Wednesday, 28 December 2016

LIFE: 5 Goals for 2017

I hope you've had a really lovely Christmas and that Santa delivered the goods!

With the unpredictability of 2016 in mind, I want to keep more of a focus during 2017. Bad things happen but getting through them is all about the way you deal with them.

As I said, I didn't really manage to complete my goals at all this season but I did, however, tick two things off my Bucket List. I visited Cornwall and had my helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon (as incredible as I'd hoped). I did the quick tour where you just fly through and that's probably the only thing I regret - I wish I'd have had longer there. I was limited for time as I only had an extra day and a half and I desperately wanted to lay in the sunshine and relax as I'd not really had the opportunity for the majority of 2016.

I did actually visit way more than 5 new places - not necessarily for a holiday, city break etc - but I saw lots of different places. As I said, we went to Cornwall and I spent my birthday in Harrogate with H. I became a National Trust member just before my birthday in April and we've visited no end of new places - all over the Midlands, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire. I've also visited a load of different places in the Cotswolds as it's not too far away - and it's quickly become one of my favourite areas to go for a walk, hop from coffee shop to coffee shop or just nip for a quick G&T at a little village pub.

I am a little closer to getting a sausage dog, it's possible this will happen in the Spring. Hooray! 

I must admit, I'm not usually one to wish away the rest of a year but I will be glad to start a new year. I'm not all about the 'new year, new me' thing but I think putting some of the goings on from this year behind me will be good for me.

I'm keeping my goals for 2017 short - mostly because last year's 10 were probably a little bit of a stretch to achieve. I mean, where I thought I'd have the funds to get a sausage dog puppy, swap my car, go skiing, visit five new places and tick five things off my bucket list is quite funny on reflection.

My 5 for 2017:

Buy less.
I am a complete overspender. I buy waaaay beyond my means pretty much every month and then stress myself out when I have to live on very little money every month.
I've come to realise I don't really have a great deal to show from working life - considering I've worked from the age of 15. I've never really bought anything substantial. So in a bid to stop myself fretting, I'm going to buy less. Less clothes, less shoes (the hardest of all!!) and less crap that I don't really need.

Stop smoking.
I have been smoking on and off for years now and have probably been a consistent full time smoker for the last two or three years. I spend a fortune on it even though I don't consider myself a heavy smoker. But smoking isn't good full stop, I know.
It's not only bad for my health (pointing out the obvious) but it's really bad for my bank balance. As a family friend said to me last week - the money I spend each month on cigarettes would pay monthly for that new car I said I'd get in 2016.

Visit more of the places on my bucket list.
Main travel goals for next year are to go to Lisbon, Marrakech, Edinburgh, Bordeaux and Nice. I've been to Nice before as a child but have no memory of it. I'd love to get to San Francisco if I'm over in America as I know flights aren't cheap BUT if I am being stricter on my overspending ways, that may be put on the back burner. Experiences over possessions tend to be much more fulfilling.

Take more time for me.
This year I guess I've been in a bit of a rut. Looking at my Instagram, you'll see me here, there and everywhere...but behind the Instagram, there's been a lot of anxiety, a lot of umming and ahhing about things. I promised myself when I moved house in July that I'd start practicing yoga again at least once a week, I'd go back to spin class and I'd do all of these really positive, motivational things. I'll admit, I've not really done any of it. I've sporadically gone to yoga and loved it when I've gone - sometimes it's all about routine but when you've got a job that doesn't allow you a routine, you've got to find that inner motivation to take time for yourself. I want to read more, switch the TV off more, get out in the fresh air, go to my yoga and spin classes...just take care of myself. When you get swept up in work, life dramas and general laziness, you forget to take time to listen to your mind and your body and what it needs. I haven't been kind to my body or my mind this year and that is something I will be continuing to work on, not just for the end of 2016 or for the entirety of 2017 but as a long term goal. Without a clear head, a well looked after body and just taking some time to think 'screw everything else, this is time for me', you can really be stuck in that rut longer than you anticipate.

Sooo sorry about the crazy long post BUT, it was totally necessary.

Stop being so all or nothing.
This has been something I've realised I'm bad at this year. I am either super duper busy, doing allll of the sociable things - basically being a little bit like a whirlwind - or I literally want to stay in the house, see nobody, do nothing and I become a bit of a Debbie Downer. And it's made me realise, similarly to taking more time for me (as I've said above), that I need to find a bit more of a balance. I need to know that I don't need to do EVERYTHING every weekend. Similarly, on the weekends where I feel like I really don't want to leave the house, I need to at least go out and have a walk or something. Obviously it's been a bit of a stressful year but I've found myself getting overwhelmed very easily by doing too much or too little. I think it's okay to want to be busy and also it's okay to want to not really do much but unfortunately for me, it can affect my mental health a little and make me feel really anxious so I have now acknowledged this is something I really need to work on.

And one extra...spend my time more wisely.
I've said before, but after graduating, going travelling and moving to different places, it is SO hard to find time to catch up with friends sometimes. I see my best friend Emily a lot as her boyfriend doesn't live too far away from me but a chunk of my friends live in Manchester/Stockport, some in London, some at various other places in the Midlands...and although we have our occasional weekends together, it's hard to make the time regularly - we all find it. I mean, when we are together it is no different and we still speak most weeks but yeah, it's harder to maintain friendships as you get older because everybody's lives have changed or people are just busy. So yes, I want to spend my time more wisely. It's not practical to think I'll see everybody every single month but, as I recently discussed with my uni friends when we had our Christmas weekend in London, every 3 or 4 months we should arrange a weekend - whether it's at my house, in London, in Sheffield or just a weekend away somewhere for all of us - to make sure we have regular time together but without putting massive pressure on ourselves to catch up every month.

This will be my last post now before the New Year so I hope you've all had a lovely Christmas and enjoy your New Year celebrations.

What are your goals for 2017?


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

LIFE: 2016 Round Up

WARNING: Loooong post - read with tea and plenty of biscuits!

It's safe to say my goals for 2016 were a flop. This year has been completely unpredictable and I've felt a lot like I'm floating through rather than having an actual path to guide me through the year. The only positive is the photo posted at the top of my 2016 was true. This year has made me braver and stronger.

2016 has been the Jekyll and Hyde of years. It's hard to know where to begin. 

The year had started off a little bit shaky, as I told you at my end of 2015 post and things well, things got a bit worse really. I'd found out something quite shocking and life changing back in November 2015 that I thought was just a blip but when March hit, that nightmare became reality, again, I wrote about it here.

I haven't hidden it. This year has been really rough for me but also, incredibly good.
I have had a number of wonderful trips again - for work and with H. I've moved into a beautiful cottage and am incredibly happy here. I have been so, so happy in so many ways. Which in itself has been confusing at times. This year, somebody who was previously incredibly important to me and possibly my best friend has left my life and at the beginning that hurt, but now I've found acceptance of this and am finding, life is actually much smoother and happier.

As I have been a bit sporadic in my blogging this year, I feel a little roundup month by month is in order.

We begun the new year in Sheffield after a night out at my all time fave The Great Gatsby. This month consisted of a lot of brunches, a trip to Lake Garda with work and a delicious meal at Bob Bob Ricard.

Always my busiest month, February was made up of a lot of work travel - Milan and New York. I had a couple of extra days in New York to explore the Highline, Chelsea Market and just chill out after a jam packed few weeks. I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour for the third time...and it never gets dull. I love it more and more with every visit.

Everything changed in March, it was a tough time. My parents separated and that was obviously a real blow after 25 years of me not knowing anything else. BUT March was also full of nice things. H and I had our first holiday away together to Barcelona and it was bloody lovely. We ate lots of tapas, saw the sights, drank lots of Moritz and had such a lovely time. Again, lots of nice food - I went to Coya for the first time and had the food that dreams are made of.

I always love April because it's my birth month. The weather always picks up abit, the beautiful Spring flowers are in bloom and people come out of that winter hibernation. H and I spent a long weekend in Harrogate for my birthday and went to the Baths, had two lovely brunches at Betty's and Farm Bistro (which I cannot recommend enough!) I also had a tasty meal at The Hopping Hare in Northampton - always a good shout for a bit of something different.

In May I had a lot of work visits around the country BUT more lovely food (sensing a pattern...). I had the best brunch I've EVER had at Friends of Ours in Hoxton and a wonderful weekend in Brighton for the Bank Holiday with brunch at Bill's and The New Club (which, although miles better than the first time I went, I still find a bit mediocre). We also went to the newly opened Franco Manca and I finally got to try 42 Juice. I also had the pleasure of being invited to try the fantastic menu at Ferguson's in Rugby but very disappointingly it has now closed due to sale of the building. Hate it when that happens!!

The weather was great in June and I had a lovely day out at the Foodies Festival in Birmingham at Cannon Hill Park. Infact, it was much hotter than anticipated that day which led to gins, crispy duck wraps and listening to the live music. I also had another visit to Lake Garda for work, this time with my dad popping along with me. From Garda we caught the train to Florence to meet H. H and I had a day at Pitti Uomo which is always loads of fun - seriously, seriously fashionable people there and I love seeing the next season ranges of both footwear and clothing. Florence was a really, really lovely trip and we were all sad when it was over. I had a beautiful meal at the Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon for a friends 70th birthday - definitely give the place a try if you are out that way or live nearby! I actually forgot how jam packed June was...I also had three days down at Clarks learning about the business and a night out at the Drapers Footwear Awards.

July started off with house hunting. My ex-housemate moved to Bristol so I was weighing up my options. Eventually, after a lot of searching I found a beautiful cottage and moved in at the end of July. July was also a sad month. We had sold and moved out of my childhood home. It was A LOT of work as only my dad and I were there to do the clearing, boxing and moving - which turned out better than expected as we managed to do more clearing out than we'd anticipated. I had a lovely afternoon with my dad and my grandparents for dad's birthday - another good day for the weather! July is also Tramlines month and a weekend away I try to not miss. We made our way to Sheffield and saw Craig Charles, Jurassic 5, Catfish and the Bottlemen, amongst others. Tramlines is always one of my favourite summer weekends as loads of the ex-Sheffield gang head back.

We begun August with a trip to London to the Luna Cinema and lunch at The Gardening Society on the roof of John Lewis. SUCH a nice day as, again, the weather was great. I had a great trip to Copenhagen for work, staying in an Air b&b with an amazing coffee shop called Wulff and Konstali underneath. Also had two fantastic meals at Almank and Llama. God, the food in Copenhagen is GOOD. From Copenhagen I didn't have much time at home before flying to Vegas for work. I had probably the best trip so far with a trip to Downtown, food at Carson Kitchen and a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon. I must admit, I was really happy to get home though as I'd spent little to no time in my new house since moving in what with work trips and weekends/days away. We had planned to go away for Bank Holiday weekend but ended up staying local with a trip to Canons Ashby and a seriously relaxed weekend.

Another busy month with work. September means theMICAM in Milan which feels like an endurance test every time I'm there. 5 days of solidly being on my feet surrounded by footwear companies from all over the world. This time I went to Nobu...twice. I cannot recommend the food at the Milan Nobu enough. I also went back to my favourite breakfast spot, Vanilla Bakery. They are completely OTT with the portions of bacon and egg but that's exactly what you want after a week of pizza and pasta. After a week in Milan we had a trip to Leamington Food Festival, a nice day out in the Cotswolds at the Gin and Whisky Distillery and I also popped by for a morning at the London Fashion Week Showrooms. September also meant HOLIDAY YAAAY! We had a long weekend down in St Ives which was lovely. The weather was a bit hit or miss but we managed to have a day pottering about the town, a trip to St Micheal's Mount and a lovely walk at Godrevy Lighthouse. Also another amazing trip for food - we had breakfast and dinner at Porthmeor Beach Café, an amazing steak at Firehouse Bar & Grill...oh and we had a night in Bristol beforehand and stopped at Primrose Café for brunch before setting off to Cornwall.

October started with brunch - which is the way any month should begin. I had a trip to Liverpool to see some of my friends I lived with in Australia. It was a bit of a whistle stop trip but so so nice to catch up with everyone! I also made it up to Manchester to see my BFF, my sis and all around mega babe for a night out. We don't get to catch up that often but it's never any different when we do and that's what I love about our friendship. I had a few days in London with an American client and had a beautiful meal at Rules on Maiden Lane. I was invited to a Rum Cocktail Masterclass at Turtle Bay which was greeeat. Nothing I love more than a cocktail or two! We also had a really delicious meal there too (which I'm yet to blog about!)

I always love November - mostly because it means Bonfire Night and the beginning of Mulled Wine Season (yes, it's a thing in my eyes!!) We went to two really good firework displays this year, both local. We had a really lovely walk at Batsford Arboretum - the colours are beautiful this time of year. I was knocked out with a migraine for two weeks and had a horrible cough and cold towards the end, so I was a bit of a hermit really. I had two really fun weekends in London - one with H where we had brunch at Dishoom, drinks at Blixen, dinner at Honest Burger and a trip up to the Sky Garden (finally!) and another with the Girls which involved Christmas Markets, a bloody good night out in Clapham/Brixton and a lovely pub lunch with a group of our uni pals.

Ahhhhh Christmas! I love November/December just for the festive goings on. I started feeling festive just after Halloween so I was really happy when December arrived. The first weekend meant TREE DAY! I have a super duper big tree in my living room now. It was such a pain to pick. I've never really realised how difficult picking a Christmas tree is. But it was managed and it looks lovely, apart from its slight lean. But that gives it character. We had a lovely Christmassy couple of days in beautiful Bath, drinking lots of mulled wine and wandering the Christmas market. We also managed to get to Birmingham for the Christmas market (and more mulled wine). I headed up to Sheffield the weekend before Christmas to spend some time with Emily and see the others, again, more Christmas markets...this time in Manchester. The last few days leading up to Christmas basically meant working my socks off so everything is finalised for the AW17 show season to begin. Thankfully I'm organised and my Christmas shopping was complete around 2 weeks ago so no last minute rush - always nice! Christmas will be quite different this year but definitely in a good way. I've got a trip to the Cotswolds and a London trip planned with my dad between Christmas and New Year which will be fun. New Year will be spent in Sheffield for the second year running and I couldn't be happier. A friend of ours has a pub so we're heading there and to another friends event - Peddler. It happens every couple of months but they've put on a big end of year event.

I was going to pop in my 2017 goals here but figured you'd probably need a breather if you've made it this far! I know this is a bit of a whistle-stop round up but I have tried not to bore you too much with my ramblings!

It's been quite the year and, for the most part, it's been great. I will be glad for 2017 to arrive and to start afresh.

What's been your highlight of 2017?


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

LET'S TALK: The Learning Curve of Working From Home

Food. My main motivator in life...
**Here is where I would like to have put a glam little office space I have in my house, truth is, where I work isn't quite as Pinterest-worthy as I would like. Also, lazy. Rearranging my desk, moving the papers, moving the pile of magazines that I pop my MacBook on so I can watch something while I all would all take too long and I'd just get a crap shot anyway...**

In July this year I started working from home. I have roughly one day a week in the office, events/meetings in London quite a lot but the bulk of my working time is now spent in my little cottage.

I must admit, it really has been a learning curve. One that I can’t say I dislike but sometimes, it’s not the easiest to get motivated when your desk is a 30 second walk from your bed or you know you're not going to see anybody all day so it's totally fine to just wear your dressing gown. The temptation to stay in bed answering your emails and making phone calls is hard to resist but you just have to have a routine. I think that’s the main point of this.

That said, with my job it’s really, really difficult to have a routine. As I’ve babbled on repeatedly on here – I travel quite a bit throughout the year and not every week is the same. I work in Events and Marketing but a lot of this is centered around overseas tradeshows, press events, out of the office meetings and a chunk of this is not on routine days/times.

1. Write a daily to do listAhhh, the satisfaction of list making. This really is possibly my top tip for staying organised. I usually pencil in a few things on a Friday afternoon that I 100% need to do next week then revisit it on a Monday morning and do a more solid to do list. I have one of those daily planner pads so I can give myself a few tasks each day to complete. Obviously, if I get bits and bobs done I can move onto the next day. I am super forgetful so without these daily/weekly to do lists, I would be not only completely disorganised but also very unmotivated.

2. Get up, get showered, get dressed
This is something I have majorly struggled with but do as you would before a day at the office or before a meeting. Get up at a reasonable time – I would usually get up to go into the office about 7.15am but find if I get up about 8.15-8.30am I am a little more awake. Have a shower, get dressed, put a little bit of makeup on – do the things you’d usually do so you have a daily routine that is applicable to both working at home, being in the office or whatever lies ahead for the day.
I’ve had times this last 6 months where I’ve waited until like 8pm before bothering to have a shower or get dressed and by that point, well, it seems a little bit pointless.

3. Make time for a bit of fresh air
This is another crucial part of my day. Especially this time of year, being stuck in the house during the grey and dark days isn’t the best for motivation. Before I start working, mid-morning, lunchtime and mid-afternoon I make myself a coffee or a fruit tea and go and sit outside for 10 minutes in the garden. I try and avoid making phone calls, checking social media etc so it gives me those little 10 minute boosts with no distractions at all. When the weather gets a little bit better, I’m going to make it my mission to have a 15-20 minute walk around the village either in the morning or around lunchtime as part of my break.

4. Know when to switch off
When I first started this job, although I was office base, I worked all the hours under the sun. I was running myself ragged waking up at half 6 and doing an hour of emails/bits and bobs before heading to the office for 9, working through my lunch until 5 then carrying on for an hour when I got home, plus answering my emails until I went to bed. Although it’s good to have a strong work ethic, work shouldn’t be your life. Work should be a part of your life that you enjoy as much as you can but it doesn’t take over. Obviously, the dangers of working at home mean you have this intense work ethic that means you never switch off from your job. I’m still bad for this – I’ll remember something late at night and send an email there and then so I don’t forget. Sometimes, that’s ok but you really need to have that time to unwind before your working day begins again.
I vowed to myself when I moved into this house that I would stop looking at emails or doing work by 6.30pm at the latest each night. This may sound quite early but it means I can cook a meal from scratch (something I’ve always done), do the dishes, have a bath if I want, watch some tv or read a book…just have some time to relax and empty my mind a little.
Obviously this isn’t always possible but trying to do this 80% of the time makes me feel more motivated daily rather than struggling to get out of bed the next morning to be chained to my desk again.

5. Have a dedicated work space
I would occasionally work from home at my previous house but when I moved in here, as I knew I work be working from home, I told myself “you’re having a desk, that’s where you work everyday. Not on the sofa, not at the dining room table, not in bed.” And I still feel this is so important.
If you work downstairs on your knee from the sofa, it’s easy to get distracted AND get a stiff neck (same with working in bed!). Working from the dining room table just means I leave paperwork everywhere and rather than actually being able to sit there and have dinner, it’s just a mess. So I have my desk upstairs in one of the spare rooms. I’ve got my candles on there, a little plastic drawer set (which I hope to replace for something nicer soon) with my paperwork in, a little desk lamp and a big window so the room is as light as possible. I mean, this is 'office goals', my current situation is a little less glam.
My brain knows that my little desk upstairs is where I work. It knows that when I step away from this desk, I’m not working. It helps me to switch off after a day of working because my work is left at that desk (literally!) I know not everybody has space in their home for a dedicated working area but believe me, it really helps. And there are so many companies that make smaller desks or something that can achieve a similar use.

6. Eat properly and drink plenty of water
I find when I’m at home I drink less than when I’m actually in the office. God knows why, maybe it’s because it gives me an excuse to move from my desk and stretch my legs in the office.
It is SO important to make sure you drink enough during the day anyway, but especially when you’re working. I have one of the plastic refillable water bottles from Tiger that I bring up with me everyday and make sure I refill it at least 3 times as well as drinking my coffees and fruit tea.
Foodwise – it’s a luxury being at home. It means I can having a more filling breakfast to keep me going (usually poached or coconut oil fried eggs with crumpets or rye bread with a bit of spinach sprinkled with chilli flakes) and then a lighter lunch (either soup or a juice/smoothie and some nuts). It is very tempting to reach for the unhealthy snacks so I’ve had to cut down on buying them BUT, I must admit, having the bigger breakfasts stops me feeling the need to snack throughout the day.
7. Communicate. Have a break.
It can get very lonely being at home all week, especially if you’re used to being in an office with people to chat to when you need a break. I make sure each day I give my dad a call (which usually ends up being a couple of times) as well as ringing one of my friends at office. I also make sure I catch up with people via whatsapp/on the phone as a break away from work.
Once a week, I nip out with my Macbook to one of the local coffee shops for a couple of hours to have a drink, be in a sociable environment and get work done there. It’s amazing how this couple of hours in your week can keep your motivation levels up.

8. No distractionsThis might sound obvious but it is really important to not be tempted by the distractions of being at home. “Oh there’s some washing to do” or “I can just clean the bathroom quickly”. If you spend time doing these odd jobs throughout the day, it can take up more of your time than you realise! To avoid household distractions, I write a house to do list and spend no more than half an hour each day ticking a job or two off – if I can assign the jobs to specific days then I will.
I have to have my phone with me all the time as it’s my work phone BUT I try and avoid using it as much as possible for whatsapp/social media whilst I’m working. As we all know, five minutes can easily turn into an hour of browsing Instagram.
I try to have some music on in the background rather than something on Netflix but will occasionally put something on but it has to be something that doesn’t require a lot of focus. Putting on an episode of Luke Cage or Planet Earth is a no go as I just want to watch every minute. Putting something on like One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl etc means I’m not overly distracted! On the other end of the scale, working in total silence makes me distracted. I need a little bit of noise!
These are just a few things that help me stay on track. I can't say they work 100% of the time, but just like those working from an office day in day out, you don't always stay 100% focused. Work isn't always fun but it's a necessity (and luckily, I thoroughly enjoy my job so it makes it a tad easier) so staying motivated and upbeat is important.

Do you have any working from home tips for me? I'd love to know!


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

ATE AT: Turtle Bay, Leamington Spa

As well as the super fun Rum Cocktail Masterclass I went to at the Leamington Spa Turtle Bay, they were also kind enough to invite me and a guest for dinner.

I've already harped on about how much I love the atmosphere in there. Which you can read all about in my Rum Cocktail Masterclass post. But seriously, it's just such a cool vibe.

I love the music, the décor, the smell of barbecuing as you enter, the lively enthusiasm from the barmen making the cocktails. It's all just very complimentary of the Caribbean culture (from what I remember of my yearly visits over there as a child!)

As you will know by now, I love going out for food. It's my favourite thing. Infact when my boyfriend said to me the other day that we should have a quiet January and 'maybe not spend so much money on eating out at different cafes and restaurants', the look on my face quickly made him retract his ridiculous statement.

But yes, going out for food is the best. Especially when the place serves cuisine you wouldn't eat on a regular basis.

I love Caribbean food but it's only something I have once in a blue moon. Mostly because I don't think it can be cooked at home as well as it can be cooked in a restaurant like Turtle Bay (you need those grills!!)

We were seated to our table by the most lovely waiter (so mad I've forgotten his name - he was so nice!) and given both the food menu and the cocktail menu.

As I am now pretty much an expert in all things Rum, cocktails and rum cocktails, I'd already decided I was having the Mai Tai. H opted for a Red Stripe, always a perfect pairing with Caribbean food.

For our starters we decided to share the duck rolls and the sweetcorn fritters.
Eating the duck rolls made me feel like I was in an M&S ad...melt in the mouth slow roasted shredded duck with soft onions onion and a mix of tamarind, soy sauce, chilli & sugarcane - the best bit? Dipping them in that amazing chutney. The fritters were great - flavoured with spring onion, coriander and a bit of a kick from the scotch bonnet.

After the starters and another cocktail, we were excited to see what was about to arrive next.

For our mains, H opted for the Trinidad Curry and I decided on the Curry Pork Cheeks. Oh, and a side of sweet potato fries because I'd had some at the Rum Cocktail Masterclass and they were hands down the best potato fries ever. I actually feel a bit envious that I can't make them taste that good at home.

H's Trinidad Chicken Curry arrived and I worried for a minute that I'd got food envy and had ordered the wrong thing...BUT mine looked equally as tasty.
The Trinidad Curry is full of spices, coconut milk, mango, garlic and a little kick from scotch bonnet. It's then topped with coconut and served with roti.
I had a little try (as I always do) and the flavours were great. The scotch bonnet was more than a bit of a kick for me (admittedly I'm not the best with really really spicy food!) but the flavours were spot on, even if I couldn't handle the level of spice!
H absolutely loved it and said if we go again soon, he would definitely have it again.

The curry pork cheeks were incredible - they'd been slow cooked in a Carribean spice marinade (which they'd been left to soak up the flavours in for 24 hours) and then cooked in coconut milk with coriander, chilli, garlic, ginger, pineapple and sweet potato.
I know you'd expect this from a restaurant, it seems a little obvious, but everything was SO fresh and so full of flavour. I often worry with chain restaurants that, although good, they don't excel to be excellent because they have a certain standard to work to but that is certainly not the case with Turtle Bay in Leamington. You can tell that the food being cooked is not a chore; there's enjoyment for cooking in there!

I must admit, it took us ages to eat our mains. The atmosphere of the place made us relax so much that we barely stopped talking to eat but we really enjoyed our meal.

If you're looking for somewhere that's great for a big group, date night, a first date...Turtle Bay has it all. Even if you're just wanting somewhere for a few cocktails, this is the place. They have an amazing happy hour, which is basically all day - apart from between 6.30pm and 9.30pm.

I can't wait to go again, genuinely. It is definitely one of the best places I've been in a while for both quality of food, friendliness of staff, amazing cocktails and generally just a really fun and happy atmosphere.

Thanks for having us!!

** I was invited to review this meal for free with a guest but all opinions and BIG love of food are my own **

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

VISITED: Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh

I love not being too far away from the Cotswolds. If we've had a lie in or just a really lazy day but decide in the middle of the afternoon we want to go out somewhere, the Cotswolds is just round the corner and a very short drive.

This is pretty much what happened a couple of weeks ago. H had been to have his hair cut, I'd stayed at home to make the breakfast of dreams and then we decided we wanted to go somewhere. 

I was adamant I wanted to go somewhere to see the Autumnal colours and get some fresh air so turned to google to see where people were saying the best seasonal colours were in the Cotswolds. I was aiming for a National Trust place as we are both members but when Batsford Arboretum popped up a few times, we decided that was the one. We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Moreton-in-Marsh.

Batsford is a beautiful place to visit. At 56 acres, there's a lot to see an the views of Evenlode Valley are lovely. As well as the grounds, filled with a vast array of botanical loveliness, there is a visitors centre with a terrace cafe, the garden shop and a couple of shop, including a shabby chic furniture and trinkets hut.

We had a really lovely walk. And it really is amazing what a little bit of a fresh air can do for you. Luckily we managed an hour and a bit walking dodging the rain but had to seek shelter towards the end of our walk. Bonus thing from the day - we spotted 5 different sausage dogs and it confirmed I need to adopt one ASAP...and also, a donkey...

Arboretum opening; open daily from 9am-5pm. 10-5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The Arboretum is the only bit you have to pay for. 
£7.95 for adults, £6.95 concessions,  £3.50 for children aged 4-15 and £19.95 for a family of 4 (two adults, two children)

Free entry to cafe, garden shop and plant centre.

Postcode: GL56 9AD

Monday, 21 November 2016

DRANK AT: Turtle Bay Rum Cocktail Masterclass, Leamington Spa

When an email from the lovely Maya popped in my inbox inviting me to a Rum Cocktail Masterclass at Turtle Bay, my eyes lit up.

It had been a very long time since I'd been to Turtle Bay and also a very long time since I'd been to any kind of cocktail-related event.

For those of you that don't know, let me tell you a little about Turtle Bay...

Turtle Bay is probably the closest you'll get to a Caribbean atmosphere (minus the sun, sea, sad and warmth) without actually going. The Caribbean lifestyle is all about being relaxed but lively (they make it work!), being soulful and all about rich, colourful flavours when it comes to their food. Turtle Bay's mission is to capture that soulful vibe in their restaurants and I really think they achieve that.

As you enter, in front of you is the beach shack style bar, the kitchen to the back which is completely open with grills at the front so you can watch the chefs work their magic and lots of seating in a veranda style to continue that relaxed atmosphere. The walls are covered in murals, reclaimed materials - repurposed shipping containers, oil drum lampshades and reclaimed wood.

The Leamington Spa restaurant and bar is a particular favourite of mine as, whether you're there simply for drinks (they have 2 for 1 cocktails for the majority of the time they're open!!), a delicious meal or for a bit of both (because 2 for 1 cocktails and tasty food are not to be turned down!), there's something for everyone.

Naturally, when it comes to the cocktail list, rum is at the heart of the menu and so is Bob Marley. The signature rum of Turtle Bay is Blackwell Rum, created by founder of Island Records Chris Blackwell -who basically launched Bob Marley's career (amongst other things, of course!) The Blackwell Rum is a favourite of many, with its dark hue and spicy kick. BUT, there are over 40 different types of rum at Turtle Bay and I would recommend branching out and trying a few different ones. You've got no excuse really when happy hour runs from 11.30am-7pm then starts again at 10pm!!

Anyway, now you've got a bit of background...onto the masterclass.

The class was hosted by the wonderful Adam. And I mean wonderful; he is perfect for the job - knowledgable, enthusiastic and a fantastic representative of what Turtle Bay is all about!

We were talked through the rums - the Blackwell, Santa Teresa, and the one that's in a number of the cocktails (I didn't catch the name!)

The Blackwell almost reminded me of the taste of brandy - I think because it was quite strong but I'd definitely say, in a drink, I found it much more enjoyable.

The Santa Tereza is a Venezuelan rum and definitely my favourite. It has an orangey taste to it and is more like a liqueur than the sharp taste of the Blackwell. I could even go as far as saying I'd drink the Santa Tereza straight with an ice cube as well as in a drink.

The other rum, which I annoyingly didn't catch the name of is the rum that goes in the Ting Ray, the Rude Boy and the Reggae Rum Punch Cocktails (which are one of the strongest on the menu!) This rum is over 50% and is called an overproof rum which means nothing is added to it. 

We got to try each of these whilst being told about them and did the whole 'smell it first', describe it, 'hold in your mouth for a minute to get a sense of the flavours' etc. So it was the real deal. Adam kindly explained to us the kinds of flavours we should be tasting. 

From here, we moved back over to the bar area where we could watch Adam make them and also have a go ourselves. The cocktails that were made were the Watermelon Rum Cocktail (which was really refreshing and one of my favourites!), the Reggae Rum Punch (a strong cocktail but a signature!), the Marley Mojito, Pina Colada (cue 'do you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain...', the Mai Tai (my favourite!) and a couple of others.

I didn't have a go at making them this time as I was pretty useless the last time I'd done it *cringes*. But it was such a great atmosphere and the group there was so lovely that everybody was watching and cheering them on.
After the cocktail making had come to an end, they provided a few sharing platters for the group to end the evening.

I really enjoyed my time at the Rum Cocktail Masterclass at Turtle Bay. The Leamington Spa staff are so friendly and Adam was a wonderful host. I definitely would recommend making your way through the cocktail menu - even the ones I liked a little less were still super tasty!

If you're in the mood for a cocktail, wanting to find somewhere a little different to go on a first date or  if you're in a couple and wanting somewhere to go on 'date night' be honest, I could find any example to encourage you to go. I definitely think this would even make a fantastic work Christmas party venue if you aren't ready for a million roast dinners throughout December.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - at Turtle Bay, there really is something for everybody.

Thanks for having me!

** I was invited by Siobhan Hanley PR to this event for free but all views and love of cocktails are my own **

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

LIFE: 5 End of Year Goals

I used to do Monthly Goals on Unorganised Chaos and it was actually way more beneficial than I realised. Having those small aims each month was really motivating and it is something I'm tempted to start doing again for 2017.

As it's something I've not had for a while, I figured jotting down a few goals to see me through to the end of 2016 would be a good thing to encourage me to feel a little more motivated and perkier in general.


Go back to the gym for spinning and yoga at least two or three times per week. I always feel a little bit glum this time of year. The grey weather and lack of light isn't the best for moods and motivation so I need a positive, energised attitude to my days.

Visit at least four more National Trust places I haven't been to before.I became a National Trust member in Spring and I genuinely love being a member. The gardens, houses, castles - all of it - it's all really lovely. As we are now in Autumn, the colours are beautiful and I can only imagine how picturesque some of the National Trust sites are looking at the moment.

Relax. Time away from work, emails, the internet...
After having a severe migraine towards the end of October, the doctor recommended that I really need to find time for myself - whether it's an evening, an afternoon, a whole day - to just relax. I have put a lot of pressure on myself this year and have come to realise that without taking a bit of a breather sometimes the pressure can get the better of you. So, with this in mind, I'm going to make sure I have at least two evenings each week or one afternoon at the weekends just having some time to unwind - away from the internet, work related stuff and just sit reading a book with candles on or snuggled up under a blanket watching a good film.

Have a night away somewhere with H before Christmas
With life, friends, family, life drama, work, tiredness etc we sometimes don't get enough time to have a break together. We haven't had a weekend away or a night away together completely on our own to explore somewhere new since going to Harrogate in April for my birthday. So we really want to get in the Christmas spirit and go to somewhere really Autumnal/Wintery with a Christmas Market to drink mulled wine or mulled cider, have a little wander and just enjoy some quality time. We are pretty set on either Bath (not too far away) or Edinburgh (over double the distance away) so we've just got to decide how far of a drive we'd like,

Start thinking about the things I'd like to achieve next year
And I also want to write down the good things that have happened this year. I'm not one of these people that do (or like) the whole 'new year, new me' thing. I just think that you can't really just completely write a whole year off and ignore a crappy year. That said, there's always some good to be found in a crappy year as well - hence the whole wanting to note the good things from 2016.I think that it's nice to have an idea of some things you'd like to achieve - whether they're travelling to a new place, trying a new sport, working on a personality trait etc.

I am so happy we're now in Autumn and the Christmas build up is about to begin.
Opens fires, mulled wine filled weekends, Christmas markets, wrapping up warm to brave the chilly weather. It's the most wonderful time of the year!


Friday, 4 November 2016

LIFE: A Brief Catch Up

The summer is always a busy time for me as from June until the end of September I'm travelling with work at least once a month. August in particular is always crazy with two shows and a bank holiday then the biggest footwear tradeshow at the start of September.

So, what's gone on since my last post right at the beginning of July?

I've moved house (twice). I helped my dad move out of our family home. This was a massive task - clearing 25+ years of belongings out of the house, sprucing it up for the new buyers, getting stuff into storage. It was just the two of us doing this job with a little help my H and my Grandad.

I also moved out of my Northampton house. Not quite as big of a job as dad's move but still, I'd acquired a lot of stuff during my time in that house. I also had a trip to Dusseldorf in between the two moves so stress levels were fairly high that week.

I've also moved into my new house. I moved in about a week before I was due to fly to Copenhagen for work. A whole weekend later and it was liveable but, even now, there are still have a few bits and pieces to get but I'm happy and it feels like a home. It's just a shame all the travelling for work has meant very limited time here until recently.

Over the summer, as I mentioned, I went to Dusseldorf and Copenhagen as well as Las Vegas and Milan. I managed to have a few extra days in Vegas and did the Grand Canyon by helicopter - something I've wanted to do for years.

Fast forward to the end of September and H and went on a long weekend in St Ives with our friends. The weather was appalling for 2 and a half of the 4 days but we had the best time. I'll do a full blog post on that soon - including foodie spots.

Where October went is a mystery. A complete mystery. But I had a trip up to Manchester to see some friends, a few nice dinners, a trip to Liverpool for a night out and then a bit stinkin' migraine for over a week which left me bed bound until the weekend of Halloween.

We're now in November and the build up to Christmas is beginning, I guess. I really did think I would feel a bit funny about Christmas this year but my Dad and I have got lovely plans and I'm really, really excited. I'm actually going to get the kind of Christmas I've always wanted - friends, family, mulled wine, pub visits - all of it in my beautiful cottage with my real Christmas tree and my twinkly fairy lights and our personalised stockings over the fireplace. It all sounds rather picturesque doesn't it?

I'm so happy we're now entering Autumn. I can't wait for the beautiful colours, mulled wine season (pretty much 90% of my excitement for Autumn is for this reason), nice candles, open fires, crisp weekend walks...I'm even excited for Halloween and pumpkin carving.

I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things with blogging again as I've been a bit AWOL on and off this year. It's not been the easiest of years for me and I think I had a bit of a delayed reaction to it.

I am super excited for Bonfire Night goings on this weekend. And copious amounts of mulled wine, of course.