Surfing in Newquay

‘Surfing isn’t really in my blood. It’s hard to catch a big wave in Billingham’ – Jamie Bell

I’ll be the first to admit that a bad habit of mine is having a tendency to have unrealistic ideas about things. I convinced myself once that harem pants would looks good on me, or i’d be able to pull off dark ginger hair. Oh how wrong I was on both counts. When I was away for the weekend in Newquay for my cousin’s hen do in June, I was completely convinced that i would ace surfing; I have good balance, strong legs and love being in the water. In my deluded little bubble, I was born to do this.

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We booked through Escape surf school which cost around £25 for a two hour group lesson. We arrived and got into our wetsuits, which let me tell you is a workout in itself! We took our boards down to the beach and split into smaller groups of 5 where we went through a few basics on the beach. Pigeon, our instructor was brilliant fun a made a special fuss over Liz, our hen. I’d always been concerned with surfing lessons that, especially for the first lesson, you’d spend more time on the beach than you would in the water, however after about 15 minutes we were straight in.

 

We started of small, learning how to catch a wave and ride it to the shore whilst still lying on our front. So far so good. It didn’t feel too cold either, the wetsuits were nice and thick s protected you against the bracing Atlantic Ocean pretty well and when the water did hit your hands and face it was nice and refreshing. After plenty of practices in the water it was back to the beach to learn how to stand up.

 

This was what I was desperate to get right. My main ambition was to get up on my feet at least once, even if it was only for a couple of seconds. We went through the theory and were straight back into the surf (after one lesson i’m practically a pro, so know all the lingo – naturally!). This is were my delusions became all too apparent. Getting up onto the board from lying down is near on impossible and needless to say the furthest I got up was on to my hands and knees. Upper body strength has never been something I have possessed and no matter how good your balance or your core strength may be, if you can’t haul your massive pizza obsessed caboose onto the board, that balance doesn’t mean jack.

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Still i persevered and the instructors were in the water with you the whole time to advise on potition and waiting for the right wave. One of the down sides of being is a lrage group was we were all trying to surf in the same area of the water so a few times i found myself ploughing into one of the other girls, or vice versa. That possibly has more to do with our lack of control as well of course but it did mean I left with some pretty corking bruises.

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The two hours we had  was ore than enough time as I was pretty shattered by the end of the session. In fact with about half an hour to go, my arms were so done with trying to get my fat arse upright that I just decided to body surf the rest of the time, which was good fun in itself.

Above all of my frustrations though I’m really pleased I gave it ago because I love trying new things especially if they’re sporty or water based and I would highly recommend Escape Surf school who were ultimate pros. The glasses of prosecco that awaited us when we finished were certainly well received and well deserved!

 

 

Hotel Du Vin’s new Bistro

‘Seafood was always my favorite food. I mean, lobster? Come on!’ – Adrian Peterson

If being a July birthday has taught me anything (and it hasn’t) it’s that dare to utter the word ‘barbeque’ and it’s guaranteed to rain. I swear every time I try and arrange a birthday cookout we end up popping bubbly in the conservatory and grilling all the meat in the oven.

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So imagine my delight when the day of Hotel Du Vin’s summer barbeque and launch of their new bistro, the weather gods were obviously looking favourably upon me for a change and the sun made a very welcome appearance!

Hotel Du Vin has always been one of those places that have been on my radar to visit for a lifetime but for one reason or another have never quite made it. The Ouseburn area has always been a favourite of mine; close enough to be walking distance from the Quayside but remote enough that it has a quirky laid back vibe of its own. So suffice to say I was honoured to be able to attend their Bistro launch with some of my favourite blogging girlies for a little mate date.  Katie and I arrived a little early so had and had a drink in bar, which is a fab mixture of classy and cosy with lots of stylish dark wood and comfy arm chairs to recline in whilst enjoying a chilled glass of wine.

Once out on the terrace we were treated to some summer cocktails (the strawberry margarita was a particular favourite of mine) and some live music whilst they fired up the BBQ.  As is a full bbq all with locally sourced Northumbrian meat there was a seafood market cart jam backed with dressed crab, crab claws and lobster as well as a fresh Lindisfarne Oyster boat. I mean, with Brexit just around the corner it’s reassuring to know that with these delicacies on our doorstep, we’ll probably be ok with locally sourced food!

Oysters is definite the marmite of the seafood world; you either love them or hate them however it’s well documented that I’m a huge lover of marmite so am equally a lover of oysters too!  Smothered in tabasco sauce I could have eaten me about a million and a half of those bad boys! I didn’t though – they’re not all that well known for their stomach lining properties after all!

 

Thanks to Katie from www.ladyfromatramp.co.uk so use of her pictures

I could go on and on about the juiciness of the prawns or the succulence of the meat but to be honest, it’s probably just best you head along and try out their new bistro menu for yourself. The currently do a particularly good value al fresco summer set menu for £17.95 for two courses or £20.95 for three. If you’re particularly lucky, and happen to pick the day that summer falls on this year, you may even be able to treat yourself to a seat outside!

Contact:

Allan House, City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2BE
Tel: 0191 389 8628

How can a Virtual Assistant change your life?

‘I would gladly have accepted a heaping spoonful of nepotism when I got out of college and was looking for a job’ – Sloane Crosley

Nepotism can be such an ugly word. In an ideal world we would all work hard for everything and everything would be awarded on merit and be fair and above board. The truth is we all need a helping hand every now and again. When my dad didn’t want me to buy remodelled tyres because he didn’t think they were safe enough he paid for brand new ones, and way back in my career I was given the heads up by a friend that my job was being made redundant and she put me in touch with a contact of hers who helped me move on from that situation and get a better job. That’s life, and sometimes you have to put yourself first and grab some opportunities that might give you a bit of a leg up.

When my bestie of all besties left her job last year, she didn’t mope around about how unfair it all was (like I did) or just accept the same unhappy career path she was on and take the next job that was offered to her (like I did). She decided to do what she’d always wanted to do and start up her own Virtual Assistant business. And (no bias whatsoever) she’s bloody excellent at it.

I know this (with no bias whatsoever) because one of the benefits of having a friend who owns their own business is that you can utilize them for your own personal gain. So I made Angela work for me. And believe me I would say if I thought she was crap. Ok I may not write a blog post about it, that would be pretty cruel, but I would tell her. So, not that I was surprised in the slightest, I’ve always known she’s brilliant, but the things she did for me totally exceeded my expectations and I’ll be honest, totally changed the way I thought about virtual assistants.

I was always under the impression that a VA was just there to book your gel manicure, arrange a few meetings and book your travel, and yes she has done things like that as well, but some of the stuff she picked up and helped me out with really, really impressed me.

So I’d asked Ang to help out with a few blog things, all the stuff I always plan to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon but always get side-tracked with crime documentaries on Netflix. I gave her admin access to both my blog and my Facebook page and within 48 hours she’d checked and fixed all the broken links on my site, and put together a stats pack for me (which I had asked for) but she added extra stats around average monthly stats that I hadn’t even thought of and produced the following:

Followers

Blog site: 220
Twitter: 823
Facebook: 189

Average monthly views for 2017 across social media platforms: 3,862
Average visitors for 2017 to blog across your social media: 2,694
Average daily view for 2017: 128

This is now going to be so easy to keep updated and fire off to anyone who ask, and makes me look way more professional and put together than I actually am (to be fair Ang has been doing that for me since we were 16!)

She then went on to produce some branding images (which I didn’t even have to ask for) but turned out brilliantly and will be extremely useful for invoicing and pitching to brands:

 

She even photoshopped away my double chin for a picture I was using for a post, which I shouldn’t really admit but hey, girlfriend got mad photo editing skills!

Lastly and probably most importantly, she put together a comprehensive list of pubs which fall along the metro line which I will now be able to use when continuing out Wine & Beer Metro tour, as it saves me having to just get off the train and google where the best place to go is, which is how we were doing it previously. Having  a plan of action and a direction to head in has been invaluable and saved me loads of time where I was previously walking aimlessly around places I’m unfamiliar with in search of a cold glass of Sav Blanc.

This is obviously just the things she’s done for me, there are seemingly no end to her talents and I honestly didn’t realise how useful it is to have help with my blog until I got it and now I don’t know what I’d do without her!

If you fancy giving her a try, send her a quick email (angela@nevirtualassistant.com) to see how it fits in with your requirements and lifestyle and her skills includes (but are certainly not limited to:

  • Data entry
  • Data/word processing
  • Creating and maintaining spreadsheets
  • Credit control
  • Travel arranging and booking
  • Diary set up and management
  • Email checking, responding and cleanup
  • Research
  • Social media management
  • Photo editing

For further information visit www.nevirtualassistant.com and tell her I sent ya!

Review: The Bathtub Sessions Gin Festival

‘Could have been the whiskey, might have been the gin. Could have been three or four six-packs, I don’t know, but look at the mess I’m in’ – Irish Rovers

I’m always a little dubious when the word festival’ is added in front of anything and they seem to be popping up more and more; whiskey festivals, food festivals, chili festivals, and in my experience it’s always felt like an excuse to get a captive audience and over charge them.

I am however a fan of drinking gin with my friends in the sunshine so when a group of girls I don’t spend nearly enough time with thought it would be a good reason for us all to have a catch up (like we need an excuse) the £11 ticket price didn’t actually seem like that much of a rip off.

DSC_0412Thanks to Sam from www.northeastfamilyfun.co.uk for the image

It was a bonus that this particular gin festival was being held in the gorgeous Wylam Brewery in Exhibition park, which I’ve been a few times over the last few months and always had a great time. We were also extremely lucky with the weather when we went in second weekend in July so were able to spill out into the lawn and enjoy what little we get of the British summer.

The Bathtub Sessions advertise themselves as a Gin Festival with a twist (although to this day i’m not completely sure what the twist was). They have a bevy of distillers who have travelled from all over the country to give you their first hand experience of how they make their gin and allow you to sample their wares.

The £11 entry gave you your own commemorative gin glass and purchasing the gin is done on a token basis. Tokens are £5 each (so it’s essentially a fiver a drink). There were 4 or 5 different stand you could visit and props where it’s due, all the mixologists know their stuff, who knew there was so much to learn about gin!

One thing I do love about the festival atmosphere is it gives everyone some common ground and a talking point. Perhaps it was the weather or perhaps it was the gin but everyone just seemed to be mingling together asking each other what they were drinking and what recommendations they had – north east friendliness at its best!

We ended up have three drinks each; first I tried a gin and pink grapefruit mix from the Newcastle gin company which is based at Bealim House in Gallowgate. When you normally just live off lower end supermarket gins, trying something a little less mass produced is a real treat and this one was very smooth and tasted amazing with the grapefruit tonic. The second two I had I ordered off the menu we were provided with on arrival as a guide. I love anything fruity so had Boosma Dry Gin which is a ducth gin and served with indian tonic and fresh strawberries. The gin itself wasn’t infulsed with fruit but it did take on the flavour of the fresh fruit so was the perfect blend of still being about to taste the gin without it being sickly sweet.

I’m so pleased my last gin was my favourite though as it’s always a bit of a disappointment when you wish you’d just stuck with what you like. They didn’t have anything that was kiwi based (my second favourite fruit after strawberries) and was recommended an Italian lemon gin called Malfy which is made with the same lemons used to make Lemoncello (and I love Lemoncello). Served with Indian tonic and fresh lemon slices it was absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t too sharp or too sweet and the lemon flavour wasn’t too overbearing. It was like a gorgeous tasty alcoholic lemonade. I loved it so much that a bottle has gone straight on my birthday list!

We didn’t try any of the food but a friend of mine who went did and was less than impressed. The queue for one was massive so obviously they didn’t have enough staff on serving. It was also over priced (£19 for two people? – Ouch) and it was all just a mess of different things; lamb, noodles, and prawns you have to peel. Who serves prawns you have to peel as street food when you’ve nowhere to sit?!

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So Bathtub Sessions may have gone some way to restore my faith in the idea of a festival although I think certainly o the food front they need to up their gave and not rely on the captive audience. I must admit though this was very well run, it wasn’t over crowded (however had it been raining and everyone was inside this may have been a different story), the staff and mixologists were fantastic and you didn’t have to wait too long to get served.

Anywhere that introduces me to my new favourite gin can’t be all that bad in my eyes.

 

Billy Bootleggers, Newcastle

‘Whiskey will always be a part of my life’ Artie Lange

I’m sure that people who consider themselves to be real pub connoisseurs would want to burn me at the stake when I openly admit how much of a lover of a Wetherspoons I am. Cheap food, cheap wine and real ale, what’s not to love? The problem with Newcastle upon Tyne is that apart from the couple of Wetherspoons they have, and a sprinkling of decent authentic one of a kind pubs(Lady Greys, Split Chimp, Crowne Posada) it’s almost wall to wall swanky champagne bars where it takes an hour to get a cocktail and the only beer on tap is Stella.

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Another favourite pub of mine which is neither a Wetherspoons or a long standing staple of the the city is No28, which I visit frequently and was very honoured to be able to try out their Unlimited Prosecco offer before it was launched last summer. Imagine my joy when I found out that they were expanding and adding a sister underground Speakeasy.

 

Down at Billy Bootleggers, believe me when I say there’s nothing else like this place in Newcastle. A dive bar in the truest sense with its’s dark cubbyhole corners, Americana decor and bourbon whiskey by the jar. The graffiti filled walls when you walk in reminded me on CBGBs in New York (the original dive bar). So far this place is ticking all my boxes, if you pardon the phrase.  The best bar in Newcastle just got even better.

We finally visited at about 10pm on a Friday night and it was nicely busy but not so heaving that you couldn’t get moved. We sought advice from the barmaid as to what to drink as we were just looking for a nightcap before heading home. She recommended their flavoured whiskeys (at 3 for 10) so we went for Raspberry, Cranberry and Banana and they came in really cute little jam jars. Mixers were also available with them if we felt we needed them but they were tasty enough without. The Cranberry was definitely my favourite, I could have drank me a million and a half of those little glass beauties! They also brew their own secret recipe of Apple Pie Moonshine which will be the first thing I’m trying on my next visit.

The band who were playing at the time (who’s name escapes me – I blame the whiskey) were really good, not too loud that they were over bearing and playing a mixture of original material and stripped down covers all with an acoustic rockabilly feel.

The food and drinks menus are totally on brand and there are no bells and whistles. If your sipping whiskey and listening to an Americana version of Billy Jean, do you really want foi gras or hispter kale and kombucha? No, you want hot dogs (from £7) and wings (from £5) and fries (from £3.50) and stuff you can eat with your hands. They have an extensive cocktail menu if bourbon ain’t your thing, along with wine and beer too.

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Much like No28, I have a feeling Billy’s is going to be one of those places that I drag everyone along to for some enforced fun. It’s also probably the only place in the city that makes me wish there was no smoking ban; whiskey and cigars. So bluesy!

Billys is open daily from 5pm to 2am with live music at weekends.

Contact:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/billybootleggers/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBootleggers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bootleggersnewcastle/

 

 

Royal Ascot: The Pros and Cons

‘Horse racing is one of my favorite sports’ – Elizabeth Banks

Just like the Grand National or Wimbledon, Royal Ascot is a British tradition that, if you play by the rules and know what you’re getting into before arriving, can be a fantastic day out. However, there are a handful of considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to attend Ascot.

Why you should attend Royal Ascot

The perfect excuse to get dressed up
Most of us spend our entire week working and, come the weekend, find it difficult to get motivated to do anything, including going out for a nice dinner or even a drink at the local pub, which is why you should take advantage of the British events calendar. Royal Ascot has a formal dress code which makes it the perfect excuse to get dressed up in your finest clothes, including extravagant hats, and enjoy yourself with a glass of wine in hand and a few bets on the table.

You might win big
The main draw of Royal Ascot is that it’s a chance to win some money. At its heart, Royal Ascot is a very British gambling event where betting is, in most cases, celebrated. If you enjoy the thrill of gambling, Royal Ascot is a fantastic place to place some bets and, if you’re lucky, take home a generous sum of money. No matter how much you’re betting, always bet smartly to ensure you don’t lose too much money – only bet what you’re happy to lose or don’t bet at all.

Keep an eye out for the Queen


Every year, the Royal Family descend on Ascot for Royal Ascot, including our Queen and the rest of the family. If you’re in the Royal Box, the most exclusive and, therefore, expensive of areas, you’re almost guaranteed to see the Queen and Royal Family. You may also see members of the Royal Family walking around Royal Ascot so, if you’re a royalist, it’s worthwhile attending.

Despite the thrill of adorning yourself in all your finery and placing some honest bets, there are a few downfalls of attending Royal Ascot, too.

The cons of attending Royal Ascot include:

It can be snobbish
Slowly, the attitude surrounding Royal Ascot is changing; however, we can’t deny that there is an air of snobbery at the event which may make those on lower incomes, for instance, feel a little out of place. Although, this shouldn’t be a problem providing you act sensibly, dress properly, follow the rules, and avoid discussing money with those around you – Ascot is a fantastic place to socialise, however, as often is the case, politics and finances are not topics of conversation.

Royal Ascot isn’t cheap
Ticket prices for Royal Ascot start at £37 per person, per day, however, that’s for the Windsor Enclosure. When attending, if you want to be right in the heart of all the fun, it’s best to purchase Queen Anne Enclosure tickets for £75 per person, per day. There are several higher-tier tickets, too. Once you have set aside your betting money and purchased your tickets and formal outfits, plus any food and drink you want throughout the day, Royal Ascot isn’t a cheap day out. Also, if you’re hoping to stay in Ascot during the event, hotels and B&Bs will be costlier than usual.

The rules are strict


There is plenty of room to enjoy yourself at Royal Ascot; however, the rules are strict and must be adhered to ensure you gain access to the venue. For instance, there is a dress code to be kept, and while you’re allowed to take one bottle or wine or champagne into the grounds with you, no other alcohol is permitted, ensuring you purchase your drinks from stalls within the grounds.

If you haven’t been to Royal Ascot before, the best thing to do is to attend and see what you think – different people’s opinions of the event vary, so all you can do is explore Ascot for yourself. For exploring you may consider a minibus hire.

*this has been a collaborative post with coachscanner.com

The Happiness Project One Sentence Journal

‘Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life’ – Omar Khayyam

I always liked to keep diaries as a teenager but they were your stereotypical narcissistic ‘woe is me’ ‘why won’t he notice me’ type teenage stuff that would be highly mortifying were anyone to get their hands on now. I even continued to keep a journal (sounds so much more grown up!) into my early twenties which was just somewhere I could brain dump my thoughts as a kind of stress management tool I suppose.

The older I got the better I became at managing my emotions so no longer feel the need to write essays about my deepest darkest feelings anymore however when my sister in law told me about her Happiness Project One Sentence Journal, it sounded like something it’s enjoy doing.

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The concept is really simple; we all have busy lives and simply don’t have time anymore to write pages and pages deconstructing the day and describing in detail how you feel about it all. However now life is so fast paced how do we remember the tiny little bursts of happiness that occur on a daily basis? Are they supposed to just happen, make you smile for a hot minute then disappear into the ether forever more?

The one sentence journal will undoubtedly mean different things to different people, some people may use it as a way to manage their emotions, anxiety or even depression, some people may need it because they have shockingly bad memories and don’t want to forget meaningful things. For me it’s about not being so negative all the time, that no matter whether you thing you’ve had the crappiest of crappy days, there will be something that happened that made you smile.

For example I was having a really tough day at work one day, the kind of day where nothing would work, everyone wanted everything done yesterday, I was making mistakes and seemed to just generally be rubbing everyone up the wrong way. Without the One Sentence Journal I probably wouldn’t have said anything good happened that day. But forced to think about it before I went to bed that night, I remembered that Cheryl bought me a cup of coffee on her way into work without me asking, just because she’s my friend. With one sentence I went to sleep happy that night.

Every day has 5 spaces so you can record all your happy memories for 5 years and remind yourself that happiness isn’t always defined by massive life altering acts, sometimes they’re tiny little simple things, that remind you you’re wonderful and that you’re loved. Or simply that someone cares about you enough to buy you a cup of coffee.