Friday, 29 April 2016

Eating in the North East - Cabana & Lola Jeans

So it's almost May and it's snowing and it was January about 5 minutes ago but okay it's almost May...and it's snowing...and I for one, am coping with that very well, as you can tell.


I swear January lasted about 6 years and February, March and April combined have lasted all of 7 minutes? I mean, is it me or is 2016 tricking us? Cheeky little so and so.

Whilst I'm struggling to come to terms with all this brand new information that time, does in fact, move on, I've been turning to my comfort, my one true love, the thing that never has, and I know never will, let me down...and that is food.

I'm not a fan of cooking because I have to buy the food and then prepare and make it and wait for it to cook (whilst consuming half a block of cheese) and it's all just an inconvenience to the activity I enjoy most of all, eating.

Isn't it a good job then, that the gorgeous people at Cabana and Lola Jean's, have invited me to try out all the food (and drink, because what's a girl to do), at two rather fabulous launch parties over the last week.

Cabana, located next to The Gate in Newcastle city centre, decided to celebrate their new branch opening just last Monday with a party and oh boy, did they celebrate in style.

With cocktails flowing all night long, prosecco on tap and the chance to try some of their most popular dishes from their menu, it was pretty much my ideal night. Not that I drank much, you know me... Wait, are those pigs flying overhead?

Amongst the the free flowing drinks, we somehow found ourselves sat next to a famous footballer and of course I knew exactly who it was. YesIdidyesIdidYesIdid, okay I didn't but I mean,  you can't know everyone can you? 

Anyway,  what I do know, is that the food is really really great, and in particular, I recommend the Spicy Malagueta Chicken which isn't...spicy. As in, not even the slightest bit spicy and just to make sure the cocktails were stronger than I thought and I could no longer feel spice (is that a thing?), I got my friend who like spice about as much as a swift punch to the face, and she agreed, it was not spicy. But whilst it may be quite bizarrely named, it is Good with a capital G, full stop. Like really good. Like I want some right here, right now... Okay, getting too into chicken talk, let's move on. 

After withdrawal symptoms from Cabana (I know you're feeling very sorry for me but don't worry,  I'm okay), a little email from a certain Lola Jeans was exactly what was needed to get the ole tummy grumbling with happiness again and man oh man oh man, did it grumble. 

With a Lady Eleanor cocktail (prosecco, yay!) and calamari to start, I wasn't sure if I'd entered heaven right then and there or whether this really how I was spending my evening but then the food just kept on coming...and coming...and coming. 

From chicken parmigiana, which had a parmesan breaded breast of chicken topped with homemade Napoli sauce and mozzarella, to surf and turf skewers with a big fat juicy king prawn which was just an absolute 10/10, to baja fish tacos, it was all incredible. Including the uniquely topped Jamie P Sullivan, which, with juicy beef patties, cheese, rump steak, and onions in a creamy steak sauce and red onion jam, was pretty much a foodie's dream. Srsly.

If you hadn't already guessed, their new menu has most definitely got my seal of approval and I mean, really, what else do you need...? A lot more? Okay, rude.

I'm now so hungry that I'm going to need to raid my empty kitchen shelves and proceed to go out for food.

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

A weekend in Southwold

It can often be overlooked, the beauty of home, the beauty of the UK. Whilst we're scanning websites for the best deals on weekend breaks in Europe, we can forget that there are beautiful places here, a couple of hours away. Now of course, the weather is a pretty monumental factor in why we lust after travelling somewhere, anywhere, where you can rid yourself of coats, hats, gloves and thermals and walk along a street without scurrying into the nearest pub for warmth (nothing else but warmth, obviously).

I mean, we've seen this week what happens in England when the sun comes out. Beer sales rising, people whacking out the sunglasses and shorts and the balmy temperatures of... 12 degrees. Even if, packing for a weekend away in Southwold, saw the sun out and decided I didn't need a coat, nope, who needs a coat near the coast in the middle of April, not me, that's who. (I did need a coat. I did almost freeze to death. I did regret my decision wholeheartedly.)

With or without a coat though, Southwold, situated along the East coast of England, is a really lovely little place. Cute tea shops, quaint pubs, fish and chips fit for the Queen and a whole shop dedicated to cheese (is that the sound of heaven I hear?), it has a little something for everyone, and having visited on a family trip with 12 people and 3 generations, this can be vouched for. 

Not to be painfully British and to constantly talk about the weather but...the first day of our weekend break, was pretty grim, with a lot of rain falling for much of the day. But what is the perfect thing to do when a 'beach day' couldn't look less appealing if it tried? Cream tea, and lots of it!

There are quite a few different places you can venture for cream tea in Southwold, and we decided to visit Squires of Southwold, which, offering two scones, lots of jam and cream alongside a lovely pot of steaming hot tea, is highly recommended. 

Much of the exploring took place on Sunday, where we first spent a relaxing morning in one of the infamous beach huts...

...and took full advantage of the gorgeous weather... in really took advantage...

...and what's a day on the beach in England without a trip to the local bakery for aaaaalll the coffee and a whole lotta food? The Two Magpies Bakery really is filled with some pretty special treats so if you're a foodie like me, get yourself over there pronto.

Of course, some of the most infamous sights in Southwold are the beautifully kept beach huts facing the coast as well as the lighthouse...

...not forgetting the pier!

You know, it gets real tiring partaking in an entire weekend of doing absolutely nothing but eating, drinking and chatting so what better way to end a short break away?

Duh...more food.

It's nice sometimes, to just get away, breathe and stop. To stop doing, to stop working, to just stop. I forget sometimes that everyone needs a little break sometimes, that life can't always be lived in fifth gear, constantly racing from here to there to everywhere. It's just nice to relax and laugh and drink and eat, in completely different surroundings, in a place that feels like home but most definitely isn't. There's something so relaxing about watching the choppy, angry looking, waves crashing onto the shore, over and over again, it's cheap therapy ('something needs to be' screams my poorly looking bank balance..).

So yep, Southwold really did the trick in recharging the ole batteries. Which basically translates as eating scones ladened with jam and cream and more jam and more cream, all day, every day. But it definitely did the trick...

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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Travelling the world: 2016/17 plans

Since I was 14, I've always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to go travelling. When, in my early teens, I could be found scribbling down notes on exactly how I could save up £1000 from a  £5 an hour waitress weekend job  (bless me and my maths thinking I could go travelling with a grand), I don't think I ever imagined sitting here, with flights booked, plans made and a one way ticket round the world with mine and my best friend's name on it, less than 30 days away.

It's always seemed so long away. It's always been my dream. Yet actually, only in the past couple of years, has it become a reality, something that actually could and is happening. I've worked hard and I've saved the money which has given me the opportunity to take this year out for myself, to go to the places I've dreamt about visiting, but only is it now, only is it over the past couple of days, that is has become real.

I'm actually going, and it's no longer months and years away, it's next month. A countdown has begun and holy bloody crap, I am scared. Scared, but so ridiculously, insanely, incredibly, unbelievably excited that I'm not sure I'll sleep properly for the next month!

Of course, I'll be taking my little piece of the internet on the journey with me, and will be blogging throughout the trip which will hopefully provide you with hints, tips, advice and a whole dose of travelling inspiration. With this, I thought I would share with you the places we're intending on visiting and if you have any recommendations for things to do, see and visit in any of the places I mention, please leave them in the comments - I'd love to hear them!

Source - Tom Harrison photography
First stop - 2 months
South Africa
Possibly the place I am most excited to visit, the first stop on our backpacking adventure is South Africa. Flying into Cape Town, the intention is to stay there for around 5-6 weeks, before travelling along the Garden Route, which takes you to a number of different places along the Southern coast of South Africa, until we reach Port Elizabeth. We are then spending a few days there, before flying to Johannesburg for a long weekend.

Source - Jakarta Girl
Second stop - 3 weeks 
Flying from Johannesburg, we're making our second stop Bali in Indonesia, where we will spend
3 weeks. We are planning on exploring solely Bali, and will be making stops at Seminyak, Ubud, Uluwatu and Jimbaran Bay.

Third stop - 7 months
We're going Down Under! Having taken advice from many an experienced backpacker, we haven't particularly planned Australia apart from the places we know we want to visit. Flying into Perth, we will possibly be spending around a month there, before heading up to Cairns, working there, and then  spend 4-6 weeks travelling down the Golden Coast before reaching Melbourne around November. Sydney is the plan for New Year's Eve, which will just be incredible.

Source - The World We Live In
Fourth stop - 2 months
New Zealand
Having seen and heard so much about the beauty of New Zealand, it would be a crime to go that part of the world and not visit. The plan is to spend March and April 2017 (omg) there.

Fifth (possible) stop
It was previously an absolute certainty that we would finish our year in Japan however this really, is now dependant on the amount we work, and the amount of dollar we have left because it certainly isn't a cheap backpacking destination, particularly when my friend and I will eat all of the sushi, ever made in the entire country once we're there.

Come at me May 17th, I'm ready to get on that plane.

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Thursday, 7 April 2016

Let's talk // EU referendum

You hear the word 'politics' and you immediately switch off because it's boring and for old people, right?


Whilst it might be difficult at times, to see how a bunch of (predominantly) middle aged men talking on the news about taxes and long term economic plans is relevant to you and your life, it is and in a  couple of months time, you have the chance to make your voice heard.

If you're thinking, 'wait a minute, I swear the general election was only last year?', you're absolutely 100% right but this year, you have been given the opportunity to voice your opinions on whether the UK should remain in, or leave, the European Union.

It's a really, really important issue and will perhaps be one of the most significant decisions the UK will make in your lifetime (unless something happens with like, aliens or black holes or free installations of a prosecco running tap in all homes, everywhere), but yep, it's big.

You know what else is important? That you vote.

Currently, only 52% of under 35s will vote, compared to 81% of over 55s. That's a huge difference and one that we can't let happen. We can't let other people decide our futures, we just can't.

What I have realised though, is that, like most things surrounding politics and politicians, it's hard to know who to trust, what to believe and where to look, for accurate information that you can actually understand. There is a lot of propaganda flying around, with supposed facts about what the actual benefits are for staying or leaving the EU and so, I decided to put together a simple (hopefully) guide to the EU Referendum.

I hope you find it useful, I hope you find it helpful in making your decision and I hope you maybe find it interesting (maybe, I mean it's not exactly a jam packed episode of the Kardashians is it)...

What is the EU Referendum?
The EU Referendum is a vote which will ask the people of Britain whether they believe we should REMAIN or LEAVE the European Union. Everyone who is of voting age and who has registered to vote in the UK will be able to take part.

You must be registered to vote by June 7. If you are not registered, click here.

What is the European Union?
The European Union is a single market which allows free movement of goods, capital, services and people between member states.

Why is the EU Referendum being held?
The EU has changed considerably over the past 40 years, with many more countries joining and increasingly, there have been calls by both the public and politicians, for Britain to rethink their part within the Union.

Last year, the Conservative party won the general election and as part of his manifesto, David Cameron promised to an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by the end of 2017.

Do I have to pick a political party when I'm making my decision?
No, there are significant splits within the political parties regarding whether Britain is better off in or out of the EU. Around half of Conservative MPs, several Labour MPs, UKIP and the DUP, are in favour of leaving the EU.

David Cameron wants to remain in the EU, as do 16 of the cabinet ministers. Whilst the Conservative Party will remain neutral, due to large splits occurring, the Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats are all in favour of staying in the EU.

Pros and cons of leaving the EU

No more membership fee
Leaving would mean the UK no longer contribute to the EU budget and would therefore save money. In 2015, Britain paid in £13bn to the EU budget and received £4.5bn worth of spending therefore basically contributed £8.5bn. This cost would be eradicated.

However, many believe that the financial advantages from free trade and the financial investment from foreign businesses outweigh these costs.

As a member of the EU, there are no tariff costs on any imports and exports with fellow members. Over 50% of our exports go to other EU countries and those that favour staying believe that we will lose a significant amount of this trade if we are to vote out, with France stating that there will be 'consequences for Britain if they leave'.

However, the Leavers have stated that Britain will be able to form its own trading agreements under its own rules. It will no longer be bound by EU regulations, however no one has left before, so this would be the first time a country will have done this.

Work, work, work work, work
From 2000, it has been claimed that 3 million jobs rely directly on the EU. Whilst it can't be confirmed that these will definitely be affected if we are to leave, the Stayers believe they will, in particular Brit jobs in our large, foreign-owned car industry. They also believe that our global status as one of the world's largest financial centres will be diminished if the UK is no longer a member of the EU.

The Leavers suggest that rid of EU rules, Britain will experience a job boom, with little evidence for trade and jobs to be negatively impacted on by the change of relationship with the EU. They believe small and medium UK businesses, who don't trade with the EU will be positively influenced by leaving.

Controlling who's coming in and out
Pro EU campaigners believe that whilst access to the free market means allowing free movement of EU migrants which has posed some problems to the country, there are many benefits for Britain. Around 3 million living in the UK in 2014 were citizens of another EU country with campaigners  (this is around 5% of the population) stating that the economy relies on migrant labour and immigrants paid tax to fund public services. Brits are also allowed free movement across borders, with around 1.2 million people from the UK living abroad within the EU.

However, leaving the EU would mean Britain regain full control of its borders, with EU nationals facing the same visa restrictions as those from outside the EU. Whilst there are more foreign workers from China and India in the UK, leaving the EU is projected to significantly reduce immigrations levels.

Britain's place in the world
The EU is the world's biggest market and the UK plays a key role within it. Stayers believe that with no influence within the EU, it would begin to be sidelined and possibly ignored from big international issues such as the environment and trade. The USA want Britain to remain in the EU.

Leavers think this is rubbish, and believe the UK will continue to be a powerful global voice, will still remain a part of NATO and UN Security Council and should make self reliance one of its main principles.

Putting safety first
Stayers believe we are safer in the EU. The UK work together with other EU members on counter-terrorism and these relationships may be harmed if Britain was to leave. Stayers have believe that, as an island, which is not a member of the Schengen Area (where 26 European countries allow people to enter without a passport), we are not at great threat from terrorism by being a member of the EU and that EU co-operation makes it easier to keep criminals and terrorists out of the UK.

However, Leavers believe that free movement across the borders means we are at a greater threat tot terrorism, with EU passports unlikely to be subjected to detailed checks when they arrive. It has also been claimed that co-operation with other EU countries regarding terrorism is unlikely to be altered if Britain leave. Leaving the EU would mean greater control of borders which many believe would increase our levels of security against terrorism.

When do I cast my vote?
The date for the referendum has been set for 23 June 2016.

How do I vote?
You can vote at your local polling station which will be open from 7am-10pm on 23 June 2016.

You can vote by post however all postal vote applications must be submitted by 5pm on 8 June and those in Northern Ireland must have submitted by 5pm on 3 June.

You can vote by proxy, where you trust somebody else to vote on your behalf. You need to apply for a proxy vote, and it must be submitted by 5pm on 15 June.

I want more information!
You mean,  I didn't bore you to tears? Bravo you, bravo me - what a team we make. There is a lot of information out there careful. I wouldn't particularly recommend the tabloids but hey, you do you. Full Fact is a charity fact checking website dedicated to bringing you the correct information without a political agenda.

Have opinions, thoughts or questions? Leave a comment down below or send me a tweet - I'd love to hear your views!

If you found this helpful, share it with friends and family and I'll be forever grateful.

More importantly... I hope this helps you decide to vote, and of course, what to vote for. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, so don't feel you shouldn't make your voice heard even if those around you are of a differing viewpoint.

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