The Dresses and Hangovers of Birthdays past.

With just a few days until my 26th Birthday I thought I would do a bit of reminiscing on birthdays gone by. I am one of those really annoying people who see’s their own birthday as a big deal and I start thinking about it as soon as Valentine’s Day is out of the way. You’d think maybe by now the novelty would have worn off a little and I’ll  have stopped wanting to celebrate getting older but nah, I’m still totally there for a day that’s all about me. Actually not a day, a month. I justify everything I buy or do as a birthday treat in April.

Birthday celebrations have obviously evolved as the years have gone by. My main memories of birthdays when I younger are mum’s mars bar cake, TGI Fridays, sleepovers and mum waking me up with a personalised happy birthday tape which started with ‘who’s birthday is it today?’ ‘It’s Katie’s birthday today!’ I still say it to myself a lot on my birthday to be honest, the word’s just still get me really excited.

My 18th Birthday was the ultimate and as much as I’d like to repeat it every year nothing can ever top it. At the time, my 18th Birthday felt like the biggest thing in the world, I thought once I was 18, and no longer had to worry about borrowing a convincing ID for nights out, that everything in my world would be easier. Spoiler: I was wrong. But it did take me a while to realise, I was just so pumped up on adrenaline, excitement and possibility. My 18th birthday and the time around it was one of the happiest times of my life; my family were healthy, my friendships were strong, I was skinny and always tanned thanks to my addiction to St Moritz and my birthday was just this huge pink-themed peak of goodness in the middle of it.

I had started to plan my 18th birthday months and months before I actually needed to. I think I sent the facebook invitations in the January, bought the decorations even earlier and by the day came everyone else but me was probably fed up of hearing about it. But it was all worth it and I had the best time ever. My Mum joined in the hype, as Ange takes any excuse to be a bit extra. She actually maybe went a little too extra on this occasion. She seemed to have everything personalised with my face and name, the banners, coasters, wrapping paper. She ordered 25 8 serving pies for my family day time party and made a 6 tier display of pink and silver cupcakes. We had a cocktail fountain which by the end of the night, the contents was very questionable and at some point my party pessimistic Dad got really into it and started cracking open bottles of champers. It was such a blur of pink glitter, my own face everywhere, cocktails, a tactical chunder, the Macarena and my very best friends. A night I’ll definitely always remember forever.

Then came the alcohol years…birthdays meant dangerous birthday punch, strange coloured shots, a lot of cleaning up in our uni flat the next day and about a month of regret afterwards.

FYI: Birthday Punch is a very important birthday tradition we started at uni and one I’m really happy to share and encourage everyone to adopt.

You will need: A lot of Jelly sweets, laces, bears, lips and teeth, cola bottles, as much as you get your hands on but definitely enough to fill at least a quarter of a large mixing bowl.

The majority of a bottle of vodka.

A bottle of lemonade (not all at once, keep topping it up).

Just put it all in the bowl keep giving it a stir.

I don’t know if it makes you drunk or just gives you an immense sugar high but you’ll definitely have a great night and heaps of energy for running round the club like a mad woman.

To talk a little about birthday outfits, anybody else see their birthday outfit as the most important of the year? I have a collection of years of birthday dresses in my wardrobe at my Mum and Dad’s, that I will probably never wear again but still will never part from. Each year I’ve tended to have an image in my head of what I would like before I’ve seen it or usually before I’ve even come up with a birthday plan. The birthday plan then is created to fit the outfit. For instance in the picture above I am wearing a dress covered in animals, hence a jungle themed party. And the yellow dress below, that was for my 21st, I was only going to have a party at uni but a whole new Yarm party was created as an excuse to wear it, it seemed a little too nice to wear to the grotty (but great) student clubs in Sheffield. Every outfit I have now from birthdays gone by is a memory of an occasion and a happy time in my life, to me they all represent what was happening in my life at the time I bought them and wore and that makes them feel pretty special.

For my 23rd Birthday, in 2015, I was living as an Au Pair in Italy. I’ll always remember as the statement ‘complianno di Katie, lei ha Ventitre anni’ will always be stuck in my head. I celebrated the night before by heading out to my favourite bar with my Italian friends and being photographed taking a shot from a syringe…..

The next day I woke up to a hangover and sunshine. I carried the cards and presents I’d received off my family in advance to the breakfast table to open with my Italian fam. The strangest thing was how they were blown away by my cards, Italians just don’t do cards, and they found them so interesting. I had a lunch time tea party with my Italian aunty that day and then went to choose a birthday present of shoes with Nonno, my Italian Grandad who recently passed away. That afternoon with him on my birthday choosing new shoes at a shoe shop in the little town where he lived will always be a very precious memory to me. A few days later I continued the celebrations on a break to Florence with my Italian Mamma, saw some beautiful sites, drank beer and ate good food, that’s one that’s definitely up there with the best of birthday treats.

These days birthdays are seeming a bit more sophisticated. Except for my 24th when I ended up in the Wobbly Goblin in Stockton at 4a.m. I’ll never be justifying that decision as a birthday treat. Instead of birthday punch and 3a.m McDonald’s it’s now more prosecco, pretty cocktails and fine dining. We have just got back from an amazing spa break at Rudding Park (blog post on that one coming soon!), spending Friday celebrating with my parents and have something very exciting booked for Sunday. My outfit for this year is exactly what I imagined, it’s like New Look read mind and was delighted when I found it! I can’t wait to share at the weekend!

Katie x

Gin Connoisseurs, you say?

So it’s finally my summer holidays from work! How exciting! Except, unfortunately not every working adult gets 6 weeks off for summer. My boyfriend being one of them. I’ve quickly got used to waking up when his alarm goes off and smiling smuggly at him from underneath the duvet while he drags himself to the shower. It’s also given me chance to discover this whole new world that exists after 10pm on weekdays, a world which involves a lot of snacking and Louis Theroux documentaries.

Max did manage to get some holidays from work for my first week off which matched up well with his birthday and our 2 year anniversary (I know this isn’t really that significant but I take literally any excuse to celebrate).

We decided to do a little bit of a roadtrip for a mini celebration getaway, I’ve got the roadtrip bug a bit since driving around Australia and New Zealand at the end of last year. We started off just driving to my parents in Yarm and joining them for a celebratory meal out (at what age do you stop optimising every chance of a free meal out?).

The next day we set off to Northumberland, we’d planned to stop here on our way up to Edinburgh. We didn’t really have a plan of what to do in Northumberland we thought we’d wing it which stressed my mum out a lot, she got on her IPad and  gave us loads of options of what to do. We decided to head to a Roman fort on Hadrian’s wall and near our campsite for night.

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It should have been quite an easy journey except the Northumberland road people (?) chose last week to close every useful road in the region and divert cars on totally unreasonable routes. We (when I say we, I mean Max. I can drive, I would just never ever trust myself to drive his pride and joy. My driving is much more suited to old micras or golf buggys) drove about an hour extra than we were meant to in the pouring rain, but hey, the country views were pretty, if not a bit soggy.

Funnily enough, the sun came out when we eventually got to Housesteads Fort. Me and Max are National Trust members (don’t judge, we are very fun and happening people) which means we got in for free, it’s free English Heritage members too if any readers are English Heritage members. If you like days out it is definitely worth joining one of both of them, you don’t need to use it that many times to get your money’s worth but it gets you free entry/parking to so many nice places around the country. We’re in our second year of being members now and we didn’t use it anywhere near as much as we should’ve last year so this year we’re going to really make a point of going.

 

Housesteads Fort is an old a Roman fort, which now unsurprisingly is just piles of stone. It’s still really pretty and has lovely views over Northumberland. There’s a museum and signs explaining what everything used to be and what it was like living there and it’s all really interesting. Well worth a visit if you’re ever in Northumberland.

That night we stayed in a WigWam at the Wigwam orchard at Northside Farm just outside Horsley. I LOVE camping/Glamping, I think it comes from it being my parents worst nightmare and me being quite naturally rebellious. I just love getting all cosy and passing hours away playing games, doing activities like giant dot to dots and colouring in which you’d never think of doing on an evening at home but you actually really enjoy doing, and straining your eyes trying to read in really poor lighting. I even think I love the running to the loo in the cold and the dark and letting personal hygiene slip a bit. I love camping food and hot chocolates and plastic plates and shivering myself to sleep. We only did one night of it this time but are planning another trip later in the year I’ll no doubt blog about then.

 

The Wigwam Orchard was a great bargain stay in Northumberland, you do need to take your own bedding, cooking utensils, crockery and towels but the wigwams are very sturdy and cosy. There’s a fire pit outside each of them and a microwave and mini fridge inside. They sleep plenty too, I could have slept metres away from Max if I wanted to but I needed him for warmth. There’s a public kitchen and bathrooms to use in the main farm building, just with it being the summer they were full of really excitable kids, which is quite nice but kind of broke the romantic getaway road trip vibe we had going on.

 

The next day we drove to Alnwick to go to Barter Books, a second hand book shop in a converted old railway station. If you love books, you must must go to Barter books. Go tomorrow, go now, stop what you’re doing, call in sick, you all just need to go. It is HEAVEN. It smells like toast and old books, and is so cosy and beautiful. There’s a little train that goes around the top of the shelves, there’s sofas all over encouraging you to sit down and read, there’s book quotes written on boards and cabinets full of rare books and special editions for collectors. They have sections of books on pretty much anything and such a good selection. I managed to find nearly all the books I’ve been eyeing up in Waterstones and on Amazon and for a fraction of the price. I love the idea of second hand books and the thought of someone enjoying them before me and then passing it on.

Theres a cafe in there too and as we’d just come straight from our night in the wigwam we were ready to devour a hot breakfast. It’s all really tasty and you eat in the old station waiting rooms which are really cosy. Honestly couldn’t recommend this place enough, we spent HOURS in there and it’s gone straight up there on my list of favourite places.

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We then carried on driving upwards to Edinburgh, with a few more diversions and stressed shouts at the SatNav. We got there eventually…

We stayed at the Murrayfield Hotel, a booking we made quite last minute when we bottled staying in the bargain but potentially quite dodgy accommodation I’d originally booked. My original thinking was well if we go cheaper we can spend more on food, drink and shopping and we’ll hardly be there will we? But as it got closer I began to really fancy a treat so we decided to splash out a little and hold back a bit on the shopping (not on the food and drink, you may notice). It’s a very prettily decorated hotel and it did really feel like the treat I felt we needed.

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Our first night in Edinburgh was Max’s birthday eve so we decided to hit the town and go to some of the reccomendations Max got from his friend who’s from Edinburgh. We started off at a fab pizza place called Civerinos, it’s just off the Royal mile and the pizza is really good, so are the fries and the beer choices. It’s very casual which we liked and you all sit on long tables, potentially next to strangers, and I guess it could get quite snuggly when it’s busy (there is less snuggly outdoor seating or takeaway available, and a couple of tables for groups of 4-6). Some may not like this but we quite enjoyed making friends with the Japanese couple next to us, they even took pictures of us.

 

We then went on a bit of a cocktail tour. ‘Cocktail tour’ is one of my favourite phrases, it’s really just a bar crawl but a bit fancier and you Instagram every drink in every place. We started off at the Dome, I think most people who have been to Edinburgh will have been to the Dome, and if you haven’t you definitely need to call in for a drink. It is BEAUTIFUL, really gorgeous and it feels such a treat to be in there.  Drinks are sensibly priced concidering the setting and cocktails are good but it’s the look of it that’s the real reason to visit.

 

Next, we went to Lucky Liquor Company, a cute quirky little bar we heard about from a friend. The cocktails were really tasty and quirky, if not a little small (very strong though!)

We then walked to Panda and Sons which was definitely our favourite! It’s in a basement underneath a prentend barbers shop and hidden behind a bookcase. It’s all very cosy inside with dimmed lighting, sofas, barber chairs as seats, candles and really great cocktails. We LOVED it,even on a Monday night it was buzzing. There was even a very helpful waiter who helped me cure my cocktail hiccups by making me drink a glass a water upside down with a sharp knife in it, I was a bit bemused but it really did work! Definitely go here if you’re out drinking in Edinburgh or if you need help with chronic hiccups.

The next day was Maxie’s birthday. When it’s my birthday I’m awake at like 6 opening all my cards and presents and ready to totally revel in a day that’s all about me, (actually more than a day, sometimes the whole of April). Boys don’t really do that though do they. I had to wake Max up and pretty much force his pile of presents and cards on him. Once we’d got opening them out of the way we had a full Scottish breakfast and went out for the day.

We started off at the National Gallery at birthday boy’s request, we both do really like a gallery, particularly free ones. Once we’d gone round we went to the gift shop (obviously) where I learnt something about my boyfriend which I never really knew before, he is the only person in the world who can spend longer in a gift shop than me! I’m going to guess at 50 minutes. I read every book on art for children and every story in the kids section, I touched every postcard, print, flicked through all the big coffee table picture books, smelt some candles, read some books on art and Edinburgh in History while he was still looking at one small section of the art books. But he had a great time and bought some books and it was his birthday, so that’s all what matters. And it probably did me good to experience it the other way round, he’s probably felt like I did a lot of times in Home Sense.

We then had a walk up the Royal mile to see the castle and the 100,000 Spanish and Japanese tourists buying kilts before stopping for a Pret and to pick up a White Company reed diffuser (really funny we ended up walking past there, really did not plan that all).

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We then headed to Edinburgh Gin Distillery for the afternoon. This sounds quite casual like we just popped in but in reality I had to book it months ago! It was the main thing we’d sorted in advance for our trip and the main reason we were heading to Edinburgh. It certainly did not disappoint, we did the Connoisseur tour and had the best (and tipsiest) afternoon! If you or a loved one loves gin it’s a must do treat!

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The distillary is in quite a small basement but the design of it is just gorgeous. It starts off with a talk about all the botanicals of gin, where they come from what they do and about the history of gin which is so interesting! I won’t type out the whole story of gin but it really is hilarious, give it a google maybe, or maybe bbc2 will do a little feature on it soon, we really were Lolling! You then get a tour and talk about the gin making process and then the good bit, tasters! They were very generous with tasters (hence the tipsiness). We tried all the different gins they do, all the liqueurs and tried them with different tonics to see what goes best with what. For in between the different tasters they provide a glass of their standard gin with standard fever tree tonic as I guess a bit of a palette cleanser. At this point I was already thinking it has been great value for money and then our tour guide announced get to choose a standard sized bottle of a gin or liqueur to take home. Max chose their Elderflower liqueur, which in the tasting we actually really enjoyed just drinking straight. I chose their Plum And Vanilla liqueur which was so Yum! Saving it for Autumn/Winter/Christmas time when I’m probably going to add it to most things, Prosecco, puddings, cocktails… We then got the nice surprise of having discount in the shop so bought the 2 other flavours of liqueur they do (Rhubarb and Ginger and Raspberry), cos it’s rude not to have the full set and a large bottle of their standard gin. Our already quite impressive alcohol collection is now looking even more so, and luckily it’s my holidays so a midweek G+T is totally acceptable. Honestly couldn’t recommend the Edinburgh Distillary enough, you must go if you love gin and are planning are trip to Edinburgh or even maybe worth just heading to Edinburgh for.

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After the Distillary we went to a great steak restaurant I booked as another birthday treat, it’s called Wildfire and is only a 2 minute walk from the Distillary. I’ve eaten there with my family before and knew Max would love it, really good steaks and mash and chocolate cake which are always winners and definitely needed to soak up all the gin.

We drove straight back to Leeds the next day, this time with no super complicated diversions but with one extended Costa and M+S sandwich stop, has to be done though doesn’t it.

Since we got back I’ve been spending my days doing all those jobs that I’ve spent the last few months putting off until now, I’ve also been trying out some new recipes, zofloring everything and doing quite a lot of crafting (trying to get ahead with Christmas crafts so the flat is going to be humming of cinnamon oil!). We have a new MacBook too (it’s like mine and Max’s first born baby) so going to be blogging a bit more now it’s easier to do so! I’ve also signed up to a bit of nannying for a family friend cos I can’t last 6 weeks away from kids apparently, but so looking forward to it. Hoping for some sunnier days to what we’ve been getting this week so we can spend a lot of time in Roundhay Park, been eyeing up the big climbing frame from my bus to work since March so might finally have an excuse to play!

Thanks for reading, sorry that was a very long one…