23 November 2014

Sunday Lunch at Elysium Leeds

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope I'm finding you well. I'm cuddled up on the sofa with my Fireside Treats Yankee Candle burning, fairy lights on and a huge mug of tea. I thought I'd start by telling you about the roast dinner Paul and I had at Elysium Restaurant and Cafe in Leeds today! We've never been here before, and I think it may get overlooked as it's on the outskirts of the city centre, but I would highly recommend it! It was absolutely delicious. We had a Groupon voucher giving us both a main course for £9.95, but I would have absolutely no problem paying the usual price of £11.95 each. The portion sizes were just right, generous but not too filling and everything tasted amazing - especially the roast potatoes! They're my favourite part of any roast dinner but I've been disappointed before. Not here! Perfectly crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I even managed to trade Paul my parsnips for an extra one...

Elysium is actually an Italian restaurant which I think is another reason it might get overlooked, on a Sunday at least. I really expected it to be much busier than it was and it really deserves to be! They have definitely found two repeat customers in us.

Afterwards we went for a stroll around town and picked up a few Christmas presents. I'm starting to feel more festive every week and I really love the atmosphere at this time of year, especially seeing everywhere all decorated. One of my favourite places in Leeds is the Corn Exchange so I was happy when we stumbled on a Christmas gift market there. It's a beautiful building anyway but it looks extra lovely during the festive season, complete with a giant tree!

So what else happened this week?

  • Monday saw our return to our pub quiz night after about three weeks off. We came second by a painful one point but at least we still won the second prize bar tab. £10 is enough to guarantee that we won't be paying for drinks next week!
  • On Friday night, we saw Mockingjay P1 and to be honest, I'm not sure my nerves have recovered yet, and I knew what was coming! Those films are seriously intense, but I think at least Paul might understand a bit better now why I hardly spoke to him for the two weeks it took me to read all three books one after the other. Gripping! I love the films just as much as the books and, unusually for me, I don't have any complaints about the way they're adapted. Can't wait for the next part!
  • Alice got us tickets for S Club 7 next year! So excited and so grateful I have people like Alice in my life to share things like this with. I love reliving my childhood!

What have you been up to this week? If you've seen Mockingjay, let me know what you thought!

17 November 2014

The Princess Bride

On Goodreads here | On Amazon UK here
The blurb: Beautiful, flaxen haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune she vows never to love another. When she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts - who never leaves survivors - her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have Buttercup. So starts a fairy tale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautifulest ladies, snakes, spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles.

Rating: 3/5 stars

I liked:

• The Princess Bride really does tick all the fairytale boxes! I loved the mixture of romance and adventure and I really enjoyed reading about the love story between Buttercup and Westley. I thought their relationship was quite realistic even though they were in a fairy tale, and I like that Goldman included times that they bickered as well as times they were proclaiming their love for one another.
I thought the narrative flowed really well and Goldman's writing style, although quite different, was really easy to read and lended itself brilliantly to the fairy tale genre.
• The mixture of characters was brilliant and I loved how much you got to know about each person's back story and their motives. All the characters are really memorable - I liked Fezzik the giant most!
• It's probably one of the funniest books I've read in a while!

I didn't like:

• The book is written as a novel within a novel, in the sense that the reader is told that Goldman is actually abridging a much older story by fictional author S Morgenstern. Because of this, throughout the book the narrative is interrupted with snippets of Goldman's own (fictional) account of hearing the story for his time as read to him by his father, detailing where Goldman had himself left parts out or summarised whole chapters of the original work. This is different from anything I've read before and, although I think it's a very clever idea, I found this to be quite annoying, especially as at times the narrative was cut off in the middle of a sentence. I found myself skipping these to read the fairytale without the interruptions.
• In a similar point, Goldman's voice in these extracts made me think he wasn't really a very likeable person, and this spoilt my enjoyment of what is otherwise a great adventure story just a little bit.


23 September 2014

Florida By Numbers

16 hours collectively spent on a plane.

1.5 hours waiting in a queue to get through customs at Orlando airport.

5 times that I almost burst into tears of happiness because I was in Disney World.

10 - the number of minutes between us arriving in Magic Kingdom and me buying a pair of Minnie Mouse ears.

7.00 - the time we got in a taxi for our first visit to Universal. Got to make the most of those early admission passes (thank you Virgin Holidays!)

2 visits to IHOP.

0 - the amount of garlic and herb dipping sauce that comes with a Dominos pizza in America. Heartbreaking.

1 - the number of days before I got sunburn.

3 attempts to finally catch the Main Street Electrical Parade at Disney. The first two times, it got rained off!

40 dollars approximately spent in total at Honeydukes. I just love Fizzing Whizbees!

9 postcards sent home.

5 rides on the Dragon Challenge rollercoaster at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. My favourite ride of the holiday, I think!

2 servings of frozen butterbeer each (yummy!)

30 minutes spent with the dolphins at Discovery Cove.

35 minutes - the longest time we queued for any ride at any park.

565 photos taken - and that's not counting the ones from Paul's camera!

And countless happy memories made. Best holiday ever!


12 September 2014

The Cuckoo's Calling

on Goodreads here | on Amazon UK here

The blurb: When a troubled model falls to her death from a Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts and calls in private detective Cormoran Strike to investigate. Strike is a war veteran - wounded both physically and psychologically - and his private life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model's world, the darker things become and the closer he gets to terrible danger...

Rating: 5/5 stars

Crime isn't a genre I've read much of before, but this book has definitely convinced me to try some more, starting with the sequel! I loved it. It's common knowledge now that Robert Galbraith is actually JK Rowling, but that hasn't affected my opinion like I thought it might. I honestly couldn't find anything to dislike about it.

I really liked the characters and the way they were introduced; they were all really well developed and especially the two main characters, Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin, are really likeable. Another good thing is that while there are quite a lot of characters, there aren't so many that you can get lost with who's who. The mystery itself is so intriguing, I was hooked right from the beginning when the scene surrounding Lula Landry's death is set and I hadn't solved the mystery at the end when all was revealed! It was fascinating to read the investigation from Cormoran's point of view and see how he made sense of things. It kept me guessing the whole way through, I'd considered quite a few of the characters as a potential murderer by the end and I still hadn't got it right! I don't know how Ms. Rowling comes up with this stuff, but she's obviously a very clever lady and a brilliant storyteller.

The pace of the writing is maybe a bit slow at first, but I think that's only because it's necessary for the reader to find out all the details surrounding Lula's death along with Strike for the first time and get to know the characters. It definitely picks up around the middle when more clues and leads start to appear and it's hinted that he may be starting to piece together what happened. I had to keep reading to find out what he knew, and what happened to Lula!

Overall, a really great, entertaining page-turner. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who is already a fan of crime novels, but equally I think it's a good place to start if you're new to the genre too.

Have you read it? Let me know what you thought!


5 September 2014

Alphabet Writing Challenge: E is for Ellie

Readers, Ellie... Ellie, readers.

This is Ellie and although he is not a human, he's my oldest friend. I've had him since I was born which makes him the grand old age of 23. I think that's quite an achievement for a soft toy! There weren't many places that Ellie didn't accompany me to in my childhood. He hasn't come out of it completely unscathed though; he's been darned to within an inch of his life, and shrunk in the washing machine. His ears don't stand up any more, and his trunk is a bit bendy. But he's my favourite, and he's very well loved.

I think everyone, even the most grown up of adults, needs some home comfort from time to time, and Ellie is still my go to companion when I'm feeling sad, or lonely, or angry. Here he is, keeping me company while I was writing my dissertation. Ever so faithful. I hope I never get too old to have him around, and I will never ever shove him under the bed and forget about him.

Do you have a favourite toy from your childhood that's still with you?

15 August 2014

For Biscuit

Dear Biscuit,

Hi, little one. I really hope you're okay, wherever you are. I'm so sorry you're not here with us any more. I know you were really scared that day, but I also think you knew we were there with you. You seemed to relax once we had hold of you, so I like to think that eased things for you a little bit. I'm so sorry we couldn't do anything else for you, I would have given anything to help you if I could. If we had known, we would have done everything we could to prevent it. November was a really horrible month, I was and still am heartbroken to have lost you because you really were very special.

I realised the other day that we've been without you for longer than you were with us now and that it's coming up to exactly a year since we brought you home on August 24th, and breaks my heart all over again. I think about you and miss you every day, there was never a dull moment while you were here, clumsy! I really miss your nuzzles and purring and sharing my pillow with you at night (your pillow, really, let's face it!) and having you toddle over to see us when we came home. Thank you for always being so affectionate, your kitty kisses were the best. I'll always treasure that photo of us asleep on the sofa nose to nose, it helps me to remember that you were happy and comfortable here - and you loved me too!

I'm so grateful that we got to know you even for a short time, even though I wish so much that you had got to grow up into the big handsome cat you definitely would have been! Everybody commented on your lovely markings. I hope someone up there is looking after you for us and that there are lots of bottle caps and screwed up pieces of paper for you to play with. And cardboard boxes to climb in, too!

Love and miss you so much, little one. And don't worry - no cat, or any other pet we might have in the future, will ever replace you. You left little Biscuit pawprints all over my heart.
We'll always be your humans!



14 August 2014

If There's Love

I was so very shocked and sad to hear about the passing of Robin Williams earlier this week. I'm not normally one to really mark celebrity deaths, but this one really did get me. Instead of writing a long post and getting my words all muddled, I thought I'd just share a small piece of his work that will always stay with me. I watched many of his films during my childhood and loved them, but I first watched Mrs Doubtfire with my dad not too long (if I remember rightly) after my parents separated. This is the end monologue of the film, which will always make me cry big fat tears, but was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

'You know, some parents, when they're angry, they get along much better when they don't live together. They don't fight all the time, and they can become better people, and much better mummies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don't, dear. And if they don't, don't blame yourself. Just because they don't love each other anymore, doesn't mean that they don't love you. There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mummy, some families have one daddy, or two families. And some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. And some live in separate homes, in separate neighborhoods, in different areas of the country, and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months... even years at a time. But if there's love, dear... those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever. All my love to you poppet, you're going to be alright... bye bye.'

Rest in peace, Mr Williams.

4 August 2014

Lest We Forget


Today is the centenary anniversary of the start of the First World War, for Britain, and I feel very much like I should be wearing a poppy. As I was a history student for my entire time at high school, the facts, figures, places, dates and events of WW1 have long been drummed into me. There was the essay on Field Marshall Haig, the coursework on the causes of the war, horror stories and documentaries about the reality of life in the trenches. Hearing the name Franz Ferdinand will always conjure up an image of the Archduke for me first, and the band of the same name second, so my history teachers can sleep soundly in the knowledge that they taught me well! But what really brought it home for me and made me think about all the personal loss and individual stories, was visiting the battlefields and cemeteries as part of a visit to France and Belgium with my school when I was in Year 10.

I find it so strange to think that I've stood in the field where the Battle of the Somme took place. I remember our tour guide asking us to stand and just look, take in the vastness of the wide open space. He then asked us to imagine being a soldier, going 'over the top' of the trenches and facing the open field. There was quite literally no place to hide, not a single tree or bush to hide behind to dodge oncoming bullets and attacks. It must have been terrifying. Visiting the cemeteries was really emotional too. I remember very clearly thinking that no matter how many times you could hear the figure of how many lives were lost, you can't truly appreciate the sheer scale of loss until you see all the graves lined up and knowing that each one represents just a single person. Tyne Cot cemetery was the biggest one we visited, I think. There are 8907 British soldiers buried here, and that's only the individuals who were found and were able to be buried.

The most poignant and moving experience of this trip for me was hearing The Last Post played at Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Belgium. This was the bugle call played to mark the end of each day of service during the war and it's played here every night at 8pm.

History is something I've always been interested in (OCR, I know it was a valiant effort on your part to squash my enthusiasm at A-Level, but you did not succeed!) particularly both World Wars, and I think it's really important that people continue to learn about them and the sacrifices that were made. I decided to share my experiences here by way of commemorating in my own way and if I can, I'd like to encourage anyone reading this to take a minute or two to reflect as well.

If you're interested, a Twitter account from Sky News is live-tweeting the events of the First World War as if they were happening today, which I think is a great idea! It's usually one tweet a day, but for today only they have been 'live tweeting' all the events leading up to the declaration of war here in Britain. You can follow them at @SkyNewsWW1 and there's lots of information online too.

31 July 2014

July Highlights

July has been another good month for me! I can tell in myself that I'm much happier now that uni is over and I can do more of the things I enjoy. Like reading! Some other things that happened to make me happy this month are...

○ Going out for a meal with my friends Alice and Emily and finally getting to have a proper catch up! It had been ages since I last saw Emily in particular because she's a very busy lady.

○ Still on the subject of food... on a very sunny day this month my Dad and I had a drive out for lunch at a lovely little place called The Roebuck just outside of Otley. Yummy food and a good chat with my dad!

○ Graduation! I won't go into too much detail as I wrote this post about it, but safe to say I enjoyed everything about the day, apart from the very worrying rain we had on the way down in the car! I'll definitely count it as one of the best days of my life so far.

○ Pretty much constantly winning the free cake prize for the best team name at the pub quiz we go to most Mondays!

○ A couple of times this month I've had a day off work at the weekend which is when Paul is also at home. This doesn't happen very often so it was really nice to be able to spend a full day with him for once - usually I work evenings when he's just getting in!

○ Watching with amusement as Grandma figured out (by herself!) how to swipe the iPhone screen to look through photos when I was showing her a few from graduation. This is a lady who can't even fathom how to find contacts on a basic Nokia, so you can imagine her surprise!

○ Paul and I have now bought our travel insurance and applied for our visas ready for Florida in September! It's getting so close now and I can hardly contain my excitement, it's definitely going to be the holiday of a lifetime I think.

Hope you've all had a good month too!

18 July 2014

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy

On Goodreads here | On Amazon UK here

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Blurb: 'Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has headlice? Is technology now the fifth element? Or is that wood? Is sleeping with someone after 2 dates and 6 weeks of texting the same as getting married after 2 meetings and 6 months of letter writing in Jane Austen's day? Pondering these, and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of single-motherhood, tweeting, texting and rediscovering her sexuality in what SOME people rudely and outdatedly call 'middle age.'

I'm so sorry guys, but this isn't going to be the glowing review you might be expecting. I was so, so excited to read this book having been a huge fan of the first two. I bumped it up to top of the pile when it finally came out in paperback (I don't really like hardback books, just me?) and thought I would absolutely love it but when I reached the end and put it down my reaction was more along the lines of... 'Meh.'


11 July 2014

Paris Memories

Timehop is a nifty little app, isn't it? Except today it tells me that exactly a year ago I was on my way to the airport ready to fly to Paris and it's made me a little bit sad because I wish I was going again! I'd always really wanted to go to Paris and then last year on my birthday Paul surprised me by saying he was going to book for us to go the following summer. I was so excited I actually burst into tears! Even if he did try and trick me by hiding a Paris guidebook in a Kindle box... (I would not have been impressed if it actually turned out to be a Kindle, but that's a whole different post!)

Instead of feeling sad that I'm not visiting again this year, I thought I'd take a little trip down memory lane. Care to join me?

The Eiffel Tower at dusk - so sparkly!


2 July 2014

June Highlights

Okay, hold your horses 2014, you are going by way too fast! I can't believe we're in July already! I'm putting it down to me being so busy for the majority of the year so far with uni work and everything, but I feel like I blinked and all this time went by. June has been a really good month though - apart from being my first whole month of freedom from university, lots of other exciting things happened too.


1 July 2014

Thank You Notes

It's official guys, I'm going to be graduating in July with a 2:1 degree in Sociology! So I thought that now would be the perfect time to write a little list of thank yous to all the people that have helped me along the way, because I couldn't have done it on my own! 


13 June 2014

Owston Hall Hotel and Spa, Doncaster

For Christmas, my boyfriend Paul bought me and my mum an overnight spa trip to Owston Hall Hotel in Doncaster. So this weekend, we got in the car and made the journey. It took us a bit longer than expected as we got lost and then my phone directed us to the back entrance which is inaccessible by car!

Once we had checked in, we were shown to our room which was huge! We had a double bed each which was unexpected for a twin room - lots of room to spread out! We were also provided with a bathrobe and slippers to wear.

Our package included the choice of one 30 minute treatment. We opted for massages and had been booked in at 5pm. Thanks to several detours on the way, we only arrived around thirty minutes before we were due to be at the spa so things did feel a little bit rushed but it didn't matter too much, as once we were down in the spa we had time to relax while filling in our consultation forms. We handed these to our therapists and were taken into the treatment room with two massage tables in and lovely calming music playing. The therapists asked if we had any concerns about our backs, necks and shoulders before the massage and then left us alone to undress before they came back in. For any ladies out there who might feel nervous about this, don't worry! You don't have to undress completely, both me and my mum kept our jeans on under the cover and the therapists gave us plenty of time to get comfortable and laid down on the table before they came back in the room.

The massage itself was lovely and I wish I knew the name of the oil she was using because it smelled amazing! I was a bit worried that it might be painful but she managed to get rid of the knots in my back (of which I have plenty - thanks, dissertation!) with just the right amount of pressure. The only thing was that I found it quite uncomfortable to lie on my front for so long and I did have to shuffle back down the table occassionally. Having said that, I could definitely feel the benefits in my shoulders and back afterwards. They felt all warm and loose and I think I could have slept for hours!

One thing that let the hotel down a little bit was there was no information in the rooms about spa treatments you could buy additionally, or details of the restaurant or room service menu. When we did go down to the restaurant looking for an evening meal, we had to ask someone to see the menu and in the end we decided to go out as it was quite pricey at around £12 for a main course. If we stay there again now that we know the prices I'm sure we will eat there, as driving around looking for food was quite counter-productive to the whole relaxation thing.

After a good night's sleep, we went down to the pool in the morning for a swim and jacuzzi before breakfast which was a lovely way to start the day. The pool area is lovely and we had the advantage of having it all to ourselves. I would love to be able to start every day with a few lengths! There is also a sauna and a steam room which unfortunately I couldn't try because I have asthma and they are not recommended for use by anyone with a respiratory condition - a shame, but I was more than happy with the facilities I did use! Then, as breakfast was included in our spa package, we headed up to the restaurant. The breakfast itself consisted of a choice of cereal, toast, fresh fruit and yoghurt, tea, coffee and orange juice, and a waitress also came to take our order for hot breakfast. Not a croissant in sight! I opted for fruit and yoghurt as I've never been keen on cooked breakfast (I did have a couple of sausages though). The conservatory where the restaurant is located is a beautiful place to eat - very bright and airy and with lovely views of the grounds. It was a beautiful day even at 9.30am and we could see squirrels playing in the trees so afterwards we went for a walk and took in the peaceful atmosphere.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Owston Hall to anyone looking to get away even overnight for a bit of relaxation! They offer a variety of spa packages so there should be something to suit everyone. I would definitely stay here again!

6 June 2014

The Great British Bucket List

A few weeks ago, The Telegraph posted this article about 50 British experiences every person should have before they die. Personally, I can tick off only 8 things on the whole list! I have: eaten fish and chips by the sea; been on the London Eye; had a picnic at an open air concert (good old Party in the Park - fellow Leeds residents will know about this one!); had tea at Betty's Tearooms (the one in York, but I think that still counts!); seen the Blackpool illuminations; been to a traditional Christmas panto; seen the Christmas lights on London's Oxford Street; and watched Morris Dancers at a country pub. As for the rest of the list, I can't say I'm too bothered about missing out! But reading the article did get me thinking of other UK based things that I really do want to do and I thought I would share with you all my own version of the Great British Bucket List:

• Visit Jane Austen's house in Hampshire
• Experience Notting Hill Carnival
• Visit Giant's Causeway, N. Ireland
• Have afternoon tea at The Ritz
• Take a tour of Buckingham Palace
• Visit the houses used for Pemberley in Pride & Prejudice - in both the BBC series and the film!
• Go strawberry picking in summer
• Meet the elephants at Chester Zoo
• New Year's Eve Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh
• See the Fairy Pools on Isle of Skye, Scotland
• Have my picture taken by the Penny Lane street sign
• Visit all the filming locations used for the Hogwarts interior in the HP films

How many things can you tick off the Great British Bucket List? What would you add to yours?
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