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Friday, 27 November 2015

Christmas lights and sparkly sights

Before the weekend hits full swing, I thought I'd quickly fill you in on the past couple of days. This weekend is promising to be a busy one, and I'm not sure when I will be sat still long enough to talk to you all again before we enter next week!

Last night, the Bedford Christmas lights were turned on, with the support of an excellent fireworks display. Oohs and aahhs heard all over the place, the kids and adults alike seemed to be having a wonderful time. We took root outside the Embankment Hotel (after possibly, just maybe, popping in for a drink beforehand) to enjoy the festivities, before taking a stroll around the town, hot chocolates in hand, to enjoy the now-Christmassy atmosphere. My friend, my new work mate who is also new to Bedford, came along too so we showed her around the town, pointing out our favourite places to go.

We made a couple of stops along the way. I'd spoken often (and highly) of The Flute to Natasha, so we stopped off for a glass of prosecco. It's my favourite place to go when I'm craving bubbles, so I recommend you try and stop by over Christmas. It's a gorgeous little nook tucked away, definitely well worth a visit. Check them out on Facebook to see opening times and events.

Next we went slightly further out of town to The Three Cups. Anyone that reads my posts will already have heard about the Cups, I do like to pop in there! It's a great pub, it always has a buzzing atmosphere and the staff are lovely.

Today I was meant to be London-bound to see a show but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. Plans are being rearranged so hopefully I'll have a story worthy of your time soon! However, my day did start well, as I received my new, beautiful angel wings earrings thanks to the gorgeous Bel of B Jewellery. I'm a girl that loves all things sparkly, so jewellery will always be an acceptable addition to any day! They've been in my ears ever since and they won't be leaving any time soon!
I'm now off to join that lovely lady for dinner, so I'll be getting the drinks in by way of thanks! Don't forget, if you are free and in the area, I'll be manning her ship at the Market Harborough Christmas Fair tomorrow from 10am until 4pm. Please come and say hi if you are around! And perhaps, if you're feeling generous of spirit, bring something hot to drink, it gets bloody cold in that marquee! Have a lovely weekend all. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Christmas is coming...


Finally, it's allowed to be said, (the Coca Cola advert has been seen, so it's official), Christmas is indeed coming.

I love this time of year , with all it's shimmer and socialising. I'm not one of the many out there that begin to get excited in September, but I do enjoy the build up - buying the presents, decorating the house, taking part in the multitude of festive events that start cropping up.

Having had to dispose of my old tree last year (it had given up the ghost), and wanting new colours to replace the old, I've started from scratch this year, to my bank manager's dismay no doubt. But I have acquired some beautiful decorations, I'm itching to put them up!

My Christmas, like most others, has its traditions. It's always spent with my grandparents, who are generous to a fault, keeping everyone well fed and hydrated for the day. When I asked what I could provide to contribute to the day, my grandfather requested some of the homemade wine I gifted them last year, as he hadn't had the opportunity to try the last batch (my nan had demolished it with a friend of hers one evening), so my demijohn is, again, bubbling away like a demented cauldron in the corner of the kitchen. It will hopefully be ready for bottling 5 days before Christmas, so this year is promising to be quite a boozy affair!

We popped along to the Christmas evening held at Frost's last week, to take a look at their displays and see if we could pick up anything else to add to the already grotto-shaped mass of baubles and tinsel in the corner of the living room. They had a wonderful live band playing, the wine was flowing, the mince pies were being passed out, and everyone was merry. Trees festooned with all manner of decorations in every shape, size and colour towering over the shoppers, lights twinkling, flashing and glimmering from all corners. It was all really rather lovely, and certainly seemed to be cajoling everyone into the spirit of the season.

There's so much coming up over the next few weeks to look forward to. The big Christmas light switch-on in Bedford will be taking place on Thursday evening, so you'll find me propped up with some good friends in The Embankment Hotel, with some mulled wine and possibly a Christmas jumper. Friday sees me off into London for a theatre trip with a generous friend who's treating me, before whizzing back for Saturday, when I'll be in Market Harborough for their lights switch-on and manning the jewellery stall at the craft fair for my lovely friend Bel. Sunday, the decorations are going up, and the Castle Quarter Christmas celebrations will be in full swing. Then on to more festive shenanigans the following weekend. Photos and stories will follow!

Friday, 20 November 2015

B Jewellery


A while back, I worked in the jewellery trade, selling gorgeous twinklies to whoever might want them. I moved out of that world a couple of years ago, but an incredibly talented friend of mine broke out on her own, and began designing, making and selling her own range of silver and gold jewellery, and bespoke pieces.

Belynda (Bel) has turned her hand to everything a customer has asked her to make, as well as producing some incredibly beautiful, imaginative pieces for her collection. She even produced my friends wedding bands. They were seriously pleased!

Last Saturday, Market Harborough hosted a craft fair in the town square. Bel had taken her jewellery down for the day, and I tagged along to help out (shop!). We had a great day. It's a beautiful town, and we spent the day surrounded by extremely talented people. There are some wonderful things to be found at these kind of events, I cannot encourage you enough to attend any that are local to you. I loved wandering off for a mooch around the stalls. I picked up some incredibly beautiful christmas decorations, courtesy of Very Shabby, Very Chic (https://www.facebook.com/VeryShabbyVeryChic/). Beautiful vintage goods are on offer, from decorations, photo frames, candle holders... I could have spent a fortune! A woman very much after my own heart when it comes to style. Do visit her Facebook page via the link above and see where she's heading to next, her stall is well worth the visit, plus she's such good fun!

Back to the jewellery! People love the fact that Bel offers gorgeous products that are all handmade, a lot of love and attention to detail are poured into her creations, and her customers can tell that. As she says, she only makes jewellery that she would want to wear! The other incredible thing about B Jewellery are the prices. Unlike high street jewellers, Bel sources her materials, makes every piece herself and directly deals with each customer, allowing her to be fair and reasonable on her prices. You get a lot of sparkle for your money!

I love helping her out when she has craft days. I get to hark back to my jewellery selling days, seeing if I still have the knowledge lurking in my grey matter. I also get to spend time with a highly valued friend, and I get to play with all of her wonderful creations, so it's a real win-win situation! Spending time with customers, witnessing their pleasure at buying something gorgeous, and hearing the stories behind their purchase is something I've missed from my time in jewellery retail, Bel lets me go back to it. People are always amazed that she produces all of these things herself. Even I am, and I've known her for years!


I'm lucky enough to have my very own collection of B Jewellery loveliness floating around in my jewellery box. I've got more on the way! Plus it's wonderful to know that other friends of mine have viewed Bel's work and loved it so much, they trusted her to make the most important pieces of jewellery they will own, their wedding rings. With Christmas coming up, her website really is the place to look, whether you're looking for something special for a loved one, or looking for an extra special something to complete a festive outfit (boys, that's aimed at you too, she makes fantastic cufflinks, tie pins etc.). Take a look at her collections and some of her bespoke pieces at http://www.b-jewellery.co.uk/. Alternatively, I will be manning the helm at Market Harborough on the 28th November, Bel will be there on the 27th, so why not pop down and say hi. The Christmas lights will be going on that weekend and festive cheer will be all around! 
One of my pieces, the Talking Parrots. It's always commented on!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Beirut and Paris


This Friday, I headed out after work to my friend's house, where I was spending the night. We haven't seen each other for a while, so we ordered a takeaway, set up at the kitchen table with a bottle of red, and shared our meal, catching each other up on life's recent events. We decided to head to the village pub afterwards, enjoying the company of the locals and looking forward to our day on Saturday, selling her jewellery at a craft fair. Our thoughts didn't much extend beyond our weekend and the enjoyment we were experiencing. Then we arrived home and did the now obligatory Facebook and Twitter checks before heading to bed. That's how the news of the attacks on Paris reached me.

I started this blog, not as a political platform, or a space to vent my opinions for others to read and judge. I want this to be a refuge, a haven for sharing ideas, good experiences, adventures. I want to offer something pleasant for you to read. I like to think that, so far, I've delivered. But when something monstrous occurs, the only thing to be done is to face it head on and address it.

This past week, 2 countries have experienced heartache beyond measure. Lebanon on Thursday, France on Friday. People are, understandably, scared, fearful, angry. No matter how many times we hear of such atrocities, they still take our breath away. For that I am glad. I will never accept these occurrences as the norm, I refuse to. The day that I am not shocked, surprised or immediately appalled by these types of action will be a very distressing day indeed. They will never be acceptable.

Every time these stories hit the news, I am aware of how such actions are intended and designed to make me feel. They are designed to cause suspicion, public outcry, and disjointedness between cultures. We are being urged to look at one another questioningly, to be mistrustful and scared. Don't. Feel defiant, feel unity, feel determined. I will not allow such things to alter the way I look at strangers. I refuse to judge people any differently than I have in the past. If anything, we need to pull together. Now more than ever, we need to look after each other, support each other, and trust each other. If we can't, they have succeeded. Don't let them. There is the obvious threat of future attacks, the UK itself has been at its highest security level for months. People have talked of avoiding big shopping centres, and city centres across the country 'just incase'. I understand, but I won't be following suit. I will be heading to London in the next couple of weeks, and I won't be deterred. Again, if I did, I'd feel like I'd let 'them' win.

Those in Beirut and Paris that aren't waking up with their families today are in my thoughts, as are the Lebanese and French who are coping with the aftermath of the weekend, and anybody else who has suffered as a result. I have been, and will be, lighting a candle in my window each evening since. It's a small gesture, it might seem trivial or unimportant to some. But it's a way of saying that you are being thought of. That there is still light out there. That we're there for you. It's reminding me to be grateful for what I have.

I apologise for such a serious post, but in the light of such events, it seemed necessary to address them. Sobering though it is, despite how much we may want to focus on light-heartedness, these things keep occurring, and we shouldn't ignore them.    

Friday, 6 November 2015

Halloween Fun at The Pad

My last couple of posts have been all about my recent visit to Cornwall, and I still have stories to tell you all from said trip. But I wanted to fill you in on my Halloween antics before it's too out of date!

I adore Halloween as I'm a horror fan, and love the weird and wonderful. Plus it's the time of autumn, pumpkins and big woolly jumpers so I'm all for it!

Each year we try to do something different. Scarefest at Alton Towers was a particularly good one, and we've popped along to the local cinema on more than one occasion to see old school horror films make a big screen return. This year wasn't far off, but instead of popping along to Cineworld, we went to The Pad, a local nightclub, to watch a screening of Scream.
Previous Halloween being eaten

First, a Pad history lesson. An old terrace house tucked away in Lurke Street, a back street of Bedford, the Pad has been up and running as a club in one of its several guises for decades. Always a place for and run by real music lovers, Winkles, Limehaus and now the Pad has catered for mods, rockers, the indie crowd, held drum and bass, dubstep and garage events, hosted silent discos and generally been home for me and many others for a long time. I spent most weekends for years in the Pad, the only place bar The Hob where skinny jeans, Converse and a band tee was acceptable and expected evening wear. Plus it was the only place I could listen to Bloc Party, We are Scientists and Maximo Park. The Pad has significant influence over events that occur in Bedford, and stepped in to host Halloween on behalf of Cults for Cats Protection.

The Pad already has a pretty underground feel, with bare brick walls, low lighting and dark paint, so the Halloween decorations - cobwebs, spiders and obscenities scrawled over every wall in glow-in-the-dark paint - looked right at home. The popcorn maker was churning, cakes and sweets lined up for sale, and the bar was open.
The Pad looking extra spooky
After buying our drinks and having a quick catch-up with friends who were also there, we took our seats and settled down for the movie. I'm sure most have you have seen Scream, so I won't be going into detail about the film, but I will say it's one of my absolute favourites! It was a nice, blood-soaked nostalgia trip!

As much as I love a night out, especially in fancy dress, it was really nice doing something a little different. Granted watching a film is in no way original at Halloween, but doing it sat in the middle of the dance floor, at your favourite nightclub, whilst the Addams' Family and Harley Quinn are in the rows next to you, is pretty special. And it was in all in aid of a good cause. A great night was had by all, and the cost of the ticket also gave you entry for the Pad's more traditional Halloween club night. We didn't take advantage of this, with an early start the next day. So off we headed home, for more movies, copious Halloween themed snacks, and a pint of Wychwood's Pumpking each.

There are plans in motion to show Die Hard and Elf over the Christmas period at The Pad, so give them a follow on Facebook to keep up-to-date of any news. If you buy tickets for both, it will work out cheaper - bargain! I'll be the one in the corner, wearing my Christmas jumper and stuffing myself with mince pies!




Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cornish Adventure part 2

After drinking St Ives dry on our Sunday day out, and waking up to some horrendous rain on Monday, we decided to take a drive into Newquay and visit some of our favourite haunts. As much as I love all parts of Cornwall, Newquay holds a special place in my heart, simply because it was the first place I visited there.

It was a late start to the day. Heads were sore, mouths were dry and breakfast couldn't be faced, so recovery time was needed. Eventually dragging ourselves from bed, showering and dressing, we made our way out. First stop was at Healey's Cyder Farm on the way to Truro. An odd choice for the day after a mammoth drinking session, I know, but there is so much to do there, not to mention one of the best cream teas you can buy. Plus we needed to stock up on their famous Rattler!

It's changed drastically in the year it has been since we last visited, with a more contemporary entrance, the huge viewing platform/giant barrel inserted at the front, plus the tours now have a different look. As was before, you can tour the entire facility, including a tractor ride around the orchards, watching the cider-making and bottling process, learning how generations used to make cider, visiting the cellar and jam kitchen, and (the best part) visiting the taster bar. But they now offer extended or shorter tours, self-led tours and a chance to clamber up to the viewing platform. Having completed the tour on more than one occasion, and running behind on our day, we decided to have a mooch around the farm, visiting their resident cart horse in the stables, indulged in the obligatory cream tea (jam first, then cream) and purchased our goodies.

Once we hit Newquay, the hangover hunger massively kicked in, regardless of scones and lashings of jam, so we paid a visit to Jon Buoys fish and chip shop up on the hill. Literally the best fish and chips I've ever tasted, the fish freshly caught, and with a view of the coast to die for as you eat, we always go here. This time around they served up some much needed grub, aided by the fresh, salty air.

Afterwards, we took a much-needed stroll around the town centre, popping in to some of our favourite shops, even picking up a Christmas decoration along the way. One of my must-visits is Cornish Cream, effectively a Cornish hamper in a shop, where you can pick up the most gorgeous bottle of sparkling strawberry wine, Cornish Sunset, or cream teas pre-packed in wicker baskets as gifts. Luckily you can now order online from them, so I can always get my fix - https://www.cornishcream.com/t/visitourshops.

Feeling much better for food, fresh air and exercise, we stopped for a drink before heading back for a cozy night in, feet up, snacks out and movie on. Who says that staying in can't happen on holiday?!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Cornish Adventure part 1

It seems like an age since I posted, and I apologise for the radio silence, but I've been off galavanting around the country. More specifically, down to Carbis Bay in Cornwall. I've gorged myself on fresh seafood and Cornish gin, and caught up with a lovely friend who moved down to St Ives a while back.

I have mentioned a few times in past posts my love for Cornwall, and I try to get down there at least once a year. Everyone has places that they visit that they immediately feel comfortable in, I have 2, Cornwall is one of them.

Normally Newquay is home for a few days over the summer. But this year we fancied a change. We stayed at the adorable Green Apple B&B, a stone's throw away from the beach. It's a quirky, vintage find, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
Vintage breakfast room

The view from our breakfast table
One of the benefits of knowing a local is that you can pick their brains for the best places to visit. After taking a leisurely stroll from Carbis Bay, along the beautiful coastal road, into St Ives, Sunday lunchtime found us all meeting at The Sloop, one of Cornwall's oldest inns. It resides on St Ives' wharf and has been serving thirsty customers since the 14th Century. It's a traditional 'fisherman's' pub, with low ceilings, wobbly floors (you don't need to drink to feel off-balance!), and tankards behind the bar. It's charming, and incredibly popular. We were lucky with the weather, glorious sunshine and a gentle breeze, so we sat on the wharf and caught up, making friends, both human and four-legged along the way.
Beautiful Carbis Bay beach
The fresh sea air down there is wonderful, but it does build an appetite. A suggestion was made that we visit The Beach Cafe Bar. It's a neat little spot on the wharf, tucked away in a nook. I knew I'd like it when I saw their huge Tarquin's Gin display! Another reason I love Cornwall so much is that it has produced one of my favourite gins, so any bar that serves it is fine by me!


We took a look at the menu and eyed up their Smidgen boards. A Cornish tapas, you could choose to try 1, 3 or 5 of the delicious dishes they offer. With 3 of us dining we opted to order two 5 smidgen boards, and one 3 smidgen board, with a selection of West Country cheeses, sourdough, parfait, cod goujons, garlic salami and (my favourite) seared scallops with pea relish. It was so good in fact, I had no opportunity to get a snap of the food before it was devoured! So here's the website to make up for it - http://www.beachcafe.bar/food/.

Another gem of a find was the Firehouse Grill. After lunch, cocktails were on order so we headed here. A cool, modern haven from the bustling street outside, the food smells delicious as you enter. Having consumed our body weight in smidgens though, it was definitely just a drink or 2 on the cards. Seating ourselves at the bar, we had a read through the drinks menu. A mojito on one side, a Spicy Storm on the other, I was definitely in the gin zone and asked for something to be put together for me. Our cocktail maker is a friend of our friends down their, and he seriously knows his stuff. Opting to make me what I was told would be the best G&T of my life, he poured my drink over cucumber and rosemary, and I have to admit, he was right. After that came a Singapore Sling, my favourite cocktail. It's a fantastic stop. The atmosphere is great, the staff knowledgeable and friendly, the products on offer well thought out and definitely tasty. If you're in that area do visit. You can find out more at http://www.firehousestives.co.uk/, and check out their Instagram account to see how lovely their stuff looks - https://instagram.com/firehouse_bar_n_grill/.

St Ives is a great place to just wander around, absorbing everything around you. There is a wealth of galleries displaying local art, artisan delis serving only the freshest produce and places selling odds and ends, goodies that you wouldn't imagine finding. It was bursting with life, even at this late stage in the year. We had a great afternoon strolling about, picking up treats (and dare I say it, a couple of Christmas presents too).

We stopped off at the Rum & Crab Shack for a dark & stormy (the cocktails in Cornwall take some beating!), then headed off back towards Carbis Bay for a while before venturing out for dinner.

We found ourselves getting colder as the sun set behind us on our walk back to Carbis Bay, so sought refuge in the Cornish Arms, cozying up by their roaring fire.
One place that's always a must visit on our travels down south is The Hub. We first discovered their food at their Truro branch on the recommendation of a local who we'd pressed for the best burger in town. She directed us the The Hub Box, a converted container on Lemon Quay. We knew it would be worthwhile when we saw the queue! Gourmet burgers, hotdogs, craft beer, it offers real comfort food, fast-food style, but with so much more style. The St Ives branch is on the harbour, and you can look out at the waves while enjoying your meal. Definitely throw out the healthy eating for one night if you find yourself outside one of their restaurants. Details found at http://www.hub-stives.co.uk/.

We then took ourselves back off home, well fed and watered (or ginned in my case!). It was a perfect end to our first day.

Check out my blog Instagram for more photos (link on the home page), and keep an eye out for the next Cornwall installment!