Category Archives: Life

Monday Blues Banishers #12


Morning Gang!

How are you this bank holiday Monday morning? Did you wake up to the sound of angels singing? I did, because I love a bank holiday (as you well know). The extra day just means you can create the right blend of fun, laziness and productivity needed to enjoy the perfect weekend.

iPhone March 2014 049

As if we needed more reasons to smile, here are my Monday Blues Banishers – things that are making me smile this morning that might make you crack a grin too.

1)      My bedroom is still clean. That’s a total of seven straight days of cleanliness, a new record. Perhaps I’m finally a grown up. It’s so nice to sleep and wake up in a relaxing, peaceful, and most importantly, uncluttered space.

2)      I found the perfect oatmeal cookie recipe on my beloved Pinterest this weekend. I made a batch for my Saturday night treat and conveniently I already had all the ingredients in my cupboard. It’s this one if you’re intrigued – just remember to chill the dough for a bit before baking. Why am I still smiling about it? Well, for one it was really, really delicious and the memory alone is enough to keep me happy for the rest of the week, but on top of that I made enough dough to cook two batches and freeze some so that next time I crave fresh from the oven cookies it’ll be easy and mess free. I’m so smug about this.

3)      Anthony cooked an amazing beef pepper pot stew on Saturday and we ate the lovely leftovers yesterday. It was delicious. Today he’s cooking me a beef brisket pot roast with all the trimmings. I am so spoilt and I can’t wait for dinner time.

4)      Green tea. I haven’t drank any green tea for ages but over the last week I have regained my taste for it. I’m so glad because it’s so healthy and I feel so good when I drink it.

5)      Despite rediscovering my love of green tea I have plans to make an iced coffee on the first sunny day this week, it’ll be my first one of the year and I’m very excited.


Food: Ed’s Easy Diner




Anthony and I were in London far too early on Thursday morning and for far too boring a reason. The weather was absolutely awful and I had no umbrella or hood on my coat, because I don’t plan well. We’d left the house at 04.30am that morning to get a train and then for financial reasons were going to have to put up with a five hour coach journey back to Manchester, not returning until 21.30pm that evening.

The prospect of the whole miserable, rainy, long day stretched out in front of us as soon as we got off the train at Euston. We were tired, and hungry and desperate for coffee and shelter.


Enter Ed’s Diner. I’ve seen a few on my travels but never called in before. It provided us with everything we were looking for at that moment in time. And some very loud 50’s tunes to boot (I don’t think music needs to be that loud at 07.30am).

It was easily the best and yummiest part of our day. I’d go as far as saying my scrambled eggs on toast gave me the strength to power on through having only had four hours sleep.


Everything went downhill from here. Due to the rain we ended up just sitting in the coach station for shelter after we did everything we had to. Had it been sunny we might have explored London a bit, but it was just too miserable. In the coach station we saw a fat, scraggly pigeon that was obviously almost dead. And that, my friends sums up the rest of our day.

But breakfast was good, very good.


Meet Me in St Louis – The Plaza Stockport


Spring 2014 002


Last Saturday Anthony and I went to see Meet Me in St Louis at the Plaza in Stockport.

It’s a cinema which first opened in 1932, in the 1960’s it became a bingo hall until 1998 and then in 2005 refurbishment began under the influence of the Plaza Trust to restore the cinema to its former art deco glory.

The Plaza is situated in the centre of Stockport and ever since we moved nearby (about a twenty minute walk away) I have been intrigued by the façade of the building, which is lit up in red and green neon at night time. I got googling and learnt they show a load of old films, are a venue for performances and have a tea room on the top floor (I hear their afternoon teas are something to rave about and can’t wait to sample them some time in the future).

When I learnt that Meet Me in St Louis was showing I decided it was time we experienced the cinema for ourselves.



We arrived at the cinema to a double bill of Tom and Jerry, much better than trailers! Then there was a pause whilst the organist played tunes from the film we were about to watch and a lady sold ice cream at the front. I took this opportunity to take in the surroundings, the changing lights, the beautiful curtains covering the screen, all the ornate wall decorations and stained glass windows. It was quite something.

The film began and I loved it. I had only seen it once before so was in the nice position of knowing I would enjoy it but not being quite sure of the plot. I do enjoy a good musical, and, as with most old films, I loved the costumes and make up (especially the strange mixture of 1940’s does the 1900’s). The story centres around the Smith family who live in … you guessed it… St Louis. There’s romance and comedy and almost-moving-to-New-York-but-not-at-the-last-second. My favourite parts were those that focused on the younger Smith sisters, especially the Halloween scenes in which the children of the neighbourhood make a giant bonfire in the street and knock on doors to throw flour in people’s faces and shout ‘I HATE YOU’. So funny.




Now, once the film finished a strange thing occurred. The screen cut to black and a giant Union Jack appeared, the National Anthem rang out and then a photograph of the Queen’s face filled the screen. The (largely retired) audience stood as a mark of respect and I felt incredibly awkward for reasons I can’t really untangle into sensible points… When I got home I did some research into this and apparently all films used to finish with the National Anthem back in The Plaza’s heyday. It just felt weird from a modern perspective, I think there’s a reason that today’s blockbusters don’t close with God Save the Queen.

All in all, I had a good time. The Plaza is gorgeous outside and in and it really felt like a special occasion to see an old film on the big screen in such a wonderful setting.

I can’t wait to go back again soon.


Happy Easter! Can you all briefly reach consciousness from your Easter egg comas to read this post? Well you should because I’m going to give you five reasons why I’m smiling this Monday and they might make you crack a grin too (although I won’t lie, if the day off work and the chocolate eggs and bunnies aren’t doing it for you already, you are perhaps a lost cause).



1)      Sunshine! It’s a beautiful morning where I am and later on today I’m going to go outdoors and enjoy it, but until then: gorging on chocolate in my onesie.

2)      Four day weekend. I wish every weekend was four or even three days long. Two is too short. We need time to do some lazing, something productive and something fun (that’s the perfect balance – and two days doesn’t give you enough time to cram all those aspects in). I’m so glad with have two further bank holidays to look forward to in May to ease the pain of my looking back on around this time last year when me and Anthony were in Italy.

3)      I entered a couple of races! That’s right. I do always jump in at the deep end. I was getting tired of my suffering fitness levels and decided I needed some motivation – I have signed up for a 5k and a 10k over the summer. I’m going to document my training here on the blog as I go along. I’m so excited.

4)      Getting back into reading. I’m so happy to be my usual bookworm self again. I talked about my reading drought recently in this post.

5)      The hashtag #pinterestfails on Instagram. I will admit that I’m late to the party on this one but when I discovered it yesterday evening I couldn’t help laughing out loud at everyone’s attempts at those Easter bunny bread rolls that many pinners had proclaimed were ‘so simple’ – the failed attempts were deformed bunnies or all merged together on the baking tray. I just loved that it was the same Easter themed fail across the board. I can’t wait to check back at Christmas!

Monday Blues Banishers #10

Justin Timberlake



It has been over a week since I went to see Justin Timberlake at the Phones4U Arena in Manchester (formerly The Manchester Evening News Arena, which I think sounds much better and doesn’t have a stupid ‘4’ in it, but my opinion in neither here nor there on that).

I’ve been debating whether to share my thoughts on the evening with you or not and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was such a fun night you all need to hear about it.

Just to give you some background, I spent a good deal of my free time as a preteen dancing around my attic bedroom to Justin Timberlake’s music, and before that NSYNC CDs. This was long before I realised I could not dance to save my life and so when I look back on those Sunday afternoons all I can remember is the sheer joy of moving about, unencumbered by self-consciousness or embarrassment. Like any hormonal young girl I found solace in the exaggerated emotion embedded in the lyrics of pop songs. I felt Cry Me a River guys, I really did, even though I had never been in a relationship much less betrayed by my co-relationshipee. It was like my teenage brain was processing the over-emotion and storing it away so I had a framework with which to process my later romantic disappointments.

Am I aggrandising a simple pop album that I used to dance to? Perhaps I am, but at the time when I was listening to it, it felt valuable and it felt important. At that time everything felt valuable and important – I was a very serious, sensitive child. Anyway, what I am trying to say, in a longwinded manner, is that the Justified album is all tied up with the joyful freedoms and emotional expansion of being a teenager.

For birthdays and Christmas presents I would frequently get given concert tickets every time JT was in town and so this year when I turned 25, over ten years after all this began (I feel so old), the last thing I was expecting were two tickets to see Justin Timberlake. And yet that’s what I got. It was so exciting.

When the actual evening came around I took my friend Kirstie with me. I have known her forever so I knew we would have a fun girls’ night out. I couldn’t imagine taking Anthony with me, for some reason.

We met in a bar in the City Centre and caught up over beers and fried food and then we made our way to the arena. I spent a few minutes looking at great swathes of empty seats, worrying that there’d be a poor turnout and the whole evening would lack atmosphere but they quickly filled up and the room was packed. Before I knew it Mr Timberlake himself was dancing on the stage and I was plagued by a new worry – that there was no big screen! The big screen – the saviour of those who like to be seated (I’m old, remember). My worries were soon calmed as the backdrop, made up of hundreds of hexagons became a screen so I could see the marvellous dancing close up. The backdrop also did all sorts of other wonderful things (technical term).  


The dancing, as mentioned above, was amazing and I would say it was the best thing about the show. The lighting and set design were also brilliant. There was so much to look at…at one point the front portion of the stage (holding JT and backing dancers) started travelling over the standing crowd towards the opposite end of the arena. Whilst this was an awesome spectacle I did panic that we were about to witness a tragic death, or at the very least a significant injury – the travelling strip of stage was very thin and they were all dancing around on it with wild abandon. The stage eventually moved back to its rightful location and my heart rate slowed. I am extremely safety conscious.

All worries aside, I really enjoyed myself. It was a lovely evening spent with a good friend and on top of that we got to see a handsome man dance and sing songs that I had once danced to in my attic bedroom before I knew I couldn’t dance.


Monday Blues Banishers #9


Cleanest of clean fridges

Good morning! I have to admit, despite having some fairly awful nightmares last night this morning I’ve woken up with a spring in my step, feeling happier than I have in a long time on a Monday morning. I might not even need any blues banishers to help me get through the rest of the day! But enough of my bragging. It’s good to write things down and come work time I’m sure I’ll need a black and white reminder of exactly why I was so chipper at 10 am.

1)      Spring cleaning. Yesterday I did the kitchen and bathroom. I used so much Dettol Mould and Mildew Remover that my lungs felt like they had been ripped to shreds. It was painful yet strangely satisfying. I also disinfected my kitchen bins, cleaned the fridge and organised it by restaurant health and safety standards and got through a massive chunk of the laundry pile. There is still a lot of house left to clean but that doesn’t make me any less proud of what I’ve done so far.

2)      Only four days until the bank holiday. I am so excited. Four consecutive days off, and chocolate eggs. What could be better?

3)      I can smell a fresh pot of coffee brewing as I type. I’m also considering what wonderful things I can concoct for breakfast using smoked mackerel and cheese.

4)      I made a roast chicken yesterday and now I have lots of meat left over. I love making new meals out of leftovers – especially when they are as quick and easy as a chicken salad.

5)      The satisfaction of a weekend well spent. If you have read even a handful of my posts you will know that I prefer my weekends pyjama-ed and indoors. Well, this weekend was exactly that. I ventured to the supermarket for supplies and sat in the back garden listening to The Archers whilst I disinfected my kitchen bins but apart from that I was in the house all the time. Whilst I do love being out and about, I always enjoy a laid back weekend of just being home with Anthony. Why wouldn’t I want to spend time in the house I chose, surrounded by the things I chose, with the person I chose?

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Reader’s Corner: Tiny Sunbirds Far Away – Christie Watson



When I started this blog I intended to spend some time discussing the books I was reading or had read or even wanted to read. I wanted to use it as a way to catalogue what I thought after reading. I don’t know about anyone else but I read so quickly and (usually) so frequently that a couple of days after putting a book down I could only tell you the very bare bones of the plot and perhaps if it had been a really good book then some vague, foggy ideas it had left me with. I thought the blog would be a good way of reminding myself what I thought of the book when I had a clear recollection of everything that happened in it.

But… since starting the blog I haven’t read a single book. In fact, the last book I read was Cold Comfort Farm. I loved it. I loved it so much that each book I have picked up in the intervening six months has been discarded a couple of pages in. Remember a few posts ago when I said I had started Bonfire of the Vanities? I read the introduction, I loved the introduction, and then I put the book back on the shelf and didn’t give it a second thought. About a week ago I picked up How much is Enough? by Robert & Edward Skidelsky and thoroughly enjoyed the 30 pages that I read – but it wasn’t fiction so it wasn’t really gripping and eventually I put it down and forgot it (I will be returning to it though).

Yesterday morning I woke up and decided that enough was enough. It had been so long since I’d finished a book that I was beginning to think maybe I would never read anything heavier than a blog ever again. That was a crazy thought for me to have, I have an English degree, I love words and there are so many books that I have read and loved. Whilst I’ve been through phases of not wanting to read in the past none of them had been quite as persistent as this one.

I decided that the best course of action was to pick an easy read. I am a fast reader so provided the story is gripping enough I can easily finish a 300 page novel in a day, and my plan was to read whatever book I chose in a day. I picked Christie Watson’s Tiny Sunbirds Far Away. I had heard lots of controversy surrounding it on various podcasts and had originally purchased it because it was on the reading list of a book club that I stopped attending before it was time to read it. I had never really fancied it for some reason or other – perhaps because the cover is orange (I notoriously do not enjoy books that have covers reminiscent of sunshine or the desert), or because it’s set in Nigeria (I for some reason find it very difficult to get into books set in far flung lands – entirely a problem with my imagination, but a problem nonetheless), or because it was from the point of view of a 12 year old girl – I’m not against this device when it works…but it so often doesn’t.

Anyway, I picked it up and turned page after page after page. Did I love it? Not really, but I didn’t hate it and I did finish it. It was gripping enough for me to read all in one. Some parts actually made me feel so emotional that I found myself fighting a large lump in my throat. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the plot here because I don’t want to spoil anything, but…I found the midwifery sections fascinating and wish there had been a few more of them, but that’s just my personal taste and not an objective critique of the book. Whilst I liked learning more about female genital mutilation I felt at times like I was actively ‘being educated’ – a lot of the sections on the subject read like hand-outs you might get in a high school PSHE lesson or copy from a leaflet. I didn’t feel that they all integrated into the story as well as they might. The last seventy pages or so I found a bit contrived and the ending left me cold.

Regarding the controversy of a white British woman writing from the point of view of a 12 year old Nigerian girl living in a rural compound… I believe that as long as it is done sensitively and carefully then anybody should be able to write about any subject or people that they choose but the book still made me feel a little bit uncomfortable and I’m not really sure why. It is possible that the problem lies with me and my own hang ups rather than being anything to do with the author. Christie Watson obviously loves and is incredibly knowledgeable about Nigeria – having a direct link through her husband and his family. Perhaps my discomfort doesn’t come directly from her writing but with how the book is presented and marketed. Or because it is written from the point of view of such a young girl – perhaps I’d find it more palatable if it was written from the point of view of an adult, a vantage point I could better believe the author could understand, rather than that of a child almost completely untouched by the western world. I am aware that Blessing’s voice is actually based on Christie’s seven year old daughter but I am still unsure about the authenticity of it. Again, this is probably my issue and not one with the book. After all, we can’t all just stick to writing what we know like good old Jane, can we? Something about it just makes me feel uneasy and a little suspicious.

All negatives aside, Tiny Sunbirds Far Away did its job in that it got me back into the world of reading. I have spent all day spring cleaning and preparing a magnificent roast dinner, there is a bottle of chardonnay getting frosty in the fridge and once the food has been demolished I intend to curl up on the sofa with a glass in one hand and Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night in the other.

I’d love to hear what anybody else who read Tiny Sunbirds Far Away thought of it and if you have read any other books by Christie Watson – how do they measure up? Also, I love recommendations so if you’ve read something unputdownable lately then let me know about it.


Monday Blues Banishers #7


I’m trying to spend as much time in the garden as possible, even if it’s just sitting in the doorway drinking tea.


Good morning!

I don’t know how you’ve all been coping without my Monday Blues Banishers to provide the start of your week with a little sunshine, so without further yapping, here are five things that have me smiling this morning.

1)      Tea. Specifically Morrisons own brand Citrus and Ginseng Sling which is a refreshing grapefruity concoction and Morrisons own brand Aromatic Green Tea. I’m glad I’ve found a budget brand of herbal teas that actually taste nice. I am not a fan of Twinings at all, I find them really bland and I don’t like the packaging (yep, I went there), and although I like Clipper teas they can be a little bit pricey if there isn’t an offer on. This week I’m going to try and cut my coffee consumption and use these teas to put a (much needed) spring in my step.


2)      Brazil nuts. This week’s snack of choice. They are filling and tasty and good for you.



3)      New work outs. This week I’ll be jogging, doing a spot of Youtube yoga in the comfort of my own home and attending Pilates, Body Pump and Core classes at the gym. The better weather has inspired me to be more active. I’m especially looking forward to Pilates – hands down my favourite form of exercise.


4)      Freshly painted nails. I love waking up on Monday morning with freshly manicured nails (nail painting is a Sunday night ritual). This week I have gone for bright pink to put me in a sunny mood. I won’t subject you to a photo of my hands, they are inelegant and stumpy (hey, we can’t all be super models).


5)      Finally, a spot of cheese. My musical taste is impeccable. Listen now thank me later.


The Weekend in Review #1




This weekend has been a good one. And, by my standards, pretty bloody busy. I usually spend both Saturday and Sunday glued to the TV or cleaning, but in either case I wear pyjamas for most of the time and never venture further than the supermarket to purchase an emergency bottle of milk.

This weekend, in comparison has been jam-packed. I met Bryony and Lisa for lunch in Folk, Didsbury on Saturday (pretty bizarre service, but good food and a nice glass of house red) and then for a drink in The Met (expensive, awful glass of house red, why do we insist on going back again and again?) but at least the company was first rate and it was nice to be somewhere other than home or work or the confines of the car. Each time we get together it reminds me that we really should get together more often. That’s just life though isn’t it? Busy, busy, busy and before you know it, it’s Christmas!  Of course I didn’t take any photos despite having my camera in my handbag … maybe I’m just not meant to be a blogger? The jury is still out.

Saturday evening Anthony cooked some lamb chops with mash and veg (delicious). It was the first proper meal we had eaten in around a week and it was so, so welcome. Getting used to our new shift pattern had really taken it out of us and so we’d just been eating refined-sugary nonsense food and drinking far too much coffee. On Saturday evening we went to the supermarket and bought lots of healthy food that will be quick to prepare (hello, seabass) so we shouldn’t get into quite such a mess this week. It just goes to show how important it is to eat right. Eating the wrong thing can have huge implications in every aspect of your life. I for one feel 500 per cent better when I eat and drink well and it’s important to keep that in mind at 6pm on a Thursday when I’m craving a Twix. I’m looking forward to a clean and lean week ahead.

Today I woke up early by any standards, but even earlier when you factor in that we magically lost an hour when the clocks went forwards! My Auntie Lisa came to collect me and drive me back home so I could make a fuss over my mum for Mother’s Day (whilst Lisa went to make a fuss over my grandma for Mother’s Day – it’s very convenient that Auntie Lisa lives in Didsbury, can drive, and is an attentive daughter because had she not suggested I go with her I may well have posted my mum a card and just dedicated a sickening ‘I love you mummy’ Facebook status to the woman who brought me into this world).

Anyway, I got to take my mum some flowers and a card and then she suggested I accompanied her to Aldi. Well, how could I refuse? I love a bargain and I also love comparing other people’s local supermarkets to the ones I frequent myself. Her Aldi is bigger and has a much wider selection of fruit and veg. Plus, I picked up some Batiste Dry Shampoo whilst I was there – I have never noticed any Batiste at my Aldi. Also whilst I was there I picked up some chocolate Easter bunnies for my little cousins and dropped them off at my grandma’s house before I left so they can collect them when they visit next week (I am so organised and thoughtful).

I was back home by twelve and Anthony had only just woken up so the early start was most certainly worth it because it felt like I still had my whole day ahead of me to relax and catch up on the telly. As if to throw a massive spanner in the works my eyes started streaming and stinging and it became obvious that I was suffering from hay fever. This is rubbish – I hardly ever get hay fever, certainly never in March, and if I do it would normally comprise of a couple of sneezes and a vaguely watery eye. Not today. Today I was forced to venture out for antihistamines. Since one o’clock I have been dozing and complaining to Anthony and waiting for my bloody eyes to stop burning with the fury of a thousand suns. About half an hour ago I started to feel marginally better and that brings me right to this very second in which I’m drinking a mug of green tea and listening to Sam Cooke.

I know I shouldn’t whinge really, because so many people have much worse allergies, but Christ alive I have missed the entirety of the fun part of my Sunday and now I feel better with just enough time left to squeeze in all my boring cleaning jobs and a couple of loads of laundry. Waaaaaaaa.

So there you have it – a rollercoaster weekend of dizzying highs and plummeting lows in the quiet life of Kirsty Hampshaw. What have you been up to this weekend? Has the pollen count made a monkey out of you too?

Hurtling Towards the Weekend!


My first week of real work at my new job has been tiring (but mercifully quick). Not really because of the work itself but because I had to get into the swing of a new shift pattern, and therefore a new life pattern. I think I’ve got the routine down now though and thought I’d overshare it with you all in case some poor soul is ever in a similar pickle.


Today I had a plate of custard creams for breakfast. It’s that bad.


Firstly, my shift starts at 15.00 and it takes us an hour to get to the office. We set off at about 13.30 because that way it’s likely we can park in the free car park. Once we get to work at 14.30 we just sit and have a coffee so it isn’t so bad.

I’ve experimented all week and I think the best time to wake up is at about 10.00 – this gives me enough morning time to do a bit of cleaning and laundry, a bit of whatever I fancy, pack a ‘lunch’ for work and get myself ready. Yesterday I eschewed this routine for waking up at 07.45 to get to a 09.00 hair appointment, returning home at 11.00 and then drinking so much coffee at work that I didn’t get to sleep until 02.00. As a result, today I woke up at 11.00, but hey, it’s Friday and nothing really matters (dress down day).

I aim to make the ‘before work’ portion of my day as productive and useful as possible. That means I might just clean and do chores until it’s time to get ready and go. This works wonderfully for me though. When I worked 09.00-17.00 I was always too tired to do much housework when I got home on a week night and I would let it all pile up until the weekend which made the weekends not so much fun. This way, every day I go to work knowing I’ve done all (or most) of my tasks for that day. When I get home at about 00.00 I can just veg out in front of the TV for a couple of hours before bed.

One place where we’re not doing so well is food! Budget and health wise I want to be making my own food for work and ensuring that that food is clean and healthy but… I haven’t planned meals well at all and I haven’t been to the supermarket for a while meaning I’ve just been throwing together some toxin-packed white bread cheese sarnies and crisps and vowing I’ll get it together by Monday. Today I had a plate of custard creams for breakfast. It really has gotten that bad.

Aside from the negatives (all of them my own doing), I’m really enjoying having my work in the evening. I’m a morning person, that’s the time I feel at my best and of course, I’d rather be at my best in my own time than in anyone else’s.