30 November 2015

Learning the Charleston with M&Co #StrictlyM&Co

Last Sunday I tried something completely new, which is a sentence that used to terrify me but now I love.  I was invited by the guys at M&Co to come down to The Dance Studio, Leeds to learn the Charleston!  Now although style-wise I am more in tune with the 50s, I also have a love of the 20s.  I love watching videos from inside the old speakeasies and the fun and cheeky nature of the dances, so I was excited to get stuck in and have a go.

We all had so much fun learning the new steps including one called The Scarecrow, which looks just how you'd think!  I haven't laughed that much in so long, and I can't believe we managed to string together a whole routine in just an hour.  I can't say I'm a great dancer, not even in the slightest.  However I do love to dance and if I go a week without dancing in some way it drives me crazy.  I really enjoyed this style of dancing, it is so different to current trends.  It's just so playful and full of joy, it's a style that I wish would come back.  We are just around the corner from the 20s again after all!

Now you might be wondering why M&Co had taken the time to teach us these skills?  Well it's to promote their new flapper party dress range.  This year they have gone right back to the roaring twenties with tassels a plenty.  Quite a lot of us bloggers had 20's themed work parties this year so you can see why M&Co picked this style.  I'm just a sucker for a feather boa!

Have you ever wanted to learn any retro dance techniques?  Personally I am desperate to try the Lindy Hop!

26 November 2015

#IWOOTMAS Event, Manchester (and discount code!)

After a short, unexpected and stress filled blog break I'm back, and with something most festive!  A couple of weekends ago I was invited to Manchester to take an invent held by IWOOT (which stands for I Want One Of Those) to take a look at their Christmas Gift offerings.  

I am already familiar with the company and their quirky gifts, having purchased from them for Christmas last year (we love unique presents in my family!)  So I was excited to see what they had in store this year.  My favourites were the remote controlled BB-8, retro storage popcorn box and  the iPhone projector.

But that wasn't all.  We had a secret Santa where you picked one of the names from the tree at random, and got to choose a gift for the person listed from ITOOt's own selection.  You then got to wrap  it and leave under the tree, to be added to our bags at the end.  I came away with on of the strangest gifts I've ever been given, a carrot sharpener!  Definitely a conversation starter!

There were plenty of compatitions to get involved in including choosing our favourite item (mine was definitely the BB-8) and a selfie competition with the aid of some fun alphabet lights.

Lastly, and by far the most fun part of the night, mason jar decorating.  I'm not going to lie, my crafting are non-existent so I definatly wasn't amongst the front runners to win.  However I really enjoyed it!  I haven't played with glitter and glue like that since primary school!  I might have to do more of it in the future.

Overall it was a fantastic day and I have already placed an order for some Christmas gifts.  If you want to do the same, IWOOT have kindly let me share this 20% off code, just enter IWOOTXMAS at the checkout!

What are you loving from their Christmas range?

12 November 2015

Face Your Fears at Scarborough Sealife Sanctuary

During the October half term I was invited to Face My Fears at the Scarborough Sealife Sanctuary.  As it was just after Halloween the guys at the Sealife Sanctuary had a #SpookySea's theme, encouraging kids and adults to face their fears in two unique ways - so I grabbed a couple of friends and we headed to the seaside.

The first was by coming face to face with some freaky creatures, including John the Python and Daisy the Aligator (I love the names).  Unfortunately there was some confusion on the day we were there.  None of the staff knew about the two set 'show' times, even when I told them what time they were on.  Luckily you could just come and go anyway so we got a more one-on-one experience, which allowed us to touch some of the animals (snakes are surprisingly soft) and ask plenty of questions.  There was a tarantula but luckily it didn't come out to play, that's one fear I wasn't ready to face!

The second part of the experience was something absolutely crazy: Ghoulish Golf.  In the day time this is your average pirate themed mini-golf course (as you do), but at night it transforms.  In almost complete darkness you soon realise what makes this mini golf so 'Ghoulish'.  Lit only by a torch and some strategic uplighting, we set off on our journey.  This is mini golf like you've never seen it before, complete with storyline, questions to answer, a secret password, a treasure cave and live actors.  Live actors who will jump out from the strangest of places and give you the fright of your life!  The actors were so good, really scary and kept in character the whole time, yet nice enough to help us out when we got stuck on a couple of questions (we were too on-edge to concentrate).  In the end we managed to get the password correct and had one last fight in the treasure cave before coming away with our booty!

Of course that's not all there was to do - in between we had plenty of time to check out the rest of the Sealife Sanctuary.  I hadn't been since I was a child and I am happy to report it was so much better than I remembered.  My absolute favourite were the otters.  They were so cute and I could watch them juggle stones all day (you had to be there, seriously it was the funniest thing!).  I also loved the penguins because who doesn't love a penguin, and seals and even the sharks!

It was such a good day out and there was honestly so much to do.  I will definitely be coming back again.

Have you ever been to the Sea Life Sanctuary?


8 November 2015

October Reads 2015

My reading speed is seriously slowing down over the last few months, which ha a lot to do with driving instead of taking public transport and the fact that I am currently, and rather stupidly, reading six books.  Which of course means I am close to finishing none of them!  There's some I've been reading on and off for about a year so I am really trying to get them finished before the new year, fingers crossed!  I finished four his month, however I only have 3 to hand, these are:

Kafka's Dick By Alan Bennett 

Kafka aficionado Sydney, and his wife Linda, are visited by the long-dead Kafka and his friend Max Brod. Kafka's wish is for anonymity and he also has serious issues with his father. When his parent turns up, he is in possession of a very personal secret relating to his son, one, which Kafka is terrified he will disclose...

Each Alan Bennett play I read gets a bit better!  I didn't think the book would actually be about Kafka's Dick and yet somehow it was.  It was a mixture of wity, smart and juvenile, Bennett's voice was really coming out at this point.  

Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne 

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

This month's Sassy Books read, read my review here.

Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay by Paul Vitagliano

 Based on the hugely popular blog of the same name, Born This Wayshares 100 different memories of growing up LGBTQ. Childhood photographs are accompanied by sweet, funny, and at times heartbreaking personal stories. Collected from around the world and dating from the 1940s to today, these memories speak to the hardships of an unaccepting world and the triumph of pride, self-love, and self-acceptance. This intimate little book is a wonderful gift for all members of the LGBTQ community as well as their friends and families. Like Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, Born This Way gives young people everywhere the courage to say, “Yes, I’m gay. And I was born this way. I’ve known it since I was very young, and this is my story.

Several short stories and accompanying images of personal, touching stories of men and women who grew up knowing they were gay.  There is a wide range of emotions, and as it's told in chronological order based on the years the subjects were born, you can see how far we've come.  A good short read.

The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett

Life imitates art in The Lady in the Van, the story of the itinerant Miss Shepherd, who lived in a van in Alan Bennett's driveway from the early 1970s until her death in 1989. It is doubtful that Bennett could have made up the eccentric Miss Shepherd if he tried, but his poignant, funny but unsentimental account of their strange relationship is akin to his best fictional screen writing.
Bennett concedes that "One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation", but as the plastic bags build up, the years pass by and Miss Shepherd moves into Bennett's driveway, a relationship is established which defines a certain moment in late 20th-century London life which has probably gone forever. The dissenting, liberal, middle-class world of Bennett and his peers comes into hilarious but also telling collision with the world of Miss Shepherd: "there was a gap between our social position and our social obligations. It was in this gap that Miss Shepherd (in her van) was able to live".
Bennett recounts Miss Shepherd's bizarre escapades in his inimitable style, from her letter to the Argentinean Embassy at the height of the Falklands War, to her attempts to stand for Parliament and wangle an electric wheelchair out of the Social Services. Beautifully observed, The Lady in the Van is as notable for Bennett's attempts to uncover the enigmatic history of Miss Shepherd, as it is for its amusing account of her eccentric escapades.
Bennett just gets better and better!  I wanted to read this before the film comes out later this month, such a strange and amazing story.  When two eccentrics collide this si what happens.  The book was dedicated to Maggie Smith, who played the lead in the first performance and now she's going to be playing the lead in the film, it's great how things come full circle.  Crazy to think this is a true story.
Time to crack some spines and get on with some reading!

5 November 2015

Theatre: The Distance

All photo's courtesy of Sheffield Theatres

As some of you may know before I had a career change two years ago, I used to work in theatre.  For several years I worked as a lighting and stage engineer and even have a degree in drama.  However, since switching to publishing I have gotten behind on my theatre viewing.  I assumed I would go to the theatre more as an audience member since I no longer worked in that environment, but unfortunately for the most part this hasn't really happened.  Recently I have made more of an effort and in the last month I've seen Farinelli and the King, Kinky Boots and Gypsy while I was in London.  So I was overjoyed when Sheffield Theatres contacted me to see if I wanted to go and review their latest show The Distance.

"I am asking you both, as my oldest, closest friends, to accept the decision I have made. And I am sorry if it’s difficult to accept. I can assure you, it has been difficult to make.
Good friends should be there for one another – no matter what. But when Bea returns home after five years abroad having made a bold choice about her life, old friends struggle to support her. Or even to understand. One night in Brighton, things threaten to slide into chaos…
A sharply funny play about motherhood and fatherhood; about keeping control and letting go."
I'll not beat around the bush, I really enjoyed this performance.  The thing that stood out to me the most was the writing.  The dialogue was fast paced and naturalistic; it really lent itself to the themes involved and made the humour authentic within the setting. It also made the relationships between the characters appear more genuine.  Throughout, it ebbed and flowed at appropriate times and was easy to follow and kept my attention fully.  It is a very female orientated play both in terms of cast and issues, creating some interesting points about what people expect from the different sexes, while never coming across as preachy.
The set was dynamic and put to great use, the action takes place in just two key locations but the scene change was a very clever use of the 'in the round' staging.

The play was a great mixture of comedy and emotion that juxtaposed each other perfectly. The serious subject matter was approached in a new way that made it relatable to most people.  The themes flow through every character in some way even if they didn't realise it.  The story of one women is really reflective of them all.  There were some really great performances, especially from Charlotte Lucas.


2 November 2015

Debenhams Flowers direct to your door (and discount code!)

Few things can brighten up a room more than a good old fashioned bunch of flowers.  Sometimes you might be lucky enough to receive them as a gift from a friend or partner but often it's a great treat to yourself.  My mother buys fresh flowers for the house every week and the house looks empty without them.

I'm naturally a Summer girl so I find it hard letting go, but Autumn is slowly endearing itself to my heart.  Something to smooth over the transition is always nice and what better way then wth a beautiful bouquet of flowers!  Especially in the perfect seasonal colour, orange!

Debenhams do a lot of things but flowers are one thing I didn't know they sold.  It's not like I would just pop in for some new makeup and pick up a bunch on my way out, yet it turns out they have their own delivery service!  This beautiful bunch were delivered straight to my door in a box to keep them safe and sound.  I was worried this would somehow have a negative effect on them but they were fresh and looking great, the colour made me smile instantly.

This year I am spending Christmas with Hary's family, and it will be the first time I will be away from home at that time of yeat.  Using Debenhams Christmas Flowers is a great way of letting my mum know I'm thinking about her even when I'm not there, and maybe Christmas Hamper for my dad.

As a thank you for me reviewing the flowers Debenhams have given me a discount code to pass on to all you guys, and it's a good one!  With the discount code DFBLOG25 to get 25% off a bouquet (not including the Flowers By Post Range).

So what are you waiting for?  Fill your winter with colour! 
*flowers sent for review, all words and opinions my own and are completely honest
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