Wedding planning part one

Wedding planning part one

As I mentioned in my recent travel posts D and I are engaged and planning our wedding. Full disclosure; there hasn’t been any major stresses and we have disagreed on approximately 3 things. These were centred around the usual minor things; the food, the music etc etc.

I have a very helpful fiance who has done a lot of work organising. With music being a major influence in his life he was never going to let me organise wedding entertainment (although I have input) just like I was never going to let him have the final say on the flowers.

I have to say, I haven’t found the initial stages of wedding planning particularly stressful, when you plan a wedding in 11 months its more efficient to be decisive and do your homework. We had already planned and discussed what we wanted while we were away and as such it has been relatively straightforward to put everything into place.

So far the venue is organised, the registrar is booked, we have one band booked (with a few more to consider) and we have a guest list. D is doing a lot of homework with his photographer and music contacts (what a love!)  We have a cake organised. I am wedding dress shopping in a few weeks with my mum, although I have absolutely no idea what type of dress I want.

I am by no means a wedding planning expert. I feel like we’re sort of making it up as we go but in a good way. My only tips so far are:

  1. Wedding planning doesn’t have to take over, our way of tackling it is to have regular check ins but not have it all consuming.
  2. On the back of this is is important to make time to be a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a movie night at home or a gig won’t set you back much. Having fun together sets some good foundations for your marriage (or so I’m told).
  3. Work out what (if anything) you want to DIY. Price it up, eBay is your friend, but also consider how much you’re prepared to do. Do you actually enjoy crafting? How will you feel having to tie 100 ribbons and just how handy are you with a glue gun? If you like arts and crafts this is your time to shine, but don’t feel like you have to make anything if its not your bag.

Its all getting very exciting! I might even try to get D to write some tips on picking a wedding band.

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A weekend in Northumberland

A weekend in Northumberland

Northumberland you stole our hearts. It turns out that all it takes for D and I to be happy is a beach, fish and chips, a place of historical interest and a boat trip. (Maybe also a day off work). We visited not one but 2 castles; Alnwick Castle, where much of the first 2 Harry Potter films were shot; and Bamburgh Castle which is just beautiful and overlooks the sea.

Considering we did everything at a relaxed pace we managed to fit a lot in. I really and wholeheartedly recommend taking a boat trip from Seahouses. Apart from seeing some of the beautiful coastline that the UK has to offer, we also got to see some adorable seals and puffins (the smell of guano was a bit ripe though).

Obviously being at the seaside we have to take the opportunity to have some of the best fish and chips we’ve had in a long time overlooking the sea.

We hit the jackpot with our B&B and I wholeheartedly recommend it. The room and bath were beautiful and the owners were so kind. We stayed at the Old Station House just outside of Belford. I could not recommend the place enough.

I think with planning a wedding its sometimes tempting to focus purely on the day ahead rather than enjoying your time as an engaged couple. I’m so glad we took an opportunity to spend time together in such a blissful and relaxed surroundings.

If you’re looking for a relaxed and reasonably priced break in the UK I couldn’t recommend Northumberland (both the coastal area and the National Park) enough.

New York and an announcement

New York and an announcement

 

Hello! Its been so long! I must apologise for not filling you in sooner on life, our travels to America and what I’ve been up to lately. The two biggest bits of news:

  1. D and I went on an amazing trip to the USA covering New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Shenendoah, Northern Florida and Orlando.
  2. We got engaged in New York.

New York really lived up to the hype. Growing up the media and friends and family talk about how amazing New York was and truly we had a fantastic time. There’s so much to see and experience, I feel like I could go back and still not do everything I’d love to do.

We stayed in a tiny hotel room in a hotel off 8th Avenue. Apart from the fact that we could only open the cases on the bed, it didn’t really matter as with only 5 days and the whole of New York to explore it was really more of a base to sleep and for that we really only needed somewhere safe with a comfy bed!

 

We walked about 15 miles each day around the city (pack comfy shoes) and did a lot of the iconic things but I think my favourites were:

  1. Watching not one but two musicals on Broadway – we got to see Josh Grobin in Natasha and the Great Comet and we saw the opening night of Bandstand. We actually got engaged on the stage at the Imperial Theatre after watching the Great Comet.
  2. Going to Central Park and seeing iconic places from films and tv programmes.
  3. Seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (we love a bit of History).
  4. The shopping. Need I say more?
  5. Watching Twin Forks in Chinatown.
  6. Watching Wrestling in a Catholic School Gym in Brooklyn – although I was so jet lagged I fell asleep for a chunk of the match.
  7. Randomly happening upon Katz’s deli from “When Harry Met Sally”.
  8. The food! Although we didn’t really actively seek out trendy places to eat we certainly ate really well. We ate in a lovely diner, had some wonderful Chinese Food, ate a lot of pizza and had some delicious pizza in a local deli.

 

In summary, a trip to New York really doesn’t have to break the bank. We saved a lot before our trip but some of our top tips for keeping costs down were:

  1. Use the Subway. You can get weekly Subway tickets for about $37 which makes it so much easier to get across the city.
  2. Food needn’t break the bank. We ate in diners, pizza shops, delis and fast food restaurants. We ate hot dogs from a hot dog stand and we ate a lot of fast food. We found that if you eat in the more residential areas of Manhattan or Brooklyn there is a lot of great food. Notably when we went to the Railroad Diner in the East Village the food was fantastic, the staff were so lovely and the portions were so ridiculous we ate at 10am and didn’t need to eat until the evening.
  3. If you want to watch something on Broadway – Google Rush Tickets. We got amazing seats to see Natasha and the Great Comet for under $40 (I forget the actual amounts). I actually cried during the final song, something I had wanted to do since I got into theatre was to see a musical on Broadway. You can usually get Rush Tickets for certain musicals if you buy tickets when theatres open at 10am.
  4. You don’t have to pay the full admission price for the Natural History Museum – it is a suggested donation only.
  5. Plan ahead, we looked a lot of ticket prices before we went and D put together a vague itinerary so we knew what we were likely to be spending that day and took advice from friends and online reviews to determine what we wanted to do.
  6. Don’t feel like you have to have a whole new fashionable wardrobe to fit in with the locals! This won’t apply to a lot of readers but it will apply to some. It is really worth noting that although there are some truly stylish people in New York; Sex and the City is a myth. Being on the Subway a lot we noticed we didn’t really stand out as tourists for dressing how we usually do and like everywhere there is a huge variety in how people dress.

 

If we had just done New York as a short break we would still have had one of the most memorable trips of our lives. I feel like New York was kind to us and we left in a happy bubble, engaged and excited for the rest of our trip.

 

A change of scene

A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Why you should consider joining Bone Marrow Register

Why you should consider joining Bone Marrow Register

This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while but I could never quite articulate my feelings on it. Even now its a struggle. But I know there are even now people fighting blood cancers and lymphatic cancers who are desperately hoping for a tissue match and realistically the more people who are eligible to join the register that do drastically improves both the quality of life and survival of patients.

I consider myself extremely fortunate, neither myself or anyone I have been close to in real life has been so poorly to require a bone marrow transplant. However, D has, and when he was interviewing Andrew McMahon in 2014 (of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate) it made me fully appreciate how important it is to get involved when you can. Here was a man who had nearly 10 years previously received a stem cell transplant from his sister following treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and was in great health and had just become a parent. As there was somebody at the gig from the Dear Jack Foundation we both joined the register that evening.

Considering I actually did my Masters in Cancer Biology and Therapy, I am as squeamish as a lot of people can be when discussing medical treatments, needles etc. One of the questions I got asked around the time I spoke to my friends and work colleagues about this was “won’t it hurt a lot if you have to actually make a donation”. The answer is yes and no, if you have to make a peripheral donation (which is most common) it will be similar to a blood donation. The actual bone marrow transplant is done under general anaesthetic and donors typically do experience bruising and side effects. However, I think its worth rationalising by remembering I’ve probably injured myself more when I’ve been drunk and fallen off bar stools. Also, that chemotherapy itself is pretty gruelling both physically and emotionally for the patient and their families; so if it helps someone out for the rest of their life, I can probably cope with some bruises (possibly with some moaning, I might be happy to donate but I’m not a saint).

Its worth noting that whether you join the Bone Marrow Regiaster through the Dear Jack Foundation or the Anthony Nolan Trust you end up on the same register so you don’t have to do it through both charities. Its your choice who you support or whether you wish to support another charity entirely).

I know this is more serious than most of my blog posts, but this is something I feel is important and I have been thinking about how to phrase this for a while. But the bottom line you will potentially be doing something wonderful and saving a life – basically the best gift you can ever give.

Information on who is eligible to join the register.

More on why your should join

Oh and in case I was a bit too serious, here is Andrew McMahon’s new single.

 

An ode to moving to a new place

An ode to moving to a new place

I felt like given that it is around the time when a lot of my younger audiences are contemplating moving to a new university town and some of you might be in that horrible place between graduating and finding a job. Whether you find yourself moving to a town 10 miles up the road, or to the other side of the globe, relocating somewhere new can be daunting, especially on your own.

I am naturally shy and even as a little girl I was never one for going to something on my own. Whether it was hiding behind my parents and especially my older brother or being scared to go to a new activity; I have to admit I was pretty bad when it came to meeting new people. The first few weeks of university I was horribly homesick for my friends and family and it took me weeks to get the courage to actually get to know people. (I feel compelled to mention that the people I know from university were on the whole, wonderful, I was just scared to come out of my shell.)

However, this couldn’t continue and upon graduating from my MSc the recession actually, possibly helped. I mean, finding a decent job in my industry was pretty stressful and my confidence was pretty low because of this but in terms of lifelong confidence it helped. Between September 2010 and February 2012 I had 5 different temporary jobs in a variety of shops, offices and a research post. I also volunteered for my local hospice doing a phone based job. It was tough but the combination of having 5 different first days in a new working environment, meeting a lot of new colleagues and encountering customers forced me to talk to so many new people. Talking to people on the phone about a charity I felt strongly about stopped me being so afraid of asking for things. Then the last interview I went to in a scientific role before I gave up forever came up and I got the job and it was too far away to stay living with my (lovely) parents.

So I ended up moving to Harrogate, while its not massive I knew approximately 3 people, my Uncle, Aunt and my then 16 year old cousin. So in some ways I had a little support system already in place who fed me Sunday dinners and helped me out a lot when I didn’t know anyone else. It was still scary though the prospect of making friends. Luckily my friend ED and I started the same job in the same department on the same day and even today we are close friends. Then DC and Miss S started working and we formed a little friendship group which gradually got slightly bigger as we all got to know more people.

(This post has snowballed into a life story but bear with me). Times did get hard and it wasn’t all rosy. I spent a lot of time watching tv in my room feeling pretty lonely. I had housemates who were untidy, ones who had scary boyfriends and finally 2 girls who were plain lovely and I was very sad to leave. A long term relationship crumbled but while it was the most painful few months of my life I think it actually benefited us both in the longer term. Holding onto something that isn’t working any more, even when you still care deeply about somebody is emotionally draining, exhausting and everyone ends up hurt. The best advice I should have taken long ago from my parents was not to live in 2 places at once.

Pretty often I find myself now in situations where I think, “how did I end up having fun with you here? 2 years ago I didn’t even know you exist.” Its pretty amazing to think that if I hadn’t moved I wouldn’t have started blogging ergo wouldn’t have bonded with D over writing, I would never have had our pets or met all the people I did through D. I would never have had the opportunity to see so many bands, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start doing theatre stuff again after so many years and I certainly wouldn’t have hugged as many famous musicians.

I suppose what I’m trying to get across is that sometimes the most wonderful parts of life come from the scariest feelings of the unknown. I was lonely that first night in my first house here, I was so terrified of going on a date with D that I required a pep talk from my housemate and my poor parents got multiple tearful phone calls about people using my toothpaste, ex boyfriends and finding the initial stages of adult life difficult.

I think the best advice I can give to anybody who finds themselves in a similar position to me is to start saying yes to people. In the earliest stages of friendship go along to everything you get invited to, keep in touch with old friends, be the event planner of your friendship group from time to time. Please don’t let nerves be the reason you don’t join in with a new activity. I wholeheartedly speak from experience when I say somebody will make an effort to make you feel welcome.

Although I miss my family and friends from home a lot at times relationships with people who really matter won’t change if you take a new opportunity. If you do move for work university I think throwing yourself into somewhere new, even if you feel sick with fear makes your life so much more than just a job, or a course.

Confidence

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As I write this post I have the first line of Parklife going round my head. I’ve just eating a bowl of ice cream and I’m curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle with cramps. Such is life.

I’m not one of those people who gets inundated with people asking how I get so confident; but I’m also not one of those people who is worried about talking to new people or obsesses and over thinks everything either. However, a few things this week have reminded me of how far I’ve coming in terms of feeling confident and self assured so I was hoping people could relate.

In addition, I think when you are close to rock bottom in terms of confidence one of the worst things you can be told is that “nobody will love you until you learn to love yourself.” The less said about the person that told me that one the better. Anyway; before I start my actual list I will say this is completely not true. You are worthy of love in your darkest hour. You might look in the mirror and see a monster that you aren’t, or be racked with self loathing and you will still be loved. You’ll still be wonderful, worthy of adoration and interesting to talk to. It just might take you a bit of time to like yourself and that’s ok too. Be kinder to yourself and it’ll creep in.

Anyway, here are some things that helped me with confidence in all aspects of my life:

  1. Break out of your comfort zone. Start small, go along with friends to an activity you’d think twice about, talk to someone new at a party (try not to get distracted talking to the host’s cats or dogs like I often do). But keep chipping away at it, keep the momentum of trying new things. The first time I met D in the flesh I was shaking with nerves when I was waiting for him and I often have to force myself to talk in situations where I feel uncomfortable; however in pretty much every scenario where I’ve been dreading something I feel amazing afterwards.
  2. Get moving. Find exercise you like, try new things. One of the most fun Saturday nights I have had recently was going to a trampoline park with my friend and jumping for a good 60 minutes. Anything that puts you moving and puts your heart rate up will give you a nice dose of endorphins.
  3. Give yourself some downtime. Light a few candles, bake, put on comfy clothes or watch films with your significant other (sounds so adult), with friends or on your lonesome. Anything that gives your mind a chance to relax. As I have mentioned before I am a particular fan of sofa nests.
  4. Give other people genuine compliments. This puts me in such a happy mood making people smile and it made me realise when people were saying nice things to me, they genuinely meant it. Just maybe don’t give the same people compliments every hour of every day or you’ll look like a creep (hahaha).
  5. Fake it until you make it. This one actually comes partially from my mother (Happy Mothers Day). Dress in clothes that make you happy and things that suit you, do your hair and make-up how you like, make yourself walk taller and smile. I can’t remember when I stopped doing it because it felt like the most sensible thing and it just became my life.

Obviously if you have major issues with self confidence and self esteem it is always worth talking to somebody about it and taking steps to seeking help. Nobody should have to suffer alone. But hopefully this will help somebody who is having a bad day and my experience might help someone else.

If you’re lucky and I remember I will write a sister post to this one (because I am in fact my brother’s favourite sister) in a few days about body confidence and how I found mine a bit more in my mid 20s. Thank goodness for instagram filters and boyfriends with decent fashion sense.

Anyway, in all seriousness I hope this post has cheered somebody up. I feel I have come a long way since I was the girl with shattered confidence in 2013 and I cannot thank certain people enough for giving me pep talks and encouraging me to like myself again.

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