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NORTH STAR BRUNCH //

Breakfast platter and a cup of tea

The docks are a forever underestimated area of Leeds, unless of course, you live there.

As the months go by, more and more work is being done to get visitors to this side of the city and please believe me when I say you absolutely must, if you haven't already. Not only does it boast the famous Royal Armouries museum, a top notch Yoga studio and a selection of eateries and bars but it's now home to the wonderful North Star Coffee.

A bunch of foodie bloggers were invited down to try out the fantastic brunch menu last weekend. From cheese scones to salted caramel brownies, there's plenty of options if you're looking for a hip place to brunch or fika.

Cheese Scones

Avocado on sourdough bread for brunch

Eggs, bacon and homemade ketchup on a muffin

French toast with ricotta and cherries

Their menu features classics like avocado on toast but only presented in the most Instagram-friendly way possible. My favourite is the brioche topped with house ricotta and vanilla roasted cherries - perfection. Combined with a smooth latte and a tasty treat to finish, what more can you ask for from a weekend brunch?

North Star collaborate with Noisette Bakery to bring only the best of best cakes to you, alongside their own incredible brews. The new cafe sits right next door to the roastery, which also offers barista courses and brew masterclasses. If coffee is something you'd like to improve your knowledge of, you can find their full range of courses here.

North Star Coffee bags

Colourful lampshades and cafe interior

This is a prime spot for taking a laptop and doing some work with a latte, or treating yourself to a cappuccino and cake. It's open from 7am - 7pm during the week too, which means you can grab a takeaway boost of caffeine on your way to or from work.

This introduction of North Star means there's absolutely no excuse to not take a water taxi to this part of town and find out what the fuss is about.

leanne

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BOOK-IT LIST REVIEWS // JULY

I've finally gotten back in reading this month, using my forty minute bus commute to cram in some fantastic female authors. Here are some quick reviews of the books I've enjoyed in July.

Caraval on Kindle Fire and cup of tea

Caraval - Stephanie Garber


This was a magical and enthralling book, and one I very much wish existed when I was younger when I read far more often. Nevertheless, I'm so glad I took a punt on a book I saw on Instagram (I can't remember the recommendation but thank you, anon instagrammer) and read it.

It's a fantastic fantasy world, with equal measure of excitement and uncertainty. There are lots of twists and turns and I'm a big fan of the secondary characters in this. Scarlett is a little bit 'damsel in distress' for my liking but saying that, it works well alongside her sister's bold personality and makes for a good personal journey throughout the game. Loved it.


Wilde Like Me - Louise Pentland


Although Louise claims this is not exactly representative of her life despite her writing about what she knows - which incidentally is motherhood and being a fiercely independent woman - this story is awfully similar to how Louise comes across, if you watch her Youtube channel as I do.

I'm going to be honest, there have been more laugh out loud moments in this than I expected and you absolutely do end up rooting for Robin Wilde throughout. It's a light-hearted and fun read.

Flawed - Cecelia Ahern


This is so much more than I thought it would be. I was a huge fan of early Cecelia Ahern books like Where Rainbows End and If You Could See Me Now, but the stories that followed never really grabbed my attention in the same way. I saw this advertised for 99p on an Amazon deal so thought I'd give it a chance and THIS is what I'd been missing.

It is a fictional world which strangely enough, puts our own society into perspective in the way we see segregation and authority. There's an interesting coming of age theme for the main protagonist, Celestine, and her own opinion on these questionable laws that her community currently abide by. It's a little eerie and thought-provoking and very much worth picking up.

Be warned though, you will need to read the sequel and the sequel is currently a higher price of £7.99 - I'll be splurging for sure.

Living The Dream - Lauren Berry


This is a fun and upbeat story, your standard 'girl in the dull office job wants to get a super trendy millennial job and live happily ever after' kind of thing. The characters aren't particularly complex and there's a lot of drama, exactly as I'd expect from this kind of fun, female literature.

I found it really easy to read and it kept me company on my own commute to a big city, office job.


Find my extended reviews over at Goodreads (and let me know if you've any recommendations!)

leanne

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HAM & FRIENDS // GRAPE VS GRAIN TASTING EVENT

Wine and charcuterie meat in Leeds

You're more likely to find me drinking a pint than sipping a glass of wine, I'll be honest, but when I was invited to try out the 'Grape vs. Grain' tasting event in Leeds I thought it would be interesting to see which faired better.

The aim of the evening was to decide, over 4 individual rounds, whether the wine or beer pairings chosen by the experts complimented the meat provided by Cannon & Cannon.

The Yorkshire Wine School run events like these regularly, and this one in particular introduced our group to a variety of red and white wines that were expertly paired with chosen meats. We were offered a beer alternative - selected by the location's counterpart, Friends of Ham - also paired spectacularly with the food and it became a difficult decision!

Wine and charcuterie meat in Leeds

Cannon & Cannon charcuterie platter

My diet is generally 80% vegetarian, so to spend the evening tucking into delicious charcuterie was something different! The specific details of just how much time and effort went into creating these platters, and how important they found it to use every part of the animal for meat was interesting.

My knowledge of wine is pretty limited so it was great to understand the flavours of both red and white options, alongside some incredible cuts of meat. From a heavy stout to a tasty IPA, the beer options were smashing too.

My verdict overall? Beer!

It was (to my surprise) very close though and the rest of the group had a majority wine win - not a shock as the wine choices were spot on. If you fancy taking part in an event like this, or one of the many others on offer there (they do cheese tasting too!) take a look at the website.

Meat and wine at Ham & Friends

What do you think you'd prefer? Grape or Grain?


leanne

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Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to attend this event for free by I Like Press, who are wonderful. There was no obligation to rave about it - but how could I not - and all opinions are my own.

A HEN PARTY IN DUBLIN //

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 pictures of Dublin

It's my wonderful best friend's wedding in TWO WEEKS and other than having a minor freak out that we are at this stage of our adult lives now, I realised I still hadn't pulled together a post about the fab hen party we had for Charlotte in Dublin.

We flew over to Ireland during the May half term (half of the hen group are teachers!) and had a long weekend of dancing, drinking and generally having a good time planned.

Airport group photo

Pretty hen party bags

Airport Selfie with best friends

Pre-Party


Our long weekend started with early morning celebrations at Newcastle airport, accompanied by a fry up breakfast (and pint, naturally) and pastel coloured party bags 
From tiny vodkas to the standard hen party sash, everyone was given a bag of treats we'd put together. There were straws, cheeky knickers, paracetamol - for the expected hangovers - plasters and a special set of pyjamas for the bride-to-be.

Note: if you are in charge of party bags and will be flying abroad, please remember to control the number of tiny vodka bottles you pack if you only have hand luggage.

The Hostel


We headed straight to Abigail's Hostel - smack bang in the city centre - which meant we were no more than a couple of minutes from a pint of Guinness and live music at all times. It's a backpackers hostel but as there were six of us, we were able to get a 6-bed dorm room to ourselves which was ideal.

The place is really good value for money, full of young travellers and you even get a continental breakfast thrown in every morning too.

Merchant's Arch - Dublin with staircase decor


Irish Dancing in Dublin

Irish Dancing


What would a hen party in Dublin be without multiple other hen parties, all Irish dancing in a pub looking out over Ha'Penny Bridge? 

We'd booked an Irish dance lesson with a company somewhere in the city centre, which conveniently was located in the Merchant's Arch, a pub which just so happened to be around the corner from where we were staying.

It was a little uncomfortable to begin with as there didn't seem to be an awful lot of organisation and we'd been seated at the very upstairs of the bar. Too far out of the action and without the same atmosphere, in my honest opinion. We were luckily able to move downstairs which made for a much more enjoyable experience.

Merchant's Arch - Dublin

Merchant's Arch plane and advert decor - Dublin

The location itself was fantastic and this is a pub I'd definitely recommend visiting, whether you're there to dance or not!

Drinking Holes


Having visited Dublin before, I've already mentioned a couple of favourite pubs and bars on the blog here. As well as revisiting a couple of those, including The Bankers and Temple Bar, we found an additional favourite in Oliver St. John Gogarty for the live music and Capitol Lounge for the €5 cocktails!

We also got dolled up in our 20s dresses for the first night and headed to a Gatsby-esque prohibition bar called The Blind Pig. This sounded cool when I did the research and was even more fab than expected. It's a short walk from Temple Bar underneath an Italian restaurant, you follow the sneaky signs and have to follow the secret instructions to get in. Cool AF.

Instax hen party pictures

The Bling Pig speakeasy - Dublin

The Bling Pig speakeasy - Dublin


As you'd expect in a prohibition style bar: atmospheric, dim lighting, happy jazz music, super cool cocktails and this place even had a hidden drinks menu in the book on the table.

We stayed here for a drink and mine was gin delivered in a tiny teacup and just about the cutest alcoholic vessel ever - as you'd expect for the experience here though, it's also pretty expensive!

Guinness Storehouse


It seemed only right for Charlotte to experience the Guinness factory on her first venture to Dublin, so we headed here with surprisingly minor hangovers.

We pulled pints fairly successfully and spent some time enjoying the sights of the city in the Gravity bar - also featured in this post. It's also been recently announced this sky bar will be doubling in size - article here - so if you plan of taking a trip make sure you keep this in mind!

Guinness Storehouse - Dublin

Guinness Storehouse pulling pints - Dublin

Instax photo of best friends with Guinness

Guinness Storehouse - Reliving the adverts - Dublin

The entire trip (Sunday - Tuesday) cost around £300 for me, food and drink included. Although a lot of people say Dublin is an expensive city, if you find your main meals and drinks outside of the tourist locations like Temple Bar, you'll find it's actually fairly decent. We ate in smaller, cosier pubs and wandered out of the main city centre to find cheaper bars.

There's live music around every corner in this city, so you'll never be short of a fun atmosphere. Overall, we had a wonderful time exploring Dublin and if you're looking for somewhere for a girly weekend, this is definitely a great bet.

Hen Party in Dublin Temple Bar

Have you been to Dublin before - where would you recommend?

Leave a comment and let me know!


leanne

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10 WONDERFUL THINGS ABOUT SUMMER //


Getting a tan


Sorry to all the pale, bound-to-burn lot out there but I love getting a few shades darker and being able to get my legs out. England is probably not the most reliable place in the world for a hot Summer but we're likely to have a good few days of solid sunshine now and again. And we all sit and pray for it.

Note: PLEASE. WEAR. SUNCREAM.

Al fresco lunches

I'm not one for salads for lunch just because it's warm, however, taking lunch outdoors is a welcome change. Partner that with a refreshing fruit cider and we're on to a winner.


Ice cream

The proper ice creams; Mr Whippy's with multicoloured sprinkles, chocolate chips and blue sherbet drizzled in chocolate and strawberry sauce. What an absolute culinary delight.

Everyone gets a little brighter


People just love Summer though, don't they? From the usual miserable bus driver to the guy who stands outside the juice bar dressed as a strawberry, everyone just seems that little bit more happy.

Dark morning make it hugely difficult to get out of bed when when the sun is out, I find my morning's so much more productive too.

Festival season


Glastonbury blah blah blah. You get it. Read more about it here and what I take with me here.

Having your hair up


It's now no longer just a cop-out and the fact I haven't washed it in a few days. When the sun's out, there's actually a legit reason for me to sweep it off my face. No one wants a sweaty neck and damp hair, do they?

I'm longing for a long bob at the moment but having to wait until I've played bridesmaid at my best friend's wedding (short hair doesn't go in a chignon, apparently!) Summer is also the time for wild, colourful festival hair. Yay!

Pretty pastel nails


And pastel clothes. And shoes. Everything pastel, really.
Plus it looks good with the aforementioned tan.

Wearing less clothes

Shorts, kaftans, bikinis - you know what I'm talking about. There's more skin on show and I am a big fan. We all head to Topshop for this year's featured crop top or sliders and we're prancing about in the street pretending we're Pinterest-worthy. Just me? Okay.

Just kidding, I don't own sliders.

Being Outdoors


In general, being outside when the sun is shining is so much more appealing. Sure, making snow angels is fun for the first five minutes but personally, Summer far outweighs Winter as my favourite season.

Holidays

As mentioned, England isn't a particularly warm climate even in the throes of Summer. Most Brits like to head abroad to soak up actual sunshine. Whether you're heading to Malaga or Mykonos, it's definitely something we're now looking forward to.



Hope you're having a wonderful Summer already and long may the sunshine continue.

leanne

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