Saturday, 1 February 2014

January



January started with good intentions. So many good intentions. Resolutions were made to give up alcohol, caffeine and chocolate for the whole month. All those resolutions had fallen by the wayside by 4pm on New Year's Day. What followed was a month of nice meals out, nice meals at home, delicious wine, delicious gin and not a whole lot of moving off the sofa. And I have zero regrets.

February looks to be fairly decadent too, particularly given that we're off to NEW YORK on Thursday for six days. I won't say any more, for fear of spiralling into mania and burning myself out before we even land. Needless to say I'm very excited and looking forward to many many slices of pizza the size of my face.

January, in all its Instagrammed glory:


1) Amazing hot chocolate after a bracing walk early in the new year; 2) Leftover Christmas cheese and port; 3) An epic roast dinner cooked by my friend Becky and her fella; 4) A big gin in an awesome Betty Jackson Black glass; 5) After work wine at Superstore in the Northern Quarter; 6) Pulled bbq brisket, halloumi, sweet potato chips and coleslaw - believe it or not this was actually Slimmin World friendly; 7) Meal planning. We tried. We really did; 8) Fruit platter following a huge Chinese banquet for my Dad's birthday; 9) A chilli mojito and a mai tai at Bangkok Bar & Restaurant; 10) All you can eat chicken and ribs with Charlotte; 11) Token picture of Millie, because she doesn't normally sit still long enough for me to capture her cuteness

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel, Manchester



I'm a bad blogger. A very bad blogger. I was invited down to the Marriott V&A back in December to try out their new menu and I'm only just now getting around to actually writing about it. Full disclosure: my friend B is the Food & Beverage Manager at the V&A. However, she knows I'm brutally honest and wouldn't just write a good review for the sake of it. That's not how I roll, baby.

The Marriott is on the banks of the River Irwell and, with the restaurant looking out over the river, there are some lovely views to be had. We settled ourselves into a nice booth by the window and set about choosing enough food to feed approximately four people. I'd tried the duck before and A had eaten the braised shin of beef last time we'd been. Both were great and it was tempting to re-order them this time. However, we remained strong and, in the name of research, went for the lamb rump (with pea puree and a delicious baton of crispy lamb breast) and the ribeye steak, with sides of peas, leeks and smoked bacon, smoked cheddar mash and some fries.


A bowl of marinated olives and a couple of preprandial gin and tonics were gratefully received and disappeared far too quickly for my liking. Gin tends to do that when I'm around. Starters were the crispy squid with wasabi mayonnaise for me and the ham hock fritters with picalilli for A. Both were fantastic; piping hot and just what the doctor ordered on a cold December evening.


Being gluttonous pigs, as is our wont, we went for the full three courses and ordered a white chocolate and amaretti cheesecake and a hot chocolate fondant, with almond brittle and vanilla ice cream. The cheesecake was a rich and glorious beast and I have to confess that I didn't quite manage to finish it. Something that I have bitterly regretted ever since. A fared much better than I and took down the chocolate fondant like an absolute champion, in all it's gooey, chocolatey glory. Excellent desserts. And I'm not even really a dessert person.

There were a couple of small niggles (gin and tonic served with lemon is a crime against gin and my lamb was slightly overdone) but overall it was a lovely meal and we left (very) full and contented. A special mention must go to the smoked cheddar mash, which I daydream about longingly on a regular basis. So good.

The V&A offer two courses for £15 or three courses for £20, with some supplements payable for the more expensive main courses. At those prices, I think it really is worth a visit. We enjoyed our meal so much that we're hoping to head back within the next couple of weeks to try the newly relaunched afternoon tea, as reviewed by the lovely Rachel of DollyBakes here.

I'm allowed to have the Gentleman's afternoon tea, right? Pies > cakes, always and forever.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Merry & Bright



Just a few photographs of our Christmas, which began with "fake Christmas" at our house on the Sunday before the official big day. We watched Home Alone and Die Hard, I burned my favourite festive candle and we ate that entire box of salted caramel profiteroles. Marks & Spencer, you are a temptress and I love you.

We then spent five days at my parents' house in Cheshire and it was pretty idyllic. A festive pub crawl around the village pubs, going to pick up the turkey from the local farm that we've been getting it from for the last 30 years or so, preparing the vegetables with my Mum on Christmas Eve (accompanied by plenty of gin) and then the usual Christmas Eve evening spent with good friends at the world's cheapest (and possibly most cheerful) pub. Christmas Day was quiet but lovely, with Boxing Day being much the same. Lots of thoughtful presents, great food, plentiful wine and a couple of bracing walks to enable the consumption of more food.

I'm not back to work until Thursday and I'm relishing each and every moment. Plenty of sleep, plenty more good food (before the wedding diet begins in earnest in January) and lots of sitting down. My favourite. I hope that, whatever you do tomorrow night, you have a great time and that 2014 is spectacular for you all!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Back once again...



So, the six month break was entirely unintentional, I promise. Life got busy and I didn't have time to write. And then I lost the inclination to write. Blogging stopped being a part of my life. I stopped writing, I stopped reading. Then, a few weeks ago I opened up Feedly again and I started to read. And I realised that I missed writing, I missed posting photographs. So here we go. It feels rather strange to be posting a summer's worth of photographs but, if I don't post them now, I never will.

Grillstock in June. Beer, meat, sun. Wonderful.

I threw a little party for my girls back when it was sunny and before this one moved in...

Yep, I live with a boy now. And it's pretty much brilliant in every single way.

We went to London in July and wandered amongst the flowers near St Paul's.

We also took many many photographs in the reflective spherical sculptures nearby.

In September we went to Liverpool and stayed at Hope Street Hotel. In a room with the most magnificent view.

We went to Crosby beach and I took approximately 6 million photographs of the Another Place sculptures.

I made a new friend.

We gazed at the view, drank prosecco and life was marvellous.

We carved some pumpkins. I'll leave you to guess which was mine.


And then?

Well, this happened....


And the rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Hello June!



So, confession time. The food budget challenge? Failed it. Blogging more often? Failed that too. BUT, what I have achieved in the last two weeks is lots of quality time with family, friends and The Soldier. There have been lots of cuddles with babies (two of my friends have recently given birth), an epic 2nd birthday party, lots of lovely food and drinks, some horrendously stressful times at work, lovely sunshine, lots of watching of The Walking Dead and a fair bit of relaxing. I've been cooking more, trying to look after myself a bit more (hello Origins purchases, you have saved my face) and trying to get to bed a bit earlier (but usually failing).


So, June! You've crept up haven't you, you cheeky little minx! I'm using June as a bit of a fresh start to be honest. I've put myself on a spending ban, particularly in relation to beauty products. I have shelves full of unopened products and I think it's high time I started working my way through those, rather than buying the next "miracle" or must have product.

I've also put myself on a takeaway ban. Whilst I've been doing really rather well at eating more healthily, the odd takeaway here and there has crept back in, usually when I'm exhausted from work and just can't bear the thought of preparing a meal. It has to stop though as, without fail, I always feel absolutely disgusting after eating takeaway food. Ain't nobody got time for that.

Aside from those little personal challenges, June is going to be exciting! We're off to Grillstock next weekend, I'm in Belfast the weekend after that for the Game of Thrones exhibition (oh yes) and then we're off to Glastonbury at the end of the month. I've got ten days off work and I intend to savour every single moment of sleep, cider and music-filled joy. Bliss.