Home is were the dog is – perfect gift for the dog lover in your life! A4 size print to fit any standard frame, printed on 350gsm semi gloss paper. Frame not included.
We are now halfway through the year and I am a bit behind with my reading target. So far I have read 17 books and need to get to 45! I am free at the moment as I have finished university and am not getting much response from my job applications (I do have an interview on 10th July so fingers crossed) so as the weather is so nice I have been in the garden reading and hope to get a few more days where I can relax and enjoy the summer.
I have a mix of books in my pile and on my kindle this month, some light-hearted, a couple of thrillers and a self help book.
The queen and I – This is a bit of a satire where the queen and the rest of her fam are banished from their royal residence and sent to live on a housing estate in the Midlands when the republicans come into power. I am a fan of the Royals and love the idea of them living amongst us normal people so looking forward to seeing how they cope without the luxuries they are used to.
The lost swimmer – Rebecca is accused of a crime and suspects her husband Steven of having an affair so in an attempt to put their lives back together they go travelling. When Steven goes missing after taking a swim off the Amalfi coast, fresh allegations are made against Rebecca but will she be able to uncover the deceit that has followed her? I find thrillers the easiest to read because I am always so eager to see what happens, I like the sound of this one!
The House of Elliot – Two very different sisters fight to assert themselves in the fashion industry by setting up their own fashion house to rival those in Paris. This story follows the strengths and anguishes that accompany the rise of the House of Elliot. Not my usual type of book but I got it when I bought a set of summer reads and it has been on my shelf for a few years so thought it was time I got round to reading it.
The chocolate lovers diet – The chocolate lovers club is a group of women all going through problems in the love lives and who better to turn to than each other? I imagine this will be a typical summer romance novel which you have to read a couple of over the summer holidays, only problem is I suspect I will want to eat chocolate every time I pick it up!
On my Kindle I have The Note which has been on there a while. An unforgettable romance based on the authors true story of how a little note can change everything…sounds intriguing! I am already half way through Into the darkest corner and have found it really gripping, I actually look forward to having a spare 10 minutes so I can get a few pages in. It jumps between Catherine’s chilling past and how she is coping with it in the present. Think Small is a simple and accessible plan for success based on seven scientifically tested steps. I will let you know if it works when I reach those big goals after reading it.
From my last reading pile I recommend In a cottage in a wood, it is quite creepy but I feel that the main character is relatable and you feel endeared to her. The storyline is interesting and you feel like you want to really analyse all the characters to see what they’re hiding. The Secret child was also a good read. Although a true story of a 1950s Dublin child, it reads like a novel and occasionally jumps between the past and present as the author takes a trip back to his childhood home.
What will you be reading over the summer?
The Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Manchester is part of the Emirates Cricket stadium in Old Trafford and overlooks the grounds. I am not a cricket fan at all and in fact I have been a Manchester United football fan for most of my life but when looking for a hotel to stay at on our recent trip to Manchester I felt quite drawn to the Hilton Garden Inn.
The hotel has 150 modern rooms and many overlook the cricket ground so you can watch the game from the comfort of your own private balcony. We didn’t book a pitch side room as seeing the cricket wasn’t really a priority but we were given complimentary tickets so that we could go into the stadium and watch the cricket at any time during our stay which I thought was a nice touch.
The hotel reception is quite small but has this lovely seating area. We were checked in quickly and took the lift up to our room. I was pretty sure I booked a double room and not a twin so was surprised to see two beds when I entered the room, we did call down to reception to see if we could change but unfortunately they were fully booked up.
The room was neutrally decorated with Manchester landmark prints adorning the walls. It was clean and comfortable but a bit of a tight squeeze, much as what you would expect from a Hotel chain. The bedside table had a little alarm clock which I thought was a handy addition if you need to get up at a certain time but I woke up in the middle of the night and was nearly blinded by how bright the clock face was. The bathroom was decorated in large grey tiles and looked very swanky, it didn’t have a bath but a rather large walk in shower.
As we had the complimentary tickets we thought we would check out the grounds and see if a match was on before we left. It was a really hot day and although there was a match playing, they were in the middle of a break so we just did some people watching while sitting in the sun before retreating to the bar to cool off.
The restaurant/lounge area is next to the reception and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as just a relaxing area next to the bar for drinks. We didn’t use the restaurant as we already had plans to eat out in the city centre at The Hard Rock café and at the Kashmir 1887, which is a lovely Indian restaurant local to the hotel.
The hotel is a great location for getting around Manchester as it is right next to the Old Trafford tram stop. It is a short walk to the football ground and about a twenty minute walk to Salford Quays which is home to a lovely waterfront and many other attractions. including the Imperial War Museum North and Media city.
We had a very pleasant stay at The Hilton Garden inn and would love to try out their other branches, maybe Singapore, Dubai or Hawaii next time?!
If you follow me on social media, you may have seen me share lots of info about Free Range. If you don’t follow me and have never heard of it then let me explain…
It has nothing to do with chickens or eggs!
Free Range is an annual show held at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick lane in East London to celebrate the graduate work of creatives across the country. A culmination of fashion, illustration, graphic design, photography, fine art, interior design and architecture are all exhibited in the season of art.
I am happy to share my thoughts and opinions on all the places I visit but I am a bit biased about Free Range as the work of myself and my fellow class mates is currently on show.
Shows are split up across the month as follows:
- Design Week 15 – 18 June
- Photography Week One 22 – 25 June
- Photography Week Two 29 June – 02 July
- Art Week 06 – 09 July
- Interior Design & Architecture Week 13 – 16 July
If you want to catch my work along with 13 other universities it is showing until Monday 25th. For my final work, I created two images that I took in Amsterdam, one at Keukenhof gardens and the other at Royal Holland flower auction I also added a book entitled A Floral Perspective. These were used for grading at our university gallery but right before the Free Range show I decided to print out a set of photos from the book, at the last minute the curation team thought it would be better to just use these in the exhibition.
Work from a few other students at London South Bank
As you can see not all the work is just photographs on the wall, there are installations, video, projections and wall hangings. Throughout all the university shows there were lots of innovative ways of shooting and displaying work. I didn’t actually get to see all the shows but I will be going back before it closes so may get to see some more.
Work from students at other universities
A few of the shows I saw included Middlesex university, Blackpool and the Flyde College, Birmingham City University, University of Westminster and Canterbury Christ University.
The Truman Brewery is spacious, bright and airy so even when it was really busy on the opening evening, it didn’t feel too overcrowded. It is a large space spread over 3 floors so you may not get to see everything during one visit but there is a free programme you can pick up to see all the exhibitors at a glance and choose who you want to visit.
All the work on show is years in the making. If you do manage to see the show and admire a particular piece then be sure to let the artist know, follow them on social media or share it with your friends, it is not easy trying to make it in the creative industry and every bit of encouragement is welcome!
While in Manchester we noticed that the Imperial War Museum was not too far from our hotel so decided to take a trip down by the river and pay it a visit while also getting a chance to explore the quays.
The imperial war museum north is the newest of five branches and was open in 2002. It has very impressive, modern architecture but doesn’t have the stunning entrance of it’s London Counterpart.
As you enter the museum there is a large seating area, shop and café where you can get a bite to eat or just relax after walking around.
The main exhibition space is upstairs and although everything is in one large space, it is split into mini exhibitions and goes through a timeline of conflicts in Britain and the commonwealth.
As well as life sized vehicles on the floor and hanging from the ceiling, the space is filled with memorabilia from the time, including posters, letters, clothes and weapons. There are also hands on activities designed specifically for kids. I really liked the idea of the trench stenches, although I wasn’t quite daring enough to have a sniff myself!
Although there are little videos you can watch in different rooms, every hour there is an audio-visual cinematic display that takes over the whole space. It is a real immersive experience and you can either sit and watch it on the benches around the middle of the space or continue walking around while taking it in.
I find these performances really interesting as they are like watching documentaries and include recounts and stories of people that were around during that time in history. Each show is different so you don’t have to worry that you are listening to the same thing if you are still around when the next film starts.
I really liked the Imperial War Museum North, although it is nowhere near as big as the London Imperial War Museum, I actually like that I was able to take it all in within a couple of hours rather than choosing certain sections to visit. There was also a really good exhibition in an adjacent room about the conflict in Syria but I think this is now finished and will be replaced in July with a different show.
The Imperial War Museum North is free to visit and it is situated in a lovely space around Salford Quays, about a 15 minute walk from Old Trafford football stadium.
The Royal Oak is a typical country pub set on the outskirts of London in Orpington, still accessible with the Oyster card but definitely a feeling of being away from the big smoke.
The pub is described as ‘oozing rural charm and rustic character’ and I have to agree. We visited on a weekday evening and the restaurant was really busy with a relaxed cosy atmosphere. The mix of wooden and leather furniture and range of wall hangings all add to the traditional character and give it a very homely feeling. Although the restaurant is really large, the space is divided into different sections so it feels like you are in a smaller, more intimate setting.
On arrival we were shown to a small table for two in the window which was nice, although it only overlooked the entrance to the carpark so not much of a view. The staff were really friendly and chatty and we didn’t have to wait very long for our order to be taken.
The menu has a wide range of dishes. Starters include duo of pate, chargrilled lamb koftas and the soup of the day. The mains range from pizzas, steaks and burgers to seafood risotto and seared sea bass. There are lots of desserts including classics like Eton mess and sticky toffee pudding. Many of the dishes are also included in the set price menu where you can choose two dishes for £14.95 or three dishes for £18.95.
For starters we thought we would go back to the 70’s with the prawn cocktail, although it sounded a bit more upmarket as it was called a prawn and lobster cocktail served with a lobster mayonnaise and rustic bread!
For the mains, I went for Hunters chicken which is a large chargrilled chicken breast topped with smoked cheddar and streaky bacon, served with triple cooked chips and barbeque sauce. This dish also has a tasty accompaniment of Portobello mushrooms in a smoky tomato sauce which I didn’t think the dish actually needed as it had salad but was an added bonus.
The Mr went for the big 8oz steak which is expertly aged for a firm texture and rich flavour. Served with triple cooked chips, homemade onion rings and a thyme-roasted tomato, you can also choose whichever sauce you would like and he went for the peppercorn. I don’t think the picture actually does the steak justice, it was huge and the man was very impressed, he is even still gushing about it now and he is usually quite critical when it comes to food! If you do order a dish with chips you are asked if you would like them thick or thin cut which is a nice touch as many people do have a preference.
After the meal we were both pretty full but there is an option on the dessert menu to get a smaller size dessert with a hot drink so I thought I would go for this. I chose the chocolate brownie and ice cream which was really delicious, unfortunately it was still too much for me to finish but I gave it a good try.
When we arrived at The Royal oak on a sunny day it was bustling with people, particularly outside, but by the time we were leaving it was fairly quiet with most of the customers in the bar area. We thoroughly enjoyed the meal and would definitely return if we happen to be passing.
It seems like the perfect place to while away a summers afternoon, indulging in a Sunday roast or even just grabbing a cold one to sit in the beer garden. We did ask if there were any cocktails available but they are more of a cask ale, craft beer and G+T supplier. They have a large offering of all sorts of Gin and Tonic in different flavours and even have an event at the end of the month ‘Come GIN with me’ where you can see what new gins have joined the menu. Other special days include a Fizz Friday and a Pie Wednesday.
If The Royal Oak looks like your type of hangout then check the website for menus, openings and to book a table.
*we were invited to The Royal Oak to try out the menu, all thoughts and opinions are my own
Last month I took a trip to Manchester to attend the BlogOnX blogging conference and after being a Man United fan for the best part of 30 years the trip was long overdue. I didn’t manage to catch a game while there but I was right next door in the plush Hotel Football having a blast with lots of other lovely bloggers.
During the trip we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel down the road from the stadium and decided to make a weekend of it as it was a bank holiday. With our train booked for Monday evening we decided to explore the local area before making our way back to the station.
After passing the iconic Old Trafford and the canal that runs down the side of it we made our way towards the Salford Quays as we noticed that the Imperial War Museum North was situated next to the river.
When we reached the quays it reminded me a bit of the docklands in London with it’s swanky riverside apartments and lots of glass buildings. The Salford Quays are home to Media city UK, the Lowry shopping mall and a number of other attractions and restaurants.
We thought it was rather quiet for such a glorious day by the river but after crossing the bridge we realised everyone was on the other side enjoying the sunshine and their lunch on the lush green and taking a dip in a part of the river that had been sectioned off for swimmers.
If I hadn’t been staying nearby I probably wouldn’t have thought to visit this part of the city and would have looked for attractions in the centre of town, but I’m glad I did as it was a lovely relaxing weekend without all the hustle and bustle of the crowds.
Whenever I’m meeting friends for lunch or a night out we always seem to end up somewhere around Clapham Common. Not just because it is familiar to us (we all used to work together on the High St) but because it is filled with so many bars and eateries to choose from.
My first port of call when looking for a restaurant is my Tastecard, I mean half priced lunch always tastes better than full price doesn’t it? I noticed the Jam Tree on the list and had never tried it before so booked a table.
The Jam Tree is situated off the high street in Clapham old town. We booked for the afternoon on a weekday and I was surprised on turning up that we were actually the only people there. There were three of us and my friends gorgeous baby and we had such a lovely catch up without feeling that we had to rush in case someone else wanted the table, and nobody to judge me taking photos of my food!
The restaurant itself is really large and although it was empty, I imagine at weekends and in the evenings it is bustling with people as most places in Clapham are. As well as dining tables there is also comfy seating areas and even sofas with shelves full of board games so I’m sure some people spend a few hours chilling out with their mates in the evening in a relaxed atmosphere. Apparently there is also an enchanted garden out the back but it was pouring with rain when we visited so didn’t get a chance to look out there.
The menu consists of 5 starters and 12 main courses that range from sausage and mash to meat and two veg. We went for the crispy chicken burger, the double bacon cheese burger and mamas fried chicken. We were very tempted by the cocktails but stuck with the soft drinks as it was a bit early and we didn’t want to be a bad influence on the baby!
The chicken burger was flavoured with a roast garlic and herb mayonnaise and red onion marmalade giving it a nice sweet taste and I was quite pleased with the portion size of the fries (although I don’t think my waistline agrees) I am usually a bit of a glutton and try out the desserts but I was quite satisfied after my lunch and gave the sweet treats a miss.
After service charge was added, the bill came in at under £40 with the Tastecard discount which we thought was very reasonable for a lovely afternoon. I’m quite intrigued to experience lunch in their enchanted garden and have yet to give their cocktails and dessert a try so may well be back at some point over summer!
During our recent trip to Amsterdam, we chose to stay in the Crowne Plaza hotel which is situated quite close to Schiphol airport. We took advantage of the free shuttle bus service to the hotel rather than try to walk as the roads were really busy.
On arrival we had a bit of a wait in the lobby as there were a few people in front of us and although we had already paid before arrival we were asked to pay a city tax charge which came to around €8.00.
The hotel room had the usual layout of a bedroom and bathroom, neutral décor in a brown and red colour palette and all the amenities we needed, including a comfy chair complete with some tourist magazines and a foot rest and a desk which I had no intention of sitting at. Although there were big windows, there wasn’t much of a view. We overlooked the car park and were mostly surrounded by roads but being five floors up it was probably better than some.
I do like when they leave something a little personal and on top of the huge bed (which we were most impressed with) was a little bottle of lavender sleep spray. There was also a huge dressing gown, but only one which was weird as there was two of us booked in the room!
The TV showed all the channels so we didn’t miss any of the soaps when we got back after a day of exploring, and tea, coffee and hot chocolate was available, although I’m not really a fan of those tiny milk pots and tend to use them all in one cup.
The bathroom was pretty basic with a bath rather than a walk in shower but had everything we needed and was clean and fresh.
There was a restaurant situated just off the lobby and room service available 24 hours but we found it to be quite expensive. On the first night after a busy day visiting Keukenhof gardens we were too tired to go out looking for food so chose to order a takeaway, which the hotel didn’t seem to have a problem with.
The following morning we went to the Royalflora auction in Aalsmeer and the staff were really helpful in giving us directions, although during our stay there were some bus strikes going on so we chose to book an Uber so we didn’t end up stranded in an unfamiliar city.
We didn’t actually spend much time in the hotel but there is a fitness and wellness centre and a shop to pick up all those souvenirs you forgot on your travels.
It was a comfortable stay, nothing quirky or particularly special but all that we would expect from a large hotel group.