For my birthday weekend, Danny & I stayed in Manchester’s Northern Quarter at the (almost brand new) Cow Hollow Hotel. For a night of cocktails, cake and Netflix, it was the perfect destination. We arrived in the afternoon and apart from a coffee pit stop headed straight to check in. If you’ve seen the website then you’ll already the interior of this place is insane. Every detail has been considered and for me, that just made it heavenly.
The entrance is bright, the décor beautiful and the staff are amazingly friendly. After a very swift check in process and welcome, we filled in a breakfast notecard (time, beverage choices etc.) and were shown to our room. With the summer weather we are having it was great to have some cooler temperatures inside, plus we slept beneath the ground floor and that helped with both noise and heating (I was worried with it being a Friday night, but it was lovely and peaceful). We stayed in Room 2; the room itself had a modern finish, with a rustic twist. The bathroom opened through two-barn style, white painted doors into a copper finished, slater stone tiled bathroom. The waterfall shower head and ornate oversized mirrors added a touch of luxury, whilst the high ceilings really opened up the space. We stayed in a Standard King Room but you can go Deluxe if you would like a little extra floor space.
The large double bed was super comfy, and rested against an exposed stonewall behind the headboard. Inside we found a flat screen TV with Netflix (ready to go), a Bluetooth speaker, sparkling and still water as well as a few other little bits and pieces. After being handed our key (along with a little bag of sweets, which I happily enjoyed), we headed down the hall where there was a coffee machine at our disposal. Day or night if you needed a cup of tea or a hot chocolate, which for me is definitely a bonus, I popped on my slippers and had my drink in 5 minutes (or I sent Danny to go get it for me). Inside the room you have the bar menu with it’s drinks (as you can get these delivered to your room), a useful stuff card (like the Wi-Fi password) and even one that tells you about all the freebies included in your stay.
Between 6-8pm there were Prosecco and nibbles on offer at reception / the bar area. However we skipped this because of the hotels location, there are so many cool bars on your doorstep. I’d wanted to go to Allotment for quite some time and it was worth the wait. Danny opted for a few ginger beers (not being a big drinker), whilst I tried a couple of cocktails. First up we had the ‘Lemon Sherbet Swizzle’, very refreshing and sweet it was definitely needed on such a sunny afternoon. Then I had the ‘Nutella-tini’, now this really knocked my socks off, sprinkled with hazelnuts it was so smooth I could have easily had 4 or 5 but my bank balance might not have thanked me for that.
Once back at the hotel I stopped by their bar to try one of the cocktails with the help of Danny (who picked for me), a ‘Daisys Gin Cherry’ which was pink and lovely. Then back in the room we decided to order some food for the night and had seen that Pizza Express offered some exciting veggie options, just down the road. A bonus is if you get food delivered to reception, with a note to say which room you are in they’re happy to bring it to you. Our Vegan Giardiniera was delivered in just 20 minutes (from ordering) and it tasted pretty damn good too! We made our way through some comedies on Netflix, made the most of the room’s facilities and then at 10-11pm the next ‘free stuff’ item arrived. This was such a cute little added touch, you have to let reception know and they will deliver it to your room. It’s a crate style tray of glass bottle milk and cookies! It made me feel a like a little kid getting a birthday treat, or when you used to leave cookies and milk for Santa at Christmas.
The rest of the evening was spent watching movies, and luckily the hotel is far enough from Piccadilly gardens that we didn’t really hear too much outside noise at all. I have to say this is the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel in Manchester before and it does make the whole process easier, to get up and go straight out rather than the pain of traveling in was a welcome change. I noticed a few food places to try as well on the walk around the hotel, including Alabama’s who do phenomenal shakes and pancakes. We actually went there the next day but I don’t want to overload this post with information.
Breakfast was delivered at 10am exactly (when we asked for on our note card at check in), again on a beautiful little wooden tray. Two brown bags tied with bows, accompanied by cute brown paper take out cups. As we delved inside we found fruit, pastries, granola, yogurt and sugars for our coffees. Once we had finished and tided away our stuff it made sense to head out into Manchester for the day, although I would happily have stayed in bed. It was honestly absolutely brilliant, I couldn’t think of a more perfect birthday night in. Talking to Danny I think we will be staying again nearer to Christmas so we can spend a day exploring the markets, drinking hot chocolate before heading back for a festive film night (which I know he will hate, the scrooge). Looking forward to seeing you again soon Cow Hollow.
🍑 A B Y
Hey, so it's been a while... This last month I've been busy at work and hitting the gym pretty hard, plus planning some exciting things for June. Instead of trying to push myself to write content, I took a break, I've been exhausted for a few weeks and just wanted to focus on myself. However, I've got lots to share! I've been busy planning an action packed birthday month, starting with Birmingham Coffee Festival, I'm doing Rough Runner 15K next weekend, followed by a week in Barcelona (lots of content from that trip I promise, including some video stuff because I've been practicing my editing) and finally a weekend in Manchester with Danny (on my actual birthday). We'll be staying at the Cow Hollow Hotel, I've been so excited for this month to start and it's finally here!
BACK TO BIRMINGHAM
It's been 18 months since my last visit to Birmingham, I had a friend that used to live here so I visited fairly regularly. It had definitely been too long and what better excuse for my return than a Coffee Festival at the Custard Factory. After possibly too many cups of coffee (is there such a thing?) and a couple of vegan cakes, I hit some of my favourite spaces, camera in hand. (Read about my previous Birmingham trips here).
A BULL IN A COFFEE SHOP
I caught the train down from Crewe a little after 7AM (booking this earlier in the month meant it cost me just £14 return), the Coffee Festival didn't open until 10am, but this meant I could wander around an empty Birmingham city centre. I've never seen the place quiet before, when I've been around on the weekends it's usually buzzing with people. It was beautiful to wander around without the stress of bumping into anyone. Once I had finished awkwardly trying to film my very first ever vlog intro, something to look forward to seeing, I headed straight for the Custard Factory. Getting there early gave me time to photograph the Custard Factory and its amazingly quirky creative vibe. It's a collaboration of street art, graffiti, sculptures... seriously though, if you are into that sort of thing you need to check this place out! Not to mention the independent retailers and the people who run them, it was great to talk to individuals who make up this creative hub, whether they're making coffee, cakes or craft beer.
When the doors opened at 10am I quickly joined the queue, this was made up of more casual coffee fanatics (like myself), professional bloggers and writers, and people who ran other independent coffee shops. I love taking trips like this on my own because it allows me to people watch (unapologetically), and slip in and out of other peoples conversations unnoticed (Danny was working so he couldn't come with anyway). It also helped me to get some of the best photos I have in a long time. When I'm on my own I constantly have my camera on, because I don't have to be conscious of neglecting whoever I'm with. I've found recently I'm much happier behind the camera, as my confidence has grown I've learnt to embrace other peoples gazes. It usually leads to people asking me what I'm doing and that's a great way to meet new people and network.
Having worked as a barista over almost 5 years for 3 different coffee shops, I can certainly say I felt right at home. The smell of coffee brewing just takes me to my happy place. It's funny how a shared love for something makes connecting with people so much easier. I chatted to a few people, both those attending and those who were showcasing their products. One woman compared it to Amsterdam Coffee Festival, a few artsy looking types also had their faces hidden behind different sized camera lenses, another guy was doing some market research and I overheard a group of guys discussing the latest Doctor Who whilst casually sipping there cold brew. It was clear their was an exciting mix of people that you wouldn't normally all see together.
Over the last few years my taste has dramatically changed. I've gone from drinking black coffee (especially when dieting), to lattes. From semi-skimmed milk to coconut or soy, I've also quit adding any sugars (apart from the occasional shot of vanilla). The event catered to all tastes, but I found myself at the Alpro stand first. Sampling a golden soy latte (turmeric in case you were wondering) and a coconut cinnamon chocolate, both undeniably delicious. I followed those up with a stop at 200 Degrees, for a flat white with their blend described by the barista as 'strawberry shortcake'. It was strong, dark and definitely fruity. Next, living up to my expectations was the oat-some latte, oat milk is such a great alternative that works for me because I find dairy a little too sickly.
After an hour, I was practically buzzing so I switched it up with some cold brew coffee, and began collecting business cards and printouts for my desk at work. Living the life of a designer does mean I'm particularly sensitive to printouts, but thankfully there wasn't a poorly kerned logo in sight. In fact I was pretty impressed with the packaging for a lot of the products. I was starting to get hungry so I decided to look for a sweet fix, Big Fat Slab was the stall I ended up choosing. They had doorstop sized cakes that were all vegan! I treated myself to a dark chocolate flapjack, a dark brownie and the most delicious carrot cake I've ever eaten. It's safe to say there are none left now as I am writing this. OMBAR also caught my eye, with their offering of chocolate. The organic dark chocolate bars were beautifully packaged, with flavours ranging from lemon & green tea to 90% cocoa. I even got a handy tote bag which came in handy the rest of the day.
My last few stops included a latte art stand, where a very skilled barista was creating colourful patterns (clearly too pretty to drink). I observed the mini masterclass, it's something that I never quite perfected as a barista myself. The more I walked around the venue, I found coffee infused cocktails, offerings of homemade flavoured fudge and even reusable cups. From Cakesmiths to Hundred House Coffee, it's a good job the samples were small. After exceeding my usual daily dosage by about quadruple, I ventured back into the city centre.
24 CUPS OF COFFEE LATER
The IKON gallery is a must see for me (it's free), I'm always interested in seeing what is considered modern art at their latest exhibits. It's a fair walk from The Custard Factory (I covered 9 miles in total over the day), but you do walk through the city centre, so there's plenty of stops you can make along the way. I passed street performers, bikers, dinosaur hedge sculptures and oddly enough a bunch of people kayaking (or canoeing, I'm not sure of the difference), in the river along side the longboats. The IKON had a digital themed exhibition on which was right up my street, it's always hard to describe things like this as every one will have a different opinion, but there are usually a couple of different exhibits on, so maybe one will take your fancy. I liked it, especially the first floor artwork by Langlands & Bell, titled Internet Giants: Masters of the Universe, which included pixelated typography and photography. It was a little abstract but I liked that it challenged your mind to make sense of what appeared illegible at first, my favourite piece read 'Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind'.
I stopped by the Bullring shopping centre for lunch and a little retail therapy. I prefer shopping alone because I'm definitely a browser, I love to take my time and try things on, which can be a time consuming process. With just a couple of hours until the train back I grabbed a quick milkshake from Eds (seriously yum), then hit some shops. There's no end to the options, whether you're looking for clothing, tech, a good book or a sweet treat, they've got you covered. I couldn't resist a stop in Victoria Secret, especially as there was a SALE on. I also have a mix of vinyl at home that I've picked up from Camden market (Queen - Don't Stop Me Now), Manchester record stores (The Stranglers) and occasionally HMV, who I bought Chvrches new album from just last week. The HMV here had such a large stock, I'm surprised I managed to just leave with Lorde - Pure Heroine. The Game of Thrones and Baby Driver soundtracks were very tempting indeed.
Reluctantly, I headed back to New Street Station with less than an hour to kill until my train back up north departed. A hot chocolate in Pret tied me over, while I updated Instagram stories and looked through my camera roll. The footage I'm happy with but it isn't until I start editing, that I know what works and what doesn't. There's usually a few standout clips but that's why it's important to film as much as possible. That way you can cut out the bits that don't cut it. It definitely was worth the trip and knowing now that it's pretty much like getting on the train to Manchester (an hour is easy to do), I will be planning more day trips into Birmingham. Maybe a weekend to Leeds and Sheffield too, because I just haven't seen enough cities in the UK. It's such a creative hub, with some great food spots and bars that I'm sure Danny would be happy to come check out with me (as long as I supply him with regular coffee).
I'm going to keep an eye out for future events at the Custard Factory. They do film screenings and artsy events, or even the christmas markets would be a treat to experience. Plus I've been meaning to check out the record festivals at The Custard Factory for ages and now I think the next one I will definitely be popping down for, but until then Birmingham...
Video Update Coming Soon.
🍑 A B Y
Inktober is all about going back to my creative roots (not tattoos which some people have thought). I've been into design since primary school but the tools of the trade have drastically changed! Where I once used a pen or pencil and a scrap piece of paper, I now use the entire Adobe Creative Suite, an apple pen and massive iPad. The results while much cleaner and colourful still all start out as doodles in my notebook, but nobody ever sees that side of it.
Inktober is all about this process, illustrating in the old fashioned (classic) way we don't see as often thanks to the rise of technology. Every day in October you are challenged to draw something that's it. Simple enough, they give you a set of words to work from (I don't think you have to if you don't want to but I've included them above), these are meant to inspire ideas! You could just draw something everyday that you want to but I think this makes it more of a challenge. Now, I don't get as creative as a lot of people, the amount of work I have on and projects all over the place mean I've kept my designs very small with sketchbook doodles. If you search on Twitter you will find some amazing masterpieces though, seriously I've been blown away with the quality of work.
Capturing a word with a picture is something I pride myself on being able to do. Words are meaningful, but illustrations in my opinion are so much more expressive and vibrant. The best part is that a single word creates different images in everyones minds. I may draw something you wouldn't have even thought of doing! It's so imaginative and inspiring to see how people interpret this creative brief, in their own unique styles. I want to do a whole series once the month is over and redraw the illustrations in my usual style of illustration to create a final set of postcard prints.
For now here's a little sneak peak into some of my inktober pieces so far...
🍑 A B Y
Last weekend, I took an unexpected trip back down to London (after just visiting a couple of weeks ago). Friday morning at 5.21am, I was sat on the train heading down to a place I’d consider my second home. This trip was for Carnaby Fashion Festival and with London Fashion Week taking place I took advantage of the sights to get some 'outfit of the day' style shots done.
We arrived in Euston at 8am, whilst most Londoners were busy heading to work on the tube, we walked from the station down to Benugo’s (next to Vogue House) for a welcome breakfast and spot of wifi. The plan was to get the action camera out as well as snap some colourful city shots for my photography portfolio (also known as Instagram). I began in Carnaby the amount of typography and artwork around this city is incredible, every time I visit I always spot something new, even in places I’ve been to a hundred times. There was a vibrant wall I noticed on arrival, painted with palm trees (not sure how long it's been like this), I took a little outfit shot in front of. Not going to lie I did look a little like a powder puff, with my pink fluffy top (Zara) and the Pom Pom trainers (Topshop).
Next I ventured into Liberty for a nosey at their Christmas section, only to stumble across their very impressive stationary section. I’ve been really into print illustration lately and found myself drawn to the huge selection of humorous and sarcastic cards on offer. After a good hour (or two) of window shopping, and a couple of Christmas baubles later, we headed down to try out the new Farm Girl Café! (I went here last time, but this store is brand new and opened the week after my last visit) I was served the most adorable chai latte (who doesn’t want a puppy with there morning coffee) while the place bustled with excitement for the following day of donut decorating and glitter roots!
A few shots later and it was lunchtime, so I picked Benito’s Hat (burritos, nachos, tequila & rum, what more could a girl want) you can't go wrong here! The food is delicious and for the price you get pretty generous portions too. We actually bumped into Josh Widdicombe, a comedian/ co-host on ‘The Last Leg’. He was so lovely, and it turns out I know where the cool kids eat (he features in my blog briefly). Whilst strolling down Oxford Street we came across so many creative displays. My favourite being Topshop! They had models walking the runway (mini treadmills to be precise) right in their windows. Every 15 minutes the models switched out and we got new outfits to drool over.
The rest of the day included a trip to Selfridge’s Food Hall (the most amazing peanut butter cupcake ever was found here) and more walking, snapping signs and typography. This often confuses people as I tend to find the more abstract or obscure things appealing to photograph, you won't find me snapping selfies in front of Big Ben. We headed to our hotel, after a food and fashion filled day. I was functioning on 3 hours sleep (thanks to a long shift and early train, bad combination) and it was certainly taking its toll on me. A hot bath and nap were both desperately needed! The hotel we stayed in was absolutely stunning, very old fashioned with ornate windows and staircases over one half and some modern décor used to expand the space in the middle (Crown Court Hotel).
More Issues Than Vogue
For the second day, I decided to do something a little touristy, while we were just a few stops away from Baker Street, it only seemed fair to stop by Sherlock’s house. There’s so much history in London and I don’t often visit the more touristy hot spots because I prefer to avoid the crowds. This is why I’ve never stopped off in Trafalgar Square since I saw it when on my first London visit, I prefer getting lost in the side streets and walking when I can, you can miss some gems by just hopping on the tube between locations.
I purchased a new pair of Autumn boots on my trip (it was fashion week after all so I needed to look my best), and took to chance to get another candid shot (shown top). The setting was perfect, a piece of board covered in ‘GUESS’ advertisement pages, some torn and peeled back, it created a very edgy backdrop for my outfit of the day. I didn't do too much shopping on this trip, it was more about capturing the city through its artwork and architecture, I'm at my happiest when I'm out snapping away, my camera in one hand and a coffee in the other.
Heading down Regent Street, I found Maddox Gallery off a side street, they had created a huge bouquet outside there window which could have made it easy to mistake them for a florist (I wasn’t the only person who stopped by to snap the stunning window display). We passed multiple street performers and singers who had more talent that I could hope to in that department (pretty sure I’m tone deaf), who just brightened up the city and showed the variety of artists that occupy the huge creative hub that is London. It was a particularly sensational Saturday on the streets, vibrant in the culture on offer.
I found potentially my new favourite shop for gifts called ‘Sass & Belle’, they offer the cutest little creative knick knacks and I left with an adventure notebook for my upcoming Trek (matching my passport cover I ordered from them online last month). It will be handy to jot down little comments ready to write my blog on my return from the states. Another couple of coffee breaks along the way, including a Starbucks (basic I know) stop off for the seasonal Pumpkin Spice (I even treated myself to the loaf cake this time). It was getting into the afternoon, my camera was filling up and we headed back to Euston to catch our 4.45pm train.
On the walk back to Euston I passed by a group of people painting a shop front in a rainbow of colours ‘Watch This Space’ in bold font across the front. I don’t know what shop is coming but I got very excited about the prospect. We got to Euston with an hour to spare, I filmed the people coming and going before it was time for the train journey home. I’ve said this again and again, London never disappoints! It doesn’t matter if you go with money burning a hole in your pocket (there’s no better place to go shopping) or if you go simply with a camera and some spare change for a coffee, there’s plenty to see and experience.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
With 23 days to go before Trek America I think the next few weeks will involve packing and staying up North for the time being. I plan on a trip to the Vegan Food Festival in Manchester this weekend, not sure how well that will fit in with my holiday diet but if it’s vegan it’s healthy right?
🍑 A B Y
This week I started watching (for the fourth or fifth time) one of my all time favourite shows right from the pilot episode. With its sarcasm, wit and spot on life advice – 'Gilmore Girls' is guaranteed to make me smile no matter what else I have going on in my life.
I watch a lot of TV, ranging from Game of Thrones and 24 to Greys Anatomy. My taste varies, but there are some shows that you can watch on repeat and never tire of. I’ve also decided when I have a kid, that they will be named Lorelai (if it’s a girl), that’s how much of an impression it has left on me.
You've been Gilmored
The show (for those of you who don’t know) focuses on Lorelai Gilmore, a privileged girl who grew up with overbearing parents. At 16 she falls pregnant, moves out, refusing to marry her boyfriend just to please her parents. The show begins years later with her daughter, known as Rory starting private school.
Lorelai is an independent woman, smart and kickass, whose relationship with her daughter is heart-warming. We explore Stars Hollow (there home), the complicated relationships with family, as well as dealing with her daughter growing up. My favourite thing about this show is the quirky commentary mainly given by Lorelai. Here are some of the quotes from the show that I can only benefit your life.
There's a few extra illustrations thrown in this post, with sayings that aren't necessarily advice or helpful in any way, but they certainly made me smile.
Do you like coffee? Only with my oxygen.
Anyone who knows me I love coffee, I’d take it in an IV. I connect with Lorelai on this level, first I drink the coffee then I do the things. It’s the stuff that makes me a functioning human being.
I wanna be good, life’s just not letting me.
Sometimes bad things happen or you get stuck in a rut. A bad day doesn’t make you a bad person. If you make a poor decision or are mean to someone, it doesn’t define you and it’ll get better.
I’m afraid when your heart is involved, it all comes out moron.
Never have I heard anything so accurate. Relationships can be awkward and you don’t always say the right thing but that’s love. If you love someone it’s inevitable you’ll say something stupid.
If you’re going to throw your life away, he’s better have a motorcycle.
Everyone loves a bad boy. This is more of a sarcastic comment aimed at Rory, she considers not going to Private School because the guy she likes is at her old High School. It’s an important thing to remember that you shouldn’t throw your life away for a guy. Don’t put what you want on hold, if it’s meant to be it’ll work out. If you are going to then a motorcycle would be nice.
People can live a hundred years without really living for a minute.
Rory is quite a safe girl; she goes to school, studies hard and does what she’s supposed to. Logan brings her out of that shell and this line from him is perfect. It’s something I believe in whole-heartedly, a lot of people’s ideas of living are very different. If you never step outside your comfort zone or chase after what you want, are you really living?
I smell snow.
Lorelai can literally feel the snow before it falls and it’s kinda amazing. She says it’s her gift and that everything is magical and pretty when it snows. It’s important to find something little in life that makes you feel that way, like anything is possible.
This thing we’re doing here, you, me. I’m in. I am all in.
Lorelai and Luke are the couple you route for throughout the show, they belong together but life gets in the way. If you really want to be with someone, you have to be all in. Don’t just tell them how you feel, show them and don’t get embarrassed or scared. You’ll only regret it if you don’t say how you feel.
What she tackles, she conquers.
You can do anything, don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t.
The pop tart tasted like freedom and rebellion and independence
Lorelai grew up in a household where she wasn’t allowed to have or do a lot of things. That first pop tart was her first taste of freedom. Everyone can understand that experience of asserting your independence. Plus food can be pretty orgasmic, I’m sure we’ve all got that one treat that makes us feel this way.
If you haven't watched it, go binge! What are you even still doing on here, get onto Netflix right now.
🍑 A B Y
I'm a Graphic Designer by trade (for those of you who don't know), I spend a lot of my free time doodling or out with my camera, capturing anything and everything! Here are a couple of recent illustrations, my Monday motivation, all with a positive message to help get you through the
end of the week. My life has been busier than usual lately (which has resulted in only one post the last two weeks) and I'm trying to find that balance, between work, blogging and spending time
with the people I love.
My Trek America is officially 50 days away! I'm off down to London tomorrow, taking the polaroid camera, with Danny for company and there should be plenty of ace content to come on Sunday all about that! I've got 4 birthdays in the next 5 weeks, including my very best friends. While I try and plan for all of that, it can be a little overwhelming sometimes, I like to produce illustrations that remind me of the simple things. Life moves pretty fast as Bueller would say, so I try my very best to appreciate all the experiences that come my way.
If you want to see a bit more, visit my website abydesign.co.ukabydesign.co.uk
1. Bear with it, no matter what you're working on at the minute or whatever isn't quite working
out for you. Don't give up, keep pushing yourself. You'll either succeed eventually, or if you fail
then there is always a lesson to be learned.
2. This didn't need any text, its all about loving the people around you. Hold on to them and
don't let go. You have to appreciate the time you have with them and show them you care.
3. A little quote taken from Game of Thrones, 'I am a wolf and will not be afraid'. Don't let
anything or anyone scare you, fear stops you from doing what you really want. Remember
you're strong and can do anything you put your mind to.
4. We've all had those tough moments, days, weeks or even years. Whether its
financial, work related or heartbreak, don't let it define you. Come back stronger, forgive
and move on. Never forget what it taught you though, that's the important thing.
5. My favourite thing to do. Life wasn't meant to be lived in one place and I never feel
more alive than when I'm off exploring a foreign land. Whether than be travelling
abroad or climbing a mountain. Explore the unknown, 5 or 5000 miles away.
6. Be yourself. People judge me for my sense of style, my taste in music,
my tattoos and what I post online. Don't let their opinions stop you from being yourself.
7. We can all admit we spend way to much time living digitally, so put the phone away
at least once a week and just take an afternoon or even just an hour for yourself. Go without it,
trust me you'll be much happier that you did.
I hope you found one of these positive messages was helpful, or gave you that little bit of inspiration we all need on a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon. Life is short lived, don't waste it worrying about anything.
🍑 A B Y
Aby, 24. Northerner.