Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Films of the Month - January

I watched ten films in January, which is well on the way to breaking last year's record of 100 films! Six films were new to me, too.

1) The Commitments - I love this film. It's feel good and funny.
2) Who Took Johnny - I saw this discussed somewhere, it's a documentary about a kid who went missing in the 80s (and whose disappearance led to Missing pictures on the side of milk cartons). It was really interesting.
3) Philadelphia - This is one of my favourite films, even though I don't really like Tom Hanks. It's about a man fired because his bosses realised he had Aids, so watch it if you've never seen it.

4) The Great Gatsby - After seeing the theatre thingy in January, I thought I'd watch the film. It is really pretty, but it was way overly long, and I felt there wasn't enough Leonardo in it for my liking
5) Star Wars/A New Hope - Lee wanted to watch this since we'd seen Rogue One over Christmas. I love it, but lord Luke Skywalker is a whiny child. I much prefer The Empire Strikes Back (which by the time we've read this, we'll probably have watched in February)
6) Worried About the Boy - I don't remember where I saw about this, but I was intrigued. It's about Boy George and starts when he moves to London to live in a squat with Marilyn. It's really good and the music is too.

7) In the Name of the Father - Again I'd been reading something about the IRA and the Guildford Four and thought that I really should see this film. It's, understandably, really hard going. It's really long too, so I watched it in two halves. Daniel Day Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite are both excellent.
8) Carol - I'd heard loads of hype about this film so decided to watch it. It's very gentle and sweet, I would recommend it
9) Almost Famous - This is another of my favourite films. I went through a phase of watching it all the time, but it had been a while. It's still excellent. I love Kate Hudson the best

10) Sing Street - Someone on Tumblr recommended this and I'm so glad they did. It's set in Dublin in the 80s and is about a kid who forms a band at school. Watch it, it's so funny and the music is brilliant.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Books of the Months - January

Here's what I read in January. I started off strong, but faltered towards the end of the month when I got a horrible throat infection that laid me low for several days! I find it hard to read when I'm not feeling well.

I also decided that I'll review ALL the books I read over on my book blog, just to keep a record of them. Where they're not appropriate for children or teenagers, I'll make sure to note that.

The Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr - I've read several of Emily's books for adults, but this is her first YA novel and I really liked it. It's about a girl with amnesia which seems to be a thing in YA literature, possibly because self-identity is so important at that age

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley- Doyle. This is a really bewitching YA novel, set in Ireland. It's a bit magical and a lot weird, I really liked it.

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace - this is set in New England in the 70s and concerns a young girl who has a baby and ends up there. It is really odd, but well done.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - I wanted to read this before seeing the film. I liked it, but felt it wasn't in depth enough. I get that it's for younger teens, but even so. 

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson. I didn't really like this at all. I found the main character really two-dimensional, really similar to her other characters. Oh well, you can't win them all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trip to the Turkish Baths in Harrogate

At the end of January I went with my friend Sam to the Turkish baths in Harrogate. I've wanted to go for years but have never got round to it, but Sam had a day's holiday to take so we booked ourselves in and off we went. I'd say definitely book your session to guarantee a place as otherwise it gets fully booked. They run women's only sessions which is what we went to.

First of all we went to Betty's for lunch. Betty's is a Yorkshire institution and it is delicious, although slightly more expensive than I'd usually pay. Still, it's worth it for a nice lunch out. I had Yorkshire rarebit and Sam had cod and prawn gratin, and we shared some matchstick fries. Sam had tea and I had hot chocolate which was dark chocolate and wonderfully bitter.

For dessert I had chocolate mocha torte and Sam had a fruit tart. I took a couple of photos:

Sam's tea tray

My delicious torte. It was moist but not too rich!

We went to the baths for just before 1pm which is when the session started. We booked in and walked round into the changing rooms. There are individual wooden cubicles which are really old-fashioned and sweet. We got changed into our swimming costumes - although I should point out that they're optional in single sex sessions. In ours, there were a few topless women and I got showered with my costume pulled down to my waist, so if that bothers you this might not be the place for you!

Anyway, we sat down in the relaxation lounge, which is the coolest room, and we waited for a member of staff to show us round as we'd never been before. No phones are allowed in the baths, and lockers are provided for you to put everything into. However, I took these photos as I was getting changed:

Part of the gorgeous decorative ceiling.


The idea of the baths is that you get really hot, raise your body temperature, and then cool it down rapidly. There's a steam room, which ultimately was too hot for me, and three different levels of dry heat. The first room is the biggest, and a nice temperature of about 34 degrees. There's plenty of loungers and benches and seats to sit on, and magazines to read. There's also a sink and we were told to have a drink every 5-10 minutes as you're sweating a lot without even really realising it. 

The next room is around 55 degrees and this was the hottest I went. It was bearable, and felt quite delicious. The floor was really hot though, and I wish I'd taken flipflops. TOP TIP: take clean flipflops or Crocs or something! Just as long as they're not dirty from outside. Take a book, too. I read trashy magazines which was great. Other people were just sitting, and I think some people even fell asleep! 

The top of this room is the hottest part - around 74 degrees. I couldn't even get near this! Far too hot for me! Sam liked it, though. There was a lady in there who spent nearly all her time in there! I think she must've been a regular though, and entirely used to it!

So the idea is that you get your body nice and hot and then you plunge yourself cool. There are two cold showers which are the easiest way to do it if you want, but there's also a plunge pool. It's approximately 5 metres long by 2 metres wide. The member of staff told us to just get in, don't hang around on the steps, and to swim to the end and back again. She said to not make a noise when you got in because it disturbs other guests, and I swear I tried my best but my GOD it was COLD! You have to get your shoulders under which is the absolute worst part I think. 

But, once I got out, my skin was bright red and my heart was beating so quickly and I felt quite euphoric! My adrenaline was pumping! It was a lot of fun.

We went round the cycle of hot, hotter, cold, about four times. We were there about 3 hours and at the end we had a nice hot shower before getting dressed. The session lasted until 5pm, but other sessions are shorter and they do want you to be ready to leave by the time the session ends. We paid £17.50 each which was one of the cheapest, because it was a weekday session, but at the weekends it's £29.50 each. I'm not sure it's worth that, but I'd definitely pay £17.50 again. I really enjoyed it and would love to go again in a few months!

Top tips:
- They give you two towels - one for using while in the baths and one for use after your shower. However, they get quite damp, so I was glad I still had a dry towel to use after my shower
- You can use any toiletries you want in the showers
- You need a £1 coin for the lockers
- Take a book or a magazine
- Take flipflops, like I said. Some of the flooring is either really hot or quite sharp!
- You'll probably need a sugary drink for afterwards, or plan to go straight for a drink or food. We went next door to Wetherspoons which I sorely needed
- I know the plunge pool is painful but it is okay, I promise!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Family Celebrations in January

The last two weeks of January has a lot of birthdays in my family. I'm the 19th, my dad was the 23rd, my uncle Neil is the 25th, and my cousin Rob is the 1st of February. This year, my uncle turned 50 and my cousin turned 21 within a week of each other, so they had a joint celebration with us the last weekend in January.

We went to a hotel near my mum's house in Wakefield for afternoon tea for lunch and then swimming in their pool. Now, I've been there a couple of times before and the woman who works there is really horrible and incredibly patronising - it's like she thinks you've never used a swimming pool before! We ended up complaining about her to the front desk because there's just no need!

However, we still all had a really nice time swimming and sitting in the jacuzzi. Here we are having lunch

There is, from left to right, my mum, my grandma, Neil, me (suffering from a horrible throat infection and feeling ropey), Lee, Peter, Beth, Rob, and my aunt Caroline. The lunch was nice - I was finding it difficult to eat due to aforementioned throat infection!

In the evening we went to Mezzaluna in Mapplewell, not far from where we live in Barnsley. It's rated as the second best restaurant in Barnsley on TripAdvisor so we gave it a go. I have to say - I was impressed. It's very funky inside, the food was delicious, the portions were huge, the cocktails were yummy, and the staff were kind and friendly. Rob and I shared some mussels (I can't eat a whole portion) and they tasted really fresh and good. I had salmon and prawn linguine for my main course and it was rich and creamy. I don't think anyone disliked their food, which to say there were twelve of us is pretty good going! I'll definitely go back there another time. 

Here's Neil and Rob drinking some of those yummy cocktails:

The wall had photos of Italian American actors - I'm a bit partial to Al Pacino so got my stepdad to take these photos!

Here we all are at the table, taken by my stepdad too. We were slightly squashed on to three tables but given how busy the restaurant was it seemed fair enough. 

Here's Lee and I. I was wearing a cardigan but it was so hot!

We didn't have dessert in Mezzaluna because Beth had made cakes for Neil and Rob, so instead everyone came back to ours to eat them there. 

Neil is a Scout leader so she made this:

Rob likes BB-8 and Star Wars so she made this! Isn't is fantastic?

All in all, it was a really good day - I just wish I'd not been so ill!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Birthday day out in York!

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do for my birthday this year. Last year I went out with Chloe and Lolly during the day and then for a meal in the evening, so I wanted Lee to have the day off with me this year. Sam had a couple of days holiday left to use before the end of January so I invited her along, and then I thought we would go to York and meet our friend Jac (who lives there) when she'd finished work.

We went to the Castle Museum, which I've been to before but it was about fifteen years ago and I only remembered the Victorian street. It's a really big museum - it's £10 entry but we spent two and a half hours there and could have been there longer! One of the parts of the museum - the mill - wasn't open, which was a shame as I like a mill! We all felt it was worth the entry fee.

Here's a bunch of pictures I took!

The first part of the museum is dedicated to toys, and I really liked this carousel

Sam sat on a throne in the castle area

The next part of the museum is all about fashion, so I made Sam dress up - firstly as a regency lady

And then as a soldier - very dashing

This funky fake x-ray was in the fashion bit too - I really liked it!

This was too - we were invited to write about how we felt about our bodies and tie the tag to this. I like community art like this

Since it was my birthday, it was also Dolly Parton's birthday! She turned 71 on the 19th of January. We also share our birthday with Janis Joplin, Edgar Allen Poe, and Paul Cezanne

The next part of the museum is the Victorian street. In the chocolate bit (York has a rich chocolate history - when I lived near the Nestle factory in 2004/2005, the air always smelt like Chunky Kitkats) was this cool sign

And this stunning carriage

And here's proof that Lee was here with us!

Fabric in the haberdashers

Me and a (fake) horse and cart. The street goes to night and dawn and day again, it's pretty cool!

Here's Sam in the doorway of the grocer 

And then locked up in jail

I love retro signs like this - I think I have this one on a postcard somewhere

The next part of the museum is all about the First World War, I guess because it's the centenary. There was a whole room about peace and conscientious objectors which was really interesting

And then there was a room where you could sit and reflect, and could write on the blackboard walls. I wrote this, from Wilfred Owen's poem

Outside Sam ended up in the stocks and there was also a gallows, but we definitely did not go on that

The next part of the museum was all about the sixties. I love Lambrettas! 

There's also a jail part, but we didn't stay long in there. Like I said, I would really recommend the museum though if you're even in York.

We went for a wander round the shops - Lee wanted to go to a record shop and we looked in a few bookshops, and by then it was 4pm so we went into Evil Eye for cocktails. I have been going there ever since I was at uni in 2002! 

Here's Sam with her Constantine cocktail, which is fruity and tastes like Skittles

Jacqui came to meet us and then at 5.15ish we walked along to Jamie's Italian. I really like the food in there and I'd signed up for one of the gold cards using the app, meaning that we got a free bottle of Prosecco and a free brownie for me since it was my birthday! Definitely worth doing if you're going. 

I had a Tiramisu cocktail with dessert

And here's my brownie with a cute birthday message...

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reflections at 33

I turned 33 last month. In fact I'm writing this the day after my birthday, which I spent in York and which I'll blog about in a second. My friend Gillian found this photo of us from our college leavers' ball in the summer of 2002. I just looked at it for a while, because I remember being so miserable that day. Lee couldn't go to the ball with me because it was only for students of my 6th form, and I didn't love my dress. My mum made it for me - the bottom of the skirt had elephants on it! Totally gorgeous. The fabric came from Bombay Stores in Bradford which is one of my favourite places on earth, and although I liked the dress I didn't LOVE it.

Our friend Michelle couldn't go to the ball as she hadn't got a ticket in time, and I just didn't have that great of a night. I'm just not the type of person who likes that kind of thing. And that's fine! We don't all like the same stuff. I wasn't really happy in myself at that age. I'd had a lot going on throughout my childhood and my teen years, and I was really self-conscious and quite unhappy.

And while I don't want to make out like there's been some magnificent transformation over the past fifteen years which means that I'm no longer ever sad or anxious or depressed, I am a lot happier in myself now. I have the strength of my convictions and am more or less content with my life and myself right now.

This photo was taken on my 18th birthday, six months before the photo above which is bonkers because I look a lot older here. We had a joint birthday/engagement party and it was lovely. Lee looks so young here but I swear he was 19 and a half! I loved my outfit this night - a purple top and skirt and some black strappy shoes even though it was January. I recently went through all my shoes and I still have them in a box and would never get rid of them even though I'd never wear them anymore either! 

But, fifteen years later here I am, still smiling, much stronger and still in love with Lee. He's the best; I'm so glad we've grown up together. 

33 suits me just fine so far, I think. I'm improving with age!