Taking It Easy

After spending over a week down south, I returned home for a few days and then travelled up north to Manchester.

The main purpose of the trip was to catch up with a group of friends that I have known for nearly 25 years. It has been two years since I last saw them – they were the last social event I had before the pandemic hit the UK in March 2020, so I was looking forward to it. 

I was staying with my mum for the weekend and we had a bunch of things planned around it. I was feeling quite smug when I left the house initially due to being somewhat organised for once, only to discover when I arrived that I had forgotten a whole bunch of stuff including socks, make-up and a phone charger. Who forgets to pack socks??? 

Socks quickly acquired, we went for a meal at our favourite Chinese restaurant on the Friday night. We’ve been going there for decades – I remember having my 18th birthday celebration there, I turned 40 last year and I couldn’t count how many meals our family has had there in between. I was delighted to see that one of the staff members, George, who greeted us during our earliest visits, was still there. There is one particular dish – a sharing platter for two – that both mum and I are obsessed with, so instead of ordering a starter and selection of mains we decided to treat ourselves and had one each without mains. It was fabulous – I couldn’t help but laugh with sheer excitement as they were brought out – but I was so full by the end I thought someone would have to roll me to the car afterwards.

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It’s Oh So Quiet

Yesterday was a little strange. Not that it was bad in any way, but it took me a while to settle in. 

I’m currently dog-sitting at my friend’s house. It isn’t the first time I have done this, so I was already familiar with the area and the dog’s routine and we immediately got back into it. Admittedly, I was feeling a bit tired as her barking had woken me up at 1am when the neighbours returned home, and then again at 2am when she vomited on the floor. (While I miss having the cats, I don’t miss waking up to the sound of retching in the early hours of the morning). We walked, had breakfast, I did some work while she snoozed, we walked again etc. It was a fairly relaxed and peaceful day with glorious weather…

Image credit: Nathan Cowley, Pexels

I suddenly realised yesterday evening just how quiet it was. 

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My Nine Year Blogging Anniversary and a Working Staycation

Yesterday was my nine year blogging anniversary. I received a notification at 6.30am as I was sitting in a very cold train station. 

The reason why I was travelling yesterday is because of a friend who I met through the blog 2015. In fact, she was one of the first blog friends who became a social media client. Since then we’ve been to events, a writers retreat and on holiday to Dubrovnik together, and yesterday I travelled down to her house to look after her dog while she and her family are on holiday. 

One of the views on my walk this morning… not a bad way to start the day!

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Great Foodie Instagram Places in London

I love London. I’m lucky in that I live 90 minutes away on the train and, when booked in advance, tickets are pretty cheap. The Bloke and I used to visit three or four times a year before the pandemic, usually staying overnight. We would take a section of London that we had never visited before and I would map out ideas of things to see and do. 

Now that there aren’t any more restrictions, I have very tentatively started to visit again. Our last trip was last September for my not-quite 40th birthday, and I went on a shorter trip with my mum a little while ago. 

I have noticed a huge difference in the last decade of how Instagram has become an integral part of the marketing strategy for many cafes and restaurants. Flower walls, neon signs, even highlighted sections on menus advertising ‘Instagram-worthy’ dishes and drinks have appeared. 

Suzie Speaks London Foodie Instagram Places

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Playing Catch-Up… Again

I started February with the best of intentions. I had just completed a No Spend Challenge over January and was feeling a massive sense of achievement, so set myself a whole series of goals over February. One of them was to blog at least twice a week… and now it’s March and to say I failed spectacularly would be an understatement. 

However, despite the storms and constant rain, February was fast-paced and pretty exciting at times with lots of both short and long-term unexpected opportunities. 

Ever heard the analogy about waiting for a bus for ages and then three all arrive at once? 

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January No Spend Challenge Update: Week 4

or: How I fed Two People for a Week for £15.41.

In January I decided to do a no spend challenge for the month. There were a few reasons for this 

  • I needed a new challenge to try 
  • My goal for this year is a financial one
  • January is the quietest month in terms of birthdays and events 
  • I needed something to kickstart a frugal mindset that I hope will carry me through the rest of the year.

We spent the first three weeks working our way through what remained in the fridge, freezer and cupboards following Christmas, supplementing it with a shop of fresh groceries each week. Once the three weeks was over we had managed to work our way through quite a lot, including the staples of pasta, rice, frozen chicken and fish, tins of chopped tomatoes etc.

By week 4 I knew we would have to do a much larger shop, but I wanted to challenge myself even further. Inspired by the YouTube budget eating challenges from June from Budget Eats and Atomic Shrimp, I wanted to buy an entire weeks worth of groceries for as little as possible and eat just what I had purchased.

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January No Spend Challenge Update: Week 2 and Week 3

In January I decided to do a no spend challenge for the month. There were a few reasons for this 

  • I needed a new challenge to try 
  • My goal for this year is a financial one
  • January is the quietest month in terms of birthdays and events 
  • I needed something to kickstart a frugal mindset that I hope will carry me through the rest of the year.

I set myself some rules for the month:

  • Money can (and should!) be spent on rent, bills and essentials like groceries, toiletries and petrol.
  • Money can be spent on parking should an activity be free. The reason why I am including this is that we have several press reviews at the theatre coming up over January, and while the tickets are complimentary we pay a few pounds for parking.
  • Should I need to go somewhere, I am allowed to spend money on bus fare, but not on a taxi unless it is an emergency (Note: I never learned to drive, hence why I am including this).
  • I am not allowed to spend money on non-essential items, including new clothes, books, takeaways, snacks, meals out, taxis, drinks at the pub etc.

Week 1 was surprising. I figured that after the excess of Christmas the best way to cut back on spending was to start with food, and that’s exactly what I did. I spent £9.91 on groceries – mainly fresh fruit and veg – and combined that with the food left over in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. We had no takeaways, didn’t eat out anywhere and had no snacks at all. We also spent £10.50 on parking when we went to the theatre (we’re on the press team so the tickets were free), taking it to a grand total of £20.41. When looking at everything we would normally spend in a week, we saved about £111. 

Week 2

We continued into week 2 with the same criteria and mindset. I did a food shop again from Aldi, this time spending £8.25. We still had staples left over – potatoes, pasta, rice, frozen fish – and random boxes of frozen party food etc, so I followed the same pattern I had from the week before. I made three meals a day, utilised leftovers and got a little bit creative with some meals – who knew that vegetable samosas would go so well with homemade soup?? 

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Press Review: School of Rock at the Alexandra Theatre

Based on the 2003 movie starring Jack Black and with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes, School of Rock tells the story of Dewey Finn (Jake Sharp), a wannabe rock star who impersonates a substitute teacher in a prestigious prep school. Upon discovering the musical talent of his young students he forms a band in an attempt to win the Battle of the Bands contest. 

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January No Spend Challenge Update: Week 1

At the beginning of January I set myself a challenge to spend as little money as possible over the month. There were a few reasons for this:

  • I needed a new challenge to try 
  • My goal for this year is a financial one
  • January is the quietest month in terms of birthdays and events 
  • I needed something to kickstart a frugal mindset that I hope will carry me through the rest of the year.

I set myself some rules for the month:

  • Money can (and should!) be spent on rent, bills and essentials like groceries, toiletries and petrol.
  • Money can be spent on parking should an activity be free. The reason why I am including this is that we have several press reviews at the theatre coming up over January, and while the tickets are complimentary we pay a few pounds for parking.
  • Should I need to go somewhere, I am allowed to spend money on bus fare, but not on a taxi unless it is an emergency (Note: I never learned to drive, hence why I am including this).
  • I am not allowed to spend money on non-essential items, including new clothes, books, takeaways, snacks, meals out, taxis, drinks at the pub etc.

Before I started I was unsure of how much I spent each week. I don’t really buy much online except for the birthday and Christmas presents. Fashion isn’t my thing – I have a few nice outfits for when I go out but my wardrobe generally consists of hoodies and sweats. I do love my makeup but my last big purchase was a Pat McGrath palette a few months ago which will last me quite a while, and replacements of eyeliner and mascara were bought for me as Christmas presents. What on earth was I going to do a no spend challenge if it didn’t appear that I spent much money?

It turns out, I had very little idea about my spending habits.

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Press Review: Bat Out of Hell at the Alexandra Theatre

Note: This review is for the UK 2022 tour. 

Bat Out of Hell is a rock musical with with music, lyrics and book by Jim Steinman. Steinman was a prolific songwriter, with hits including Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now and Air Supply’s Making Love Out of Nothing at All, but is probably best known as the composer of the songs for Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell album trilogy. These are predominantly the musical numbers that feature throughout the show. 

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