Last week, in pictures

Harrogate Turkish Baths, relaxation room
After another set of nights last weekend, I needed some rest and relaxation. The Turkish baths in Harrogate ticked both of those boxes. The building is absolutely gorgeous, having recently been restored to its Victorian opulence. We spent a leisurely couple of hours soaking up the heat and occasionally braving the bracing plunge pool. The tension I’ve been feeling in my neck feels easier and my skin, more hydrated. I’d like to back in the winter, the heat will feel extra luxurious when it’s cold outside.

Homemade chocolate cake with mum's homegrown grapes
Knowing that I love cake, my aunt baked her first cake in years. Chocolate, coffee cake with chocolate cream. Decorated with grapes from my mother’s garden.

The Midland Manchester, Royal Afternoon Tea
On Wednesday it was time for afternoon tea with Em and Han. Tea at the Midland has been on my Manchester to-do list forever and it was so worth the wait! We dined on crustless sandwiches and dainty pastries, whilst sipping endless cups of tea. There may also have been a glass of bubbles…

Alberts Schloss negroni sharer
The weather was so unbelievably gorgeous that on my walk home after tea, I rang husband and told him we were going out for dinner. We walked back into town, without jackets, and found ourselves at Alberts Schloss where we ate the most delicious German food. It was the best way to celebrate what will surely be one of the last warm days of the year.

Pot Kettle Black, Manchester. Wagon Wheel Brownie

We’ve had a quiet weekend, spent mostly at home or mooching around town. We started Saturday with lacklustre coffee and brownies in Pot Kettle Black – a shame since their main dishes are so damn tasty. A grocery shop, some time in the kitchen and an early night finished the day off.

Smitten Kitchen flapjacks
I made these flapjacks and they were insanely good. So good that they were gone by Sunday morning.

Caramelised Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tart
I also unearthed an unopened bag of red onions that went out of date over 6 weeks ago! They were perfectly fine however so I chopped them up and caramelised them, before throwing together some tarts with a block of goats cheese that has been living in the freezer for about a year.

The end of September

The weather has turned in the last few days. The rain was icy cold last night and I took a hot water bottle to bed. We’re steadfastly refusing to turn the heating on in our house, but I know it won’t be long before I crack. I saw my breath in the cold air this morning and I swear there was a glisten of frost on the grass, but I’m choosing to ignore it for now. It has only just turned October, after all.

The last two weeks of September were spent with family and friends. A particular quirk of my current job is that I don’t get to pick when I take my annual leave – it’s fixed into my rota. A fact I wasn’t particulate pleased with initially, but being forced to have two full weeks off work is actually rather nice.

Unusually for me, I didn’t make any travel plans and instead tried to focus on spending time with my people, and relaxing.

Monday

I finished my stretch of night shifts and after a particularly infuriating journey home – travelling into Manchester during morning rush hour is my own personal hell – I made it back and was reunited with my bed. A 90 minute snooze later, I went into town to meet a friend for brunch at Pot Kettle Black – the merguez eggs were divine. I wandered over to the Northern Quarter to take a coat to the tailors before treating myself to a fro-yo, finally cashing in all those loyalty cards I have been holding on to.

Tuesday
I relaxed.

Wednesday



There was afternoon tea to celebrate a birthday and an opportunity to catch up with old friends from my last job – I miss those nutters.

After tea, I drove across the Pennines to see my family.  I finally gave into the germs that had been threatening to ruin my week and went to bed at 7pm. My cousin was up from London and we spent some quality cousin time together in the hours that I managed to stay awake.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday

More sleep and lots of sorting through piles of knick-knacks for a car boot my mother and I planned to have on Sunday.

I also successfully made salted caramel without a thermometer – I like to think it was skill, but really it was just pure luck.

Sunday

I woke up at half 5  for our car boot. We didn’t make much money but we did shift a fair amount of stuff and I had fun people watching. Our unsold wares are to go to the charity shop.

Then it was to Leeds for tea and a catch up with Lyds. We made a friend, who was more interested in our food than she was in us.

Monday

Lunch with my in laws

Wednesday
I went to my first ever book club. We discussed Normal People by Sally Rooney. I did not like the book, but I really enjoyed the evening.

Thursday

I popped back to Yorkshire to go to an event at the Redbrick Mill – a wonderful, converted mill which I have enjoyed visiting for years. I went with R and we chatted about mortgages and solicitors and felt very grown up. We listened to some wonderful bloggers speak, drank bubbles and ate vegan brownies. I resisted the urge to buy all the yellow things.

Friday

I met Em’s gorgeous beagle and we took her for a walk along the river Mersey. Then I met another friend and ended up on another walk. We covered 8 miles and stopped for food along the way. He ordered soup and then nicked my chips.

Sunday

My cousin came to visit. She told me she didn’t eat breakfast because she knew our day would involve lots of food.

We had an insanely delicious pineapple and coconut donut from Siop Shop and then filled our savoury bellies with snacks at Bundobust. We hopped on a tram to the Quays to see the poppies at the Imperial War Museum. I made my cousin share an ice-cream and fed her pho and summer rolls before sending her home.

Autumn, to-do

Autumn to-do bucket list Autumn is officially here and I’m not sure how I feel about it. This time of year always feels a little bittersweet – comfy sweaters and cinnamon spice sound so appealing, but I struggle a bit when the nights draw in and I find myself wishing time away, willing the clocks to spring forward.

Last year I compiled a list together of a few things I wanted to do to enjoy the season but with a few holidays abroad and lots of weekends away, the season passed by without too much angst. This year however I have no trips planned and a job which involves working odd hours with lots of weekends. I’m going to be extra careful to ensure I get enough time outside in the light and time with my people.

Here are a few of the ways I intend on making the most of autumn.

Go on an autumnal walk
Make fondue
Bake a pumpkin pie
Drink festive coffee
Make hot chocolate, drink it whilst stargazing
Try some new soup recipes
Make chutney
Drink mulled apple juice
Go on a haunted activity
Knit a scarf
Carve a pumpkin

How to survive a night shift

After a glorious, year long reprieve, I’m back to shift work.

I hate, HATE having my sleep messed around with, but I’m getting better at dealing with it these days. A good thing, because night shifts will be a part of my life for a couple of years yet.

Here are a few of the ways I’ve found to make my night shifts a little easier.

Silence the outside, as best you can
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Our blinds don’t do a great job of keeping the light out so I sleep with a merino wool buff over my eyes. I discovered these whilst travelling as they were fantastic for shutting out the rest of the world when I was trying to get some shut eye in a hostel. They’re breathable and stay on your face unlike eye masks, because they fit a little tighter.

Sometimes I wear earplugs – especially if it’s the weekend or school holidays, because quite hideously, the rest of the world does not stop just because I am on nights. Rude.

Watch your caffeine intake
I have had nights where I’ve downed cup of tea, after cup of tea in the hope it would pep me up a bit. Instead, I’ve found that the caffeine makes me feel jittery and nauseous. Sadly, being up at 4 am just isn’t natural so you’re going to feel tired. Keeping hydrated does help – but I find it’s better to stick to water.

Time your break
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I try and take my break a little after halfway through my shift. Purely because psychologically I find it a boost to have less than half of my shift left to go when I get back to work.

Combat nights nausea with mint
Working nights sometimes makes me feel nauseous and I find that having something minty helps with that.

Eat well
7CE93377-01AE-4B36-A64E-8B8D62B35B62Every night shift I crave stodge, but after making the mistake of eating chips and lasagne one too many times on shift and trying to fuel myself on coco pops, I’ve  learnt that having all those carbs in your belly does not make for a happy worker. The post-prandial slump is made worse by fatigue.

I find eating small snacks throughout the night the most helpful, but everybody is different. Find your own rhythm and consider sticking to fresh, wholesome foods. Having said that, sometimes all you want is a bar of chocolate. Eat it. You deserve it.

Have nap before your first shift
I try to wake up at my usual time the morning of my first night, but then have a nap later on. If you can’t sleep during the day at least try and have a time of rest before your shift. Stay off your phone and let your mind relax.

Plan a treat for the end
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I try and grab breakfast with my colleagues after I’ve finished my last night. It’s something to look forward to whilst you’re working and it’s nice to be able to commiserate with friends who understand how damn tired you are.

Glamping in Blackpool

Glamping Pod at Stanley Villa Farm

Last summer, my mother-in-law kindly gifted us a Red Letter Days voucher for our wedding anniversary. We finally cashed it in this spring to go glamping near Blackpool and now, as we are almost nearing autumn, I am going through the photos we took on that trip.

It was a quick trip away, but refreshing all the same. A much needed reminder that time out in nature, even briefly, can be restorative.

We stayed at Stanley Villa Farm in a cute little house shaped pods although I think glamping is a wee bit of a stretch. The pods, whilst insulted, were still a little chilly over night. And the site is next to a working farm with accompanying working farm smells – which we mostly got used to. The toilets were those toilet/shower wet room combinations which I really dislike… because everything gets wet, including the toilet roll. Still, snags aside, we really enjoyed our stay.

We relaxed and read, but before long I started to think about my belly. After a quick, and probably uncharitable, Google search of ‘is there any decent food in Blackpool?’ I found The Cottage which came with Rick Stein’s seal of approval. It was a short car ride away and found it hidden on an unassuming back street. The staff were incredibly warm and welcoming and the food was delicious. Quite often, fish and chips can make me feel greasy and heavy but these tasted really clean and light. The fish was succulent and the batter crisp. Fluffy chips and a couple of slices of buttered, white bread rounded out the meal. Heaven, with a dollop of homemade tartare sauce.

Fish and Chips at The Cottage, Blackpool

We made our way back to the site for the night are were treated to the most insanely beautiful, pink sunset. There are fire pits outside each pod, with wood for sale on site and I wish we’d thought to bring some marshmallows to toast. Next time, for sure.

Sunset at Stanley Villa Farm

Morning came and we made breakfast. I think my favourite part of camping is cooking outside – there’s something so satisfying about breakfast cooked on a camping stove accompanied by a hot mug of tea to keep you warm before the sun fully comes up for the day.

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Blackpool

Glamping at Stanley Villa Farm Blackpool

We drove home after breakfast (with a quick detour to Yorkshire to visit my poor uncle who landed himself in hospital), feeling satisfied and content.

Eating my feelings at East Street MCR

 

Last night husband and I went over to the new East Street Restaurant in Piccadilly Gardens. I wasn’t in the best mood, having sat through 10 hours of induction but as soon as a plate of food was put under my nose, my grump began to lift.

It was nice to spend the evening together since for the next sixth months, I’ll be working most of them.

Thank you East Street MCR for filling my belly and turning my frown upside down.

*we had the chilli chicken and the chicken satay which were tasty with a nice bit of heat, but the icey cool watermelon was my favourite. So simple but so delicious.
** food free, words and grumps my own doing

Over the weekend

We had our favourite Leeds couple over to visit this weekend.

Much food was eaten.

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I’ve had my eye on the Electro Brunch at Gaucho for a couple of years, but after hearing stories from colleague at work who went recently, I knew I had to make plans to get down there stat. The seating is for two hours and for £50 you get to feast yourself on bottomless food and drink. The french toast was actually a little disappointing albeit the most photogenic item on the menu- everything else however was excellent. The provoleta was my favourite.

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We slow walked over to The Gasworks where we were supposed to relax and digest, but somehow we ended up playing Shufl.

Most. Annoying. Game. Ever.

I could not get the knack of sliding those little suckers but it was strangely addictive. I’m already planning a return trip.

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We crazy golfed our way around Gary at Junkyard Golf.

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Had a much needed tea stop at Home Sweet Home, before going to watch Deadpool 2.

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And ended the evening with greasy pizza and chats.

What I wore, turning 30

Jasmin, newly 30

Dress – Oasis
Bag – Tu by Sainsbury’s (a birthday gift from my mother-in-law, last year)
Sandals – The Poet Sandal maker, Athens

I bought this dress 6 years ago, to wear to my university graduation. Since then, it has seen me through some of my favourite memories of my twenties.

I wore it the day husband and I went to buy our wedding bands. We bought cheap silver rings from Argos and went to Beef and Pudding (since closed) for a celebratory dinner, that cost more than the rings combined.

I also wore it on our wedding day. We had our ceremony at a registry office and then a barbecue with family. I changed out of my wedding dress so I could slather my burgers in ketchup and not worry about ruining it.

And yesterday, I wore it to see in a new decade.

(Maybe I’ll learn how to iron my clothes in my thirties?)

30

Yesterday, I turned 30.

Hotel Chocolat Birthday Breakfast

The day started off with a tea and chocolates. Presents were unwrapped.

Black Sheep Coffee

There were pasteis, warmed slightly and topped with cinnamon. More tea, of course.

Eggs Benedict, Brunch at Fress

Brunch at Fress, with the most spectacular eggs benedict

The Smokehouse, Manchester

After some celebratory drinks, a subsequent 2 hour nap and phone calls with family, we ate ourselves into a food coma.

6 Alternative things to do in Athens

Greece, Acropolis

Following on from my Paris tips, I wanted to share a few gems for another European city I love.

I first visited Athens in November  2014 and loved it so much that I went back the following summer for a week. The off season was my favourite – cool but sunny weather, far fewer crowds. The hike up to the acropolis was warm but pleasant however I imagine it can get unbearably hot in the summer sun.

Here are a few of the things I enjoyed.

Buy sandals from The Poet
Agias Theklas 2, Athina 105 54

Something of a legend in Athens, the Poet’s shop is THE place to buy a pair of authentic Greek sandals. You’ll be joining the likes of Sophia Loren and Jackie Onassis who all have owned pairs. Surprisingly, for such good quality pair of leather shoes, prices average a mere 35 Euros. The experience of buying a pair is fantastic as well -­ you get properly measure up for your sandal of choice and they alter the straps so they fit your feet perfectly. Just don’t make the same mistake I did and try and go on a weekend afternoon. The shop gets overwhelmingly busy as it is tiny so I left and returned the next day, first thing in the morning and spent a leisurely hour picking out my sandals and getting them sized for my feet. The leather gets darker with wear (in a good way) so you never know exactly how your shoes will end up looking.

See a film at Cine Paris
Kidathineon 22, Athina 105 58

Set in an unassuming courtyard on a busy street in Athens, this charming little nook is a great place to escape and watch a film, under shadow of the Acropolis. The films are shown in English with Greek subtitles and range from classics to more contemporary fair. Popcorn, snacks and drinks are available for cheaper than we’re used to at home which makes it hard to resist! As the sun sets the Parthenon lights up and it can be hard to keep your attention on the film when a great piece of ancient history looks so majestic, up on its perch.

Eat gyros at Bairakta
Pl. Monastirakiou 5, Athina 105 55, 

Greek street food at its best. Gyros are meats wrapped in pita, covered in tzatziki, with a few fries thrown in. Do yourself a favour and get only the gyro to go here. They are delicious and dirt cheap. The sit down food however is overpriced and disappointing. Walk up the road to Puro where you can buy freshly pressed juices to wash your meal down with and then pick up a few pieces of whichever type of baklava looks good at any one of the numerous bakeries in the area. The aim of the game is to try as many as possible ­ because how will you know which is your favorite if you don’t test them all out?

Fresh Baklava, Acropolis

Visit a Greek Island

Island hopping around Greece is on my bucket list but until that day comes, I’ve satiated myself with some of the more easily accessible islands. Aegina is a short 40 minute ferry ride from the mainland port of Piraeus, which is easily accessible by metro. You can visit the island in a day to get a taste of island life but if you’ve got more time, I would highly recommend spending at least one night. Hire a taxi, or take a bus to the opposite side of the island and visit the Temple of Afaia for a history fix. Gorge yourself on fresh seafood on anyone of the restaurants on the sea front.

Go on a free Athens walking tour

I’ve been on a lot of free walking tours around the cities of Europe. I find that when I don’t have much time, they’re a great way of getting my bearings whilst learning some of the local history and getting insider knowledge about where the good places to eat/see/go out are. This particular tour was one of the best I’ve ever been on. Our guide was a Bostonian transplant who had lived in Athens for over a decade. His live and enthusiasm for the city was evident and he took us around some of the sights.

Lucy, the Palace Dog

Watch (or learn!) traditional Greek dance

A trip to the Dora Stratou Theatre will not disappoint. Between May and September, you are invited to see a performance of traditional song, dance, music and dress ­ just the way it would have been performed in Greece years ago. You can even take a dance lesson (which is given in English) if you’re so inclined!