Friday Feeling [22] – you go girl!

Today’s Friday feeling is slightly different, in that it’s not warm and fuzzy, but a celebration of girl power.

Popstar Sia (who I’m aware of in terms of existence but not in terms of music – I say that not in a condescending or rude way, purely that I’m old and probably not her target market!) has hit back at a sleazy paparazzo who was threatening to sell nude photographs of her, by releasing them herself.

Sia

In a big old “fuck you” move, she’s taken the supposed shame out of the pics, which the seller was counting on, and turned it into a positive for herself. Shame can only exist where there’s secrecy, and secrecy drives underground and underhanded behaviour like blackmail and bidding wars, so this is a genius move on her part.

Also, as an addendum, why should she feel shame? It’s her body and her life; she wasn’t doing anything seedy or bad (and, even if she was, it’s her business), and she was in a private place where she shouldn’t be spied on or photographed.

I love that the seedy photographer, who thought he was in for a big fat paycheck, has not only lost his cash cow but been make to look like a total mug in the process.

Well done Sia!

Read the full story here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

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Cheers, Steve!

I had an email from the CEO and co-founder of TripAdvisor, Steve Kaufer, the other day – thanking me for posting my 150th review. Wasn’t that nice?!TripAdvisor logoNow, the cynics amongst you might think that this was a computer generated email because Steve Kaufer is far too busy and important to email ickle ol’ me. But I like to think otherwise.

On a serious note, TripAdvisor is a site I rely heavily on when planning trips and I really value the insight shared by other travellers. I never book a hotel without referring to TripAdvisor as it’s a great way to get real people’s opinions, and I think it’s important to contribute as well.

A while ago I posted my top 5 tips for writing a TripAdvisor review. You can read them here.

I recently found out that you can also review flights on TripAdvisor, so have been doing that too. I couldn’t speak highly enough about Malaysia Airlines after our trip to Penang (read about that herehere, here, here, and here) and Kuala Lumpur (read about that here, here, and here) – the service, comfort and food were all faultless. On the flip side, our flights to and from Greece (trip report here and here) with Thomas Cook were really uncomfortable; all squished in with hardly and leg room or arm room. Ironically the inflight magazine boasted how all of the fleet were now lots more comfortable with great inflight entertainment – not on our metal bird they weren’t! I reviewed both honestly and truthfully, to give future travellers an idea of what to expect.

TripAdvisor has also been instrumental in planning our trip to Rome for my 40th birthday, and our trip to Santorini for our 10th wedding anniversary next year. Super exciting!

Are you a TripAdvisor fan? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

 

5 things I eat as an adult that I wouldn’t touch as a child

As I sat eating my fish, chips and mushy peas on Friday night, I had a flashback to being about 6 years old and sitting in the school dinner hall while a boy from my class flashed a luminescent green grin full of mushy peas. I’m not sure if that was the point at which I decided I didn’t like them, but it sticks in my head as the reason, for many many years, I always told people that I didn’t eat mushy peas. Everything about them seemed wrong to me – the colour (why were they so bright?!), the texture (so sloppy) and just the very concept.

Mushy peas

Fast forward to probably as recently as last year, and the husband assured me that I was missing out. So, one night, I had a taste and he was right! I really liked the flavour. The texture, which I had been so against, was the perfect accompaniment for fish and chips and, was it just me or did they look less nuclear green too?

What changed? Was it my tastebuds? My perception? My greedy approach to life and fear of missing out?!

Here are some more things I wouldn’t eat as a kid, but have big love for now.

Parsnips

Probably my most favourite meal in the whole wide world is my Mom’s beef stew and dumplings, with boiled potatoes, lashings of Worcestershire sauce and fresh white bread for mopping up the gravy (mouth actually watering). When I was little, my Dad used to like parsnips in it. I hated parsnips. They were too perfumed and spoilt my favourite dinner. Taking the parsnips out of my bowl of food wasn’t good enough, I could still taste them! And heaven forbid they appear on a roast dinner!

Parsnips

These days I’m all for parsnips. My Mom doesn’t put them in stew, but that’s because other family members don’t like them. I’d wolf them down! Roast parsnips are an integral part of a roast dinner, and I’ve been known to make and eat parsnip mash in the past too (it’s nice on top of a shepherd’s pie). Beautiful.

Tomatoes

Even getting a tomato seed on my hand used to freak me out, and they always tasted so bitter and wrong. I would only have tinned tomato juice on my English breakfast, not any of the tinned tomatoes.

Tomatoes

Now tomato is an integral part of a good salad (especially sweet cherry tomatoes), delicious when it’s the tinned variety and a welcome addition to a juicy burger.

Gherkins

Going to McDonalds always involved opening the burger, removing the top bun and fishing out the gherkins to be thrown away. It could be a messy business in a cheeseburger or Big Mac, feeling about in the sauce for the offending critters.

Sliced gherkins

I think the turning point must have been when I’d forgotten to take it off one time and wasn’t offended by it. Now I love pickles on a burger, and my go to Subway sandwich always has a generous handful on top.

Black pudding

I used to watch my Nan cooking black pudding for my Grandad’s greasy fry up breakfast and wonder why on earth anyone would want to eat it. It’s pigs blood and fat, for goodness sake! Then, at a wedding a few years back, the starter included of small pieces of black pudding, which I ate to be polite and found out I really liked.

Black pudding

It can be over powering, so best in small quantities, but is a REALLY good accompaniment as a burger topping, and also works well when dry fried on a none greasy full English breakfast.

How about you? Have your tastebuds changed over the years? Are there things you eat now that you hated when you were younger, or the reverse? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

Friday Feeling [21] – the couple that dresses together…

Are you in a couple? Yes? Imagine for a minute if you suggested to your partner that you wear coordinating clothes? Or they suggested it to you?

One of you would be running for the hills, right?

Not so for cute couple Bon and Pon, who dress along the same theme daily and Instagram their sartorial goings on for all to see.

Just look!

Screenshot_2017-11-03-19-41-38-1

The couple have been married for 37 years, so they’re obviously doing something right, and they have over half a million followers on Instagram!

Read the full story, and follow them on Instagram here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

 

Hotel Review: Ettington Park

I can’t believe it’s been a year since our lovely friends got married at Ettington Park – part of the HandPicked Hotels group – and I got to be bridesmaid <insert generic “where has this year gone” statement here>

I also can’t believe I never got round to reviewing and sharing pics of the hotel. I only realised when I was trying to free up some storage on my phone and came across them.

So, a year to the date after the event, here it is!

We arrived earlyish on Saturday afternoon to a very warm welcome. The building itself is very grand and gothic; approached by a long driveway and surrounded by acres of grounds.

We stayed in an executive room overlooking the hotel entrance.

Ettington Park room view

The room was a really good size, with a separate lounge area, traditional wooden furniture and fireplace, and a good size modern bathroom with that all important powerful hot shower!

 

The hotel is very opulent throughout, with intricate details like the ceiling in the library, where we had dinner the night before the wedding.

Ettington Park library ceiling

The staff were, without exception, incredibly friendly and helpful, going out of their way to make everything special. On the morning of the wedding, as we dined in the opulent dining room, we asked for a bloody mary to go with our food. The bar wasn’t open by that point (don’t judge us!) so the waiter went and found a member of staff to open it up and make our drinks! (mind you at around £10 per drink it was probably in their best interests – that’s a helluva mark up!)

As I mentioned, the hotel is set in acres of grounds – it’s so big that there are bikes available to hire to go and explore!

Ettington Park bikes for hire

Within the grounds are the ruins of a gothic abbey, which is where our friends tied the knot. So atmospheric.

The food at the wedding breakfast was incredible. Mass catering always comes with a risk, but everything was perfectly cooked, tasty and flavoursome. Again, the service couldn’t be faulted.

Want to see more pictures from the wedding day? The original wedding post is here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Friday Feeling [20] – there are lots of ways to help with mental health

There’s a lot of media coverage about mental health lately, and rightly so; it’s important for such a widespread issue to be out in the open and for people to understand more about it. We’re talking more openly than ever about anxiety, depression and personality disorders, and hopefully it’s becoming less of a stigma.

But mental health isn’t just manifested mentally. It can have a physical effect too, and that can be as important to treat as the root cause.

This story about a teenager who had neglected herself so much through her depression that her hair was matted and looked beyond repair is a great representation of that physical manifestation. She felt so worthless and so low that she couldn’t be bothered to wash or brush her hair, and had just left it to it’s own devices. It was in such a state that she asked the hairdresser to shave it off in time for her upcoming school photographs.

But the hairdresser refused, instead dedicating time and patience to grooming the girl’s hair; detangling it and styling it over a period of 13 hours. And, at the end of it, the teenager said that she felt she could actually smile for her school photograph.

Depressed girl and hairdresser

The power of kindness, the power of feeling like someone cares, and even the power of looking good (as fickle as some people seem to think that is) can all help someone with depression to recover. How lovely that the hairdresser recognised that, and made the decision to nurture the suffering girl, rather than just take the easy route.

Read the full story here.

Thanks ,as always, for reading! x

A weekend in Whitby – part 2

Whitby is easily “doable” on foot, which meant we could park up at our B&B on Saturday and not have to use the car again until we set off for home 2 days later. As I mentioned in my part 1 blog post, Whitby is situated on two sides of the river Esk, with attractions on both East Cliff and West Cliff, and our B&B was on West Cliff, a 5 minute walk from the harbour.

After a chilled Saturday afternoon of fish and chips, ice cream, amusement arcades and a live pub band in the evening, we set off with intent early on Sunday morning to see the sights. It was a beautiful morning with bright blue skies, the sea was sparkling and, with a spring in our step, we crossed the bridge over to the East Cliff side of town and headed for Whitby Abbey.

The cobbled streets were deserted as we followed the signs for the 199 steps which climb to the top of East Cliff, through St Mary’s churchyard, and towards the abbey ruins. I didn’t count the steps on the way up, I was too busy gasping for breath and willing my lungs not to collapse, but I did get a few pics looking over the town.

At the top of the steps the churchyard looms large, with it’s ancient gravestones all worn away and gnarly from years of exposure to the elements of sun, wind and rain. I can imagine it would be quite eerie on a grey day, but the blue sky was perfect for taking some photographs and enjoying the best of the morning.

The Abbey had only been open for about 15 minutes when we arrived, which meant that we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We declined the audio guide, preferring instead just to wander at our own pace and marvel at the sheer size, scale and detail of the architecture. It’s very impressive. I always find things like this pretty mind blowing when you consider how old they are and that modern machinery and construction didn’t exist when they were built. The weather conditions were just perfect for photographs, so I took a lot!

Whitby Abbey

Look, it’s me!

Me at Whitby Abbey

After a slow meander back down through the gravestones and the 199 steps (still not counting!) we crossed over to West Cliff, and headed towards the beach.

At low tide the beach is accessible from sea level, across and round the rocks, but we had to climb up the hill and back down again, much to the sorrow of our already aching lower limbs! The whalebone arch is another Whitby tourist attraction, and is an actual whalebone – the 15ft jaw of a Bowhead whale shared with Whitby from Canada.

Whalebone arch Whitby

Whitby has a history of whaling, whereby all parts of the caught whales were used in industry – skin for leather, blubber for oil, etc; and also has a strong maritime connection, being the home of the infamous Captain Cook who moved to the town as a fishing apprentice in his teens. All of the boats used in his great journeys of discovery were built in Whitby, and there’s a statue of him on the same site as the whalebone arch, looking out to sea.

We were thrilled by the colourful beach huts!

Beach huts Whitby

And stood soaking in the rhythmic to and fro of the sea. It’s just so calming, don’t you think?

There were some crazy people having a paddle; I know I said the weather was unseasonably good, but I can’t imagine the sea would be very pleasant in mid October!

We stopped off to play the 2 pence machines in the amusement arcades – a must on any visit to the seaside – before walking along the pier out towards the sea. Imagine my delight when I saw that the lighthouse was open to the public!

Whitby lighthouse

I’ve never been up a lighthouse, you don’t get many of them in landlocked Birmingham! I gladly handed over my £1.50 (such a bargain, it’s cheaper up North) and began the climb. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t that much fun, it made me very dizzy (it’s a small and narrow lighthouse with nothing but steps inside, so you just go round and round and round) and very out of breath, but it was worth it at the top for 360 degree views across Whitby and out to sea.

There was a hairy moment on the way back down when we had to cross paths with people who were climbing up (think about a very narrow spiral staircase with wedged steps and two humans going in opposite directions) but it was well worth it, and something I will always look back on with a smile.

Feeling like true seamen (snigger) we then decided to follow in Captain Cook’s footsteps and head out on the open water. There are lots of pleasure boat trips moored up on West Cliff offering a 25 minute trip out of the bay for the princely sum of just £3, and we settled on a traditional wooden looking boat with a pirate flag!

The trip was both bracing and informative, with details of Captain Cook’s background, voyages, and eventual demise at the hands of Hawaiian natives in 1779. The boat was a 40% size replica of the Endeavour, used by Cook in his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand from 1769 to 1771.

We rounded off our day with the most delicious late lunch at the Abbey Wharf restaurant (read about that in my part 1 blog post), enjoying the last of the afternoon sunshine and congratulating ourselves on having the best time!

I would 100% recommend Whitby for a weekend away; there’s enough to do to keep you occupied without feeling overwhelmed or rushed, and the seafood alone is worth the journey.

Plus, it’s very pretty by night too! (photo credit to the husband)

Whitby at night

Whitby harbour at night

Thanks Whitby, we loved you.

Read part 1 of my trip review here.

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

Tuesday Shoesday

Despite not having unpacked all of my shoes from when we moved back in…ahem…May (don’t judge me, we’re having building work done and repurposing rooms, and haven’t sorted all our storage yet), I have been buying them. Because shoes. Shoes are my “thing”. For some people it’s bags, or make up. Mine is shoes.

With no further ado, let me introduce my latest acquisitions!

Black & silver star trainers

Black and silver star trainers

A veritable bargain from Everything 5 Pounds, these cuties have silver metallic laces and are so mega comfortable, I can’t even tell you. I walked miles in them during our weekend in Whitby, climbing hills and steps and slopes galore. Much love for them, and even more for the price.

Pink suede studded buckle boots

Pink suede studded boots

These are from ebay, and again mega comfy. They’re lined in a soft, fluffy, almost fur like fabric for extra cosiness, which will be lovely in winter.

Turquoise pointed deep V heels

Turquoise suede shoes

Via ebay, they’ve had a lotta love over on instagram and in my house (the latter is just me cooing over them, though!) They’re so vibrant and look great with denim and yellow. Totally going to buy them in red, too.

Burgundy biker boots

Burgundy short biker boots

I wear this style of boots all year round, to toughen up girly dresses or with leggings and a big jumper, so they’ll get plenty of wear. I love this colour, I have a lot of stuff in this kind of hue in my wardrobe, so they’ll be most versatile.

Grey western buckle boots

Grey western buckle boots

Love the detail on the buckles on these boots. They’re a lovely warm grey colour, and will probably be easy to trash, so I’ll need to be a bit careful how and where I wear them.

Wine suede buckle boots

Wine studded suede boots

A contender for my favourites, I think. The colour! The buckles! The shininess! All the love.

Zebra ponyskin Chelsea boots

Next zebra print ankle boots

These had a lot of stroking at work, because they’re made of hairy ponyskin and therefore very tactile (also because anyone who complimented me on them got instructed to feel them, whether they liked it or not!)  The husband expressed deep and sincere jealousy that these were for me and not for him (he likes a statement shoe). Mega bargain – £75 reduced to £19 in Next!

What’s your thing? Are you a shoe lover? Bag lover? Everything lover? Let me know!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

 

A weekend in Whitby – part 1

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that part of my birthday present from the husband last year was a weekend in Whitby. You don’t remember? You don’t memorise every post I ever share? I’m disappointed…

Anyway, with getting our flat ready to sell (i.e. painting everything shiny new and hiding all the bad bits with rugs and furniture) and then moving into our new house, and then holidays and general stuff, I only got around to cashing in my trip the weekend before last, having booked it a few weeks before. If you follow me on Instagram (what do you mean, you don’t? More disappointment…) you’ll already know a bit about my trip.

Headline – it was AMAZING! Seriously one of the best weekends away I’ve had in absolutely ages. I didn’t stop grinning like a loon and making happy noises all weekend. Of course, the fact that we had great (if unseasonal) weather helped a lot, because while the British seaside in the sunshine is quaint and enjoyable, in rain and cold it just involves dodging from amusement arcade to amusement arcade and stocking up at the off licence before snuggling in bed back at your B&B.

Where we stayed

The British seaside is rife with B&Bs, which can range from delightful boutique rooms to out and out scabholes (I’ve stayed in both types, over the years). Using Whitby’s association with Dracula as a basis for our stay, the husband suggested Bats & Broomsticks which is a themed B&B without being tacky or cheesy. With only 3 bedrooms it has a cosy homely feel (as homely as a room with a four poster bed and a bat hanging from it can feel!) and the décor is incredible; moody, gothic, snakeskin wallpaper, wooden fireplaces, stone gargoyles, leopard print towels, a basement breakfast room where a beautifully cooked full English breakfast is served by candlelight and eaten with cutlery with grim reaper carved metal handles. Very quirky, certainly an experience (a good one!) and it’s position at the top of a hill gave our legs a good workout too.

Where we ate

Fish and chips at the seaside is practically the law, and Whitby apparently has 2 entries in the top 20 fish and chip shops in the country in 2017. However, with the good weather on Saturday came lots of day trippers and tourists (like ourselves) which meant long queues and few spare benches or places to sit and enjoy our national dish. So, instead, we took position on an outdoor terrace at The Pier Inn, overlooking the bay, and had pub fish and chips, which was so so good (which shouldn’t have been a surprise; if you’re positioned by the sea you have to make sure your seafood game is strong).

On Sunday we ate at Abbey Wharf, on the opposite side of the bay, again sat outside on their upstairs terrace, and both ordered their seafood paella off the specials menu. It’s a dish that will live on in my memory for a long long time; huge chunks of white fish, salmon, giant prawns and so many mussels that we built a jenga style tower of shells by the end of our meal, all encompassed in creamy flavoursome rice. Just stunning.

I’ll tell you more about what we got up to in another post (I have a lot of pictures and stuff to say!) so look out for that. Until then, here are some photographs I took in the town.

Seagulls are rife, as you’d expect, which is another reason it made sense not to get fish and chips and sit on a bench! (we saw one man get swooped upon from a great height, and I don’t share food!) and you can just smell the sea. The town is on two sides of the port, connected by a bridge. West Cliff has a big beach and is probably more touristy (traditional amusement arcades and fish and chip shops), while East Cliff has quaint cobbled streets, cute shops and the Abbey. More on that next time!

Have you ever been to Whitby? Do you like the British seaside?

Thanks, as always, for reading! x

What is sexual assault?

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past week or two, you’ll have seen the extensive media coverage around famous film producer Harvey Weinstein, and the increasing number of allegations against him of sexual harassment, sexual assault and even rape.

You may also have seen, on social media, the trending hashtag #MeToo, which women around the world; normal women with normal lives and normal jobs as well as celebrities, and everyone in between, are using to highlight the fact that they too have received unwanted sexual attention of some sort. Started by a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano, the idea is to highlight what an alarming and extensive problem unwanted sexual attention is in all walks of life.

“Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

MeToo

In the wake of all this, it was with interest that I read this article, which begins with the statement “Around six or seven years ago, I was sexually assaulted on the way home from a night out. Except I didn’t realise I had been.”

If you don’t want / don’t have time to read the article, then the crux is that a woman was approached by a man who made suggestive remarks, put his hand under her dress, tried to grab her and restrain her. She managed to get away and didn’t consider it sexual assault, because she hadn’t been raped. However, on phoning the police to let them know “just in case” the police officer had a very different view, asking how she’d feel if this same man had gone on to rape another woman because his behaviour hadn’t been reported? The police took the account very seriously, and the guy ended up being prosecuted and jailed because he’d done it to many women.

How many women are out there who, like the author of the article, think that such behaviour isn’t serious enough to be reported? That it’s just “blokes being blokes”. That, as women, this kind of behaviour is just something we have to put up with?

Women are expected to be a lot of things in life; mother, professional, wife, girlfriend, home maker. I’m not saying the same isn’t true of men, in some cases it is. But generally it’s women who are subjected to the most expectations, while similarly being expected to look great too. And, to some men (not all, of course), a woman is there as a toy for them to manipulate, because they can. Powerful men, such as Harvey Weinstein, pray on the fact that they have the power to behave how ever they want to women; whether it be making suggestive lewd comments, touching them inappropriately, or forcing them into unwanted physical behaviour. He knew he had the power to make or break an actress, and that’s why this has been allowed to fester and spread through Hollywood; because no-one wants to lose their job, their career and their future by being the first one to stand up and be counted against someone who can deny the allegations, take on an expensive lawyer, and crush any accusations into the ground.

Except this time it’s different. This time it’s happened to so many people, so many women in the public eye, that it’s created an uprising. An awareness. Women realising that just because it “wasn’t rape” it doesn’t make it any more acceptable or any less serious. Women realising that enough is enough. Our bodies are ours – to be touched and enjoyed how and when we want, by who we want. We’re not public property for men who can’t control their urges. We don’t have to suffer physical and mental exploitation in order to be successful in our careers. When we say no, we mean no.

For too long, lascivious men have gotten away with their behaviour purely be being men. That it’s just what men do. They’re sexual beings and women should be complimented by the attention. It’s just a bit of fun. The women wanted it, they were just playing hard to get.

And women too have played their part (and this isn’t victim blaming in anyway). We’ve thought that, as women, we have to put up with such attention. It’s just the way of the world. And so we’ve kept our mouths shut in a just grin and bear it fashion.

We don’t have to put up with it. We need to stand up and be counted. Men need to realise that a bit of “harmless banter” and a cheeky grope is a serious matter.

I’m one of the lucky ones, if lucky is the right word. I can’t think of an occasion where I’ve felt threatened or uncomfortable by the presence, actions or behaviour of a man. And for that I’m so so thankful. While I’m not using the #MeToo hashtag to reflect anything that has ever happened to me, I fully support and stand behind every woman who is brave enough and strong enough to use it themselves, and also those who have cause to use it but, for whatever reason, choose not to. It’s still taboo, and for some women the memories or repercussions are still too much to deal with.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x