Saturday, February 18, 2017

Family Celebrations in January

The last two weeks of January has a lot of birthdays in my family. I'm the 19th, my dad was the 23rd, my uncle Neil is the 25th, and my cousin Rob is the 1st of February. This year, my uncle turned 50 and my cousin turned 21 within a week of each other, so they had a joint celebration with us the last weekend in January.

We went to a hotel near my mum's house in Wakefield for afternoon tea for lunch and then swimming in their pool. Now, I've been there a couple of times before and the woman who works there is really horrible and incredibly patronising - it's like she thinks you've never used a swimming pool before! We ended up complaining about her to the front desk because there's just no need!

However, we still all had a really nice time swimming and sitting in the jacuzzi. Here we are having lunch

There is, from left to right, my mum, my grandma, Neil, me (suffering from a horrible throat infection and feeling ropey), Lee, Peter, Beth, Rob, and my aunt Caroline. The lunch was nice - I was finding it difficult to eat due to aforementioned throat infection!

In the evening we went to Mezzaluna in Mapplewell, not far from where we live in Barnsley. It's rated as the second best restaurant in Barnsley on TripAdvisor so we gave it a go. I have to say - I was impressed. It's very funky inside, the food was delicious, the portions were huge, the cocktails were yummy, and the staff were kind and friendly. Rob and I shared some mussels (I can't eat a whole portion) and they tasted really fresh and good. I had salmon and prawn linguine for my main course and it was rich and creamy. I don't think anyone disliked their food, which to say there were twelve of us is pretty good going! I'll definitely go back there another time. 

Here's Neil and Rob drinking some of those yummy cocktails:

The wall had photos of Italian American actors - I'm a bit partial to Al Pacino so got my stepdad to take these photos!

Here we all are at the table, taken by my stepdad too. We were slightly squashed on to three tables but given how busy the restaurant was it seemed fair enough. 

Here's Lee and I. I was wearing a cardigan but it was so hot!

We didn't have dessert in Mezzaluna because Beth had made cakes for Neil and Rob, so instead everyone came back to ours to eat them there. 

Neil is a Scout leader so she made this:

Rob likes BB-8 and Star Wars so she made this! Isn't is fantastic?

All in all, it was a really good day - I just wish I'd not been so ill!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Birthday day out in York!

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do for my birthday this year. Last year I went out with Chloe and Lolly during the day and then for a meal in the evening, so I wanted Lee to have the day off with me this year. Sam had a couple of days holiday left to use before the end of January so I invited her along, and then I thought we would go to York and meet our friend Jac (who lives there) when she'd finished work.

We went to the Castle Museum, which I've been to before but it was about fifteen years ago and I only remembered the Victorian street. It's a really big museum - it's £10 entry but we spent two and a half hours there and could have been there longer! One of the parts of the museum - the mill - wasn't open, which was a shame as I like a mill! We all felt it was worth the entry fee.

Here's a bunch of pictures I took!

The first part of the museum is dedicated to toys, and I really liked this carousel

Sam sat on a throne in the castle area

The next part of the museum is all about fashion, so I made Sam dress up - firstly as a regency lady

And then as a soldier - very dashing

This funky fake x-ray was in the fashion bit too - I really liked it!

This was too - we were invited to write about how we felt about our bodies and tie the tag to this. I like community art like this

Since it was my birthday, it was also Dolly Parton's birthday! She turned 71 on the 19th of January. We also share our birthday with Janis Joplin, Edgar Allen Poe, and Paul Cezanne

The next part of the museum is the Victorian street. In the chocolate bit (York has a rich chocolate history - when I lived near the Nestle factory in 2004/2005, the air always smelt like Chunky Kitkats) was this cool sign

And this stunning carriage

And here's proof that Lee was here with us!

Fabric in the haberdashers

Me and a (fake) horse and cart. The street goes to night and dawn and day again, it's pretty cool!

Here's Sam in the doorway of the grocer 

And then locked up in jail

I love retro signs like this - I think I have this one on a postcard somewhere

The next part of the museum is all about the First World War, I guess because it's the centenary. There was a whole room about peace and conscientious objectors which was really interesting

And then there was a room where you could sit and reflect, and could write on the blackboard walls. I wrote this, from Wilfred Owen's poem

Outside Sam ended up in the stocks and there was also a gallows, but we definitely did not go on that

The next part of the museum was all about the sixties. I love Lambrettas! 

There's also a jail part, but we didn't stay long in there. Like I said, I would really recommend the museum though if you're even in York.

We went for a wander round the shops - Lee wanted to go to a record shop and we looked in a few bookshops, and by then it was 4pm so we went into Evil Eye for cocktails. I have been going there ever since I was at uni in 2002! 

Here's Sam with her Constantine cocktail, which is fruity and tastes like Skittles

Jacqui came to meet us and then at 5.15ish we walked along to Jamie's Italian. I really like the food in there and I'd signed up for one of the gold cards using the app, meaning that we got a free bottle of Prosecco and a free brownie for me since it was my birthday! Definitely worth doing if you're going. 

I had a Tiramisu cocktail with dessert

And here's my brownie with a cute birthday message...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reflections at 33

I turned 33 last month. In fact I'm writing this the day after my birthday, which I spent in York and which I'll blog about in a second. My friend Gillian found this photo of us from our college leavers' ball in the summer of 2002. I just looked at it for a while, because I remember being so miserable that day. Lee couldn't go to the ball with me because it was only for students of my 6th form, and I didn't love my dress. My mum made it for me - the bottom of the skirt had elephants on it! Totally gorgeous. The fabric came from Bombay Stores in Bradford which is one of my favourite places on earth, and although I liked the dress I didn't LOVE it.

Our friend Michelle couldn't go to the ball as she hadn't got a ticket in time, and I just didn't have that great of a night. I'm just not the type of person who likes that kind of thing. And that's fine! We don't all like the same stuff. I wasn't really happy in myself at that age. I'd had a lot going on throughout my childhood and my teen years, and I was really self-conscious and quite unhappy.

And while I don't want to make out like there's been some magnificent transformation over the past fifteen years which means that I'm no longer ever sad or anxious or depressed, I am a lot happier in myself now. I have the strength of my convictions and am more or less content with my life and myself right now.

This photo was taken on my 18th birthday, six months before the photo above which is bonkers because I look a lot older here. We had a joint birthday/engagement party and it was lovely. Lee looks so young here but I swear he was 19 and a half! I loved my outfit this night - a purple top and skirt and some black strappy shoes even though it was January. I recently went through all my shoes and I still have them in a box and would never get rid of them even though I'd never wear them anymore either! 

But, fifteen years later here I am, still smiling, much stronger and still in love with Lee. He's the best; I'm so glad we've grown up together. 

33 suits me just fine so far, I think. I'm improving with age! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Grey Leggings from Joe Browns

I did some shopping in the Simply Be sale. I haven't bought anything from there in a long while, but I did a lot of browsing. I ended up sending loads of stuff back, but I kept a few bits that I'm looking forward to wearing.

I chose these Joe Browns leggings because I liked the lace detail around the ankles and the grey colour. When I wore them, they were comfortable and warm and very stretchy. They weren't too short in the waist either, which is my main bugbear with leggings! I think I'll be reaching for these lots.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Great Gatsby in York - January

My friend Jacqui bought tickets for her and our friend Sam and I to see The Great Gatsby in an "immersive" theatre experience, for which 20s dress was encouraged. It was on the first Saturday in January which was a great excuse for us to get together and drink wine. We got ready at Jacqui's, then got a taxi to the theatre where it was held, all dressed up in new dresses and headbands.

We got a drink each. There were a lot of people there. Jacqui saw this with her sister before Christmas and said there were only around 30 people there then, but at ours there was at least twice that. Most people were dressed up and looked fabulous. Members of the cast started circulating through the crowds, asking us if we'd ever met Gatsby and whether we knew how he made his money - we were part of it, you see, and supposed to be guests at the party.

As things progressed, different cast members kept taking off parts of the audience to different rooms. We went with Nick and Daisy to a lounge area to play cards and talk about first love, then we went to Daisy's bedroom a lot, then a tiny room where she kissed Gatsby a lot, and so on. It was really fun! At one point Tom shouted at me, asking why I was lying about where Daisy had been, but the more you put into it the funner it was. I would definitely see something similar again, and even this again because obviously I could watch different bits. If you get chance to see something like this, jump at it!

Selfie I took before we set off.

Just before it started, as we were waiting for things to kick off. I didn't get a full picture of my dress, but it was from Simply Be and is lacy, I bought it especially for this occasion as it's not my typical kind of thing at all! I probably will wear it for another special occasion though.

Here's Jacqui with her whiskey - we felt we needed a whiskey each to be in keeping with the era, even though none of us actually like it!

And finally here are my new shoes. I bought them from Simply Be in the sale, I think they were around £5. They're fake suede and very comfortable!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My diaries and how I use them

I have, for years, kept a date diary, as most of us do, in the vague hope that I'd know what I was supposed to be doing and when. A few years ago I got an A5 red Moleskine diary which had the days of the week down the left hand page and a lined page on the other side. For a couple of years that worked great - I kept notes on the right hand side and the diary was filled by the end of the year. I was working more then, though, and as I've worked less over the years I haven't needed the page on the right quite as much. So in 2016 I bought a smaller, A6 diary to keep track of dates.

In one of 2015's Secret Santas I received this A5 diary which has a week to view. I really liked the design on the front so I had it on my desk, and at the beginning of the year I started writing down what I'd written each day, notable achievements, things like that. I was having counselling and this was something that I felt would help me when I felt rubbish, It really did help, and I kept up the habit all year, so this year I asked Lee for a date diary and a diary I could write this stuff in. Bless him, he got them both from Paperchase and they're both gorgeous.

Here's some pictures.

Last year's diaries - the A6 one on the left, which I never really fell in love with, and the "achievements" diary on the right. I LOVE the front cover; I think it was from the Works and I love the shabby chic feel!

This is what most pages in my date diary looked like. I didn't write much of anything on the right hand pages unless I had an event I needed notes/details for. 

Here's the achievements diary. As you can see, each weekday got a big space and the weekends shared a space. I sometimes found it hard to cram things into Saturday and Sunday but mostly it was okay. On the left you can see what I wrote, on this blog, on my book blog, and some fanfic I wrote. The weekend wasn't a writing weekend as I was away camping, so I noted that too - it's important to give yourself breaks!

And here are this year's diaries. I chose the one on the left - I'm fussy, so I wanted to - and Lee chose the one on the right. My only stipulation for that one was that it was "week to view" which this is.

This is the inside of the date diary. It's a bit weird and scattered, but I like it. The beginning of each month has space for things to buy and things to do and birthdays, it's pretty good.

And this is the inside of the achievements diary, look at those beautiful clear pages ready to be written on! The paper is really smooth so I've been using a fineliner on it. This diary is also where I'll be noting books read, films watched, and TV watched in the book - it has pages and pages for notes so I thought this would be a better place than the other one!

Do you keep a diary? Do you keep two like me?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Navigating the gym as a fat woman

Now something you might not know about me is that I'm a member of my local gym, and have been for very close to ten years now. My mum and I signed up in around February of 2007 and have been regular members of the Bannatynes near my house ever since then. We used to go swimming before that, at my local pool, and swimming is what we most often do at the gym.

When we signed up, we were given a tour to orient ourselves. Our gym has the changing rooms, the pool, and the cafe downstairs. We sometimes have a drink at the cafe, but not often, but when I have been, the food is delicious and fairly priced. The staff on the front desk are always polite and greet us happily when we speak to them. The changing rooms are divided into men's and women's, and there is also a family changing room if required. The women's changing rooms have two cubicles if you wanted to change in privacy, but to be honest I just use my towel and don't care too much about it. If other people have a problem looking at my body, well, they can just look away.

The changing rooms lead on to the pool and ours is lovely. It has a slow side and a fast side and children are allowed in at certain times but to be honest they're never too bad or rowdy. There are two Jacuzzis and a bubble pool, and two steam rooms, a sauna, and a deep relaxation room, which is warm but not hot and which smells of eucalyptus and lavender. That one's my favourite room. Sometimes when we're swimming they'll turn the lights down, leaving strip lighting which changes colour which is a bit like being at a watery disco - I love it!

Upstairs - there are stairs and a lift - is the gym itself and a separate beauty salon where they do treatments too. We were introduced to all the equipment but there was no pressure on us to sign up to anything. We sometimes both do a work out - I like the bikes best. There's also a few studio rooms - one has bikes in for spinning classes, but the others are all empty and are for dance and tai chi and things like that.

The whole place has a lot of different classes going on. For quite a while my mum and I did aqua aerobics, which had a great instructor who worked to all different kinds of abilities. I would actually quite like to get back to that this year, I might see when the classes are on. There's no pressure to sign up to any classes though.

Also, in the gym area, there are always staff members around but they don't pressure us into anything. At one point my mum wanted some help with strengthening her shoulder, so someone set up a workout for her, but there's never anything about weight loss. I don't feel like I'm not welcome there at all. I love swimming and always have, and while usually when my mum and I go we chat the whole time, I also like to go alone. I like to swim and think!

Now, I don't think everyone has to exercise, and I also realise that some people have had very negative experiences. I also am sure that there are gyms where someone like me wouldn't be welcome, where staff may look down their nose at me, and where I would feel like I stuck out. That's never been the case at mine, though, so I would encourage people to maybe investigate their local gyms and see how they work. If it's something you'd like to do because swimming or cycling or walking on a treadmill, or even just sitting in a hot room with your thoughts, makes you happy, then please please see what your gym is like. Come to mine! I'll swim with you!