Lisa | That British Betty Blog

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

Posts by this author:

Being a Blogging Fraud

Being a Blogging Fraud If you’ve come to have a nosey at my deep dark blogger secrets (thanks to the slightly clickbait headline), then you may be disappointed. I haven’t done any ‘tongue in cheek’ posts for a while so thought I’d do what us Brits do best and mock my lack of ‘Real Blogger’ qualities in a self -depreciating blog post.

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

Food

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.

Taking Pictures

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.

Interiors 

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.

Press Events 

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.

Fashion

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…).

Technology

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.

Social Media

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.’

Promotion 

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.

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog Footer

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

 

Manchester Eats Festival 2018

Manchester Eats Festival 2018 Food festivals are my favourite kind of festival. No sweaty tents or noisy camping neighbours and you get to sample amazing food and drink all day long. This year, Manchester Eats Festival launched at Heaton Park. With chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Matt Tebbutt, Ed Baines, Mary-Ellen McTague and Adam Reid on board, you just know that the bar is already set high.

We attended on Sunday 8 July, with the Manchester sunshine also making an appearance. Adam and I were some of the first people there (eager much?) so had plenty of time to peruse around and familiarise ourselves with the vendors before deciding what to eat for breakfast.

It’s safe to say that this was not my first rodeo food festival and the sheer amount of choice available far surpassed any previous events I’ve visited. From vintage funfair rides and exotic animals in the kids village to the Processo tent and urban eats area, the layout was easy to navigate and covered every possible cuisine imaginable.

Being responsible adults and that, we spotted The Ice Alchemists and, after being utterly mesmerised by the technique they used to create their delicious, handcrafted wares, we soon gave in to the lure of ‘Manchester Tart’ ice cream rolls. They literally took a slice of Manchester Tart and turned it into delicious ice cream rolls right before our very eyes – I think there may some kind of legitimate magic going on. It’s a cliche but I really have been dreaming about this stuff ever since our impromptu breakfast treat and now stalk The Ice Alchemists on Instagram so I know where I can get my next fix from.

Manchester_Eats_Festival_That_British_Betty_Blog

We stopped for a drink – slushies for Adam, coffee for me – and got chatting to a guy from Reds True BBQ who was handing out bottles of sauce. For those of you that don’t know, Reds True BBQ is to thank for me and Adam getting together! We had our first date at the Manchester restaurant, chatted awkwardly for a couple of hours and, when he offered me ‘a bite’ of his food, I accidentally ate most of his nachos. It must have done the job though as we ended up married two years later. Thanks again Reds!

There were free (pre-booked) cookery classes at the festival and I’d reserved us a place on the Vegetarian Society Cookery School one to learn how to make a vegetarian breakfast burrito (let’s gloss over our ice cream escapade for now, shall we?). Skills-wise, the class was fairly straightforward. We fried tofu, mushrooms, peppers, onions and vegetarian sausage with a pre-mixed blend of spices before adding them to a tortilla with fresh salad. The result was pleasant enough, however, Adam and I agreed that we won’t be tofu converts anytime soon.

Trying to resist blowing the budget in the artisan marketplace was difficult. With a mix of local companies and household names, such as Costco and Hotel Chocolat, I couldn’t possibly have justified buying foodie goods from them all, however, it didn’t stop me lingering for a good while. In the end, I purchased a few pots of ready-to-eat cookie dough from The Cookie Dough Co and we headed back to the street food area for lunch.

Manchester_Eats_Festival_Review_That_British_Betty_Blog

Reds True BBQ was giving people the chance to win sauces, BBQ rub kits and more by playing some traditional carnival games so we joined the queue and tried our luck on the hoop one (I don’t know the ‘proper’ name but you basically have to throw wooden hoops over pegs on an upright board to win). We got chatting to the person behind us and ended up teaming up to play, resulting in all three of us going home with a huge paper bag filled with merchandise. Happy days indeed!

The smell of pulled pork overcame Adam so we ordered a double Pit Burger (Beef patty, Unholy BBQ sauce, premium Black Angus brisket, pulled pork, smoked bacon, burger cheese, Dirty sauce, tomato, onion, pickles, lettuce) and settled down, ready for the impending meat sweats. It was well worth the £6 or so that we paid as, in the restaurant, these bad boys are almost triple the price!

Not long after that, we decided to head home, full and content. Next year, we’ll certainly be attending both days of the festival and pacing ourselves a bit better so we can enjoy even more foodie options. Thanks for having us Manchester Eats Festival – see you in 2019!

Manchester_Eats_Festival_Review_Reds_True_BBQ_That_British_Betty_Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

Say hello to…The Penguin Patrol

Say hello to…The Penguin Patrol
This month, I decided to launch a new series on my blog – ‘Say hello to…’. I’ve always championed independent businesses and fellow bloggers, sharing their content across my social media channels and this way, you guys get to learn a little bit more about the people behind them. Today, we’re saying hello to Sophie from The Penguin Patrol.

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

Hi Lisa! I’m Sophie and I run a penguin themed online gift store called The Penguin Patrol. I work out of my spare room in Sheffield and I also work full time in Digital, so it’s a bit of a juggle!

I love the idea of a website dedicated to all things penguin-related! How did this come about? 

It actually all started from a question from a work colleague actually! I had started an Instagram account for Pici Penguin, a cuddly toy bought for me from The Deep, where I documented his adventures – and after showing a co-worker the account they asked: “are you selling penguins too?” – I wasn’t, but that got me thinking, why wasn’t I?!  I started researching into it, and after sourcing some possible products and doing some planning, The Penguin Patrol online store was born!

What kind of suppliers do you feature?

I feature items from all sorts of suppliers, from big brands such as Aurora World, who are US based and Keel Toys, a UK based company to independent makers and illustrators such as Martha & Hepsie (who are from Sheffield) and other small indie creators.

I also stock some cute imported stationery pieces from Japan – so pieces come from everywhere really! I do love stocking independent UK artists though, and I’m always on the lookout for new small creators to stock – as a small independent business myself, I know how important it is to champion others like me!

What does ‘A Day in the Life’ of Penguin Patrol like?

As I work full time, it’s a case of squishing some stuff into the evening or a weekend, but generally I spend time in the evenings printing and packaging any orders, and trying to schedule some social media posts or add any new items on to the store, plus planning future items and looking at products when I’m running low on stock.

I head to the post office during my lunch break if I’ve got an order, then repeat! I wish I could tell you a neat little routine that I do, and tell you how much it has contributed to the growth of my business, but in reality, I’m winging it all the time!

I work very haphazardly, going through super productive periods, where I manage to get lots of products listed, social media posts, Instagram content planned and emails sent out, and other times I just manage to get packages sent out.

I really struggle with being organised, doing planning and working consistently, that kind of thing, which I think people emphasise so much in a business – there is definitely a media narrative that harks the ‘super productive, ultra-planned, work hard and grind, boss business runner’ as the only way to be successful.

Of course, I can totally see how working like that is very helpful, but for me it’s not an innate skill or drive I have – I’ve got to work on it every day, and I often don’t manage to work in this way, but I know that I’m doing my best and that is enough for me. So if you’re like me and think you’re too unorganised for a small business, please don’t let that put you off!

Is there anything you’d have done differently if you knew what you know now? 

A tricky one! I don’t think I would change much to be honest – there have been a few times where I’ve overbought on particular products under the impression that my ideas and product ideas will, of course, be a big success, where in reality I’ve struggled to sell them, but I do think that you’ve sometimes got to make those mistakes to learn from them!

I still have the physical stock, so that means I’ll just have to put in more work to promote those items and go get those sales – now I have more skills and knowledge in promotion and I’ve gotten market feedback about my items – all valuable learning points for the future.

Tell us an interesting penguin fact!

Did you know that a group of penguins in the water is called a ‘raft’.

Thanks Sophie! You can find out more about The Penguin Patrol on the website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you’d like to be featured on this series, email Lisa at thatbritishbetty@gmail.com.

Pici-Penguin-Desk-The-Penguin-Patrol-That-British-Betty-Blog

Life Lately | July

Life Lately | July Another month means another Life Lately update from yours truly. While June still holds the record for our busiest month of the year to date, July has been a pretty close contender! Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Went back to the Crystal Maze Experience, Manchester 

As a child of the eighties, The Crystal Maze was a big deal when I was growing up. My sister and I would watch Richard and co darting around as Mumsey looked on, desperately wishing we could take part ourselves (despite being about 8-years-old at the time).

When The Crystal Maze Experience opened in Manchester last year and I was invited along to the press day, it really was childhood dream come true! I knew that my dad would be equally delighted to have the chance of playing and he celebrated a ‘big’ birthday this year so what better to time to surprise him?

My dad’s idea of hell would be to have a big party, lots of fuss made or a night out so I did some stealth organising and got the family on board. Megan was meant to be coming along but had accidentally booked a holiday after I’d bought the Crystal Maze tickets (idiot) so Lucie’s friend came in her place, along with my friend Claire, uncle, cousin, dad, Lucie and Adam.

We managed to keep the whole thing a secret from my Dad right up until the day, when I gave him a pretty big clue in the form of a fabulous Richard O’Brien card from AlphaFresh. Alongside being very low-key, my dad isn’t a natural leader nor particularly competitive so Adam – who is both of those things – nominated himself as Team Captain.

As we met our Maze Master, Alex (who was bloody brilliant by the way) and the game began, my dad began getting into the swing of things. So much so, that he couldn’t contain his excitement and ended up eagerly volunteering for almost every game, earning himself the nickname ‘Katniss Everdeen’ for the rest of the day #lols

Other highlights included my cousin being an absolute ninja and casually bossing a laser challenge in under a minute, Adam full-on screaming at my dad in frustration during one game (the rest of us were ‘helpfully’ pointing him in the wrong direction to be fair …), Claire’s super maths skills saving us on at least two occasions and Lucie misunderstanding the rules in the Dome, hoarding handfuls of tokens instead of posting them through the letterbox.

Fun was had by all and my lovely dad now has both ‘been there’ and ‘worn the t-shirt’ (literally – he bought one from the gift shop) so that’s another achievement ticked off the family bucket list.

Crystal_Maze_Experience_Manchester_That_British_Betty_Blog

Lack of blog time

My ‘day job’ is my priority (well, that and the kids, obvs) and has been super busy recently. Not that I can complain too much as I’ve been working on some brilliant projects but it has left me feeling more mentally and physically drained than usual.

With my free time consisting of essentials like sleeping and ensuring the kids are fed, it meant that my blog had to take a back seat. If I’m honest, the last thing I wanted to do after a day of writing and filming was to open my laptop and do exactly the same thing at 9pm on a Wednesday night. Normal service shall resume soon!

Attended Manchester Eats Festival, Heaton Park 

I do love a good food festival. The very first Manchester Eats Festival was launched in Heaton Park this year, so Adam and I went along to see what it was all about. The sun was shining – an unusual occurrence for Manchester – and we both commented on just how many vendors were there.

Along with interactive classes, celebrity chef demonstrations, lots of freebies from Reds BBQ and kids’ attractions, it wasn’t difficult to spend the whole day there. I’m currently writing a full review so watch this space!

Life_Lately_July_Manchester_Eats_Festival_That_British_Betty_Blog

Had visitors

A couple of weekends ago, Adam’s sister and niece came up from London to stay with us. I couldn’t wait to see them both and plan some days out across the North West (it’s not all about gravy, rain, flat caps and whippets up here – well, I guess the first two clichés are pretty accurate!).

The brief for said activities was to ‘keep it chilled and stay out of the city’ so we decided to spend a day at Williamson Park, Lancaster. Adam and I have been there numerous times – one of my sisters got married at the beautiful Ashton Memorial – and we knew that our 7-year-old niece would appreciate the butterfly house, meerkats and wildlife.

Although we did try to avoid the city, our guests were catching a train home from Piccadilly, so we spent a few hours at MSI (Museum of Science and Industry); somewhere that I visited a lot in my own childhood and never get bored of! We even spotted our first Bee in the City statue and have since planned to spend a whole day finding the other 100 that are dotted across Greater Manchester.

How was your July?

Life_Lately_July_Williamson_Park_Lancaster_British_Betty_Blog

Life_Lately_July_MSI_Bee_in_the_City_Manchester_That_British_Betty_Blog

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog Footer

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

Summer Dining with Studio

Summer Dining with Studio Love it or loathe it, there’s no denying that the weather in the UK has been uncharacteristically glorious recently. Personally, I’m a big fan of the sunny days and hope it continues well into the year! A holiday abroad isn’t on the agenda for us so we’ve been taking full advantage of the sunshine with lots of old-school British picnics and BBQs.

When the girls were younger, jaunts to the park were common but now that they’re older, they’re not quite as interested sadly! We’re fortunate enough to have a small outdoor space, so instead, we find ourselves spending a lot of time in the garden. Given that our dining table lives in the conservatory and, in the heat, the room becomes hotter than the sun, we’ve also taken to eating al fresco pretty much every night!

Outdoor_dining_with_Studio_catalogue_British_Betty_Blog

It’s a great way to wind down after a long day at work and spend some quality time catching up with the family. The added bonus of the kitchen being five meters away is that we also get to use lovely china, cutlery and glassware rather than napkins, plastic cups and disposable paper plates. Eco-friendly points there too!

In my effort to truly emulate some summer vibes, I may have developed a touch of flamingo fever along the way! I told you guys about these plates a little while ago and, despite Adam’s protest of them being ‘ridiculous’, I ordered a set anyway! (#noregrets) He also said that my obsession with all things kitsch and tropical is getting out of hand but, if you can’t embrace it during this heat wave, then when can you, eh?

We ditched the formality, instead using cushions and blankets to create a cosy area. The girls love spending the evening chowing down on fresh fruit and vegetables and I even whipped up a batch of Eton Mess – just call me Nigella. Who needs to be in an exotic country when you can have days like this right here in the UK!

Outdoor_dining_with_Studio_flamingo_plates_and_bowls_that_British_Betty_Blog

Shop the look with Studio

Flamingo Cushion Cover – £3.99

Pom Pom Blanket – £5.99

Bone China Flamingo Dining Set – £29.99

Matt Handle Cutlery Set – £24.99

Stoneware Microwave Bowls – £6.99

Metallic Glass Tumblers  – £8.99

Knife Set – £7.99

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

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

18 Summers? Oh please…

18 Summers? Oh please… You may have seen the posts and quotes floating around social media about how we only get 18 ‘delicious’ summers with our children and how important it is to cherish them. Initially, I rolled my eyes and dismissed it all as being nothing more than sugary ‘Mumsnet’ drivel, however, the more I’ve thought about, the more annoyed I am.

I ‘get’ the sentiment; that time flies and childhood is precious but I’m also calling bullshit. Not only is it patronising as hell, it’s absolute nonsense. My eldest girl turned 18 last month. Is that it for us then, no more summers left to spend together? Should I hand back my parenting title and go into mourning? Tell Megan that she can’t come away with us next year as we’ve already used up our summer quota? Get in the bin.

Plus, if we are going down that path, I’d say we get 12 summers, max. I mean, have you ever tried getting your 14-year-old daughter to hang out with you when all she wants to do is see her mates or spend the holidays in her pajamas watching Netflix? It’s exhausting and pretty embarrassing for all involved (‘Stop being a beg Mum’ is the general reaction). By this logic, I only have about three and a half summers left with Lucie. Instead of panicking, using up all of my annual leave to be at home and filling the days with ‘forced fun’, I’d much rather stand back and let her enjoy these lazy summer days in her own way.

18 is not the end – and it’s actually a really long period of time (just call me Sherlock). Granted, Megan is technically an adult now and I’m not denying that things have changed in the past decade or so – of course they have – but in most respects, things are just the same as they always were. We’re still enjoying the simple things when we get the opportunity, such as BBQs, sunbathing on gorgeous beaches and planning summer days out with our extended family. I’m not naive enough to think that Megan’s next holiday won’t be spent necking shots in Ibiza with her friends but I’m also confident that it doesn’t signify the end of our family time together either.

What about the summers that I ‘wasted’ when my girls were younger, when I had to rely on friends and family to look after them when I went out to work five days a week? Or when I was too bogged down with chores and other adult responsibilities to summon up the energy to build more sandcastles? Should I be looking back on those days with regret and sadness? Do I go back in time?? No. It’s a simple part of life and not all of us have the luxury of being able to stay at home soaking up every last precious moment with our kids, whether we like it or not.

18_Summers_Oh_Please_That_British_Betty_Blog

Summers these days consist of coming home to find the girls chilling in our garden with friends, a messy kitchen and empty fridge. I still cherish it because this is our reality, our summer, our life together. Just because it doesn’t make for a Insta-worthy picture, it does not make it less valid.

Putting a timeframe on making memories as a family is frankly ridiculous and is only fueling the pressure that many already feel to be a ‘perfect’ parent, especially if they’re not wholly enjoying every single second of it. I’m actually glad that the days I had to deal with a tired, grumpy toddler having a meltdown in the supermarket or throwing up after eating too much ice-cream are over!

I’m fairly sure it’s a given that childhood is important without another condescending, unhelpful post adding more guilt. Stop reminding us that time is slipping away, as if some gloomy, horrific future awaits and instead, let’s celebrate our kids growing up and becoming independent human beings, just like they’re supposed to do. It really isn’t ‘heartbreaking’ (yes, one post I read described their child getting older as ‘heartbreaking’…) or anything to fear.

Heck, I’m 35 and still hang out with my dad, going on trips to the beach and losing hours in the arcades or taking a ride on the steam train. The pictures in our family album didn’t simply stop the moment I became an adult! My girls and I will be making memories together for a long time yet (regardless of the changing seasons). So, whether you’re in the very first summer or the eighteenth, stop worrying about how little time we may or may not have left with our kids, get rid of this fictitious deadline and let’s all just chill out a bit, yeah?

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

M&S ‘Best Ever Burger’ | Review

M&S ‘Best Ever Burger’ | Review Recently, the good people at Marks and Spencer (M&S to most of us) asked if I’d like to test out their ‘Best Ever Burgers’. Given that we’ve fallen into a new tradition of firing up the BBQ whenever the football is on, the timing was pretty ideal.

I’m not particularly interested in the ‘beautiful game’ myself – unless England are playing in the World Cup and suddenly, I’m all patriotic, singing songs about ‘it’ coming home and boasting about Kieran Trippier being from my hometown.

But I digress. Like 89%* of my fellow Brits, quality is key for me when it comes to burgers. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? You nip over to a friend’s house for a good old BBQ and a beer, only to be greeted by gritty, flat burgers that you politely attempt to nibble your way through whilst contemplating how you can subtly get rid of them before your host notices.

So, what does the perfect burger look like to us Northerners – more specifically, those in the North-West?

  • People in the North West have munched over 360,000 M&S burgers in the last 12 months; that’s enough to fill Old Trafford Stadium nearly five times over
  • The North West is the biggest fan of veggie burgers
  • Footie fanatics- more than anywhere else in the UK, people in the North West prefer to eat their burgers whilst watching sport
  • The North West’s favourite burger bun is topped with sesame seeds

Using the phrase ‘Best Ever’ on any product is always a bold move but these guys really have done their homework. Kirsty Adams, M&S Meat Product Developer and the creator of ‘Our Best Ever Burger’ said:

We spent a year obsessively developing Our Best Ever Burger, crafted from specially selected cuts of British beef and a hint of bone marrow for that extra special flavour. To create a restaurant-quality burger to be enjoyed at home, we sampled nearly 100 different burgers from restaurants around the UK, but the true inspiration came from New York.

“Being so passionate about burgers, we wanted to find out about the nation’s burger habits and we were surprised to see just how much variation there is across the UK. We found regions differed in their favourite flavours and toppings, as well as when and where they eat them. It’s undeniable that the perfect burger has a personal stamp and Brits can’t get enough of them!”

M&s_Best_Ever_Burger_Review_BBQ_That_British_Betty_Blog

So, what was our verdict? I’ve always made it clear on here that, regardless of particular items being gifted or sponsored, I would always be a hundred percent honest when writing reviews.

Happily, these burgers lived up to their name – Lucie, Adam and I could not fault them one bit! They stayed perfectly plump after cooking, retaining plenty of juice without any off-putting greasy residue.

They could genuinely rival any gourmet restaurant burger hands down and happen to be gluten-free which is handy when catering for my coeliac friends. Along with M&S brioche buns, dips, tortillas, salads and more, this experience has really upped the game for our future BBQs.

Marks and Spencer’s Best Ever Burgers are available in-store at £3.50 for a pack of two, and online, costing £14 for a pack of 8. Thank you M&S for adding an extra level of luxury to our BBQ!

*Source: https://corporate.marksandspencer.com/documents/reports-results-and-publications/m-and-s-burger-reportv2-.pdf

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

 

A Whirlwind Weekend in Amsterdam *NSFW

A Whirlwind Weekend in Amsterdam *NSFW I‘ll be completely honest; I first went to Amsterdam with Adam in 2015 and, upon landing back in England a few days later, we both vowed never to go back again! We found the whole experience to be less than pleasant for a variety of reasons. The May weather was also shockingly bad – and coming from a girl who was raised in North Manchester, that’s quite a statement.

When I asked Megan what she’d like to do for her birthday, she surprised me a little by asking if the two of us could go away for a weekend to celebrate. We looked at UK mini-breaks but simply couldn’t justify the expense. Megan was keen to visit Amsterdam so, after finding return flights for less than £40 each, I decided to give it another go!

Happily, my second experience in the Netherlands capital was a little more welcoming. I’d booked us a room at the Apple Inn Hotel which is where Adam and I stayed last time and we both loved the quaint garden (ideal for a G&T or five). Our flight took just 50 mins each way, which is less time to than it takes us to drive to Liverpool. How bizarre is that?!

The weather was the same as I remembered – freezing cold with frequent spells of torrential rain – but I was slightly better prepared for it and regardless of the downpours, we managed to do so much in a short space of time, making some brilliant memories together.

Here is a summary of what we got up to:

Stumbled Upon a Yoga Festival 

After checking into our hotel, we went on the hunt for some food in the nearby area. We happened to stumbled upon the tail end of a yoga festival so grabbed some sweet potato fries from one of the food vans, sat on the grass and enjoyed the atmosphere.

We then found a supermarket, headed back to the hotel and indulged in a rather eclectic ‘Hotel Picnic’ on the balcony (hello Haribo, cream cakes, fresh pesto, hummus, crackers, smoothies and Pringles!).

Amsterdam_Museum_District_That_British_Betty_Blog

Went to an Ice Bar 

An ice-bar is not somewhere that would usually be on my agenda as I’m not really one for going ‘Out Out’ anymore, however, Megan insisted and, with her being the birthday girl, I could hardly say no, could I?

While the ‘Pirate’ theme and backstory were a little cheesy, it was actually fun! We were only allowed 20 mins in the ice bar as it was so cold (obviously). We donned a thick coat and gloves before entering and I got carried away with the shots.

If we hadn’t have been so tired from a day of touristy fun, wearing hoodies and carrying shopping bags, I’m convinced that we’ve have ended up in nightclub pretty soon afterward! On that note, is it weird to go clubbing with your own child? Asking for a friend…

Amsterdam_Ice_Bar_That_British_Betty_Blog

Managed to Navigate the Transport System

Geography is not my strong point; neither is public transport. Megan, however, is a natural when it comes to navigating her way around new places so we had no issues. There was a tram stop a few minutes away from our hotel so we both bought a 36 hour pass for just €12 each and off we went!

Went on the Highest Swing in Europe 

I first saw the famous A’dam Lookout swing on a Richard Ayoade travel documentary; it was also my idea of utter hell. Of course, Meg couldn’t wait to have a go so I didn’t really get much choice in the matter.

It was still raining and the wind was howling when we got to the top of the tower. I was wearing very impractical shoes too so had to go barefoot! As the swing lifted, I closed my eyes – and kept them closed for most of the entire ride! When I did open them, my stomach sank as it felt much, much higher than it had looked initially. Still, Meg thoroughly enjoyed it!

I’d also booked lunch at the Moon Restaurant as a surprise for Megan. The rotating building made for a unique dining experience and the food was superb. I’d read mixed reviews but we couldn’t fault it. Although it was a set menu, we’d requested no seafood.

Our server then offered us an ‘Oyster Pearl’ to start. We both scrunched our faces until she informed us that it was in fact, a drink (!). As we cautiously obliged, sure enough, a pop of citrus liquid hit my taste buds. It was certainly something different…

Meg had officially turned 18 years old that morning so she took great delight in ordering her first legal alcoholic beverage! We ate mango and papaya gyozas followed by Dorset lamb and got squiffy on wine as we admired the views for a few hours.

Amsterdam_Adam_Lookout_Swing_Tower_Moon_Restaurant_That_British_Betty_Blog Amsterdam_Adam_Lookout_Swing_Tower_Moon_Restaurant_That_British_Betty_Blog

Encountered ‘Dutch Directness’

I debated about whether to add this section incase I offended anyone (ironic) but thought it was an interesting thing to note. If you Google ‘Dutch Directness’, you’ll see a common theme. The Dutch are very different to us cliched Brits, who generally hold manners and pleasantries in high regard, especially in the hospitality sectors.

The Dutch, however, see this type of behaviour as being weak and insincere. The first time I visited the Netherlands, I dismissed the locals as being downright rude. Whilst Megan and I encountered this blunt attitude regularly, this time at least we understood why and soon learned not to take it personally.

That said, when our server grunted: “What do you want?” as he threw a menu at us (we made a point of not tipping after that), the lady on the tram humiliated a fellow tourist for trying to use cash (it’s a card-only system) and the cashier in H&M literally eye-rolled when I queried an overcharge, it was difficult not to retaliate!

We also visited lots of museums:

Sex Museum – The Temple of Venus

Amsterdam is renown for its liberal attitude towards sex and drugs and, whilst I made a very deliberate point of dodging the coffee shops, the sex museum is always one for a giggle.

Again, possibly a slightly odd one to visit with your mum/daughter (“Happy 18th Birthday baby girl – here’s an 8ft penis! Welcome to adulthood…”), but nevertheless, we had amusing afternoon laughing at phallic artifacts alongside hundreds of other tourists.

The sex museum costs €5 to get in and is filled with all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Some of the rooms are particularly graphic, featuring depictions of hardcore pornography and specialist fetish images/equipment so it isn’t one for the fainthearted – you have been warned!

Amsterdam_Sex_Museum_That_British_Betty_Blog Amsterdam_Sex_Museum_That_British_Betty_Blog

Red Light Secrets – Museum of Prostitution 

I was surprised to find that this was, in fact, a very humbling place and the atmosphere was the polar opposite to that of the sex museum. The building is a former brothel and featured lots of real-life stories, including the one of Annie; a sex worker who was brutally murdered there in 1957.

The museum humanised the women who stand in the famous windows; the ones we tend to gawp at when wandering through the notorious Red Light District, whether that be out of curiously, desire or disapproval.

Some prostitutes were there out of choice and told tales of empowerment and earning a decent amount of money doing something that they genuinely loved. Others talked of violence, vulnerability, the degrading treatment they’ve endured and human trafficking (a blog for another day).

There is a memorial set up as a tribute to the many women who have lost their lives to punters – this was truly heartbreaking to see. There is also a wall of confessions, some light humour via the audio tour and a faux window to put you in the shoes of the women who work in the Red Light District day in, day out.

The museum is much more than a tourist attraction and has resonated with me ever since.

Amsterdam_Museum_of_Prostitution_Red_Light_Secrets_That_British_Betty_Blog

Banksy 

Despite being British, I’ve never actually seen a ‘Banksy’ in real life before. We’d gone out one evening in search of cocktails (which we never found) and spotted that Moco museum were having a Banksy exhibition.

Meg wasn’t particularly bothered about this one initially, however, I was rather insistent and it was a good place to dodge the rain for an hour or two. Whilst there were a lot of repeat prints throughout, it was worth it and made even more devastated that I missed the chance to visit Dismaland back in 2015.

Amsterdam_Moco_Banksy_That_British_Betty_Blog Amsterdam_Moco_Banksy_That_British_Betty_Blog

Body Worlds 

I’ve been here before and wasn’t overly keen as the exhibits are rather gruesome and explicit to say the least! For those of you that don’t know, Dr. Gunther von Hagens – the guy behind the live autopsy that was aired on TV a few years ago – takes dissected, plasticised human bodies and displays them in various weird and wonderful ways.

Being a student nurse, Megan is made of much stronger stuff than I am and found the whole thing truly fascinating. She took a particular interest in a preserved brain which had been damaged by dementia; something that’s close to home with her work at the hospice.

The theme is all about how our bodies are affected by happiness and, as macabre as it sounds, I have to admit that there is something quite extraordinary about seeing the bodies up close, leaving me with a new-found respect for just how incredible our organs really are – and how much we take our health for granted.

Amsterdam_Body_Worlds_That_British_Betty_Blog

So that’s a little bit about our recent Amsterdam adventures! Until next time…

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

 

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

Life Lately | June

Life Lately | June It’s fair to say that June has by far been the busiest month this year for our household. With lots of big family occasions to celebrate and a few extra work-related responsibilities, I’ve certainly been kept on my toes! Here’s how June went.

My little sister got married

I’m not going to go into it too much here as I like to keep family stuff (that isn’t about the girls and Adam) fairly private, however, the bride and groom looked so very happy, everyone commented on the lovely, relaxed atmosphere and we had a fabulous time catching up with loved ones. Congratulations guys!

Celebrated Adam’s and Megan’s birthday

…within two days of each other! With them being so close together, we decided to host a small family BBQ at home before Megan and I jetted off to Amsterdam the next day for her 18th birthday.

Poor Adam’s birthday was completely overshadowed by Megan’s, however, I think you’d all agree that turning 18 is a pretty deal so I don’t feel too bad about this! Catching up with even more of our friends and family was awesome and it was heartwarming to see just how many people made the effort to wish her a happy birthday.

Megans-18th-birthday-life-lately-June-That-British-Betty-Blog

Lost Lex (then found him again)

Lex is without a shadow of a doubt, our ‘baby’ cat. He’s the youngest of the bunch and was rescued by Adam when he was just three-weeks-old. The vet thought he may have been the runt of the litter and, even that now he’s an adult cat, he’s not grown all that much.

Anyhow, Lex is my kindred spirit and likes nothing more than being at home sleeping. He’s also a bit terrified of strangers and doesn’t leave the house for more than few hours at a time. When Adam noticed that Lex had stayed out all night, I kind of expected him to be waiting for me when I came home from work the next day.

After three days with no sign of him, I began to panic and we created posters, spoke to the local vets, informed the chipping company and shared on Facebook groups. Not knowing where he was was a truly horrible feeling and every day that passed by made me think that something awful may have happened to him. His brother was also moping around the house, equally distressed at Lex’s absence.

A week later, he rocked up out of the blue one evening, skinny (well, skinnier than usual!) dirty and very, very hungry. I tried to grab him but he ran, eventually being coaxed into the house with treats. I now suspect he’d been locked in somewhere so I urge you all to check your sheds and garages daily, especially in this warmer weather when cats may sneak in to cool down in the shade.

Went to Amsterdam

I’ll be completely honest; I’ve been to Amsterdam before with Adam and we both vowed never to go back! During our stay a few years ago, the spring weather was shockingly grim – coming from a girl who was raised in North Manchester, that’s quite a statement – and we found the whole experience to be less than pleasant for a variety of reasons (I’ve since learnt that both the bad weather and ‘Dutch Directness’ is a well-known thing).

When I asked Megan what she’d like to do for her birthday, she surprised me a little be asking if the two of us could go away for a weekend. We looked at trips to London, Liverpool, Leeds (all of the places beginning with ‘L’ apparently…) and more but couldn’t justify the expense of a UK break. Megan was keen to visit Amsterdam so, after finding return flights for just £39 each, I decided to give it another go!

Happily, my second encounter in the Netherlands capital was a little more welcoming. The weather was the same, sideways rain and all, and being overly optimistic an absolute tool, I yet again packed my pumps and cotton dresses (idiot), resulting in a dash to the local H&M for a pair of jeans and hoodie. Bar my lack of appropriate attire, we managed to do so much in a very short space of time and made some wonderful memories together. I’ll be posting a dedicated blog post about our trip soon so watch this space.

How was your June?

Amsterdam-life-lately-June-That-British-Betty-Blog

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

 

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

Daydreaming of Tuscany

Daydreaming of Tuscany Italy is somewhere that first stole my heart back in 2012. I decided to visit this beautiful country on a whim when the kids were away with their grandparents and it did not disappoint. After staying in the popular coastal town of Sorrento, southwestern Italy, and enjoying a week of wonderful food, sightseeing and general tourist shenanigans, I was determined to explore more of this remarkable part of the world.

About four years ago, after a particularly rough few months, it seemed like a fitting time to take the girls to Sorrento so that they could discover this special place for themselves. You see, we don’t really ‘do’ package holidays, opting for a more authentic experience when we travel and I was ridiculously excited to introduce them to the magic of Italy. After landing, I took them on a little tour of the main town and they were instantly captivated by the balmy climate, smells and sounds of Sorrento. This consisted of lemon trees dotted on every street, postcard-perfect views and of course, an obligatory gelato or three!

During our trip, we visited Positano, Ischia, Capri, Naples, Pompeii and took a breathtaking drive through the Almfi Coast. We spent time appreciating the flawless beauty of the villages we passed through, meeting locals and understanding the traditions. Whenever we go abroad, we always try to learn the language beforehand – the basics at least – and this was reciprocated by most of the people we came across as they cheerfully chirped ‘Buongiorno’ back at the girls and I (although Lucie, who was 11 at the time, got confused one lunchtime and began speaking broken French, much to the amusement of our waiter!).

I’m keen to discover more of Italy and Tuscany is high up on my bucket list. We’re ready to make some new memories now that my girls are rapidly getting older.

Sorrento-Pompeii-Capri-That-British-Betty-Blog
Sorrento-Pompeii-Capri-That-British-Betty-Blog (2)

Here’s a snapshot of how my fantasy trip to Tuscany would go:

Day One

We’d pick up our hire car, enjoy a drive through the panoramic Tuscan countryside, head to a local supermercato to stock up on plenty of goodies essentials such as fresh bread, cheese, meats, sfogliatelle and few bottles of Bolgheri before locating our villa and settling in. This means unpacking and spending the rest of the evening by the pool of course!

Day Two

We’d wake up bright and early and take a trip to central Siena. This is one of Tuscany’s seven World Heritage sites; I really do have a thing for architecture so this would be where I’d get my fix.

Having stood in awe of sites such as the Colusiem and Sagrada Familia in the past, Siena has an absolute wealth of beautiful buildings just waiting for me to explore! The Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena) is a stunning 13th-century gothic church boasting black and white marble stripes, a library of illuminated manuscripts, intricate mosaics and works by Michelangelo.

Each of Siena’s 17 districts has its own symbol, also known as contrades. These range from a she-wolf (lupa) and porcupine (istrice) in the north to a snail (chiocciola) and tortoise (tartuca) in the south so we’d embark on a ‘treasure hunt’ to try and find each of these subtle, historical nods.

Piazza del Campo is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares with the opportunity to people watch whilst grabbing a coffee and breathing in the atmosphere. With 400 steps and spectacular views of the countryside, we’d then finish our day off with a climb to the Top of Torre del Mangia.

Day Three

The spa town of Bagno Vignoni would allow us to take a dip in the various sulphurous thermal baths (just not the one in the central piazza though as it’s forbidden). We spent an entire day doing this in Ischia and it really was one of the highlights of our previous Italian adventure.

We’d then stop by the nearby San Quirico d’Orcia to experience some true Italian cuisine. This would mean taking part in a cooking class and learning how to make gnocchi, pici, ravioli and tagliatelle from scratch, taking home so much more than the usual magnet or trinket for my bookshelf!

Day Four 

I think by this point, the girls would be in need of little down time! We’d spend the day cooking seasonal produce in our villa, putting our new-found skills to good use before indulging in an evening of al fresco dining and admiring the charming landscape of Chianti.

With us all leading busy lives, sometimes an idyllic break is the ultimate tonic for the mind, body and soul. This would give us the precious family time together that I crave so very much and would no doubt involve a competitive board game tournament on the sun terrace!

The food would also be accompanied by a bottle of Chianti or two for the grown-ups; a fitting way to really show some appreciation of this region. When in Rome Tuscany…

Day Five

I concluded many years ago that Lucie is possibly half-human, half-mermaid. She loves nothing more than being in the water, especially the sea but seldom gets the chance to do so with us living in the UK (Blackpool beach really isn’t a place for swimming).

While Megan and I enjoy the simplicity of sunbathing on the sand, Lu dives right in and can spend hours just splashing around. We’d pack a picnic and head to the coast for the day. Maremma would be a great place for us to breathe in the scent of local pine groves, enjoy some sunshine and unearth even more of the charm that Tuscany has to offer.

Day Six

No trip to Tuscany would be complete without a jaunt to the capital city of Florence, would it? As previously mentioned, being a family of foodies means that stopping by the San Lorenzo Market (also known as Mercato Centrale) to indulge in even more cheese, meats, bread, Chianti Classico and gelato is a must!

For lunch, we’d have to try the famous delicacy, Panino con Lampredotto. This distinctive street food may not sound like a particularly appetising dish (it contains tripe), however, I’ve been informed that they do taste much better than they look so we’re fully prepared to trust the locals, roll with tradition and give it a go!

Moving off the beaten track a little, we’d then head to the National Museum of Bargello; this is one of the oldest buildings in Florence and home to sculptures by Michelangelo, Donatello and Sansovino. Whilst there are many replicas around Florence, nothing ever beats the original, so we’d be sure to seek out Michelangelo’s iconic statue, David, located in Galleria dell’Accademia.

Day Seven

We’d most likely fly home to Manchester from Galileo Galilei Airport so would use this as an opportunity to finish off our trip in true tourist style and swing by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I guarantee that we’d spend at least an hour watching the kids trying to take ‘clever’ pictures of them ‘holding the tower up’ to share on Snapchat so that’d be fun.

On a serious note, this tower is recognised by people around the world and is a signature part of Pisa’s landscape so we’d join the crowds and climb the 297 steps of the spiral staircase to the bell chamber (think of the Instagram shots from up there!).

The nearby Camposanto Santo is part of the Piazza dei Miracoli and somewhere that personally, I’m keen to see. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with cemeteries and tombs – yeah, I know. I just find them so beautifully calming and this place is steeped in history. There’s also a local legend that a body can rot in the soil in just 24 hours so I’d best make sure not to hang around there for too long!

What do you guys reckon; sounds good, eh? Anyway, that’s enough of my daydreaming for now. Until then, I’ll be pouring over photographs and memories in my living room with an Aperol spritz or two!


Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

 

 

My Millenial Baby

My Millenial Baby To you guys, it may just be another Monday morning but for me, today is a pretty big deal. You see, my eldest girl is offically eighteen! They do say that the days are slow and the years fly by; in this case, that couldn’t be more accurate. This monumental milestone feels rather surreal as I take a good look at the fully-fledged adult sitting next to me in our Amsterdam hotel room. No longer a child yet forever my baby (I should have issued the sick bucket alert earlier. Sorry about that), I decided that this would be a good opportunity to write my girl an open-letter, all about our journey so far.

Dearest Megan,

Eighteen years ago, I became a mother. You arrived in the world one balmy June evening surrounded by rather stressful circumstances after a long labour and an emergency caesarean section. I didn’t get to see you straight away due to complications and woke up several hours later on the maternity ward, surrounded by family members.

I remember your granddad standing at the foot of the bed with offerings of pick n mix sweets and a sandwich he’d bought from the vending machine, which made me laugh as it was pretty typical of him, even in this situation (as you’d soon discover for yourself!). I tried to get out of bed to take a peek inside the plastic crib by my side but the pain soon made me stay put.

A midwife put you on my chest and I studied your face in awe as 7lb 15oz of perfection blinked back at me. Once our visitors had left, it was just the two of us together in this unfamiliar setting. Your cry reminded me that it was now my duty to feed you, to soothe you and to keep you safe.

As I grappled with my dressing gown, I heard a couple of auxiliary nurses whisper: “Look at her! She’s far too young to look after a baby!” and, for a fleeting moment, I began to wonder if they were right. The overwhelming responsibly hit me like a steam train as the drugs wore off, along with a sudden determination to prove these deprecatory (and frankly, unprofessional) strangers wrong.

A few days later, your dad and I took you home to our humble abode and embarked on the life-changing journey that is parenthood. The teething and sleepless nights, alongside the smiles and first words, forced me completely out of my comfort zone as a naive teenager but I tried my best to fulfil my promise to you.

My-Millennial-Baby-Daughter-That-British-Betty-BlogAs you grew, you were a serious baby. My grandma would often state that you seemed like an ‘Old Soul’ and had obviously been here before, with a contemplative stare and the way you would study strangers intently before deciding whether to grace them with a smile or not.

We attended baby groups together, made new friends and you hit more milestones. Three years later, you became a big sister and suspiciously eyeballed Lucie as I found myself back in the same hospital ward, recovering from another traumatic birth. You eventually warmed to her (thank goodness) and took on the sibling role beautifully.

During your first week at pre-school, I got a call from the teacher. Thinking that perhaps you’d come down with an illness or had a fall, I was informed that there had been an ‘incident’ and was instructed to collect you immediately. It turns out that a boy in your class had tried to stroke your hair so you pushed him into a radiator, knocking him unconscious. That ‘Act Now, Think Later’ reflex is something that never really went away after that!

From the age of seven, you’d insisted that you were going to be a midwife when you grew up. Of course, I pompously assumed this was a fleeting phase. We sat watching ‘One Born Every Minute’ together (at your insistence) as you barely flinched and I began to realise that maybe, just maybe, you’d already figured out your path, even at this premature stage.

By the time you were nine years old, our family unit finally fell apart after being built on weak, unhealthy foundations. We moved into your grandad’s house for a while, then subsequently found a new home of our own, beginning the adventure as a team of three. In between the move, I met someone else and you were always a little guarded, admitting that you worried about me getting hurt after we’d already been through such a turbulent upheaval together.

My-Millennial-Baby-Daughter-Birthday-That-British-Betty-Blog

You grew up fast; it seemed like I blinked and suddenly, we were shopping for your high school uniform. A few years later, Neil moved in with us and, in 2014, the dynamic changed once more. Sadly, this was in a way that none of us could have predicted and left us facing a loss that we’d never quite ‘get over’.

I wish with all of my heart that I could have somehow protected you from having to experience such agonising emotions, wrapped you up in cotton wool and taken away all of the pain. That said, you somehow found the superhuman strength to accept the grief and heartbreak with a dignity that most adults struggle to muster.

You remained stubborn and, on occasion, we fought. This meant throwing hurtful words at each other in a fruitless bid to make the other one see things differently. You began dating and met your first serious boyfriend, who slowly became part of the family for a while.

When he knocked on my front door at 11pm one night, I saw you being propped up as he explained that you were drunk and he didn’t know what else to do. I wanted to shout: “Neither do I!” but instead, I thanked him for bringing you home and laid you in my bed with a bucket next to us, wondering if I was really cut out for this next chapter of parenting.

Our relationship settled and we became closer than ever. Later that year, I  told you and your sister that I’d decided to start dating again and whilst you were understanding of the circumstances, that protective worry resurfaced. After a few average dates (and some pretty ghastly ones), I was ready to put the whole dating malarky on hold for a while – just as Adam came along.

You guys hit it off straight away. Within two short years, Adam and I married and we became a family of four. He became an ally for you and Lucie, a confidant, a shoulder to cry on, a taxi driver, stepfather and so much more. Seeing the relationship that the three of you have developed is heart-warming and I can’t thank you all enough for making what could have been a difficult transition so very easy.

My-Millennial-Baby-Daughter-Birthday-Eighteen-That-British-Betty-Blog

Your boyfriends came and went and we’d always deal with the fallout together. Once you left high school, we bickered as you pushed to abandon your sixth form course after eight short months, claiming that you hated being stuck in a classroom. You then went on to secure an apprenticeship at a local hospice (regardless of my protests) and absolutely flourished; this was cemented earlier this year by you winning an ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award.

My heart fluttered as your tutor sang your praises and I watched you get the recognition you deserve. I admitted that I was wrong and realised that you really do know best sometimes (don’t get used to it though).

I know all parents say this to their kids but I really am so proud of who you’ve become. For having the strength to walk away from the things you know aren’t meant for you, for standing up for what you know is right (even when you feel weak and it hurts you to do so), for working hard every single day and fearlessly pursuing your own ambitions.

Next year, you’ll be leaving home to go to university and study nursing. This leaves me with mixed emotions as I want nothing more for you than to leave our sleepy town and go and meet new people from all different backgrounds and cultures, yet I know that seeing your empty bedroom will bring a tear to my eye.

As much as we joke about it, I actually can’t imagine you not being home every day and you’ll be taking a piece of my heart with you on that exciting new adventure. I promise not to ‘Be a Beg’ and smoother you but letting you go is already proving more difficult than I’d like to admit.

You may technically be an adult now (erm…Happy 18th Birthday by the way!) but some things never change. Those pure, uneventful moments when you nip in for a chat as I’m in the bath or we sing to rubbish music together in the kitchen are the ones that mean the most. Please never stop being my ‘baby girl’.

All my love,

Mum x

My-Millennial-Baby-Daughter-Birthday-Open-Letter-That-British-Betty-Blog

 

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

 

Becoming a Studio Ambassador

Becoming a Studio Ambassador My blog began several years ago as a hobby; a place to document my adventures and to serve as a creative outlet, allowing my brain to escape from a very dull day job. In that time, my job has (thankfully) changed and I’m now in a role that allows me to write every day. However, I unexpectedly fell in love with the world of blogging and even though I still work full time, I continue to jot down my thoughts and such in this little corner of the internet.

Occasionally, I get an email reminding me that other people not only read my ramblings but actually enjoy doing so! I know, it surprises me too. A few months ago, the Studio team got in touch to let me know that they’d been keeping an eye on my blog and would love to have me on board to work with them this year. After pinching myself, I’m ecstatic to share this with you guys – I’m now officially an ambassador for Studio!

As part of my ambassador role, I was invited to meet the Studio team in Lancashire for an immersion day to get to know the brand better and take a look at what these guys do behind the scenes. This began at Stanley House Hotel & Spa, Mellor, where I was greeted by the other ambassadors. This place is seriously Insta-worthy and I’ve already sent Adam the link as a not-so-subtle nudge for our next weekend break.

In 1965, Studio launched its very first mail-order catalogue and until recently, I wasn’t really aware of how much the brand has evolved. I’m going to be completely honest here; I’d previously associated Studio as the kind of place that my mum and her mates would buy their Christmas cards from, maybe a set of personalised pencils too if I was lucky! (I flipping LOVED taking those pencils to school).

Studio-Blogger-Ambassador-That-British-Betty-Blog

Whilst Studio remains true to its roots, they have also moved with the times. The catalogue is still going strong, but they also sell online, featuring branded items alongside the popular, personalised stuff that we’ve all come to know and love.

After a presentation from the Studio team, it was time to take a closer look at some of the items available. With gorgeous floral sandals, luxe velvet curtains, rose gold kitchen accessories, fluffy dressing gowns and a pretty pearl denim jacket, it was hard to believe that the quality of these products didn’t command a much higher price tag.

We also had insight into the buyers responsibilities and I was surprised to hear just how much work goes into the products that you’ll find both online and in the catalogue. From a simple idea stems months of research, inspiration trips, sourcing suppliers and fabrics, choosing models, arranging photo shoots and ultimately, creating purse-friendly products that are bang on trend. All of the products are ethically sourced with regular factory visits to make sure that suppliers are also standing by the Studio ethos.

We then headed over to TIME studios in Burnley where Studio has a dedicated photo studio. This was pretty exciting! As ambassadors, we got to meet more of the team and see how things are done on a day to day basis. From storyboards to new lines, it was quite overwhelming to see just how much can be going on at any given time. They were already shooting the Christmas products when we arrived, showing that planning ahead is key in the world of e-commerce and mail order.

Studio-Blogger-Ambassador-behind-the-scenes-That-British-Betty-Blog

One thing that stood out for me is how knowledgeable everybody who works with Studio is. I got chatting to one of the fashion buyers (I have forgotten her name already because I am rubbish – so sorry if you’re reading this!) and the passion she has for her role was clear. We also got a sneak peek of a sleepwear shoot in progress and, as we all fawned over how stunningly beautiful the model was, she changed poses in the blink of an eye, making the whole thing seem so effortless.

The Studio team had put together a little gift for each ambassador, consisting of items handpicked by the stylists and I received some quirky summer wedges, silky pajamas, a cute floral backpack, sunglasses, a floaty cotton shirt and a few other items that made me rather giddy – a personalised mint green dressing gown (anyone who knows me will confirm just how much I love a good dressing gown), a personalised travel mug which I’ll be taking to work for my morning coffee and a pack of those pencils with my name on that I adored so much as a kid! Hurrah for nostalgia (and new stationery).

Studio-Blogger-Ambassador-Homeware-That-British-Betty-Blog

Whilst perusing the homeware section, I made a mental wish list of all the things that I need want for my own home. Thinking that this would mean me taking on a second job to fund said wish list, I was again pleasantly surprised at how affordable everything is at Studio. Oh, and we also got to look at some unique pieces from the Christmas ’18 and SS19 bedding ranges. I can’t say much just yet but you guys are in for an absolute treat this festive season! When I showed my teenage daughters a couple of the super secret pictures I’d taken on the day, they earmarked at least three items each.

As for me, one of the many, many items I currently have my eye on is this flamingo dinner set and I may have to do some online shopping this weekend (despite Adam rolling his eyes when I showed him my intended purchase. The girls also loved this set so majority rules I’m afraid!). Keep an eye on my social media channels this month for a closer look at some fashion goodies I’ve picked out too; if you follow the hashtag #studiostyledme, you can also see what my fellow ambassadors are wearing.

Have you shopped with Studio before?

*This post is sponsored by Studio as part of my ambassador role

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

 

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

Life Lately | May

Life Lately | May May is almost over and June is quickly rolling into view (tomorrow, in fact). It’s fair to say that we’ve been utterly spoilt with the great weather. I’m hoping that it continues as next month we have lots of exciting things happening, such as my little sister getting married, Megan turning 18, Adam’s birthday and a short trip to Amsterdam. But I’m jumping ahead a bit now.

Here is what I got up to in May.

Enjoyed several sunny bank holiday weekends

There is something so simply cathartic about a spending a sunny day enjoying a picnic in the park. On more than one occasion this month, we packed a blanket, made a pit stop for ice lollies and headed to our local park for the afternoon.

Armed with a book, laying on the grass and feeling the warm sunshine on my shoulders made me very thankful to live in such a beautiful part of the UK. We also made friends with plenty of puppers as they came over to see what goodies we had on offer, with one in particular snaffling a Scotch egg from the packet with no shame whatsoever. Luckily, I was just delighted to have a canine for company as its mortified owner apologised profusely!

We had planned for a day at the beach earlier in the month but a vomiting teenager waking me up at 1am put paid to that. Luckily, she was fine after a day or two and the rest of us managed to dodge her germs! Adam and I also headed to the stunning town of Llangollen in Wales for a day to enjoy Sunday lunch with family then pop by to see friends for a coffee. Driving through the green Welsh countryside on a sunny day is a pretty fabulous experience!

Bank-Holiday-Sunshine-Picnic-Park-That-British-Betty-Blog

Celebrated my birthday

May is my birthday month and this year, I officially hit my mid-thirties. I always book the day off work (who wants to be cooped up in the office on their birthday, eh?) and the weather was in my favour so Adam and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Lytham St Annes. The girls had decorated the living room with balloons and left me some lovely gifts and cards to open – I’d been truly spoilt!

Megan and I enjoyed an afternoon at Manchester spa a few days later thanks to a Groupon deal. I’m not one for spending lots of money on pampering in general so these deals give me the chance to indulge without depleting my bank account too much! Come to think about it, that’s actually a lie. This is the third spa day/massage that I’ve booked via Groupon this year alone and is becoming a bit of a habit!

My eldest girl and I rarely spend much time together these days so it was a welcome treat and we enjoyed a full body massage and eSpa facial each before chilling in the pool and steam rooms. With our phones hidden away in the lockers, it gave us chance to really talk and was great for both the body and soul.

Oh, and there was cake too, lots of cake!

Birthday-Lytham-St-Annes-Beach-That-British-Betty-Blog

Went on the Flying Scotsman

It’s no secret that I have a love – scratch that, borderline obsession – for all things stream train related. When the Flying Scotsman came to visit my hometown, Adam kindly bought me tickets to take a trip behind the famous engine as a birthday treat.

Adam doesn’t quite share my enthusiasm of locomotives so my dad came along for the day instead. We were up bright and early on the Sunday morning and waited at the East Lancashire Railway in Bury for the famous engine to make its much-anticipated appearance. Unfortunately, my dad had hurt his leg the day before and was struggling so I drove him home shortly after our trip (after a reluctant visit to the hospital that evening, it transpired that he’d been hobbling around with a dislocated kneecap all weekend. Ouch!).

The tickets gave me ‘Freedom of the Line’ on all other trains for the rest of the day so Adam became my hostage dutiful partner in geekery for the afternoon. The smell of the engine and the noise from the Flying Scotsman was quite something! I even managed to drag him along the transport museum for a nosey. Sadly, the Orient Express is out of my budget so I’m already looking at tickets for the Tornado next time it comes to town.

Flying-Scotsman-ELR-That-British-Betty-Blog

Volunteered at the Pankhurst museum

My boss gives all staff 16 hours a year to spend volunteering for a charity of their choice. This is something that I’d been wanting to do for years but never quite seemed to find the time. There are so many good causes that I want to be involved with, however, I decided to get it touch with the folk over at the Pankhurst Trust in Manchester to see how I could help.

Given that it’s been 100 years since a limited number of women were granted the right to vote thanks to the bold suffragette movement, it also seemed a rather fitting charity to choose for 2018. After going along to a volunteers induction day and learning more about what they do, I spoke to the volunteer coordinator and we agreed that I’d be best placed in the heritage centre.

Last Sunday, I started my very first shift in the museum on Nelson Street, which was the home of Emmeline Pankhurst and her family, and was absolutely overwhelmed to be standing in the very room where the WSPU was formed in 1903. I also met some brilliant other volunteers and spoke to so many visitors on the day from all around the world.

It really was a privilege; so much so that I’ve decided to volunteer there long-term on my days off and will be writing a dedicated blog post soon to encourage others to do the same, along with the history of the centre, the charity and the wonderful things they do for our community. You can find out what they’re up to and how you can help here.

Pankhurst-museum-Manchester-That-British-Betty-Blog

That’s all folks! How was your May?

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest

 

*PR Collaboration 

BBQ recipes with Richard Holden

BBQ recipes with Richard Holden If you read my post about the BBQ masterclass with Richard Holden and Thermapen at John Whaites Kitchen in Wigan earlier this month, here are the recipes we followed during the class that I promised to share with you guys. These have all been created by Richard Holden and you can find plenty more in his free downloadable BBQ book here. Enjoy!

Richard-Holden-BBQ- That-British-Betty-Blog

Chicken Breast with Lemon & Thyme

  • 4 chicken breasts, skin-on
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, picked
  • ½ lemon, zest and juice of
  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Method:

  1. Place the chicken fillets in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, evenly coat, cover and set aside for 1 hour to infuse.
  2. Preheat your BBQ to 250c grilling heat with the lid down, vents open as applicable.
  3. Oil the cleaned cooking grate and place the chicken skin side down over the area of heat. Close the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes or until it comes away easily when checked.
  4. Turn over and close the lid, cook for the same time before checking the core temperature using a thermometer. If the chicken is 75c at the core it is safe to remove to a warm serving plate. If the core temperature is less than 75c move the chicken pieces to the area of roasting heat and close the lid to cook further.
  5. Once all pieces are 75c or higher, remove from the barbecue to a warm plate, cover and rest for 10-15 minutes.

BBQ Chicken Recipe Richard Holden That British Betty Blog

Flat Iron Steak

  • 1 x 500g flat iron steak
  • 1 tbsp cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Method:

  1. Remove the steak from its packaging and pat dry. Allow to come up to room temperature for at least 20 minutes then coat with the oil and season.
  2. Preheat your BBQ to 275c grilling heat with the lid down, vents open as applicable.
  3. Oil the cleaned cooking grate and place the steak over the heat. Close the lid and cook for 2 minutes or until it comes away easily when checked.
  4. Turn over and close the lid, cook for the same time before checking the core temperature using a thermometer. If the steak is 52c at the core remove to a warm serving plate. If the steak looks cooked on the outside but requires more cooking, move to the area of roasting heat and continue cooking with the lid down. Remove to a warm plate and rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

BBQ masterclass flat iron steak recipe Richard Holden That British Betty Blog

Pea, Bean & Cucumber Salad

  • 125g frozen peas, blanched
  • 125g frozen broad beans, blanched
  • ¼ cucumber, cut into 1cm dice
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 sprigs mint, picked
  • 100g rocket

Method:

  1. Tumble the peas, bean and cucumber into a medium bowl.
  2. Make the lemon dressing by whisking the lemon juice and oil together. Taste and season as appropriate.
  3. Dress the vegetables with the lemon oil, before lighting tossing through the mint and rocket leaves.

BBQ masterclass salad recipe Richard Holden That British Betty Blog

Tomato and Rocket Salad with Chilli and Pine Nuts

  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • 40g pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan
  • ¼ chilli, diced very small (optional)
  • 2 tsp capers, drained of their brine
  • 75g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 3 springs of fresh mint, picked and torn large
  • 75g washed mixed salad leaf
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Whisk the mustard, lemon juice and oil in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  2. Add the pine nuts, chilli, tomatoes and capers and coat with the dressing. Lightly toss in the mint and salad leaves and serve.

BBQ masterclass recipe salad Richard Holden That British Betty Blog

Lisa Valentine That British Betty Blog

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter Bloglovin’| Pinterest