Pink Hair, Three Ways

If you know me well, you’ll know I’ve been coveting that lovely “rose gold” hair colour that’s been floating around the internet lately. Now that I’ve had my baby and gotten back into a somewhat normal routine, I decided to give it a go at last.

I thought I’d try a couple of different brands of toners and dyes. My hair doesn’t take these kinds of colours very easily, so I was aware that this might not actually work for me, but I decided I’d have a few goes before giving up.

For reference, this is me with my normal hair colour:

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So it’s kind of a mid-light blonde.

My first attempt was to go a bit literal. I used an actual Rose Blonde toner from colour freedom.

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According to instructions, you have to apply the toner to shampooed, towel-dried hair. The toner also acts as a conditioner.

I wrapped this in cling film to keep the heat in and left this on for over an hour, knowing how terrible my hair is at taking dye. Gave the kid a bath, ate dinner, etc. When I washed it out, well…

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It speaks for itself. No real change in my hair. Not particularly impressed with this, although my hair feels really silky I guess, so… it’s a good conditioner? Other than that, pretty useless. Luckily, at £4.66 I didn’t waste too much money on it.

Okay, so a rose blonde toner wasn’t going to work for me. I decided that since my hair doesn’t seem too keen on taking colour well, maybe using and actual pink shade would get me what I was looking for. Next, I tried Schwartzkopf Live pastel spray in Cotton Candy.  I actually had no idea that this even existed until a few weeks ago when I stumbled on it in Boots.LIVE-Pastel-Spray-Cotton-Candy-3D-RF-0040817It claims to last three washes, so I wondered what the fade on it was like. For this spray, you apply to wet hair, then blowdry and style as normal. This one was really quick to apply, but seriously messy. If I use it again I’ll probably apply it inside the shower cubicle and just rinse it off that way. As it was I ended up cleaning the walls of my bathroom after I was done with this stuff. Anyway, this was the result:

IMG_20170409_180725_001I really like this, but it wasn’t what I was looking for in the sense that it’s a true pink. That said, the spray itself doesn’t claim to be the “rose gold” shade I was looking for, so nothing against it there. It can feel a little product-y on your hair though, almost like there’s hairspray in it, so watch out for that and make sure you blot properly before blow-drying. Also, it definitely doesn’t last three washes. It was out in one, no fade at all. It’s only £3.29, so if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful change to your hair for a night out or a festival, this is a good bet.

I went for Bleach London Rosé next:

IMG_20170409_151354021Bleach London dyes are £5.00 for a bottle. This is an actual hair dye, so I hoped maybe I’d have some luck this time around, with none of the residue of the Schwartzkopf spray. It’s applied in much the same way as the toner – shampoo, towel-dry, apply, rinse. It also smells nice and flowery on application. Knowing what my hair can be like, despite the instructions recommending fifteen minutes to develop, I left this on for half an hour.

Well, if you want PINK pink, then yes, half an hour:

IMG_20170409_171641So this dye REALLY works. But this was so not what I was going for. This was it on Sunday, and if I’m honest I really disliked this on me. It’s quite a dark pink on most of my hair, and as dye tends to take better on lighter blonde it made my whole hair look dark. This one was kind of on me, though, as I didn’t follow the instructions.

I wash my hair daily (I know, I know, bad Nicky). By Tuesday my hair looked like this:

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And bingo!! This is exactly what I was going for (and to be honest, is probably what I would have gotten had I left the dye on for the correct amount of time). Despite the poor choice of lipstick in this photo, I absolutely love this look. I really, really didn’t want it to fade – in fact, I’d have this hair forever if I could. In order to keep it this shade, I used Bleach London’s Rosé shampoo and conditioner. These are colour-depositing products that cleans and soften your hair while maintaining your Rosé shade. They actually work, which I’m glad about, as my hair gets oily really quickly.

I think if you’re going for that rose blonde shade that people are doing this weather, your best bet is probably the Bleach London and FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS. It might take some trial and error to get the shade exactly right for your hair type, but give it a go. On lighter blonde hair you might even be fine just using the shampoo and conditioner and building the colour up over a few washes. The shampoo and conditioner are £6.00 each, but you don’t need tonnes, and to be honest once you have the shade you like, using a normal colour protect shampoo and conditioner every other wash should be okay. It worked for me, and as I’ve mentioned several times (not that I’m bitter), my hair really doesn’t like dye!

So, long story short, I love my new hair, I’m probably going to try some of the other Bleach London shades, and for the love of God, follow the instructions and you’ll get some gorgeous results!

What about you? Got any cute and funky hair colours to show me? Let me know!

Planned Parenthood

I honestly don’t know where to start.

It’s been so long since my last post and it goes without saying that a lot has happened. I’m sitting on the sofa in my living room with my newborn in a crib next to me. A newborn who has been chilling out in there all morning, but has decided to start wiggling and fussing the moment my fingers hit the keyboard, naturally. I’ve a feeling this post will be written with a number of breaks in between!

So, obviously the biggest thing that’s happened since my last entry is that I’ve had a baby. I was induced on the 26th of November and our baby was born on the 28th.

The 26th was one of the strangest days of my life, with both of us sitting around waiting for a call to be told when I could go and have my labour started. We’d been told to hang out in the house and wait for a call from the maternity ward to let us know what time to come up. Not exactly how most people expect that trip to hospital to play out, but honestly I was glad that I had a definite date. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bit of a control freak, and I was glad that I would be able to plan around my induction date and keep everything nice and neat and predictable.

My phone had decided to give up the ghost that morning, as it had been threatening to do for a few weeks, so there followed a mad rush to Tesco to grab a phone and switch the SIM as quickly as possible in case we missed the call. Then, because I couldn’t just sit around waiting anymore, I went up to get a shower and, naturally, that was when the midwife rang and told us to just come up whenever we were ready. Dave didn’t know how to work my new phone and accidentally hung up on her, then had to call her back with a red face. Personally, I was delighted with the timing, because I could go to the hospital sparkly clean for labour, and be picture perfect for my first glowy, blissful picture with the baby (spoiler: by the time labour was over, I looked like a cabbage patch kid that had been buried in someone’s back garden since 1994).

As we drove up to the hospital at around half past four, we had the pleasure of witnessing a stunning sunset. It felt surreal, watching the sun go down on our last day as a couple on our own. Everything was about to change.

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I’ll spare you the details of my labour. Suffice to say it wasn’t pretty and it didn’t go entirely as expected. And at the end, after all of my speculating over what we were having, there was no big declaration of “It’s a boy/girl!” I asked why my baby wasn’t crying, and the paediatrician replied, “He’s alright, he’s just a bit stunned.” That was it. That big reveal of what he was just wasn’t important. I looked at Dave and asked him if we were still going to use the name we’d picked out for a boy, and he said yes. So Oliver it was.

It took a good hour to get stitched up, but once they were happy with Oliver they let me hold him, and that hour barely existed to me at all, it disappeared so quickly. The thing is, no matter how sensible and pragmatic I like to think I am, it turns out your own child can kind of capture you with that first look. For a little while, the room is full of you and him and empty of everyone else and all their chatter and business. He’s sticky and scrunched up and kind of looks like Winston Churchill after a bar fight, but to you that little baby is absolutely perfect.

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I was in hospital for five days overall, including the time it took between induction and Oliver being born. Chronic anxiety has a way of making that feel more like a month.

People tell you to enjoy your time in hospital – to take the opportunity to get some rest and let the midwives help you with the baby. I absolutely hated being there. Don’t get me wrong, I know how lucky I am to have access to good maternity care. The staff I met in the maternity hospital were absolutely amazing, from the labour suite to the ward. But there’s something about learning to care for a newborn in a noisy, overheated ward crammed with strangers, in a space the size of a disabled toilet cubicle, using one kitchen-sink-sized surface to change, dress, and put baby to sleep in, that left me feeling claustrophobic and anxious. It didn’t help that for the first two days after having Oliver, I couldn’t actually do much for myself. Between the effects of the epidural and the litre of blood I lost in labour, numb legs and dizziness both played a part in pretty much confining me to my cubicle. On the first day, I couldn’t even stand. I hated constantly having to buzz staff because my baby was crying and I needed someone to hand him to me, while the women around me all seemed to breeze through the change-feed-burp cycle like they’d done it a thousand times before. On the first night, I slept through him grizzling and throwing up and a midwife took him away to the nursery. I cried the following morning, absolutely ripped to bits with guilt, and refused to go to sleep that night until a midwife promised to wake me up periodically to see to him. Then came the guilt I felt for feeling so worried and miserable all the time because I knew how fortunate I was to have a healthy baby and access to a good hospital in which to recover.

None of this is anywhere near as traumatic or upsetting as being in hospital for an actual serious illness, but nonetheless, the illusion of perfect newborn bliss was shattered pretty quickly. There were no fluffy, perfect Pinterest-worthy photo ops – I barely allowed my mum to take a photo of me holding Oliver in the hospital because I felt so disgusting and dirty. There was just me fumbling through changes, more thumbs than fingers, and wondering why my baby wouldn’t stop throwing up every time I fed him. There was just me getting everything wrong and wondering how all those beautiful internet mums were doing it.

I owe a lot to a student midwife called Sarah on the ward for keeping me sane. She came to see me the day after I gave birth and asked me how I was doing and I sort of word vomited all over her, explaining that I felt absolutely mental for all the reasons listed above, plus I hadn’t been able to shower for three days between my prior inability to stand for long and my current fear of taking my eyes off Oliver in case he needed me and I missed it again. She spent a lot of time with me, probably more time than she really had spare. She offered to take him for half an hour to allow me to go and get a shower and wash my hair (I think she might have felt a bit bad for making me cry by telling me I wouldn’t be discharged that day!), and I don’t think I’ve ever come so close to hugging a complete stranger. She did the same thing the following day, making sure I knew that Oliver’s final check with the Sister would take thirty minutes, which would be long enough for me to get a shower and a cup of tea. It’s the little things, really, isn’t it?

Going home was both incredibly nerve-wracking and a huge relief. I was happier than I can put into words to get back into my own house, with my own things, and able to work to my own schedule. Still, once our parents got up off the sofa and said it was time for them to leave, my heart sank. We were on our own, and between the tiredness and still being really unsteady on my feet, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to cope. Over the next number of days, I found myself crying over strange things. Because I’d dropped a bottle on the floor. Because I couldn’t decide if I was hot or cold. Because I loved Oliver.

During this time, I feel like the universe reiterated to me just how amazing my husband is. He sort of took control the first few days, from covering nappy changes to avoid me getting down on the floor and bothering my stitches (and still-reeling head) to walking upstairs behind me with his hands on my back so that I wouldn’t fall. He held on to me every time I cried (and I cried a lot), and tried to convince me that I was doing a good job. I dreaded him going back to work.

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But, then, as the days passed, things got easier. I started learning how to read Oliver, predicting what he was going to want before he started wanting it, changing him faster, handling him with a bit more confidence. Dave went back to work and Oliver and I were on our own. I was shocked to realise halfway through the week that actually, we were doing okay. We got our own little routine going and I started to feel capable. I went outside with him by myself. Oliver is four weeks old now. It’s a little bit belated, but as my confidence has grown, that ‘newborn bliss’ experience that I was so heavily sold throughout my pregnancy has crept in, albeit less glossy and polished than advertised.

I suppose what I’m saying is that parenthood isn’t quite what I expected, and that I was an idiot to think that I could plan everything out like a birthday party or a home refurb. But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy or that I regret it. If anything, the absolute chaos of the last four weeks has just reinforced the knowledge that being a mum is not going to be easy. It’s going to be a rollercoaster of emotions. Sometimes it’s going to hurt like hell. Sometimes I’ll feel like I can’t do it.

But when I hold Oliver and he looks into my eyes in that strange, intense way that new babies do, my heart soars in a brand new way that I didn’t know existed before. When I speak and he turns towards my voice, I remember that someone very special is relying on me to be the absolute best I can be. When I watch my husband cuddling our son, chatting away to him and exchanging little babbling noises, I know how lucky we all are to have each other.

So, if a little addition to your family is on the agenda, all I can say is maybe don’t try to plan how it’s all going to look once they’ve arrived. The glowing new mother is a myth. Pinterest can go and do one. Plan only to laugh a lot, to cry a lot, and to love a lot. That’s all you can really be sure of.

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Adventures in Northern Ireland!

You know it’s been one hell of a weekend when you round it all off by falling into bed at 9pm on a Sunday night and sleeping for fifteen hours. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

It started on Friday morning when we picked up our lovely English friends from Belfast International for a weekend of Northern Irish adventure. Needless, to say, we spent most of their first day with us at the very up-and-coming Titanic Quarter area of Belfast, starting with breakfast at Cast and Crew . This place does great food, but in particular I can’t praise their breakfast enough. If I could have finished what was on my plate, I would have!

Without much time to dally about, we headed off to Segway NI, as we’d booked for the some of the group to take a segway tour of Titanic Quarter.

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Some of the guys were a bit tentative at the beginning, but it wasn’t too long before they were ready for their speed restrictions to be lifted. Meanwhile the rest of us took a slightly more leisurely tour of the area, not forgetting of course to take a few pictures and videos when we saw the others zooming about the place. The guys loved the Segway tour and they really enjoyed hanging out with their tour guide, who discovered quite quickly that he was dealing with a bunch of nerds and advised them that the segways traveled at ideal Pokémon egg-hatching speed.

We met up again after the Segways to check out Titanic Belfast, admittedly a slightly less active tour than the one just passed, but a really interesting experience nonetheless and a must-do when you’re in Belfast (and I’m not just saying that because I work there)!Of course, we were sure to make our English friends feel extra welcome while we were there…

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I’d actually never managed to get my husband over the door before – he’s not really a big fan of museums – but he had a good time messing around with the interactives and touch screens. The Nomadic in particular went down really well because it was an actual piece of living history and was a bit more hands-on.

After that we were all pretty wrecked, especially our guests who’d all been up before dawn to catch their plane, so we headed back to Carrickfergus to get changed and let the guys unpack.

We had a table booked for dinner at Harlem Café back in Belfast. This place is amazing, by the way. I don’t know what was better between the food and the excellent service! Two servers in particular, who introduced themselves as Max and ‘Eagle’, were just so lovely and took time out of all their rushing around to chat to our party at considerable length. They made us feel special and really contributed to a lovely first night out in Belfast for our guests. The live musician was excellent, too, though unfortunately I didn’t get his name.

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If we thought day one had been exhausting, we were in for a shock on day two! We set out in the morning in two separate cars to head for the North Coast. Given that there were a few Game of Thrones fans in our party, it went without saying that our first stop was Ballygally Castle, where there was plenty of information on the show’s filming as well as one of the Game of Thrones doors made from the fallen trees from the Dark Hedges. This is a really beautiful hotel with tonnes of its own history too – definitely worth a look if you’re ever visiting the North Coast of Ireland.

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After stopping at Ballycastle for a quick lunch, we headed on to Carrick-A-Rede to check out the rope bridge. This was a spot I’d actually never been to before, but the views even before you get near the bridge itself are absolutely stunning. However, one look at the steep incline that I’d need to climb in order to get BACK from the bridge told me I wouldn’t be hauling my pregnant backside along the path, so I hung back with another party member who didn’t fancy it and soaked in the sunshine and the beautiful sights.

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It took about two hours for the others to cover everything beyond the ticket barrier, and the walk back really seemed to take it out of them. Totally worth it, though, for some of the beautiful photos they got out there.

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We were bound for the Bushmills Distillery next, and unfortunately got stuck behind a tractor along the way. That meant we were juuuust about too late for the last tour of the distillery. My husband and house guest Jonny were both very disappointed to have missed it!

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Plenty of whiskey and souvenirs were bought at the gift shop, though. Some really nice stuff in there!

One of the cars headed on to the Causeway, but us old farts in the Couldn’t Walk Anymore Car skipped it to check out on another visit when we’d have more time to explore, and headed on to the dark hedges – a priority since we had some Game of Thrones  fans in our car.

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The place is, as everyone knows by now, absolutely beautiful. I really hope that they stop letting people park right on the road, though, before we lose more of the trees. There is, after all, a perfectly good car park less than five minutes’ dander away.

That was it for us, so we piled back into the car and headed home to get ready for everyone to pile down to our house for the evening. Cards Against Humanity was played, whiskey was enjoyed, takeaway and cake were eaten, and fun was had (sadly El Preggo faded at around eleven and went to bed though!).

The following day was just a day for relaxing, a quick dinner at Nando’s, and emotional goodbyes. I’m going to miss them, but I loved showing them our tiny, beautiful little country!

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What about you? Where are your favourite spots in Northern Ireland? Let me know!

I’m having a baby!

It’s been, what, nine weeks? Ten? Sorry about that. Unfortunately when I haven’t been working or eating my entire weight in cheese, I’ve spent the majority of my time sleeping. As it is I’m sorry to say that this will be a Long Post, and probably quite boring and drivelly if babies and pregnancy aren’t your thing. I won’t be offended if you skip and wait for the next post, honest!

As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, I’m having a baby (around twenty four weeks at this point), and it’s been both an exciting and terrifying experience.

We had been trying, but had only started seriously trying in terms of checking dates on calendars and things like that for a couple of months, so we count ourselves ridiculously lucky in that way, so much so that, in the beginning, I was a bit in denial and ignored a couple of the early signs that I really should have been looking out for.

I first realised that something might be up on St. Patrick’s day. I was singing at a small gathering at a fellow church member’s house that evening, and even on a chilly mid-March night, all I could bear to wear was a floaty knee-length dress that was about three cells thick, and conceded to wearing a pair of black tights only because I didn’t want to look like a complete lunatic swanning around in a summer dress when it was barely ten degrees. Anyway, we played our set and headed home, and I decided not to think much more of it. I was probably just coming down with something.

The next day I got into my car to drive to work, and I wondered what That Smell was. It was like a really powerful, industrial cleaning product, and if you’ve ever seen the state of my car you’ll know how unlikely that is. I realised it was my beloved candy floss car freshener, suddenly for some reason reeking of Domestos and betrayal. Then there was the printer, which also decided to assault my poor nose that day. Then the return of the hot flashes. When I was having a good whinge to one of my friends at work about the heat in the office, she pointed out that it was, in fact, freezing in here, and was I quite alright?

I decided it was probably a good idea to buy a test. So, I left work and headed to Abbeycentre to enjoy a not-at-all-excruciating fifteen minutes in that aisle in Boots gawping at the three billion types of tests for sale. Blue ink? Pink ink? Digital? Week counter? I cheaped out and got the least expensive one, obviously. Why drop twenty quid on something I was just going wee all over? Then I bought a nice pair of shoes and a pretty notebook, because, you know, treat yourself.

Three hours of hanging out in a state of false nonchalance at my mum’s and desperately holding my pee as-per-instructions later, I was standing in my bathroom with a positive pregnancy test in my hand.

I’d like to say that I was instantly flooded with motherly instinct and joy, but honestly at first I felt a bit numb. With Dave out for the night with friends, I went about my normal night time routine and headed to bed. I was a little shocked, maybe. This was what we wanted, and yet for some reason I still hadn’t honestly believed it was going to happen. Babies were something that other people had. It felt bizarre to think that I was carrying one myself. I struggle quite badly with poor self esteem and anxiety, so maybe a part of me had assumed that this was a Nice Thing, and therefore I couldn’t have it or it would get taken away from me (a battle I also faced early in my relationship with Dave). It took a little while for me to relax into it and start getting excited.

Still, we couldn’t keep it from our parents for long. We told our folks on Easter Sunday, and thankfully chose to tell Dave’s granny as well just a few days before she passed. We waited until twelve weeks before we told anyone else, and we think our favourite reaction came from my partner-in-crime, baby’s honorary auntie Emma:

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She got so excited that she cried and couldn’t concentrate on finishing her Chinese! If you know Emma, it takes a lot to distract her from a really good takeaway. She’s already full of fun ideas for Baby Wharry and summer holiday adventures – such a good auntie!

It’s true that from the moment you find out that parenthood is on the horizon, you never stop worrying. From a run-in with a very doomy-gloomy out-of-hours doctor to a bit of a bleed at eight weeks to a minor car accident at ten weeks, suffice to say we heaved a sigh of relief when we hit the golden twelve-week mark.

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I like to think that this has all been practice for what’s to come, though. I can tell myself that we’ll be relieved once Baby Wharry is with us and in one piece, but that’s just not true. We’ll likely start by being up every hour just to check they’re still there, then proceed to why are you crying I have literally run out of ideas when will you learn to talk to us, then move on to the Toddlerproof Everything stage. Then there’ll come worries about how they’re getting on in school. Will they make friends okay? First sleepovers. Do they miss me? Are they feeling pressured at school? What if someone breaks their heart? What if they go out at night with their friends and they’re late home? Is that new boyfriend/girlfriend going to be good to them or mess them around? Are they going to be okay living on their own? Do they need my help? Are they okay?

It’ll go on and on, and God willing, we’ll have the privilege of worrying about them for the rest of our lives.

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What about you? Have I missed any biz with you lot since I last checked in? Let me know!

-Nicky x

Hotel Trip – Galgorm!

My husband recently got a new job and left his Tesco management days behind him. On his leaving day, his colleagues very generously gave him a gift voucher for the very posh Galgorm Resort and Spa (thank you again, Dave’s Tesco friends)! We decided to use this last Sunday, going for an overnight stay package. I’d been to stay in this hotel once before and absolutely loved it, so my expectations were pretty high. Dave, having never visited, wasn’t too sure what to expect.

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Try to ignore the mess in the bottom left corner made by me!

The room was clean, spacious and had a lovely warm atmosphere. There was plenty of information left for us to read about the local area and what was on offer at the hotel in terms of spa treatments and room service. There was also further information, along with instructions for gaining WiFi access, on the room’s insanely huge television. However, we didn’t waste too much time in the room, since he had a thermal village to visit! Suit up!

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Fantastic selfie game there on my part, not blurred or anything. Good job!

I didn’t bring my phone down to the thermal village, mostly because I didn’t want to look like some weird creep taking pictures in an area where everyone was hanging around in their swimsuits. I only got one shot of the thermal village from our hotel room:

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Trust me, it was amazing. The place is enormous. I was only able to do maybe half of what was on offer in the thermal village as I’m pregnant (more on that another time) and am supposed to stay away from hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms and etc., but I still got several hours’ enjoyment out of the place and there was plenty for me to do there. I spent time in the heated outdoor pool, reading my book on the water beds, stepping briefly into (and scurrying straight back out of) the snow cabin, and using the snail shower.

A snail shower, it turns out, does not coat you in any sort of goo in the manner of a very upmarket episode of Funhouse, which is what I imagined when I saw it referenced in the brochure; it just refers to how the shower is shaped. I am not posh, so to me it was simply known as The Curly Shower. Try different buttons in this shower and it will simulate a variety of weather conditions for you, sound effects included! My childish self was delighted. Tropical Storm was my favourite.

I went back upstairs a bit earlier than Dave since I fancied a bath before dinner. Did I mention that even the bathrooms in this place are huge? They’re huge. And somehow I still managed to cover most of the floor’s square footage with water while I bumbled about running my bath and getting changed after. I’m basically the worst and I’m sorry to all housekeeping staff ever. It was a lovely bath, though?

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Awwww yis.

While we pottered about getting ready for dinner, we put a film on the comically large television and made use of the minibar (Pepsi Max for me but even the beer in our room that Dave had was complimentary). As I am A Grown Up, I forgot to pack the shoes that went with the dress I’d packed for dinner, so guess who wore gutties with their pretty maxi dress? Yep, this asshole.

Seated in Gillie’s restaurant (a huge restaurant with a lovely, warm atmosphere that gives off the vibe of a posh-yet-homely rural pub) and with my offensively-dressed feet firmly ensconced under a table, I joined Dave in ordering a starter. I’m a bit of a nightmare when it comes to starters as I don’t like salads, mayo-based sauces, or cold savoury food, so I was pretty pleased to find something I could enjoy from the starter menu that wasn’t soup. Get a load of this bang bang chicken:

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You can also order this as a main, which I might do next time because it was fantastic. The batter on the chicken wasn’t super heavy and peppers were really crunchy and full of flavour.

My main was grilled chicken with peppers, onions, chorizo, and baby new potatoes with a tangy tomato-y sauce, which sounds duller than it actually was. I forgot to take a picture of it, too! It was really tasty, though.

Also, can I just draw attention to this dessert:

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That is raspberry sorbet with coconut ice cream on top of white chocolate and coconut mousse. You’re welcome.

We had a lovely server throughout, too. A real down-to-earth, no-nonsense lady who delivered great and efficient service without hovering or interrupting us too much, which I appreciate at restaurants. I always feel a bit awkward when I get asked eighteen times throughout a meal if everything’s okay.

We spent some time in the bar near the reception before heading back to our room to find that the turn down service had been.

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Awk look at the wee mints on the pillow!

The bed was ridiculously comfortable, although Dave felt the pillows had a bit too much give for him. I never sleep well in a new place, though, so I woke up several times during the night and couldn’t help but notice the pleasant sound of the river outside our window. By the time morning came and the spa was open, we were also able to hear the soft strains of music coming from the thermal village.

Breakfast was in the River Room, where it felt altogether too fancy to be caught out taking photos of my food.

Most of the menu included soft-poached eggs or some sort of smoked fish, so I unfortunately had to rule out a lot of options as I didn’t want to be the savage who asked for hard-poached egg. I did get scrambled eggs on toast though, which was lovely. Dave’s eggs benedict looked pretty amazing too.

We checked out at 11am and hit the road, having had an absolutely amazing twenty four hours of pretending to be posh, and feeling a little sad to be getting back to porridge. We were home and unpacked by twelve, at which point I proceeded to nap for five hours. All that relaxing can really take it out of you, I guess!

Markets and Cake

It’s been a while, right?

Sorry, blog. I promise I still love you. I’ve just had a couple of very uneventful weekends and didn’t really have much to talk about!

Not so much this past Saturday, when I went for a wee jaunt round St. George’s Market with my usual partner in crime Emma. I haven’t been to the market in a good few years, and I’d forgotten how enjoyable it is. There’s a continental market that comes to Belfast every Christmas, but honestly I prefer St. George’s. It’s a permanent market, for one thing, so people don’t feel the need to flock to it before it closes and so it’s not heaving with people. I find that a lot of the continental market’s stalls are kind of same-y, and I also just kind of love the atmosphere of St. George’s Market.

Most of the back of the room is reserved for food (both takeaway ready-to-eat food as well as fish and meat), but you’ll find plenty of jewellery, accessories, homeware and general knick-knacks towards the front. Emma found her first buy pretty much immediately in the form of a new ring. Emma has an allergy to nickel. She also isn’t a big fan of plated jewellery because the plating tends to come off eventually and she gets exposed to the metal underneath anyway. It’s worth mentioning that a lot of stalls at St. George’s sell real gold and Sterling silver jewellery. She was torn between these two beauties, but eventually went for the more subtle black one:

I’m no jewellery expert, so I can’t tell you much more about the stones, but she could write you a book on them!

I started my Christmas shopping but didn’t buy myself anything, so sadly I cant post much about what I bought! The most interesting stall I saw there, though, was one for Steampunk Ireland, which did really amazing steampunk style jewellery, accessories and cufflinks. They also do bespoke wedding packages! More info on them can be found on their Facebook.

Well, that’s a lie. There’s a curry stand along the left-hand wall that sells low-fat curries and stew, so I may have gone in for a wee Slimming World friendly korma. Usually I find slimming world recipes disgusting, but at only three sins it tasted suspiciously bad for me. Still, not complaining!

Another thing I loved was the live music being performed in the center of the room. I didn’t take any photographs or videos of the guys playing, firstly because I didn’t have their permission and secondly because one of them had their child with them and he would have ended up in the photo too. They were fab though, and really added to the atmosphere.

The market closed at three, so we headed on for a cup of tea at a lovely little café on the Lisburn Road called Miel et Moi:

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I assume you’ve heard of it because when we arrived the majority of Ireland’s population was in there and we had to wait approximately seven hundred and forty eight years to get a table. Totally worth it, though. We stopped in for tea and cake, but the breakfast menu and the cocktail list looked pretty amazing, too. I kind of wish I’d photographed them, now, actually. Emma got a strawberry and rosewater gateau and I went for a chocolate and coffee gateau!

Stay jealous.

Emma tells me her cake was amazing, but honestly, as much as I liked the chocolate and coffee gateau, I probably wouldn’t order it again as it was a bit stiff and dry-ish. Tasted amazing, but the texture was a little bit off. The tea they serve there is Suki Tea, though, which always gets you brownie points! All in all, it was a really lovely day out and I’ve really missed spending time with my bestie. ❤

What about you? What have you been up to since I so cruelly abandoned you a few weeks ago? Let me know!

A Day Off

I had a great day yesterday!

After a bout of illness, I had Friday booked of as a lieu day and was really happy to be feeling a bit more human by then. I realise now that I should have taken some pictures, but honestly after a serious case of cabin fever and general rotten-ness I was having such a nice time getting out and about that it completely slipped my mind! I’m disappointed now, of course, but not that much. In fact this is the only photograph I took all day:

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Not very informative, is it?

My mum and I went out for a cup of coffee at Hillside Nursery up in Newtownabbey. I love it there! I rarely buy anything because we don’t actually have a garden, but I still love to look around and the coffee shop is fantastic. I had a cappuccino and a whack of chocolate cake that could have put an elephant into a sugar coma.

We came back to my mum’s house for a bit. I haven’t seen my cat in a while, so I hung out with him for a little bit and drank a lot of tea – the usual activities when I’m at my mum’s, really.

The evening was a bit more involved. We got dinner together at the Fitzwilliam Hotel first. I’ve never eaten there before, and I have to say it was absolutely amazing. First of all the atmosphere is not what we expected at all. While we definitely felt that we were about to experience some luxury dining, it didn’t feel cold or intimidating at all. The wait staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and were very quick to apologise and oblige when I had a bit of a smear on my fork and asked for it to be changed.

We ordered from the pre-theater menu, as we arrived at six o’clock. My main was “Breast of Fermanagh Chicken, Burnt Onion Mash and a Little Pot of Blanched Vegetable”. Essentially, it was fancy chicken with potatoes and vegetables, but the fancy part shouldn’t be downplayed here. It. Was. AMAZING. The chicken was cooked to absolute perfection and there was plenty of it. Creamy as they were, the potatoes didn’t overload the plate, and the veggies were buttery and full of flavour. I really wish I could get the recipe for the jus they used, too. It was all I could do not to clear my plate entirely. My mum ordered lamb and thoroughly enjoyed it, too!

My dessert was “Dark Chocolate Tart with Chantilly Cream”. My emphasis is on the “dark” part. If dark chocolate isn’t your thing, give this a miss. It’s an extremely rich dessert, which suited me just fine as I could eat nothing but chocolate for the rest of my life, but there are plenty of people who maybe wouldn’t go for this after a big meal. Personally though, I loved it.

It’s worth noting as well that the pre-theater menu is excellent value, at £16.95 for two courses and £19.95 for  three. Next time you’re out to catch a show, give this place a try as it’s right next to the Grand Opera House…

…Which is, incidentally, where we headed next!

Based on a colleague’s recommendation, I got my mum tickets to see Nine to Five at the Opera House for her sixtieth birthday. I had no idea what it was about, but I was assured it was a great girl power show, perfect for a girls’ night out. I have to say, we were definitely not disappointed!

Nine to Five centers around three women, each from very different backgrounds, working at the fictional company Consolidated. As they navigate the aggressively misogynistic boys’ club that is the late 1970s corporate landscape, they gain an understanding and appreciation for one another’s differences and learn to handle business as a team, despite the pressures placed on them by their sexist CEO.

Honestly, this was a wonderfully feel-good show and I’d recommend it to anyone. Although it dealt with a lot of genuine issues faced by working women in the seventies (and sometimes even now), it did so in a light-hearted way that left the audience cheering for the leads and laughing with them in their successes.

This performance was by St. Agnes’ Choral Society, and honestly I would happily go and see a show by them again. The three leads were funny, charming, and had excellent command of the stage, and the actress who played Judy in particular had an absolutely incredible voice. After the opening sequence I had total confidence that the chorus would deliver a solid performance throughout, and I wasn’t disappointed. Props to the actors who played Hart and Roz as well for being hilarious.

I had a brilliant day overall, and honestly I’m actually looking forward to getting stuck back into work on Monday.

What about you? How’s your weekend been so far? Let me know!