Boro Books 4: The Little Church by the Sea by Liz Taylorson

Happy new year, blog readers! And what better way to start out a new year than with a brand new Boro Book! You know how much we love our local authors so we were proper chuffed when we were introduced to Liz Taylorson’s debut novel, The Little Church by the Sea. 

little church by the sea by liz taylorson

Isolated and unwelcome in the picturesque seaside village of Rawscar, Reverend Cass Fordyce has lost her faith and her home. Christmas is coming, and she isn’t looking forward to it. Then she meets attractive local man Hal – twice divorced and with a reputation as a ladies’ man he’s everything that a celibate vicar like Cass should avoid… especially as Hal is hiding secrets of his own, including his past with the mysterious Anna. Can Cass ever find her way in Rawscar? What secret does Hal have to hide? And is there ever such a thing as a truly fresh start?

Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma is your reviewer today, so over to you Emma…

I was sceptical at best for this book given that it is set at Christmas and we all know Christmas media is mainly cheesy romance that just gets boring after so long. I was still willing to try it out – even more so when I heard it was about a female vicar… this was new. I also found the amount of foul language in this book – used the same way I would – quite hilarious; I think anyone would if it came from a vicar!

My favourite part of the book is the main character. Cass – the female vicar for a small fishing village turned holiday retreat – is possibly one of the most well written female characters placed in regular modern day life. She is sarcastic, caring and most importantly, human. She isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and the only time she is referred to from an aesthetic viewpoint is in reference to her dog collar or lack of it. I like the lack of physical description, it leaves more to my imagination. She is also a bit of an outcast from this town – being an incomer to the town rather than a local.

Locals to Middlesbrough and surrounding areas may see some parallels between the small, fictional town of Rawscar and our local area. There’s even a reference to our favourite Captain Cook!

I have to say, there are some major plot twists in this book that just keep you hooked – I’m not saying any more though; you’re just going to have to find out yourself. By the third chapter I was kinda hooked, and I spent almost every bus journey reading this. I really recommend this book for those looking for an alternative winter read – even though it’s labelled as a Christmas book it could totally be read any time of the year.

liz taylorson

Liz Taylorson is an amazing author who has painted a realistic view of life and women rather than things being perfect and women always looking amazing. This book is super realistic and explores real problems in real people’s lives – such as unlikely friends, losing faith and hating your small hometown. The book explores so much that it’s impossible to write in one blog post – so just go read it!

Buy the book on Amazon

Roundup of the year!

2017 – what a beaut! What a year! Want to see a round-up of all the fab stuff we did? Of course you do!

Top 5 blog posts

  1. You’re not alone in loving all things Orange Pip Market. We sent Love Middlesbrough Lass Emma along to try it out for the first time during English Tourism Week and you loved her review as much as she loved eating ALL OF THE FOOD. The observant among you will soon see that this becomes a common theme…
  2. Emma pops up once again and this time she’s at the theatre! A Note to Myself rolls in at number two…
  3. A late entry to this list is our fabulous top 5 hot chocolates post – maybe we’ll do a top 5 milkshakes or sundaes post next year, since you obviously loved it as much as we did!
  4. Mela 2017! That glorious Saturday and Sunday in July when Centre Square was filled with food, entertainment, decorations, fantastic performances and oh, did we mention food?
  5. It fills our hearts with joy that you love the Dorman Museum as much as we do. We could hardly contain our excitement for the Tokyo to the Tees exhibition and it did not disappoint at all…

Love Middlesbrough InstaMeet

We were so excited to plan our very first InstaMeet! All the photos – our favourite! We had grand plans that did end up being slightly smaller than we had hoped, but we were delighted that people came to join us – good things definitely come in small packages. It was lovely meeting people face to face and the photos that came out of the day were brilliant! We’d love to do it again so shout out in the comments if you would be up for joining us…

#BoroReads

We were massively excited to be asked to work with Middlesbrough Libraries and their summer #BoroReads project. Books! Libraries! Young bloggers! Love Middlesbrough Lass Claire was basically in her happiest of happy places. As if that wasn’t brilliant enough, we also started making connections with local authors and started our Boro Books series too. We’re definitely hoping for more of this in 2018!

Favourite photo

Snow in Centre Square

It won’t come as too much of a surprise that we love our Instagram – if you’re not already following, get on it! Turns out you guys also love the S N O W as our most loved photo was this glorious snowy scene, captured by our honorary Love Middlesbrough Lass, Matt.

Food

All the food, all the days! Would it really be a Love Middlesbrough blog if it didn’t include some reference to food?! From ice-creams in Stewart Park to fancy French-English food at Bistrot Pierre, we tried out as many places as we could. We’re still waaaaaaay behind with all the fantastic new places that have opened in town and we’ll be doing our very best to make up for that in 2018. It truly is a tough job…

Magical Middlesbrough Christmas

Fireworks at Christmas

We know it was magical because over 60,000 of you came out to join us at the Christmas Lights Switch On and the Magical Middlesbrough Parade! On a side note we’d like to say thanks to you all for your feedback about the Christmas Markets and the Fairground. We’ve taken it all on board and passed it along to the events peeps and we’ll just have to see what happens next year!

Highlights from the Lasses

Claire I got to do so many brilliant things, it’s hard to call it. But if you’re making me choose it’s equal running between all the hard hat tours I got to go on (hard hats are so cool! ) and going to my very first classical music concert – still gives me goosebumps!

Emma  I have to say, this year was one thing after another. So much has happened – including becoming a Love Middlesbrough Lass whoop! – can my highlight be all the food :’D? That’s valid right? If it isn’t then the summer special of Orange Pip Market on Centre Square has to be my highlight. The food and the atmosphere was so amazing, it truly felt like summer – and it was warmer than it is now, brr!

Rachel Like Claire, I’m having trouble choosing just one highlight. I think it would be a tie between our visit to Creams and the Magical Middlesbrough Christmas Lights Switch On, when the Lasses were all out in force, having a great time watching a fire show, and dancing to some fab music! My trusty little phone took some amazing firework photos too…

  

We wish you a merry Middlesbrough Christmas!

Tis the season! The time for eating, drinking, being merry, flapping round the shops trying to buy that last minute Secret Santa present, and taking part in all the traditions! Even if your tradition is to completely avoid the whole Christmas thing and hide in your bed under a cosy blanket until it’s all over, that counts as a tradition in my eyes. 

We decided that we couldn’t let the season pass without asking some people to let us in on their festive traditions. We tried our best to keep the traditions Middlesbrough-focused, but go gently on us if they stretch just sliiiiiightly out of the reach of everyone’s favourite town! 

First up, we chatted to Amy Lord, local blogger and now author! We introduced you to Amy recently as she told us all about her new book, The Disappeared. Let’s talk traditions!

Mostly the holidays are a great time to hibernate and spend time with family. But one thing we do try and do every year is get out into the countryside around Middlesbrough for a walk. It makes me feel a lot less guilty about all the Christmas food! [haha, yep we totally get that! Also can we just say, gorgeous photo!]

Christmas traditions with Amy Lord

Next up we have another local author – we’re all about the books this year! Here’s Roxie Cooper, author of The Law of Attraction and currently editing her second book (we can’t wait!) 

I’m a proper Boro lass and lived here until I was 18 before going to university in Newcastle. After living all over the place for another 17 years, I finally moved back to the north-east – this time, settling in Yarm. It’s a gorgeous little town at the best of times, centered around a beautiful high street which boasts cute coffee shops (where I write my novels!), chic designer boutiques and yummy restaurants. But it turns into a twinkly wonderland at Christmas (especially when it snows). Since moving here years ago, I bring my kids down when it gets dark to see the tree lights being switched on and we keep warm with hot chocolates. It has a really lovely Christmas vibe about the place in December and it’s such a friendly community. It wouldn’t be Christmas without spending a night on the cobbles and I’ll make sure that never changes! 

Christmas traditions with Roxie Cooper

You want to hear some of our traditions as well? Oh go on then! 

Claire
There’s three things I do every year, without fail, and I absolutely love them all! 

1. One of my friends lives in New York City (I know, right?!) and she comes home for Christmas times with her family, and every year we arrange our annual Christmas catch up. Always in Middlesbrough, always a coffee shop and we basically don’t stop talking from the first bone crushing, helloooo hug until we all have to call it a day and head home! This year I’m going to introduce her to Off the Ground and I can’t wait! 

2. On Christmas Eve, we get fizz, we get the Christmas cake and anyone who wants to join in comes round and we all get very, very messy icing it and adding all sorts of bonkers decorations! When this tradition started it was all about making the cake look as nice as possible, but with each year it’s more about what barmy thing can we add this time. Christmas shark anyone…?!

christmas traditions claire

3. Picture the scene: Christmas Day, totally stuffed from all the food and it’s dark outside. While everyone else stays in and falls into a heap on the sofa, we get wrapped up warm and we take the Love Middlesbrough dog Bob, out for an evening stroll past all the pretty liiiiiiights in everyone’s houses. Even if it’s cold or wet, it’s just so cosy walking round when everyone else is tucked up inside. And there can never be enough twinkly lights in my life. Ever. 

Emma
So, my family isn’t exactly traditional and I’m the youngest (18 now!) so the whole running downstairs for presents thing no longer happens. Christmas always starts on Christmas Eve though, my sister once suggested that we do Christmas Eve pyjamas, so now we do – or in my case lounge wear because who wears pyjamas??? My sister still joins us on Christmas Eve, even though she has her own house, so we end up just lazing about together until it’s too late to stay awake and then we disappear to bed.

One of my favourite things about Christmas is the food. It’s tradition to have lunch with my parents – my mum works her butt off creating the perfect lunch – and then to get slightly tipsy and remain that way all day. We’re not alcoholics, it’s just me… I like vodka lemonade. We then lay on the couch in what is known as ‘too. much. food. pain’ for an unreasonable amount of time before going to my Gran’s for more food. She’ll put a buffet out because – unlike my brother who attends about 5 different houses and 3 different meals – we can’t eat two lots of Christmas dinner. It’s actually quite nice and old fashioned at my Gran’s. The Queen’s speech no longer goes on though which is a bit of a relief.

Christmas traditions Emma

I have a personal Christmas tradition of disappearing upstairs to watch Doctor Who.  My family don’t have any set in stone traditions, we just kinda have the same routine of eat too much, go home, sleep, don’t move for the entirety of Boxing Day – I guess that’s a tradition…?

Rachel

We know I love a good list, so here’s my Christmas traditions list:

  • Everyone has to put a handful of fruit into the Christmas cake mix and make a wish… The only problem is that because I have a whole year for the wish to come true, I never remember what it was or whether it did in the end!
  • My brother and I have a tradition of always watching a scary film and eating popcorn on Christmas Eve – I can’t remember how this tradition started (though it was definitely in the days of Blockbuster), but it’s about as un-Christmas-like as you can get!
  • We have a little ceramic nativity scene, which is probably as old as me, which goes underneath the Christmas tree, and it’s always my job to set it up. It’s totally adorable, and even if it is looking a bit worn around the edges and some of the animals are missing an ear or a foot, it’s still my fave Christmas decoration ❤️

Harry Potter! History! Magic! And fangirling!

So we have some pretty exciting news (understatement of the year)! If you’re a Harry Potter fan then your day (possibly even life) is about to be made!

Delve into Divination!
Ponder the peculiarities of Potions!
Discover magical creatures!
Harry Potter: A History of Magic is coming to Middlesbrough!!!! 😍 
There are not enough heart eye emojis and exclamation marks in the world for that last statement. HARRY! POTTER! 

What exactly is this Harry Potter: A History of Magic we hear you ask? Luckily we’re here to tell you 😀 In partnership with the British Library (woah!), Middlesbrough Library will be capturing the traditions of folklore and magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories – there’ll be magical treasures, tales and secrets deep from the archives…wahhhhhhh! We are beyond excited!!! 

To show you exactly how much we obsess fangirl over the Potter, here are just some (cos if we told you all the reasons we’d need a 1000 page book) of the reasons why we, the Lasses, love Harry Potter so much. 

Claire 🐘

It’s already been established that I’m the older Lass of the group so I was at university when I first encountered Harry Potter. I remember a whole group of us sharing one battered copy of The Philosopher’s Stone that is probably still making the rounds somewhere to this day. My own copy of it is equally as battered now as I’ve read the series all the way through about fifty million times (artistic licence is the same as exaggeration, right?)

Speaking of my series: the books are a combination of bought brand new, bought second hand, and partially eaten by my dog when he was just a wee puppy (bad dog!) Some are paperback, some are really big hardbacks (I’m looking at you Order of the Phoenix that is nearly as big as my head), all are battered, the covers are completely bleached of colour by being put on a shelf too close to a window, and extremely well loved 💓

I don’t have a favourite book or even a favourite character – I just love it all. It’s completely and utterly magical and I think it’s definitely time I started on round fifty million and one of re-reading from start to finish 😂

I’m SO EXCITED for the exhibition! And if I don’t get JK Rowling to like and retweet at least one of my tweets about it I’ll be hanging up my social media hat and heading to the cupboard under the stairs, never to come back out again. 

Emma 🍫

Harry Potter is coming to Middlesbrough and you don’t know how excited I am. The Philosopher’s Stone came out the year before I was born but 13 year old Emma was dragged into fandomness (I’m such a nerd now, Harry Potter made me who I am I think) by ‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number 4 Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much’. As much as the Harry Potter books are the best, I’m going to look at the world as a whole – and the history of magic – so prepare for my fangirling.

So, my favourite character from the entire universe is Newt Scamander, the author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’m totally going to ignore the book for this post because let’s be real, I could go on for forever, but the character of Newt Scamander is just another one of JK Rowling’s genius brainchildren. He seems like the sidekick character: small, weedy, nervous,and weak but he is the main character of the film because he is the embodiment of caring – the point of the film. This is what I love about Newt, not only does he have the line ‘Mummy’s here’ directed towards baby magical creatures (be still my beating heart), but he also cares about people. I think this is a refreshing change for Hollywood given that the heroes of many blockbuster films now are strong physically and mentally, but Newt Scamander is the exact opposite of this and shows that anyone, no matter how weak or seemingly unimportant, can make a difference in the world – whether magical or not.

It’s very difficult for me to express my love for Mr Scamander and the movie as a whole in one blog post as I could literally spend hours talking about this delightful man. Can we just appreciate casting for a moment? Eddie Redmayne is quintessentially British and this is enhanced by the setting of America.

Also, if you haven’t seen the A Very Potter Musical trilogy then I suggest you do because it’s hilarious and oh so very American. I see a binge coming on.

Rachel 🐱

I love lists, so what better time to appreciate my favourite moments from Harry Potter (books and films) than in this post? I started out with my top 5, and that quickly became top 10. Ooops! 😳 (p.s. it’s very timely that I just got a Deathly Hallows tattoo this week…how jealous is everyone?! 😎)

Piertotum locomotor (DH)
Professor McGonagall brings the school’s statues and suits of armour to life (‘Hogwarts is threatened!’ shouted Professor McGonagall. ‘Man the boundaries, protect us, do your duty to our school!’), which is seriously kick-ass, and as if that wasn’t enough, she then follows it up with ‘I’ve always wanted to use that spell!’ The adorbs! 😍

Hermione punching Malfoy (PoA)
Let’s face it, who didn’t want to punch Malfoy at some point in the series? Hermione just did what we were all thinking. Yaaaas!

The grandmother Snape boggart (PoA)
Snape dressed as Neville’s grandmother, complete with an ugly, vulture-topped hat. I don’t think there’s anything you could want more in life, right?

Butterflies (CS)
As someone who is extremely scared of spiders, Ron’s quote of ‘Why spiders? Why couldn’t be follow the butterflies?’ pretty much sums up how I feel about having to see or read about giant spiders in Harry Potter.

Dudley’s goodbye (DH)
The scene where Harry and Dudley say goodbye really got me. To see how much Dudley’s attitude had changed, that he believed there was a real threat, even if he didn’t completely understand it, and that he’d be safest with the weird magic people, really shows a change in his character. And if that wasn’t enough, he’s being (for him) seriously nice, telling Harry that he doesn’t think he’s a waste of space. So many feels! 😭

Pudding (OotP)
Luna saying ‘I hope there’s pudding’ is just me, all the time. 🍩🍪🍨

Molly Weasley duelling (DH)
Is there a more iconic line than ‘Not my daughter, you bitch!’? The correct answer is no. Molly Weasley is a marvel! #slay

Roonil Wazlib (HBP)
Ron’s name misspelled. I don’t know why it makes me howl with laughter every time, but it does 😂

Teaspoon (OotP)
‘Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.’
Hermione giving it all the sass – I aspire to be this sassy, or at least to be in a situation where I can use that quote!

Light (PoA)
‘Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.’
Dumbledore ❤️

You can see Harry Potter: A History of Magic from 20 October – 28 February at Middlesbrough Central Library, during library opening hours. The exhibition launches on Friday 20 October at 4pm with a special magic show from the library’s very own Hogwarts Wizard at 4.30pm. Obviously we’ll see you there…we’ll be the ones at the front of the queue 😝 

Bonjour Bistrot Pierre!

This may come as a surprise, but the Love Middlesbrough Lasses love going out for dinner! We’ve been excitedly watching Bistrot Pierre’s progress over the last few months as they completely renovated a vacant shop unit which is handily close to Love Middlesbrough HQ – it’s completely unrecognisable now! As soon as we heard they were open for previews, we practically ran to the door to get in line for a meal, and we brought along our lovely friend Laura as an honourary Lass too.

The interior is as gorgeous as the food! Speaking of food, here’s what we all thought…

Claire 🐘

True story, I almost moved to France in 2009…so close to living the French dream…and yet so far… *sigh*  I love it and have enjoyed many, many wonderful holidays there, so it’s fair to say that excitement levels were pretty high for eating all of the French food. If only we hadn’t gone at lunchtime, then I could also have enjoyed all of the French wine 🍷 – next time!

There was so much choice it was hard to pin down exactly what I wanted, but I figured as it was lunchtime I would go for something light, which would then leave all of the room for dessert, but more on that very soon. I opted for the tarte flambée with mushrooms and all the garlic – so. much. yum. It was shaped like a pizza, but seemed to be made with some sort of flaky, light and dreamy pastry that melted in my mouth (I’m actually drooling just thinking about it now) – oh my, it was divine! With a choice of either salad (as if!) or ‘pommes frites’ (also known as fries) I’m pretty sure you can guess which side I opted for.

When it came to pudding there was no messing about. It was only ever going to be creme brulée – my all time favourite. I will 100% admit that I had very high hopes for this being the perfect version, and with total honesty I can reassure you that it really and truly is. First off, the perfect crack. Of course the sugar was caramelised to absolute perfection. The creme brulée itself was so creamy, so light, so so tasty. If I had been on my own and at home, and not in public with polite people, I would totally have licked the bowl clean!

I already know I’ll be back for more. Just have to decide when… 🇫🇷

Emma 🍫

We all know I love food, so it’s no surprise that I quite enjoyed (understatement of the year) lunch at Bistrot Pierre. I am always a little sceptical when trying new places as sometimes they don’t cater to my diet but boy do these guys know how to make Veggie food.

My main was a salad, but not just any salad; this was a halloumi salad. It also wasn’t the boring, lettuce, tomatoes and filling kind of salad that most places seem to do, this was an actual salad – with no tomatoes in sight thank god. I wasn’t particularly fond of the vinaigrette they used but that is personal preference and I’m fussier than Rachel when it comes to salad dressings. I also have a new found love of edamame beans – who knew?

Dessert was obviously the best part, sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream. I was the first to finish, of course, and oh my god was it good. Words fail me with describing this and the waitress who recommended this dish was not wrong. Can I have another bowl please?

All in all, I have to say that I will be visiting Bistrot Pierre again and don’t be put off by the French names, the staff with translate for you if you’re not sure.

 

Rachel 🐱

I’m the certified fussy eater of the group, so I was feeling all the fear that there was going to be nothing I wanted to eat, but I needn’t have feared – my eyes found the word ‘pizza’ (well, tarte flambée) on the menu, and all was right with the world! 😍

And what a pizza it was! It was like a cross between a pizza and a quiche, and even though it had four different types of cheese on it, the dough (or pastry or whatever it was) didn’t feel heavy and I still had room for dessert. And so much cheese! I’m all about the melted cheese, in case it wasn’t obvious by now 🍕❤️

Dessert was literally the most amazing chocolate mousse, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I found out it was actually chocolate orange flavoured! Please just let me sit at that table and eat that for all of eternity! 😍

 

Laura 🐨

I couldn’t let the Love Middlesbrough lasses try the latest restaurant without me joining, so I became an honorary member for the day.

I also had the halloumi salad and loved every bit of it – just healthy enough to feel proud of yourself, but equally delicious and really filling thanks to the quinoa and the option to have fries on the side. A real strength of Bistrot Pierre is that you could go for ultimate French with dishes like boeuf bourguignon and steak-frites, or choose something lighter like the halloumi salad – even the fussiest eaters will be happy, though vegans might struggle (do they even have vegans in France?).

My dessert was what I call a posh eton mess, but it’s actual name is Méli mélo de fraises et meringue: strawberry ice cream with fresh strawberries, meringue, marshmallows, crushed pistachios, strawberry coulis and Chantilly cream. Boom. I’m usually a starter-main rather than main-dessert kinda gal, but I would make an exception for this dessert every time. The crunch of the pistachios and meringue contrasted perfectly with the smooth cream and ice cream, with slight chewiness from the marshmallows and oh so much strawberry-ness.

If the meal I had is an indicator of the rest of the menu, I’ll be visiting Bistrot Pierre again and again.