review thrown in for good measure. What have you emptied out lately? Hit me up in the comments - we've already established that I'm very easily enabled...

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Away from the norm

I think a post every six weeks or so seems reasonable...erm, oopsy, fell off the blogging wagon before I'd even started again! Meh, as I said in my last post, I'm here when I'm here and hopefully that will be enough...

I took a day off work last week, not that unusual in March when everyone frantically tries to use up their last remaining leave before they lose it forever, or something like that anyway. What was kind of unusual was that it was a day off with purpose. Me and the work wife, Rach, had to be out and about taking photos for a blog post that we were writing for work and we had some very specific locations to visit. One of them was of course the Transporter Bridge



Infamous to our fair town, the big blue bridge soars over the River Tees in all her glory. I've been there heaps of times, photographed it even more heaps but I can honestly say, hand on heart, that in all my time as a resident Teessider, I'm not sure if I've actually been across it! 

Well I have now! 

I was slightly nervous. It's a gondola type thing that can carry both cars and pedestrians and I think what's always put me off is that it might be a bit too 'motion-y' for me. It's the dodgy ears you know - these days whenever I do anything that rocks the horizon it sends my rubbish ears into a tail spin and it's dizzy-central, definitely not a state that I actively seek out, as *U G H*

For anyone else feeling nervous, I'm here to reassure you, it's not at all like that. It's a verrrrry smooth ride and it's so much fun to do! I was imagining that we would have to stay stuck behind glass but they let you go out and basically lean on the barrier and watch the journey across the river. The freakiest thing was approaching the other side and thinking it was going to be a big bang as it hit the connecting part of the bridge (dead technical explanation there or what!) but that fear was also completely unfounded. Smooth as smooth and we sailed right up to the edge. 



We essentially turned right around and came back over as the car was parked Boro-side, and I would say that the return journey is definitely the prettier. With the sun reflecting just so on the river and Temenos and the Riverside Stadium in your eyeline, you really can't get much more Boro than that! 


If you've never been before I can highly recommend it. It was the best £1.20 (single journey) that has ever been spent! For the bravest of the brave, there's even a top of the bridge tour where you ride up in a glass lift and can walk right across the top. Obvs this is never going to be a thing that I brave, but I've heard it's absolutely worth it for the views across our fair land. 

Oh Boro, people say many things about you that are less than complimentary but I definitely think you have some true beauts up your sleeve!