Sunday, 16 April 2017

Columbo Goes Gingham: Spring Trench

Hey,

I sit typing this up on a gloomy Easter Sunday. While I'm far from glum about sitting on my arse eating ALL the chocolate, I'd held out a little more hope for a sun-soaked Bank Holiday weekend.

The weather recently has been difficult to predict - one minute it's glorious sun and the next, a torrential downpour. Well, that's just Manchester for you, generally.

Traversing the constant dilemma of 'what to wear', one item of clothing has been my saviour - the classic trench.

I decided some weeks ago that I needed some kind of light jacket; semi-smart, easy to wear and goes with everything. I settled on a trench coat and, resisting my usual safety blanket of black, I opted for this classic stone coloured mac from Next.

I think it might be my best purchase of the year so far!


Stone coloured Mac blogger
Stone coloured Mac blogger
Stone coloured Mac blogger
Stone coloured Mac blogger
Stone coloured Mac blogger
Stone coloured Mac blogger

Sunglasses - Moschino
Trench coat - Next
Cross-front body - ASOS
Deconstructed gingham midi skirt - ASOS
Boots - Vagabond

blogger ASOS deconstructed gingham midi skirt

I'm also really loving this gingham skirt from ASOS, it's ideal for the transition from spring into summer. I'm considering getting it in the new red version too!

blogger Moschino sunglasses

This post is a great example of the ever-changing weather. I didn't know whether to keep my jacket on, take it off, remove my sunglasses... at least my new trench is light enough not be be a nuisance when the sun comes out.

What's been your favourite buy of the season?

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Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Pizza-Making Party at Pizza Express, Manchester

Hey,

If you follow me on, well, any platform at all - you'll know that I LOVE pizza. I could live on the stuff, in fact.

So any event involving my favourite culinary pleasure is an unwavering, solid 'yes' from me.

Pizza Express invited me down to their newly renovated Manchester Oxford Road restaurant to try my hand at creating my own masterpiece with one of the chain's Pizza Making Parties*. I love cooking and learning new skills so this sounded like a great way to spend an evening!


To start, we were offered a selection of drinks including Peroni and prosecco to loosen us up for the pizza making! It was nice to chat to our fantastic hosts and the other guests over drinks and Pizza Express' legendary Dough Balls!


We were then armed with aprons and Pizza Express paper chef's hats while the table was floured, ready for the dough.

We were each given a perfectly proportioned piece of dough, ready for manipulation - after a little lesson in kneading and tossing from one of the branch's trained pizza chefs.


Dough rolled and rounded (I was surprisingly pretty good at it!), we transferred our bases into perfectly sized pizza trays and added a generous smear of pizza sauce.

An array of fresh toppings were brought out (including red onion, artichoke and chunks of juicy chicken) and while some of the guests created some fantastically weird and wonderful combinations, I'm classic when it comes to pizza and simply opted for hot pepperoni and some fresh red chilli.

Sprinkled with a generous amount of cubed mozzarella, all that was left to do was wait for our creations to come out of the pizza over, ready to eat!


The big reveal was better than we could've expected! Some of the pizzas, it has to be said, went into the oven looking a little questionable but the cooking process seemed to resolve all sins and everyone's came out looking seriously appetising!

My pizza was absolutely delicious - perhaps more so because I'd made it myself!

After we'd scoffed our creations, the team hosted a little award ceremony with some fun prizes. Naturally, I was given the 'biggest tosser' prize!



I'd definitely recommend one of Pizza Express' Pizza Making Parties for a special occasion like a birthday or hen party as something everyone can enjoy.

Have you ever tried your hand at pizza making?

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Review: Worsley Marriott - The Best Hotel Breakfast in the North West?

Hey,

So today I'm talking breakfast.

I'll be honest, breakfast isn't something I usually get excited about. More often than not, I'll tend to scoff down a packet of breakfast biscuits or have a bit of bland cereal at work for nothing more than a little fuel 'til lunchtime - on a weekend, I might treat myself to a bit of toast, that's your lot.

However, a hotel breakfast is a WHOLE other story. I think it's probably because I've usually paid for it within my room rate (and you know, get what you can for your money *read* typically tight northerner) and so it seems perfectly reasonable to eat as much as humanly possible at the breakfast buffet...

Skinflintedness aside, perhaps it's more the veritable wealth of tantalising and varied options available at most hotel buffets that does it for me. I mean, being presented with an array of breakfast items of the savoury, sweet, hot and cold varieties certainly put my plain Shredded Wheat (other boring wheat-based cereals are available) with almond milk to shame.

And so what usually ensues goes a little like this; "I'll start with a bit of toast with my coffee", "ooh I think I'm going to go continental! A few pastries with some meat, cheese and yogurt", "well I might as well have a bowl of cereal too", "that fruit looks too fresh and amazing to miss out on", "I suppose a bit of cooked breakfast won't hurt either, I need to set myself up for the day after all!" You get the picture.

Anyway, hopefully this gives some understanding of my unhealthy, irrational love of a hotel breakfast so when I heard that a hotel on our doorstep in Manchester had been voted 'The Best Breakfast in the North West' by search site, Trivago - I knew I had to check it out*...



We started with some delicious fresh pastries, of which there were several varieties, along with some strong coffee, of course.

I also decided on some fresh fruit and greek yogurt before moving onto the cooked options. There was certainly a lot of choice in this area; toast with all kinds of preserves, cereals with a broad range of toppings like nuts and seeds, porridge, muffins, cheeses and breads, as well a good choice of gluten free options.

However, I did my best to be restrained in order to leave some room for our host, Mark's recommendation - a made to order, fresh omelette from the central omelette bar.



I didn't need much convincing in choosing the house special which was made with locally sourced black pudding and blue cheese - two things I absolutely love!

Chris went for the same choice and we both agreed it was one of the best omelettes we'd tasted. We were so full after the omelettes which proved to be a tasty and satisfying set-up to the day!

Now, it would be fair to say that living in Manchester, neither of us has much call to stay over locally and it's therefore hard to say for sure whether this really is the best hotel breakfast in the North West!

What I can say is that the Worsley Park Marriott Hotel & Country Club makes a damn good breakfast!

Do you go to town on a breakfast buffet?


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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Review: barn//it Hair & Beauty Super Salon, Manchester

Hey,

I'm always game for trying new hair and beauty treatments in Manchester, which is great as there's always new salons popping up the city.

However a new kid on the block really caught my eye recently with their interesting 'super salon' concept.

barn//it* isn't your usual run-of-the-mill hair salon offering a few beauty treatments on the side, oh no. barn//it is touted as a real 'destination'; catering for pretty much all imaginable hair and beauty services under one roof - and with no less than five floors.

Fronted by celebrity hair stylist, Andrew Trott-Barn (putting the Barn into barn//it) and housed in a listed building on centrally located John Dalton Street, barn//it seems like the perfect addition to Manchester, cutting through the noise of 'samey' chain salons.

I popped down to try out one of their beauty services.



For a salon boasting five floors, barn//it actually feels really personal and perfectly formed. Each floor feels like its own tranquil (and especially stylish) oasis.

Having toured all the floors, the jewel in the salon's crown is undoubtedly the nail room. Kitted out with a full length bar serving specially created cocktails with your manicure, it's a brilliant way to spend a girly afternoon.

The fantastic, Lucy performed my treatment of choice: semi-permanent eyelashes, which I wanted to try out in advance of my wedding in July.

She totally put me at ease and I was so impressed with her level of knowledge of eyelash treatments - I truly felt that I was in the hands of an eyelash guru.

I had no idea what to expect with the treatment but Lucy explained every stage to me. I am normally a nightmare with anything around my eyes as they are ridiculously sensitive (to light, pressure, touching, pain!) but I was surprised at how comfortable I was during the treatment - especially as gluing the individual lashes to my own takes almost an hour.

I write this just as the very last of my semi-permanent lashes are hanging on. I looked after them as best I could following Lucy's advice and I'd say they still looked great after two and a half weeks. Take a look at the results below!




I was genuinely so so pleased with them. I completely boycotted false lashes for nights out a long time ago as I discovered that applying them was just not my forte... Because of this, I was a little scared of them looking too 'fake', especially as I was trying them out for a wedding day-through-to-honeymoon look, so asked Lucy to make them really natural.

There was no fakeness whatsoever - my lashes simply looked full, thick, dark and voluminous, with no need for mascara.

I'll certainly be back for these again and might even be bold enough to go slightly longer!

Have you ever tried semi-permanent lashes?

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Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Date Night With Manchester Printworks

Hey,

As we've just seen Valentine's Day come and go, I thought it'd be a good time to talk date nights!

With the wedding fast approaching, we're (attempting) not going out as much so when we do decide upon a little treat, it's nice to get the most out of it.

The Printworks in Manchester city centre recently invited me* to the complex to experience a classic 'date night' there.

Now, The Printworks isn't somewhere I'd immediately think to go on a date (to me, it used to conjure up first year students and stag do's) but after a little investigation, I found that they recently added Busaba, a brilliant Thai chain, to their culinary line up and having had a great meal their at one of their popular London restaurants and the promise of watching the fantastic La La Land at the Odeon afterwards, I was sold!


My first impression of the Manchester Busaba branch was that the atmosphere was actually better than the one I'd previously visited in London! The decor at Busaba is contemporary and stylish - and this one felt a little more intimate than I'd found before. In London, the restaurant I went to was made up of more casual, larger 'sharing' tables where you sit with other diners; this one seemed to be well suited to couples and smaller groups. Better still, we were given a fantastic table on the top floor by the window, looking out onto the hustle and bustle of Manchester's night-time centre.

Drinks


We perused the drinks menu and I knew immediately that I wanted to try a cocktail before any food arrived. Fancying something a little different, I went for a Lychee Martini - I wasn't disappointed!

Chris decided to try the Saison beer, a pale ale brewed especially for Busaba by the Hop Kettle Brewing Co. with hints of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fresh ginger and tamarind, giving it a really unique but subtle Thai flavour.

We were both really impressed with the beer and I quickly moved onto drinking it too! It complemented the food so well and we were a bit gutted that you could only get your hands on it at Busaba - it was that good!


Starter


There were loads of dishes we could've chose to start but we finally agreed on the 'Fragrant Fried Chicken' and the 'Thai Calamari' (which I'd heard loads of good things about).

The fried chicken was beautiful; really juicy with a lightly spiced, crispy coating. It paired perfectly with the tangy lemongrass and chilli dipping sauce on the side.

The Thai Calamari was even better! It looked totally different from what I expected - coated in ginger and green peppercorns, it came as meaty chunks of calamari as opposed to the rings that most might be used to. It had a crispy texture delicious flavour thanks to its sticky glaze. I can see what makes this one a favourite among regular visitors of Busaba!


Main Course


I decided that for the main, I was going to try one of the 'Bangkok Specials' - a collection of new dishes, created in line with emerging trends in Thai food.

I opted for the 'Drunken Beef Flat Noodle', a dish made up of slow cooked beef chunks and thick, flat rice noodles. Oh my, this was so tasty. The flavours were like a Thai yellow curry but it felt all the more satisfying with the thick, tasty noodles and richness of the beef - real comfort food.

Chris went for the 'Tamarind Grilled Duck', sliced breast meat with Chinese broccoli, tamarind sauce and sticky rice on the side. The duck was beautifully cooked with a slight pinkness but with sticky, chargrilled edges and that gorgeous sticky sauce.


We would've loved to stay for dessert but it was almost time for our film!

Film: La La Land at the Odeon


I was really looking forward to this one. I'd heard rave reviews from friends but was having a hard time in convincing Chris to go, he hates musicals...

I told him that if he wanted to join me for the meal, he'd have to watch the film too! And guess what? Mr no-musicals loved it (as did I)!

It's The Oscars tonight and I'm fully expecting La La Land to secure several Academy Awards (I'm predicting Emma Stone for Best Actress!).



Polka dot dress - Joanie Clothing



I thoroughly enjoyed our date night at The Printworks, I'd forgotten how much fun an old-fashioned 'dinner and a movie' date was!

When was the last time you did 'date night' properly?

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