Operation Ombré Hair at Chill Hair Design

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted ombré hair… those who know me will verify that I’m quite impatient, so when I get an idea in my head I will be restless until it’s done! Nice personality trait there… ha. I decided to give my hair stylist Chris (at Chill Hair Design) a call to see what he thought. Chris is hilarious, as you’ll see a bit later on… he also knows his stuff. He told me to pop in with a photo of what I was looking for and he’d tell me if it was possible. I did that and he said we were good to go! I had to wait a week for my appointment and this was torture.

I should also mention that Chris is the first hairstylist who has cut me in a fringe – when I told him that no other stylist would he was confused and said something along the lines of “Why not? It’s easy, just cut a fringe in.” I LOVE my fringe – I’m growing it out until after my best friend’s wedding in August, then I’ll get it cut back in). Here’s a pic of aforementioned fringe when I first got it cut in. I apologise in advance, there are going to be quite a few photos of my face in this post.

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The ombré hair trend has been sported by celebs for quite a while now, basically it is hair that is darker, natural hues at the root, gradually getting lighter towards the tips of the hair. I wanted mine to be quite subtle, not golden blonde. My husband thought I was getting my whole head dyed blonde. No wonder he seemed worried!

I was so adamant that I wanted ombré hair before I went to Barcelona (Ritu’s hen weekend) that I took a half day off from work to get it done last Wednesday. I got there at 12.30pm, a bit nervous but obviously fully trusting Chris’ judgement. I had been wished “happy dip dye day” and “happy ombré day” by friends who knew how excited I was about it. Is that a bit embarrassing to admit?

Chill has been open on Newlands Road, near Ilford Road Metro Station for 16 years and is owned by Gary. It used to be an Antiques Shop before it became Chill. (Fact of the day). There are 4 stylists: Gary, Chris, Helen and Margaret. Laurie is their super sweet junior stylist and Yvonne is on reception. They also have Justine, a make-up and nail technician, who is based downstairs. I heard about Chill from a few friends who go there, I’ve been going for 2 years now and have no plans of going anywhere else. I recommend Chris to so many of my family and friends – many of them also go there now too! (This weekend I recommended it to a few more friends too, watch out Chris). It’s hard to find a hairstylist who does your hair exactly how you imagined it, so when you find them why would you leave?! I spent years going from salon to salon, the cuts I got weren’t bad at all, they just weren’t what I had envisioned. Chill is really close to Ilford Rd Metro and is on a residential street so there’s always parking. There’s a really relaxed atmosphere and everyone is super friendly. It’s always busy but I’ve always managed to get an appointment on account of them opening late on a Thursday and Friday. They’re shut Sunday and Monday.

Back to operation ombré.. Chris started by washing my hair (not using too much conditioner as it acts as a barrier when applying dye) and then giving it a good trim. After a rough blow dry came the important bit… application of the dye. Chris and Gary decided to use a high lift tint to see what kind of lift we got, instead of bleach. Dye & foil on, Chris spent ages checking the lift, and reapplying the mixture to my hair. During this time, we chatted and laughed. I’m always in pain after an appointment at Chill from laughing so much. When Chris was happy with the lift, he re-washed my hair and quickly dried the ends of my hair so we could see the colour result… I was so unsure about whether or not to go a tiny bit lighter… I even tried FaceTiming my friend Julie to see what she thought but she was busy so couldn’t pick up. This went on for about 20 minutes and with the help of Chris and Laurie I finally decided to leave it how it was. So then came the proper blow dry and a few more photos… ready?

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Have you embraced the dip-dye or ombré trend? What do you think of mine? I’d love to hear your thoughts! People of Newcastle – if you are looking for a new salon get yourself along to Chill (0191 213 5211), tell them I sent you :)

Harwood Health & Spa

When I received an invitation to the re-launch of a luxury woodland retreat and spa in Northumberland I obviously jumped at the chance (and felt very lucky). The event was on Monday evening and I took along my lovely friend Sioban as my guest.

Harwood Health & Spa has had a full refurbishment and boasts a two bedroom self-catering apartment (I’m obsessed with the kitchen) and spa with sauna, jacuzzi and gym. Sounds too good to be true right? Well it’s as fabulous as it sounds… and guests who stay overnight (sleeps up to 4 people) at Harwood Health & Spa have full and exclusive use of the facilities for the duration of their stay, so no interruptions whatsoever. AMAZING. The drive from Newcastle to the edge of Harwood Forest in Northumberland is gorgeous too, long winding roads and beautiful views. I probably should have stopped to take photos to show you, but I didn’t. Sorry.

On arrival, champagne and canapés were being served – fancy – and I met the lovely team and we were also handed a goodie bag with some Espa samples in. Marion – who owns the retreat & spa and is also the principle therapist – gave a small speech at the start of the evening to welcome everyone to the retreat and told us all a bit about the place and the great team she has working there. The farm house was built in 1836 and the last 2 years have been spent converting the northern barn into the spa and private apartment. I love the decor style – just wait until you see the kitchen in the apartment – and it’s obvious that a lot of hard work and love has been put into refurbishing the place. It looks amazing.

Michelle from leading spa and skincare provider Espa was on hand to talk us through Espa’s background and products. Michelle was also offering Skin Vision Analysis to guests – obviously I was interested in this!

Sioban and I were booked in for taster treatments and both opted for a neck and shoulder massage which we both enjoyed very much. I went for the rejuvenating massage oil and Sioban went for the soothing oil (she was the designated driver and when Marion said ‘you’re not driving back are you?’ I was a tiny bit scared, I won’t lie. Ha ha). The treatment room is spacious and the combination of the dim lighting and the whiff of essential oils made me want to stay (forever).

Straight after our treatments we had our skin vision analysis session with Michelle from Espa (Michelle had the most amazing skin ever, by the way) who talked us through the technology and asked about our skin care routine. Then came the scary bit, Michelle hovered the lamp over my face while i lay back and held a mirror close to my face. The skin glows different colours depending on your skin type and clearly highlights if there are any issues with your skin. My skin was very good apparently (yesssss) but there was some purple under the eye (uh oh) which means I need to introduce an eye cream into my routine quick smart. I was really impressed with this technology to say the least.

Before we left we had a quick walk around the vast grounds, checked out the big tennis courts and saw guests partaking in clay pigeon shooting with gamekeeper Nathan!

Are you ready for some pictures? I thought so… :)

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Marion and the team hosted a great event and the Retreat is perfect if you’re looking for a relaxing, indulgent weekend away from the noise of the city… I’m visualising a weekend getaway with friends, or the hubby with a few Espa treatments thrown in for good measure!

Visit the website http://www.harwoodhealthspa.com to find out more and give the team a call if you fancy booking yourself in for some serious R&R. Bespoke packages are also available. If you decide to book up, I’d love to hear what you think!

The Boiler Shop Steamer

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The Boiler Shop Steamer is a monthly event held on the first Friday and Saturday of the month, in the Boiler Shop, Robert Stephenson Centre. For those of you who don’t know where this mysterious venue is, it’s actually not mysterious at all… it’s behind Central Station, along past The Telegraph, behind the big Royal Mail building. Dead easy to find. The event itself was founded by Riley’s Fish Shack and Wylam Brewery & is all about good food, music and drinks. With street food/drink vendors setting up shop and live music there’s plenty to keep you occupied. The food vendors do change month on month, but there are a few regulars too.

It was free to get in before 6pm on Saturday and then a £4 entry fee from 6pm onwards. I got there at about 1.30pm, my friends Ollie, wife Nic and 1.5 year old daughter Eliza had already arrived. I was instantly a bit in awe of the impressive surroundings…highest ceiling EVER, red brick walls and huge windows…. What’s not to love?! Add to that, an aroma of pure deliciousness, lots of people milling about having a canny time and you’ll get an idea of the atmosphere. Ollie had made a start on the food and was munching something yummy from The Herb Garden having already washed down a rum cooler so I thought I’d better get involved quick smart! I had a burger from The Fat Hippo and Nic ordered empanadas from the Settle Down Cafe. Eliza got some chips from The Fat Hippo too. I apologise for not having a photo of my burger, I ate it too quickly amid serious concerns of dropping mustard on my camera (which I had casually dangling around my neck, really cool right?) but I can confirm it was delicious.

I then gravitated towards the Ouseburn Coffee Co. bar to order one of their famous espresso martinis and chat to the lovely barista. I took photos of the martini, even though all I wanted to do was taste it! If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know I’m a massive fan of OCC, and their new flagship Coffee House, Harvest.

Nic and I then ordered churros from Sugar Down Bakery (part of Settle Down Cafe) and I can honestly say these are as tasty as they look… perfect amount of sugariness. My food journey ended with a little taste of some slow cooked pulled pork from Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse which just melted in my mouth. It had been smoked slow for 20 hours! YUM doesn’t do it justice. There’s nowhere like this in Newcastle and although they do events only at the moment, they’re thinking about opening up a premises - I for one cannot wait.

I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned the token payment system yet! You buy tokens (but the bars also accept cash) and these special tokens are your currency at the event. Each token = £2. For some perspective, my burger was 2 tokens, as were the churros. Nic bought a slice of crack pie, which was 1 token and I paid cash for my espresso martini. I didn’t spend a lot of money (and I still have a token in my jeans pocket!) but have read a few things from people saying it can work out to be expensive. It was worth every penny (token) I spent yesterday though. Tables and chairs were obviously snapped up quickly (if you snooze you lose!) so it was a tiny bit difficult at times, but it didn’t make a big difference to the fun being had! When I left at 4ish it was super busy, I couldn’t believe how many people were sat outside – makes sense though, it was such a gorgeous sunny day. I loved seeing people of all ages soaking up the atmosphere and I really can’t wait to go back.

Time for some photos? I think so! I’ve waffled on enough.

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People of Newcastle (and the surrounding areas), I urge you to get yourself to a Steamer event.. follow them on Twitter too for updates: @steamerevent & maybe I’ll see you there! If you’ve been, tell me what you thought (and what yummy food you ate) :)

As always, thanks for reading! x

Ouseburn

Just a few photos taken earlier this week from a little outing down by the Ouseburn River, under Byker Bridge. I seem to have taken a million photos of street art/graffiti. There are lots of cool places to visit too, like The Cluny, The Tyne, The Ship Inn, Seven Stories if you have kids, ohh and Ouseburn Farm which I didn’t know existed! I couldn’t go without mentioning Ouseburn Coffee Company either… obviously (read about their flagship coffee house here)

I also saw that there’s a little thing happening down here on Sunday… Ouseburn Festival Feast. 11am-4pm. Find out more here:

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Quilliam Brothers Teahouse – Which Brew Are You Going To Choose?

QuilliamBrothers1I’ve driven past Quilliam Brothers about 8 million times, and have always wanted to go in. Today was the day I eventually did!

Located at 1 Eldon Place, next to the Hancock, in the most gigantic, beautiful building (Claremont Buildings), this place is an absolute delight. They’ve just celebrated their first birthday (of the tea house… they actually sold their tea online for a few years before that) and I’m kicking myself that I haven’t been along sooner. Better late than never, apparently. (I’m pretty sure that’s just something people say to make others feel better).

The tea menu has to be seen to be believed, with about 60 types of tea to choose from you’re really spoilt for choice, or if you’re like me you might just take hours to decide. Fear not fellow indecisive folk, those clever Quilliam brothers have thought of everything because the menu is very informative (and also funny, which I enjoyed greatly).  DSC_0202

Oh, just for the record I can’t pronouce rooibos either… and that’s why I chose a green tea called ‘Snow Drop’ which was a super choice. My mum chose an amaretto flavoured tea, which she loved. (She doesn’t like tea with milk – which can be a shock to some people). The tea comes in a pot with enough for 3 teacups full, (very generous I think), and unlike lots of other places, the loose tea leaves are removed before your tea gets to you – to stop it from becoming too bitter. Didn’t I tell you they’ve thought of everything?!

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We ordered food too, I went for a mexican pulled pork hot stottie, and mum had the falafel burger. The pulled pork was delicious, topped with a generous dollop of sour cream and jalapeños. My taste buds were on fire, in a good way. So yummy and rather spicy. I’m Indian and feel that I should be able to handle spice without batting an eyelid… this is quite far from the reality. Reality = me + streaming eyes + runny nose. Attractive. I don’t mind though, because the taste is worth it!

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I then went for a little wander, took some photos and ordered us some dessert. Carrot cake for mum, peanut butter chocolate brownie for me! The nice people behind the counter jumped for my photo TWICE… both times I missed them. Then I realised I had my camera on a macro setting, what a dufus. Here is the post-jumping result… QuilliamBrothers4

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Remember I said this place was huge? Spread over two floors, downstairs there’s cushioned floor seating as well as normal tables and chairs… AND a little cinema section. So fancy! I didn’t get to have a proper look, I was being ridiculous enough walking around with my camera so I will look next time. You can also buy some lovely Quilliam Brother postcards, which I did… (I also knocked a few on the floor, much to the amusement of some people nearby… embarrassing).

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Open Monday-Saturday 8am (9am on Saturday) until 1am (YES 1AM!), Quilliam Brothers is something different to the norm… it’s cool, quirky and serves tea until 1am for goodness sake! The lovely people working Quilliam Brothers are genuinely helpful and service was faultless (oh and they offered to jump when I took a picture, which makes me really happy even though I couldn’t capture the moment).

Let me know what you think if you’ve been… if you haven’t, I urge you to go now! (Seriously, they’re still open for 3.5 hours).

Which brew are you going to choose?

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Harvest Canteen – Ouseburn Coffee Company

Harvest1Coffee heads listen up…There’s a brand new coffee house in town and you’re going to have to get yourselves down there!

Ouseburn Coffee Company have opened up their first flagship coffee house, Harvest Canteen, at 91 St George’s Terrace, Jesmond.

OCC is Newcastle’s first independent roastery, established in 2012 by “by a small band of Artisan Coffee Roasters & Baristas dedicated to offering a highly selective range of coffee beans from around the world…”    (taken from the OCC website).

Harvest have been open for just over a week, so when my lovely friend suggested we met at the new place she’d spotted, I packed up my camera and kept my fingers crossed that I’d be able to find parking in Jesmond. (Incidentally, I got a spot right outside, so the pre-parking worry was unnecessary). The aroma of freshly brewed coffee as soon as you walk in is something you have to experience for yourself and I can’t do it justice in words. Why does coffee smell so amazing?

Inside, Harvest is bright, much bigger than I expected and has a minimalist feel to it but is certainly not lacking in atmosphere. Baristas are friendly, helpful and the service can’t be faulted. They didn’t even mind me sauntering around the place with my giant camera. (Why oh why didn’t I take a photo of the board showing the coffee on offer?).

We both ordered a latte and had a quick look at the food on offer… one of the baristas brought over our drinks and let us know that they’ve been focusing on the coffee so they were still working on developing a food menu – absolutely fine by me as he also let us know that they had poached eggs, spinach and seeded bread. That’s what I ordered, and my friend ordered avocado on toast.

The latte was served in a short glass, with black saucer (I don’t know why the black saucer is important to me, but it is). Good attention to detail and immaculate presentation makes a difference to the whole experience. I was hooked from the first sip. All OCC coffee is hand roasted and bagged up fresh the same day – it’s so refreshing to know that the delicious coffee that you’re drinking has been roasted locally by people who really love what they do (and really love coffee – you can taste it!). Harvest2Harvest3
We ordered more drinks before our food arrived, I had a cappuccino and my friend ordered fresh mint tea. I love mint tea, but the coffee was so good I couldn’t contemplate having anything other than coffee! The cappuccino obviously did not disappoint, even talking about it now makes me want to pack up and tootle over to Jesmond – but this would be insanity because I haven’t even brushed my hair today and guess what, I don’t intend to!

Here come the obligatory photos of food which was delicious by the way… (oh and also photos of the mint tea, cappuccino and the place itself).
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I’ve already made plans to go back in a few weeks, but I’m definitely going back for coffee before then – if you’re in the area, you should too! Open 8am-6pm daily, it’s up by Paul Bryan and Subway… the opposite end of the street to Starbucks, in both the literal and figurative sense. Apologies for the lame joke, but ha! If you’re down by the Quayside, pop into the OCC roastery where you can buy coffee by the cup or the bag.

Local folks – let me know if you decide to pop in to Harvest – would love to hear what you think.
Those out of the area, tell me about your favourite coffee houses :)

Autentico Paint Workshop at Penny Pieces!

Last month I did a blog on one of my favourite little shops, Penny Pieces, in Ponteland (read it here). In it I mentioned that Sylvia & Deborah had invited me to take part in a Beginners Chalk Paint Workshop, using Autentico Chalk Paints.

The class was yesterday afternoon, the time flew by – as it tends to when there’s fun being had – and it was clear that everyone was learning a lot. We were encouraged to make notes, paper and pens were provided – Sylvia and Debs had all bases covered!

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It was a full house in the workshop with 10 of us being taught by Sylvia and Deborah, each of them taking turns to take us through the various techniques we’d be using. We were each given a white washed board, a wooden cut-out heart and asked to pick 3-4 paint shades to use for our masterpieces.

I picked Antique Rose, Violet Grey and Antique Turquoise (I then also used Chalk Grey, Soft Mauve and Purple Rain…) With over 130 shades to choose from, we were spoilt for choice – which explains why I wanted to use all the shades listed above!

The paints are all mixed by hand at Autentico HQ in Kent (I find this amazing – especially given the huge variety in shades) and Deborah and Sylvia went on a 2 day course to learn all about the collection ahead of stocking it in Penny Pieces. Their in-depth knowledge meant they could answer any question asked, but they also gave their personal opinions as they both talked so knowledgeably about the paints, and the techniques.

As we were painting our boards, Sylvia and Debs came round the class, giving us tips and helping with our technique, checking we were all getting on okay. I needed a lot of assistance, ha ha. I’m a beginner! I’ve never painted anything in my life.  My high school art teacher will testify to this. . . I can’t even remember her name.

We painted one half of the board with nice even strokes, the second half in a more abstract way to create swirls, lumps and bumps to give a texturised finish, and then came my favourite part… painting the heart and then adding the crackle glaze (and painting over it to create the crackles) Once your crackles were done (hairdryers were brought in to speed up drying time), it was time to distress the top of the board using a sanding brick. Once we were happy with the finish we’d achieved we were given more options! We had to choose which wax we’d use to go over the top – who knew you could get coloured waxes? I certainly didn’t! Sylvia and Debs demonstrated how adding a coloured wax could totally alter the paint shade. Loved this surprise, so to mute the Antique Rose, I added a grey wax to my board (not to the heart though). The final step was gluing our hearts down and adding our straw bows.

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In between our boards drying, there was even time for cake, tea and a bit of a natter. Perfect Sunday afternoon activities. I did give out my blog address to the class, so if anyone from the class is reading, it was lovely to meet you! It was really interesting to see which shades everyone went for, no two boards were the same.

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Bows and hearts are two of my favourite things ever and it’s safe to say that I’m proud as punch of the pretty board I took away with me. The class was also given a super pretty heart keyring each and told that if they were ever stuck while painting furniture at home, they were welcome to give the shop a call to ask for advice. I would never have considered painting furniture at home, I had no clue where to start, but now it’s definitely something I plan on doing (especially as I know that Sylvia and Debs really mean it about giving advice if needed!)

Check out Penny Pieces Facebook Page for info on future workshops (there are Beginner and Intermediate) or give the shop a call on 01661 824424 to find out more – they get booked up pretty quickly! Or if you’re already a painting pro, pop in to see the shades on offer and get stuck in!

I’d love to hear of any home improvement projects you’ve started/finished/planned – tell me all about it in the comments!

I Love Books (sometimes I judge a book by its cover)

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The first book I remember loving was The Twits by Roald Dahl. I still love The Twits, along with many of Roald Dahl’s other stories. (Matilda is a very close second).

There’s nothing better than becoming so engrossed in a book that you cannot put it down… sometimes it’s almost impossible to do so. My husband barely reads for pleasure, so when I do he spends a lot of time trying to talk to me. Ha ha. Consequently I have to read when I’m alone, which is fine. Reading is the only thing I miss about taking public transport to work, that 1 hour each morning listening to my iPod and reading my book on the metro… Nostalgia is a funny thing, I actually hated public transport when I had to use it.

There is no book shelf in my house, I realise at the age of 34 this is quite ridiculous and actually a bit embarrassing. Where are my books kept? Well, most of them are still at my parents house, some are in a box . . and I have recently read books in a cupboard. Even writing this makes me feel sad. Next on my list of future purchases is a book shelf.

Here is a list of the books I’ve read and loved the most. The first one is my favourite, but the rest are not in order of preference. That’s too hard, I tried but I couldn’t do it.

1. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera. One of my favourite people in the world recommended this book to me. Incidentally, it’s the only book I’ve also read in French that I didn’t study at school or university. I own 5 copies of this book. Different editions. That’s how much I love it. I told my cousin to read it. He did (and also loved it), a few years later a girl he met was reading it and they struck up a conversation about it… They used a hardback copy as their guest book at their amazing wedding last summer.

2. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami I finished this so quickly the first time I read it, when I got to the end I felt like reading it again straightaway.

3. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk The film is as good as the book… that rarely happens.

4. Twelve – Nick McDonell Rich teenagers in Manhattan, drugs and White Mike. McDonell’s debut novel, I couldn’t put it down.

5. Me Talk Pretty Someday – David Sedaris I picked this collection of essays off the shelf in Barnes & Noble, East 86th Street, NYC, whilst visiting my cousin who is referenced earlier… A woman came over to me and said “You must buy this book. It’s amazing” So I did, and she was right.

6. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh – Michael Chabon I found it very hard to pick between this and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - also by Michael Chabon.

7. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs – Chuck Klosterman Non-fiction collection of comedic essays on popular culture – Chuck Klosterman perfectly articulates why I hate coldplay. I’d never been able to fully explain why, and he did. Perfectly.

8. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts Based on a true story, it’s long but it’s worth every minute of your time.

9. How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran Non-fiction memoir. I couldn’t control my laughter in certain parts of this. SO good.

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky I’m a sucker for a coming-of-age Salinger type of book.

11. Immortality – Milan Kundera My favourite Kundera books could make for another good list…

This list could go on and on. I tried to stop at 10, but whilst re-reading I realised I had two number 3′s and I can’t bring myself to delete any of them. Number 12 would be One Day by David Nicholls. I can’t stop.

I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these, or what would feature in a list of your favourite books… tell me!

Happy Monday (even happier when it’s a sunny public holiday)

Di Meo'sI love long weekends, especially those that involve sunshine, friends and ice-cream! The weather was actually pretty rubbish until today, but it’s still been lovely.

We had friends visiting from London, who we haven’t seen in a few years… so we did some catching-up over good food at Dabbawal last night, and today we went to the coast and got ice-cream at Di Meo’s in Whitley Bay. The delightful item you see pictured here is one of their best selling flavours, Ferrero Rocher (ermm yes, FERRERO ROCHER) in a delicious sugar cone. Well played Di Meo’s. In fact, bravo!

I’m a bit tired now, and have to do some rather mundane things like iron clothes for work (which will also involve some whinging on my part)… I’ll write more soon.

Hope you’ve all had fun weekends, tell me what you got up to!