Glamorous Bargains

Last week was my first week of freedom from work, leaving me with just two weeks to get ready for returning to Liverpool and the start of third year. Eek! I’ve spent the past week languishing about with books and various outdoor trips to make sure I didn’t completely succumb into a bookworm recluse. This post is regarding my rather costly trip into Newcastle on Tuesday. So here goes another shopping haul post.

Just a sample of the haul

I’m not going to do this post in the order that I wandered around town because I planned my trip so I completed a whole circle back to the bus stop. For anyone who’s walked around Newcastle, this is most sensible option because it can be deceptively hilly at times. The original plan was to meet Mum in town as she hoped to take a half day with her holidays, but alas her boss neglected to tell her about the staff meeting until ten minutes before her lunch break, which was rather cruel. I knew there was a reason I bought the day ticket for the bus!

It was quite a busy few hours out the house and a rather early start (although after working for eleven weeks, it still felt like a lie-in). There’s only one bus which runs from my estate to town and it arrived just before nine am, meaning I arrived in town about quarter to ten. I didn’t get back in the house until after one and needless to say my feet were rather tired from all the walking around.

Everyday essentials

I’ll start off with some of my more expensive indulgences. Firstly, I wandered into Lush on a whim as I’ve heard rapture about their lip balms and scrubs and I adore lip products. The assistant who served me was really helpful and answered all my questions about the products. I ended up purchasing ‘Lip Service’ because it’s really good for cracked lips and ideal for those who are outdoor all the time. They do quite a few different types and you should have a browse here through their products. I’ve never really used Lush before because my skin has always been really sensitive, but Mum adores it and this product has already made a difference to my lips in the few days I’ve been using it. For £5.75 it was slightly more than I would normally pay for a lip balm, but I reckon it’ll be worth the indulgence.

My second and slightly more expensive purchase beauty-wise was MAC Face and Body Foundation. I sampled this product when I was in Oxford last week, and my skin didn’t flare up or feel dry. In fact my skin felt fresher than I (which is no surprise really given the journey home) and Mum even commented on how nice my skin looked. I’m naturally quite pale, with a handful of freckles smattered across my nose and cheeks. I like a light coverage that evens out my face tone, covers any break-outs but still lets my skin breathe and looks natural. I also like something that is simple and quick to use. I hate faffing around in the morning, but this product is so easy to use, even for a complete novice like me. And trust me I am a novice, it took me ages to master liquid eyeliner, but this foundation was dead easier to apply. You don’t need to use a great deal, I imagine the 50ml bottle will last me nearly a year. I use my fingertips when applying it which means that I don’t get any hideous streaks and you can feel how well it blends in. At £21.50, it is the most expensive foundation I’ve ever bought, but like I said the size of the bottle and the minute amount that is used per application, means that it’s worthwhile in the long run.

Now for the accessories to brighten up the autumn days. I went into Claire’s Accessories purely to try on some new hairbands and ended up spending nearly £25 (and that’s with student discount!). As I mentioned previously, I love quirky accessories and I know that finding new belly bars are going to become a firm eBay search. Well I was very surprised to see such lovely bars in Claire’s, mainly because from the outside it looks like an insane mix-match of One Direction and Hello Kitty memorabilia. I was recommended when I got my piercing to try reverse bars as I have quite a small belly button, and I certainly find them more comfortable to wear as they don’t snag as much on my clothes. I thought the colourful selection of balls would be ideal for matching outfits or moods as I don’t need to keep changing the actual bar. They were on a three for two offer, so I bought the sunbeam one to try out as well.

My second set of accessories were some more Alice bands. Now because I have such short hair, I like to add a touch of femininity to it with different styles of hairbands. With my current cut, I prefer Alice bands as they sit better on my hair. They are quite comfortable and reasonably priced at Claire’s, the most expensive one was the navy one at £5.50, then my Halloween cat ears at £5.00. The other two were only £3.00 which is really cheap. They don’t dig in as much as other hairbands, although you do still need to move them every so often to try to ease the indent they leave behind the ears. I wanted a one I could wear with anything and I think the brown flower one is going to be ideal. The other two will add a touch of colour and interest to my hair.

The other item featured in my first picture were tickets to go see the Ladyboys of Bangkok with my best friend. I’ve been twice before and loved it, and I was also going later on in the week with my aunt, but my friend had never seen the show and I still had vouchers. We went to see it on Thursday and both loved it. Yes it’s completely different, but the show is highly entertaining and worth seeing. To find out more about the cast or to see if they are performing in a city near you, click here for more info.

Some last-minute bargains

That evening Mum and I went out to visit Grandma and then popped into Boots to get my perfume using one of my birthday gift cards. I was after a new perfume as my current one was nearing the end, and I’d quite fancied the sound of Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck range. Both scents were fruity and floral, which are the kind that I tend to go for. I’d sprayed a wrist with each when I was in town to see which one smelt the nicest as the day progressed. I ended up getting ‘Wonderstruck’ at a bargain price of £13.33, which was excellent value for an EDP. I’ve already had some complements on it as well! It’s a delicate fruity scent with just a hint of blossom to it. A nice reminder of the wonderful summer we’ve had.

My final bargain of the day was the lovely doggy jumper at Sainsbury’s. I love the TU range as it’s reasonably priced, feels lovely and fits nicely. They had 25% off all their clothing, so I decided to indulge myself yet again. It was within reason though as I have a feeling I will live in this jumper at uni. As a matter of fact I’m wearing it right now and it’s so warm and soft. I love it already!

I’m out again next week with Mum as she’s got some time off work for us to spend together before I go back off to uni. I will try to curb my spending as it’s back to the student budget, especially as I’d like to have some savings at the end of the year. Still I’m rather impressed with my recent bargains.

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Big kid treats

This Graze post is about a new box that I received. It’s aimed at kids really, but hey I’m still a kid at heart sometimes and I thought I’d give it a go. Unfortunately I forgot to take note of the code for you to get a freebie this time round, but my next Goodybox is due on Monday, so I’ll make a note of it then and post it with the relevent review. The Goodybox is the same price as the Nibblebox at £3.89 per delivery so it seemed like a nice alternate to my usual delivery.

Like I said the Goodybox is primarily aimed at children and this is shown in the packaging and design of the box and punnets. I really liked the outside of the box with my name stamped clearly on it and the cute little face on the opening. I wasn’t too fussed on the inside design, but then I’m not that little a kid. It’s certainly a good idea for getting healthy snack treats into children and I’m sure they’d pass the strict lunchbox regulations that most schools appear to have these days. There’s fourteen little goodies to try, and they’ve kept the selection process simpler this time with a simple yes or no under each option. I only binned two options due to the cranberries included, but all of them sounded really tasty. The images of each punnet look really cute as they’ve made them colourful and interesting with a typical graze pun. My personal favourite design is the ‘Dragon’s Nest’ one and I do look forward to trying it.

Apologies for the dodgy picture – I was on the train.

Crunch bunch – moved from ‘yes please’ to ‘no thanks’. Graze description: corn chips and poppyseed pretzels. I found it a little bland. It might have been because I had it in my head that they were cheese flavoured, but there didn’t appear to be any seasoning on them in general. The corn chips were decent, if a bit hard, but I wasn’t completely sold on the poppyseed pretzels as I didn’t like the texture or flavour of them. I think I’ll stick with cheese and chive pretzel snacks.

Another train snack

Golden flapjack – stayed with ‘yes please’. Graze description: traditional rustic rolled oat flapjack. This would’ve been a ‘like’ rather than ‘love’ on the normal Graze rating. I found them too sugary, but they were still really tasty. Not as nice as the Nibblebox flapjacks, but then it is aimed at kids so I guess that’s the taste buds they are aiming to please. If anything, it made me even more determined to make my own flapjacks.

Jungle trekker – stayed with ‘yes please’. Graze description: milk chocolate coated honeycomb, pineapple and vanilla pumpkin seeds. Again I wasn’t one hundred percent certain on the punnet. It just seemed an odd mix to throw together, but all the ingredients individually were nice. The honeycomb was lovely, like a little bite of Cadbury Crunchie. However the pumpkin seeds and dried pineapple also tasted like they’d been candied. While this was an improvement on the pumpkin seeds, I think I’d prefer dried pineapple without the additional sweetness as the fruit is naturally quite sweet. At least I think it is. It still made for an interesting snack at work.

Salsa face – stayed with ‘yes please’. Graze description: mini tortilla chips and tomato salsa fresca. I think this was by far my favourite out of my first Goodybox. The salsa was really nice and fresh – another thing I’m tempted to make from scratch. The mini tortilla chips were also really tasty. They weren’t too over-powering on the seasoning and made this punnet a great little snack for nibbling on when watching some tv.

 

Overcoming challenges

I’m contemplating signing up for the Great North Run next year, so I have once more taken to the nearby paths to test how much my body can take. As of three years ago, the very idea of jogging was enough to have me sat on the couch with a biscuit. I’ve never had the stamina or body shape to jog more than a few steps at a time. Then half way through first year I started going on a gentle jog around the nearby park in Liverpool. I stopped when I joined the uni gym last September as it was much easier to jog on the treadmill than outdoors. When I came home for the summer I cycled everywhere and started boxing. What I’m trying to say is that while I’ve changed and improved my fitness level a great deal during the past few years, jogging for longer than ten minutes has always been a struggle. I suffered from asthma and being overweight for too long so breathing whilst exercise has always been difficult. I guess part of the problem is that I’ve always got that thought in the back of my mind. Nevertheless today I decided to test my stamina by jogging to Killingworth.

Mum was working in schools library service there and I was going up to meet her during her lunch break. Normally I would cycle, and even that can be difficult if the wind is in your face the whole way as it’s all uphill. In a moment of madness I told my mum I was going to jog there and once I’d said it, I couldn’t wuss out. After all, I didn’t have to jog the whole way, if it got too uncomfortable I could just walk until I felt better. That’s how I use to behave when I first started jogging.

However, on Monday I went for out for my first ‘serious’ jog in months. I used the Nike+ app and it greatly helped, which I was surprised at. I jogged the whole way, without stopping, for just under two miles around the public bridleways nearby. I think I was still on the high of this achievement when I decided to jog today.

And jog it I did. The whole way. I jogged through a stitch and even though it took me nearly an hour to do just under five miles, I succeeded. I was so impressed with myself and I know my mum was as well. Even though I was sporting my usually bright red face and runny nose. Yeah I look dead attractive when I exercise, although I have no idea why I get such a runny nose the minute I start jogging. Nothing else sets it off. Maybe it’s just jealous of my legs. Anyway we went for lunch (hey I’d earned that lunch and I was sensible not excessive) but Mum refused to let me walk back as she was concerned I’d pass out and nobody would be nearby. It has happened on occasion that I’ve fainted after exercise and I am always careful about not pushing myself too hard. I felt alright when I was returning home on the bus, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Once I’ve improved my stamina I should be able to jog there and back, but for the meanwhile I’ll settle for being chuffed with my achievement today. Onwards and upwards and don’t let the past hold you back. I think this is proof that if you set your mind and effort into it, you can achieve pretty much anything.

Galaxy Defenders take over the RAH

Last weekend was the much awaited trip down to London to see McFly at the Royal Albert Hall with my best friend. I classed this as another birthday treat as my friend had very kindly given me the ticket for free. For weeks now I’d been getting more and more excited as the date loomed ever nearer. I’d even go so far as to say I was more excited for this than my birthday – after all we get older every year, but it’s a rare treat indeed to go see McFly’s 10th anniversary show at the RAH! I got the morning train down to London Kings Cross from Newcastle. I much prefer getting an East Coast train when I travel because their customer service is excellent. Needless to say it was a quick, relaxing trip down. It’s amazing what a good playlist and brilliant book can do to pass the time.

Now I’ve been to London a handful of times, but it’s always been as part of a group such as guides or school. Trying to navigate around lunchtime London traffic on your own is not easy. There was construction work going on at Kings Cross when we pulled in, so I ended up following the wrong set of directions to the tube. After ten minutes of walking in the wrong direction, I eventually managed to locate the correct tube station for those of us travelling without an Oyster card. My friend had already texted me the instructions on which ticket to buy from the man in the booth and how to get to Victoria station. I clearly had ‘tourist’ stamped on my forehead because I was both awed and disgusted by the attitude of the locals I witnessed. Whenever I travel, I always try to blend in as much as possible, but my goodness how loud, abrupt and crowded does London want to be?! It probably didn’t help that I got slightly lost again when I got off the tube at Victoria, as I’d misread my text and went looking for a Costa in the bus station, rather than staying in Victoria train station. Nevertheless, I did find my friend and from there it was a quite stop at M&S for lunch whilst we decided where to wander.

In the end we opted to be typical tourists and check out Buckingham Palace because it was within walking distance and I’d never been before. We decided to just admire the outside of it though as it would have been £17 each to go inside. That was the student price as well! Again I felt like a right tourist, but this time in a good way as it looked lovely in the sunlight and the water fountain was pretty. Shame they were busy draining the water away when we were there. We took a couple of photos, including one of the patrolling guard. From there it was another short walk to Hyde Park. It’s a good job we didn’t rely on our phone sat navs to get us there as the route we walked took about half the projected mobile route. The wonders of technology eh?

We thought we went past the Marble Arch, but that wasn’t until later on that we saw it. Instead we took some pictures of a prettier arch which was also made of marble. I was really looking forward to wandering around Hyde Park, especially along the Serpentine, as it features a fair bit in certain historical romance series that I read. Yes I’m that sad, but it lived up the imagination. We decided to pay £12 each to use a pedalo out on the Serpentine for an hour. Something a little bit different, but definitely worth the money as we had such a laugh. It got us in such a good mood for the concert. When we were back on dry land, we bought proper ’99s’ (for £2.10!) with monkey’s blood (strawberry sauce for you weird folk) because it was too sunny not to really. As we were walking back, a squirrel came right up to us and sniffed my hand! I’m use to wild red squirrels that hide from people rather than this bold little critter. We were so startled that we were a little late in getting a photo. From Hyde Park we walked to Oxford Street because what trip to London would be complete without a bit of window shopping? We past the proper Marble Arch and then absorbed the fashions and passions of Oxford Street. We went to Hamley’s as well – it’s the one place were everyone is a kid! The toys were just… wow. Although the singing alarm cloud was a bit out of tune when it was programmed for my name. I’m sure my housemates would have greatly appreciated that in the mornings.

We ended up at ASK Italian near the RAH for tea as I had a voucher from VoucherCodes – a website/app that I highly recommend for restaurant deals. The voucher was for two course for £10.95 each. Now given that my main alone was that price, it was a very good deal. We shared a bottle of rose with our meal and the whole thing was delicious. I’ll definitely go back to an ASK branch. While we were waiting for our bill, we got chatting to the ladies on the table next to us as they were also going to see McFly. We walked from the restaurant to the RAH – it was certainly a day of leg work!

Now I have always wanted to visit the RAH and I especially wish to see the Doctor Who Prom there. However getting to see McFly there was pretty spectacular. The building is absolutely stunning. We arrived early to buy some merchandise – we both bought tour t-shirts and I bought the poster for my uni room while my friend bought the programme. It was then to find out just how close to the front we were. Oh my days we were eight rows from the stage! Given that we were in the stalls, I was expecting the view to be a bit limited but they were the best seats I’ve ever been in! We could’ve walked on the stage we were that close! I honestly don’t think I can convey just how excited we were. McFly were amazing. They did a great mix of their usual numbers as well as the ones on the albums. Dougie even did Transylvania on the organ! Ahh it was just superb. The boys were then joined on stage by the members of Busted that matter (Matt and James) which was like my childhood on stage. I love Busted and to hear them with McFly was just amazing. Tom played a hilarious song he’d composed called ‘McFly the Musical’ summing up the past ten years. It needs to be on the next album! Galaxy Defenders (McFly fans) are by far the best behaved fans because they respect the boys and are genuinely happy when one of them gets engaged/married, and you got that atmosphere at the event. Yes we screamed/sang/danced etc but nobody attempted to storm the stage and everyone was just very happy to be there and taking part in the event. It was such a fantastic evening, by fat the best concert I’ve ever been to, and well worth the trip down the country. Some fans had travelled from around the world, just to see McFly. Now that is true dedication.

After all the excitement, it was time to travel to Oxford to crash at our best friends uni place. We had to get the tube to Victoria then wait a bit for the Oxford Tube. The Oxford Tube is in fact a bus, and from what I’ve gathered, has always been a bus. That is just crazy Southern logic really. It’s quite a swish bus mind – plush seats, free WiFi and sockets to charge your stuff while you travel. That’s better facilities than most train services! It took us nearly two hours, but eventually we arrived at our friends accommodation. It was literally a case of ‘Hello, lovely to see you, thanks for letting us crash here and for putting our bedding out’ then sleep. It was nearly two am by that point so I think it was allowed.

I eventually woke up around 11.20, which was rather late for me, but I was shattered. We had brunch at Costa – pulled pork wrap, chocolate orange window and hot chocolate – such a healthy way to start the day! We spent the day wandering Oxford, mainly window shopping, although I did buy a giraffe scarf. Oxford is a lovely historic town, like a more expensive version of York, with even more tourists and weirdly loads of kids wandering about in their uniforms. On a Saturday. Apparently they were from a local private school, but we never quite got to the bottom of why they were doing it. We ended up heading back to our friends as we were still fairly tired. Our friend met us just after five as she had been in training for her uni job. After a little chit chat, she took us on a guided tour of her collage and then Oxford as we walked to the train station.

It had all been going really well and we’d had a lovely trip, until our train pulled in at Birmingham New Street and all the drunken football fans piled into our carriage. The seat reservation signs were off so they got a little arsey with some customers who had reserved their seat, but the rest of the carriage told them to pack it in. We were then subjected to their singing/chanting, swearing, shouting… it was just obscene. They had no respect for the rest of the carriage and instead seemed to think it was their right to behave in such a manner. It was 7.30pm and there were children in our carriage! I don’t care what other people think, there is no need or excuse for such disgusting behaviour. I even said so to one of the women who seemed to think the fact that they were football fans was acceptable. The police got on the train to sort them out as someone complained to the conductor about them. One fan in particular became aggressive towards them and we had to wait another hour for them to be escorted off the train, even though we had two stops between the police boarding and leaving. The woman I spoke to started to make her voice heard after the aggressive fan was tackled at the platform for trying to attack a policeman. Again there’s no excuse for behaving so ridiculous and if he’s going to try to harm a policeman, he deserved his treatment. That woman then got into a heated debate with the elderly gentleman who made a formal complaint/statement to the police. After a few minutes it died down and we thought everything was back to normality. Unfortunately we weren’t destined for a quiet five hours. A woman at the back, again rather drunk, began singing Disney songs full belt. At least it was child friendly, but still. We just wanted her shut up and to get home. Then the two girls opposite us began a rather deep philosophical conversation about languages and religion. They’d only just met as well! I focused on my book and playlists instead. Then at Durham we were greeted by some drunk students making their way to Town for night out. Needless to say they weren’t particular quiet either, our nerves were rather frayed and we simply wanted our beds. When we did arrived, we were greeted by our respective parents and taken home to recover from the whole experience. It was such a fantastic trip and despite the train home from hell, it was a cracking weekend away. Shame I had to go back to work for my last ever shift the next day.

Food glorious food

Finally I’ve gotten around to doing another Graze review. I wasn’t as impressed with this box, purely because I didn’t enjoy some of the snacks as much as I’d hoped. But, that is the reason that I decided to sign up to the service – you’ve got to try something to know if you like or dislike it! So in this week’s box we have: salt and vinegar nut selection, fiery seeds, brilliant black forest and Eleanor’s apple crumble. Isn’t the summer theme on the box cute?!

Salt and Vinegar nut selection

Salt and Vinegar Nut Selection – moved from ‘try’ to ‘like. Graze description: salt and vinegar almonds and salt and vinegar peanuts. I really liked the almonds which I slightly surprised by because I didn’t think I would. Then again I do like marzipan and Bakewell tarts. I was a little unsure about the peanuts though, which confirms last weeks uncertainty about them. Therefore I have decided peanuts are alright if they can be eaten with something else, but they aren’t going to be a regular snack item.

Brilliant Black Forest – moved from ‘try’ to ‘love’. Graze description: chocolate cake with cherry compote. I had this for breakfast on the Sunday before my birthday pub lunch and it just hit the spot (I did have a lot of cake that weekend). Absolutely scrummy. The cake was intense chocolately heaven and the warm cherry compote (nuke it in the microwave for less than a minute) made it lovely and moist, with just a hint of bite to it. The icing on the cake (proverbially speaking) … it’s under 100 calories. Now that is a truly indulgent healthy snack.

Fiery Seeds –  moved from ‘try’ to ‘like’. Graze description: roasted chilli pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Now these were a little bit of a let down. Given that the label on the punnet says ‘Super Fiery’ I was expected a lot of heat. What I got was a slight hint of spice. The only vaguely ‘fiery’ flavouring I tasted, and I’d hesitate to describe it as that, let alone ‘super fiery’, was when I sucked on the seeds. Again let’s not giggle too much at me sucking on seeds. Sigh – I think I’m still suffering from the sausage innuendos. Anyway, there wasn’t enough flavouring for my liking to hide the fact that essentially I was eating something similar to what we feed the garden birds. They weren’t bad enough to bin, as I could and would eat them again, but they did confirm that I’m not a huge fan of sunflower seeds.

Eleanor’s Apple Crumble – moved from ‘try’ to ‘like’. Graze description: raisins, cinnamon and honey almonds and apple. After the last box realisation that I quite like dried apple, this was another that I was fairly confident that I would enjoy. Yes it’s the weirdest crumble I’ve ever seen/eaten, but the taste of it was quite similar if you had a piece of everything in your mouth at once. That’s alright if you like the hamster look, but the ingredients actually tasted decent on their own as well. I particularly liked the cinnamon and honey almonds. Once again the almonds have come through as winners. The texture and flavouring of the almonds was just scrumptious – like a really hard, crunchy piece of pastry. Maybe it should be described as Eleanor’s Apple Pie instead?

Another year older… not sure about wiser

Firstly, happy 100th post! Not bad timing given that I turned 21 on the 14th and this is a post relating to all the birthday fun I’ve had so far. It’s been a brilliant series of celebrations with people who matter to me. However the birthday celebrations have not been limited to that weekend alone. I’ve classed my trip to London to see McFly and my best friends as another treat (the blog will eventually appear) and then when I get back to uni I’ve got a few celebrations planned.

On Friday evening, my last as a twenty year old, I had a shout out on Heat radio. That was the best thing ever to get me in the party mood. They wished me a happy birthday and played Jessie J’s ‘It’s my party’ which was just huge to me. Simple things. My dad picked me up as we were celebrating early with his side of the family at a Chinese restaurant. When we arrived, we went upstairs as instructed by my aunt to meet my cousin, his wife and baby daughter. It was only the second time I’d seen baby cousin and she was adorable – very curious about the wallpaper (black and white patterned – she’s going to be a Toon baby). As we were looking over the menu, my aunt and uncle arrived along with a surprise guest – my cousin who lives in Ireland! She’d flown over especially for my birthday and I was gobsmacked. The best surprise I’ve ever had by far. We decided to go for the restaurants buffet option as you simply picked what you fancied off the menu and it was brought fresh to you. If you liked it, you could order more or you could order something else until you were too full to move. Dad’s wanted to take me there for quite a while as it’s ideal for trying new food, something that I thoroughly enjoy, especially seeing as I’m still relatively new to the wonders of Chinese cuisine. Needless to say I took full advantage of this and I really liked the chicken and sweetcorn soup, smoked chicken, Szechuan chicken, and shredded chilli beef. I also realised that bamboo shoots aren’t that bad, but I’d still rather pick them out. I quite liked the duck pancakes this time as I included shredded spring onions to take away some of the plum sauce flavouring. Everyone had a fantastic meal, we were stuffed by the end of it and the service was wonderful. My baby cousin however wasn’t too impressed with all the amazing smelling food given that she couldn’t have any of it and after a while she was taken home as it was a bit late and she wouldn’t settle. It was lovely to see them though and given that she’s not yet two months, she was very well-behaved. The rest of us went back to my aunt’s for cake and a little chit-chat before home time as Dad and I had an early start the next morning.

Ah yes the early morning rise – not the average way to spend your 21st birthday but then who goes to a sausage making class on their birthday?! Well me and Dad did. With our cockney sat-nav (everything was said dead posh until it got to a ‘randabout’ (roundabout) or ‘Blaagdon’ (Blagdon) – we found it amusing) we set off at 9am for three hours of sausage making madness in Hexham. Turns out sausage making isn’t really the most comfortable father-daughter class to do if you blush easily. There’s a lot innuendos, especially when it comes to putting the skins on the nozzles… Despite this, we had such a laugh and I really enjoyed the session, as did my dad. I made pork, chilli and onion sausages, whilst Dad made pork, sun-dried tomato, pepper, dark chocolate and three kinds of chilli sausages. The recipe we made it to was 750g of meat, 70g rusk, 20g seasoning, 100-200g of extra ingredients (ie chilli etc) and 150g of water. It was rather simple to follow an if I had the time/effort I would be tempted to make them again.

The class finished earlier than planned because everyone in the group got the hang of it fairly quickly. After Dad dropped me off, I went out with Mum to check on the allotment (lots of yummy veg for us) then it was off to Sainsbury’s to pick up the food for my tea party the next day. Mum would’ve done all that, but because I was early, she’d only just finished icing my birthday cake. Once we’d gotten everything sorted, it was back home to open my birthday presents. I’d opened my cards in the morning before the class, as well my present from my aunt in Australia as I skyped her before I left. She’d gotten me a Tiffany & Co necklace as I share my birthday with them! I’d asked for money towards a new laptop for my birthday, so I wasn’t expecting any gifts. I still got some lovely presents from my mum and stepdad, including a new Pandora charm and the engagement ring that Dad gave Mum which was then promised to me for my 21st. That evening we went out to a Masonic Ladies Night in Jesmond. It was a really nice meal and evening out, we danced the night away! The live band were brilliant although they embarrassed me a little as they made me stand up while they sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. Thanks for that Mum!

It was a well-earned lie-in the following morning. We went for lunch at our local village pub with my grandparents, aunt and cousins on Mum’s side of the family. The meal was absolutely delicious. Home-cooked Sunday roasts washed down with a half-pint with the family – definitely a good birthday celebration. However it didn’t all end there. Once everyone had filled their tummies at the pub, it was back round to ours for a little tea party, for which we were joined by my best friends, stepsister and her daughter. Finally I got to see my birthday cake as I wanted it to be a complete surprise. Mum had made me a lemon sponge cake sandwiched with lemon curd and lemon butter icing, shaped like the Mad Hatter’s hat from Alice in Wonderland (my childhood favourite book). It was divine! Everyone loved it and the little nibbles we put out went down very well. Afterwards, my friends and I went to our other local pub for a quick drink and to participate in Quizgo – an interesting mix between a quiz and Bingo. We won the jackpot bonus of £16 between us. A pretty fine way to conclude one intense birthday weekend!

Heritage Open Days

(I started writing this on the 13th and can’t be bothered to change the tenses etc)

Between Thursday 12th and Sunday 15th September, all across the country various free events are being offered to the public. Last year I was working for the majority of the days, but I managed to go visit Tynemouth Lighthouse with my Grandad. This year, I wasn’t meant to working, so I booked us on a few tours on the Thursday and Friday as I’ll be celebrating my 21st over the weekend.

Yesterday I met my Grandad outside Central Station and we walked down to the Quayside. We were slightly early so we had a half in one of Grandad’s favourite ‘old man pubs’. It was a lovely little pub, very quaint and traditional. A definite one to include in the daytime old pub crawl I want to do with my mates before we go back to uni. If you go you have to check out the stained glass windows when you visit, they are gorgeous. It was the quickest half of cider I’ve ever drank though as we realised we had to be at the Swing Bridge in five minutes.

The Swing Bridge tour was really interesting. I knew the guy who did the talk as he Freemasons with my stepdad. The bridge is one of seven which cross the Tyne and it’s a fascinating piece of machinery. Even to someone who wasn’t got a clue about engineering. As the name suggests, the bridge rotates to let the river traffic through. We were given a demonstration of the hydraulics and another moving section but I didn’t fully understand/can’t remember properly what they did. Unfortunately the bridge didn’t swing when we were there, but it is an impressive sigh to see.

From the Swing Bridge we walked along the River Tyne to The Quayside which is a Lloyd’s/Weatherspoons for Curry Thursday. Nothing quite makes a day out in town with my Grandad like having a curry and  pint whilst being surrounded by some of Newcastle’s history. The pub is in a rather old building which still has some original features such as the pulley system outside the river-facing window which was used to haul up the goods from the boats. It’s little snippets of history like that that I grew up on and is probably one of the reasons why I adore the subject so much.

Once we’d filled our tummies and quenched our thirst, we walked back up into town towards the Central Station to go to the Lit and Phil. It’s correct title is The Literary and Philosophical Society, but it is known locally as the Lit and Phil. The history of this building is simply fantastic. We both really enjoyed the tour and are considering becoming members as their book collection is phenomenal! Our tour guide was lovely and it was very informative.

The next day we cycled to The Rising Sun Country Park. Now I’ve been walking through the Rising Sun since I was a bairn as it’s right next to my grandparents and my Grandad worked in the Pit there. Needless to say, I’ve been brought up with stories of the Pit and educated on the various wildlife that lives in the country park. This time though we went down to participate in a guided walk with the Friends of the Rising Sun. It was very informative and relaxed, we both had a wonderful time. Between the childhood memories of birdwatching at the Swallow pond and walking up the Pit Heap, and taking in the beautiful greenery of the Park, it’s still one of my favourite places to walk through.

Next year I would like to do the Guildhall tour in Newcastle as it looks really interesting. We’ll see what happens…