Sunday, 21 October 2018

Norfolk? Nahhhhhh...

We've spent the last week on holiday which is always a joyous occasion! No thoughts of work, far away from theatre life, the post-kitchen mess and the five million jobs we have stacked up on our to do list. B L I S S

As we often do, we decided that it was the perfect time to try out somewhere new. I've never been to Norfolk before I said one evening, let's try there. So try we did. We booked us up a former fisherman's hut that had been converted into a teeny tiny house - perfect for two weary humans and their big yellow dog. 

It was quite literally in the sand dunes. See that gap between the bigger hut and the small shed with the red door? All you had to do was pop through there, climb up a vertical set of steps, run down the sand dune and the golden, sandy beach was right there. Absolutely flipping brilliant! Perfect for big yellow dogs who love to roll around in the sand, swim in the sea and generally lollop about in a big lollopy kind of way! 

What was not so perfect was Norfolk itself. I mean, how does one say what I'm about to say without sounding insulting? I don't mean to be offensive...but to be honest, it's just a bit behind the times. And when I say a bit, I mean like somewhere around 1984 behind the times. Retro if you will, but without that cool vibe that tends to accompany the retro-vintage thing. 

Our biggest problem was how long it took to get there. Approximate journey time going down there: 6 hours. The return home journey? Clocked in at almost 8 hours. Whaaaat? Yep, we're talking long. Funnily enough, so many people messaged us while we were there saying, why did you go to Norfolk? Takes forever to get there! Wish someone would have told us that sooner...

But! Enough of the endless journey and 1984-vibe. We did have a fun time which is all that counts (even if there is nowhere to get a decent cup of coffee - first world problems or what?!) We went on heaps of walks, from coast to countryside. We stood within almost touching distance of a giant pile of seals (is there a technical term for this I wonder?) It was so warm we sat outside and read our books! In t-shirts! In October! We found Autumn gold and toasted sandwiches the size of our big yellow dog. And we did eventually find that much coveted cup of coffee, and as if that wasn't enough we also found donuts that were made in heaven! Should you ever find yourself in Stalham, head to the High Street and go straight to Daddy Donuts - I can promise you, that you won't regret it!

Blue skies! A whole week away from the normal daily grind! It might have taken forever to get there (and back!) but it was exactly what a couple of weary souls needed. We're restored, refreshed and kind of ready to head back to work tomorrow. And we're starting to plan 2019 holidays - where should we go? Do we do 2 weeks together? Do we do three separate weeks in like June, July and September? Decisions, decisions... 

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Summer Twenty-18

Ahhhh summer. You absolute flipping beaut! You've been long, H O T, utterly glorious and I'm still finding it hard to believe you're officially over. 

I checked the calendar and today is officially the start of Autumn. Summer twenty-18 is done and dusted. Seeing as though I've had such an absolutely crackin' time I decided that I had to say a proper farewell - do it up right, you know? A few words, a whole heap of photos and so.many.memories! Please can we do it all over again in 2019? 

Can we though? 

The nights got lighter, someone turned up the thermostat and summer was ON! First thing I did was chop off even more of my hair. 

Eating and drinking every meal outside became the new norm. The pink wine was flowing, the skies were vividly blue, the freckles started to pop out and if I had to wear more than two items of clothing it was becoming a challenge. 

After what felt like forever (actual time: 5 years) we finally returned to France for a holiday. 16 days of absolute bliss and soaring temperatures. The hairy hound came with us for the ride. It took approximately 30 seconds for me to fall in love all over again and start plotting the retirement to a tiny French hamlet. 

The World Cup
For the first time since 1966, football almost came home and it was amazing! We were in France for most of the England matches but somehow Dave managed to find some internet to tether to so that we could listen and share the utter joy of the whole nation! United in that tantalising possibility that the shiny golden cup might actually fall into our grubby hands it was most definitely a summer of football! We listened to one of the games as we travelled back through the Tunnel and as they scored the first goal everyone in our carriage heard us cheer! Oh it was magical! 

The final England game was quite simply unbelievable. People cancelled everything so that they could be somewhere to watch it and we all sat glued to our seats, hiding behind the cushions, yelling, shouting, gasping out loud and literally biting nails off until the bitter, bitter end when it was very certain that it was no longer coming home. 

The next day at work was brutal. The tension while watching it had me so wound up that I couldn't get to sleep (I know, right?!) and then one of my much loved work colleagues was leaving and I was honestly bereft. I'm still not sure I'm over it, both the world cup and Anya leaving 😪

The hair changed again and I decided to add a cheeky fringe. Perfect timing for an extremely overheated office and a season of high humidity...

We spent a whole lot of time walking the dog just as the sun was coming down, and golden hour every single day was a breathtaking sight to behold...

I attended loads of random work events but I honestly didn't care, as long as there was the promise of blue skies, sunshine and a beer outside to go with it...

We definitely ate too many of these...

And I enjoyed a fantastic mini break in Newcastle with Debs and Kyle at FriendsFest! 

My parents celebrated 50 years of marriage - 50! We had a huge family weekend that involved lots and lots of food, bubbles and laughter. It was beyond lovely and I can't wait until we can all do it again soon!

By the time August appeared we were on a total roll and we just kept on going out! We had a fantastic weekend at SIRF, I worked at the Middlesbrough Mela (but it's one of my fave events so never seems like a chore) and I took my mam to the Bowes Museum for her birthday to see the Catwalking exhibition.

I was still only wearing two items of clothing and spending practically every minute outside! By this point it felt like it was going to be summer forever and I was overjoyed 😎

More sun. More fun. We've been to the beach, we've eaten our body-weight in food on far too many occasions, I've been covered in powder paint at the Colour Run and shared 25 years of memories at our art college reunion! 

And now here we are. Day one of Autumn. I know it's all crunchy leaves, comfort food, hot chocolate and getting snuggly in layers, but it's also long. And last year it got bitterly cold so quickly and you absolutely could not only wear two layers cos you might have died from being frozen...but so it has to be. It's the way it works. Unless you move somewhere like LA and that's not realllly on the cards so...

Farewell Summer. I am absolutely going to miss you hun. But I've had a smile this wide for the entire time and for that I will forever be grateful... 

Friday, 17 August 2018

Soft on Stockton

Usually when I'm out and about I'm in Middlesbrough - it's where my work is so the events and activities are generally based around there. Tonight though I'm absolutely flipping delighted to be talking up Stockton. My home town and absolutely, positively where my heart lies. As the hashtag goes, #ilovestocktonme 💓 

In an ideal world this post would have been up and at 'em about two weeks ago, but meh, here we are. Better late than never as we say! 

First up, let's talk Stockton Contemporary - a celebration of original and exciting art from all over the North! There was a map, and a treasure trail of art, and it was absolutely wonderful. I found myself in places I didn't even know existed in Stockton. I saw the BIGGEST TALLEST cake I have ever seen in my life and basically had an absolute blast wandering around the town with my ladies, Andy and Ruth. 

I didn't get to see the whole thing sadly as it only ran for a limited amount of time, but what I did see was oh so worth it. The most unusual thing was on the top of the Castlegate Shopping Centre - probably the most unimaginative, 1970s concrete block you might ever imagine, but upstairs...oh! The reflections! The bright blue sky! The billowing, coloured parachute fabric draped just so! The two artists, also musicians, who climbed on top of the billowing parachute and played haunting music. So unusual. So unique. So definitely not Stockton. Which was absolutely, 100% what made it so special. 

There was only a couple of weeks to wait before it was the Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) which is one of the highlights of the town for the year. Essentially it's a huge festival that's free to everyone, and performers from all over the world come and bring their weird, wacky and wonderful creations with them. The magical thing about it is that the people of Stockton, who would generally be all grumpy and throw around "no way am I watching that rubbish" type of comments, totally and utterly embrace it. Mainly I think, because it belongs to us. It's been running for 31 years (!) and nowhere else in our region has the same offering, and that friends, makes us super proud. 

We basically did after-dark SIRF this year. Well, almost dark. On the Friday night we saw the absolutely amazing Hyde Park Brass. There were people marching, dancing, kids running in and out of the water fountains, someone kicked off a conga line...they basically ruled the town for about 45 minutes and it was truly awesome! The atmosphere was incredible and the whole town felt completely ALIVE. I love that kind of stuff - it totally gives me all the warm and fuzzies. 

From there we had a cheeky drink before heading to Trinity Gardens for The Glass Ceiling by Periplum. I was dying to see this for three reasons: 
1) there was the promise of a fire show
2) it was all about the Suffragettes movement in Teesside 
3) it's coming to Middlesbrough in October and I couldn't wait that long!

Wow. Just wow. What a truly brilliant, awe-inspiring performance. Moving around the space, and taking the audience with them, you were basically drawn from one sight to another and then a noise behind you made you look there and then you couldn't decide where to watch. For an outdoor performance it was fully immersive and completely captivating. A very, very clever and innovative way of making a serious subject come to life in a way that drew everyone in, of all ages. 

As I said, it's touring across the Tees Valley from now until Autumn and I urge you to go and see it. You definitely will not be disappointed and I can't wait to see how they're going to use Centre Square - so exciting! 

On Saturday night we saw La Tortue de Gauguin (Gauguin's Turtle) by Luc Amoros. The description sounded so intriguing and it definitely did not disappoint. I've never seen anything like it and I'm not sure I ever will again. Try to imagine a 9 metre high, 4 storey structure - on the bottom level there's a narrator and a musician and then each floor houses 2 artists behind transparent screens. As the story was narrated the artists painted - sometimes the pictures were individual designs that were ripped off and flung into the crowd. Other times each section formed to make a whole and honestly, each one was more stunning than the last. You could hear the audible gasps all around us as the final reveals were done for each section. 

Each chapter got louder and more dramatic, and the artists became even more animated and the brush/hand/roller strokes became more intense and it was absolutely a journey towards a massive climax! 

Even now when I think about it I get goosebumps. It was a performance for all the senses and it was just amazing. I remember sitting on the grass in the Parish Gardens and thinking how brilliant it is that this kind of thing is available in my home town, for FREE, and it comes back year after year... 

So. Much. Love. 

Our weekend ended with the SIRF finale on the Sunday - always a night to remember, it well and truly went out with a bang this year. The firework show was an absolute belter, turning the river golden and the crowds said goodbye to SIRF on a total high. 

I wish it could be every weekend! But then I guess it wouldn't be as special...but it definitely did reinforce how much I totally do love Stockton. She might be a bit rough around the edges with a lot of empty shops, but she's got spirit and soul and that's what makes her so flipping fabulous!

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Work funk

Anyone who's been around these parts for a while won't be too surprised to read that I find myself once again in a work funk. To be honest, it's probably more regular than it should be and I'm still trying to figure out why this is. 

It's not you...

It's me...

I'm just not ready to commit...

Sound familiar? I honestly think these days that work funks are a thing for everyone. Working life in the 21st Century is tough. Your employers want everything from you and for very little in return. Right now I'm battling with several challenges at once but if I had to pick three they would be:

1) the job I was originally hired to do is no longer my job. I've been restructured. And in this restructure I was essentially pacified and patted on the back and told exactly what I needed to hear to be willing to go along for the ride. Turns out that gut instinct I had about it all going pete tong was definitely the right call.

2) they keep using the word "resource" to refer to people. This boils my blood and makes me want to rage. I'm not a flipping resource! I'm a person! With feelings. And right now, calling me a resource makes it feel like you no longer think of me as an actual human being. I'm a number. And that pretty much sucks. 

3) I spend a lot of time sending emails asking how much it costs to print things. I'm pretty sure that in that whole restructure conversation (refer to number 1) I was told that to remain "creative" I would need to go down this route with you. And now I'm basically a glorified admin assistant. Which would be all fine if that's what I'd originally applied for. But it wasn't. And so here we are. Oh and yep, in case you were confused, printing costs does not equal creative. Nope, no, not at all. 

If you sense anger from me you'd be pitching it about right. I'm angry, I'm frustrated, I'm tired and most of all I feel so let down. I genuinely LOVED that job when I first started. I was working in a great team, the job I was doing was exactly what I had always wanted to do, I was passionate, totally engaged and the number one ambassador. 

Now I mainly want to move on. But I'm worried that if I move on I'll find myself in yet another honeymoon period that will end another two years down the line. 

So my question has to be: is it bad to move on so frequently? Does two years even count as frequent? Back in ye golden olden days people stayed in jobs their whole lives. I honestly don't think that's a thing now, and the voice inside my head tells me that a two year stint is a good solid innings. What say you? Genuinely I would love to know. 

Should I stay or should I go? 

Should I wait it out and see if the work funk turns around on its head? 

I'm a firm believer in following my gut instincts (they're pretty finely tuned after this many years and I have to say are rarely wrong) but this time I'm floundering around a bit. Mainly because I want to believe it will all be okay. 

But I'm not sure it will be. Because it's not me this time. And that's where it gets very, very tricky. 

Do you think it's time to make the break? Answers on a postcard...

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Travelling to France with your dog

I got a good few questions when we came back from France about how it had been travelling with our dog so I decided the best way to answer them all was to just write a blog post about it. If you're not planning a trip to France with your dog sometime soon then please be assured that I won't be offended if you don't stop to read. But for those of you who are interested, I hope you find it useful! 

I also thought it would be useful to give you a little bit of background in case it helps you to make your decision about taking your pet or not. Our dog, Bob, is a golden retriever. He's 3 years old, has never had any problems travelling in the car with us and has been on several UK holidays since we've had him, with varying travel times of under an hour to over 4 hours. Whenever we know we're going any distance we generally plan to drive for 2 hours and then stop to let him have a break, stretch his legs and so on. He sits in the back seat of our car, on a large hammock type cover that protects the entire back seat and is generally attached to a harness that clips to the seatbelt holder. 

It's probably also worth adding that he's super chill and just goes with the flow. He's also a big lad weighing in at 42 kilos and takes up a LOT of floor space! So now you know a bit more about Bob, let's get into the useful information! 

Before leaving
The first thing you'll need to do is get a pet passport. You organise this with your vet - we made an appointment approximately 3 weeks before we were travelling as dogs are also required to have a rabies injection which will cover them for returning to the UK. The whole appointment took almost an hour as the vet has to fill out all of the details in the passport, you have to check it all over to make sure it's all correct, and the rabies injection probably took seconds. It's worth noting that Bob had no side effects from the injection at all. The fun fact is that you don't need a photo for the passport, but there is a box if you want to put one in. I was so tempted! 

Planning your trip
We used Home and Away and Trip Advisor to book both of our holiday gites. Both websites are great for selecting pet friendly places to rent and we had no problems finding anywhere. We specifically wanted a garden that was enclosed so that we could let him wander around freely without having to worry about him getting out. Both places were absolutely brilliant and had big gardens that he loved roaming around in so we hit gold both times! 

We travelled via EuroTunnel as from previous experience we've found it the quickest and easiest way to get to France. When you book you can include that you are travelling with your pet. There is an additional charge that is applied each way that was £19 (at the time of writing). This payment covers the access to the Pet Exercise area on the UK side - this was absolutely brilliant. It was a really big space with various things for the dog to jump in/on and also had a water tap and a big shaded area if you're not a big fan of bright blue skies and sunshine. On the way back (France side) the exercise area is much smaller but I think the real charge for the French side is to go through the pet check-in but more on that later. 

What to take
This bit is probably more personal to your dog as it depends if they have their own bed, towels and so on. Bob mainly sleeps on the floor (we learned very early on there was no point in paying lots of money for expensive beds as he sleeps at the bottom of the stairs on the cool wooden floor!) so we took a fleece blanket with us that we take on all our trips (so he has something familiar about home), his towel (to dry him off after swimming), 4 of his favourite toys (what can I say, he's a big daft golden retriever who loves his bears!) and most importantly, all of the food that we would need. 

All of my advanced reading (I'm a big researcher) recommended that you take the usual dog food with you as diet changes can lead to upset stomachs and you don't really want that on your holly-bobs! We feed him a combination of dried food and tins (each to their own, please keep any opinions about our food choices to yourself) so we had to take a LOT of stuff with us to cover 16 days away! Luckily we have lots of space in our car. As it turned out, the Pedigree tins we use were readily available in the French supermarkets and for a similar price.

We also took our usual snacks (he mainly eats dog biscuits) and 3 refillable water bottles to ensure we could keep him well hydrated. Don't forget your feeding bowl/water bowl too!  

The journey
We live in the North East of England so it's quite a big trek down to Folkestone for the tunnel. We decided to break it up by leaving one day early and travelling down to Blyth to stay in a Travelodge. It's worth noting that the staff there were absolutely brilliant, super helpful and even offered to fill up our water bowl for the dog. As for Bob, he'd never stayed in a hotel before so despite his initial excitement, he soon calmed down and crashed out on a towel we put down on the floor by the side of the bed. We fed him in the morning from his bowl while we enjoyed a Costa breakfast from the service station next door. 

Travelling through the Tunnel didn't seem to phase him at all (it definitely helps that you're sat in your own car as if you're driving) so I can highly recommend this as a way of getting to France. Once we were through to the French side we stayed in a B&B Hotel in Calais - again very dog friendly, big room with lots of floor space for big dogs. It was super basic but don't be put off - for a one night stay before you continue on your journey I can definitely recommend. Top tip: the Poivre Rouge restaurant next door do takeaway (ask for 'emporter') so you can grab a burger and eat in your room. 

Woop you're in France! 
We stayed in Normandy so our journey time was really decent. We stopped a couple of times to ensure leg stretching/water breaks but mainly we just got on with it. One of the best things about France are the number of Airs that you can stop at, and a lot of them have lots of grassy space and picnic areas, as well as your more typical service station offerings - absolutely perfect for dogs and their humans too. 

Our experience
We loved it! Overall there were very few limitations about where we could go with him, but this probably had more to do with the places we decided to visit. We went to a forest so we could find a lake for him to swim in, we went into local towns for market days, coffee stops and pastry runs, but we were mainly there to chill out and relax so it wasn't a great hardship that we couldn't go into galleries, museums etc. We found a couple of great local parks that I think were probably local secrets too as we were definitely the only tourists there! 

Our biggest day out was to Mont St Michel. As a 'gros chien' he wasn't allowed on the navettes (shuttle bus) so we walked it. It was approx. 2.5km and it was blazing sunshine! We'd deliberately planned it to arrive early to avoid the midday sun and I have to say he did brilliantly. He's never seen so many people in one place before (we don't take him into towns or anything like that so he is rarely exposed to big crowds) but he really did take it all in his stride. There were lots of places around where you could grab shade and water bottles and there were a good number of other dogs there too so we weren't alone. We couldn't go in to any of the places with him (which is of course fair enough) so after we'd looked around we took him to the beach to have a plodge about in the sea. 

When we got back we returned to the big park near the visitor centre. We found a huge tree with shade and all lay down for a rest! The two hours that we spent under that tree were probably some of the most enjoyable of the whole holiday! There were lots of places around to grab food and drink and after some ham and cheese from our sarnies and more water fill ups, Bob laid down under the tree and went to sleep, and I'm not ashamed to admit that we dozed for a while too. 

Remember to get your tapeworm tablets!
The number one rule that you can't forget is that you need to visit a vet when you're in France, before you return home, to get the tapeworm tablet and the health check. All this information is added in to the pet passport and clears you for coming back to the UK. As you've probably guessed by now, I did some research beforehand and contacted the owner asking if there was a nearby vet they could recommend. They did just that and the whole experience was very simple. 

We were lucky as the vets spoke English, but we'd prepared ahead by putting what we needed to say in to Google translate. They offered a drop-in appointment session and we went along at that time and basically waited our turn. The whole thing probably took 30 minutes in total, including our wait time. It was also incredibly reasonably priced. 6 Euros for the tapeworm tablets, the health check was 16 Euros and there was no consultation fee - imagine that! 

I would definitely recommend planning ahead for this bit. If you can't find out from the owners, the internet is always going to be your friend. I looked up the vets we were going to, translated the site and already knew about the drop in session times. We popped in and asked anyway when we were in the town one day and went back the following day for our appointment. Simples! 

The EuroTunnel Pet Check
As with all EuroTunnel services, the pet check was incredibly efficient. Follow the paw signs as you arrive (cute!), park up and head into the building. You show the passport, you scan the dog for the microchip and they give you a pass to put on your window when you travel through. All very easy and super quick. The pet area was slightly disappointing as it was much smaller than the UK side and was also in the blazing sunshine with no shady parts, but we let Bob have a sniff about, and he had a drink of water and a wee so it was all good. 

And that's it! 

The all important question is will we do it again? We think so...we realised quite early on that he didn't really like changing where we slept every night, and he seemed to find the move from one place to the next quite unsettling, but if anyone has any suggestions how you explain to a dog that it will be okay, I'm all ears. We've talked next time about maybe going in a camper van so that we were sleeping every night in the same place? We're not entirely sure. One thing is for certain, we definitely weren't put off by it but equally we would have a serious think about how to do it without moving around as much. 

If you're off to France with your four legged friends, I wish you a very happy holiday indeed. Can I come with you...I miss it already...

Monday, 18 June 2018


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 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!