Tuesday, 9 April 2013

From low-key to LA

Hi there,

Where have you been all my week? Hopefully out doing something fun. It might make up for my fairly low-key week. I suppose we all have to have them at times, but come on allow me one because life has been full on since the turn of the year. Don't get me wrong though I still have some cool stuff to share with you and don't go skipping a week of reading because the next few weeks are going to be pretty great because I have some big plans just around the corner.

Status Update
Like I say this week has been fairly quiet, but it did not stop me going out to Shark Bar to meet up with my hockey line mate, comic fanatic and massive Toon fan James 'Leafy' Dixon (@dixon10) to watch the Europa League match between Newcastle and Benfica. Stupidly when asked what I was doing for the game I thought it was the home leg so told people I was going to the match only to now not be able to live down the fact that the game was in Lisbon and all the while I was in freezing Newcastle! Anyway, after being told that I was very much mistaken I went for a few brewskis and caught up with Leafy. It was a good evening and the match was pretty entertaining even if the result was less than ideal with Newcastle losing 3-1.

I hold out hope for a thrilling return leg as Benfica looked fallible at the back and Newcastle were the makers of their own downfall for a couple of the goals. The away goal definitely makes things interesting and if Newcastle get the first goal then it is very much game on! So, fingers crossed that I get to witness a great game of football and a massive night in Newcastle's European history. I already knew I would be going to watch with my brother and my hockey goalie Darren, but from the sounds of it there will be a whole crew of us and St. James' Park is a sell out. It's fair to say that I am quite excited about the night already!

Haggy's Hols
Get ready to set your jealousy meter up to 10 because I am about to give you a preview of my epic Summer holiday to the west coast of America. In 110 days I will be boarding a flight to Los Angeles to tour LA, Las Vegas, Yosemite, Napa and San Francisco. I have a tonne of things I plan on doing, but if you have anything you feel I should not miss then please do let me know!

Anyway, I thought I would use this week's Haggy's Hols to tell you about part one of my trip or more specifically my short visit to LA. I say short because I am actually only going to be in LA for 48 hours, but have so much to fit in.

After touching down at LAX I will picking up a drop top car courtesy of Alamo and hitting some of the main tourist sights like the Walk of Fame. I think I should be able to do this over the course of a long evening and take in some of the sights and sounds of Los Angeles as the city wakes up for the evening. I don't think I will be getting much sleep and may well have to follow in the footsteps of millions before me and hit the clubs for a drink or three. That is if jetlag doesn't grab hold of me!

After all that I will be returning to the house we are staying at in the Hollywood Hills. I mean if you are going to do it you may as well do it in style hadn't you! I found the house using Airbnb and to be honest for the price of similar to or less than a hotel I am getting an authentic experience with some of the best views of the city I could have hoped to. I plan on living like a rockstar and relaxing with something bubbly on the balcony as I watch the sunset over this iconic city and watching its neon lights blaze into the night sky. Just look at the view from the house (below) and check out the advert here. Jealous much?!?

My host in LA also suggested going to either a farmer's market or flea market on the Sunday morning we are in town (it is almost as if she knew my infatuation with markets) so no doubt we will be doing that. I was thinking it would be cool to pick up a memento of each city I visit on my tour and it would be a great place to do this. Also, a bit of googling tells me we might also see some celebs perusing the market stalls, as you do! Whilst in LA it would be rude not to hit the beach and have high hopes for renting a bike and cruising the broadwalks, oh and maybe trying to re-create the Baywatch style shallow dive into the sea!  Unfortunately, I think that is about all we can fit in during our visit, but it will be a great start to our journey. However, if you have been before and there is something glaringly obvious you think I am missing out on then PLEASE PLEASE shout up!

Over the course of the coming weeks I will give you a preview to the next parts of my holiday and trust me it gets much bigger and much better as the holiday progresses. Oh and I can let you know about the many high and lows that have befallen me as I have opted not to use a travel agent and have organised it all off my own back. Yeah I know foolish, but hopefully it will make for a much more enjoyable and organic experience. Real America here I come....maybe!

Food Glorious Food
I usually try and eat healthy and balanced meals everyday and this includes the lunches I take to work. Not only does this save me money, but it stops me finding my way to Greggs for a Sausage and Bean Melt or a Steak Bake. Well, anyway, usually I take a salad to work, but I had got a bit bored of the same old same and opted for soups this week. It has been a welcome change, but I have been really surprised that apparently half a can of soup amounts to one portion. All these years I have been knocking back a can without realising. This isn't a major concern, but I have actually tried to stick to half a can each day and have been pleasantly surprised at how filling it actually is with a couple of slices of bread for dunking. Honestly try it and you might be surprised yourself. If nothing else it will mean you have to spend less money on food and in these times of austerity that's never a bad thing.

Given the health kick I have been on recently to get in shape for hockey nationals I have found myself craving (and giving in to) chocolate and sweets and all things bad for you. I think I can just about justify it all given the amount of hockey I play and the stresses of work. I guess it is a better vice to have than alcohol...well on a school night anyway! With all that said I would like to tell you about a recipe that caught my eye this week - Crispy chocolate fridge cake. Now I haven't tried this one, but given it is fully chocolate and all the good things that make fridge cake amazing  I don't think it can go wrong. I personally will be giving it a whirl in the very near future. I mean just look at the picture below! Nom nom nom!

Haggy's Hockey Corner
The slump is over!!! This week I had two fantastic training sessions with Leafy and Justin and everything really clicked back in to place - goals, assists and celebrations galore! It felt great too and just at the right time because we have league games coming in thick and fast, as well as another tournament ahead of the ultimate national tournament. Line 1 is back in action and delivering goals like the goal below (I am not even kidding).

Also one of the training sessions was with the Nomads ice hockey team which means that as soon as I get a Thursday evening free I will be back on the ice and playing again. I have missed it, even if it is Whitley Bay.

Now I usually only talk about my own hockey experiences but this week I thought I would give you a bit of an insight into the trials and tribulations of a New York Rangers fan as well.

As the playoffs approach in this shortened NHL season, last week heralded the trade deadline and like usual the New York Rangers were an active force in the market. This is something that often fills me with dread because some recent trades have seen some of my favourite players depart (Brandon Dubinsky and Brandon Prust), even if it was to make way for the all-star player Rick Nash. Despite this acquisition the Rangers have been playing well below expectations and to be honest making it difficult to envisage us achieving a playoff spot at times, yet alone winning the Stanley Cup. So, to hear one of last year's stand out players Marian Gaborik, despite having an poor season, was on the chopping block came as a bit of a shock, especially to hear we would be getting some players back in return who hadn't exactly set the world on fire this season.

I said at the time that I would reserve my judgement until I saw how the players adapted to the new team, tactics and style. I did hope that they would bring back some of that grit that we had lost in the summer and bring more of a balance to a team that was heavy on talent, but played a grinding style. Wow am I glad I kept quiet! All the incoming players scored in their debut game and made the Rangers look like the team of old with all the fight and grit need to make the playoffs, but with the added bonus of scoring potential that went on to rout an ailing Pittsburgh Penguins team 6-1. Since then the team has generally stepped up a gear (thankfully) and I am much more hopeful about making the playoffs. This is good news as many of my friends' teams are doing well and I don't want to be the laughing stock at the end of the season! Well no more than usual anyway!

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard
Story of the week - This week's story is a shout out to the GB Men's Davis Cup team. Going in to the final day of their match up with Russia and losing 2-1 victory look unlikely. The GB players were lower in the international rankings and were long shots to say the least. However, some great play saw GB surprise the Russians taking the tie 3-2. It is the first time GB have come back from being 2-0 down in over 80 years and just goes to show that tennis prospects in the UK are improving and with funding and hard work there could be a bright future and we won't have to solely rely on Andy Murray at Wimbledon this year. For the full BBC write up just click here

Song of the week - So the sun was shining this week and I could even get away with wear a t-shirt! Check me out...no sleeves! As soon as the sun comes out there is one song that instantly makes me smile and feel great about the world, Jason Mraz - Make It Mine. Quite honestly seeing Jason Mraz live was one of the best gigs ever with an awesome live band (one of whom now follows me on Twitter) and some seriously awesome tunes. If he has so far gone under the radar for you then that needs to stop today...go check him out!

Quote of the week - "The turtle never makes progress unless it sticks its neck out" - So, if you haven't already come out of your shell, stick your neck out and start making progress. Either that or just laugh at the quote because I found it mildly funny rather than inspiring!

TV of the week - Well this really needs no introduction but this week was the second episode of Doctor Who and it continues to be an acceptable way for a grown man to get his geek on. I personally miss the Daleks and actually being frightened when I watch, but there is something just about space and time travel that continues to appeal to me. I guess I am just a big child. Also, I don't think it hurts that the new companion is the easy on the eye Jenna-Louise Coleman. So far the series has been fairly good, but I think there are some good stories in the pipeline and a meeting of previous Doctors is on the cards too.

See you next week for a more exciting instalment in The World Of Hagg! Apologies if you thought this one was below par, it probably was!


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