#AwesomeAugust

Hello August copy

Pinch punch first of the month and all that!

I planned to post about August as it is a month of many things for me. But after seeing the above image on my friend, Jen’s Twitter and a post on Gemsmaquillage about #AwesomeAugust it prompted me to pull my finger out and get this written!

So it’s August! How exciting!

I mean that without the sarcasm, I am truly excited about it being August for many reasons…. the first of which being I turn 30 this month! I have been a little daunted by the prospect of this milestone, but to be honest I actually can’t wait! This year so far has been pretty amazing for me and has brought a number of positive changes!

I may be about to turn 30 but I feel and look so much better than I did when I was 20 (well I think so anyway) feel free to disagree ūüôā

My 20’s were also pretty hard, being 20 / turning 21 was a pretty crap time. I was pregnant with the baby we lost, I was at my heaviest and it was generally a very, very dark time for me which pretty much continued throughout that decade. To think you failed so many people as well as your own child is a lot to bear and there were many times when it almost was. I managed to survive through it… just! And I now have two amazing girls who I couldn’t be more proud of, they really have made each day worth living even when they tell me to ‘go away’ and close their bedroom door! Yep, my 2 year old did this! So in a way I am glad to see the back of my 20s!

It is also my younger sister’s birthday too – so an advance Happy Birthday for Monday!

I also get the results of my CAM Diploma in Marketing Communications this month too. This has been a huge drain on me over the last 3 years but I have managed to achieve grades varying from A-C whilst holding down a full-time demanding job, two young children and a husband! All I need is a C or above on my final assignment and my Diploma is complete and will be a huge weight off my shoulders.

We are also going on our first two week holiday in 4 years! I honestly can’t wait, two weeks in the sunshine (or rather the shade – we are heading to Egypt!) which is the perfect opportunity to have some uninterrupted quality time with my family. I definitely need more regular holidays and mini breaks. In fact I was meant to have a girly holiday for my 30th but this year has been pretty hectic so that is being pushed into next year… it is happening! Miami anyone?

My husband and I will also be celebrating our 7 year wedding anniversary and at the same time our 13 year anniversary from the day we met. We’ve had some tough times and a few knocks along the way, but I feel that as I turn 30 and due to the positive changes I have inflicted upon myself that we will move forward stronger, happier and enjoying life a lot more! In fact I recently dedicated P!nks latest song True Love to him because it pretty much describes our relationship. I love you! Sorry I’m such a pain! And just to add he is pretty amazing, it’s me that’s the hard work! I’m very lucky to have not only a wonderful husband but an amazing friend, dad for my children and someone who has a little OCD when it comes to cleaning!

Although it looks unlikely that I am going to meet my target weight loss before I hit 30 (I set this back in January) I am really happy with the progress so far and have altered my goals along the weight to be much more than weight loss. I am pretty impressed with the progress I have made, rather than being just skinnier I feel to have toned up and although I actually put a couple of pounds on recently I know this is down to increased muscle mass. I’ve been working harder since the schools broke up as my eldest daughter is either at family or holiday clubs which means I can hit the gym early after dropping my youngest daughter off at nursery which is usually around 7.30am!

I will also be starting personal training once I am back from my holiday so that should really sort out those areas I want to get sorted! Scary, but exciting stuff!

Finally, we are undertaking a major house renovation! We have a fabulous spacious house with an open plan kitchen, dining and sun lounge which opens out onto a large garden. However as we have a decent amount of land to the side of the house we have decided to double the size of the dining / sun lounge area, install bi-fold doors, make the patio larger and level off the garden and replace the kitchen. Work is underway, the house currently represents a bomb site but it is going to look awesome once complete… maybe not by the end of August as we want it to be perfect but it should be in perfect order by Christmas at the latest! House Party anyone?!

Here are some pictures of the work done so far! I can’t wait to share with you the finished renovation!

House RenovationsHouse Renovations 2So what are you doing to have an #AwesomeAugust?

If you fancy having an #AwesomeAugust too then why not enter my competition to win a BRITA Marella Filter Jug?

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Schmoozing with the stars… Leigh Francis

This week I was in Dublin for work, somewhere I regularly visit as the company I work for is based there.

We stay in an absolutely gorgeous country house hotel, however its rare that I get to visit and the sun is shining so it was lovely, when work was done, to be able to sit outside and relax.

On the first evening I met with a friend of mine who I met a number of years ago via an online baby loss forum and who coincidentally also lives in the same location as the hotel. We had a lovely time catching up and having a gossip.

On the second evening we had a¬†BBQ, nothing major, quite reserved and relaxed. However, we found out that Leigh Francis (aka Keith Lemon was also staying in the same hotel). Now I’m not usually one for stalking celebrities, but with Leigh being an absolutely amazing Yorkshire bloke I really¬†did have to¬†get a picture with him.

We spotted him fairly late on heading to bed after a day of filming ‘Through The Keyhole’, probably pissed off with being harassed constantly for pictures, but he was very much obliging and smiled away so the boss and I managed to get a little snap!

Thankfully I had actually made a little bit of an effort ūüôā

Thanks Leigh!

Leigh Francis

Spa Weekend at Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa

At the weekend I treated my husband to a spa stay as it was his birthday on Wednesday. Having two young children we don’t often get the chance to unwind but with the eldest one at her first brownie camp we took the opportunity for one of the grandparents to have some quality one to one time with the youngest.

After a week of pretty much zero sleep owing to the youngest having croup, we were very much looking forward to a relaxing break.

After a relatively short drive (45 minutes) we arrived at our destination, the Mercure Blackburn Dunkenhalgh Hotel and Spa having booked the Spa Reviver Package with a room upgrade for £184.50. This package included a 3 course evening dinner, overnight stay with breakfast, access to the gym, pool and spa facilities along with £70 to be used against spa treatments! A complete bargain!

As soon as we checked in we visited the gym keen to work off some calories before consuming some additional ones that evening. We spent an hour and a half in the gym using the various equipment. Overall, it was a nice little gym with plenty of equipment.

We then decided to go for a swim and use the spa facilities which included a thermal suite with 6 different rooms. My favourite was the steam room! Unfortunately all the loungers around the pool were taken so we sat in the spa café area and I read a magazine whilst the hubby watched the F1 qualifying.

Sunday we were booked in for treatments. I opted for a Foot Rejuvenation package as my feet were in need of some TLC as I start to bare them in sandals followed by a Firm and Tone which focused on the bust, stomach and thigh area.

I had almost two hours of complete bliss and Rebecca who did my treatments was amazing and extremely knowledegable. I have had an issue with one of the toenails for a good few years now and after mentioning it whilst having previous pedicures no one has known what it is (basically the nail bed lifting). Rebecca was studying Podiatry at Huddersfield University (which¬†funnily enough is where I am from) and¬†she identified trauma to the nail area as the reason for the issue (which most likely happened whilst clubbing in Visage many moons ago) explaining that surgery would most likely be my only option (it’s nothing major, more a cosmetic thing that really I only notice), but did indicate that I could visit the Podiatry clinic at Huddersfield Uni where they could keep it in good shape to ensure I don’t have to go down that route – so that is definitely something I will be looking into!

The husband opted for a Indian Head and Back Massage and whilst waiting for his treatments to finish I actually had the opportunity to read a magazine. Following which we sat in the sun with a drink before heading home to see our girls to hear tales of the brownie camp and to find that the youngest has managed to chip off half of one of her front teeth!

Dunkenhalgh Hotel is set on a beautiful estate and almost resembles a castle with turrets on the outside of the building. Unfortunately, our room didn’t live up to the upgrade and smelt damp upon entry and looked a little bland. We thought that it was perhaps just the bathroom that had the odour but it looked as though the shower had at some point leaked into the bedroom and left it with a damp carpet. We didn’t make a complaint when we first entered our room as there were two weddings on and we didn’t want to be moved to a room nearer the noise as we were in desperate need of sleep. Turns out one the wedding guests set off the fire alarm in the main hotel at 3am in the morning, so I think I would have quite literally killed them had I have been awoken by it! So it was probably a good job we put up with the dampness for one night!

The service in the restaurant was also extremely slow although I have to say the food was absolutely amazing. The Roast Chicken dish was first class!¬†Perhaps they couldn’t cope with the demands of two weddings plus additional guests to feed? If so, this is something that sorely needs to be addressed otherwise they will start to lose business in the quieter (non wedding)¬†months.

Sunday morning as we had our treatments booked for 11am and check out time coincided we decided to take our bags to the car en route to the restaurant and then check out after breakfast. My husband wore very smart shorts – chino style – but was informed that he could not eat in the restaurant! The only sign stipulating this was within the restaurant which left us embarrassed as we were turned away, however we couldn’t exactly go back to the car to unpack just for the sake of half an hour so they allowed us to have breakfast in the bar area. The lack of information regarding dress code was quite obvious as a number of other male guests also turned up in shorts (one 3/4 length almost touching his ankles)¬†only to be turned away which made for a rather chaotic morning which made the service (once again) rather slow! We appreciate the dress code in an evening, but when you are pushed for time in a morning the last thing you want to be doing is taking a change of clothing or having to go back to your room to change, especially if you room is quite a walk from the restaurant as was ours.

I’m not usually one to complain but the breakfast topped off the issues so I was determined to at least have my upgrade cost refunded. The Duty Manager was courteous and ensured this was taken off immediately and took our comments on board so I am hoping that these issues get resolved as it would be a shame for the venue to go into difficulties. Thankfully though the spa session on the Sunday made up for the issues with the hotel itself.

Verdict – I would probably go back for a spa day, but unlikely to stay over until I am confident that the issues I identified above are resolved OR they had an even more amazing deal on offer where I could turn a blind eye.

The Windy City… a few days in Chicago

Last week I was in Chicago for work (hence the quietness of my blog). I have been once before and I just feel so at home in Chicago. If I had the opportunity to live overseas Chicago would be one of my top choices. I love the mix of the city life, but with the relaxed beach lifestyle plus every time I have been the sun has been shining and it just makes downtown Chicago glisten, from the lake to the river to the skyscrapers, it really is beautiful.

Obviously I was there for work but I did have a day to myself and a couple of evenings to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer.

The day after I arrived I woke up stupidly early but was woken by an amazing sunrise so I can’t really complain, therefore I took the opportunity to hit the gym! I had promised the guys at my gym that I would visit at least once and I’m proud to report I actually went twice! I was staying at the Swissotel¬†where the gym is on the 42nd floor, as the Swissotel is triangular you get various views of the city whilst using different parts of the gym. My favourite views were watching the boats on Lake Michigan whilst I was pounding the treadmill!

After the workout I had a fabulous room service breakfast of pancakes with a gorgeous Lemon, Kale, Ginger & Apple Juice drink (I need to replicate this at home! So refreshing!) before heading to the conference venue to get our exhibition stand set up. As a company we travel pretty light so after 30 minutes I was able to head off and sample the sights of Chicago.

As I had done a fair amount last year, this year I wanted to see ‘The Bean’ and take a stroll along Navy Pier along with a little shopping. It was a beautiful sunny but cold day in Chicago.¬†Millennium Park wasn’t too far a walk from where I was staying so I slowly made my way down. As I was getting closer to Millennium Park there was lots of ladies around wearing pink and carrying roses. It was Mother’s Day in the US and there had been a race on for Cancer Research, there seemed to be a lot of love around and I felt it was very poignant that Mother’s Day was chosen as the day to hold this. On arrival at Millenium Park I was amazed at just how vast but perfectly beautiful this park is. It is so green and clean but is right in the middle of a city, a really beautiful area of tranquillity! With the clear blue skies The Bean looked glorious – my kids would have loved it! It’s amazing how an unusual piece of artwork can really capture your imagination!

After spending some time exploring the park I did a little bit of shopping and visited Protein Bar for some lunch. I had posted in MyFitnessPal¬†for some suggestions of where to eat healthy in Chicago and this place came out tops! It didn’t disappoint, but I feel that the portions could have been a little smaller as I struggled to finish my Guac-a-roll! Portion size I think is a big issue, honestly guys we wouldn’t take offence if you served us something a little smaller!

So after this, I dropped my bags back at the hotel and then got a cab down to Navy Pier –¬†¬†mid afternoon it was freezing! Especially by the Lake! Navy Pier didn’t really do much for me, but I was on my own. It would have perhaps been more enjoyable with my family and a bit of warmth. I did consider doing a river tour but I was just so cold by this point that I chickened out! After over 4 hours of walking around I decided to head back to the hotel for some downtime before colleagues arrived.

Monday was the start of the conference, but we managed to fit in some visits to a couple of cool places in the evening. Firstly House of Blues cutely nestled underneath two very strange high rises, this is an amazing venue and a must do if you ever visit Chicago! The room is dark, but cosy, with a real ‘blues’ feel. The walls feature some amazing artwork and the ceiling is made of face casts of I am assuming famous blues artists. We had not eaten all day so went in for starters and a main, for me Pulled Pork Sliders (3!) followed by Citrus Chicken. To be honest I was satisfied after the sliders! Towards the end our meal this amazing band came on with a female vocalist. I’m a fan of various types of music (probably a little more on the emo side) but this blew me away. The musicians were exceptionally skilled and it’s a shame that there aren’t more of these bands featured in today’s music lineup.

Tuesday was a long day, but I managed a salad at lunch (again enough for two people!) but it’s a good job I did as it was almost 10pm before we got dinner. After researching I found out about a place called Girl and the Goat¬†the menu looks a little strange but don’t let that put you off. The dishes are relatively small so perfect for ordering a few to share amongst yourselves. We had a selection of Oysters, Halibut, Charred Pork Belly, Chicken and a few other dishes. The Oysters were amazing, in fact all the food was and if I was ever in Chicago again I would definitely stop by here (although I would make a reservation next time! You need a reservation if you want to eat at a decent hour!) They also know how to make a decent vodka, lime, lemonade too which everywhere else just seems to struggle with, adding far too much vodka! After this we were recommended a place called Kingston Mines to carry on our evening. If you like drink and good blues music this is another venue you need to add to your list!

En route, I really did wonder where the cab driver was taking us, it seemed like quite a drive from where we were and soon we appeared to be in the suburbs of Chicago. From the outside it doesn’t look like a club but upon entering I can see where ‘Mines’ came from. You really do feel as though you have stepped underground. A band called Vance Kelly was on, he is one amazing guitarist and his vocals were something else! Again, why is this music not in the charts. Again this place knows how to make a drink which is always a bonus. Not only that but it is open until 4am – every night of the week! A really fun and enjoyable place! So after heading back to the hotel, getting two hours sleep I was up and ready for the final day of the conference before heading home. Thankfully it was a night flight so I managed to get some sleep!

On arriving home and waiting a day I decided to see what the scales had to say….. 1lb lost!!! How I have no idea after the food consumption, but hopefully the two visits to the gym, a swim and plenty of walking helped counteract the bad foods I ate. So looking forward to getting back into a routine of healthy eating and exercising!

Apologies for the long post – back to shorter next time!

Chicago