Saturday, 28 May 2016

Your 5: Highcross Leicester

Highcross Leicester are offering you the opportunity to get some professional style advice or a makeover for absolutely free this weekend. Your 5 is inspired by French fashion ideas, suggesting that updating 5 key wardrobe items each season is a way to simply refresh and update your style without breaking the bank or over filling your cupboards with unnecessary threads.

All of the appointments for this weekend are now booked up, but they are taking walk ins so pop along tomorrow and try your luck!

When I arrived there was a bevvy of beautiful bloggers getting some style tips and so we all ended up holding everyone up terribly - we don't half go on, these blogger types. Ten minute slots be damned, I ended up there for an hour!


So our five core items are the cropped trouser, the jacket, the shirt, silks and sneakers. Simple! I have to confess I am not a big cropped trouser fan, but my fab stylist did manage to find me a pair that I liked. Apparently they are actually culottes which took me back to my school days! But these are much funkier, a light baggy denim style pair from Next. At £30, these man made fibre trousers have a lightweight feel for comfort and a lovely pale colour.


On to the shirt and we settled on another floaty number from John Lewis at £49. It has a cute boho monochrome pattern, open neck and gathered sleeves. It would work great as beachwear as well as teaming up nicely with jeans - straights or flares - for casual or office. 


I'm a big jacket fan and the short jacket section was an easy win for me as this burnt orange jacket from Mango. And so was everyone else by the look of it - I saw a couple of people returning to the pop up styling zone with the one they'd purchased - so if you fancy it I'd get in quick! At £59.99, the jacket is a lovely soft suede, with flap pockets and bold exposed zip detailing. Comfortable but casual this jacket would again go well with skinny jeans or even a wide full length skirt to take it to full festival wear.


Next we were back to Next for this shiny little number at £18. It has a lovely shimmer and swoosh with the crimped fabric creating great interest and texture which compliments the little section of lining showing at the bottom with its subtle flash of green. Super cute again for workwear or dressing up as you choose. It would also go nicely with the culottes for a more relaxed but glam look. 


Finally we were on to the sneakers, which were offered in a range of lace up and slip on options. I opted for the Molini flats from Aldo which are currently available for £45. I liked the bright coral colour which would add a splash of sunshine and a bold accent to any outfit. They were lovely and comfortable as well with a lovely cushioned sole.

What do you reckon to our choices? All the key trends for this season wrapped up in a neat capsule wardrobe with flexibility for all occasions. Thanks to Highcross for inviting me and for the lovely little goodie bag - I am particularly looking forward to cashing iny free pretzel coupon!!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

5 wine gadgets you shouldn't live without

Happy #NationalWineDay! To celebrate this most auspicious of days, here are my top tips for the best wine whatchamejigs that you shouldn't be living without.


Image from JohnLewis.com
L'Atelier du Vin Tire Bouchon Classic Corkscrew
£40, John Lewis

These are absolutely my favourite corkscrews. I was lucky enough to pick one up in a charity shop a few years ago and it's absolutely revolutionised my life. I haven't had a single broken or split cork or even the merest mote of cork in my wine ever since. And it's really really easy to use, no effort needed. If you've still struggling with a rusty Waiter's Friend, treat yourself to one of these bad boys.





Image from Lakeland.co.uk

DropStop Wine Discs
£3.78, Lakeland

Simple, cheap and clever, these little silver discs simply roll up and sit inside the neck of your wine bottle to ensure a controlled pour with no spills, drips or dribbles. A perfect serve each time and no wine running down the bottle and ending up staining your table cloth. Simple!







Image from WineWare.co.uk
VacuVin Rapid Wine Cooling Carafe
£20.50, WineWare

I have had one of these for years now and it is fabulous for spontaneous BBQs, surprise sunshine and last minute visits from friends. You just keep the ice packs in the freezer, then whip them out and add them into the plastic base when you need to chill the wine. Decant into the carafe, and just five minutes later your wine is perfectly chilled. Again, a really simple but genuinely effective piece of kit.





Image from Lazenne.com
WineCheck Luggage
£68.15, Lazenne

I don't have one of these, but I would definitely like one! Protection for 12 bottles of wine in your hold luggage so you can bring all those delicious tastes home from your travels. We always end up restricting to one or two special bottles, wrapped carefully in clothes in our rucksacks and you are always holding your breath at the end of the journey hoping that it's not broken! It's lightweight so you don't go over weight limits and it even has wheels. Reusable, collapsable and just very convenient!




Corkers - Deer
£5.95, PrezzyBox

Yep, got one of these too, it's a super cute way to finish off, no? Make your used cork into a cute deer. Hiccupy fun for all the family. Naughty Moose not included.









Saturday, 21 May 2016

13 unmissable events coming up in Leicester

We've had #backingtheblues day, we've had the LCFC Champions parade, but those of us who live in Leicester know that the party isn't over. This is a great city to live in all year round and as usual the next few weeks are chock full of fun stuff to go and get involved with. Here are just a few of my highlights.

The Spark Children's Arts Festival, citywide
23rd May - 4th June
Many free events, some paid events
A huge number of creative events across the city to suit children aged 0-13, this annual Arts festival is one of the finest things to take your children to in the annual calendar. Events take place in a vast number of venues - parks, neighbourhood centres, libraries, the Curve, Phoenix, New Walk Museum... Get browsing their website and find something fun for you and the kids to get involved with.

Leicester's Summer Food and Drink Festival, Leicester Market
29th May
Free
Street food, local producers, farmers - the works. There will be live cookery demonstrations and the ever popular Drinks Zone with real ale, mocktails and Prosecco cocktails. When you're full, you can also enjoy non-food stalls including locally made crafts and a live music stage. Nice.

Leicestershire Sausage and Cider Festival, Cattows Farm
3rd - 5th June
Tickets from £9.50 - £29.99
Festival by name, festival by nature, this year's event is even bigger and better than before. As well as copious amounts of cider to sup and pork based treats to indulge in, you can enjoy a comprehensive programme of live music, full schedule of craft, circus and other fun kids workshops, funfair, firework display, craft and food stalls and even a roller disco! And what's more, you can enter the Extreme Housewifery competition to win a pair of adult tickets for the Saturday by clicking on this link. This one.




Fearless Foxes, New Walk Museum
From 4th June
Free
Well, there had to be some football in here right? Relive the most magical season in LCFC's 132 year history with a visually spectacular exhibition at New Walk Museum, renamed Blue Walk Museum for the time being! The foyer is already blue and there's more to come. You can retrace the highlights of the season month by month, see how the Foxes story has been received globally and even leave your own highlights. Not to be missed.

Riverside Festival, Bede Park
4th - 5th June
Free
Busy weekend this one! My absolute favourite Leicester festival of the year is back. Lots of beautiful boats on the river including dragon boat racing and boat trips, street entertainers aplenty, a live music stage, craft stalls, Ride Leicester area, children's activities and of course plenty of space on the park to have a picnic. Fingers crossed for some blazing sunshine to enjoy along with it all!

Hoping for another year of weather like this at Riverside!
Uprising, De Montfort Hall
4th June
£17.50
A glorious day of metal at De Montfort Hall over three stages, including the final of Metal 2 The Masses which will decide who gets to play at Bloodstock. It's going to be phenomenal. There will be burlesque acts, a range of stalls, comedians and a gaming area, were not all the heavy bands enough. Acid Reign, Beholder and Mage to name but a few will be performing. I will absolutely be there. In fact I've been trying to remember to book my tickets for weeks so I'm going to pause writing this post and get them booked right now. Winning.

Cocktails and Consoles, Duffy's Bar
8th June
Free
Lots of nights like this starting to pop up around Leicester and oh, what fun they are. The name says it all - enjoy a cocktail and take yourself back in the day by having a crack at your favourite old school console game. Streetfighter 2 anyone? I'm looking forward to getting aching fingers from mashing the control pad hopelessly.

Stuff wanders off, a shape steps in, Two Queens
11th June - 23rd July
Free
A solo exhibition by Joanne Masding, looking at worth, ownership and the production of physical things. Masding creates hybrid, animated objects that loop on screens and sculptural surfaces. This Birmingham based artist has recently had residencies and exhibitions in both Stoke, Sheffield and Cardiff and has received favorable mentions in the Guardian. Got to be worth popping by.

Rum Experience, 33cankstreet
9th June
£15
Try 5 different rums and learn all out the history of rum, it's production and some classic rum cocktails. A fun and interactive evening dedicated to rum! De-licious.

Leicester Vegan Market, Leicester Market
12th June
Free
Leicester's first vegan market will be featuring food stalls and traders of vegan clothing, shoes, toiletries and gifts as well as charities on the day.

Exchange Comedy Club, The Exchange
16th June
Free


Image courtesy of Linda Blann
Foxton Locks Festival, Foxton Locks
18th - 19th June
Free
Now in it's sixth year, the highlight of Foxton Locks festival is of course the boats - there will be private, historic and trading boats out and about for you to enjoy. Not only that but a funfair will be on offer, an arena entertainment programme with live music and the Fun Dog Show, pony rides, classic vehicles, miniature steam engines, real ale bar, alpacas and a miniature zoo. Oh, and a champagne bar. And camping is available from £40 to £65 for the weekend. Woot!


Admittedly this is Abbey Pumping Station, but you get the idea.
Small Print Leicester: Making it Happen Print Symposium, Leicester Print Workshop
21st June
£5
Interviews and panel discussions with 4 artist-printmakers will examine the creation of new work and new approaches to those practices. An exciting mix of local and internationally significant artists will converge on Leicester for what will undoubtedly be a fascinating day.

Edit: Special mention also goes to the Geese & Fountain's Welsh Beer Festival on 28th and 29th May out in Croxton Kerial, Leicestershire!

Everything's Well Done at Steakout - even when it's rare

We had a fantastic meal yesterday at Granby Street's Steakout Meat House. Greeted by an immaculately clean restaurant and welcoming staff, we settled into a comfy booth surrounded by tiny cows and perused the menu.


Everything at Steakout is made fresh each day - from starters to puddings - and I thought that really shone out. While we were deciding what to eat (a hard decision from the luscious sounding menu) we were treated to some colourful mocktails. The Mojito was full of minty, refreshing flavour which complemented the lime perfectly and the Strawberry Daiquiri was fresh, sweet and satisfying. I'd definitely recommend the Mojito to cut through the bold meaty flavours of the main courses.


To start I went for the chicken cheese balls. Freshly made on site, these are soft, gooey potato cakes filled with cheese, chicken and a great amount of fresh herbs which really come through in the flavour. I think there's a little green chilli in there too - a mild heat which creeps up as you eat the dish. They were perfectly fried in golden breadcrumbs, which gave a lovely mix in textures. My only criticism would be that they were very slightly underseasoned - I think a little more cheese would have sorted this out a treat. Still thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.


The Boy opted for - you guessed it - chicken wings. Everywhere we go, he always gets chicken wings. I think I've mentioned it before. He certainly tried them at Grillstock, Crafty St Martins,  1901 - The Turkey Cafe, and Coast to Coast. Anyway, he opted for the buffalo sauce and received three jointed chicken wings (that would probably count as 6 anywhere else!) They were a good size and joyously sticky. Served with a creamy blue cheese sauce and cooked to perfection they were juicy and spicy and he couldn't help but to get stuck in. A happy Boy who said they stood up well to the extremely high bar he has set since all of his Californian chicken wing experiences, something he is always striving to emulate.


On to the mains and naturally I had to select something from Steakout's #BackingTheBlues menu, which will be running throughout the summer in celebration of our fabulous football team's achievements this season. It was a tough choice for me. I was deeply tempted by the Sizzling Schmeichel - a new loaded platter with chicken breast, rice, chips, vegetables, fried onions and a side serve of gravy. You can see why I would fancy that, right? After taking advice from the wonderful manager, Saera (a real force of nature, giving the most attentive service I have ever seen to every single table in the place) I opted for the Vardy Burger - a gourmet burger in a brioche bun anointed with garlic butter, with fried mac and cheese 'burger' on top, with gooey cheese sauce, salad leaves and a fat slice of tomato. And cheese of course. You can never have too much cheese.



It came with the biggest serving of chunky, skin on chips I have ever seen which were beautifully fluffy inside and crisp on the outside. The whole thing was quite a sight I'll have to say. I requested my burger be served medium and so it was done. Juicy, really great quality meat that was full of flavour. The whole thing was pretty magnificent but just huge! I also got turkey bacon on mine, cos, well, bacon. Magnificently decadent is the only way I can describe it. Not a single area for me to find fault.


The Boy knew that he had to stake his main on the steak at Steakout. It would have been rude not to. And the Philly Cheese Steak was the obvious choice. He went for the smaller 8oz steak, sliced and served on a bed of fried onions and topped with melted cheese. At Steakout you can opt to have your steak plain, just with a light seasoning and salad garnish, or you can go the full Steakout - marinaded in a spicy African braai recipe and served on a sizzling platter. Of course he went full Steakout and complemented the inherent flavour it added to the steak. The steak was deliciously tender and full of flavour - a really fantastic quality steak that was handled with care and served delightfully rare as he had requested.


Each steak or grill comes with a complimentary sauce and side. Again, he took the spiciest option the Steakout Hot and Spicy, which was sticky and punchy. He also got the garlic mash as a side which was delicious! In fact I ended stealing quite a lot - it was creamy and jam-packed with garlicky flavour. I adore garlic mash, it could well be one of the greatest comfort foods in the world.

Again, a massive portion - he was really pleased he didn't order the larger, 12oz steak as there would have been no way he could manage it! It's not all meat though - veggie's are well catered for with cheese ball, deep fried mozarella and onion ring starters followed with options for salads, veggie burgers and penne arribiata for mains... In fact Steakout is well placed to cater for a range of lifestyles and tastes - their no alcohol and no pork menu means that it is friendly to Muslims, although as with everywhere in Leicester they are well-frequented by people of all religious backgrounds! If spicy is your game then you can get it here in spades, but lighter meals and more subtle flavours are also available for those with a more delicate palatte. Whatever your taste, their menu is big on flavour.

With such a chilled out atmosphere (family friendly too) we just had to sample the dessert menu - even though we needed to take a short rest break to clear some room for it! We opted to share a Squirrel Sundae, which you may guess was full of nuts - hazelnut gelato, nut syrup and a sprinkling of fresh nuts made for a delicious end to the meal which was messy and sticky and unsurprisingly ended up all round our mouths, over our fingers and quite a lot dripped on the table. There is no way to eat a sundae of that magnitude with dignity.


Thanks to Saera and the Steakout team for inviting us along for such a wonderful slap up dinner. It certainly hit the spot that other grillhouses in the city have not! It's always a pleasure to see a Leicester venue that sources excellent meat and uses fresh ingredients to make something delicious!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Restaurant Romanesc Transilvania

I just had to take a break from the office the other day and have a proper lunchtime relax. I took myself off down Braunstone Gate, to make a change from the usual down the city centre and I'm glad I did. The Romanian Transilvania restaurant has not been around for a long time, so of course I was keen to try somewhere I haven't been before. 

Although it's light, airy and very cafe clean in its decor, the first thing that hits you when you walk in the door - literally - is the blasting Europop music. I thought at first they might have just opened and had the tunes blaring while they were preparing for the day, but the music persisted at the same level throughout. I think this would have been a bit of an impediment to conversation had I been visiting with a guest, but as it was it was just me and so I wasn't really bothered! I do hope they tone it down a fraction in the future though!

I was shown to a table by an extremely friendly Romanian waitress who was very attentive and couldn't do enough to ensure I had everything I needed. On the tables was a pizza and pasta menu, which baffled me a little bit, although it all sounded nice and reasonably priced. However, the waitress then brought me over the Romanian menu - now we're talking!

There were all kinds of fun things on there that I am looking forward to trying. In particular I think the Ciorba de Fasole sounds delicious - a thick bean and smoked bacon soup. I'm also interested to try the Transylvanian Bulz - a polenta cake with cheese and bacon. Ooo, and I'm intrigued to see what Romanian grilled sausage is like too. Here's a little sample of part of the menu to get your tastebuds watering.




In the end though, I settled on the deep fried cheese. Perhaps not a very adventurous choice, but immediately it reminded me of my one foray to Eastern Europe in my teens, when I visited the Czech Republic and deep fried cheese came into my life for the first time! Ah, the nostalgia.

It was exactly as I remembered it too - triangular hunks of a pale, lightly flavoured and slightly stringy cheese with a crisp golden crumb. It came with about a hundredweight of fries, and also a basket of bread! ALL THE CARBS! That made me happy. It was all well cooked, although I think it would have benefitted from the freshness of a side salad - perhaps just some salad leaves and peppers to give a bit of colour and additional texture to the dish - and to break up the carbohydrate a little bit!



However, I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it! Super naughty with the additional benefit of being super nice. That said I am now keen to try the quality of some of the dishes that don't come with fries. Along with a pretty decent cafe latte, my lunch came to £6 in total - perfectly reasonable considering how full I was at the end (I couldn't eat all that bread).

The menu is really reasonably priced overall actually. I can see The Boy is going to be popping in there when we next visit the West End Brewery to give their 6 chicken wings and fries snack a try - especially at £2.49!

What do you reckon? Will you be giving Romanian a try? Have you already visited? I'm dying to see some pictures of their other dishes. Once a food blogger, always a food blogger. Just give me menus to read and food pictures to look at and I'm happy.


Restaurant Romanesc Transilvania did not know I was going to write about my visit. 
I paid for my meal in full.
I know. It does happen. More often than you'd think sadly.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

#BackingTheBlues by #HavingAParty

You know when you have a party and a quarter of a million people turn up?



Leicester got that feeling yesterday in what was an amazing culmination of our #BackingTheBlues experience. The city started to get busy from lunchtime, even though the parade wasn't due to start until 6pm. The barriers went up and people staked out a prime spot from midday onwards.



The frequency of blue shirts, flags and scarves increased as people finished work for the afternoon and town started to get a little busier, but I don't think any of us were really prepared for the volume of people who were going to come to see Premier League Champions, Leicester City FC, take their open top bus tour through the city.


ShowSec staff taking a minute to chill at Jewry Wall Museum before they got down to business.
The bunting and decorations that have been up in businesses and shop windows around the city since #BackingTheBlues Day back on the 29th April seemed to multiple yet further as we all prepared for yet more celebrations and the parade of four open top buses through the city centre. Lots of businesses went a bit dolally and started giving out free stuff. I got to enjoy one of the 150 free Crafty burgers, which were well up to their usual standard - juicy, delicious and full of top quality ingredients.




Apologies to whoever's bum that is. That was a poorly timed shot. I suspect it was Andrea? Soz. Still, good burger though.
There were also free Meatcure burgers making their way around Jubilee Square, courtesy of Deliveroo, not to mention free milkshakes for season ticket holders and rumour had it Cadbury were down Leicester station handing out free chocolate. Steakout were also handing out ice creams with blue sauce down on Granby Street. Everyone wanted to share the love and give out treats!
The carnival atmosphere started to build. Verily, Leicester was #havingaparty, as Jamie Vardy decreed it should be. Some people were even bringing vodka. Some people were just having a nice early afternoon pint outside Wetherspoons. But then they weren't allowed to sit outside the pub anymore, because it was nearly parade time.


Blimey, that escalated quickly.

Standing room only as the approximately 1.5 mile underwent a series of rolling closures as the four decorated buses carrying players, staff, their families and of course, the precious trophy through the city. They wanted the city to come and celebrate with them and by god we did. Estimates before the event were an unbelievable 100,000 attendees, but in the event it appears that quarter of a million people turned out. Something in the region of two thirds of Leicester's population.

To put it into context, the procession taking the mortal remains of King Richard III around the city and the county - a TWENTY TWO MILE route - is thought to have been lined by 35,000 people. We thought that was the biggest thing we've ever seen. No-one was prepared for nearly 250,000 to line a mile and a half of the city and hang out at Victoria Park.






It was a beautiful day, the sun shined brightly on us and spontaneous chanting, cheering and celebrating broke out as the buses passed by. There were so many flags and cameras going that it was practically impossible to get a decent photo, but it really didn't matter, we all just loved experiencing it and I loved capturing the moment. Then Okazaki threw something off the bus and it landed in my direction, so photography stopped (hence no Okazaki shot!!) while I picked it up. Hey Presto! My own LCFC bracelet, to match the charity Foxes Foundation one I bought a few weeks ago at the Dry Dock! Chuffed is not the word.



And in the blink of an eye, they were gone and the exodus to Vicky Park began! This was surprisingly fun and also the point where you started to get a feel for just how many people there were all across the city centre.





Once at the park, there was just an incredible amount of people, singing, dancing, laughing. The team came on stage and words were spoken. We were so far back we couldn't hear a thing, but it didn't matter. It was all about just being there, with our friends, with our city, all celebrating a special team and a special season.






This is kind of where words fail me to be honest. It didn't matter what was being said, it was just the experience of being there that was amazing. The team were there, Ranieri was there, the trophy was there, and we were one big Leicester community celebrating their achievement together. I've read so much this season about how LCFC's supporters don't represent the demographics of the city, but yesterday you could see what utter twaddle that is, written by journalists who have never spent any time here. All people answered the colour, regardless of background or place in the world. And all were welcome.



Then we bumped into Riyad Mahrez. He's a lot smaller in real life than you'd expect.


We all got our Salt and Victory crisps and then Kasabian took to the stage. Seems Leicester isn't as united by Kasabian as they are by LCFC. Judging by the number of people (ourselves included) who beat a retreat at that point, I'd say Leicester is about 30% pro-Kasabian. But hey, no accounting for taste is there. Then there were fireworks later on and Leicester set about really #havingaparty. And I went home to bed, because this party has been going on for months now and I had work the next day.

Well done Leicester. I salute you.



Friday, 13 May 2016

Highcross Light Sculpture

It's already been tried and tested, lighting up St Peter's Square in blue for the #BackingTheBlues weekend, but yesterday the new light sculpture at Leicester's Highcross was formally open and it's first special commission was unveiled for the first time.


Giant totems light up with images which can only be seen in complete harmony from specific vantages, whilst walking around the display gives a fragmented, disjointed effect which is alluring and draws the viewer in. Its ambient setting creates a moving image piece which changes in relation to the weather, people in the vicinity and cultural events taking place in the city.


Yesterday, however, a special commission was unveiled which was composed of 160 moving image portraits of Leicester people that were taken at the Curve theatre. The people become giant statues, visible from three sides. Their actions are unearthly and slow, some have props and undertake specific actions with them, others barely move at all but the slow motion makes each individual action, right down to an unconscious blink take on seeming significance because of their monumental scale.


Many of the portrait subjects turned out yesterday with their families to see their image on the big screen - as it were - and were treated to tasty treats at Chimichanga. It was fabulous to hear whoops and cheers as people recognised themselves in the sculpture and in the beautiful sunshine it created a real festival atmosphere.


It was commissioned by Hammerson, the company that brought us Highcross' redevelopment, in collaboration with Levitate architects and the Studio of Cinematic Architecture. I think it's absolutely wonderful, a real asset piece for the city. I look forward to seeing what installations we will be treated to in the future. Another piece of unique Leicester.
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