Our Perfect Spa Break at Rudding Park.

Hey guys,

Really excited to share this post with you! Earlier this week we got back from a dreamy spa break at Rudding Park which was the best last minute pre-birthday treat!
This week we were going to go on a boating trip on the Thames but the forecast was just looking so shocking and the river current so high we decided to postpone until August. Cue frantictically searching last minute.com and air B&B for a weather proof alternative.

I remembered about Rudding Park in Harrogate, only 30 minutes from our flat but I’d heard about their new rooftop spa and great food so gave them a call. They are currently running a midweek spring time offer which was too good to refuse and took the original quote for a full overnight spa package down by a significant amount. I rang Max while he was out at football to check I was ok to go ahead and book and luckily he was super keen (the boy loves a Spa).

We set off to Harrogate the next morning (with a pitstop to get a new tyre and an M&S meal deal) and had a little wander around the shops and picked up a little birthday treat in Jo Malone, but really we just couldn’t wait to get to Rudding Park and check-in.

When I rang them to book they asked if it was for a special occasion and I’d said its a last minute holiday alternative but also in the week of my birthday. When we checked in we were told we’d been upgraded to a suite as a ‘Happy Birthday’ from Rudding Park and were walked to the suite by a member of staff. I knew even the more basic room we had booked would be beautiful but the suite was even lovelier and we really were overwhelmed by what we were given.

The suite had a bedroom, lounge, a huge bathroom and a balcony which ran the whole length of it. They’d even left a bottle of pink fizz and a birthday card for me in coffee table.

I felt like I was walking around in a dream world and once I had finished taking snaps and popping open the fizz, I ran a bath in the beautiful rolltop tub complete with TV and Molton Brown goodies. I was unbelievably content lying in that tub with my glass of fizz watching the men’s gymnastics at the commonwealth games.

We then got ready and headed down to dinner at the Clocktower restaurant, a meal that was included in our package. The food in the Clocktower restaurant is a modern twist on British Comfort food, the food and service were perfect. We particularly loved the rhubarb cheesecake for pudding which was served in a perfect pink sphere on top of the biscuit crumble base. We then headed to the bar which had a very impressive gin collection and great cocktails. I had a lovely rhubarb gin and elderflower tonic but by the last few sips I was rushing as I was so excited to get into the massive bed.

That bed was honestly the best place I’ve ever watched Masterchef and I slept a dream on the soft sheets. Breakfast the next morning was just as lovely as the meal the night before, but really to me, you can’t go wrong with an smoked salmon and scrambled egg muffin.

We then headed over to the spa for the spa day. We could choose either the Monday or the Tuesday to use the spa but opted for the Tuesday. On arrival we were given a tour of the spa and bands to access our lockers with our towels, robes and flip flops inside. The spa really is beautiful, it’s kept in great condition and there’s plenty of staff about to order drinks and ask questions. The facilities are lovely and the spa wasn’t too busy so you really felt you could relax and make best use of all they have to offer. The new outside area is beautiful and I’m sure will be even better in the summer. There’s different saunas, steam rooms and pools as well as foot spas and heated relaxation beds where we enjoyed a read and a drink.

When we arrived at the spa we booked to have an additional treatment (because we hadn’t already been indulgent enough). We went for a do it yourself thermal mud treatment. The treatment and what to do was explained to us first by a member of staff and then we were left in our own private room. Laid out were different bowls of mud for different parts of the body as well as flannel mittens and a herbal salt scrub. Once the treatment started and we had started to apply the mud, the room then began to get hotter and hotter for the next 15 minutes. You can feel the mud cleaning out your skin as your pores open in the heat and it feels so good! After the 15 minutes showers then come on from the ceiling and using the flannel mittens and salt you can rub off the mud. I couldn’t recommend this treatment enough and will definitely be doing it again, my skin has never felt so good and it was a great experience to do as a couple.

It was a perfect 24 hours and I’m already dying to go back.

Maybe at May half term Maxie?

Katie x

What Mickey taught me.

For some reason, I’ve chosen to start writing this post on a day when I’ve already cried 6 times; once because of my very temperamental dishwasher, twice because of my sore eyes from last nights fake eyelashes, once when I couldn’t decide what to watch on Netflix and twice because Max forgot to get biscuits when he went to Aldi. It’s been a tough day, but I’m hoping writing this snaps me out of it.

This is a post I’ve been thinking about writing for a really long time, but always felt quite overwhelmed about how much there is to say. I’ve been wanting to write a bit of a recap and review of my 2 summers working at Disney World. While I was there, I kept a blog, which was the first blog I ever wrote and actually became quite popular as people followed me on the Disney journey. This came as a massive surprise to me as I only started it to keep my family in the loop and save me sending a lot of texts. (I’ll link it later in this post for anyone who’s interested in the full story!)

Four years on, my time working at Disney World is still one of my favourite subjects to talk about. That, and Making a Murderer, desserts and that my uncle is friends with Martin Freeman.

Working at Disney World will always be one of the biggest things that ever happened to me. There are times now, when life is good (but not quite as magical), when I’m cleaning the oven, waiting for the 7am bus to work or sometimes when I’m quite tipsy out in town, that I get a little wave of ‘Whoaaa! I literally worked at Disney World! How flipping cool am I?’

But, as you’ll know if you read my blog back then, it wasn’t all Disney magic and sunshine- it was really flipping hard at times,-but when I look back now, I see how much it changed me and shaped my work ethic and outlook on life.

It came at a time I really needed it. In the time between getting the job to actually leaving for Florida for the summer, I had a bit of a rough time: a bad break-up, uni struggles (the shock of actually having to do work in second year) and I  had been giving myself really unattainable weight loss goals which I was obviously failing because we lived next to a 24 hour McDonald’s. But in June 2013 I went from binge-watching TV shows in my university bedroom when I was meant to be revising, to standing in front of Cinderella’s castle as a cast member in the space of 3 days. It makes me emotional now to think about it, but at the time I was in a haze of jet lag, sun stroke, and thinking about how sticky I was in the formal dress I had to wear for our inductions.

Ways in which Disney changed how I work:
  • Feeling lucky. That sounds cheesy, but it’s true. No matter how hard it got I always felt lucky to be there and to have been chosen and have the chance to make some magic. This is something I try to keep with me at work now; to feel lucky to have the chance to make a difference and use that as motivation. (People I work with, please remind me of this at 7.30 on a Monday morning).
  • Everybody working on the same page. At Disney, I got the most support and best training I’ve ever had. It all begins with Traditions training which really drills in the importance of cast members and what you’re there to do. It’s is a bit much I guess, but there’s no doubting every person working in Disney World is working to help contribute to the Disney magic and everyone feels so supported and hyped to make it happen.
  • The Disney recruitment process has prepared me well for every other recruitment process I’ll ever go through. I’ll probably never again go through something as competitive and I don’t think my adrenaline levels have ever returned back to normal. I really didn’t think I could do it; I went to the first stage interview just for the experience. The fact I got in twice will always amaze me and has given me confidence and faith in myself going forward. 

In my first year, I had the role of a housekeeper at Old Key West resort, but I wasn’t really great at it so I began to do more running (taking things to guests like more shampoo or coffee filters) and checking VIP rooms would be ready  for them arriving. You know, housekeeping is really really exhausting- and the bed throws they use are really flipping heavy! It didn’t  come at all  naturally to me and there was no way I could compete with the super speedy Haitians; I was much more of a natural at driving round the resort in my buggy, waving at guests and posing in my costume and sunglasses.

I went back in Summer 2014 to work in Operations at Hollywood Studios which was so different. I worked on the Little Mermaid show, the Disney Junior show, the temporary Frozen attraction and did plenty of Frozen fireworks shifts. I got so much guest interaction and was really part of the magic. I got to spiel, which I hated with a vengeance as there’s not an actress within me at all. But at the end, I was pretty confident with my ‘Ahoy there sailors!’ safety speech and didn’t mess it up EVERY time.

Living and working in Disney, you get absorbed into this weird little bubble where the outside world doesn’t really exist anymore. A bubble where your life is ruled by crappy Transtar buses, tinder is full of characters and head shots, everyone speaks in Disney lingo and your life is documented by the Disney photopass guys. You can lose your grip on reality a bit because your reality becomes Disney. Everything is done in emphasised and heightened emotion; I had days where I cried with happiness and exhaustion, homesickness and from just being really excited.

Strange stories from the Disney bubble:
  • I got bitten by a poisonous spider. Got a ride in an ambulance. Had to spend a day in Celebration hospital which was nicer than a lot of hotels I’ve stayed in on my travels, but it was all a little tainted by the fact I was so poorly. I’m a bit weird about spiders now.
  • Characters are just a part of life. I found myself having conversations in the break room with a half dressed Mr Incredible or Princess Sofia the First. It’s quite forbidden in Disney to say who somebody actually is when they’re a character. You can’t go round saying ‘oh that’s Britney, she’s Ariel’ that would really ruin the magic if a guest heard. Instead you say ‘she’s friends with Ariel’.
  • Oh WOW – people were so excited by me being English. Whenever I opened my mouth, I got a bit of a ‘woaa’. It’s made me feel quite patriotic now  that I see how others see our country. And when I worked in housekeeping and was officially the only English person to ever work in Old Key West housekeeping, I was like a local celeb. It was a real ego boost.
  • The incident with the fire. There’s not much I can say about this as I signed some confidentiality forms when I started working for Disney and they like to keep these things under wrap. But what I will say is, when I first started doing fireworks shifts they talked us all through the procedure of what to do if a firework fallout caused a fire finishing emphatically with ‘but it’s never happened in Hollywood studios history’. Erm. Ah-hem, that’s changed. I think I might have gone down in HS history. There was a fire! 

There are a lot of perks to being a Disney Cast member including free park entry, cheap merchandise, accommodation pools and just the fact you actually get to live in Disney World. However,  there are also quite a lot of challenges: the really unreliable cast buses don’t really fit with how strict they are about you arriving for work on time;  sharing apartments with international strangers brings up some interesting scenarios; and fitting a food shop in at Walmart is near enough impossible, so you end up living on the Mickey shaped biscuits you can buy in the merchandise shops and using your roommates shampoo whilst hoping they never confront you about it. Oh and the laundry- that was a flipping nightmare! There were never any machines free and when you did get a dryer your clothes came out hotter than the sun which wasn’t ideal when it was 42 degrees. Shifts were so long, feet swell so much in the heat, my body got a bit broken from lack of nutrients and it’s just impossible to achieve the work/life/sleep balance.

Some of my happiest Disney memories:
  • My first traditions. Traditions is the first training you do before you start your own individual placement training. It’s cheesy and very ‘Disney’. You get a tour of the Magic Kingdom and the cast tunnels underneath. As you enter the tunnels from the cast entrance, there’s a sign above that says ‘Here walk the greatest cast members in the world’. That really got to me and left me thinking, ‘how on earth did little old me get here?’
  • On my second summer working there, I was having a really shitty day. I was knackered, feeling ill and in the middle of a week of crazily long shifts and fireworks support. We had cleared our attraction as it was a firework fall out zone and were guarding the entrance arch to make sure no guests sneaked in. It had been raining and we were soggy and muggy and I was itchy from my wet costume because I hadn’t got my waterproofs on fast enough. Guests were surrounding us waiting for the frozen fireworks to start when another cast member started singing along to the Frozen soundtrack that was playing. One by one, we all started to join in and the guests did too. We all stopped as soon as the first firework went up and it was a real goosebumps Disney magic moment on a day when I was really feeling like I was losing it.
  • When my parents and brother came to visit in my first summer. The first morning we were all together, we went to Epcot and straight to character meet and greet. I was just so happy and we took one of my favourite photos of all time of me and my Dad. Another highlight of my parents’ visit was discovering Jelly Rolls…
  • Jelly Rolls! My Disney summers would have been so different without Jelly Rolls. When I think of the happiest moments of my life, I think of Jelly Rolls –  from the first time I was there with my parents, to all the drunken times there with friends. So let me explain Jelly Rolls. It’s a pocket of extra happiness within the happiest place in the world. It’s on the Boardwalk and is a duelling piano bar. There are 2 pianos in the centre and you request songs for the piano players/singers to play by writing them in napkins and leaving them on the piano with a dollar bill. You can pretty much request anything and they’ll do it. The cocktails are strong and by the end of the night you’re tipsy, almost crying with happiness and screaming for more- I think it’s the best place I’ve ever ever been and I’ll miss it forever. It’s the reason Piano Man and Chicken Fried will always be in my all time favourite songs list.
  • Funnel Cakes and Garlic Mashed Potato. Very self-explanatory, definitely a happy highlight.
  • I think I only went to a Disney water park once over the 2 summers, mainly because they’re not free to cast like all the other parks and the weather in the peak of summer is very stormy so it’s difficult to fit a full day in. The one time I did go  was at the start of my second summer there when I went with some friends to Blizzard Beach and it was in between the rides and the loops round the lazy river that I remember having one of those, ‘Yeh! I’ve really made it!’ moments. How happy I was feeling that day is definitely shown in the picture below of me with one of my best Disney friends.
  • Extra Magic Hours Dance Parties! These were always the highlight of my working week! Once a week we opened our Disney Junior arena up as a disco for all the guests entitled to Extra Magic hours. The characters came out and the kids just went wild and it was basically our job to just be there and dance and make sure nobody got on the stage. The one memory from these parties that still makes me howl is when Goofy got a bit too excited spinning a child around and fell over. Honestly one of the best things I’ve ever seen.
  • Cast accommodation pool parties. Such a bizarre, but such a fun experience!
  • In my second summer, a group of us megabussed to Miami to see Beyonce and Jay-Z at the Miami stadium. It’s one of my most favourite and surreal memories.
  • The best things to come out of it all are my friends and the memories. There’s no way you can’t be friends forever with the people you’ve had those experiences with. Life has taken us to really different places since, but those memories in our little Disney bubble will never go away. There’s no way you can’t be friends forever with someone with whom you’ve fallen asleep on on the late bus back from Magic Kingdom; who has seen you cry with happiness when you see a raccoon at the pool when you’re having a drunken midnight swim; who has seen you look like death while pretending you’re fine when you’re recovering from a poisonous spider bite; and who has seen you absolutely lose your shit when the pianists finally play your song request in Jelly Rolls.
  • My final happiest moment to share was when another special visitor came over from the UK- my best friend, Soph! We were both Disney World fans growing up and holidayed there with our families, but at the end of my final summer there she came out to meet me and we had two magical days there together; it was a childhood dream come true! However, at the end of that final day, I still needed her to leave me alone so I could walk out of the Magic Kingdom for the last time as a cast member, on my own. I knew how I’d emotional I’d feel and knew it was something I needed to do alone. 

It’s weird looking back at photos of that time now. I feel like a different person. And not just because I’m about 2 stone heavier and my UK winter skin is currently blueish.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing, a bad thing or just something that was destined to happen.

Things that will forever have a different meaning after being a cast member:
  • The word ‘bump’.  In Disney, when you bump someone, it means you take over their position 15 minutes before the end of the shift and let them begin their 15 minutes mooching and chatting to guests before they finish. It’s a very exciting time. So now when I hear someone’s had a bump, it’s my instinct to be like ‘Ooo yay’, but out of Disney bumps aren’t that great.
  • The song ‘A Star is Born’ from Hercules. For some reason, it’s the song that is played in Hollywood Studios when the last guest has left at the end of the day. When I hear it now, it brings back feelings of exhaustion, panic that I haven’t filled out the closing paperwork properly and anxiety about whether or not I’ll make the last bus back to my accommodation.
  • The smell of popcorn- if you know, you know.
  • Frozen! Don’t.  Just DON’T.  I  officially got over that one when I heard the soundtrack for the 300th time.
  • (There are so many more.  I’ll keep adding to this post over the next few weeks when I think of them! And any other ex cast members, please feel free to get in touch and remind me of some!)

I had my time in that bubble – a bubble  that I’ll probably never get back so it’s time to carry on with my life and find the magic in everyday. But certain smells and certain songs and  certain memories will always make my tummy flip.

When I think of going back to Disney World in the future, I do get a lump in my throat. I can’t imagine what I’d feel if I ever walked back into Magic Kingdom with my own children. I could give the cast members a little understanding look when they’re trying to clear areas for the fireworks or a guest is kicking off because the show is full and their family are already in there. I could get a tear in my eye at the fireworks once more and get that dreamy family photo with Mickey.

But you know what, when it comes to everyone having their share of Disney magic, I’ve probably had enough for 50 people. And when it comes to it. if we decide to take the kids around Scotland in a camper, then that would be pretty magical too.

We’re good me and Mickey.

Katie x

If you’d like to read all my other Disney blogs which I wrote during those summers:

http://www.mickeyminnieandkatie.blogspot.com

The month of sleep and leftover Christmas chocolate.

Finally, here is my January post! I’ve been so slow to get this post up! What is it with January and needing to sleep 2 hours more than usual and not having the motivation to do anything except eat leftover Christmas chocolate?

January often gets called the most depressing month but I think that’s selling it short a little. The cold and the dark and the Christmas comedown is pretty hard but it’s also a great month for planning, starting new routines and good habits and getting your life in order (a bit).

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions really, I don’t want to give up drinking and I don’t want to think about a summer body until about April but I did have some ideas of things I’d like to work on in 2018:

1. Up the blogging. More posts, better pictures and maybe, just maybe, getting the confidence to do a speaking Instagram story. For months it’s been something I’ve thought about doing and thought it would be so easy but as soon as I turn the front camera on I just can’t.

2. Bedtime routine. I am far from a night owl, often can barely keep my eyes open past 9pm but never really feeling like I’d had a great quality sleep the next morning and often waking up in the night and trying to fall back to sleep for hours with my brain going in overdrive. So this has been my main thing to get sorted, I’d like to be a bit more productive and a little less sleepy. For Christmas I got a set of tester sized deep sleep products from This Works and they are living up to their name! I love the smell of lavender and camomile and a spritz of the pillow spray every night is really improving my quality of sleep. Another thing I’m trying to add to my night time routine is reading. When it’s been a long day and your brain is frazzled it can be hard to get it going again and concentrate on a book so I’ve kept my bedtime reading books quite simple, saving the intense page-turners for the Summer. I’ve also got into the habit of always taking a camomile tea to bed and trying to not check my phone for the last half hour of the day which is a lot easier typed than done! My Neom scent to sleep candle has become my Sunday night treat along with a Space Mask. If you haven’t tried Space Masks I really advice you should! You can buy them in boxes of 5 from the space masks website and for a special occasion (like a Sunday bed time they’re absolutely delightful. They are eye masks that heat up on your eyes, they’re so relaxing and really help you to drift off to sleep. To get going on a morning and start the day on a good foot I’ve been using Neom Mood lifting on the go mist. From previous posts you may have realised I’m quite into my scents and I’m a big believer in scents affecting your mood. This little spray is really working for me, it’s an instant pick me up and even makes the coldest, darkest walks the bus stop a bit brighter.

3. Get my sewing mojo back. There was a time I was on fire and full of ideas of new projects and designs. I was never off the sewing machine and making embroidery hoops like my life depended on it. But as much as I do still love it but it’s hard to fit it in sometimes and when I do I don’t waste time experimenting, I stick to what I know and do it well and with purpose with a customer or an occasion already lined up for it. My half term is just a week away and I’m determined to have a day where I get out all my stuff and get crafting and come up with a plan for the next few months. My poor Etsy shop has been closed since before I went to Australia at the end of 2016 and it’s about time it was brought back to life. Plus I’ve been lucky enough to inherit the dreamiest stash of vintage Liberty fabric which needs some loving!

That’s all for now, it’s getting towards bed time so best get the kettle on for a camomile tea!

Katie x

Our Perfect break at Howgill’s Hideaway.

Happy Half Term holidays! Well actually mine is now coming to an end… It went way too fast but I am feeling ready for Autumn 2 half term and for the countdown to Christmas to really begin! I’ve had a lovely break catching up with friends, giving the flat a big Autumn clean and a lovely glamping mini-break with Maxie.

I’ve written in the blog before about how much I love camping/glamping and I love it most in the Autumn when it’s colder and cosier and the countryside looks beautiful and colourful.

We found this trip’s site on Air B&B. Me and Max have a bit of love/hate relationship with Air B&B, I love it, he hates it and doesn’t understand why we just don’t book a hotel. But even Max admitted Howgill’s Hideaway was a brilliant find and has soared to the top of our list of favourite glamping sites (followed closely by the yurts at Mason’s in the Yorkshire Dales).

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Howgill’s Hideaway is in the Howgill fells (unsurprisingly) just between the Lakes and the Yorkshire Dales. The scenery is beautiful!

They have 3 pods which all face out to the beautiful views. The pods are so cosy inside with a mini kitchenette, double bed, sofa bed and a mini desk. Even a TV which was a real surprise and came in very useful for checking in on the Strictly results! They each have their own firepit too, which we loved. And as they provide the wood, matches, fire starters, marshmallows and skewers, via the honesty shop, it was really easy to get it started and get toasting marshmallows and drinking beer around it (not singing campfire songs, Max refused).

The three pods share a toilet and shower block which is a short walk from the pods but behind them as to not ruin the view! There were 2 showers and 4 toilets which were kept really clean and quite toasty warm which was lovely!

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I think I love glamping so much because it’s just so acceptable to do all the lame but relaxing things you always kinda want to do but never really have time. And when you’re camping its totally fine drink more hot chocolate than you’d ever drink at home with all the squirt cream and marshmallows you can fit on. This camping trip we took a jigsaw. A jigsaw! We’re in our mid twenties! But, although I don’t think we’d ever properly admit it to eachother, we really enjoyed it. We did terrible, barely even got the edges finished in the 48 hours we had there but the subdued project in our cosy pod really did feel lovely.

One of the biggest perks of Howgill’s Hideaway was the breakfast hamper deliveries. You do have to pay a bit extra for them (£5 pp per morning) but they’re fab, presented so beautifully and having one dropped off outside your pod for you feels such a treat. You do have to cook it all yourself but the little kitchenettes in the pods are really well equipped so it’s easy to do so. On arrival we even had some home baked cupcakes waiting for us in the pod and more freshly baked cakes and biscuits, fresh eggs and sweetie bags were available to buy in the honesty shop.

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On our only full day out in the Howgill fells we drove to Kendal, one of the nearest towns to the site. To get there we had to (actually there was probably another route but we were feeling quite daring) drive over the narrowest bridge in the world (probably not an official title). It was only 6ft and a little bit wide, the parking sensors were doing a constant beep all the way across and the bridge wall was just centimetres away from the sides of Max’s precious car. But we made it across with no scrapes thanks to Max’s good driving and we successfully did it another 2 times coming back and heading out the next day. Kendal is a really pretty little town with a fab chocolate shop and tearoom called The Famous 1657 Chocolate House. It has an insane hot chocolate menu, we spent a lovely hour in there keeping warm!

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On our last day once we’d left our little pod we drove to Keswick which is about 45 minutes away from the site. I’ve always loved Keswick and it just looks so pretty in the Autumn! We went to the Pencil Museum first (Max’s idea) which was actually pretty good but heaving as it was a misty cold day in half term! We then walked around the town and shops to the lake before going for a pub lunch. The Dog and Gun pub is in the town centre and was recommended by my Mum and Dad who have very regular day trips to Keswick to go walking and stock up on Mr Vikki’s chutneys and Curry Sauces (they are the literal best and sold in most of the delis and gift shops in Keswick).

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Like everywhere the shops in Keswick are starting to get very Christmassy! This picture I took in a shop called the Orchid House, couldn’t resist buying a bauble from there! Christmas is getting so close now and I’m already feeling festive and starting to get things sorted. I think my next few posts will have a real christmassy theme!

Katie xxx

Mother’s Ruin. (The Botanist’s Gin Masterclass)

This week, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a Blogger’s Gin Masterclass at the Botanist in Leeds. I’ve always loved the Botanist, a great place to stop for a cocktail and a bite to eat while shopping or as part of a ‘Cocktail Tour’. The one in Leeds city centre is below the Trinity Centre on Boar Street, it’s quite hidden, I’d been visiting Leeds a while before I found it, but that doesn’t stop it filling to the brim on a weekend evening! The Botanist has such a good reputation for great cocktails, gorgeous branding and decor and good looking bar men in braces throwing bottles between each other really coolly. So safe to say I was really excited to be invited to try their Gin Masterclass!

I have to admit, although I love Gin my Gin repertoire is quite small. I know Edinburgh Gin quite well, after lasts month’s tour and tasting at their distillery, and we do have a fair few different ones on our bookcase (A lot of Edinburgh Gin, Masons, The Lakes Gin, Bombay Sapphire) but when these are with a tonic I find it hard to tell the difference! Gin is Gin right?! We do have two flavoured Gins, Opihr (Oriental Spiced) and Ginger Ninja Gin I picked up at a farmers market which is lovely with Ginger Beer. But that’s all I’ve got so far on the Gin front. I’ve always been keen to try new ones, when in a bar I’m always tempted by all the interesting looking bottles but then just bottle it and ask for a house gin- partly because of the fear of pronouncing the name wrong I think I’m showing I’m clueless! I am still a newcomer to the Gin scene. I avoided it for years after my Mum told me it made her so angry she once through her engagement ring at my Dad in a club and he had to crawl around on the floor to find it. But luckily, so far, it hasn’t had that effect on me! But anyway, the Gin Masterclass at the Botanist was a brilliant way to try new Gin’s without feeling awkward and just looking for the prettiest bottles! I definitely have new favourites now and will avoid the panic and asking for a house gin!

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The Gin masters (?) were fab and gave us a brief history of gin and how it is made while we sipped on the Botanist’s signature cocktail. And then we got tasting, we were given a shot of each gin first to try straight before trying it mixed with a tonic.

The first Gin we tried was Tanqueray, I am quite sure I’ve had this as a house gin before, this is probably what I’m thinking of when I think of a standard Gin. Is good with a tonic, tastes nice, and gives you the nice warm feeling you want from Gin! (not the feeling it gives my Mum!) Next, we tried Thomas Dakin Gin. One I’d never heard of before but it has been made in Manchester since the 1700’s (not always to the recipe that’s used today!).  I think this is the first gin I’ve ever tried straight that’s made me genuinely saying ‘Oooo’ rather than grimace and reach for the tonic. I could drink this on the rocks no problem. It’s lovely and zesty and fresh with notes of horseradish, really refreshing! We then tried Langley 8. I’ve definitely seen this one before but think this was my first time trying it. From a bit of reading I’ve been doing since I learnt it’s branded as a ‘Male’ Gin. I’m feeling a bit guilty I don’t remember much about this one, but I definitely don’t remember it being awful either. Soo..lets just say it was nice. Next came Brockmans, I loved this one! The bottle is sexy, it tastes so smooth, another one I think I could just drink on the rocks. Although I have heard it’s lovely with Ginger beer! We then had Gin Mare. This is one I’ve really never heard of this one before but was by far my favourite! We had it has a perfect serve with olives and rosemary and it was sooo goood! The best gin I’ve had and can’t wait to have it again! I’ve heard you can buy it in Marks and Spencers (another subtle accidental M and S plug!) so I’ll be off there to treat myself shortly! We also got the chance to taste two different Gin martinis using different gins and garnishes. Gin with grapefruit is now one of my new favourites! The masterclass also included yummy nibbles from the Botanist menu to help soak up some of the Gin!

So there we go, that was a bit of brief one, hope I got the point across and inspired you with some new gins, or for presents for gin lovers or to book a Botanist Gin Masterclass for you and your friends! The masterclasses can be done at selected Botanist’s and a booking enquiry can be sent through the website, I would definitely recommend for a really fun and tipsy evening and to open up new gin doors!

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20 facts about me.

Hey everyone,

So I thought I’d copy some other blogs I’ve been looking at and do a 20 facts about me post to introduce myself a little bit more. This took a lot of thinking about, especially as I didn’t want to choose really obvious things, 20 is quite a big number!

Also using this post to share these photos of my dream dress! I’m going to a couple of weddings this summer and found this dress in Marks and Spencers to wear for them. I love the style and colour and it’s the comfiest dress to wear. It’s so silky it feels luxurious but for a highstreet price! I’m a big fan of anything from M and S, their jeans, pants, christmas wrapping paper, melt in the middle chocolate puddings…

 

So here we gooo….

1.
October- November is my favourite time of year and I’m getting giddy at how close it is getting. I love the cosy nights, Christmas buzz, watching Strictly Come Dancing religiously every Saturday night, adding pumpkin to every dish and making everything smell of cinnamon. I also feel a bit more comfortable fashion wise when it’s cold, I love boots, thick tights and chunky knits.

2.
I missed this season last year as I went travelling around Australia and New Zealand in a campervan with my friend Sophie. It was tough going at times but we had an amazing time and saw the most beautiful places (writing a blog post about it is on my to do list!).

3.
I lived in Italy for year from 2014-2015 working as an Au Pair and English teacher just outside Milan. I’m still really close to the family I lived with and they feel just as much like my family as my actual family. I learnt Italian at night school while I was there, I can follow conversations in Italian but don’t really have the confidence to try joining in!

4.
I used to work for Walt Disney World in Orlando. I worked for 2 summers in 2013 and 2014. The first year I was a Housekeeper at Old Key West Resort and the second year I worked in Animation Courtyard in Hollywood studios, seating guests for the shows, spieling the health and safety rules and quite often parking strollers.

5.
The summers after working at WDW I did some travelling in America with my friends, lots of amazing memories and very drunken times were had (will never be able to look at a fireball shot again in my life).

6.
I’m a really big fan of Craft Beers, love trying different ones, especially local brews. My boyfriend designs beer cans and bottles and I love going to a bar and seeing his designs behind the bar (look out for the Bad Co collection!).

7.
I never have any idea what’s in the charts at that moment. I’m a bit of an old soul when it comes to music! My spotify playlists are full of old songs and I only listen to Radio 2. I love the Beach Boys, Carole King, Chuck Berry and Frankie Valli. (But I do really really love anything by Little Mix after a few drinks).

8.
I first met my boyfriend when I was 11 when my friend dared me to go up to him and touch his hair (he had massive afro hair at school). I got close to him and bottled it! We got together properly when I was 23 and I haven’t looked back since (well maybe been a bit tempted sometimes when he leaves wet towels lying about or doesn’t empty the dishwasher).

9.
My favourite TV show ever ever is the Royle Family, I could watch it every night, sometimes when the TV schedule is a bit dry I do. I know every word but I still just love it. My other favourites are period dramas, crime dramas and a good documentary (especially one about a conspiracy!).

10.
I run a small business called Dirty Little Daffodil, I do family portrait cross stitches, cushions and bunting. I love sewing and crafting! My idea of a perfect afternoon is radio on, candle burning, cup of tea and getting on with some crafty projects!

11.
I’m a real foodie and love cooking, baking and eating out. My bookcase is overflowing with cookbooks but I still have such a long wish list of more! I love watching cooking programmes too and always so content watching Saturday kitchen with a bacon bun and a brew on a weekend morning. My all time favourite food hero is Nigella Lawson, she’s my ultimate girl crush and she always has recipes for what I fancy.

12.
Despite not being afraid of a bit of indulgence I am actually a qualified nutritionist! I did my degree at Sheffield Hallam University and loved every second of uni life. I am really passionate about about food and eating properly but am a firm believer in a bit of what you fancy does you good.

13.
My idea of food heaven is anything carby, I love pasta, potatoes and bread. My dream dish is pasta with chilli and prawns and garlic bread! My food hell is Melon, never liked it and no idea why! I’d probably be a lot thinner if my heaven and hell were the other way round!

14.
I think I spend more on my flat looking and smelling nice than I do myself! I love interiors and home fragrances! (I’ll write a post about these too!)

15.
I love pyjamas and loungewear, it’s pretty rare to catch me in the flat wearing anything else, comfort first.

16.
I used to have a Bernese Mountain Dog called Oscar, we all loved him more than anything. He died in 2014 but still has the biggest piece of my heart and he will always be the best looking dog to walk the earth.

17.
My favourite shop in the world is Liberty London, I could spend days in there and I’m obsessed with everything they sell, particularly the fabrics!

18.
My favourite films are About Time, The Great Gatsby and the Jurassic Park (and world!) series. 

19.
I drink a lot of tea! If I’m having a day in the flat pottering about I can easily get into double figures. I love a good proper brew or green tea. I love the taste of coffee too but it makes me feel like my head’s going to fall off and the end of the world is coming. I decided to be sophisticated and order an Americano on a date once, safe to say it didn’t end well!

 20.
I like to write a lot of lists! Of stuff to do, buy, things I have done, things I have bought. It makes me feel a lot more organised than I actually am!

 

There we go! Tah-Dah!

 

 

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…