Lisa | That British Betty Blog

A Manchester lifestyle blog by Lisa Valentine. Featuring food, travel, vintage fashion and general ramblings.

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Nostalgic Nights In

Nostalgic Nights In When the weather gets cooler, I habitually turn into a bit of a hamster and hibernate as much as I can. Well, on weekends at least. Not sure the boss would be happy with me rocking up in my pyjamas and slippers on a Monday morning but I’m happy to test the waters with that one.

Growing up, one of my favourite things to do was play computer games; a hobby that happily goes hand in hand with the colder nights. Having a dad who was – and still is –  big into his consoles is what initially introduced me to this glorious pastime and a genuine love of gaming was quickly born.

The early nineties was a much simpler time (I know, that makes me sound about 86 years old. ‘Back in my day…’). The internet was in its infancy and reserved for the elite, there was no such thing as social media and ten-year-old Lisa was way more interested in the Commodore 64 than boys. What else was a girl to do but spend her weekends being a bad-ass hero in Streets of Rage, eh?

I spent my time challenging my younger sister to a cheeky game of Golden Axe and wasting a good day or two trying to boss Dr Robotnik. We’d get cosy in our PJs and eat our entire body weight in Rainbow Drops and Angel Delight.

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Of course, this was all balanced out with trips to Heaton Park, baiting squirrels with monkey nuts and attempting to climb trees, but as the days got darker, I’d point black refuse to leave the house, opting to spend the majority of my weekend firmly indoors where I could stay dry and warm.

My beloved Sega MegaDrive, and later on, the Master System II, always had a special place in my heart. I’ll forever be a Sega nerd through and through and I joke with Adam that I’m not even trying to be a hipster, it just comes naturally (Retro gaming – check. Tattoos – check. Likes cats – check.) Even now, as a fully-fledged adult, anything 8/16-bit related gives me the flutters.

I actually still own a Sega Master System II console but the lead and controller needs replacing and it’s one of those tasks that you never quite seem to get around to, like the bottom of the laundry basket or hoovering your car.

When I spotted this Xbox One Sega Classic game via Studio, I just couldn’t resist taking a trip down memory lane. I rounded up the troops and planned a nostalgic night in. I was curious to see what my own daughters would make of the retro games that I look back on with such fondness.

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We had plenty of snacks prepared, donned our favourite pyjamas and settled in for the night. On a slight side note, since Studio kindly gifted me my very own personalised dressing gown earlier this year, Lucie has sneakily claimed it as her own when I’m not at home, despite it ACTUALLY HAVING MY NAME ON IT! I know this thanks to the tell-tale fake tan stains. Aren’t teenagers ace?

With frequent cries of, ‘Stop touching my stuff!’ and threats of her being grounded flying about, I ordered the girls a personalised dressing gown each to prevent any future nightwear-induced family feuds from occurring. No excuses now!

Anyhow, back to the gaming. It turns out that Alex the Kidd is much, much harder than I remembered. However, one bonus of playing these games on a modern console is not having to blow on the cartridges every hour or so to make them work properly and having the option to save the game is a bit of a lifesaver (if you know, you know).

The girls actually got right into the spirit of it all and we even turned it into a mammoth family competition, with a makeshift scoreboard and everything. We’ve now vowed to make it a regular thing so I’d better get practising and sharpen up my rusty skills!

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Shop the look with Studio. Don’t forget that if you’re a new customer and use the code 089, you’ll get free delivery.

Xbox One: Sega Mega Drive Classics Game – £24.99

Personalised Ladies Supersoft Robe – £9.99

Grey Flannel Throw with Pom Poms – £15.99

Animal Print Snuggle Twosie Pyjamas – £9.99

Grey Fluffy Hooded Top – £9.99

*This post is sponsored by Studio as part of my ambassadorship 

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Peter Jackson the Jeweller Blogger Event | Preston

Peter Jackson the Jeweller Blogger Event | Preston I’m going to let you in on a little secret – many moons ago, I worked as a jeweller. Ok, so it’s not really a secret per se but I do love a dramatic opening every now and again so there you go. I gained my JET qualifications and found myself particularly drawn to the part where we learnt to grade diamonds by clarity, size, colour etc.

Despite a complete career change as the years passed, my fascination with all things jewellery-related is something that never really left me. I made a point of visiting the Diamond Museum in Amsterdam a few years ago, spending hours fawning over the historic pieces on display and absorbing as much information as I could. I take pride in the fact that I can tell you the approximate carat of a diamond by sight.

So why am I telling you this now? Because last Wednesday evening, Megan and I made the dash over to Preston, Lancashire after work for Peter Jackson the Jewellers very first blogger event.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Peter Jackson the Jewellers, they currently have four branches located in Bury, Blackburn, Preston and Carlisle. Trading as an independent family jeweller, they were established way back in 1982 and are still going strong more than 30 years later.

While I’ve made many a trip to the Bury branch myself, I had never visited any of the other stores before so it was nice to have a nosey at the flagship Preston one and get to know the brand a bit better. I was kindly offered the option of bringing a plus one with me so Megan tagged along for the evening. She’d never been to a blogger event before so was rather intrigued about what it would entail.

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When it comes down to jewellery preferences, Megan and I are the polar opposite. I like classic, simple pieces – think solitaire diamonds rings and pearl stud earrings – whereas Meg is very much all about fast fashion and designer costume jewellery. I actually bought her a gorgeous Thomas Sabo necklace and pendant for her 18th birthday, as a little sentimental token to treasure – so of course, she managed to snap the chain the very same day!

Anyhow, let’s get back to the event, shall we? Upon arrival, Megan and I were greeted with a glass of bubbly and ended up chatting to a lovely gentleman. It took a good 15 minutes before I realised that it was only flipping Peter Jackson. You know, the man with an MBE and his name above the door…

In fact, everyone that we spoke to from the Peter Jackson team echoed a similar warmth and sincere passion for their respective roles, not to mention an absolute wealth of knowledge. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how friendly and down to earth the company ethos is, then I really don’t know what will.

Meg had wandered off as I was boring the socks off discussing precious gems with a fellow blogger and I later found her loitering by the Gucci collection. Her eyes lit up as she pointed out numerous items that she’d added to her ‘Lottery Win Wish List’, including these earrings (which, to be fair, would even make a welcome addition to my own collection. Are you listening Santa?).

We then headed over to the cleaning station and I had my engagement ring polished for the first time since I’ve owned it. I’ve had it for almost three years now, however, it was originally made circa 1920 and has been well-loved prior to our engagement .

We also managed to have a quick chat with a few bloggers that I’ve been talking to online for a while now – the brilliant Lydia from What Lyd Did (her Instagram stories are great – you must go and follow her immediately) and Steffany from Oh So Steffany.

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During the evening, we were given free range of the entire store and had permission to try on any items that we fancied. You’d think that I’d be straight on it, like a kid in a candy shop, right? Wrong. I’d misplaced my car parking token on the way in (found it later on in my car, obvs) so really didn’t want to try on the £28k ring that I had my eye on. It’d take me about, oh I don’t know, 54 years to pay back if I did lose/damage it…

We didn’t leave empty handed though. The generous Peter Jackson team had gifted us bloggers a Thomas Sabo bracelet and charm so I decided to give mine to Megan. That’s definitely grounds for getting her to do the housework and cooking for at least a month I reckon (I’d have more chance of casually stumbling across a 4ct diamond in the street than that happening but a parent can dream, eh?).

As a small thank you, she chose to have both of our initials and two interlocking hearts engraved on the Thomas Sabo charm as a nod to our close relationship – I’m not crying, you’re crying.

When I’d read about the engraving station, I had visions of it being hand etched, a la dog tags. It turns out that things have moved on quite a bit since my days as a jeweller and, with the press of a button or two, the personalisation was complete thanks to a fancy machine. Meg has now asked for additional charms for Christmas so it looks like it’s also the start of a lovely bespoke collection for her.

On that note, if you fancy doing a touch of shopping yourself, Peter Jackson has kindly given me a code so that readers can enjoy 15%* off items on their website: TTBETTY18. Alongside the designer items, there are a plethora of budget-friendly pieces too so there really is something for everyone. Happy shopping!

 *on most items, some exclusions apply.

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A big shout out to Bite Club for the delicious food on the night, Jenny Higgins photography for making us look good and of course, the Peter Jackson team for inviting us along and gifting us the Thomas Sabo jewellery. 

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Say hello to…The Comic Vault

Say hello to…The Comic Vault In today’s ‘Say hello to…’, I’d like to introduce you to Jamie from The Comic Vault – in his words, ‘think of it [The Comic Vault] as an online Bat Cave, with none of the technology and none of the secrecy’. Jamie is a Manchester-based short story writer, comic geek and occasional cosplayer, amongst other things. He’s also an extremely talented writer, combines his love of comics with cooking and certainly knows a thing or two about his craft, but don’t just take my word for it…

Jaime from The Comic Vault That British Betty Blog

Hi Jamie! Thanks so much for taking part in ‘Say hello to…’. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Thanks for having me on your blog Lisa! I’m a writer that grew up in the South of Manchester and have always found myself drawn back to the city of my birth. Manchester has a creative energy that I find inspiring. I believe the world is made up of stories, which is why writing is my biggest passion. When I’m not blogging, I enjoy writing fantasy short stories and have a goal of publishing a book series one day.

An obvious love of mine is comics. I write about them on my pop culture website, The Comic Vault. Comics have the power to help people. Superheroes can be role models and I’m eager to promote positive mental health through pop culture. Topics on the website range from underrated characters to independent comic reviews.

Experiencing new cultures is important to me. I was born into a mixed heritage kind of family, so getting to learn about new perspectives is exciting. This takes the form of going to museums and art galleries. Another way to discover culture is through food, so I love trying new dishes.

I write a segment called Comic Kitchen on The Comic Vault that creates a three-course menu around a comic character. This gives me the excuse to try meals I’ve never had before and work with restaurants/bloggers to promote their dishes.

What first sparked your love of comics?

My love of comics goes back to the ‘90s, watching cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man and The X-Men. I remember being in awe of the characters, which led me to discover a lot more when I started reading graphic novels.

The thing I love about comics is how diverse they are. There are so many different characters and their stories are relatable. Superheroes like Spider-Man are down to earth and have the power to inspire people to better themselves.

I believe there’s a lot of potential for comics to promote positive mental health. There are a lot of superheroes who face issues like depression and anxiety. Someone who suffers with their mental health can read about these characters and understand that it’s okay to talk about it. I write a lot about mental health on The Comic Vault, featuring characters that have battled with various disorders.

Who is your all-time favourite comic book character (and why)?

The top spot for favourite character goes to Jason Todd, also known as Red Hood. Jason was the second Robin and he ended up being killed by The Joker. He came back years later as Red Hood, killing criminals if it meant he could save lives. Think of him as DC’s version of The Punisher.

I’m a sucker for characters who live life by their own terms and Red Hood is a great example. His willingness to kill has put him at odds with Batman and that creates an interesting dynamic. Jason’s complexity is brilliant from a writing and fan perspective. He’s a survivor, which I can relate to, having gone through my fair share of issues with social anxiety.

Red Hood also makes for a great cosplay costume! For the past couple of years, I’ve cosplayed him at a few different comic cons and the response has always been positive.

How much time do you spend blogging?

Since starting The Comic Vault I’ve got myself into a schedule of blogging as often as I can. There may be times when I do it every day or take a couple of days to rest and think of new content ideas. It’s safe to say I’m passionate about it! It helps that I’m interested in my subject matter, so blogging doesn’t feel like work for me. As soon as it does, I’ll stop.

Name three people on your ‘Fantasy Dinner Party’ list

Three characters who I’d invite to dinner would be Falcio Val Mond from The Greatcoats series, Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher and Jaime Lannister from A Song Of Ice And Fire. The banter alone would be worth it! All three characters are skilled swordsmen who would compare egos and drink until they got along with each other.

Falcio would make a witty remark about rapiers being the best weapon, Geralt would grunt and Jaime would respond with sarcasm. Falcio, Geralt and Jaime all have a complexity that appeals to me as a writer.

Twitter: @_jamie_ryder_
Instagram: theccmicvault

Thank you Jamie! Why not check out his social media channels above and say hello? If you’d like to take part in ‘Say hello to…’, you can get in touch by emailing Lisa at thatbritishbetty@gmail.com

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Chocolate Orange Bread and Butter Pudding | Recipe

Chocolate Orange Bread and Butter Pudding | Recipe I‘ve always preferred sweet food over savoury. Whilst traditional British food can often leave a lot to be desired, our puddings have always managed to shine. From Victoria Sponges and Lemon Drizzle Cake to Jam Roly Poly and Queens Pudding, they are the perfect Autumnal comfort food for a sweet tooth like me (I have no idea if these particular dishes are actually native to Britain so don’t start @ ing me – just relax and enjoy the recipe).

When I attended the Sunday Club at Bolton Food and Drink Festival last month, I was introduced to Aldi’s ‘Tear and Share’ Chocolate Brioche by Andrew Nutter and, as soon as I tasted it, I was hooked.

The Aldi marketing team deserve a big high five as, the next day, I drove straight to my local store and purchased three of the Tear and Share loaves, alongside a few other bits to create my very own take on bread and butter pudding. I even resisted the Middle Aisle of Stuff so deserve extra adulting points for that one.

This is inspired by a Mary Berry recipe (original one here) and adapted to suit my own taste. You can play around with lots of different flavours so don’t be scared of getting creative. Let me know if you decide to give it a go.

Serves 6 

Ingredients

1 x 400g (11oz) Aldi Bon Appetit Brioche Tear and Share (chocolate)

50g (2oz) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

50g (2oz) milk chocolate chips

3 large eggs

75g (3oz) caster sugar

150ml (5fl oz) double cream

600ml (1pt) full-fat milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

finely grated zest of 1 small orange

Method

1 – You will need a 28cm (11in) wide-based round ovenproof dish.

2 – Cut the brioche loaf into 1.5cm (⅝ in) slices and brush each slice with melted butter on both sides. Arrange the slices in a spiral in the buttered dish and scatter over the chocolate chips.

3 – To make the custard, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together by hand. Pour the custard over the brioche in the dish and gently press the exposed bread crusts down into the liquid. Leave to stand for about 30 minutes. Whilst the pudding is standing, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease the dish with a little butter.

4 – Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until golden on top. Serve warm with cream.

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A People Pleaser In Revolt

A People Pleaser In Revolt I’d been a people pleaser for as long as I can remember. You see, I learned early on in life that it was simply easier to keep the peace than risk confrontation and daring to challenge other people’s bad behaviour only leads to misery. It inadvertently became part of my core being to placate others and most of my decisions were based on what would make them happy or comfortable. Right there, a ‘Yes Girl’ was born.

I could sense a potential confrontation bubbling before it began (it’s a bit of shit superpower to be fair. I’d have much preferred Bernard’s watch) and instinctively sprang into action to prevent any drama from going down. This led me to be utterly incapable of setting boundaries, stemming from a deep-rooted fear of the consequences. Over the years, I’ve found myself in situations that I didn’t want to be in out of fear of saying no.

I’d nod along dutifully as people spouted utter drivel, internally rolling my eyes and scoffing at their absolute nonsense yet knowing better than to question their opinions ‘out loud’, even if it made me miserable. This trait wasn’t just born out of some altruistic, virtuous need to be viewed as a nice person – it was truly ingrained.

The problem came when I realised that fundamentally, I didn’t know who I was. I had spent so many years quickly figuring out who others wanted me to be at any given moment – and adapting to meet that expectation out of fear of causing disappointment – that my own identity was muted and something I was wholly unfamiliar with.

Part of this enigma came as a result of Neil’s sudden death and I was thrown into a ‘Fuck It, Life Can’t Get Much Worse Than This’ kind of mentality (not always a good thing but hey, at least I didn’t go on a massive drug-fuelled bender and sleep with Dean Gaffney or something equally as damaging and traumatic.)

I started to question the often ill-informed opinions and dubious behaviour of those around me. It began brewing quietly and I kept it to myself for a while. Then eventually, after being unable to listen to it for a moment longer, I felt the anger and frustration rising.

A voice I barely recognised began to loudly challenge the verbal diarrhoea and just like that, my life was changed. Yes, the aftermath wasn’t pretty (tbh, I probably could have handled it better, rather than releasing years of pent-up frustration in the space of ten minutes) but the sense of liberation that followed was incredibly satisfying.

I’d always had a solid (mis)understanding that it was not polite to make a fuss when faced with such troublesome circumstances – just nod, smile and agree Lisa. It came as nothing short of a revelation to me that disagreements can actually be a good thing. That being bullied into submission isn’t the only option and that debates can come from a positive, healthy place.

My self-worth and confidence have grown dramatically over the past few years, to the point where I’m truly happy for the first time in my life. In my eyes, ‘It’s just the way he/she is’ is no longer a valid excuse for being rude, arrogant or unwilling to listen to other people.

Some folks didn’t like my assertive trait, but it soon helped sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. If attempting to have a grown-up conversation only led to shouting and insults then it was time to burn those bridges. There really is an underrated strength in being considerate towards others yet still sticking by your own boundaries and morals, isn’t there?

Don’t get me wrong, this is very much something I’m still working on. Nobody particularly enjoys these types of uncomfortable scenarios and some days, I simply don’t have the mental energy to deal with it so I will let things go when I probably shouldn’t. For the most part though, I’m eternally thankful that I finally found my voice and will never allow another human being to make me feel inferior again.

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Going On A Bee Hunt | Manchester

Going On A Bee Hunt | Manchester Manchester is currently being brightened up more than a hundred bee sculptures. This is all part of a brilliant campaign by Manchester Council and Wild in Art, Bee in the City, and runs from 23 July – 23 September 2018. The bees have all been designed by different artists to showcase the many diverse and marvellous elements that make up the city of Manchester, both old and new.

If you fancy going on a bee hunt, you can track your progress using either a paper map (available at various Bee in the City hubs) or online by downloading the app. The sculptures will be auctioned off in October to raise funds for the We Love MCR charity. Why bees? you may ask. Well, the humble worker bee has been a symbol of Manchester since it was featured in cities coat of arms way back in 1842.

It’s a nod to the industrial heritage and the hives of workers who grafted in our mills and factories. Since the despicable terrorist attack at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017, which claimed 22 lives and left hundreds of others changed forever, it’s also become a symbol of unity and defiance in the modern day.

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Last Sunday, we got up early (lol to ‘early’. We’d been taking full advantage of our weekend and adopted a new 9am alarm as opposed to the usual 6am one. Bloody bliss I tell you) and, armed with the official bee trail map, located our very first bee in the Cathedral Gardens.

Being a tourist in our own city was rather fun and served as an inexpensive day out. We had no time restraints and wandered through the Northern Quarter, Arndale, Spinningfields, Castlefield, Albert Square, St Annes Square, St Peters Square (all of the squares basically), Piccadilly and more. We sometimes forget to actually look around and breathe in all the wonderful things about a place that we see so often, don’t we?

We ended up staying in the city for more than five hours, walked almost nine miles and managed to find (a rather underwhelming) 28 big bees and 9 small ones. I should point out here that this was entirely our own fault as we forgot to use the map after about 20 minutes and went rogue, simply wandering around our favourite parts of central Manchester and taking it as a bonus if we spotted a bee or two along the way.

Seeing people of all ages excitedly buzzing (sorry) around our beloved city with maps was a superb sight and I certainly felt a little pang of pride. Have you done the Manchester Bee Trail yet?

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Say hello to…The Brick Castle

Say hello to…The Brick Castle In today’s ‘Say hello to…’, I’d like to introduce you to Jenny from The Brick Castle. Jenny’s blog is one that I’ve been reading for a few years now and have had the pleasure of meeting her in real life on several occasions. Her stories about Gary the Cat always make me laugh and I can relate to so many of her posts. If you like honest writing, Lego, family fun and more, go and say hello!

Jenny The Brick Castle Blog That British Betty

Hi Jenny. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. 

I’m Jenny and I live in North Manchester. I am originally from Derby and moved up here with my children to live with my Scottish boyfriend and his kids 11 years ago. I blog at The Brick Castle and have been doing for the last 5 1/2 years. When I started my youngest was 2 and he’s now 8 and very different! We review a lot of toys and books, but also local days out and events, so have quite a local slant and most of my readers are from the North West UK

How did you first get into blogging?

I had been on the internet since the early days and blogs were how you shared with people. I had a background in education and completely by chance starting reviewing for Orchard Toys via a Facebook page. I needed somewhere to keep my reviews and my old personal blogs were really not suitable for family viewing…

What is the focus of your blog and how did you choose your niche?

I guess it’s changed because 5 years ago I worked mainly with books and toys, and was involved with ‘Slow Toys’ – non-battery, educational merits etc. My children got older and our lives changed. I still blog toys and books, bringing up a big family with a love of reading, science, toys and movies, but I also blog about health. 5 years ago we were all healthy, then my partner got Meningitis, I developed stomach problems and we lost one of our teenagers to suicide in 2014. Since then I’ve blogged life as a family surviving a suicide, and the effects on our lives and mental health.

What keeps you motivated?

Comments and messages from members of the public.

If you had £50 to spend on anything you like right now, what would it be?

A night out for my partner and I with a meal and the cinema.

The Brick Castle Blog That British Betty

Facebook: @TheBrickCastle

Thank you so much Jenny. Why not check out her social media channels above and say hello? If you’d like to take part in ‘Say hello to…’, you can get in touch by emailing Lisa at thatbritishbetty@gmail.com

Life Lately | August

Life Lately | August August has been pretty uneventful really. A nice change of pace but it’s left me with little content for this post (being a blogger, the worry of being boring as fuck is real – and also very accurate in my case). There were a few mildly notable events though so here’s what I got up to:

Started Christmas Shopping

Yeah, the ‘C’ word. I’m the girl who usually leaves all of my Christmas shopping until 20 December than panic buys everything online (whilst begrudging paying for Next Day Delivery, despite having only myself to blame).

I had a few ideas floating around but then saw that one of the items I was going to buy anyway was on sale. Before I knew it, my bank account was emptier than normal and I’d bought my first gift of 2018. Then it escalated. I saw another bargain shared in a Facebook group (I only joined to laugh at the beef on there but it’s proved rather helpful) and purchased another little haul.

In my defence, I vividly remember just how dire January was, waiting five weeks for payday to roll around and refusing to put the heating as I’d blown my budget with said panic buying. My lovely friend Anoushka was less than impressed and rightly so. I just don’t know who I am anymore…

Booked an impromptu break (that was not meant to be)

We can’t afford an indulgent trip abroad this year so had booked a few days away in New Quay, Wales thanks to some Airbnb credit and savvy shopping around. However, the trip ended before it began and I had a full-on mental breakdown, so that was nice. You can read the full story here.

Got some new glasses

I warned you it’d been a dull month. I rarely wear glasses these days, preferring my trusty contact lenses, however, my back up pair of glasses was literally being held together with sellotape (!) so I reluctantly purchased some more. Glasses generally make my face look like a potato so this wasn’t a joyous task. I eventually settled on a budget pair of dusky pink frames – that I later discovered are a dead ringer for Deirdre Barlow’s famous spectacles (her off of Coronation Street). Good job Lisa…

There have been a few other things, such as Adam and I taking an impromptu trip to the beach, attending a Felix Hagan house party (best night ever) and reviewing the Bolton Food and Drink Festival but all in all, it’s been pretty ordinary. How was your August?

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Back to School: Teen Edition

Back to School: Teen Edition Now that my girls are growing up, the ‘Back to School’ madness seems to have changed somewhat. Gone are the days of spending hours trawling around the local shopping centre to find a mermaid pencil case or polo shirts that would endure more than two hours of felt tip marks and mud.

The backpacks have been replaced with handbags, cute pigtails swapped for designer makeup and don’t even get me started on the minefield that is shoes. Trying to adhere to the school rules of plain black non-branded footwear when my daughter wants to buy the latest trainers instead is a task that is aided by lots of gin coffee.

Lucie is embarking on her fourth year of high school this time and the notoriously important GCSE years. Not fancying taking on the Trafford Centre alongside thousands of other parents this summer, I opted for online shopping instead. Hurrah for modern technology!

My list consisted of practical things such as socks, stationery, shirts, skirts, a new blazer and the like. Lu, however, had a different vision, prioritising a new watch (rose-gold, obvs) and hair straighteners over a school tie; I knew right away that my negotiation skills were about to be put to the test.

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Luckily, she’s inherited her mama’s love of stationery so that one was easy. I ordered her some personalised bits from Studio and, thanks to the slightly unusual spelling of her name, it means that her classmates won’t be able to pinch them. The unicorn planner is a handy addition for helping her map out study time during the week (which I’ll obviously have to make sure isn’t swapped for three hours on the Xbox).

Most teens rely on their phones to tell the time, however, Lu tends to accidentally break hers on a monthly basis so we decided that this year, a new watch wasn’t a terrible idea after all, and might even help her arrive at school on time…well, maybe. We did clash over what constitutes as a practical coat though. For me, it’s a waterproof mac with a hood. For her, a puffa jacket was the only possible option so that was that. I really must work on those previously mentioned negotiation skills, eh?

Her chosen bag was actually rather practical. In a pretty pale pink with a handy makeup bag attached (I think it’s meant to be used for cards, cash and such but Lu has decided that it’s the perfect way to sneak her favourite mascara into the classroom), it’s just the right size for her books and looks the part in a sea of style-conscious teenage girls.

Shop the look with Studio – if you sign up as a new customer, you can get free delivery with the code 089.

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Personalised Floral Polka Dot Notepad – £6.99

Personalised Pen (Purple) – £2.99

Personalised Pencils (12) – £2.49

Personalised Pen (Pink) – £1.99

A5 Unicorn Desk Planner – £1.99

Dressing Gown – £9.99

Short Puffer Jacket – £17.99

Oasis Rose Gold Watch – £29.99

Zip Tote Bag – £9.99

Nicky Clarke Hair Straighteners – £19.99

*This post is sponsored by Studio as part of my ambassadorship 

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Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2018

Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2018 Yesterday, Adam and I headed to the culinary haven that is Bolton Food and Drink Festival. For those of you that don’t know, this event is hosted in Bolton town centre every August bank holiday weekend and is an important date in any self-respecting foodies calendar, featuring live music, entertainment, celebrity and regional chef demonstrations, food, drink and craft stalls (obvs) and various other activities to enjoy.

We only had one day free to attend this time, however, still managed to pack plenty in. Despite the dreadful weather (did you know that it rains quite a bit here’ Up North’? When the sunshine comes out, we get all disorientated and wonder what the big ball of light in the sky is), there were still plenty of people perusing the stalls and demos dotted around.

First up for us was an all singing, all dancing cookery demonstration in the main tent by Ainsley Harriott.  Personally, I’m a big fan of Ainsley’s, having watched ‘Ready Steady Cook’ religiously back in the day so was looking forward to seeing him in action.

He created chicken, chorizo, halloumi and couscous dishes, along with a mango pudding and they all looked insanely moreish – I wish I’d have gotten the recipe but it could have been somewhat awkward (like I’d be standing up mid-demo shouting, ‘Hey Ainsley babes, email me that recipe later, yeah?’) so I shall try to improvise at home.

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He invited a fellow guest on stage, Neil, who admitted that he wasn’t much of home cook – and his partner, Kelly, agreed! Ainsley’s dance moves and audience interaction added a whole new level of fun to the event and we’ll be making a point of seeing him again next time.

After a mooch around the markets and making a pit stop for snacks, we went for a coffee and found ourselves sat behind Neil and Kelly (the couple ended up starring in Ainsley Harriott’s earlier demonstration). Adam, being slightly more extroverted than I am, introduced himself and they admitted that he wasn’t the first person to do so since their unintentional appearance at the festival.

We sent them over some pictures and videos that we’d taken during their moment of fame and, although they joked about having to move away from the area after becoming local celebs themselves, I think it’s safe to assume that they were secretly pretty chuffed with the whole thing and hopefully, it means Neil will now be a dab hand in the kitchen!

The evening consisted of Sunday Club back in the main tent, featuring a live comedy cook-off between Simon Wood of WOOD Manchester and Andrew Nutter of Nutter’s Resturant, all compered by comedian, Steve Royle. Adam and I took our seats by the main stage, with Rachel from DollyBakes and Louise from I Love Manchester  (and their respective plus ones) for company.

We actually sat with Rachel at the Gala Dinner last year and have stayed in touch since so it was nice to get reacquainted and we’ve made a pact to meet up again soon, rather than wait until Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2019!

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Our table was already laden with Aldi cheeses, salad, meats and more; the essential tools to build our own burgers. There was a competition to see who could get creative and, as you already know, Adam takes this stuff rather seriously! He piled on the garnishes but alas, was defeated by other clever creations.

I’m still having issues with eating so nibbled on the nacho and sweetcorn sides as the rest of our table tucked in (yeah I know – going to a food festival when I can’t eat solid food properly isn’t big nor clever but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that to stop me from missing out on the fun!)

The chefs were each presented with a surprise bag of ingredients a la ‘Ready Steady Cook’ and had 30 minutes to create a masterpiece whilst Steve kept us all thoroughly entertained. I can’t entirely remember who made what in the end (nothing do with the gin and ciders I’d consumed, I’m sure) but I do recall there were pigeon, figs and brioche involved.

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Once they’d finished, three people from the audience (including Louise) embarked on tasting and judging the dishes. After a short period of deliberation, Andrew Nutter was crowned the victorious winner. Well, he DID make about 6,000 courses in the end (or five, whatever). His celebratory gloating soon came to an abrupt end during the ‘Thee Egg Omelette Challange’ once he discovered that his eggs had, in fact, been hard-boiled, making his task at hand just a little tricker!

The evening then moved on to a Q&A session with Andrew and Simon and the topics were most definitely NSFW. The behind-the-scenes anecdotes shared by Andrew were eye-opening, to put it mildly. My inner PR professional got a little nervous as the conversations heated up but it was undeniably entertaining. What happens at Sunday Club, stays at Sunday Club…

It concluded with Steve juggling eggs on the Aldi teams table but fortunately for them, he’s a bit of pro so didn’t slip up. Thank you again to the hardworking team at Bolton Council for hosting a brilliant event and inviting us along. See you next year!

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Breaking Point

Breaking Point This is not the post I should have been sharing today. The post that I’d planned was filled with images of the beautiful Welsh coastline, ice-cream, dolphins and tales of how wonderful it was to spend a few days relaxing. But alas. Life rarely goes to plan now, does it?

We had a very modest holiday budget this year so I found a quaint Airbnb to rent near New Quay, Wales. It wasn’t particularly luxurious but that really didn’t matter. I’d done a cheap food shop to take with us, booked a sunset wildlife boat trip, had a new book to read on the beach and genuinely could not wait to go back to basics and get far away from the daily grind for a few days.

I’d been feeling a bit guilty about not spending any time with Lucie during the school holidays so she came with me and Adam for a change of scenery. Megan was working all week and, being 18, I agreed to let her stay home alone (plus I didn’t want to fork out for a cat sitter so she would be taking care of that for us).

We arrived in Wales at tea time on Monday after a long drive. Given that we were all tired, we enjoyed a quick walk around the local village, made food and played a couple of board games before bed. The plan was to get up early, drive to the beach in New Quay and enjoy a picnic before hopefully, spotting some seals and dolphins that evening.

We awoke to find that there had been an incident at home overnight so, after a few phone calls to assess the situation, we reluctantly made the decision to go straight back home again. It was the best way to prevent a repeat occurrence and to make sure that Megan was safe. We simply couldn’t relax knowing there may be more problems ahead if we stayed put.

The mood was sour and Lucie had been moping around from the moment we got there. (In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the Parenting Gods who were undoubtedly chuckling at the idea of taking a 14-year-old away to a quiet coastal village and hoping there would be no sulking/ignoring us/spending the whole time glued to her phone. ”She really thinks this is all going to end well? LOL! We’ll see about that.”)

Not her fault of course. Lu is pretty brilliant these days and, if my parents had have dragged me away from my friends at that age, I’d have been pulling some right drama queen shit and throwing myself from the car in a ridiculous defiant act of rebellion. To even coerce her into coming along in the first place was quite an achievement, I’d say.

As we began to pack up –  less than 24 hours after arriving – I had a meltdown. The disappointment, the frustration and feeling of being utterly trapped overwhelmed me. I sat on the bed and cried. The black fog arrived and the ability to think rationally had scarpered.

My resources were spent (and I’m physically drained after developing a complicated relationship with food last year but that’s a cheerful blog post for another day) and the stark realisation that our much-needed break was over before it began filled me with despair.

As we drove home, I looked out at the gorgeous surroundings, seeing just what we were missing out on as other families enjoyed the beaches and basked in the sunshine. We’d travelled all that way, wasted a few hundred quid and had seen nothing but the inside of an apartment.

Why us? Everything we plan seems to turn to shit. I scrolled through my phone see other people sharing their amazing holidays via Instagram and felt like a big fat failure. We couldn’t even make it through a few days in Wales without problems. Then I remembered that people don’t share the crappy bits on there, do they?

I did something that I generally avoid and took to social media to vent (this was also before I realised the severity of the situation at home and now feel like a bit of dick about it all #uokhun). I think I needed to feel less alone for a moment or maybe it was a cry for help, screaming into cyberspace to show the whole world and its dog that I was angry and struggling.

 


Throw rush hour into the mix and we endured a seven-hour drive home, with me crying for approximately three of them (a delightful trip for Adam, as you can imagine…). I scolded myself for allowing myself to cave, for picking up that tiny violin and throwing my very own pity party –  but I simply could not ‘get my shit together’ no matter how much I tried.

My body felt empty and my heart defeated. I also realised that this was not a ‘normal’ reaction to what was an annoying, but not massively life-altering, event. The thing is, sometimes you have to be brave enough to say out loud ‘I’m feeling like shit’. Or ‘I need help’. Or ‘I don’t want to wake up tomorrow’.

In my stubborn state, I didn’t want to be seen as weak so had been keeping all of these thoughts firmly locked away in a place called Denial for the past few months.  Ironically, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a pretty resilient human being after going through some dreadful shit over the years and soldiering on; I’ve truly mastered the art of ‘I’m fine’ and that good old British stiff upper lip. The problem with that kind of facade is that there is only so much you can take.

Like a pecking hen. It pecks and pecks the same place on your shin every day. It’s easy to shake off at the beginning; it doesn’t really hurt or do much damage. But when it happens again and again, it causes serious problems. Then your fucking leg falls off…or something. It’s inevitable. And this particular incident was apparently my breaking point.

In hindsight, it was the perfect storm. I had emotionally invested so much into this trip prior to leaving. It was going to be a wonderful break from the tedious routine, a chance to escape from my usual surroundings and get rid of cabin fever that was setting in, to breathe in some sea air, connect with nature and properly switch off. Every bad day I’d had in the past few months was comforted with, ‘Not long now until you get a proper break, just keep it going, Lisa’.

I could go to the doctors and ask for pills to help numb the darker days but I’m reluctant to do so (I’m not disregarding these powerful aids by the way. They are, quite literally, lifesavers for some people but I know that they’re not the right solution for me at this moment in time). I know exactly what the issue is. I need a fucking break, some real time out to allow my mind and body to recoup, to build my waning strength and mental health back up again.

I’m working on putting a strategy in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That might mean a bi-weekly gym trip, locking myself upstairs for a few hours to read a book or meeting up with friends after work. Just something to break up the daily graft and focus on my own needs. Selfish or not, it simply has to be a priority.

So there it is; my raw, honest reality. When you’re so drained, it can also make it near impossible to be there and support loved ones in their own time of need, to be a shoulder to cry on for those who rely on you for strength. Sometimes, you really do need to put yourself first for a while because, sooner or later, you’re going hit breaking point. And let’s face it, no-one wants to see me ugly crying in the car again.

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Soundtrack To My Life: Spotify Shuffle

Soundtrack To My Life: Spotify Shuffle When Nickie over at Typecast asked if I’d like to take part in an old school Soundtrack To My Life blogger tag, I figured it’d be a good excuse for me to procrastinate even more than usual and happily obliged. Music is something that is always in the background of my day to day life, yet something that I rarely give a great deal of thought to. I can’t say that I stick to any particular genres either so was curious as to what the outcome may be. I hit shuffle on my trusty Spotify library and here’s what happened:

1. Frank Turner – Peggy Sang The Blues

No surprises here. Frank’s music is my go-to when I’m pottering around the house and I’ve been to more of his gigs than I care to remember. While his last album has left me cold, I’m a big fan of his older stuff and love the lyrics of this track.  ‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you go.’

2. Christine and the Queens – Tilted

An earworm that never fails to wake me up on my morning commute and makes me feel all cultured, especially when I sing along to the French parts with no idea what they actually mean…

3. Slash and Myles Kennedy – Bad Rain

I bloody love this song from the Apocalyptic album which I also like to listen to on full blast in my car. It’s full of innuendos and undeniable sexy too. Myles Kennedy’s voice helps.

4. Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox ft Hayey Reinhart – Seven Nation Army

The kids and I saw Postmodern Jukebox live in Manchester a few years ago and they really are brilliant. Haley’s voice is something else and seeing a vintage tapdance Star Wars medley by Sarah Reich added a whole new level to the show!

5. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’ 

You can’t beat a bit of 80s cheese, can you? The kids are more familiar with the butchered Glee version but I prefer the original myself.

6. Alter Bridge – Wonderful Life

This one is bittersweet. Alter Bridge is another band that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live more than once and provides me with my Myles fix on a weekly basis. This particular song was played at Neil’s funeral and is incredibly apt. So much so that I had some of the lyrics tattooed on my back in 2014.

7. Blackstreet – No Diggity ft. Dr. Dre, Queen Pen

As a general rule, I can’t remember the important things in life, like doing the food shop before we run out of…food and putting petrol in my car, but I can recite the lyrics to this baby like an absolute boss. The kids don’t quite agree but I enjoy reliving my youth with a bit of Blackstreet every now and again.

8. Caro Emerald – That Man

Caro’s music always feels like it could have come straight from the 1940’s and I never tire of hearing her lovely voice. If I ever embarked on a career in the burlesque sector, this would be my jam.

9. Meatloaf and Cher – Dead Ringer For Love

My childhood was peppered with all things rock n roll and my love for Meatloaf never went away. Even though my singing skills leave a lot to be desired, I do enjoy belting this one out and pretending to be a glam rocker of the eighties.

10. Shinedown – Sound Of Madness

Another band that I’ve seen live a few times, Brent Smith is emulating a touch of angry Ozzy Osborne/emo vibes in this one. Even though it’s rather dated, it’s still on my list (and I definitely don’t have a Shinedown band t-shirt hidden away somewhere *ahem*)

11. Oasis – Stand By Me

I know it’s not cool but I’ll always have a soft spot for Oasis. They’re the very first band I ever saw live as a teenager and always feel like ‘home’, no matter where in the world I am. This track is not one of their greatest hits, however, it reminds me of my misspent youth. I mean, with an opening like, ‘Made a meal and threw it up on Sunday‘, I’m amazed it’s not permanently in the charts (!)

12. The Greatest Showman Cast – The Other Side

I was late to the party with The Greatest Showman. A few months after it’s release, our local cinema dropped the ticket prices to £4.99 each so, one rainy afternoon, Adam and I decided to kill a few hours. I fell in love instantly and went back three times in two weeks. Hugh Jackman is just superb in this role and, love it or loathe it,  the whole soundtrack is infectious.

13. Felix Hagan & The Family – Go Back Home

I was first introduced to these guys by my friend, Claire. They were supporting Frank Turner and she’d been saying how great they were; I soon jumped on board. They never fail to provide a high-energy, feel-good show and plenty of glitter is par for the course. In fact, I’m attending a house party next Friday night with Felix Hagan so will try not to fangirl too much…

14. Frank Turner – Thatcher Fucked The Kids

Ah, more Frank. This is a track from his early solo career and a rather divisive one at that. The title is bold and the lyrics are even bolder… #politicalminefield

You’ve got a generation raised on the welfare state,
Enjoyed all its benefits and did just great,
But as soon as they were settled as the richest of the rich, 
They kicked away the ladder, told the rest of us that life’s a bitch. 

15. Rick Astley – Never Gonna Give You Up

Along with Kylie and Jason (LOL!), this is one of the first records that I ever bought. Yep, a record – I was a hipster before it was cool apparently. I was perplexed to hear the familiar melody of this song coming from Lucie’s bedroom recently as she explained that everyone was listening to it – in 2018. Ok then. I mentioned this at work and my boss casually dropped into conversation that music producer, writer and superstar DJ Pete Waterman (responsible for Rick and Kylie’s fame, to name just a few) lives up the road from the office. Small world indeed.

If you’d like to join in and share this on your own blog, drop me a message and I’ll tag you.

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Going Back To Blogging Basics

Going Back To Blogging Basics I first began blogging back in 2012 as a hobby, an indulgent little venture that I kept to myself. A year or so later, I noticed that the rambling detailed reviews I left on TripAdvisor were getting positive feedback and proving helpful to those who read them. I then started a new, public blog, documenting our days out, adventures and airing my humble opinions to a modest audience of about eight followers.

In my naivety, I assumed all blogs were simply glorified online diaries before I joined the blogger community and quickly discovered there is a lot more to blogging than writing whatever thoughts pop into your head. Suddenly, I was taking notice of things like follow links, SEO, keywords, coding – things that I’d only ever vaguely heard of before.

This helped me strengthen my skill-set as I immersed myself in learning as much as I could, using my space to build up a little online portfolio alongside the organic ‘Dear Diary’ blog posts. The experience I gained has been invaluable, helps me in my ‘day job’ and I’m so very glad I took the time to learn all about the world of blogging.

I still get a little buzz whenever a brand I love asks me to work with them or if I’m given the chance to review items that I genuinely want to promote, so that won’t be changing any time soon. I am fortunate to have a strong blogging community around me, forming some genuine friendships along the way (and found my blogger twin in the form of Lisa from Last Year’s Girl).

In the early days, whenever I blogged, I always felt like I was chatting with an old friend. For me, it was a way of communicating and processing my thoughts, a form of escapism from the chaos of my everyday life. If others wanted to read all about it, then great. If not, I’d still be there typing away into the black hole that is cyberspace, alongside millions of other blogs.

Recently, I decided that I want to get back to basics. To writing more of the raw, honest and truly unedited posts and to tell my stories, no matter how mundane or uncomfortable they may be. I want to forget about the stats, the subtle censorship and the worry of being completely vulnerable by baring my soul online with no control over who may or may not be lurking in the shadows just waiting for me share something that they can gleefully tear apart.

Whenever I get a spare hour, I like nothing more than to devour other people’s blog posts; the ones that are authentic, that I can relate to and make me feel like the author could well be my next door neighbour (hypothetically of course. I’m sure my retired neighbour, Harold, hasn’t jumped on the blogger bandwagon yet but who knows?). So you know what? Fuck it. I’m reclaiming my blog and going back to basics. Grab a brew and let’s get reacquainted.

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Say hello to…Floga

Say hello to…Floga
Since launching my new ‘Say hello to…’ series on here, I’ve had emails from some brilliant fellow bloggers and creatives. I’ve had some great responses so far and hope you’re all enjoying ‘meeting’ the people I’m proud to host on my humble little corner of the internet. Today, I’d like to introduce you to Flo from Floga.

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Hi Flo. Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.

I am Flo and I am based in Manchester, although I am originally from Oxford! I now run my business, Floga, in both cities (but mainly in Manchester)! I am a qualified Yoga Teacher, specialising in Vinyasa and Hatha Flow, as well as Kids Yoga and Pre and Post Natal Yoga. I have a BA and MA in Art History and I love combining Yoga and Art together for an extra creative mix!

I am a massive bookworm and constantly want to educate myself and others. I am obsessed with any animal/insect/natural phenomenon and love going on holiday / travelling – I am definitely a bit of a sun worshiper! Oh, and I love food and drink – cooking, eating, drinking, anything involving one of those is all good in my book!

Tell us more about Floga and how you began/got involved?

Floga was hatched in my bedroom one morning around 3 years ago! I have always loved education and thinking of ways to engage children and adults from all walks of life with culture and their own wellbeing was my main focus after university. I had been working in a school to gain further experience in the education sector and was permanently frustrated at the lack of creative outlets for kids within schools and really wanted to change that.

I had been expressing this frustration to Max (my boyfriend) and was complaining that I wished I could just go into schools and teach kids art and yoga to help them release stress and also learn about themselves and things around them. Max simply said, “well why don’t you?!” and so I began planning Floga after that point!  Floga is based around my love of the arts and yoga and their positive effects on people from all walks of life.

My main focus is taking them into schools, using Art and Yoga as a way to discuss different topics such as anxiety, stress, philosophy etc. but I also teach regular yoga classes to the public and private clients, as well as in care homes and businesses. Flogas main aim is to be accessible and open to anyone, anybody and any background. Bringing people together through these open subjects is so wonderful.

I see that Floga has a strong focus on the arts and yoga. How did this come about?

The arts and yoga are two of my favourite topics.  I have studied Art History since A Level and I have been practicing yoga for around 10 years. Both of these two subjects helped me (and continue to help me) so much, in so many ways. That is why I wanted to combine them so others could also experience their positive effects.

I started Yoga due to a knee injury but then it ended up supporting me mentally through a difficult time in my life – and has done ever since. The Arts gave me a way to escape as well but then also opened me up to topics and ideas I had never thought about before, providing me with a way to express myself further. Both inspire me so much and I love learning more and more about each of them every day.

The reason I think Art and Yoga compliment each other so well is because they can be open to anyone, they are both creative and subjective, you can take what you want from them. Yoga enables you to look inwards, and encourages you to learn things out about yourself, your emotions and your body. Art allows you to take these explorations further, encouraging you to express yourself in anyway you see fit, even if you can’t find the right words.

What are the benefits of yoga?

Yoga has so many benefits! It improves your physical well-being such as increasing strength and flexibility, but most importantly (I think) it also improves mental wellbeing. Yoga is proven to reduce stress, increase confidence and concentration and alleviate anxiety and depression through various breathing techniques and postures – just to name a few!

I think the best thing about yoga is that there is a class out there for everyone.  Whether you want an intense work out; to recover from an injury; or just to lie down on some bolsters and relax completely (!), you will be able to find a class somewhere that suits you and your needs.

I have taught such a range of students, including babies from as young as 6 weeks, all the way up to a man who was 103 years old! Yoga can be for everyone.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I do an excellent Daffy Duck impression! It’s my party trick!

Twitter: @thefloga
Instagram: @thefloga
Facebook: @thefloga
Thank you so much Flo. Why not check out her social media channels above and say hello? If you’d like to take part in ‘Say hello to…’, you can get in touch by emailing Lisa at thatbritishbetty@gmail.com

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