Thursday, 26 November 2015

500k Competition!

Well, it's all going on. As I write, Extreme Housewifery is at 498,430 views. That means very soon I will reach half a million views. Thank you all so very much for tagging along for the ride! My blog limped into existence in 2008, with an exciting and crowd-pleasing three posts across the whole year which to date have amassed an earth-shattering 72 views. Since then I've become more prolific and you lot have supported me all the way through 690 further posts. Many and varied they have been me hearties.

The Half a Million Competition

And now, to celebrate this milestone for Extreme Housewifery, I've teamed up with friends of the blog and all round nice guys, The Exchange on Rutland Street, Leicester to offer you a very special competition!

Image courtesy of Linda Blann

When Extreme Housewifery reaches 500,000 views, the competition will end and 5 winners, one for each 100k, will be drawn at random from all of the eligible entries. Those winners will receive one of the following prizes:

1st Place - A pizza party for two and a special loyalty card for The Exchange which you can keep in your wallet and then enjoy 10% off everything every time you visit! 
The pizza party includes two pizzas, ciabattas or cheese boards and two drinks.

2nd Place - A free gallon of beer or bottle of Prosecco and The Exchange loyalty card.

3 x Runners Up - A free coffee and a cake and, not forgetting The Exchange loyalty card!

All you have to do to win is leave a comment below, anonymous is fine if you don't want to create a Google account, telling me which is your favourite post on Extreme Housewifery. Easy! Don't forget to leave me a way to contact you if you win - an email address, Instagram or Twitter handle is fine. 

And that's it! Easy peasy. Winners will receive a voucher so that they can redeem their prize which will need to be collected from me by arrangement in Leicester or can be posted (if you are happy to risk the vagaries of Royal Mail). Winners will have a week from the time they are notified to claim their prize, otherwise I will draw a new one. The competition is open to anyone who can get themselves to The Exchange on Rutland Street to redeem their gift.

So have a little mooch around the blog, find your favourite post and comment with the link below. The more you browse, the quicker we'll reach 500K!

Monday, 23 November 2015

My Christmas Wishlist

I've given you the chance to check out some awesome Christmas decorations and gift ideas at Narborough Hall and Blue Sun Tree already this year, but now I think it's time to follow the blogging bandwagon and post my own Christmas wishlist, what would I like to see in my stocking this year?

Well it's a bit of a moot point really, because as usual I think that the best presents are experiences rather than things, so I would like to rename this post as that Holy Grail:

What to get the person that has everything!

I'm not saying I have all the 'stuff' that I could possibly want, however, if you're looking for something a bit more unique, a bit fun and perhaps something that you could weasel your way to enjoying yourself at the same time then read on...

Wreath making workshop
Leicester Guildhall
10th December, 7.30pm - 9.30pm

I know you'd technically have to give this gift before Christmas, but how lovely to learn to make your own wreath to take home for your house, whilst munching on mince pies and supping mulled wine, in one of the finest timber framed buildings in the country. I'll bet they'll put the fire on in the Great Hall too so it'll be nice and toasty. A fun, festive activity and you get to take something home too!

This is Napalm Death. Close enough for jazz

Gig Tickets
Give the gift of music this year. Personally, I'd be all about Def Leppard at the Capital FM Arena at the beginning of December or Lawnmower Deth's Christmas Party at Rock City on the 19th December (neither of which I have tickets for, hence this being my wishlist. Hint. Hint. Hint.) However, if you have slightly more socially acceptable tastes, then you could do worse than buying a couple of tickets for Leicester's own Handmade Festival as a present. There's more for your £30 than just gigs (admittedly with We Are Scientists and 65 Days of Static announced as headliners so far the lineup is pretty strong) as this is Leicester's own totally independent music and arts festival.

Archery is awesome, although I suck at it. Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre offers archery sessions for groups of 10 at £115, so sod the Secret Santa, just all chuck in to that and do something cool, like pretending to be an elf (hat and fake pointy ears optional).

Learn a new skill
As you know I've been teaching myself to sew for a while now, but it would be lovely to get some proper help, professional help, and sew in a more sociable environment as well as stretching myself a bit. I've been looking at Crafty Sew and So, the new sewing shop in St Martin's Square for some time now with envy and also an uncharacteristic amount of self restraint as I know if I go in I will buy more buttons, and I already have too many buttons. However, I have let myself have a little shufty on their website and they offer some fabulous sounding classes. In January, the ones I like the sound of include the Beginner's Patchwork Course at £20, the £25 introduction to overlocking: making a cowl scarf and more ambitiously, the 6 week beginner's dressmaking course, which costs £120 so I know I won't be getting that for Christmas, but a girl can dream, no?

I like all animals, but llamas and alpacas make me laugh and are cute. Turns out we have Leicestershire's very own Charnwood Forest Alpacas where you can do  fleece craft workshops, spinning, as well as of course buying a Walking with Alpacas experience. Now if you don't want to head to their website and buy something there for everyone you know, I don't know what's wrong with you.

You can even get married there. With the alpacas. Wish I'd known that a decade ago.

This is Peru. Not Charnwood Forest. Just in case you were unsure.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Dine on a Diet at North Bar and Kitchen

After a wonderful evening at the White Peacock a few months ago, I had high expectations of the latest Dine on a Diet event, which was once again put on by U Fit Studio and Niche Magazine to offer you a fine dining experience where all of the food is totally cohesive with a healthy lifestyle. 

This event was held at North Bar and Kitchen, a favourite haunt of mine for drinks, but not somewhere I had visited to eat yet although I have been hearing a lot of great feedback not just from people I know but also seeing that they are consistently rated amongst the top 5 restaurants in Leicester on TripAdvisor.

These events are also a great way to meet new people with exciting ideas and great stories. I attended with Heather from Talking Point Events - a wonderful woman with a wealth of events management experience and a relentless joie de vivre - who I had met just a few short weeks ago at The Best of Leicester wine tasting. She, of course, already knew practically everyone in the room and it was a joy to be introduced to Rachel from RDZ PR who is dynamic to say the least and inspirationally driven and forthright. It was an absolute pleasure to spend a wonderful evening in their company.

This is where I start hating my camera and really wanting a better one (again)!

The evening began well with an orange blossom gin fizz, which combined gin, a well chosen prosecco and just the right balance of orange blossom water and rose water to give a perfumed and deeply complex drink, without it edging over into tasting like taking a bite into granny's pot pourri.

When we were seated we began with a cauliflower and leek soup, with a slice of crisp brown toast. I wasn't expecting this to be any great shakes, but it was full of warming flavour. The chive garnish added a crisp onion note and the overall impact was a rich, well textured dish that was full of fresh vegetables and low on carbs. It is certainly a leek and potato soup alternative that I will be attempting myself at home as a lighter alternative that still has the thick autumnal comfort that you crave at this time of year.

Chive garnish had become something of a theme at this point.

Next up was the fish course, a seared tuna steak served with a unashamedly vivid salsa verde which popped with fresh herbs and that extra salty savouriness that only anchovies can bring. The tuna was an excellent quality and served slightly pink in the centre. For my taste, I prefer a slight amount of colour on the outside, but I suspect as this will have been cooked with the minimum of oil, the fish's natural oils being enough for the dish, that this was not possible. It was very nicely balanced however, and deeply satisfying. Indeed, I was already starting to feel pretty full at this point and there were still two courses to go!

Yep, there's the chive!

The main event was a sizeable chicken breast stuffed with pesto and wrapped in parma ham. This was served with a sweet potato tower which had a sprinkling of parmigiano, a rich tomato sauce and dressed seasonal vegetables. This was the course I was looking forward to the most, as chicken, pesto and parma ham is a stupendous combination in any language and it was totally up to standard. The chicken was moist and the dish held together well with the pesto shining through and being complemented by the sweetness of the potato and tomato.

Vibrant vegan salad was the alternative to the fish course.
Throughout, Rachel enjoyed the alternative vegan menu. North pride themselves on the flexibility of their menu and their ability to cater to all dietary requirements. Did you know that everything, bar one single item, on their menu can be made gluten free, for example? Rachel was highly complimentary of the menu throughout, but the real revelation for her came when dessert rolled around - vegan meringues. Yes, let me just say that again and let it sink in - vegan meringues. Served with a coconut cream and fresh fruit this looked like a heavenly dessert and I have only seen a happier vegan when being in the presence of one encountering Gelato Village's dark chocolate sorbetto for the first time. They must get palmed off with all kinds of rubbish for pudding, or I suspect just fruit normally, so it was good to see a talented chef who had really kept all the menus up to the same high standard.

"I haven't eaten a meringue in over 5 years!"

For those of us who have no qualms with the dairy things in life, we were treated to a citrus polenta cake with creme fresh. I don't really understand why as a society we haven't substituted cream for creme fresh on all dessert garnishes because it does the job just as well without the heavy guilt on the side.

Thankfully the chive garnish theme ended here.

The cake was light and moist, with that slight crunch that always comes from baking with polenta. Although admittedly not quite as much crunch as when you bake with it by accident. Although I was too full to completely finish my main course, somehow I managed to find the room to fit in all the pudding (which was roundly agreed by the table to be one of the females more unique superpowers.)

Many thanks to North and U Fit Studios for treating me to yet another healthy menu which did not compromise on flavour (or quantity!) Thanks to Anicca Digital for inviting me along to review the evening and thanks to everyone on my table who provided awesome company and giggles throughout. Sadly that was the last Dine on a Diet for 2015, but I have little doubt that such a well attended and popular event will make a comeback in 2016. Keep an eye on Eventbrite for more events like this in the future as well as Niche magazines other business opportunities, awards and networking. 

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Maiyango Tasting Room

Maiyango is celebrating its 10th birthday here in Leicester. It can now boast a contemporary, boutique hotel and one of Leicester's most celebrated restaurants. It's cocktail bar is also widely recognised in the city and beyond. With such a sterling reputation, I had high hopes of their new tasting room, open now on Highcross Street.

These expectations were roundly met. Catering for both private groups and special events put on by Maiyango's dynamic and experienced team, the tasting room has an intimate, relaxed feel which is a world away from the bustle of the city centre. 

Sumptuously decorated in Maiyango's signature style of muted, earthy colours and cosy but chic accessories, the room is suitable for smaller groups - certainly no more than 20, but perhaps optimised for 10, we were treated to one of their famous cocktail masterclasses, along with some delicious canapes.

We were greeted with a seriously unusual grapefruit and coriander G&T - for me more suited to a dessert menu than a welcome drink, but seriously delicious and fascinating at the same time. A light gin jelly was topped with a coriander and tonic granita, which was by far one of the most delicious granitas I have tried. It was topped with a candied grapefruit, which had a sweet, crisp and spicy flavour. A spoon was needed to attack this delight, and I relished the opportunity to try a gin and tonic with so much unexpected texture! Although the gin did not come through as the leading light, I loved the light coriander spiciness that developed on the finish. Certainly this set the scene for the rest of the evening.

The room is already being used by private parties, hen do's and other small groups looking for a luxurious alternative to a house party. You can bring your own tunes to create your ideal ambience. We had a relaxed mix of music to accompany the rich and roundly filled duck confit spring rolls, organic cheddar and red onion croquettes and antipasto boards which were offered around the room by the reserved, but friendly waiting staff, who maintained Maiyango's high standards of effortlessly dedicated customer service throughout our evening.

On to the cocktail masterclass, and we all enjoyed making our own 'Bye Bye Apple Pie', an iced long drink with a sugar rimmed glass, cinnamon rum and apple puree which created a seriously autumnal flavour in the mouth and was served with a buttery shortbread biscuit. Delicate spice came through from the cloves and star anise and we all patted ourselves on the back on a job well done.

Image courtesy of Cool as Leicester

We were treated to tiny chilli doughnuts with a crisp sugar glaze, followed by a beautifully rich chocolate brownie (which sadly had a rather sticky topping meaning that the popping candy garnish was already popped, but was lovely nonetheless) before moving on to our next cocktail - the absolute highlight of the evening. The mint chocolate martini was beautiful in both colour and flavour. Creme de cacao, creme de menthe, vodka and dry martini were shaken over ice, miraculously without any guests having unfortunate accidents, and served in a petite martini glass with a spoon of dark chocolate and chantilly cream on the side. Letting the chocolate melt lightly in your mouth before sipping the drink evoked many feelings, all pleasantly positive, of Christmas, celebration and times with good friends.

Bring yourself along to the Tasting Room. Book it out for a bespoke celebration or keep an eye out for food and drink tasting opportunities that will bring new voyages into flavour. 

I have little doubt that I will be back here, to enjoy the excellent service, beautifully comfortable space and exciting tastes. Thanks to Maiyango for inviting myself and The Boy along and being such generous hosts.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Loki Wine Merchant, Birmingham

I had a little trip out to Birmingham yesterday, to see Leicester College's Continuing Studies team winning a national award for their work with learners with learning difficulties and disabilities, which was a fabulous occasion. After it had finished, it was still early so I decided to check out a wine merchants that had been recommended to me by a friend.

Loki Wine Merchant is based on the Great Western Arcade of shops, which is really easy to get to from the Birmingham Christmas Market if you'll be heading over to check that out. The arcade is full of cute little shops with a real period feel which is lovely to amble along and there is a good mixture of independent and chain shops so you feel like you're getting plenty of new inspiration as well as some old favourites as you browse.

I cannot resist a wine merchants, I love seeing something completely new, picking up something familiar or just having the chance to hang out and chat wine to wile away a few hours. I was excited to visit Loki as I'd heard they have the same wine sampling machines as I had discovered in Chandos Deli in Bath last year, but never found closer to home. These are a great way for customers to try a variety of wines, without the wines going past their best, being left open in uncontrolled conditions. 

There is a small charge for tasting samples (I think they are about 10ml, so it really is a mouthful or too to get the idea - you need to go to the next 50ml pour for a proper opportunity to really understand something about the wine). I had intended to sample a few wines at my leisure in order to pick one to buy to take home, but sadly my prior engagement ran over and I had to make a sudden dash to get the train. Will just have to go back to pick one of the wines from the short (actually quite long) list I was building in my head...

The upstairs lounge - this is just one half of it!
Anyway, the shop is super cosy and has a lovely vibe, with large barrel tables and a windowside bar downstairs for you to sit and enjoy your wine and a tardis-like lounge upstairs, where there are more sample machines with a different selection of wines on offer. They change the wines every two weeks, so you could go on your own voyage of wine discovery by never leaving Birmingham if you really wanted to!

They have quite a selection of wines on offer, from familiar names to quite a few more unusual producers and varietals. There are of course your usual reds, whites and roses, with a good amount of the latter two being stored in a large fridge display so they are ready for drinking in store or taking home to enjoy with the family right away. They also have a really decent selection of sweet wines for such a small store, a nice variety of sparkling wines (only Nyetimber holding up the English sparkling end as far as I could see, but that's still a good introduction if you haven't tried it before!). There are also spirits on offer by the bottle, with our old local favourites Burleighs in there (they're everywhere right now!), and a small but select range of wine based gifts, including some lovely glassware and, interestingly, Brix chocolates, made to go with wine. I've not seen those before and shall have to investigate!

The only downside to this narrow, period shop and a good selection of stock on offer was that it was very difficult to have a good look at the main body of the whites, as the barrel tables were occupied and the bottles were kept low down under the sampler machines and also it was a bit of a squeeze to fit through to the fridge as well, but this can hardly be helped - they'd clearly done everything they could to make the most of the space and you just have to browse any which way you could.

I tried a few nice wines, trying to pick something that would suit my preferences but also something that I hadn't tried before. I was readily advised by the super friendly and clearly very knowledgeable Paul, who is both shop assistant and wine educator, running some of the special tasting events that Loki holds. One thing you want be short on when you visit Loki is excellent recommendation and genuine passion for wine. I do recommend looking at their events programme by the way, they have some really interesting and unusual looking tastings as well as the  more run of the mill fodder.

So all in all, a really fun place with some really interesting wines. A little on the cramped side, but that adds to the lovely cosy feel of the shop, although does make browsing a little tricky (I couldn't possibly have reached the sweet wines to take a closer look without potentially causing vast amounts of damage to the stock below, but I guess that's why they have such helpful staff!). The Domaine Capmartin Vieilles Vignes Madiran 2011 was a nice pick for me and at £14.99 a bottle is as competitively priced as anything you'll find online (although you'd pay a £5 corkage fee to drink it in the shop - I prefer The Case in Leicester on this basis where there is no additional fee to drink in the shop as the overheads are lower than the restaurant.)

The Madiran is a delicious red for tannin lovers, with a deep colour and cherry bouquet to match, with a heavy tannic punch in the mouth, but still a surprisingly light mouth feel that is not overtly fruity, but more subtle black fruits that fades slowly to a nice savoury finish. Definitely something The Boy would like and it would be a great match with wintery roasts or meat stews. I was interested in this wine as it is 70% Tannat, balanced with 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, which explains the very light fruitiness. Tannat is not a variety I was familiar with and neither was the Madiran AOC but looking it up subsequently I see it is now considered the 'national grape' of Uruguay, which means I have another great excuse to figure out a way to take The Boy on a trip there! They apparently tend to blend with Pinot Noir, which I can imagine is a combination I'd like even more. Let's all go to Uruguay!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Mercian Vineyards Awards

After a very busy few months volunteering in the vineyard, the harvest is finally all in and things are not quite as frenetic as they were. A great time then, you'd think, for the Mercian Vineyard Association's annual awards ceremony - although I suspect not every member has completed their harvest at this point, so not everyone could attend! The harvest is reckoned to be three weeks behind this year, so indeed some people are still out, diligently picking grapes!

However, it was still a good turnout for the awards lunch at Hothorpe Hall out near Husbands Bosworth. The weather was particularly wintery, with grey dramatic skies and blustery winds, but that did not serve to dampen the spirits of the English wine producers and their guests, from folk with allotment operations to larger scale wineries.

The judging had taken place the day before and so there were 100 opened bottles of wine which could not go to waste. Everyone got stuck in trying the wines, comparing their own work with others in the same category, discussing the harvest this year and sharing advice and tips about the noble art of wine making.

It was a great opportunity for me and The Boy to have a try of a massive selection of new wines that we had never even seen before, and so more familiar names that we have at least heard of during our adventures through English wine!

Our favourite wine of the day was the Somerby Magna Carta Reserve Rondo, which is a deep and oaky red with a practically opaque colour, bags of black fruit flavour and heavy, full tannins. Made in Lincolnshire, I was surprised to find out when I got home that you can actually buy this in one major supermarket. I also enjoyed their 'Ampulla', a nicely rounded sweet wine.

After much quaffing and discussion, we sat down to a lovely three course, silver service lunch, with my menu choices including a warming and hearty leek and potato soup, meaty and delicious beef bourguignon and a sticky toffee pudding with a flavourful vanilla ice cream and seemingly random single strawberry garnish!

It was nice to sit with people from other wineries and have a more in-depth chat with them over lunch, especially as everyone retrieved the wines from their own vineyard for us to enjoy with our lunch, allowing me the opportunity to scribble even more notes about even more wines - some 30 in total!

Filming appeared to be by BBCs Inside Out team
After lunch had settled, it was on to the awards presentation. There was some recognition of Kingfisher's Pool Spirit of Freedom, sparkling rose, but none of the (now sold out and phenomenally popular) King Richard dry white. No accounting for taste I suppose - some of the judges are Masters of Wine, but I will have to disagree with them on a couple of decisions!

Liz did win the award for 'Member's Choice' - an accolade voted on by the association members on the day, based on a blind tasting. Here King Richard's subtle perfume and excellent structure shone through from the 6 wines on offer and the rightful winner was crowned, bring to Rothley not just a very extravagant crystal trophy, but also a very handsome side of smoked salmon!

Many thanks to Liz and Matthew of Rothley Wines for very generously inviting myself and The Boy and taking us along to the awards at their own expense. It was a great learning experience for me, a lot of fun to get a handle of such a great variety of English wine makers and also a delicious lunch! Look out for more tasting notes in the future!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Winter warmers at Bru, Leicester

Mandatory blogger picture
Myself and some of my lovely fellow local bloggers were invited down to Bru on Granby Street this week to sample their new winter menu. You can hardly say no when someone asks you if you'd like to come and try ALL of their cake, can you?

Bru is a consistently popular late night coffee shop which is open day and night for all of your coffee, tea, cake, waffle, gelato, sarnie and pastry needs! They have a vast menu which changes regularly with lots of fun new inventions and flavour combinations and they make every effort to cater for all dietary requirements.

Just in time for the cold weather setting in, Bru have released their Autumn-busting hot drinks with some gorgeous new flavours. They presented them to us on these gorgeous mini tasting platters. For £3.95, you'll get a full sized version (£3.45 for the latte), in a big grown up glass. You can knock yourself out with a delicately spiced, but flavourful Gingerbread Latte, topped with delicious cream and a super cute, tiny gingerbread man. I called mine Tarquin. Then I ate him. Sorry Tarquin.

Next up we have the hot chocolates - a zesty Orange Hot Chocolate, which was by far the favourite of our group. Never can I imagine a flavour that reminds me more of Christmas as a young 'un - a chocolate orange was not an annual event, but the years I did receive one were magical indeed. This is the chocolate orange in its purest form, with a slice of chocolatey goodness on the side.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Tarquin.
Next we have the Candy Cane Hot Chocolate. I didn't think this would be up my street as I'm not a massive mint chocolate fan, but actually it was deliciously balanced, with the mint just right as a tasty, but not overly powerful flavour. With the warming, creamy chocolate it was actually just the right balance and I do believe that I would order one again you know!

And finally on the chocolate tasting board was the Cookies and Cream Hot Chocolate, back after being the smash hit seller at Bru last year.  It had the most creamy, slightly vanilla taste with a delicious biscuity note and an Oreo on the side. I can see why it was a hit and this would definitely be awesome when the real wintry weather sets in. We were all so taken with the little tasting boards where you could try all of the Festive Indulgences we tried to convince them that they should offer them to all of their customers. I reckon with enough prodding they'll do it, so let them know in person, on Twitter or on Facebook and don't forget to tell 'em I sent you!

By this point, I was already feeling pretty full and sugared up, but we were not done yet. Oh sirree Bob no we were not. Next came the platters laden with cakes of all colours, shapes and textures. Just incredible!

There was a huge chunk of chocolate cake, with layers of light, fluffy and eggless sponge interspersed with a rich chocolate cream. This was a similar texture to the white chocolate and passionfruit cake, which sounds an odd combination but I was really impressed with the delicate fruit flavour mixed with a subtle hint of white chocolate - incredibly it was light and not sickly at all. Again, this was an eggless wonder, not that you could tell, so perfect for people with egg free diets.

Next was the raspberry torte which was rich and creamy with a tangy raspberry topping. It was almost too beautiful to eat, but somehow we managed it. I will point out that we shared all of these puddings, we weren't consuming vast quantities of cake on a conveyor like giant piggies. Well, we were admittedly eating rather a lot of cake. 

The real flavour of Christmas for me is stollen, it reminds me of the year I lived in Germany when I was little. I love the spices, the currants and the sweetness of the marzipan. I can confidently say that Bru's stollen passed my authenticity test and I was transported back 27 years to my yoot. Would definitely order that one again! This was matched only by the raspberry frangipane. I adore any frangipane treat and the fact that you can get your cake warm and served with custard at Bru just goes to make it even more super awesome. You cannot beat that kind of almondy goodness.

Next up were the muffins. I'm not as big a muffin fan as I prefer something lighter, but muffin fans will love their autumnal flavour combinations - the black treacle muffin that tastes just like a parkin, a spiced fruit muffin with a real Christmassy edge and a Santa topped chocolate muffin - all moist and each their own very special flower. Some of these are filled with complimentary creamy centres as well, so definitely no dry muffins here!

So by this point we were of course all super full but we were on to the marathon stage of the evening by this point, there was no room for the weak and only the strong could survive. They had very much saved the best for last - a very special Leicester collaboration - the Christmas Amore waffle.

Cue the sound of angelic singing as hosts of cherubs weep at the beauty
The Christmas Amore has been developed by Bru working in partnership with passionate chocolatiers, Cocoa Amore. It features Bru's signature waffles - made with an eggless dough, rather than a batter, which gives them a slightly denser texture than other, American style waffles. These are the Belgian style and they have wonderfully crisp edges, which adds great texture to the dish.

On top of this you have a full sized dark chocolate brownie - served warm - which is both sweet and bitter, gooey and pretty darn incredible. Served over that is a chocolate hazelnut ice cream, chocolate sauce, a 'mini yule log'. Yes, I know it's a flake with icing sugar on it, but come on, use your imagination! And of course, the crowning glory is the delicate chocolate snowflake, shimmering with gold, made especially for Bru by Cocoa Amore. At £6.95, I would judge this to be a two man pudding, although by this point my judgement was slightly askew due to the vast sugar high that I was experiencing and the general flavour delirium that had set over my brain.

What can I say but thank you to Bru? What a delightful evening, what a range of wonders and joys for us to sample! I'll be bringing friends down to try these, you mark my words. I must also record for posterity the carnage that we left behind and point out that one blogger, who shall remain nameless, managed to drop chocolate cake on her lovely new camera, so eager was she to get it down her neck. Well done that girl.

Cake carnage

Monday, 9 November 2015

A refined Christmas at Blue Sun Tree

This Omar sideboard is so unique!
It's all getting into gear a bit now isn't it, the preparation for 2015 seems to be fully underway even though we've not enjoyed Diwali Day yet. I attended my second Christmas preview locally recently. You may remember that we saw a beautiful, glittery, shiny display of every Xmas accessory you could ever need at Narborough Hall the other day, but if you're looking to keep you Christmas more minimal and refined, then Blue Sun Tree is the place for you.

With over 20 years' experience sourcing and designing inspirational furniture and homewares, the team at Blue Sun Tree started off as a dealer in designer furniture reproductions and have since moved into designing their own range, Steijer furniture, some of which is not just designed but also manufactured locally. I'll own up - I did not know we had the option of  homegrown furniture, so I was really amazed to see how beautiful the designs and the quality are. 

I had never visited Birstall's Blue Sun Tree before and I'll confess that I was rather taken with their well presented showroom - most of the furniture has a retro feel with a contemporary edge, so it's 100% my sort of style, although I could never present my house so nicely! There are far, far too many books to be housed for me to ever achieve the 'retro classic' look.... I was so excited by it all that I asked them to be one of the sponsors for our recent #LeicesterBlogs evening and was very pleased that they agreed!

Scandinavian inspired pieces like this from Kaufmann are a key trend

Anyway, they stock something to suit every pocket, from super cute accessories to beautiful leather sofas. I've had a little check around the internet and their prices are very competitive for the quality of the pieces and I really liked the overall feel of the pieces. Their Christmas offer, as you can imagine, is much more understated than you might experience elsewhere.

In essence, they have based their Christmas accessories around wooden pieces in a variety of sizes that have a bare-bones, cut out feel. I adored them! The colour palette is seasonal, but muted and includes teal, which I am a bit of a sucker for.

You can get a variety of Christmas trees, baubles, snowflakes and, most importantly moose. Yes, moose. A Christmas moose. Well why not I say. They have some awesome reindeer inspired cushions which would go nicely with a moose figure for your home too. 

Naturally I couldn't do anything but buy myself a moose for the house. I love him so much that I think he will be a permanent fixture and has become great friends with our Feely Cork Deer already and is affectionately known as the Naughty Moose and scolded frequently thanks to our love of Fawlty Towers. Thanks for the 10% discount guys!

You Naughty Moose: secure in his new home with Feely Cork deer

So, if you're the sort of person that prefers a Christmas of champagne and stilettoes to fluffy antler headbands and a Christmas jumper, you'll probably appreciate Blue Sun Tree's style. The staff are wonderfully welcoming and all extremely knowledgeable about the ranges they have on offer. It's really a joy to walk round the showroom and try out some of the furniture for yourselves. At the moment they have a lot of statement chairs on offer, which are deliciously comfortable. My friend and I particularly loved this little leather chair/footstool combo. I'll also draw attention to their 'architecture' range of kitchenware which I thought was great with its simple styling and gorgeous bright colours.

Mini Moose. Not my friend, the thing she's holding.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

December Wine Tasting

Are you still a bit sad that you missed the Best of Leicester wine tasting? Or that you didn't get along to the Loughborough Festival of Wine? Or have you never even considered going to a wine tasting before and would like to experience one in friendly, relaxed and unpretentious surroundings?

Happily I can help you out with that. If you're still not convinced about English wine, despite me repeatedly telling you how marvellous it is, then you can pop along to Rempstone Village Hall, Loughborough on Saturday 5th December 2015 to try some spankingly good wines from not one, but three local producers!

There will be beautiful sparkling wines from Rothley Wines of... well Rothley actually, a red tasting from Welland Valley Vineyard, which is just two miles south-west of Market Harborough, and Eglantine Vineyards will be there who I imagine will be showcasing their still white wines from Eglantine Vineyards in Costock, Northamptonshire. Eglantine make a superb ice wine style dessert wine called North Star and if that's on the tasting menu then that'll certainly be a lovely treat.

Look how beautiful the grapes at Rothley are!
Tickets are £15 and include wine on arrival, a light supper and the tasting itself - which is an absolute steal for an event like this! For more information or to book tickets, see the village website or call Barbara on 07758 464 515. Help support small local producers and grab yourself a slice of fried wine gold at the same time.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Leicester Blogs: A night out with Leicester's finest

Some of our lovely local bloggers got together last night for a night on the tiles. It's great that a real sense of community is building with bloggers locally, joining up to share experience, advice and a jolly good bit of old fashioned camaraderie.

The beautiful Hollie, from Hollie Rose blog
This time we had arranged to meet for dinner at Cosy Club, but as a couple of our number have been having a bit of a tough time recently and missed some other events I decided to try and call in a few favours and organise a few extra surprises for my favourite online writing ladies.

The first surprise was a trip to friends of the blog, Danique Hairdressing. You may remember I got a fabulous cut when we Met the Boys at the beginning of the year at Danique and also took a friend back for a finish later on (Danique's birthday = I get a restyle, woo hoo!) and I went on and on then about how lovely the Danique team are. They really do treat you like an old friend and the bloggers got nothing less on their visit.

Lianne (sorry, I know she doesn't like this picture, but I do!)
We were greeted by Keri and her team with a delicious peach bellini and settled into the comfortable salon chairs to receive a masterclass on the new Fashion Fixes from label m, which were launched at London Fashion Week (which of course Danique went down to play a part in!). These are deceptively simple hair fixes that allow you to dramatically change your look without taking any dramatic steps with your hair. We saw their model being transformed from the textured rope braid into the nouveau knot in a matter of minutes.

I was amazed at how easy Keri made it all look. She assured us that you can do all of these looks at home, especially if you buy the kit with all the products and accessories you need, but I think I'd rather pay the £25 and get it done in half an hour in the salon! I may love art and craft, but when it comes to hair I am a ham-fisted Epsilon-minus semi-moron. Sometimes it's just worth paying to save yourself the time and this would be an efficiency in my case!

Next up was Hollie from Hollie Rose blog being the willing volunteer to have her hair transformed into the retro Americana style. This fix is great because it's a real transformation that is even suitable for people with long hair like me, as all the extra hair is tucked away around the back. It makes a massive statement with its ruched volume and asymmetric sweeps.

Yep, that's a photo of me, taking a photo.
Every moment of the evening was meticulously documented!
After that we said our goodbyes and were presented with amazing goodie bags (expect more posts in the fuure about the contents of that!) and we made our way to dinner. We had booked a table at Cosy Club, which was my inspiration for using the evening to showcase some of the great offers available on Leicester's Highcross Street, an often overlooked area due to its proximity to the Highcross Centre and High Street.
Danique and label m Goodies!
At the Cosy Club I unveiled my next surprise - goodie bags for all of the bloggers. These contained special treats from a number of local businesses. The first was Zig Zag Photography, a superlative studio who take beautiful pictures and are full of bubbly fun. As well as providing delightful surprises for the bags, they also sent along the effervescent Sammy, who took us a set of beautiful images of our evening. Had you noticed that the majority of photos in this post so far are much nicer than my usual fare? Sammy. She's awesome. More about them when I go and test their studio photography services for myself... (you see, this blogger's night has given me endless fodder for future posts!)

Along with this, there were goodies from Birstall furniture and home store Blue Sun Tree. I visited them last week, again post to follow soon, and was blown away not just by their beautiful shop front but also the amount of high-quality furniture that they sell which is designed and made in Leicester. They are incredible ambassadors for talent in the city. More on them in a future post.

Next they had a little gift from one of our own number, poacher turned gamekeeper or beauty blogger turned Avon representative, Hollie. She has just started working for Avon so she added a catalogue and perfume samples for everyone to try. She can take orders for people around the country, so don't worry if you're not in Leicester, you can still get in touch with her for top quality advice and to place an order.

And finally, they had a little Leicester-themed gift, and it was all in a special tote bag. Special in the 'not quite right' sort of way, because they were all lovingly sewn by yours truly. However, typically, I was so busy making the darn things that I forgot to take any pictures of them, so you'll just have to use your imagination there.

That was when Cosy Club gave me a little surprise of my own, by presenting our table with a lovely bottle of Prosecco, which is always wonderful to add a little sparkle to any occasion! We all ordered some food and had a good old natter while we ate. I really enjoyed my Chicken Po'Boy, which had a touch of spice in the mix which really complemented the crispy chicken breast and creamy avocado. Most delicious.

And of course, at this point it was time for pudding and so on to my final surprise - cocktails and hard shakes at the relative newcomers to Highcross Street, the delightful Meatcure. I visited Meatcure last just a couple of weeks ago to see an awesome acoustic set from the Hoosiers over a lunchtime, so you can see, they are attracting all the hoi polloi!

Here we were treated to the most amazing boozy concoctions. I can happily say that my White Russian was the best I've ever had, by a country mile, and I've sampled a few. We're nihilists, we believes in nothings.

Along with their swanky new cocktail menu, you can also treat yourself to a hard shake - a milkshake crossed with a cocktail - giving you an extra adult hit of tipsy with all the creamy deliciousness of everyone's childhood favourite. The 'Dirty' shake was a big hit amongst the bloggers - a vanilla milkshake mixed with oreo cookies and Disaronno. I am happy to report that it is absolutely sublime, while the dark crumbs of oreo in the frothy top help the glass to live up to its name!

We also tried the 'Beige' - another vanilla combo with rum and maple syrup, which had just the right mix of sweetness and alcoholic kick. And of course there were regular milkshakes for those that had had enough to drink - I spied a peanut butter milkshake that found itself a very good home.

Beige. No really, that's its name...
So all in all, a cracking night. Leicester's Highcross Street is no longer just a thoroughfare but very much a destination in its own right. Thanks to everyone who helped to sponsor our wonderful night - Danique, Cosy Club and Meatcure, as well as our goodie bag supporters, Blue Sun Tree, Zig Zag Photography and Hollie Rose Avon. Finally, extra special thanks to Sammy, the Zig Zag photographer who gave up her evening (and much more editing time besides) to make us such an awesome record of the evening. I can only apologise for the poor state of my own snaps in this post, sullying your work.

And of course, tip of the cap to our Leicestershire bloggers. Go and check out their work for yourselves, you'll find a great mixture of topics, passions and local knowledge covered!

The Brunette Says...

Love group shot taken on Steph's camera, by The Boy. We are both shocked, he normally sucks at photos!

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