Bring on ’16.

People always ask, where do you see yourself in five years? What are you going to do once you’ve finished your degree? What do you want to do for your career?  And I always fumble out some response and manage to change the subject. Not because I don’t have a plan but because I know how easily things can change. I’ve always had a vague idea in my mind about how I’d like my life to pan out but I don’t like to have too many things set in stone. Tackling things in small doses, with a movable end goal in sight, is how I’ve begun living my life. I still have a solid plan but I like to think that it’s written in pencil rather than ink.

With that in mind, I was thinking about the upcoming year and all the things I want to achieve in those twelve months. I grabbed my trusty notebook and jotted down everything I could think of, and came up with my main five.

  • Reach my ideal weight – having worked hard on achieving this goal for the past months (and having lost 16 pounds so far!), I know 2016 will be the year I reach my target weight.
  • Get my second tattoo – I know what I want, I just need to figure out where to get inked this time!
  • Visit Liverpool – I know I’ve mentioned my eagerness to visit this city before and I’m hoping to get this in motion next year.
  • Eat in a Michelin star restaurant – already booked! You can read about it in my previous post here.
  • Put myself first –  in my mind, the most important item on my list. I’ve put a lot of work into myself and my self-worth, and I want to keep pushing forward.

I absolutely have more than five goals for 2016 but, as I’ve said previously, baby steps. Not need to run before I can walk!  I also have some more personal goals that are for me and me only.

Above all though, I want health and happiness (and if at all possible, a little touch of wealth ;)) for all my friends and loved ones.

What are your wishes for 2016? What do you hope to achieve through the year?

 

 

 

Dooooblin!

My day in Ireland was immense. Or to quote the new guy at work, it was “essence”. Yes, I don’t really understand what it means. The point is that my day trip was brill and the early start (I’m talking 3:30am wake-up call!) was totally worth.

Since we were only going for the day, sans luggage, we were able to check-in online and go straight through security and wait to board. The speediness of the day continued with a 30 minute flight and, before I knew it, I was on Irish soil. We started the day with a full English (or should I say, Irish) breakfast before beginning our exploration of the city.

TWFT-702

My mum and I ventured all over the city from O’Connell Bridge to St Patrick’s Cathedral to the Jameson Distillery. We shopped. We ate. We took selfies. We drank. It was an amazing experience.

 

For £19.98 and a half-hour flight each way, I figured that if the day wasn’t as great as we were anticipating, we could live with it. I can officially announce that it was the best 20 quid I’ve spent. It actually takes me longer to get into Leeds on the bus from where I live in the suburbs and a one-way train ticket to Liverpool is more expensive. With change from a twenty pound note, I visited Ireland for the first time where I tried Guinness for the first time and made brilliant memories all in twenty-four hours. It was a cracking day in the Emerald Isle, so it was!

Two weeks to go!

Two weeks today, I will be on a plane to Dublin and I can’t wait! There are so many reasons I am excited. The main being that I’ve never been to Ireland and that it’ll be 1st December, and the official countdown to Christmas will have begun.

My mother and myself decided early on that we needed a Christmas shopping day and we looked at getting the train to all different places; York, Manchester, Lincoln, Sheffield. We wanted to have a fun day somewhere new where we could how a lovely, big lunch and shop until we drop. It was then that I remembered seeing an offer for really cheap flights from our local airport to Ireland. Chancing it, I had a quick Google and was amazed. We could get a direct flight to Dublin at 7am and a return that evening for the whooping total of £19.98 each! So, of course, we booked it.

Since we are going to another country and have the entire day there, we’ve decided to make the most of it and tick off a few tourist-y bits and pieces too. In addition to our shopping extravaganza and embracing Dublin’s Christmas-y atmosphere, we’re also hitting the Old Jameson Distillery and a few other hot spots. If any of you have been before or have any tips for where to go, I’d be so grateful. Especially, if it’s any restaurant recommendations!

The countdown has begun now and I have my passport and debit card at the ready! I intend to eat, drink and be merry from the time I wake until I drop into my bed later that night. Bring on the 1st!!

 

Club di Giulietta <3

This time last year I was lucky enough to volunteer with the Club di Giulietta in Verona, Italy. Who are they, I hear you ask. They are Juliet’s Secretaries.

Verona is synonymous with Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Having being the setting for the tragic love affair, the city and it’s inhabitants embrace the anything and everything to do with the couple and their love. From Juliet’s balcony to Romeo’s house to Juliet’s Tomb, there are many attractions that any hopeless romantic would love (and that’s without the city’s own historical landmarks!).

One of the most famous attractions is the Casa de Julieta where you can explore TWFT-536Juliet’s house, rub the statue’s golden boob for luck, confess your undying love on her balcony or even snap a quick selfie. Check mine out ->

You can probably see the wall behind me is covered with notes and letters. That, my friends, is what brought me to Verona. As such an iconic figure, Juliet has become a guru of sorts. People from all over the world come to Verona to ask Juliet’s help and post their letters asking for advice. Some of you have probably seen the movie Letters to Juliet with Amanda Siegfried, where she stumbles across a group of women who respond to all the letters written to Juliet. Well, they exist. Once I’d watched the movie a couple (ok, multiple!) times, I was inspired and decided to find them. It was just my luck that they offer a Traineeship Opportunity. After emails back and forth, and some haggling to get time off at work, it was confirmed. I would be spending a week in Verona at the Club di Giulietta!

TWFT-610During October half term 2014 (if you’re not from the UK, this is the last week in October and sometimes going into the first week of November), I flew from Leeds, England to Venice, Italy. Having never been to Italy before, I planned a few hours down time in Venice to explore before I had to grab my train to Verona. It was amazing! I saw the Bridge of Sighs, St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge and more boats than I could count!


TWFT-611
TWFT-490 TWFT-485

Travelling solo was a really scary thing to do. I’m not ashamed to admit that there were a few tears at the airport. I arranged my entire trip from Leeds to Venice to Verona and back again then actually did it on my own – that can be really daunting! I’m super proud of myself though. When I look back on it, it almost feels like it didn’t happen but it did. I do a little happy dance inside whenever I think back on it 🙂

TWFT-582 TWFT-542 TWFT-534 TWFT-580

When I was in Verona, I had plenty of free time to explore. I ate gelato, I shopped, I drank peach Bellinis, I ate more pasta than I care to remember, I rode the tourist train, I went sightseeing but most importantly, I wrote letters. Not only was it a privilege to work with such great people but I felt honoured to be allowed to read people’s most private thoughts and have a chance to respond to them. I was taught, when writing my replies, to always give them hope. When you take on the responsibility of writing as Juliet (and actually signing the letter as Juliet), you are responsible for helping that person and showing them that whatever they’re going through will eventually end. There were lots of letters about from people worrying that they’d never find love and there were a few simply writing to thank Juliet for bringing them their true love. A couple of letters that I read will always stay with me. One in particular from a man who wanted a letter to his fiancé that she could open on their wedding day – that was truly amazing to be a part of.

TWFT-529 TWFT-584 TWFT-589
The middle picture is me with Anna from the Club di Giulietta.

I had one of the most wonderful experiences volunteering in Verona. It’s a truly unique opportunity that most have never heard of, let alone taken part in. It gave me the chance to travel aboard on my own and visit a country I’d never been to before. Everyone always asks me about it and it’s something I love to share with people. So, on the anniversary of my trip, I decided I should share it with my lovely followers and invite them to send a letter to the Juliet’s Secretaries. They receive tens of thousands of letters every year and a large chunk of those are posted from aboard. If you’re feeling as inspired as I was, why not write a little note, pop it in an envelope and post it to them? You won’t regret it.

The address to post your letter to is: Corso Santa Anastasia 29,
Verona, ITALY.

Check out the Club di Giulietta‘s website here ->http://www.julietclub.com/en/

This isn’t how I thought my life would be.

I could have guaranteed that by the age of twenty one, I would have graduated from university, would (hopefully) have a job that would be starting my career and I wouldn’t have been living at home. None of that has happened. I’m still studying for my degree, I have a part-time job to support me through my studies and I am still living at home. Pretty much the opposite of my plan but life got in the way.

I had never even considered not going to a conventional university. It had always been the goal but when it actually came to it, there were simply too many factors going against it. The main being that my dad was seriously ill at the time. I decided to withdraw from the University of Lincoln and take a gap year. I stayed living at home with my mum and I got a job. It was only when one of my mum’s friends suggested the Open University that I realised that this could be the ideal solution. So, in the summer of 2013, I enrolled for my degree in English Literature with the Open University and opted for an introductory year studying a module called ‘People, Work and Society’. And it worked for me. The flexibility, the opportunities and the cost were even more enticing!

I have stayed working with the recruitment agency that I joined during my gap year and it’s slotted in perfectly with my studies. Plus, I’m gaining invaluable experience in a professional setting that will stand me in good stead when I’ve finished studying.

As I said earlier, life tends to get in the way. And oh boy, has it gotten in the way. Over Christmas 2013, my dad was in hospital in a high dependency unit and his body was shutting down. His kidneys, liver and pancreas were failing, his heart problems got worse, he had a septic infection, his went into respiratory failure and he then suffered from double pneumonia. The day before Christmas Eve, he was given the Last Rites and we were told to say goodbye. Somehow (and every doctor I’ve spoken to since has told me how astounded they are), he pulled through. After months of hospital stays and residential homes, he was released. Due to his unstable physical health, mental issues and newly acquired Drop Foot (paralysis of the foot), he was in need of a carer. My mum being the amazing person she is, took him into our home and despite them being separated, helped him when he needed it most.

I am a firm believer in things happening for a reason. And If I had gone to the University of Lincoln as planned, I wouldn’t have been there for my dad when he was so poorly and it’s possible he could have died and I wouldn’t have had the chance to say goodbye.

What’s the point in me telling you all of this? Well, sharing is caring, and I think I’ve rambled on these past few months without you knowing a great deal about the real me. The events of the past few years have really shaped me as a person and made my life go in a completely different direction. Things have worked out for me though, better in fact. I’ve been given opportunities to do things I never would have before. I have a brilliant job and I’m studying a subject I really love. I have travelled solo to Italy to volunteer for a week. I’ve been able to see all my nephews on a regular basis. And, I’ve met some cracking people. Hell, I’ve even gotten to ride in a helicopter!

This isn’t how I thought my life would be but I can’t moan. I have my health, my family and prospects. Sure, it can be a tad lonely at times and, in comparison, I’m not the most social student but that’s not the end of the world. Things are definitely moving into place for me though and the wrinkles are finally starting to smooth out.

**edit** It’s funny. I wrote this post a week or two ago and then Adele released her new single Hello. As I was editing it today, I couldn’t help but feel the song was fitting. So, to play us out…

Just booked my next escapade.

I’m super excited! I have just booked a table at the (newly accredited) Michelin stared restaurant The Man Behind the Curtain in Leeds! The chef patron is Mr 85DW_HMichael O’Hare and he’s known for his eccentric look and even more eccentric food. Here’s a little picture of him ->

He’s recently become more well-known after taking part in the TV program The Great British Menu (click here to learn about it) and people are eagerly booking into his restaurant to sample his food.

As per, I’m dragging my mother along with me to sample the twelve course tasting menu and she’s just as excited as I am. After watching Michael O’Hare on the Great British Menu, and reading the rave reviews about his restaurant, I’m giddy at the thought of what magical creations I’ll get to try.

leeds_restaurant_food_3006
Unfortunately, since reservations are so in demand, I have to wait until March 2016 for our booking. It’s a bit gutting that there’s such a wait but I know it’ll be worth it. In the meantime, I’ve found a sample menu to drool over and I’ve posted it below so you can join in.

The-Mand-Behind-the-Curtain-Menu-768x1024

So, I am counting down the days until I’m sampling all the delicacies Mr O’Hare can throw at me! Bring on The Man Behind the Curtain!!

Don’t buy a hat anytime soon…

As you can probably tell from the title of this post, I didn’t meet the love of my life at speed dating. To be honest though, I didn’t really expect to. Both my friend and I went into the evening with a positive and open mind but not believing we’d find the one.

Let’s rewind and I’ll tell you all about my experience from the start! My friend andTWFT-584 (2) I began the evening in a bar with a bottle of wine (bit of dutch courage and all that!) before heading over the restaurant where the speed dating was taking place. When we arrived, we signed in with the Fastlove representative and were given a name badge, a table number and a scorecard and pen. He briefly went over the set up, letting us know that we had three minutes to talk to each bachelor and score them before the next one appeared.

As people started to arrive and mingle, we headed back to the bar, grabbed a cocktail and went to find our tables. Then, it began! Fifteen guys rotated around the room and fifteen women sat twirling their straws in their drinks.

TWFT-585Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. You all just want to know about the guys I met and whether I had any matches. Well, I met a real mix of men. Some were chatty and quite funny but were definitely more friend material than boyfriend material. A couple were good looking but the personality was just lacking (I mean, one of them didn’t like live shows and gigs! That’s just a big no-no for me). One of the guys was just creepy and a total a****** asking lewd and inappropriate questions. Then a few were just plain weird – one guy spent the three minutes talking about his cat and it’s facial expressions, and another rambled on about different beards and their pros and cons for the whole time. I know everyone will have been nervous but come one, cats and beards as conversation topics?!

I didn’t get any matches. Big shock, I know. When I received my email with the results, they did let me know that a few of the guys did tick that they were interested in me. While flattering, I doubt I’ll be perusing any of them.

It was definitely an interesting experience and I’m really glad I did it. Would I do it again? Hmm, I’m not sure. I didn’t exactly meet anyone who I thought I like-liked but realistically, it might be on the second or third try that I would. For now though, I’m hanging up my speed dating shoes and going about finding a man the old fashioned way. Through a cheesy chat up line in a bar!