Monday, 21 September 2015

Summer 2015

California. One of the best holidays I've ever had. We flew into Las Vegas and, after a few nights in Sin City, we hired a car and drove through Death Valley, Yosemite, Sonoma, San Francisco, down the stunning PCH to Venice Beach, San Diego and, finally, back to LA. Brilliant.


I finished my photography course at the start of the Summer. It was one of my #30forThirty aims and, despite a few grumbles, I'm glad that I took the course as it's encouraged me to experiment with my camera settings and generally take my camera out more.

As Fleetwood Mac cancelled their Manchester gig hours before they were due on stage, my Mum 'replaced' the tickets with two nights in London. I went to the V&A museum for the first time, wandered through Kensington Gardens, had a lovely afternoon tea, and cried my way through Les Miserables. I love this musical and saw it performed in Manchester a few years ago. This was the first time I'd been able to see it in the West End and it lived up to every expectation.

Meeting beautiful babies. Four of my good friends have become mums this Summer and I've loved cuddle time with their precious cuties.

M bought me tickets to Chester Performs: Romeo and Juliet as a birthday treat. It was such a lovely, and thankfully dry, night. You can take your own picnic and the theatre is set up in the round, with all the action in the centre. The performance was fantastic and the light dipped as the play approached it's final, candlelit scenes. I also took my mum to see the same company perform Wind in the Willows in the afternoon - bonkers, but lots of fun!

We wandered the short distance to Sefton Park for Liverpool's International Music Festival. I danced to Basement Jaxx, ooo-ed and aahh-ed at the pretty fireworks, and realised how old I was when Artful Dodger and Space took to the stage.

End of the Road festival was a brilliant weekend away and a welcome distraction from some of the personal rubbishness that was going on this Summer. We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary and treated each other to tickets. We travelled down on Thursday, arriving in time to pitch our tent in the dark and drool in front of food trucks. I settled for a delicious grilled cheese toastie. Over the next three days, I wandered between the four main stages enjoying the brilliant musical line up (highlights: Sufjan Stevens, East India Youth, Alvvays, Tame Impala), belly laughed at the comedy stage, had my portrait drawn in a photo(portrait)booth, had a private folk performance in a tiny dark box (Folk in a Box), successfully hunted out a couple of secret gigs, told Charlotte Church to 'sssshh' (realising it was Charlotte Church only when she was invited up to the stage to belt out Hopelessly Devoted at Robin Ince's midnight Dirty Bookclub) and walking around Larmer Tree Gardens.

We'd expected our kitchen refit to be a pretty painless experience. It has not been. We've had crumbling plaster, workmen who've not given us all the information we've needed to be able to plan ahead/we've not asked the right questions of our workmen, and we've juggled it at the same time as some pretty crappy happenings.

This has been a Summer of highs and lows, but California was a definite high- what a holiday! I've not been able to look at my holiday photographs yet, though (a combination of mood and a broken PC). Looking forward to editing them!  

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Light at the End (of the Road)

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I have definitely had the holiday blues over the past couple of weeks, which hasn't been helped by waving colleagues and friends off on their own Summer holidays. Other rubbish things have been going on outside of work, too, which has made me wish I could return to the simplicity of days exploring Yosemite's beautiful trails and nights of stargazing. However, it's all been that bit easier knowing that I am going to End of the Road festival in Dorset with M next week. They've treated us to a lovely little line up for their 10th anniversary and I am super excited. Three days of distraction: music, comedy, literature and film under the stars, before wriggling into a new cosy double sleeping bag -no more zipping two mismatched singles together. Hoorah! 

Friday, 24 July 2015

A Californian Adventure

The half way point at Glacier Point, Yosemite

This was one of my favourite holidays, for all sorts of reasons. We flew into Las Vegas, hired a car, and drove through Death Valley, to Yosemite, to Sonoma, and San Francisco, before driving down Highway 1 to San Diego and, finally, flying home after a few nights in LA. I had the BEST time. Each place we visited had it's own landscape, food and atmosphere and our daily routine changed with each city. 

Here are some of my favourite memories:
  • Stargazed in Death Valley and Yosemite
  • Watched the sunset over the Grand Canyon
  • Drove an automatic car on the 'wrong side' of the road
  • Pulled a one-arm bandit in Las Vegas
  • Cycled along Venice boardwalk
  • Scuba dived in La Jolla's magical underwater kelp forests 
  • Hiked until my feet blistered in Yosemite National Park
  • Screamed on the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz, followed by a snacking on a corn dog 
  • Escaped from Alcatraz National Park
  • Visited Hollywood Bowl to watch an anniversary screening of Back to the Future, with the original score played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Got a parking ticket in Venice for parking facing the wrong direction
  • Spied a little brown bear eating his dinner from brambles in Yosemite
  • Watched Cirque du Soleil's Mystere  
  • Cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge 
  • Posed next to Route 66 signs in Seligman, Arizona
  • Cheered for San Francisco Giants at their bayfront stadium, against San Diego Padres
  • Kissed at the top of Santa Monica pier's Ferris wheel
  • Paddled in the Pacific Ocean at California's beautiful beaches
  • Slipped on rock at Huntington Falls in Golden Gate Park (and walked around with a soggy bum)
  • Ordered expensive steaks which were carved table side at Carnevino in Las Vegas
  • Stumbled upon an in-store (mewithoutyou) at San Francisco's Amoeba Records
  • Watched dolphins jumping in and out the water from Carmel beach
  • Shopped in Beverly Hills and squealed a little in front of the Beverley Wilshire 
  • Cracked open a rock crab on Santa Barbara's Stearn's Wharf
  • Ordered off-menu Animal fries at In-N-Out Burger
  • Celebrated 4th July with San Diego's Big Bay Boom fireworks display
  • Went to a gig (Soak, The Echo in Los Angeles)
  • Snacked on dim sum in San Francisco's Chinatown
  • Mixed a souvenir cup cocktail at the Purple Zebra in Las Vegas
  • Toured a vineyard (Sanford Winery, from Sideways!)
  • Walked down Bubblegum Alley in San Louis Obispo
  • Ordered dinner at some of San Francisco and LA's amazing food trucks
  • Admired McWay Falls
  • Toasted marshmallows for s'mores under the stars at El Capitan Canyon
  • Ate a burritto in San Francisco's Mission District
  • Sampled some of Sonoma county's pinot noirs and chardonnay... and pinot gris... and sparkling...
  • Queued to see the pandas at San Diego Zoo
  • Scoffed doughnuts at San Diego's 'Donut Bar' (Creme brule, maple bacon, and boston cream. Fit.)
  • Watched waves crash into the cliffs along Big Sur's coastline 
  • Ate BBQ food at LA's 97 year old Grand Central Market
  • Laughed at seals, sealions, and elephant seals
  • Stood on the outside of an historic cable car up and down San Francisco's hills 
  • Camped in Panamint Springs, Death Valley, after day time temperatures of 120F
  • Watched surfers ride the waves, including my very own surfer on his first lesson in Venice
  • Took in the views at the top of Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes
  • Guzzled local craft brews and visited breweries and tap rooms
  • Snapped a photograph of Bixby Bridge
  • Explored the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach
  • Saw the lone cypress on Pebble Beach's 17 mile scenic drive
  • Posed in front of the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park

Saturday, 30 May 2015

30 for Thirty: No#13 Run a 10K

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YES! On Sunday 3rd May 2015 I took part in the Liverpool Spring 10K race at Sefton Park. Not only did I take part but I ran it (-just a little ~30 second walk to chug down water at the 5K mark, and another ~30 second walk around 8K). My chip time was 1h 07m 09s. That 9 seconds is annoying me, but I'm trying to quiet that ever-ready part of my brain which tells me that it isn't fast at all compared to lots of people and that I should have ran that little bit faster/ paced myself better/ shouldn't have walked for those two short bits and, instead, CELEBRATE! In less than four months, I've gone from a red-faced panting mess after 30 seconds of running on the treadmill, to completing my first 10K road race. Hoorah!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Turning 30

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  • Trains, a cathedral, make-up counters, beer and barbecue ribs with M in Manchester on my birthday-eve 
  • Heading to my Mum's and unwrapping five early birthday presents
  • Present number 5/30 from my Mum: "Laura loves to... travel", a DVD of our family holiday to California in 1998
  • A midnight toast, with happy tears after seeing my Dad's smiling face and hearing his voice for the first time in years
  • Serenaded awake at Mum's and opening cards with Stevie Wonder buffering its way out of M's phone
  • Taking in the view at Liverpool's Panoramic with a champagne afternoon tea, a birthday treat from M
  • Laughter and Thai food at Chaophraya 
  • Delivering my first lecture as a 30 year old with a belly full of Tavern breakfast
  • Making pin hole cameras to watch the solar eclipse in the alleyway
  • Hiking to the top of Moel Famau in the rain, then warming up over a pub lunch 
  • Relaxing at Ribby Hall and Spa with three of my favourite people in the world
  • Opening present number 30/30 from my Mum before dinner at The Orangery: Tickets to see Fleetwood Mac (YAY!) in Manchester in June
  • Heading to Blackpool for fish and chips and penny slots
  • Spritzing myself with my new Diptique parfum and slipping on my new heels for a birthday night out 
  • Watching a private screening of Pretty Woman at Cafe Tabac's cinema room, mojito in hand, surrounded by amazing friends
  • Getting teary-eyed opening a 'Remember When' gift from my girlies
  • Tucking into the delicious Hollywood themed birthday cake made by a friend at work
  • Couching out with a big jug of water and The Killing the next day
  • Seeing Toro y Moi in Manchester
  • Catching the Eurostar with three friends for five nights of fun in Paris

I had an absolute blast celebrating my 30th birthday and the celebrations continue with trips away of the next few months and I'm looking forward to all of the lovely experiences I was treated to as gifts!

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Big Birthday Road Trip

So, it's booked. The big birthday USA road trip will definitely be happening this Summer. I am EXCITED. We'll fly over to the USA for three weeks, starting in Las Vegas and working our way across through Death Valley National Park, Yosemite National Park, Sonoma wine country, San Francisco, down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) over a few days to San Diego, before heading back up the coast for our final stop in Los Angeles.

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(I'm a bit in love with all of the cute place illustrations on suitcase-heart.com)

We've researched each place and booked each of our overnight stops independently, which has afforded us lots of flexibility in price and location. We toyed with the idea of booking as we travel but given the popularity of the PCH route, especially in the Summer months, we decided against it. The scenery, our itinerary and our bed will change drastically with each place we visit. We'll sleep in a room in one of the themed casino hotels in Vegas, sweat it out in a tent in the middle of the desert, hide food from bears in a forest tent cabin in Yosemite, guzzle wine by a fire pit at a tranquil bed and breakfast in Sonoma, head down to the beach from our private room at an airbnb.com apartment in Santa Monica, and swim in The Chamberlain's rooftop pool in 'WeHo'. I'm especially excited to spend two nights in this safari tent at El Capitan Canyon, just north of Santa Barbara. We're big fans of the film Sideways and plan to head to Bulleton and visit the Hitching Post!

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Daily question at the moment: 'What are you most excited about RIGHT NOW about our holiday?"
At this very moment, here are my top five: 
  • hiking in Yosemite
  • food trucks
  • sunset over the Grand Canyon and remembering when I shared the view with my Dad in 2001
  • wine tasting
  • 4th July fireworks in San Diego 

If you want evidence of quite how distracting planning this trip has become, you can find my ever-growing Pinterest board here! 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Thirty Minus Four Weeks

It's four weeks until my thirtieth birthday. I've not posted about my 30 for Thirty progress for a while, but I have been crossing a few off here and there, and making plans to complete others over the coming months. One I've been working on since January is #13. Run a 10K

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I remember deciding to join a school friend when she signed up for the cross-country lunchtime club in Year 7. I quickly swapped it for choir and orchestra, preferring these to running around the local park in gym knickers. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy exercising and recognise all of its physical and psychological health-related rewards. I have just never been a runner and usually avoid the treadmill when I'm at the gym. For the past five years, I've gone almost weekly to an aqua run class which is brilliant and a great cardio workout, but the most I could run out of the swimming pool, before passing out, was probably around five minutes, and that would've been on a very good day! 

I fear 'run' a 10K might have been too optimistic as a 30 for Thirty goal, but I do really want to see what I can train my body to do. People say that it's a case of building it up slowly, not giving up after the first few painful, beetroot-faced runs. So, in the cold, windy days of January, I decided to start my slow build up. My sister-in-law suggested one of the many different 'couch to 10K' run programs and within the week I was on a treadmill at the gym faced with 9 repetitions of 1 minute run, 2 minute walk. For a runner, simple. For me, it was a daunting prospect. The poor man next to me had to put up with heavy breathing, sweating and muttered cursing. I was so pleased with myself afterwards!

Yesterday was the first session of week 5 and I'm impressed by the difference from day 1 to now. I never thought I'd see over 5K on my distance reader. Yesterday it read just under 6K, from a 46 minute effort (5 minute warm up walk, 5 minute cool down walk, and 9 reps of 3 run, 1 walk). I'm curious to know just how much I can push my lazy little body. I'm enjoying the buzz (afterwards, more than during!). As the nights get lighter I'll start running around the nearby park as I've been assured that it's easier to keep going for longer when you're outside. There's a Spring 10K in Liverpool in May and I'm really tempted to sign up and see what I can manage. 

Sunday, 1 February 2015

January 2015


  • Welcoming the New Year in PJs with champagne, candles and a good movie
  • Family time on the first day of 2015
  • Celebrating M's 30th with a weekend with family at a cosy forest lodge near Delamere Forest: relaxing in the hot tub, sipping champagne, blowing up balloons, wrapping up for forest walks, overeating, playing lots board games, cosying up by a log fire.
  • More celebrations, just the two of us, finally eating at Kaasbah, Birdman at Fact, and cocktails
  • A Sunday breakfast with friends and playing board games until late
  • Dinner and Pandemic with friends
  • Burgers, beer and the fun sounds of Alvvays at the Deaf Institute
  • M's band's last gig (for a while), followed up by Friday night send off drinks for the band's guitarist who has moved to Scotland
  • First Aid Kit at Manchester's Apollo. An unplugged version of Ghost Town - amazing!
  • Planning and Pinning for California
  • A Sunday afternoon at Liverpool's Albert Dock visiting the Tate Liverpool to view their Andy Warhol collection
  • Birthday cake and catch ups with friends in Birmingham
  • Booking a birthday trip to Paris with friends

Monday, 26 January 2015

Thanks for the Memories, 2014

I try to use this space to remind myself of all the lovely things I've had chance to do, and refocus myself away from the groans and grumbles typical after a long day/week/month of work deadlines or other little struggles. 2014 was not without its challenges but there were lots of highlights along the way that I want to remember. On NYE, M suggested we each write 10 of our 2014 highlights. Those 10 are below, as well as some of my other favourites.


January
Dinner at Liverpool's London Carriage Works restaurant, a screening of Pirates of the Caribbean, accompanied by the Liverpool Philharmonic, and drinks before crashing at Hope Street Hotel
February
Ghost, Liverpool
David Hockney at Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery
March
Learning to knit with a workshop from Purlesque
A birthday mini break to York, Betty's, Fame, craft ales and cocktails
Dinner date with Mum at The Side Door and Sarah Millican, Liverpool Philharmonic
Attending my first night at my local craft group
April
Afternoon tea, aerial silks, mojito making and dancing at one of my best friend's hen do 

May
Standing next to one of my best friends as she married her lovely Mr as their bridesmaid
Liverpool's LightNight 
My first opera trip to see La Bohème at The Lowry
Getting back into Girl Guiding and starting my Leadership Qualification as a Brownie leader
The Lion King, Liverpool
June
First ever skiing experience at the Chill Factore, Manchester
A Brighton wedding
Three weeks exploring land and sea around Bali and the Gilis
July
Proud sister at my brother's PGCE graduation
London with mum: Afternoon tea at Claridge's and Miss Saigon


August
Chasing Giants around Liverpool
A spa trip to The Quay and exploring Conwy
A leather wedding anniversary
September
Keeping up tradition with a trip to see Blackpool's Illuminations, eat fish and chips and play mini golf
A trip to Latvia
A day as tourists in Liverpool
Second of two little breaks to Centre Parcs with friends


October
Spas and catchups in Birmingham
Open top buses, bagpipes and whiskey in Edinburgh
November
Allo Darlin' at Manchester's Deaf Institute
Planning my Oh Comely's #perfectstrangers parcel swap
Mammoth task of redecorating downstairs
December
Making my own Christmas wreath at a flower arranging workshop at The Olive Tree, Brimstage Hall
Choosing our Christmas tree at Delamere and decorating it with mugs of mulled wine
Eleventh Christmas dinner with my girlies
Christmas movies, including Miracle on 34th Street at Woolton Picture House



 Thanks for the memories, 2014. Hello, 2015. Let's make it a good'un.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Resolutions


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In 2015, I promise to try to:
  • Take (more) pleasure in all the little things
  • Spend more time with friends
  • Take more time out alone 
  • Ruminate less
  • Exercise more
  • Be kinder to myself
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