Monday, 21 July 2014

144. Lifestyle // Days Out in Northumberland - British Red Cross Open Gardens

On Sunday, my mum invited me out for the day. Usually we head to a nice country pub for a Sunday lunch, or for a drink in the beer garden if the weather is nice, but this time she suggested visiting an Open Garden. I was brought up with weekends spent exploring the incredible National Trust properties in the North East - including Wallington Hall and Cragside - so I've seen my fair share of fancy, open gardens and wasn't particularly enthused at the prospect of wandering around yet another.

However, when we arrived at The Old Vicarage in the picturesque town of Warden, West Northumberland, I changed my mind. We parked up, surrounded by other cars and families, and made our way to a beautiful, period house set in stunning gardens. The entrance fee of £3.50 seemed slightly steep to me, but considering you can spend an entire day there and the proceeds also go towards British Red Cross, it was definitely worth it.

After paying, we began to explore the gardens - first up was a gorgeous small garden, filled to the brim with flowers and herbs, and an incredible sun dial in the shape of a globe - it was pretty cool, but unfortunately I didn't manage to snap a photo. My mum loves flowers, a passion she has inherited from her parents, so she was able to inform me of the names of the flowers that I thought were "pretty". There were lots of photo opportunities for budding nature photographers, but I forgot to take my camera and had to make do with my phone - oops!
We then made our way into the orchard which was so atmospheric and I could just imagine the trees being lined with fairy lights and having small camp-fires dotted around, as well as hammocks hanging from the branches - honestly, it would have made an awesome party venue! The orchard led back through to the courtyard and the lawn area, where people were able to enjoy an ice cold glass of Pimms (for just £2 - what a steal!) and laze about on the grass, soaking up the rays.

Instead of stopping for a drink, we headed up into the rear garden, past the wildlife friendly pond, and made our way up, past the beautiful borders full of pretty plants, and were able to enjoy the stunning views of the church tower and all the gorgeous greenery beyond the house. After exploring the remainder of the garden and some of the surrounding woodlands, we decided to refuel with a slice of homemade cake whilst escaping the heat, by cooling down under a tree. 
All in all, it was a really lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon. We spent a good hour and a half exploring the gardens, as well as the local church, and think it's an activity that would appeal to all sorts of people; from families with kids who need to run around and let off some steam, budding photographers or people with an interest in plants, or just people who want to enjoy some nice weather in a relaxed, beautiful setting.

Upcoming British Red Cross Open Garden's in Northumberland:
Thornley House, Hexham on August 31st, 2014
Dilston Physic Garden, Corbridge on July 27th, 2014

Monday, 14 July 2014

143. Lifestyle // Sedbergh and North Yorkshire

I've been taking full advantage of not having to work lately; I spent a week in Portugal, five days staying with my Mum in the Lake District, and countless lie ins and lazy days. Last week, I agreed to work two weeks at my old job - in advertising - as holiday cover at the end of July, and I also have an interview next week which I'm feeling pretty hopeful about (wish me luck!) so I decided I'd best make the most of my, potential, last couple of weeks of being a lady of leisure, by heading back to the Lake District for a few days.
The first day was spent just soaking up the sunshine and wandering around Sedbergh, which is an idyllic little town, renowned for it's number of book shops. The top left picture is my Mum's gorgeous courtyard which is a wonderful sun trap, the top right picture just shows how beautiful the weather was whilst I was there, bottom left is the interior of Westwood Books, which has to be one of the best bookshops I've ever visited - it's fantastic, there are SO many books and they're at incredible prices. It was actually voted as one of The Guardian's top 10 second hand bookshops in the UK! The bottom right photo is my lovely Mum tucking into lunch in the courtyard.
On the second day, we headed over to North Yorkshire to visit some family friends in Grassington. On the way there, we passed lots of yellow bicycles in honour of the Tour de France which had passed through the area just a couple of days before, and it was pretty cool to see. The top left picture is a decorated bike outside someones house. The top right picture is in the interior of the Grassington Museum which is full of artifacts donated by the people of the town, old fossils and even bronze age implements. The bottom left photo is one of the displays inside The Rustic Rabbit which is a gorgeous boutique store in the centre of Grassington - check out the website here, they have some beautiful homewares - it's like a lifestyle bloggers dream shop! The bottom right picture is a 'Moustache Cup' that my Mum spotted in the museum - so funny!
These last few photographs just show the wonderful weather we had. Top left is the view from the house we visited in Grassington, looking out over the Yorkshire Dales. Top right is the lovely outdoor seating area at Melmerby Bakery, which we visited on the way back. Bottom right is from our drive across the Yorkshire Dales, and bottom left is the delicious lunch that I had at CoffeECO in Grassington. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

142. Beauty // A Cure For Sweaty Betty's - Sure Women Maximum Protection Anti-Perspirant Deodorant

Now, I don't know about you ladies but I am quite prone to 'get my sweat on.' Whether I'm sitting in the office, sunbathing or just on a walk, I can always feel myself getting hotter and hotter... I actually think that my internal thermostat is broken, as I'm constantly warm and somewhat clammy (what a lovely image, I know). 

Over the last couple of years, I've found that your everyday antiperspirant deodorants don't seem to do all that much for me. Sure, they smell lovely and fresh at first, but within a few hours - or as soon as I begin to stress or become active - I break out into a sweat again. Grr. So, what was the point in putting deodorant on?! Grumble, grumble. 

Imagine my surprise when I spotted an antiperspirant deodorant promising 48 HOUR PROTECTION. I bunged the deodrant in my basket and headed to the tills, hoping this would be the answer to my ever-so-slightly-sweaty-prayers. And guess what? It is.
Sure Women Maximum Protection 48h Anti-Perspirant Deodorant is dermatologically tested and claims to be formulated with an innovative body responsive technology, known as Sure TRIsolid, which not only ensures maximum wetness protection and odour-fighting technology, but contains Dimethicone, a skin moisturising ingredient, too. 

The packaging is pretty nice, with a range of different scents available, and the deodorant itself looks modern and cool - it's the perfect size to carry around in your handbag too as it's nice, short and stumpy. It comes complete with directions as well as a handy Q & A section too, where Sure explain the difference between anti-perspirant and deodorant and even contact details for who to speak to if you have any questions about sweating. Very thorough indeed. 
Sure suggest that you apply this deodorant at night time as your sweat glands are less active in the evening and, therefore, the formula has more time to work with the skin to build up a stronger level of protection. Curious stuff, eh? 

I've been using this deodorant for several months now and I've not had any problems with body odour or the dreaded under-arm-wetness in the whole time, seriously. On occasions, I haven't had to reapply the product for as much as three days - can you believe it?! Three days without applying any deodorant or anti-perspirant and my pits remained as a dry as the desert. One of my ex-colleagues even tried this product out, following my recommendation, and she now swears by it - in fact, she texted me a couple of weeks ago to let me know it was on special offer in Boots and that she'd just stocked up!

It comes in on the pricier end for a deodorant, at £5.30 from Boots, but when you take into account that it lasts at least twice as long as a normal deodorant, and that it also incorporates an anti-perspirant so you a) don't smell and b) don't sweat as much in the first space, it's a Sure-fire (pahaha) bargain.

I think right now is the perfect time to try this product for yourself - especially as we're starting to get the warmer weather and we're all spending more time out and about!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

141. Lifestyle // Bedroom Tour

I've often admitted to being somewhat of a Nosey Parker and when it comes to peoples homes - and, of course, their bedrooms - I'm no different. I love to see all the little bits and pieces people have accumulated over the years, anything sentimental always pulls at my heart strings and, as we all know, I'm a sucker for anything pretty.

I thought I'd share some photos of my bedroom today for the rest of you nosey peeps to have a look at. I split my time between my family home and my boyfriends, so the majority of my stuff is kept at home, whilst the majority of my time is spent at S's house, which he shares with his dad. These photos are from my family home.
Top left: Butterfly Print from RE, Corbridge, in an IKEA frame, White Lantern from IKEA, Owl Candle from Primark // Top right: Butterfly fairy lights from The Range

I love this butterfly print and I've had it for a couple of years now; I think butterflies are so beautiful, hence why I also have these cute butterfly fairy lights, which take pride of place above my bed. 

Inside my walk-in wardrobe, I have a shelving unit that is crammed with books and DVDs. 

My bedside table is always cluttered with magazines, the books I'm currently reading, whichever DVD I've last watched, as well as famly photographs and a cute one of S and I that was taken a year or two ago.
Top left: White Desk from Littlewoods, Clothes Rail from Argos // Bottom left: Acrylic Storage from Amazon

I bought myself this clothes rail as I couldn't afford to get a wardrobe and, so far, it's served its purpose pretty well. I really want a pretty wardrobe but for the time being a clothes rail ain't all that bad - I can see exactly which clothes are clean without even having to open any doors (always good for a lazy girl like myself). 

I bought the desk when I started out with my Open University journey back in 2012 but, now that that's currently on hold, it's used as a dressing table instead. I keep all my most used products in front of the mirror and the rest of my beauty bits and bobs are either at S's or stored away for when I run out.

I love having photographs around the place and, as well as on my bedside table, inside my wardrobe, and on one of my walls, I keep a selection of them stuck beside my desk. They are mainly photographs of me with my siblings. Aren't  Weren't we cute?!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

140. Lifestyle // Natty Luxury Milk Drinks

I love to support local businesses, and in Northumberland I'm spoilt for choice. There are some fantastic independent businesses, and I try to avoid the chain stores as much as possible although this isn't always possible. I recently discovered a new luxury drinks company that hails from my hometown of Hexham - Natty

Never heard of them? Well, you're missing out. Natty Luxury Milk drinks are described as being 100% natural, with no hidden nasties, which is a huge bonus for many shoppers in this day and age. They currently stock three delicious flavours and I've been lucky enough to try all three; each flavour is based on a tasty dessert; chocolate orange truffle cake, apple crumble pie and custard, and lemon meringue pie.
Chocolate and orange is one of my favourite flavour combinations and I wasn't at all disappointed by Natty's attempt at the chocolate orange truffle cake, it was deliciously creamy and chocolate-y, with a hint of orange - not overpowering or bitter, just perfect. 

Lemon meringue is also one of my favourite puddings; I love the zingy, lemon flavour and the light texture. Natty's lemon meringue pie was no different - nice and tangy, but creamy enough to cancel out any acidity from the lemon. 

The hands down winner for me was Natty's apple crumble pie and custard milk, which was just amazing. I saved this one til last and ended up wishing I'd bought more than just one! The flavours were absolutely spot on; I could taste every aspect of a traditional apple crumble from the strong flavour apples to the hint of cinnamon which, for me, was the icing on the metaphorical cake. 

The three milk drinks cost me around £5 which I don't think is bad at all for three 330ml delicious, natural drinks. Natty's luxury milk drinks are available from Shake'n and the Pudding Parlour in Hexham, Wheelbirks Parlour in Stocksfield, Fenwick's Food Hall, Quayside Market and various other outlets in Newcastle. You can find out more about them here. 

The wonderful Emily from Geordie in the Kitchen also reviewed Natty's drinks here.

Friday, 4 July 2014

139. Books // Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young

The lovely people from Tinder Press recently sent me a copy of Natalie Young's new novel - Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband. The book was published on July 3rd in paperback, and is available for £7.99.
As soon as I saw the front cover of this book, I was drawn to it - it's vibrant and looks very fun and quirky. I'm a super squeamish person and, usually, even the thought of blood and guts makes me nauseous but I managed to get through this book without a single gag or wretch, which is pretty good going.

Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband tells the story of 'ordinary housewife' Lizzie Prain, who finds herself caught up in a not-so-ordinary scenario: she's killed her husband, and now she has to dispose of him. Lizzie loves to cook, in fact she's a real foodie, and she needs to get rid of the body carefully and discreetly, so what should she do? Well, as the title suggests - she is going to eat him. 

Throughout the narrative, we see how Lizzie prepares to consume her husband, how she decides to cook him (it's very imaginative, in parts - with some fantastic recipe ideas... just kidding!) and, through Lizzie's own notes, we see her thought process as she makes her way through his cadaver. 

To be honest, I could barely put the book down once I'd picked it up - it's very dark, as you'd imagine from the title, but it's got some brilliant humour mixed (or should I say - stirred) in, and is seasoned (pahaha) with some quite moving parts too. I found the character of Lizzie very easy to warm to and very life-like too. I loved the mixture of third person narrative and Lizzie's own notes - it added an extra depth, which was fantastic. 
The only thing that I didn't like about the story was that we were introduced to quite a lot of characters who had very little impact on the story line, and at times I was left wondering what the point was in 'X' being involved in the story line, and whether it was some form of foreshadowing. Most of these questions went unanswered.

I managed to read this book in just a few days and I would definitely recommend Season to Taste or How to Eat Your Husband to anybody whose looking for something a little different. It's available to buy in paperback, or for your Kindle, on Amazon or hardback from Waterstones.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

138. Recipes // Simple Chicken & Leek Bake

My dad is a domestic God(ess); he looks after our entire home, from cooking to cleaning, DIY and looking after the pets. I often take this completely for granted and so, tonight, I decided it was time I helped him out a bit: I decided to cook dinner for the family.

I have a very picky younger sister, so I had to go for something fairly simple, nothing too exotic, and - of course - for my own sanity, I had to keep it straight-forward. That's where this tasty, easy dish comes in! It's subtle yet flavoursome; the chicken was deliciously moist, and the potatoes were lightly crisped.

It's a definite winner for the whole family as it's not overpowering, but it's still super tasty. I served it up with steamed broccoli and some sage and onion stuffing, almost like a mini (but healthier) Sunday dinner, but it would go equally well with a mass of veggies.

Ingredients (serves 5):
500g of chicken breast
4 x large potatoes (I used Maris Pipers')
2 x large leeks
1 x chicken stock cube
1 x pint of boiling water
Salt, pepper & herbs to season

Before beginning preparation, preheat the oven to 150 degrees
1. Dice the chicken into bitesize cubes
2. Slice the leeks to whichever thickness you prefer
3. Slice the potatoes finely (think potato gratin)
4. Spread the chicken on the bottom of a deep baking/casserole dish
5. Top the chicken with the sliced leeks
6. Ensure all chicken and leek is covered with the potato slices
7. Make your chicken stock using one stock cube and one pint of boiling water
8. Pour the stock over the potatoes
9. Season with black pepper, sea salt and mixed herbs
10. Cover with a lid, or foil, and bake in the oven for 90 minutes
When everything is cooked, dish it up and you can use the left over stock as a yummy gravy too.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

137. Lifestyle // June In Photos

Top left: S and I popped into Chiquito's for some post-holiday-shopping-scran on his 26th birthday. // Top right: Since I left my job, I've been busy applying for new, more exciting roles. // Bottom left: I finally gave into the hype and read The Fault in Our Stars. // Bottom right: We spent two lovely nights at S's mums house in the countryside, sipping drinks next to the fire outside.
I spent five wonderfully relaxing days at my mums house in Sedbergh. 
Top left: cute horses down the road from Mum's. // Top right: passing beautiful lakes on our drive to Windermere & Ambleside. // Bottom left: enjoying a bottle (or two) of wine in the evening sunshine. // Bottom right: Cumbria is such a beautiful place.
S and I jetted off to the Algarve for seven sunny days - check out the full post here.
Top left: I wrote a post about losing my Grandad and the impact it had on me. // Top right: S and I cooked up delicious chilli nachos - you can find the recipe here! // Bottom left: A tasty meal with my family at The Kirkstyle Inn, near Brampton, Cumbria. // Bottom right: I became an Access All ASOS member!