Lisa | That British Betty Blog
A Manchester lifestyle blog by Lisa Valentine. Featuring food, travel, vintage fashion and general ramblings.
A Manchester lifestyle blog by Lisa Valentine. Featuring food, travel, vintage fashion and general ramblings.
I’ll occasionally attend Halloween house parties with friends, which I do enjoy, but more often than not, I tend to give in to my trusty hibernation instincts instead. Adam and I like to make a huge pot of chilli with a side of loaded nachos, snuggle up on the sofa with the cats (Halloween is Luther’s time to shine) and pull an all-nighter whilst watching as many movies as we can handle.
But what I love the most about Halloween is the array of sweet culinary delights on offer. I discovered candy corn when we were in America one October and…oh my. In fact, Adam’s friend kindly brought me a couple of tubs of candy corn back from a recent trip to New York so I may or may not be in a slight sugar haze as I type this. Americans really do Halloween on a whole other level to us Brits, don’t they?
When we stay home for Halloween, I like to make an effort for any trick-or-treaters that may visit (whilst secretly hoping that they don’t knock on so I can eat them all for myself the next day). Along with these sweet-filled paper pumpkins, I adapted my trusty chocolate slow-cooker fudge recipe for the occasion using Cadburys Goo Heads to give it an extra-ghoulish touch.
My slow cooker is my BFF when it comes to creating both sweet and savoury treats. Honestly, the concept of being able to throw various ingredients into one pot and producing a decent meal without having to actually do much else is pure genius. Mine gave up the ghost a few months ago so I ordered this monster 6.5l copper one from Studio.
When it arrived, it was bigger than I expected – of course, I didn’t actually bother to check the size of my old one before getting rid – but it was a blessing in disguise as I can now make double batches of my favourite meals and freeze half for those weeknights where I don’t feel like cooking much after a long day at work. Hurrah!
If you want to make your own slow cooker fudge, you can use the recipe below as a guide. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can use a heavy-bottomed pan on the hob instead on a very low heat. It also works well with a host of other ingredients – swap the 3x Goo Heads for an extra 100g of milk chocolate and you can pretty much add whatever extras you like.
I made the other batch of fudge by using 300g of milk chocolate, 2 chocolate oranges and a tin of condensed milk. I’m going to have a go at making peanut butter fudge next weekend so will let you know how it turns out over on Instagram.
400g milk chocolate (any brand will do – I use a cheap supermarket one)
5 Cadburys Goo Heads
1x 397g tin of condensed milk
1 – Break up the chocolate and chop the Goo Heads.
2 – Set your slow cooker to low and add the broken chocolate, 3 Goo Heads (regular size, not mini) and the tin of condensed milk.
3 – Leave the lid off and stir occasionally. The mixture should begin to melt and form a crust; you’ll know when you see it. This takes about 30 minutes.
4 – Stir well and wait for the fudge to form a second crust.
5- Pour into a lined square tin or mould (I use a silicone one) and quickly top with the remaining chopped Goo Heads.
6 – Leave to cool in the fridge overnight. Cut into small squares and store in an airtight container (refrigerated) for up to one week.
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.
EGL 6.5l Copper Colour Slow Cooker – £29.99
Village Candle – Pumpkin Tweed 11oz – £17.99
Cadbury Halloween Party Pack – £11.99
Copper Wire String Lights – £8.99
Be You Animal Print Batwing Top – £12.99
*This post is sponsored by Studio as part of my ambassadorship
When I was younger, I loved them and remember happily being scared senseless by ‘The Amityville Horror’ and ‘The Ring’. However, I found that they would then play on mind whenever I was alone – hiding under the duvet isn’t a good look at 35 years old.
My dad is a huge fan of classic horror films. He had a vast video collection so when he was asleep one night, I decided to watch ‘The Video With The Clown On’, without really realising what it was – IT by Stephen King. I must have been about 10 years old I think. I don’t remember feeling particularly scared, just confused about why this clown had such a vendetta against kids!
I do love the cheesy, traditional slasher movies such a the ‘Scream’ ones, although I have actually never seen ‘Scream 4’. I was about 13 when the first one was released and I found myself drawn to the teenage angst of Sidney Prescott. I suppose she did have a good reason to be so miserable though and thankfully, my own expedition through adolescence was void of vengeful killers murdering my loved ones every other day – poor Sid.
I feel like I’m cheating with this one but I prefer ‘Comedy Horror’ such as ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ or ‘Tucker and Dale vs Evil’ and ‘Earnest Scared Stupid’. A bit of light-hearted horror is much more palatable for a scaredy cat like me!
Anything that is almost relatable or could actually happen in ‘real life’ scares me to death. Supernatural stuff like ghosts or aliens don’t really make an impact on me but documentary style ones – Blair Witch Project, I’m looking at you – or those based on real-life stories really do. Witnessing (fictional) human beings trying to kill other human beings really freaks me out.
I saw ‘The Shining’ for the very first time earlier this year and it haunted me for a good while afterwards. See above for the reason why! Creepy AF.
It has to be Jaime Lee Curtis for me, although in my eyes, she’s more of a kick-ass role model than the usual hapless victim of a classic horror movie.
A decent plot line. Lots of them seem to substitute the storyline for gore or unnecessary suspense. If the storyline is believable, I’m much more invested.
Can’t say I have a favourite kill but ‘that’ Drew Barrymore opening scene from ‘Scream’ is iconic. Ooh and that one with the logs flying through the car window in ‘Final Destination 2’ is to thank for me purposely not driving behind trucks, even years later!
I adore the American Horror Story television series. I know it’s not a movie franchise but I’ve watched every single season and loved them all. The self-contained miniseries means that viewers get to see the same familiar cast members in a brand new light every time.
Ryan Murphy and the team behind AHS. From ‘Coven’ to ‘Freak Show’, the cinematography and plots are always so original and gripping.
I’m a bit rubbish and left this post until the last minute (welcome to my life) so I won’t tag anyone in particular, however, if you’d like to join in, feel free and let me know so I can check out your answers.
We got engaged a year after our first date. ‘Bloody hell Lisa, that’s way too soon!’, some may cry but it’s working out alright so far. The irony is that when we first started dating, neither of us were actually looking for a long-term relationship, let alone a future spouse.
Once we’d been engaged for a few months, Adam and I began discussing our respective visions of what our wedding day might look. For me, being an introvert and general anxiety-filled human being, my ideal wedding day would be fuss-free and inexpensive. For Adam, it was all about family.
We then thought about the location. My family are predominantly Manchester-based whilst Adam’s are all over the place, from Wales to London. We knew that people wouldn’t be bothered about travelling, however, wanted to make the day as easy as possible for our guests to attend.
We viewed a 4* hotel near Chester, hoping to host our entire wedding day there. However, the room hire and food costs would be approx. £8,000 and this left us with little room for much else. Add on the registrar, bridesmaids attire, flowers, room decor, rings, photographer and all that jazz and we soon looking at a bill circa £14,000 before even thinking about a honeymoon (another couple of grand or so).
We then looked at hiring a marquee, getting wed on a steam train in Llangollen or even having a low-key event at the campsite where we got engaged but there was always some kind of hurdle; Auntie Joan couldn’t attend from March-Sept, it would be an extra £1,000 to marry on a weekend, the venue would only let us use their super expensive (and bland) approved caterers and on it went until the whole wedding planning thing became a pretty stressful chore.
Whenever I moaned about it, Adam shrugged, saying he was indifferent and didn’t really care too much about the venue or little details (I, on the other hand, had been losing sleep over Pinterest boards and trying to find the perfect colour theme for about two months). During one particularly mammoth whinge, I’d joked about pissing off to Vegas and letting ‘Elvis’ do the job for us instead – and we both had a bit of a lightbulb moment.
We’d already compiled a mutual travel wish list as long as my arm so why not use the wedding budget to make a start on that? We agreed to take a step back and think about what we actually wanted. I wouldn’t blow money that we don’t have on any other occasion – so why on Earth was I contemplating taking out a £14,000 loan for this one day?
This isn’t a dig to other couples who do prefer a little extravagance by the way – it’s mainly down to the fact that Adam and I could think of so many other ways to spend our hard-earned and, to be honest, pretty modest disposable income than on canapes and flowers (and we really, really wanted that honeymoon!)
After doing some research, the idea of eloping to New York was starting to look like a realistic option. Of course, this too brought new dilemmas. Would our friends and family members be upset? What about the legalities? Were we just being selfish as fuck and needed to grow up?
We spoke to our nearest and dearest and explained our thoughts. I’m forever thankful that we have a brilliant bunch of people around us and they all understood, supporting whatever we wanted to do. We began looking at options and soon booked flights to America, just the two of us.
My parents were going to look after the girls as we combined a honeymoon and wedding ceremony across the pond. We were also gifted sums from family members which really helped and allowed us to book a beautiful wedding reception at Oakfield Manor, Chester Zoo the week after we got married and celebrate in style.
Fast forward through months of planning and we boarded a plane from Manchester Airport to JFK, ready to become Mr and Mrs Valentine. On the day of our wedding, we got ready together in our hotel room and, after a short wait at the City Clerks Office (not City Hall a la Carrie and Big as most people – including me – would assume. Turns out that you can’t actually marry at NYC City Hall….), the deed was done.
It was simple, intimate and rather romantic. But the best bit for me personally? There was absolutely no pressure. Just us, the two of us, making a lifelong commitment to one another. Easy peasy. The rest of the week was spent enjoying our adventures in Manhattan and making memories that we will cherish forever.
For the grand sum of around £6,000, we managed to have an incredible week in New York City and still got to celebrate with our loved ones, without starting married life in a shit ton of debt. Ultimately, our wedding day/reception was lovely but our marriage is even better and that’s what really counts once the
dust confetti has settled, isn’t it?
Oscar is a big ginger tom cat and recently turned eight-years-old. I say big – he’s actually about the size of a small dog! He’s the more reserved one of the bunch. He’s also rather selective about who he graces with his presence, however, once he trusts you, he’ll happily sit on your lap for cuddles and has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard.
Luther arrived about four years ago, with his twin brother, Dexter. The day after Adam and I went on our first date, he sent me a picture of two sorry looking black kittens that had been found by a skip outside his office. His colleagues had tried contacting the local rescue shelters but they were full. I offered to take them in temporarily and Adam brought them over that evening.
I gently picked them up and it was love at first sight. Granted, it took a little longer for Adam and I to get to that point but these guys had already stolen my heart. There was no way that I could turn my back on them so the next day, I took them to the vets and they officially became part of the family.
Oscar was furious. He grumbled every time they got close and refused to acknowledge them – until I woke up one morning to find him sleeping next to Dexter. After that, the ice was broken and, although he’d fully never let on, I think he was secretly glad to have two new siblings.
Dexter and Luther were inseparable and loved nothing more than snuggling up in my dressing gown. Dexter somehow learnt to play ‘fetch’ and would drop his foam ball at my feet, waiting for me to throw it so that he could bring it straight back again.
Sadly, we lost Dexter a year later. He’d been out exploring the nearby fields and was hit by a car on his way home. We were all utterly heartbroken. I sobbed in the vet’s waiting room, silently willing them to tell me that we’d gotten it wrong, that it wasn’t Dexter. They confirmed the worst and we left him at the surgery, driving home with a heavy heart.
His brother, Luther, cried all night. I wish that I could speak to them at times like that, to explain why Dexter hadn’t returned but deep down, I think he knew. We had no idea that, just a few weeks later, history would repeat itself as my phone beeped and an image of three little feline faces popped up on the screen.
Adam’s colleague had found three frightened kittens in the very same place that Dexter and Luther had been discovered. I was still hurting from the hole that Dexter had left in our lives but something inside of me wondered if we could make room for one more at the inn. The two female kittens had already found their forever home together so I agreed that we could care for the black and white male.
He was absolutely petrified as I soothed him with cuddles and food. He clung to my jumper and I whispered to him that he was safe. Another trip to the vets told us that he was three weeks old but healthy and that was that. I stayed up during the night to make sure he was eating properly and he soon grew in confidence.
Of course, Lex would never be a ‘replacement’ for Dexter but simply another much-loved addition to our feline family. Luther showed us just how flipping brilliant he is by taking on the role of ‘big brother’ with ease. Oscar seemed indifferent but we’d occasionally find them chasing each other around the house in a playful, energetic game of ‘cat tag’!
Our mismatched tribe is a lively but happy one. You see, just like us humans, cats each have their own unique quirks. Luther likes to sniff everything. Honestly, he is such a curious cat! He’s also incredibly caring and patient, especially around children. As I said, Oscar is initially quite cautious but is a big softie deep down.
And Lex? Well, Lex is undeniably the baby of the family. Every day without he fail, he greets me when I get home by climbing up my leg and perching on my shoulders for a good ten minutes, like a clumsy feline parrot.
I let them sleep all in our bed, despite declaring that I never would; that’s always fun on a cold night when there are five of us vying for the duvet! We also quite like to squash up on the sofa together and watch wildlife documentaries. I even loan them my iPad on occasion to play online cat games. I did draw the line at buying them a bespoke cat tee-pee recently but I suppose there’s still time yet…
Megan often rolls her eyes and says, ‘Mum, you really do treat those cats like babies’ – she has a valid point! I can sometimes be found nattering to them in the kitchen, much to Adam’s confusion as he asked who I’m talking to; I have a special ‘cat voice’ and everything.
When it comes to dining, my boys are rather fussy about what they eat, which is surprising given that they like to drink from puddles when they think we’re not looking. They’ve always had a dry food diet with plenty of fresh water dotted around the house and occasional pouches of wet food as a treat.
When we were sent a bundle of Whiskas Cat Casserole pouches for them to try recently, I’m fairly sure that they thought Christmas had come early. Luther, in true Luther fashion, finished his bowl in approximately 0.8 seconds and then proceeded to beg his brothers for their portions.
They were having none of it though and ignored his charms in favour of devouring every last morsel for themselves. I’m obviously biased but I fully believe that Lex and Luther deserve a treat every now and again, given their rough start in life and Oscar…well, he deserves treats for simply putting up with them both!
Do you have little ways of treating your own feline friends?
*This post is in conjunction with Whiskas but all thoughts are my own.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Before anyone gets all offended or preachy with me – it IS the internet after all – this isn’t a dig at ‘Real Bloggers’. Hell, I would sell my right kidney (it’s a bit broken so probably not much use to anyone anyway) to be half as popular, organised and picture-perfect as they are #justforfun #notagirlboss
Real Bloggers: Have been known to stand on tables in order to get a good foodie picture. Create rainbow smoothie bowls for Instagram, share prosecco Boomerangs weekly and bake drip cakes that Queen Mary Berry would be proud of.
Me: Accidentally takes a bite of food before documenting my posh meal then tries to get creative with pictures that omits the teeth marks. Burns cupcakes and detests prosecco.
Real Bloggers: Create candid pictures of themselves laughing/looking into the distance/drinking coffee. Flat lay experts. Has a semi-professional photographer (in the form of a blogger bestie or partner) on hand at all times.
Me: Gurns at the camera with my eyes shut as Adam complains loudly about being a reluctant blogger husband. Likes to use words like ‘divorce’ and ‘for fucks sake’ in the process. Flat lays are disturbed by one of the cats gate-crashing the party. Spills said coffee down my top.
Real Bloggers: Have homes that rival 5* hotels, marble counters and rose gold accessories galore. Sleep on a gifted Leesa mattress, have fresh peonies to hand and white walls/fairy lights/succulents in every room. Oh and they all own that La Redoute Afaw rug…
Me: Accidentally kills houseplants, is engaged in a constant battle to remove cat hair from the carpet and toast crumbs from the kitchen counters. Owns an Ikea sofa that needs new springs and our Asda rug may or may not contain some kind of living organism.
Hair and Beauty
Real Bloggers: Use high-end products, share daily make-up tutorials on YouTube. Sephora is their second home. Throws hair in a bun and looks incredible.
Me: Still using my Boots Seventeen BB cream and kohl liner. Gets ready in 15 minutes. Has roots for days. Throws hair in a bun and looks like Miss Trunchbull.
Real Bloggers: They appear to be BFF’s with everyone in attendance, mingling effortlessly with an air of confidence whilst taking arty photographs.
Me: Hides in the corner until I spot the one person I vaguely know then cling to them all day/night. Gets hammered off two free cocktails. Forgets to take any pictures.
Real Bloggers: Have an enviable stockpile of clothes, can pull off any trend and always look like they’ve just walked out of a professional photo studio, even on a Tuesday afternoon.
Me: Throws on the same pair of Primark jeans that I’ve had for two years. Tries to be fashionable and create new styles, end up looking like I fell out of a charity shop (which I probably did…).
Real Bloggers: Are experts at using Lightbox, own several Olympus Pen cameras, lens balls, iPhones, iMacs and other blogger tech essentials.
Me: Happy to take pictures with my Android phone and relies solely on the Valencia Insta filter.
Real Bloggers: Have themes and share perfected edited pictures in exotic locations. Every other one is a bikini shot. Pays to promote posts.
Me: A fellow blogger (with over 150k followers to be fair) once referred to my Instagram as ‘very organic’. Ouch. To be fair, she’s right. If you follow me on social, you’ll know that I’m all, ‘Hey, here’s my cat! Wanna see a picture of toast? I totally forgot to get dressed again today.’
Real Bloggers: Has business cards, uses Buffer religiously. Creates thoughtful, magazine-worthy posts and has a blog layout that’s so cool, it hurts. Content is planned six-months in advance with all awareness days and hashtags covered.
Me: Has no routine or marketing calendar, despite being paid to manage several client accounts in my day job (just to clarify, I do make the effort for them – I’m just lazy when it comes to my own blog #dontfireme). Accidentally shares Christmas posts in March after ignoring the settings on a WordPress plug-in.