My Excellent 2011

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Apologies for the non-blogging of late! It just so happens that the charger for my laptop is broken, which renders my computer a bit of a sorry heap at the moment. However, I'm still reading tidbits here & there of other blogs when I can get onto Phil's computer - but not as often as I would like, as he seems to be addicted to watching mountain biking videos. Ho hum.

On a happier note, however, I've been thinking back over the past year and have come to the conclusion that I have had a truly fantastic year. It's never really happened before - I have had good years previously, but there's always been something that's marred it slightly, & set it off-course for true success. This year seems to have trounced through all the barricades & come out on top - I seriously cannot think of a moment that would bring it down at all. It's made me want to do a little photo round-up of all the brillo things, so I hope you don't mind. It's also made me realise how often I change the cut & colour of my hair. Oops!


January is always choc-full of birthdays, including two brilliantly fantastic mates of mine. Stephen had a lovely Mexican meal, & Debs had a wonderful dancing night out - the perfect post-Christmas pick-me-up.


I ran the Brighton Half, then afterwards went out to party all night at a colleague's leaving party at Reflex. Such a hoot!


My very first skiing holiday! I enjoyed every moment (well, maybe not quite the part where I got a sickness bug) & it's certainly got me itching to hit the slopes again. I went with my other half, Phil, & two of our besties; another Phil & one Gwen.


I had a great time with my old company (think: 2yrs ago) at their mass-leaving do after the company sort-of dissolved. A sad but enjoyable night all the same.


A beautiful day was had at the wedding of my good pal Aimee & her hubby, Ashley. I cried, I laughed, I ate well, I had a boogie & I got to witness one of my oldest friends marry the guy that was totally made for her - how can you fault that?


I had a little sunshine holiday with some gal pals, & then I had a stonkingly great day at the Southend Half Marathon & got my dream sub 2:30 time! Hooray!


Took my Mum on a little motorway ride to Brighton & felt that we should do this more often. I also turned 24 & had a lovely living room sit in with my closest mates; what a night. Good food, nice drink & a heckload of Scattergories make a great party.


The weather picked up again & it soon turned into BBQ season.


Another wedding! This time, the marriage of Lewis & Karen on a wonderfully sunshiney day. Phil was best man & he did a fantastic speech.


Phil & I went on a much-needed break to Ibiza, & I felt like I was home again.


Lots of wintry fun was had with friends, including plenty of naughty sparkler tricks.


And what better way to round-off the year? In December, I bought my very first car of my own. Hoooooo-ray!

2011 Top Trumps
Holidays had: 3
Hair changes: 8
Running PBs: 4 (5k, 10k, Half, 10k again)
Cars bought: 1
Weddings: 2
Barbecues: not enough
Year rating: 9.5/10
...because I always want next year to be better.

Do you feel like some years are better than others? How was your 2011 on a scale of 1 to 10?

A daytrip to Hastings

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

You can view all my Hastings photos in this handy little Flickr set.

On Monday, Phil and I had a very wet 'n' windy daytrip to the seaside town of Hastings, in East Sussex. Hastings is one of those towns that I always reckon I've been to, but if I'm honest I don't think neither a trip when I was four and a fleeting drive-through in 2009 count at all. So when we were rattling our brains for somewhere to visit on our days off, and trying to come up with something a bit different than our usual Brighton, we thought 'why not Hastings?'.

The truth is, I'm always a little bit skeptical about seaside towns. The best cases I've found are in places like Brighton where there are plenty of things to do; the towns themselves quite done up but not over the top, so they still retain a bit of their oldtime charm. The worst cases are (no names here) where the coastal towns are completely dilapidated and forgotten about, with a few mid-range high-street stores thrown in amongst the closed-down arcades and tat shops to make it seem more than they are. They're not, they're just not. In the back of my mind, for some reason, Hastings was a town of the latter description and I was a bit wary of going there. Still, because it was a daytrip with my fella (soppy), I knew we would have a fantastic time.

And a fantastic time we did have! Hastings actually surpassed all my expectations. Not a glimmer of the half-wrecked buildings I'd imagined in my mind were witnessed. Hastings is actually kind of cool. It reminded me of a slightly less touristy St. Ives (Cornwall), with it's winding lanes full of pubs, grub and vintage shops of every category. It hosts an Old Town, situated right by the seafront where a fisherman's port is, with lots of seafood huts and little museums - one of which was The Fisherman's Museum, a free-to-enter former church which now has nuggets of history in the form of photos, words and delightful dredged-up findings adorning it's walls. Of course there's amusement arcades and of course there's a high street with all your usual suspects, but there are also plenty of independent places to make Hastings feel like it really has got its own two feet.

I can't wait to be able to go back in the summer and enjoy it in all it's glory; of course, with it being winter and also a weekday and all, a lot of attractions were shut, such as the East Hill funicular lift. The town plays host to a lot of festivals in the summer (also a half-marathon and a five-mile run, the latter of which I'm very tempted by) so you're never without something to visit for. I would absolutely recommend it to everyone... just make sure you check the weather before you go!

Afternoon Tea: Rafayel on the Left Bank

Thursday, 8 December 2011

This time last week, I took my mum for her long-awaited birthday present. A birthday that happened to be in February, in fact. Her present in question was afternoon tea at Rafayel on the Left Bank in Battersea, south-west London. After a lovely walk along the southside of the River Thames from Battersea Bridge, we found ourselves outside the Hotel Rafayel, conveniently situated between a main road and a river, and with an impressive view of the London Heliport.

We were prepared to consider ourselves utterly spoilt, for neither of us had been to afternoon tea before. As if we weren't shocked enough by ice cold mineral water from a bottle on arrival (remember, we are from East London), we were guffawed by the presentation of champagne shortly afterwards - which became a running joke throughout the experience. The staff were flawless with their service and friendly and attentive, only aiding to make us feel completely comfortable throughout.

As well as water and champagne, we had a pot of tea each (of course). Food comprised of finger sandwiches in four flavours (chicken, cream cheese & onion, cream cheese & cucumber, & salmon), a mini dessert pot of blackcurrant mousse with fruit compote and a cardamon biscuit base, plain and fruit scones with clotted cream & jam, and a small selection of mini cakes and fruit. There was not a single part of the dining that we were disappointed with, and we were reluctant to let anything go to waste so we made sure every last crumb was polished off. I'm unsure whether that's poor etiquette for afternoon tea, but hey: I'm a "waste not, want not" kind of girl! And with things as delicious as mini coffee macaroons, mini lemon curd pies, and juicy fresh berries, who can blame us?

I think that afternoon tea is the perfect mother-daughter experience, and thoroughly recommend it to any pair. It doesn't have to be expensive - I bought a deal through Groupon; an offer which rendered it half price, but I would have said it was still worth every penny at full price. You can get similar cheapy deals from sites such as Buy A Gift and the like. The experience overall was one to be remembered, and we hold the Hotel Rafayel in high standards - and it's given us an insatiable taste for afternoon tea that can only be remedied by trying out more. So expect to see the Ladies of London East checking out another tearoom soon!