Tub on the Run


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Blogtacular 2016: My weekend in London

You go to a blogging conference, come away with a load of ideas and things you’d like to try, and… You don’t blog for over a week. Well done me! Being totally honest, I think I have suffered a little bit from overwhelm and analysis paralysis. It was a lot to take in! Anyway, after just over a week, I thought I’d just run through the day. I’ll do another post on my thoughts if I go next year as this post if already a long one.

I was lucky enough to gain a place on the much coveted Blogtacular photowalk which was taking place on the Friday before the main conference on the Saturday, so I travelled to London by train on the Friday morning. Matt very kindly dropped me off at the station.

Train Station

I arrived in Waterloo around lunchtime. I hopped onto the Jubilee Line to Canada Water and then made my way up to the Overground to catch the train to Shoreditch High Street, where the Blogtacular Photowalk East started from.

Blogtacular 2016 Photowalk Image Courtesy of Mollie Makes © Kat Molesworth-14

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

It really wasn’t hard to spot the Blogtacular crowd – I think we may have been the brightest dressed people on a slightly grey day in east London. I was pretty nervous and probably didn’t come across all that brilliantly, but I got chatting to the lovely Julia from Just Creative Julia, and not long after 2pm, we were all heading off the main drag and around the streets of Shoreditch.

Shoreditch Photowalk

By the time we arrived at Old Street station, I was beginning to flag. I hadn’t eaten much and think the nervous energy was beginning to wear off. After stopping for a peppermint tea at Eat and chatting some more with Julia and Rachel from Sew Happy Sew Healthy, we parted ways and I headed to my hotel via Pret a Manger for a tuna salad dinner. I’d booked the Hub by Premier Inn at Tower Bridge. It was a great choice! Don’t get me wrong, there was hardly enough room to swing a cat, but I knew that in advance and was actually really impressed with the room. The bed was super comfy, there were movies on the TV (some good choices too – I opted for 13 Hours and started, but didn’t finish, Everest). I managed some yoga too in a bid to calm my brain down a bit.

Blogtacular were holding a party at West Elm on Tottenham Court Road, but a combination of social overwhelm and distance saw me opt for a walk along the Thames with my camera.

Tower Bridge

On Saturday morning, having slept pretty well (thanks air-con!), I struggled out of bed, packed myself up and headed up to 200 Aldersgate, which may be the most amazing venue I have ever been to for a conference. The space is so lovely and light.

Blogtacular 2016

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

Over breakfast, I chatted to some really friendly people, and then wandered over to Mollie Makes, where the lovely ladies tried to get me to do their flat lay challenge (which I didn’t accept at the time) and waited for the opening key-note speech.

Blogtacular 2016

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

Lisa Congdon was the opening key-note, and I don’t think I could have heard anything so well-timed in my life. She talked about not doing all the things, being vulnerable and genuine, and not wearing your busy-ness as a medal. After working 50 to 60 hour weeks for the last two months, this was just what I needed to hear. I will write another post on this one, as I definitely have more thoughts on this.

Blogtacular 2016

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

After a quick tea break, it was workshop time. It was quite hard to choose which workshops to attend, but I decided to go to the writing workshop being led by Kirsty Smith from Eeh Bah Mum who was absolutely brilliant! The key message? Don’t be afraid to be a little bit shit – it gives you something to work on! I took a lot of notes in this workshop, and definitely picked up some great tips for defeating writer’s block.

Blogtacular 2016

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

After the workshop was lunch. I was on my best Whole 100 behaviour, so I didn’t get to sample a huge amount, but the salmon and salad that I did eat was very tasty, and the rest of it looked delicious. During lunch, I also accepted the Mollie Makes flat lay challenge. Given this was the first time I’d ever attempted a flat lay, I think the ladies were a little more generous with their time than two minutes (and also kindly lent me their iPhone as my phone went on strike).

Mollie Makes Flat Lay Challenge

Unfortunately, a last-minute loo stop meant that the next workshop I wanted to go to (Phoneography with Sara Tasker from Me and Orla) was full so I ended up in the Microsoft talk. Another well deserved tea break and then it was time for the last workshop. Photography is something I really would like to get better at, so I chose Laura La Monaca’s food styling and photography workshop.

Blogtacular 2016

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

I swear I learnt more in those 90 minutes with Laura than I have from reading all the stuff on my Pinterest board. The way she explained things like aperture and ISO just made sense (finally!). I really enjoyed this session and took pages of notes. It’s really inspired me to put my camera into manual and properly learn it. If you ever get the chance to listen to Laura speak about photography, go! She’s so passionate about it and with her beautiful Sicilian accent, she’s wonderful to listen to.

The closing speech was given by Enid Hwang – Pinterest’s Community Manager and employee #6. Enid’s speech was funny, humbling and engaging, and I think most attendees are trying to incorporate the phrase “utter bilge” into their everyday lives. She was the perfect “up” to the end of the day.

Blogtacular 2016

Photo Credit: Mollie Makes

Once the final photo had been taken and the goody bags handed out, I hotfooted it back to Waterloo to catch my train home. The goody bags are brilliant, and definitely inspire me to get my craft game on again.

I was very glad to see my bed that night!


A big thank you to Mollie Makes and Blogtacular for the professional photos – knowing we’d have these definitely took the pressure off of trying to listen, note take and photograph everything.

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Off to Blogtacular I go!

It’s now five more sleeps until I set off on my own to London. I’ve always gone with other people in the past, so I’m quite looking forward to attempting to navigate my way around the City. Why am I going to London?

Going-to-Blogtacular-2016

I am going to Blogtacular! Back when I was still blogging at Tub on the Run, I promised myself a couple of things – the first was that one day I would get my own domain name and go self hosted (tick!). The second was that I would go to a blogging conference. A couple of years ago, I had planned to go to an event called Cybher. I read everything and anything I could get my hands on about this conference, and after doing my research, I bought a ticket. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as the conference was cancelled. I think (from bad memory) that Blogtacular was born that same year (2014).

Why didn’t I go to Blogtacular instead? I think it was because I wanted to read reviews of it first. It isn’t the cheapest activity when you add in the travel, hotel, food and tickets, so I wanted to know that I was going to be getting my money’s worth. I did go to the South West Blog Social that year, which was organised by Jodie from a la Jode, and enjoyed myself, even if there wasn’t anyone from my niche at the time. I didn’t book up last year, as we were moving house and any extra funds were spent on that.

This year though, I decided to bite the bullet and booked my Blogtacular ticket, having read as much as I could. The verdict, according to the research I’d done? Absolutely, unquestioningly good value for money.

Since I bought my ticket, I’ve been joining in on the weekly Twitter chats as and when I can, and if the topic is relevant to me. I’ve learned a lot already. As this will be my first “big” blogging conference, I thought I’d best introduce myself!

Beyond the Sofa goes to Blogtacular

 

I am Steph, office bod by day, crazy cat lady and blogger by night. I live in Devon with my husband Matt and two rescue cats (Tank and Timo). I’ve been blogging since 2013, initially to document my running and weight loss efforts, though eventually got a bit lost with it when I a) started to put weight on again, and b) stopped running.

What do I want to get out of Blogtacular? Well, I’d like to learn about how to improve my writing and will also be trying to pick up any and all tips about how not to hit the awful writer’s block (or crack through it if I find myself there!). Aesthetically, I would like to improve my photography and site design, so I am going to be keeping my ears open for any tips I can take away on these points too. Other than that, I am just looking forward to meeting some new people.

What am I doing at Blogtacular? I’m very lucky to have gained a place in the photowalk lottery, so I’m heading up to London on Friday to take part in the photowalk with Laura and Jess. I am down to go to the West Elm party too, but I might leave that a little early so I can get an early night for what promises to be a long and interesting day on the Saturday (I’ll play it by ear). On the Saturday, I am (at the moment) planning on going to the Developing Content Ideas with Kirsty Smith from Eeh Bah Mum, then either Why Content is King is Modern Media with Ella Williamson and Andrew Trotman, or Phoneography with Sara Tasker from Me and Orla. For the last workshop, I’m hoping to do either the Writing Workshop with Laura Jane Williams or the Food and Travel Photography workshop with Laura La Monaca.

Anything I’m nervous about? I get a touch of anxiety about travelling to timetables (it’s the “will I get there on time? Will I get lost?”). I’m coming up by train from Exeter to Waterloo. I know I’ll be fine once I’m on the Tube and have found the photowalk location (google maps at the ready!). I’m also a bit nervous about meeting new people. I’ll be absolutely fine, I have no doubt, it’s just the thought of not knowing anyone. My last thing is to do with being able to eat in line with my Whole 100. I’m not too concerned though, as I understand that there are lots of options when it comes to the catering (plus unlimited tea and coffee! Woo!). Worst case scenario is that I nip out to Pret around the corner as they’ll definitely have things I can eat. That will be my plan for dinner on the Friday and Saturday.

If you’re going to Blogtacular, please say hi! If you’re not, have you been to a blogging conference? Any tips to share for making the most out of the experience?


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Gallivanting

I tend not to blog when I have nothing to blog about.  I’d say that was definitely true on the weight loss and exercise fronts, but unusually, life has been a bit on the busy side for me lately so I haven’t found much in the way of spare time.

I said in my last blog post that Matt and I had been given notice to move out of our flat in the summer.  We don’t have a definite date yet, but when we were told that we needed to move, we got straight to it with house hunting.  The paperwork is all done for the mortgage now, and we’ve had an offer accepted on a house.  It’s in mid-Devon, much closer to Killerton parkrun, and super convenient for hopping on the motorway to both sets of parents.  We are just waiting for the full survey next week.  We’re hoping to move by mid-August at the latest.  It’s all very exciting, but quite stressful, and also quite scary to see how much junk we’ve acquired in the 5 years we have lived here.

We’ve had a couple of weekends out and about too.

Two weeks ago, Matt and I joined his mum and step-dad to go to London.  Step-dad was running in the London Marathon, so we had said we would like to go and cheer him on.  We joined him for the expo, and wandered around London for a short while.  We made it back to where we were staying and had a lovely dinner at a local pub.  It was a very early start (for a Sunday morning) on race day.  We caught the train to Blackheath and waved him off about 20 minutes before the start, before heading back towards Greenwich to catch the Tube.  We got off at Canary Wharf, intending to get to somewhere around Mile 11.  As it turned out, we found a great little spot between Mile 17 and 18 on the North Colonnade, so decided to stay there.  Unfortunately, I was on a coffee run when the elites and Paula Radcliffe came past (thankfully, Matt snapped a picture or two!).

London Marathon 2015

Father-in-law came through, looking really good and definitely on for the time he was looking for (he completed the Marathon in 2010, in 4:25:21, and wanted to beat that).  After cheering him on, we made our way over to Hyde Park to the finish line.  The finish line area was definitely interesting – broken, but incredibly proud (and some disappointed) people.  It definitely made me rethink any daft notion I had about entering the ballot!  Unfortunately, father-in-law didn’t beat his time.  I think he was just happy to make it around in the end, as he had started to experience some of the niggles that he had picked up during training.  Nevertheless, we were all very proud of him!

Last weekend was the culmination of a lot of planning between my sister and I.  Mum celebrates a significant birthday this year, and we wanted to do something special for her.  It was top secret and Mum was told to keep the first bank holiday weekend in May free.  Matt and I picked both my mum and sister up on Saturday morning, having put together a packing list and arguing about Matt needing a car for the weekend (it was all in hand, Matt would be keeping the car).  We arrived at Exeter airport, and made our way to check in.  We still hadn’t told her where we were going, but when we got to the check in, she scanned through the flight lists – there were three options – Edinburgh, Dublin or Paris.  Mum and P had gone to Edinburgh on a holiday relatively recently, and she has never expressed a desire to go to Dublin, so she guessed (correctly) that we were heading to Paris.  Her reaction was absolutely priceless!  P and I had worked out the itinerary and transport links, and tried to make it as smooth and worry free as we could for Mum.  We checked in our hotel, which was a fab little apartment in Courbevoie, close to La Defense train station.  Sadly the weather wasn’t really in our favour, and we’d had a delay on the train from the airport, but we’d booked a city tour on Big Bus Tours.  We managed to catch the last bus of the day from the Arc de Triomphe and see most of the major sites in Paris.

Paris

I would definitely do this tour again, and make use of the hop on hop off if we had more time.  It was a really nice way to see the city without any hassle, and with a little bit of commentary.  On Sunday, we had booked to go to the Palace of Versailles.  Wow.  It is absolutely breathtakingly splendid.  The queue to get in was massive, but surprisingly orderly for a European queue.  We queued for about an hour to get in to the Palace (definitely getting there early is the best plan), but it was worth it.  I like a good historical building or place, and have been very lucky to go to a lot of castles and houses in the England and Wales, but Versailles was magnificent and in a league of its own.  It’s another place I would love to go back to, as we didn’t get the chance to get into the gardens or any of the other buildings at all.

Versailles

There was just one sting in the tail of an otherwise brilliant weekend – the travelling home.  We had a very early flight home on the Monday morning, which came back via Manchester.  Despite rising at such an ungodly hour, Mum enjoyed the whole weekend, and I am pretty sure that P and I would do it all over again just to see her reaction!

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This weekend was my friend Helen’s hen party.  Her bridesmaids had organised a weekend away in a Georgian mansion in Rockbeare.  It was a perfect setting for a relaxing weekend away in a beautiful house, with probably one of the best bathrooms I have ever seen.

Westcott House

There were rounders, drinking games, vast amounts of food, lots of laughs and a murder mystery.  It was a really lovely weekend, and great to get to know some people before the wedding in a couple of weeks.

We have nothing planned for next weekend, which I am quite glad about!  The washing is piling up, and the house won’t pack itself!

 


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Life, lately

Matt and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary at the beginning of the month.  I feel like say this all the time, but where has that year gone!  We went to London to see a band, along with my Mum and sister.  It was a nice weekend away, good music (in my opinion!), okay food (it was a Marks and Spencer picnic in the hotel), good wine (M&S zinfandel FTW) and great company.  We didn’t get too much time to do a lot on the Saturday, and after nearly 8 hours of travelling, I was very much ready not to burn out before the gig.

On the Sunday, despite the Tube closures on seemingly every line we wanted to use, we did make it to Westminster for Matt to get a few photos with his new camera (not realising that the batteries needed a charge).  It was then a short Tube hop and walk over to the Tower, as we all wanted to see the poppies.  Matt and I had got a couple of photos from when we were in the City in August, but to see the nearly complete field was breathtaking and so sad all in one hit.

I didn’t realise that the poppies were being sold until quite recently, and I am pleased to hear that they all sold really quickly.

In other news, I am the heaviest I have ever been (grump!).  I do feel a bit down about that, but I have more pressing concerns right now which are work related.  I’ve also caught the office lurgy which has moved to my chest and stopped any kind of exercise.  Having considered my weight, my 2 year-old’s-lung-capacity and the distinct lack of training, I have made the decision to pull out of the Weston Christmas Cracker 10k, which I am gutted about.  I don’t want the place to go to waste, so I am offering it out (I don’t want any money for it – if you know anyone who might be interested, please let me know!).  It’s a really great race, but my timing sucks.

Thankfully, I have a couple of things dotted around between now and Christmas to really look forward to, and of course, there is Christmas itself, which is all helping to keep my spirits up.

Did you see the poppies?


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Ultimate Coffee Date – November 2014

I was introduced to the Ultimate Coffee Date by Laura over at Laura: Fat 2 Fit a few months back.

Post shopping cuppa

Ultimate Coffee Date is hosted by Jill Conyers, Grab your kicks, and Fitness Mom Wine Country, and takes place on the first Saturday of each month.  Some of the blogs that I have added into my reader have come courtesy of link ups, and think they’re a great way to get introduced to new people.  The point of the Ultimate Coffee Date is to take 5 minutes once a month for a bit of a catch up.

So…

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Matt and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary this weekend.

Coming out of church

I can’t believe that this year has gone by so quickly, but if I am completely honest, I have thoroughly enjoyed not wedding planning this year!  2013 felt like it was all wedding planning and it was all I could talk about, which I have no doubt got incredibly boring for my nearest and dearest.  Having said that I still need to find homes for some of the left over bits and bobs (and get my dress dry cleaned…), and get a momento box thing together.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am loving autumn.  Autumn is probably my favourite season.

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Autumn means wellies, and I have awesome wellies!  I like the colour changes as the world prepares itself for winter, from red and orange leaves to the high streets preparing for their Christmas lights.  Candles in the evening as entirely acceptable again, and mugs of steaming hot tea become my drink of choice.  Also, it means that I feel more comfortable running again – as the nights draw in, I much prefer the anonymity of running under cover of darkness.

If we were having coffee, you would know how excited I am for this weekend.  One of my favourite bands is playing at Wembley, and it is going to be amazing!  We came across Blackstone Cherry when they supported Nickelback on one of their tours (I can’t remember which it was), and have seen them once since, when they came to Cardiff.

Because I have a cool family, it is a bit of a family outing – me, Matt, my mum and sister.  Dad has to stay at home unfortunately.  We don’t get a huge amount of time to spend in London, which is a shame, but I am hoping to be able to see the progress made with the poppies at the Tower of London.

What’s new with you?  Do you have a favourite season?


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Adventures in the South East

Phew! What a week!  Sore today, strong tomorrow has lasted quite a long time, and I’m still not 100% which is irritating.  It didn’t stop me enjoying my week off too much though!

It has been a week of indulgence and excess, and while I enjoyed it, I am also glad to see my kitchen and normal food again!

Mid-week, Matt and I headed across country to stay with his aunt and uncle in Sussex for a few days.  The plan was simple – go, relax and enjoy some time with them.  We arrived on Wednesday afternoon in their lovely little village, and spent the afternoon chatting away with his uncle while we waited for his aunt to return home from work.  When everyone had arrived home, dinner was prepared, and it became apparent that the cooking gene runs in the family.  Matt is a good cook, as is his mum, and so it seems, is his uncle.  He cooked the most delicious steak and veggies, and washed it down with plenty (too much?) wine.  Pudding was home-made tiramisu which was like heaven in a glass dish.  Needless to say, we went to bed full and content.

On Thursday, we all went to Hampton Court Palace.  I’d said quite a long time ago that it was somewhere I would like to visit, having never been there before.  It didn’t disappoint at all.  I was surprised to see such a beautiful animal so close to busy roads.

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There were free audio guides which worked in conjunction with a small leaflet that guided you through different parts of the palace.  Matt and I only managed the Tudor part, and didn’t get anywhere near the newer parts.  Matt’s aunt and uncle managed to cover a little bit more ground than us though.  I would love to go back and have a look at the parts we didn’t get to see, as well as the gardens which we missed out altogether.

Hampton Court Collage

A thoroughly pleasant day was topped off by one of the best Thai meals that I have ever had in a great little restaurant called Good Evening.  I’m not normally much of a fish eater, but even I thought the salmon dish was amazing.

Friday was a little slower paced, and we headed to Arundel for the afternoon.  The sun shone as we made our way around the various antique shops.  I don’t think any of us had a specific purchase in mind, but it was just nice to wander.  We didn’t stop at the castle, as we arrived a little too late to have a proper look around.  On Friday evening, we were joined by Matt’s aunt’s niece and fiancé, who had made the 7 hour trek down from Manchester.  Dinner was at the Rose and Crown.  I think my experience here was marred a little bit by my neck, as it had become increasingly painful during the day, so I didn’t enjoy the meal as much.  I also had food envy of Matt’s aunt’s meal.

I have never been to the theatre before, which Matt’s aunt and uncle thought was a travesty.  So on Saturday, ticket had been booked for a musical in London.  We made the train by the skin of our teeth.  I enjoyed playing tourist, watching the sites of Battersea, the Shard, the Thames and the Eye as we made our way in to London Victoria.  Matt’s uncle, despite having worked in the City for years, has only set foot on the Underground twice before.  I was amazed, as I have always travelled on the Underground when I have visited London.  We travelled in the means that I am accustomed to, and headed towards the Tower of London, as Matt’s aunt and I wanted to see the ceramic poppies.

 

Tower Poppies

It is so sad that each poppy represents a fallen soldier, and that despite the large amount of poppies already there, it isn’t yet finished.

Back on the Tube, we zoomed over to Regent’s Park for the Open Air Theatre.  This was a real highlight of the weekend.  The production was Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.  The weather was perfect, the show was moving and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.  I’ve said to Matt that I would like to go and see something else there one day.

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The weather couldn’t have been more perfectly timed – within 5 minutes of leaving the theatre, the heavens opened.  We made a swift exit towards London Zoo and headed towards the Feng Shang Princess for dinner.  It’s an interesting little restaurant, but I can honestly say that I have had much better Chinese food elsewhere.

I wish I had a little more time to have spent in London, but Matt and I have said we’ll try to spend a couple of days there during our next holiday.

We really enjoyed our few days away, but it is nice to be back to normal.