Weekend Reading (October 2021)

Sunday 17th October 

This week's weekend reading is going to be short and sweet - I hope that's ok. 

First of all, who watches Saturday Night Live? We love it in our house and last week, Kim K hosted. Now previously, I haven't really been interested in the Kardashians. I didn't know their names or what they did or sounded like. However Kim was fab on SNL and not afraid to take the mick out of herself. She now has a new follower on Instagram! 

Talking of TV, how good is Strictly this year? I can't believe how high the standard is. For the past two weeks my favourites have been Sara, Rose and John. Love them all and I hope one of them wins. I won't speak about last night's dramas as don't want to add to the rumour mill but yes, I am guilty or rewinding and rewatching to see if that thing almost happened (and in my opinion, it did). 

I really enjoyed meal planning last week and for the first time in my life I tried homemade pumpkin soup using a pumpkin we picked at Spilmans earlier this month. It was actually really nice and from one pumpkin plus extra veg and stock you get around six portions of soup so I have more to come in the freezer. I only plan meals until Wednesday as we have a new shopping delivery on Thursday and I haven't planned those meals yet but for the first half of this week this is what's on the menu: 

Monday Lunch: Beetroot, Orange and Feta Salad
Monday Tea: Homemade Nando's Chicken, Salad, Wedges and Corn on the Cob 

Tuesday Lunch: Lunch in Yarm 
Tuesday Tea: Fajita Style Pasta 

Wednesday Lunch: Jacker Potato, Beans and Salad 
Wednesday Tea: Shepherd's Pie 

For breakfast I have been enjoying 2/3 portions of fruit with seeds, sugar free granola, a drizzle of Manuka honey and Greek Yoghurt plus a 125ml glass of fresh juice / smoothie. I am used to skipping breakfast on the days that Steve works and eating something like this has really made a huge difference. I have been trying to snack on nuts / protein balls but to be honest, I am rarely peckish during the day when I have breakfast now. 

Part of taking better care of myself also involves reminding myself to take care of my skin. I am very all or nothing - either take good care and do loads or do the bare minimum. Well anyway, I booked myself a non-surgical microdermabrasion treatment at our local salon. It was only £33 and it gently removes the top layer of your skin. It doesn't hurt at all and is non invasive but my skin feels so fresh and smooth now. I'm going to book again next month. You can find the details here (I had the Express Microdermabrasion Facial). 

On Friday we visited Sunderland Festival of Light with the kids and my nephew Evan. I thought the event was ok and it filled a night. Plus we were blessed with good weather. If you have tickets, you can read my top tips for visiting here. 

Steve and I had booked tickets to go and see Judge Jules and his orchestra at the Globe in Stockton on Saturday. We booked ages ago after listening to his live streams and turning out living room into a nightclub on Saturday nights during lockdown. I don't know what's gone on but there has been some kind of huge fall out and the show ended up being cancelled at the last minute with Judge Jules putting on a free gig in Middlesbrough instead. 

Now I did feel fine going to a 3000 capacity theatre where I had a seat and a table and they had a COVID pass available but I didn't feel as comfortable driving to Middlesbrough to a club I didn't know to watch a DJ set without the Orchestra. Steve and I both wouldn't be drinking and I am not keen on being in a nightclub sober so we just decided that on this occasion, it wasn't meant to be. Probably for the best as Steve is feeling under the weather this weekend anyway and is at work (still from home) so a late night probably wasn't for the best. God we are old!!! 

This is the second event we have had cancelled this week. It is clear to me that there is still a long way to go for the events industry until things are back to normal for them. I really feel for everyone involved. 

This weekend has been chilled at home. Steve and Harry have been at work, Dee has been at a friend's house so it has mostly been just myself and Jack fighting over who can go on the computer. We did look after Ollie on Saturday as usual but he is recovering from an operation so it was just an afternoon of sofa snuggles which suited me just fine. 

Next week Steve and I are visiting (ad) Preston Park and I will be sharing my review and info about their new Behind the Seams exhibition. Harry and Dee break up on Wednesday. That has came around so quickly! Then Jack follows on Thursday. I have booked a flu jab for myself on Thursday and then I have a lunch date with my friends which will be nice before the madness of Half Term. 

I cannot believe it is almost Half Term! We have a super busy week starting with a trip to Whitby on Saturday and then the kids are off to the caravan on Sunday and Steve and I are heading into town for drinks and food. Looking forward to that. There probably won't be an update next weekend or over half term but look out for a catch up after the school hols. 

Sunday 10th October

Holiday Catch Up 

Hello! And welcome to another edition of weekend reading. Just a little place for a general catch up and chat about this and that. 

Not last week but the week before, Steve had the week off work so I decided to take the week off too (as best I could anyway). The problem with trying to take a week of when you're a business owner is that you just pretty much double your workload (especially emails building up) the following week. So this week I have felt as if I have been on one big catch up and my routine has gone out of the window. 

My Visit Newcastle and Dog Friendly North East sites were the first to be neglected as I caught up. I keep toying with the idea of employing some kind of assistant but then it feels like such a big step / commitment. I'm going to see how the next few months goes and then reassess. 

I feel organised and all caught up again now though. Next week is another week and I am raring to go! I am going to make a big effort to enjoy some down time between Christmas and New Year this year and most of the agencies and business I work with have time off during this period too (or at least won't be starting a big campaign) so I shouldn't have any catch up to deal with in the New Year. 

Coughs and PCR Tests 

The last two weeks for us have been a whirlwind of one child catching a cough, needing time of school and to take a PCR test, then a few days another child doing the same and it just seems to have gone around in circles with lots of remote schooling / feeling under the weather / staying at home going on. Dee had a sleepover at their friend's house and the following day their friend tested positive and Harry's friend he sits with at school has tested positive too.

I really thought it was COVID as Steve and the kids were constantly under the weather on and off for two weeks yet I didn't get so much of a sniffle and I thought my vaccine just worked better than Steve's. We were braced for the worst but all lateral flow and PCR tests across the fortnight were negative so I think it was just that bad cold that has been going around and I was lucky. Everyone is much better now. I did feel very frustrated at the time that Harry was missing time being at school during his GCSE years for what was effectively just a cough but this is life now isn't it. 

Washing Machines & Tumble Dryers 

You may remember that last year, our tumble dryer set on fire. No serious damage or anything but we did switch to an air dryer which initially, I did like. We have the air dryer in the conservatory but during autumn/winter the condensation gets ridiculous and it doesn't work properly plus huge drips of condensation end up dropping from the roof which isn't great.

Last year we put the air dryer in our bedroom which solved the issue and there weren't any condensation problems however now, Steve's office desk is in our bedroom and we don't have the space. This combined with the fact that the kids wear their PE kit on PE days and it often needs to be washed and dried for the next day meant that we decided to get another tumble dryer.

I feel guilty from an energy saving point of view so spent a bit more on an heat pump tumble dryer which is more efficient than a condenser or vented dryer and estimated to cost £30-£40 per year to run. OMG I love it! I will still primarily use the washing line in the warmer months but my life just got 1000% times easier. I also offset my carbon footprint with a monthly donation to Klima which isn't the perfect solution but leading a perfect life is practically impossible. 

The day after I ordered our new tumble dryer, our washing machine broke and needed a new pump. It was coming up to 5 years old so we decided it would be more economical to order a new one. We paid for recycling and connection too. On the day, the fitters said that they couldn't fit our new machine as couldn't risk damaging our floor when they pulled our old machine out. I said it was fine but they insisted they couldn't. This felt like a bit of a lame excuse to me. I was left with a broken washing machine plumbed in and a brand new one in the middle of my kitchen floor. Luckily, Steve had the following day off work and what do you know, we managed to fit it ourselves without damaging the floor. I have organised recycling with the council so it all turned out ok in the end. Next time, we will just fit ourselves from the outset. 

Trying to Work a 4 Day Week 

I have been trying to work a 4 day week for a while now. To me, what is the point of running your own business if you can't set the rules. When I say work, I mean sitting at my desk and typing or scheduling meetings. I don't really see going out and about and sharing the places we visit on Social Media as work. 

I generally have a Friday off but can be flexible depending on when Steve is off / what's in the diary. My day off usually involves a decent house clean and catching up on jobs then doing something for me. Last Friday Steve was also off so we enjoyed a lovely afternoon at Amble with a delicious lunch at the Boathouse and a potter around the Harbour Village. Next Friday I have booked a non-surgical facial. Oh can't wait! 

I do still feel guilty when emails from Thursday night don't get answered until Monday (especially when people send another message or email chasing when it's not something urgent) but work-life balance is so important and I am sure through time, I will be at peace with this. I actually feel like I get more work done in the four days I am at my desk as I feel much more in the zone and really get my head down. 

Small Business Saturday Mega Giveaway 

It is around this time of year that some small businesses ask if they can send me a gift in return for Christmas promotion. I am so grateful for this but also don't want my page to turn into something that just continuously shares what many deem to be 'freebies'. 

I have been trying to think of a solution this week and decided on a Small Business Saturday giveaway. Local businesses can donate a prize for a big mega giveaway (launching on Black Friday) in return for a share on my Social Media. I hope this is the best of both worlds as I will receive some lovely products to share, the small business is able to advertise to lots of local potential customers and as a reader, you will hopefully discover some new places to shop local and have the chance to win a mega prize too. 

I am going to donate some prizes to the giveaway too and I reckon the bundle will be worth over £500 in the end. I am excited to get sharing.


So today, someone took the time to complain on one of my posts from the summer. They stayed somewhere I had reviewed in the summer and brought up a few points. 1 - There was another (what they described as chav) couple staying up late drinking vodka around a fire pit and they felt intimidated. 2 - I didn't mention that the place was close to a road. 3 - The fact that I'd mentioned the place was in an apple orchard made them feel like it was rural. 

I addressed these points - 1 - I can't manage other guests / who is staying there and I am sorry they felt this way. I hope they passed their feedback to the owners and it was dealt with. 2 - I did mention there was a road and even included a screenshot of google maps to demonstrate how close the site was to the road. 3 - The place is in an apple orchard. It's a fact. I didn't say it was a rural apple orchard. 

This clearly hit a nerve as they went on a huge rant pulling apart my page. Saying I never post anything new and that google is better for finding places to visit, that I am dishonest and don't share the truth about places I visit and that they don't know why they follow my page as it's rubbish. Apparently, my posts don't provide enough information and my reviews aren't very good. 

I mean is there any need? It really upset me this morning as I try so hard to be honest and provide lots of info in my posts. Objectively, I know it says more about them than me but still, it hurts. They are blocked now. 

This is a problem I have with Facebook in general. Some people on there are just so negative. I try very hard to keep my page positive and it always saddens me that pretty much everything I post now will have at least one negative comment on it about something or another.

You can guarantee I will share an ice cream parlour, someone will criticise they were overcharged last time they visited. I will share a delicious meal we've had, someone will say it's been prepared incorrectly and the chef should know better, I will share a Christmas event, someone will say the photo of Santa looks awful and there's no way they'd take their kids there. You get the picture. One or two comments like this would be ok to deal with but when it is every post and you are trying to help local businesses, it can get to you and I will admit, sometimes I can be frosty in my response to comments like this. 

I have said this before but it also REALLY annoys me when people use my FB posts to complain. I have 55k followers and their complaint is amplified to many people when they comment on one of my posts and the business in question may not even see the complaint. I believe businesses have the right to reply and complaints should be made to the business, not a third party page for attention. I mean what kind of person wants to damage local businesses like this? My mind boggles. 

I know I need to not take comments personally but when people reply to 'North East Family Fun' and that just happens to be me and not a faceless corporation or someone who works for someone, it is really hard not to. I am working on it though and trying to detach myself more. Sometimes typing out a reply I would like to write but not actually post it helps and then the sad feelings I get do disappear within a few hours normally too. 

Anyway, a new tactic is needed. I am just not going to respond to negative comments now. Sometimes I do try to respond calmly but then a debate starts / other people start adding to the discussion and it blows up even more. Not a perfect solution but worth a try I think. These people aren't going to change so the way I deal with it has to. 

Food Shopping & Meal Planning 

Salmon Salad from last week 

I have been really enjoying meal planning this week. At the moment, we get a Morrisons delivery on a Sunday and Thursday and I have just started a weekly fruit and veg box delivery with Cramlington Veg Box too. I have been planning breakfasts and lunches as well as evening meals and making sure we all get at least our five a day. I think planning for the next 3.5 days ahead in one go and having two deliveries per week doesn't feel so much of a chore as doing a full week in one go too. 

This week's plan so far: 

  • Sunday evening: Chicken with Reggae Reggae sauce, sweetcorn and sweet potato 
  • Monday lunch: Fig, burrata and prosciutto tartine with rocket salad 
  • Monday night: Creamy lemon chicken with green beans and potatoes 
  • Tuesday lunch: Vegetable soup 
  • Tuesday night: Lamb chops, new pots and whatever veg is in our veg box 
  • Wednesday lunch : Jacket potato, beans and salad 
  • Wednesday dinner : Dinner out 

We usually have 2/3 portions of fruit with breakfast (usually tinned fruit in juice topped up with some berries) and some kind of fruit / veg snack too. In the past, I have struggled to eat 5 per day and have only ever planned evening meals but properly planning every meal has made a big difference. 

Keeping Healthy 

Upping my fruit and veg has led to me feeling healthier and I have started a training programme with Fiit (though Sky Q) and exercise first thing in the morning as soon as the kids go to school 4 times a week. The programme mixes cardio, stretching and weights and classes are 25-40 minutes in length. Teaming this with a walk at the weekend, and I feel great. Long may it last! If I don't exercise first thing, I just don't do it at all and starting the day like this has really worked so far. 

For me, exercise and eating more fruit and veg is about health NOT weight. I am 100% comfortable with how I look and don't want anyone to read this and think I'm on a diet because I'm not. I can't ever imagine being back in a place where I calorie count or deny myself anything I fancy and do not want my kids to be raised in an environment where diet culture is the norm. 

I think that's everything for now. This week our car is going in for it's first MOT, we are trying a new local restaurant (I will probably write a review), we have tickets to Sunderland Festival of Light and we are going to see Judge Jools and his live 10 piece orchestra. Judge Jools kept us going on Saturday nights at home with his live streams during peak lockdown so I cannot wait to see him live. Have a look on his Instagram as I'm sure they are selling tickets with £10 off now (it's at the Globe in Stockton). 

New posts this week: 

Child-friendly Cafes in North East England 

An upcoming Disney Disco at Whitley Bay Ice Rink 

What's On for Kids and Teens in October 

Ideas for Thing to Do in Cumbria 

I'll be back next week with another catch up, have a safe and lovely week xx 


1 comment

  1. Hi Sam. He's not the same kind of blogger, but there's a guy on Facebook and twitter called James Fell. He deals with the negative comments so well... and just blocks people if he feels they're being deliberately obnoxious. You run a great Web page, there's always someone who just wants to vent so try not to let it upset you. Easier said than done though I'm sure.


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