An 80th Celebration & A Musical Surprise

So on Saturday we travelled to a little town just outside Wrexham in North Wales to celebrate the 80th birthday of on of our lovely family friends. She’s had a tough couple of years with one thing and another and so to turn up to find her enjoying a lovely party with an Afternoon Tea theme was a joy.

What was most unexpected was the surprise performance that her daughters had booked for her and I have to say I was blown away! They were called A Handbag of Harmonies:

They were led by the wonderful Matt Baker and after their heart exploding rendition of Shine by Take That (Swipe left on the above Insta to hear)… I was just blown away. They were incredible and if you are looking for something different for your next event, and you just want to smile for 20 minutes… then look no further. Loved every single minute!

G x

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A trip to Rivington Pike | Days Out

I think we can all agree that January in the UK is basically horrible. So very often at this time of year, M and I take ourselves off to somewhere lovely for a day out. Last year it was Astley Park in Chorley and this year we decided to go Rivington Pike, which is here:

For us, this is about 30 miles/40 minutes from our house and as we had never been before, we weren’t sure where to park. So we pulled into a little cafe and found a space tucked in the corner of the car park. As it turns out, we were still about ¼ mile from the start of all the official walking paths, but we found a nice path to stroll along, which ran parallel to the Go-Ape trails, which are also located there. Good start.

At the end of the first path we reached the “bottom barn”, which also housed a very busy cafe, toilets and an information centre. We popped into the information centre and bought a map, but honestly the map buying was a gesture as a very lovely lady in the centre gave us excellent directions up to the pike. So we set off.

A little like Delamere Forest, there are a few trails that you can follow, which have way markers, denoted on striped posts.

Rivington Barn sign with red route marker

The red route we followed was supposed to be about 3 miles, we followed the markers and ended up walking a little over 4 miles. The route is also described as “challenging” and I would have to agree with that; some uphill, some flat, lots of steps and quite a lot of the paths were very rocky under foot.

There were SO many people on the paths too, even on a damp and cold Sunday in February, it was VERY busy! Also, sidenote, today it was also muddy underfoot as it was raining quite hard for most of yesterday, so it befuddled me why we saw so many people in pristine white trainers, pink boots and most worrying of all, UGG boots?!  All the aforementioned footwear slowly getting ruined with every step.

Anyway, it took us about 1 ½ hours to get to the top and it was worth the hike. Stunning views at the top overlooking Bolton, Wigan and the surrounding areas. Again though, not much solitude at the top as it was very very busy, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

As a day out, I would give is 9/10 as it really was a lovely walk and we are sure that we barely scratched the surface on our first visit. The only reason it loses a point was the parking. As I mentioned, due to our lack of local knowledge, we parked about a 10 minute walk away from all the main car parks. But it was obvious that even though there is quite a lot of parking, it’s nowhere near enough as everywhere was jammed and we witnessed one particular traffic jam on the narrow roads, all caused by double parking.

My TOP TIP would be go early, to avoid the crazy parking situation, but honestly, well worth a visit!

We will be back.

G x

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Premier Suites Newcastle | Review

As part of my current job, I have been staying in a variety of budget hotels around the UK. But one of the drawbacks of staying in a hotel, is going out for dinner alone, which is not something I always feel like doing. Inevitably, I end up having a “bed picnic”, which sometimes means I can go a whole trip without a hot meal. Not ideal. So when a last minute trip to Newcastle landed at my door last week, I decided to stay at Premier Suites instead. As I booked the 1 bedroom apartment via our work travel agent, it cost around £55 per night and I booked for 2 nights.

I arrived at about 5:30pm and the suites are about a 7 minute walk from Newcastle Central Station here:

The first thing I noticed is that the street it’s on isn’t particularly well lit and with just a single door entrance, it was a little hard to spot in the dark. But once inside, the receptionist gave me a really warm welcome and with a simple check in, she  gave me the key to my home for the next few days.

The apartment I booked was only a 1 bedroom, but they actually gave me the keys  to a 2 bedroom one. However, there was a note on the bed of the 2nd bedroom to say that if I used it, they would charge me an extra £35 a night. Message received, door shut. Room ignored.

I’d have to say that the apartment had it’s good points and bad points.

Good Points
  • Good size lounge with large couch in living room.
  • A small tray of essentials, i.e. tea & coffee.
  • A large fridge.
  • Very comfortable bed.
  • Free Wifi.
  • Central location.
  • 5 minute walk from The Prince’s Trust In Newcastle (where I was working)
Bad Points
  • Whilst the couch was large, there were…… stains…. which I tried to ignore.
  • Both the kitchen and bathroom looked good from afar but close up they both showed signs of age with the bathroom in particular showing wear and tear.

When I put my key in the door, the apartment was cold and dark as bizarrely for January, all the radiators were turned off and the windows were all open! I was already cold due to a frozzy train journey and damp walk from the station, so a cold apartment was not a good start. I turned all the radiators on and closed all the windows and things did warm up, however, I didn’t realise until the following day, that I missed one of the open kitchen windows, which fully explained my slight chill before bedtime!

But it was great to stay in an apartment as I was able to cook for myself both nights and eat breakfast in my PJs in before I left for work. This is a great upside to hotel stays as I am not sure PJs in a communal breakfast situation is really acceptable!

Overall though, the apartment was very reasonably priced at around £55 a night and was clean and tidy. I would give it 3/5 stars 🌟🌟🌟 as it was value for money, but it lacked a bit of something special.

However, if you are looking for an alternative to a hotel in Newcastle, then why not give Premier Suites a look! I reckon this would be nice, flexible way to see the city on a budget.

G x

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Best and Worst of 2017

So Christmas is over, hope you had a good one, mine was pretty good as it goes 😄 It’s funny though, as the end of the year approaches, it’s my tendency to get quite reflective and as such, I thought I would put together a Top 3 list of all the things I have loved, but also the big misses of 2017 to me. I mean, who doesn’t love a good list?! Here we go:

Top 3 – Highlights of 2017

  1. Getting to the top of Dodd Wood/Fell in September. I have been on something of a fitness journey this year and when I tried to do a much less strenuous walk in May, I nearly cried as I couldn’t do it. This time around, despite it being really hard, I did manage the walk! Thrilled.
  2. Starting my secondment at work and spending 5 weeks working in London. I am very much a home bird and so to be away so much was an adjustment, especially being in such a busy city, which is definitely not my cup of tea.
  3. I started my weightloss and fitness journey in May this year and to date I have lost 2 ½ stones (35 lbs/15.9 kg). I have struggled to keep a healthy weight most of my adult life, but I love the fact my weight has started to come down.

Top 3 – Telly Finds of 2017

  1. Fleabag – I stumbled upon this BBC series whilst working from home one day and ended up binge watching it in an afternoon. It’s a tragi-comedy featuring Phoebe Waller-Bridge and it was just fab. Strong female comedy, so good that I watched it all for a 2nd time whilst we were away in Harrogate. Highly recommend.
  2. That Day we Sang – It’s no surprise to hear I am a Northern girl and so was in love that anything Victoria Wood created. I was so sad when she passed away in 2016 and so I was beyond chuffed when I discovered this comedy/drama about a Manchester choir, written and directed by the glorious VW.
  3. Little Boy Blue – This ITV drama about the real life shooting of Rhys Jones. It was utterly compelling and brilliantly acted. M and I were hooked from the first 5 minutes. It was made all the more poignant as we both remember this happening and it was only about 15 miles away from where we live.

Top 3 – Rubbish things in 2017

  1. Donald Trump became President of the United States. After almost a year in office, I have yet to see him do a single useful thing. He is crass and uses Twitter like a teenager,  complaining about what people are saying about him on the TV. The least presidential President the USA has ever seen.  What a tool.
  2. Sorry I can’t think of a 2nd and 3rd, No 1 is bad enough.

Top 3 – Gorgeous Restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 

  1. Vigour Kitchen is a place we discovered in 2017 in our local town of St Helens. St Helens itself is quite neglected and so to have a fab new place to eat is brilliant. It’s serves nutritious and gorgeous food with a focus on healthy eating. We can’t get enough.
  2. Armathwaite Hall is where M and I went on Honeymoon and we were lucky enough to visit and stay again this year. They do simply the BEST afternoon teas and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  3. Ok so this last one is a cheat, as is wasn’t a restaurant, but someone that does outside catering. We visited the Lake District in May to celebrate a family birthday and as part of the celebrations, we organised for an outside caterer to come and do us a meal. The caterer was Laura in the Lakes who also have a cafe in Keswick. The meal Laura made for us was delicious and she also coped brilliantly with my Lactose Intolerance by making me a scrummy lemon and blueberry cake! Yummy

Top 3 – Instagrammers for 2017 

  1. The incomparable Susie Verrill. She makes me smile or laugh or just gasp with delight on daily basis. So funny, so irreverent and all the whilst coping with being a new mum and the also delightful Greg Rutherford.
  2. The unbelievably funny Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka. She has been through some tough times this year, but is honestly one the funniest person to ever Insta Story.
  3. You might be able to spot a theme in this category, but number 3 is another funny woman in Celeste Barber. She is the pioneer for #challengeaccepted in which she copies the narcissistic posts that top social media and Hollywood people post in an hilarious fashion.

I am sure there are a million categories that I could add to this list and maybe I will as I think of them. I’ve had quite a good year overall and I feel quite happy going into 2018.  Someone asked me what my hopes were for the New Year and this is what I came up with:

  • Continue with my weight loss journey and get even more healthy in 2018
  • Kick start my YouTube Channel and start getting creative again
  • Visit Barcelona in September (already booked!!!)
  • Do a Couch to 5k programme
  • Make some landscape changes in the garden
  • Get a dog!!

The most important one of my hopes is the last one. My whole blogging story started in 2009 when I started a blog documenting our beloved Peggy Dog. We lost her in 2013 and 2018 is the year we adopt another furry friend into our home. I can’t wait, although I really will have to, until my secondment at work is over and I am home a little more.

Anyway, this year has been the right side of FAB and may it continue in 2018.

Thanks for all your support in 2017 and see you very soon.

G x

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Stone Stream Shower Review

Ok, I am not going to lie, I am a straight up SUCKER for advertising and I have been know the make the odd impulse purchase. I think I get this from my dad, who, in earlier years, could not be let loose in Town on his own as previously he had come back with Sky TV and a fridge freezer when he was essentially gong for milk!

So it should come a no surprise to know that I bought this Stone Stream Shower from an INSTAGRAM ad whilst I was browsing one morning. I mean, I hadn’t even got out of bed! It promised that it would increase shower pressure by “up to 200%” and would basically change my showering life. SOLD to the gullible girl who had just got paid.

The purchase price was £19.99, but of course as I started to order it was an additional £5 for a shower head with 3 x settings (Rainfall, Jet and Combo), OK I thought, and then an additional £5 if I wanted it within 5-7 days. Well in for a penny, in for £30. It arrived this morning wrapped in a postal bag and even though it looked exactly as described, I was still skeptical. I have never seen the ad in Instagram since so in one way, I was just chuffed it showed up!

It was very easy to install as I literally just unscrewed the old shower head and screwed in the new one. I filmed the difference in the streams, before I took an actual shower:

As you can see from the video, it definitely does increase the water pressure, even though the shower head itself is smaller. The really noticeable thing when I took a shower was the very soft way the water hit my skin. Even the middle jet was still quite soft and had a much nicer flow. M has yet to use it, but for me it was a hit! The pressure is better and the Stone Stream gives a much more gentle and relaxing experience. It was easy to fit and basically, does what it says it should.

So as an impulse buy, I am giving this 9/10 and the only reason it loses a mark, is that I think at some point in the future, we might have buy replacement stones. Otherwise, me likey.

G x

p.s. it’s worth noting that our shower is Electric and is on the top floor of a 3 storey house.

 

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It’s so good to be home…

Oh yes, it’s so good to be home! I have been away for 21 days out of the last 42, with my last week away this year being in Leicester. This time I stayed at the IBIS in Leicester, but I wasn’t that impressed and I won’t be back. It was one of those hotels, where nothing MAJOR went wrong, but lots of little things did which meant I didn’t particularly love it. Namely….

  • The batteries went on my TV remote control and I had to get out of bed, get dressed and go down to reception as I couldn’t turn the TV off.
  • I am pretty sure the housekeeping team broke my vanity mirror.
  • During breakfast I couldnt make the drinks machine work because the drip tray was full, which took far too long to figure out.
  • During another breakfast there were no plates and I had to chase staff down to replace them.
  • The sheets were scratchy.
  • The loo in my bathroom didn’t flush properly and when reported, the hotel didn’t do anything about it.
  • The pillows were hard.
  • The toilet door didn’t close properly, or at all.

One morning, whilst eating my toast in the hotel bar/cafe, I saw a prostitute come out of the lift. “How do you know it was a prostitute?” you ask. Well it might not have been, but I don’t know how many women sport thigh high boots and pigtails at 7am.

Also, I went out for dinner on my own on my first night there, and on arrival at Nandos, I found it had inexplicably closed 3 hours early! So I had to walk a little further into Leicester to find something to eat. On that walk I became a little uneasy and as someone that isn’t easily spooked walking on my own, I wasn’t happy. The town had a very odd vibe and to be honest, even though it was 6:45pm, it felt more like 2:00am. Needless to say, after that I didn’t bother and just ate at the hotel.

I did like the decor of the hotel, it was sort of Ikea meets Japanese pod. Also randomly, there was an android phone in my room to use.  I didn’t use it. The ONLY good thing about the hotel was the super-fast internet, which meant I could FaceTime M and it worked perfectly.

Ibis 3/10 🌟🌟🌟 – I won’t be back.

G x

 

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North West Days Out | Martin Mere | Review

Yesterday was a Sunday and as I had been craving the beach, we had planned to go to Lytham St Annes for a lovely walk. We haven’t been for about 4-5 years since we lost Peggy-dog and so I was really looking forward to it.

However, perhaps trying to get to Lytham St Annes on the same day as the Blackpool Air Show was a mistake as very quickly we got stuck in a massive load of traffic ?. As we approached a junction we decided to make a swift exit and after a small discussion, we decided to go to Martin Mere which is a wetlands centre in Burscough in West Lancashire.

First impressions were good as the approach is well signposted and there was plenty of room in the car park. It was £12 each to get in, which we Gift Aided and very quickly we were in. We didn’t spend too long in the main building as it was full of children (well it is the Summer holidays). We only realised later that if we had investigated a little we could have got a map and some food for the birds.. maybe next time.

I want to say right off the bat, that we loved Martin Mere. As soon as we came out of the main building,we were met with a small picnic area, a fenced off play area, snacks kiosk and FLAMINGOS!!! The flamingos are all together on an island with only with a small body of water and crucially no fence between you and them. Loved it!

Then for the rest afternoon we wandered around the large wetlands meeting SO many ducks and different birds, most of which were either wandering around freely or behind very low fences.

As well as the birds, there are also lots of wetlands and fab little things to find in amongst the windy paths and foliage. We particularly liked the bug hotel and criss cross obstacles and walk ways.

In the far reaches of the wetlands there are also a series of hides where more serious bird spotters can sit for as many hours as they like, spotting and photographing the beautiful wildlife that have made Martin Mere their natural habitat.

Another thing we spotted was a version of Top Trumps a kind of game for younger visitors to Martin Mere had to spot various animals and birds around the park. Love this.

Overall, we had a brilliant day. We were stuck in traffic for 1 ½ hours before arriving and this whole experience rescued the day. It was as calm as it was entertaining and so much fun. We loved wandering around and finding lots of new bits of the wetlands – it was so much bigger than we expected. A great day out.

So ????? Martin Mere, I’ve not doubt we will be back.

G x

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Vigour Kitchen – The way St Helens should be.

So first of all, I have blogged before about how I think St Helens Town Centre has died. If you’ve visited gilliblogs before you will know I live in Newton-le-Willows, which is part of the St Helens borough.

We are surrounded by the towns of Wigan, Warrington & Widnes, all of which have had quite a lot of investment in their shopping centres with huge multi-storey car parks, American style malls, swish indie cinemas and bowling alleys.

Saldy, St Helens has not had quite the same luck with the main shops and brands you would expect to see in a thriving town disappearing one by one. My local councillor would scream “Austerity” at this point, but whatever the reason, St Helens Town Centre has become less and less like somewhere  I wanted to visit.

However, this weekend M and I had to visit one of the few thriving shops in St Helens as he had to pick up some new glasses. I suppose people’s eyesight will continue to deteriorate no-matter how many pennies are in the purse.

After our appointment was done and M could once again read his Twitter feed without squinting, we decided to pop into a new(ish) healthy eating restaurant on Bridge Street called “Vigour“.  As we walked in we were greeted by a New York industrial style cafe with upbeat music, exposed brick, long oak benches and (surprisingly) comfortable stools.

We went to the counter and the staff were friendly and attentive and offered us either the breakfast or regular menu – we went for breakfast and ordered a Breakfast Bagel  and something called Avocado Smash.

We took our seats at one of the free benches and didn’t have to wait long for our food to arrive. Our mouths were already watering at other people’s plates being brought out – always a good sign and we weren’t disappointed.

I had the breakfast bagel with sausages and bacon and honestly the sausages were seriously so good, so tasty and full of flavour that I literally shoved the food in my face! M had similar thoughts about his Avocado, poached egg & bagel combo and before long we both had empty plates! I actually only left my bagel because I was too full! We only ate one dish off the menu, but it was enough to convince us of Vigour’s pedigree and standards.

There will always be a place in every town centre for Greggs the Bakers and life would be dull without somewhere to get a vanilla slice, but similarly a cafe that promotes healthy food is such a WIN for the town.

People want to work out and stay healthy, that’s an undeniable fact so a healthy eating style restaurant is a gorgeous idea. Inside it has the brilliantly buzzy feeling that there might be a kernel of positive change for the town centre and long, long may it continue.

Well done Vigour – we will definitely be back. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

G x

 

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