Eating Out In Liverpool

Whether you’re staying in Liverpool (take a look at the Travelodge in Liverpool city centre if you are), visiting friends or you live in the area, finding the perfect place to eat out while you’re there will always be the icing on the cake. With plenty of restaurants vying for your attention throughout the city and the surrounding area, you really will be spoiled for choice. So why not take a look at a few of these recommendations to give you a helping hand:

Owens Restaurant

Recently recommended by Liverpool food blog ‘Proper Boss Food‘, it’s a restaurant situated just outside the city, has been around for the last fifteen years and its popularity shows no sign of waning. With great service and amazing food served at prices that appear way too low for the quality of the food, Owens is a firm favourite with locals and visitors to Liverpool alike. Choose from delicious starters such as grilled spiced lamb sausages glazed with maple syrup and a sweet chilli jam or Italian style herb roasted wild boar meatballs in tomatoes, garlic and basil. For mains choose from succulent pieces of venison in a damson reduction and rich roasting gravy or pan seared calf’s liver with caramelised onions and a hearty red wine sauce. To finish why not choose a delicious sharing plate consisting of lemon meringue pie, strawberry pavlova, chocolate cake and toffee cheesecake. For just £12 before 7pm and £14.50 thereafter, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s an absolute bargain.

Yardbird

A Southern American style diner in Berry Street that’s getting rave reviews, Yardbird is here to stay. Think cocktails, fried chicken, doughnuts and burgers and you’re halfway there. What you won’t expect however is the quality of the food on offer. The delicious homemade doughnuts carry such unusual flavours as aloe and pistachio, grapefruit campari and lemon zest icing, blood orange glazed vanilla, peanut butter glazed chocolate and even maple glazed bacon! There are mains like fried chicken with biscuits and cayenne pepper sauce or gravy, dead mans fingers in hot buffalo sauce with cheese dip, fried chicken buckets for sharing and amazing burgers, loaded with just about everything you can imagine. With sides of every kind of slaw you can imagine, maple bacon onion rings, padron peppers and buffalo fried cauliflower, the flavour combinations are out of this world.

Panoramic 34

Amazing service, the best view of The Mersey you’re ever likely to see and fantastic food make Panoramic 34 a restaurant not to be missed while you’re in Liverpool. Enjoy lunch for £25, afternoon tea, fine dining or maybe just a few cocktails at the bar in elegant surroundings overlooking the city. Savour such delights as scallops with crispy pancetta and crushed peas or Gressingham smoked duck breast with sautéed chicory and rhubarb salsa, followed by poached wild turbot with parsley purée, compressed fennel and crushed potatoes or fillet of beef, artichoke purée, fondant potato, green beans and confit cherry tomato. Top it off with chocolate tiramisu or tangerine panacotta, plus a cocktail or two, and you have the perfect recipe for an amazing meal.

Liverpool really does have some of the most amazing restaurants you’ll come across in the UK, so make sure you discover your favourite while you’re in town.

Post brought to you by Travel Lodge

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John Lewis Tea On The Green

The run up to the Commonwealth Games has passed me by somewhat, we’ve been busy cruising and camping. Twitter came alight on Wednesday with opening ceremony tweets so I tuned in a little late to see some Scottie Dogs and quite a few crimes against tartan. It all looked like good fun though and on Thursday we were invited to Tea On The Green in Glasgow with John Lewis, I was keen to go through and enjoy the atmosphere.

Even though we live on the train line to Glasgow (not actually ON the train line, obviously) we have never ventured through that way. As we got off the train at central station I was surprised to find how many nice bars and restaurants there were – we need to make more effort to go into Glasgow instead of Edinburgh all the time.

Tea On The Green is a pop up green erected by John Lewis so that visitors to the city can enjoy afternoon tea while watching the Commonwealth Games. We thoroughly enjoyed ours which was helped along by it being a beautiful day, they even catered for me with a stand of gluten free cakes and scones….scones that tasted like actual scones, not some inferior gluten free version. It was a real treat. What I really liked (apart from the scones, did I mention the scones?) was that all the staff at the Glasgow branch had been given the opportunity to volunteer to switch from their usual job to become waiters and waitresses on the green. Our waiter usually works in the lighting department – although you’d never have known!

Tea On The Green is complimentary and open to everyone, book your spot today.

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Family Camping 2014

We’ve just returned from our annual camping trip. The annual camping trip is not technically a camping trip at all, we are ‘motor homers’ this means we occupy a particular area of the site feeling a bit less brave than those under canvas and a bit less comfortable than those in a caravan.

We only wave to motor homers on the motorway, that’s the rule.

I don’t make the rules.

These were the highlights, in no particular order.
Graduation
1. I saw my little brother graduate. He got a first. It was a proud day.

2. We ate awesome barbecue and managed to get a little bit sunburned at the same time. Good times.

3. We drank cheap cocktails and watched crap cabaret. And I realised things don’t always have to be good to be enjoyable.

4. I discovered some new music (for me) around the campfire – Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol, Rixton and George Ezra was the soundtrack to our camp.
Barbecue
5. My arms ached from attempting the Dirty Dancing lift with Erin a hundred times in the pool.

6. The family golf competition. I didn’t win but I did get a hole in one. It’s all or nothing with me.

7. Erin setting a ‘life ambition’ to visit the arcades of Blackpool after my brother’s girlfriend regaled her with stories of how they are ten times bigger than the ones on camp, which she barely left.

8. Stumbling around camp at 5.30am to find the one solitary bar of 3G so I could download work emails.

9. Comparing feet and all agreeing my mum’s partner’s were hideous. He took it well.

10. Ending the camp with my mum angrily shouting ‘F**k Off’ in her sleep and waking us all up at 6.30am.

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Banging the drum for bingo!

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For many mums, the game of bingo is a great way to find some relief from day-to-day life. Parents have plenty of chores and responsibilities to cover during their average day and sometimes a quick game of luck is all that’s needed to help us feel more relaxed.

If you play bingo online, you’ll be pleased to know that many elements of the traditional game are carried over. This means that those distinctive bingo calls can still be used – but what if you don’t know them?

Well, fear not! A series of fantastic YouTube videos are documenting all 90 bingo calls in 90 videos. The clips are really short so they don’t take long to watch and they show ordinary people like you and me having lots of fun.

This clip – for number 71: bang on the drum – is a great example of what’s been produced to help mums and players learn the bingo lingo. The campaign is currently over half way through, meaning that you can watch most of the videos online already, with the final clips to be uploaded over the next week or so. You can read more about the campaign here.

We’re big fans of the clips and are definitely banging the drum for bingo – what about you?

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Designing Your Own Cruise Holiday

The husband and I mused a lot while we were away about who of our family and friends would most enjoy a cruise holiday. We came to the conclusion that aboard a ship the size of Oasis of the Seas that everyone could design a holiday to suit themselves. A cruise holiday isn’t really a type of holiday in itself, it’s an opportunity for you to design your own perfect holiday, whilst also being able to share it with other members of the family who are enjoying their own. We saw many multi-generation families enjoying a holiday together, we could really see why it worked.

Oasis of the SeasChoosing Your Ship

Designing your perfect cruise holiday begins with selecting a ship. Each class of ship boasts different features and your holiday will invariable be shaped by the one you choose.

Another big decision is whether to invest the extra money and opt for a balcony, for those that like their own space I would definitely recommend this.

Planning Your Excursions

Are you looking for a sightseeing holiday, or a beach type holiday? If you would usually do a lot of sightseeing then excursions and shore days will feature prominently on your agenda.Shore Day If you prefer lying by the pool then you may choose to stay aboard and enjoy a quieter ship during shore days, many do. You will also find that the onboard spa offers a healthy discount during shore days.

Dining

There is a nice combination of dining options that are included, as well as a selection of speciality dining options for an additional charge. If you would usually go full or half board on holiday then you will probably be more than satisfied with the included options. If you like to dine somewhere different each night on holiday then you will want to factor in an additional budget to allow you to do this on board (more on speciality dining options coming up).

Shows

There are a range of different shows on each night and these change during your time on board so check your Cruise Compass (your daily itinerary) and make sure you don’t miss timings of when your chosen shows are on. A word about the shows aboard Royal Caribbean, they are West End standard and are well worth going to, we saw Hairspray on our recent cruise and it was fantastic. The tickets for this would have cost close to £100 so it really adds value to your cruise if you are a theatre lover. If you’re not then there are also water, ice, comedy, and cabaret shows for you to enjoy.

Climbing-Wall
Activities

There are a range of activities on board each ship which include; surf simulator, crazy golf, zip line, ice skating and rock climbing. We found these activities fitted in nicely between the shore excursions and shows we had booked. Of course if you aren’t in to filling every waking hour there’s also the adult only solarium (check you ship features one) or the H2O Zone for kids.

What if I don’t want to do anything and I want to be on my own?

Many friends and family have voiced this concern to me. My answer is always the same – book a stateroom with a balcony, that way you are always guaranteed your own space. However please don’t underestimate the size of these ships, there is always somewhere you can go that’s either quiet or deserted (in a good way!). During our cruise we saw whole decks with loungers available (you don’t have to worry about the lounger scrum – there’s plenty!). At various times of the day different areas of the ship become very quiet and there are lots of quieter bars to enjoy too. Finally, if you really need to be alone then room service is included (a real bonus), order yourself some dinner and drinks and sit out on your balcony and enjoy a beautiful sunset to yourself.

Book your Royal Caribbean holiday here and start designing your cruise holiday!

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Cruising As A Single Child Family

Cruise 1 - 4We love being a single child family but as Erin gets older finding a holiday that gives us all something to enjoy becomes more of a challenge.

After our Royal Caribbean cruise we are convinced that cruising is the answer. We spent a lot of time together, but there was also opportunity to spend time apart too.

There are a number of features that we found useful, we didn’t use them all but it’s useful to know they are there if we need them (we are already planning our next cruise!).

Firstly the Adventure Ocean Club. This is the first holiday we’ve been on with a kids club and it has been a revelation. Not only did it give Erin somewhere to go to socialise with people her own age, but she also made friends that she met at the pool and around the ship. It made not having a sibling to interact with less of an issue.

The staff pay special attention to make the cruise a special experience for kids too, we’ve had staff doing magic tricks, chatting to Erin and even making roses out of straws and napkins! These little touches have made it so much more enjoyable.

There are a number of activities included besides the club, for example balloon twisting, face painting, ice skating and the 3D cinema. There was always something for us to do, which allowed the other parent some free time. Erin and I particularly enjoyed our afternoon at Hairspray.

My family time dining allows children to fast track their way through dinner and be picked up by Adventure Ocean staff to go to club, allowing parents to enjoy a leisurely dinner to themselves. Another option is Adventure Ocean Dining where children are taken to the Windjammer buffet restaurant to dine together, a nice alternative to lengthy three course meals with mum and dad each night.

During the day and up to 10pm the Adventure Ocean Club is free. Between 10pm-2am there’s a late night club with pizza parties, bingo and even a wedding. This late night club costs just $7 per hour making it possible to spend a late night (or several) enjoying the onboard entertainment or casino. A great option for parents whether you have one child or multiple!

Overall we felt that our single child family was very well catered for, Erin never felt lonely and we loved that she wanted to go off to club so we could enjoy some time together guilt free. It was the perfect balance of family time and time to pursue our own interests.

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Preparing For Your Family Cruise Holiday

Cruise HolidayWe’re about to leave for our family cruise to the Caribbean as part of our role as Royal Caribbean ambassadors. All our prep is done now, but I thought it might be useful to create a little checklist of things to do if you are preparing for your own family cruise holiday.

Book your cruise

You’ll probably book your cruise up to twelve months before you want to go. Firstly you’ll pick your destination, and this will probably depend on factors such as; which countries you want to visit, weather, and your budget. Once you’ve decided on your destination your next consideration will be the class of ship you want to travel on. All ships are different with varying features, some are more family friendly with more activities for example. You will also want to consider the size of ship – do you want the maximum possible space, a wide range of activities, and choice of restaurants? Or will you find a very large ship overwhelming, would a smaller ship provide you with a more enjoyable cruise experience?

Check passports

Make sure your passports are in date. It’s been in the media recently that there are long delays in getting new passports issued – check six months in advance and have the peace of mind that everything is in order.

Make pet arrangements

Closer to your departure date, make kennel or pet care arrangements. Places book up fast so it’s worth organising it early. We’re lucky to have family looking after ours!

Book shore excursions

Before leaving for your cruise it’s fun to start planning your shore excursions. You can book these by logging in with your booking reference. We selected our shore excursions a few weeks back and the booklet was 51 pages long – we made an afternoon of it having lunch in the garden and creating a shortlist which went to a family vote.

Complete ESTA forms

If you are travelling to the USA you need to complete an ESTA form for everyone in your party.

Purchase travel insurance

Make sure you are covered for the area you are travelling to and don’t forget to pack you insurance documents, it’s recommended by insurers that you keep them with you.

Check in online & print your set sail pass

Check in online and print your set sail passes and luggage tags, you will need to stable or stick the tags to your luggage at the pier so take something with you.

Advise your bank that you will be using your cards abroad

Advise your bank of your travel plans including every country you plan to visit. We failed to do this last time and my card was eaten by a card machine in Turkey – not fun!

Pack!

Finally, start packing! Contrary to popular belief cruises aren’t all ball gowns and tuxedos. You can wear what you like, I’d recommend packing a variety of outfits. There is one formal evening and it’s customary to get dressed up, however you can opt to eat in one of the more informal restaurants if you don’t want to participate. You won’t need any currency onboard, just a debit or credit card (complete the form in your ticket brochure with details of these). Most things can be bought onboard if you find yourself short of something or you forget your toothbrush.

Remember your kids, your sense of humour (particularly while travelling) and have fun!

Image by Cafe Bebe

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Putting Your Child at Ease: Finding the Perfect Dentist

Most of us can still recall our dental visits at a very young age. While some of us may have had pleasant experiences, others are certain to relate stories of nervousness and even fear. Of course, we would never want our child to feel these same emotions. Thanks to modern times and with the help of an online dentists directory, it has never been easier for us to encounter a wealth of practical and pertinent information so that we can make the most prudent choice. So, what are some of the key factors that we should consider?

Choosing Based Off of Recommendations

This can be termed as more of a “hands-on” approach when finding the best dentist. It is a great idea to ask your family and friends for the details of any dentist that they may have used with their children. You are likely to receive honest and helpful information. Of course, this advice will be even more pertinent if your acquaintances are familiar with your child and his or her unique needs. If you find that you have moved to a new area and have not yet made any friends, online dental directories are an excellent place to begin. Objective reviews will provide you with the insight and clarity that are both necessary to make an informed choice.

Child-Friendly?

Recall that while some dentists are indeed masters at their craft, not all will be appropriate for a child. Technical prowess alone may not equate to a good childhood experience (you may very well be able to attest to this fact yourself!). Normally, a simple phone call will inform you as to whether or not a particular dentist is the best choice. Even if they are, enquire if there are any games or toys for your child to play with while in the waiting room. If not, you can always bring your own along.

Specific Policies

Any dentist that is registered with the National Health Service (NHS) will be able to provide free dental care to children under eighteen years of age (1). However, not all dentists will boast this accreditation. This is obviously a critical matter to consider. Another key area to question is if the office itself has any specific policies. Some may require a parent to be present during any cleaning or appointment. On the contrary, others can actually prohibit a parent from entering with the child. Depending upon you and your son or daughter, these are important factors to address. Still, remember that you can always try one dentist in favour of another. You can encounter additional issues to address with helpful online dental sites that are devoted to the United Kingdom such as Toothpick.

No one ever said that going to the dentist was fun. Still, a child that does not fear an appointment is likely to be less afraid as they mature into adolescence and adulthood. Until then, it is our job as parents to make certain that their experiences are as pleasant and rewarding as possible.
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References:

1. toothpick.com/blog/nhs-dental-pricing-bands-explained/

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Ten Tips For Budgeting For Your Family Holiday

I’m definitely chief financial officer in this house, I manage all the money and that includes budgeting for family holidays. Here are my tips based on what I do;
Holiday 1
1. Pick a holiday you can afford

It sounds kind of obvious, but for me the budgeting starts as soon as we start discussing a holiday or looking at brochures. If you overstretch yourself, the run up to the holiday is no fun at all. Better to choose something you can avoid and have plenty of spending money to enjoy yourself while you are there.

2. Pay as large a deposit as you can afford

When you book your holiday, pay as large a deposit as you can afford. Paying a big whack off the balance in the beginning will make the installments (see tip 3) less painful.

3. Set your installments and stick to them!

Take the balance of your holiday and split it over the months remaining until the final payment is due – this is usually three months before departure, if it’s not aim to be finished three to four months ahead, this leaves you time to save your spending money. Don’t miss or pay less than the amount you have set, ‘pay yourself first’ and make your holiday a priority. Treat the balance as a debt, which technically it is.

4. Overpay

Make a bit of extra cash from overtime? Receive a windfall or unexpected cash? Commit to putting any unexpected cash towards overpaying your installments. Depending on how fortunate you’ve been you can pay off your holiday earlier than expected – the ideal scenario.

5. Spending money

Once you’ve paid off your holiday (see tip 4) it’s time to turn your attention to spending money. Firstly, work out how much you expect to spend each day. Factor in food, drinks, souvenirs/shopping, excursions and entertainment. Once you have a figure, add a 20% buffer on for emergencies and overspending. Add up the total and that’s the figure you are aiming for.

6. Saving up spending money

Take your total figure and divide it by the amount of months left before your holiday. Do exactly as you did with the holiday and pay each spending money installment into a separate account.

7. Overpay, again!

If you receive any extra overpay on your installments and either meet your goal early and relax, or keep on building the pot so you have a bit more to spend.

8. Your daily budget

Know your daily budget and how much you have allocated, this will help you choose restaurants and entertainment that you can afford. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your holiday and finding there’s no money left!

9. Give kids a daily amount

Give kids a daily amount from the main budget. You may choose to buy ice creams and treats but it’s good for kids to have money of their own, it avoids all the ‘I wants’. I split the amount down into daily amounts, otherwise kids will often spend their entire budget on the first day and you’re back to square one. Give them a daily amount which they can allow to let accumulate if they want to purchase something more expensive.

10. The end of holiday blow out

If you’ve done your budgeting properly, you’ll probably have a bit of cash over. We usually like to arrange a shopping trip before we leave and the remainder is split between family members and we will all have a little blow out purchasing clothes etc to bring home with us. It’s great coming home with something to show from being away and it’s fun doing the shopping spree thing in a different place, even if it’s just a little one.

My budgeting tips for a stress free fun holiday!

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Win a £500 charged Global currency card

Caxton FSHow To Plan A Budget For Your Holiday (And Stick To It!)

Calling all holiday planner mums Caxton Card want your top budgeting tips and advice on how to stick to the plan.

Recent research has found that 1 in 3 bloggers are mothers and 52% of bloggers are parents with children under 18.

Given that it is frequently the mother who makes the decisions on where to go on holiday – are you the one who also plans how to budget?
Caxton FS 2
Caxton FX are offering a prize of a £500 charged Global currency card to take on your holiday in exchange for sharing your pearls of wisdom when it comes to top budgeting advice.


The rules are simple:-

Post a blog about your Top 10 Tips for budgeting for your family holiday
Tweet a link to the post and add the hashtag #holidayplanmums
You can enter as many times as you like, Caxton FX will judge the competition and the prize winner will be announced on 4th July 2014


Terms and conditions

Competition valid until 4th July 2014. Winner will be announced on 7th July 2014.
Available to UK based bloggers
Prize money will only be issued on a Caxton FX prepaid card. Caxton FX cards are subject to application. If verification checks are not passed, an alternate prize winner will be picked.
The prize is non-transferable.
Entrants must post a blog containing their top 10 tips for budgeting for a family holiday and tweet a link to the post using the hashtag #holidayplanmum.
The winning entry can be republished under the Caxton FX blog with reference to the entry being a prize winner.
The winner will be notified via e-mail or twitter direct message and announced on the Britmums website (http://www.britmums.com).
Employees of Caxton FX and Raphaels Bank are not eligible to enter this competition.
We reserve the right to amend these rules at any time.

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Five Beauty Treatments To Try Even If You Aren’t Into Beauty

Team-RetreatI’ve been working for a local beauty salon in West Lothian for nearly a year now, over that time I’ve had the chance to trial many treatments – I’ve even been on ESPA training at Gleneagles. I’ve gone from a beauty virgin to a complete… yes, well you get the idea. I used to be pretty sceptical about some treatments, and in fairness that’s probably still true about some things. I have however been won over by quite a few, here are my five beauty treatments to try even if you aren’t into beauty.

Bio Sculpture Gel

It took some persuasion to convince me to have something on my nails, it all seemed a bit girly and pointless. I started off with a French manicure (probably still my favourite) and have gotten rather experimental recently(for me anyway), I’ve had teal, purple and grey with glitter!

Bio Gel Sculpture

I particularly favour Bio Sculpture Gel as it’s really kind on your nails, the first manicure you have his like miracle growth. I’d always had really short nails but after two weeks of having Bio Gel on, I had a great set of really strong nails. It costs a bit more than shellac type manicures, but it’s worth the extra in my opinion.

ESPA Back, Face & Scalp Treatment

This treatment is 85 mins long and includes a facial and back exfoliation, but the best bit and the reason you NEED to have this treatment is for the scalp massage with ESPA Pink Scalp Mud. Your hair smells great for days, and a scalp massage is one of my favourites.

ESPA Enzyme Facial
Erica
I love ESPA. I love their products and their treatments. I’ve gone from not giving a stuff about what products I use to being a bit of an evangelist. They’re a British company and I love their ethos. All that stuff aside, their treatments are just special. This facial includes a rose quartz facial massage, I recommend you find somewhere local that offers ESPA and get yourself along.

The therapists don’t usually take pictures of their victims clients by the way, this was just taken as ammunition in case I posted anything on their Facebook page they didn’t like!

Oxygen and Microdermabrasion Facial

The second facial to make the cut! This one removes dead and dry skin before injecting blasts of oxygen into the skin. The result is a refreshed and rejuvenated feel with a little extra plump and a little less saggyness.
Nouveau 1
LVL Lash Lift or Nouveau Lashes

So lashes were one of those treatments I *never* thought I’d get, they were for ‘other’ people. The thing is, they just make such a big difference to your face, it’s really strange. An LVL Lash Lift enhances your own lashes, whereas Nouveau Lashes are individual extensions added to each of your own individual lashes one by one (yes, it takes a while). Both treatments give differing degrees of the same effect.

So that’s it, five treatments that even a tomboy should give a whirl.

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Cafe Grande, Edinburgh

Cafe GrandeThe weather has been pretty good over the last few weeks. I’ve been getting some laser hair removal by a client of mine Soprano Ice Edinburgh, they are based in Morningside so we’ve been using it as an excuse to have a bit of lunch. A few weeks back we opted to go to The Merlin, it wasn’t the best and we’ve since agreed to try and avoid chain restaurants/pubs as we are often left disappointed. Last week we decided to revisit an old haunt of ours, Cafe Grande. We used to go here when I was pregnant and afterwards when Erin was a baby. We hadn’t been for years so I wasn’t sure if it would be as good, turns out it’s just as good.

I love Cafe Grande on a warm day as the front opens up completely and creates a really lovely airy atmosphere. We sat in the window and it was just perfect. I was pleased to see that after so many years, my favourite warm chicken and bacon salad was still on the menu. Alex opted for the club sandwich which came served with chunky chips. The food and service is as good as it always was. On the way out I noticed that they do quite a selection of homemade cakes, including several gluten free options, I can’t wait for my next laser hair removal appointment now so we can go back!

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One Direction at Murrayfield

We were at the One Direction concert at Murrayfield last week, with 64,000 in the audience it was Scotland’s largest ever concert – it was also our first ever stadium concert!

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