Gin Is Always The Answer

Happy happy Sunday!

Hope you are all well and have been enjoying a lovely weekend; hopefully in the sunshine! I’m just back from a couple of days near Kielder Forest for my birthday, so am feeling nice and refreshed…. until I get back to work tomorrow, that is 🙂

A couple of weekends back; we had a day trip to Leeds Gin Festival. These events have been popping up across the UK over the last couple of years; and as I was too slow off the mark to get tickets for the Newcastle festival, we bought for Leeds instead. The timing also meant that it worked well as a pre-birthday celebration for me – I do like to drag these things out!

We jumped on a train on the Sunday morning into Leeds, then spent a few hours wandering around the shops in the city centre to fill our spare hours (punctuated by lunch in Wagamamas. Mmmmmm chicken katsu curry). I’m not a very good shopper and there’s only so much that James can handle as well; so inevitably at about 3pm we headed into the Hotel Chocolat cafe for a sit down and a drink – purely for research purposes, you understand! It was way too warm for a hot chocolate so we ended up with a wine and a beer….why not! The cafe was well decorated and had a nice ambience; however I’m not going to lie, I must admit I was hoping for a little taster chocolate with my wine……

hotel chocolat cafe

After our foray into the world of chocolate; we still had a bit of time before the Gin Festival started, so we went into The Alchemist for what were possibly the coolest cocktails I have ever seen! They are made with dry ice (I think) and so they ‘smoke’ when they are made. Some are served in chemistry-style funnels like the ones you used in Chemistry classes at school. I could have sat and watched the bartender mixing them for ages!

alchemist cocktail

Gin Festival itself was held in Leeds Town Hall, which is beautifully decorated inside. The room the festival was held in had marble pillars and intricate stencilling on the walls and ceiling, with tiered seats across 2 ends. A stage had been set up for bands at the far end of the hall. We bought us some tokens and got to work! In between drinks we perched on seats just behind the stage and people-watched – one of my favourite pastimes 🙂

As an added bonus you got to keep the very nice, very large, gin glass you were presented with on the way in; along with a booklet listing all the gins that were available at the festival and their suggested garnishes. There was also a discount going for any gins purchased on the night (we are not short of gin to drink at the moment; so I restrained myself – so proud).

I’ll definitely be going back – but hopefully next year I’ll be more organised and get tickets for one a little closer to home!

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me alchemist

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gin fest

Blogs I’ll Be Reading in 2015

Today’s post would normally be a Mani Monday; but as I’m taking part in the January Nail Art Challenge there are going to be more nail art posts than usual on here anyway! So, instead, I thought I’d list some of the blogs that I will be reading in 2015.

1) Media Marmalade  

I came across Media Marmalade in early 2014; when I saw a blogger feature in a John Lewis edit (you can read her post on this here). This was the first blog I ever read with consistency, and is probably the reason why I started blogging in the first place. Written by Mel, a comms director living in London; mediamarmalade.com is full of fashion and beauty posts and some great photography. She has recently started running regular ‘how to’ features with tips on how to manage your blog efficiently and how to juggle the work/life/blog balance. Give them a read, they’re really good!

marmalade

2) Fifi McGee

A recent discovery, Fifi McGee is a Brighton based blogger who writes about lifestyle, beauty and baking. Excellent 🙂 I love the photography on this blog (a lot of which are taken by her photographer fiance, handy!), I could sit and look at all the photos for hours!

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3) Carrie Brighton

I came across Fifi McGee via Carrie Brighton’s blog, which is another recently discovered corner of the web. Give this a read for lifestlye, food and yet more lovely photos.

carrie brighton

4) So You’re Getting Married

The first of two wedding related blogs in my list. Back in August last year, while we were away for my birthday, James got down on one knee and popped the question. We’re getting married! Now that Christmas is over with we will be starting to power on with wedding planning 🙂

It’s really difficult to pick out just a couple of wedding blogs, as there are so many lovely ones out there, but these are two in particular that I’ve been looking at quite regularly. I love reading all the real wedding stories and looking at all the professional photos of the big day!

So You’re Getting Married allows you to search through the wedding archives (of which there are many!) by cost, theme, season and style, and also has a directory of wedding suppliers listed; a lot of which are regional but are nevertheless great for inspiration!

so you're getting married

5) Love my Dress 

The second beautiful wedding blog on the list. Love My Dress® features real wedding inspiration, DIY tips and trends, and allows you to search through all the inspiration on the site by season, era, colour and designer. It is a gem. The site is pretty and delicate and bursting with wedding knowledge. I am going to have to control myself looking at all of these lovely blog posts! The nice thing about both of these wedding blogs is that they feature real weddings from both ends of the spectrum; from all-out indulgence to a small and private DIY ceremony.

love my dress

So there’s (a snapshot of) my reading list for the year ahead! Is there anything you would recommend I add?

Steph x

****All screenshots and images are copyright the individual sites****

Happy New Year!

Hellooooo everyone!

Just a very quick message to say I hope you all have a lovely New Year’s Eve; wherever you may be! Myself and James are off to a house party with a few friends, hopefully with fewer Jagerbombs than last year……

Thanks for reading my little posts over the last few months, I’m always really grateful to know that people are reading them and like them! I wish you all a happy, successful and fun-filled 2015. Here’s to many more blog posts to fill the year 🙂

Catch you on the flip side!

Steph x

happy new year

Top Books of 2014

I am a major bookworm. I always have a big pile of books on my bedside cabinet, and am forever guilty of buying 3 new books when I’m still in the middle of the current one.

I’ve read some good books and some not so good books over the course of 2014 – here is a run down of my favourites!

***Disclaimer*** The following is just a mash up of my opinions on these particular books – I am no expert, nor do I wish to cause offence to anyone who may not agree with me! All interpretation is personal 🙂 Happy reading!

My favourite books of 2014: The Goldfinch, The Secret History, The Shock of the Fall, No and Me, The Fault in our Stars, Eat and Run, Lean In, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul.
My favourite books of 2014: The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, The Secret History, The Goldfinch, The Shock of the Fall, No and Me, The Fault in our Stars, Eat and Run, Lean In.

1) The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez (RRP £7.99, Waterstones)

I wouldn’t normally go for a book like this, which I guess you could technically classify as ‘chick lit’ – however; this book is set in a part of the world that I am very unfamiliar with, and that I want to know more about. The book tracks 5 women of various backgrounds whose central connection is a coffee shop in Kabul city. The author lived in Kabul herself and this gives the book a genuine feel – cultural references run throughout the story and, while the book is easy to read; you can never fully relate to the struggles and issues faced by the women in this story. Deborah Rodriguez also wrote ‘Kabul Beauty School‘ which I think will probably be on my list of books to read for 2015!

2) The Secret History – Donna Tartt (RRP £8.99, Waterstones)

This was the first book I read with my book group; and I must say they started me off with a good one! The novel follows an elite group of classics students at a university in Vermont. Narrated by Richard Papen, an outsider who finds himself drawn into the group; the novel tracks their questionable moral behaviour which leads to a shocking conclusion.

I won’t go into details of the plot too much as I don’t want to spoil it. However, what I will say is that the writing is excellent and Tartt does a great job at pulling you in to the story; making you as an outsider feel like you are being given access to a thrilling, secret and exclusive world of the Greek Classics students. It is dark and clever, and will make you question your own morals as well as the story unfolds and you find yourself attached to the characters.

Read it. You won’t regret it.

3) The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt (RRP £8.99, Waterstones)

Once I had finished The Secret History, I immediately went out and bought The Goldfinch. This is Tartt’s second novel and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014. The novel tracks the life of the protagonist, Theo Decker, who having survived a disaster at age 13 clings to a small painting, The Goldfinch, which draws him into a world of crime and deceit.

The Goldfinch is a somewhat thicker tome than The Secret History; but I think it is my favourite of the two. It very quickly draws you in to Theo’s world and the dangerous circles he becomes involved in. It may be long but it is definitely worth the read!

4) The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer (RRP £7.99, Waterstones)

I really loved this book. Written by a qualified mental health nurse, this book follows the descent of the protagonist into mental illness following a tragic accident during his youth. It is simple and open, easy and quick to read, and a little bit heartbreaking.

5) No and Me – Delphine de Vigan (RRP £6.29, Amazon)

A friend gave me this book about 3 years ago, and it sat in my little (well, alright, large) pile of books until this summer. The story is about a young French girl who befriends a homeless girl as part of a school project. After the project is complete, Lou persuades No to come and live with her and her family.

6) The Fault in our Stars – John Green (RRP £7.99, Waterstones)

I guess this one needs little introduction – this book went viral earlier this year and has since spawned a pretty popular film, too. I can’t say I really rated the film that much, but I did enjoy the book – I think I even shed a tear. It’s easy reading and pulls at the heartstrings. It’s a sad and horrible truth that people both young and old the world over are battling cancer; and though the characters may be fictitious it’s awful to think that someone so young could succumb to this awful disease.

7) Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness – Scott Jurek (RRP £8.99, Waterstones)

As you will have heard if you’ve read my blog previously, I am a fan of a bit of running. I bought this book for James for Christmas last year and once he had finished with it I had a sneaky read.

Scott Jurek, for those who do not know, is an American ultramarathon runner; and has won almost all of the elite ultrarunning races around. I have run marathons in the past, and that is tiring enough, so I find it difficult to comprehend how someone can run (and win) a race such as the Western States 100. If you read it, be careful – you might come away vegan (as happened to one of the guys at our running club) or seriously considering running an ultra…..hhmmmm maybe later eh 😉

8) Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead – Sheryl Sandberg (RRP  £8.99, Amazon)

I am very much enjoying the third wave of feminism that is going on at the moment. Sheryl Sandberg is COO of Facebook and presented an extremely popular TED talk in 2010 on ‘Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders’. If you have watched this, you will already be familiar with her messages. Lean In is full of mind boggling statistics regarding equality in the workplace, women’s opinion of themselves and their own abilities to lead, and lead change. I found this book inspiring and extremely relevant to the stage I am currently at in my career. Definitely worth a read for both men and women alike. Pick up a copy…..and remember to sit at the table.

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Next time I’ll be reviewing my top books to read in 2015 – if you have any suggestions, please do let me know!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Steph x