Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year! What to look forward to in 2016...

Well, here we are. 2016. Look at that, it's like living in the future. If you're not too blind drunk to see at this point, here's a quick look at what's coming up in the new year that you can enjoy in the fair city of Leicester...

Leicester Comedy Festival

Yes, it's getting to that time of year again, where unfeasibly massive brochures start appearing in pubs, clubs and theatres around the city. 

The Comedy Festival, the longest running in the UK, returns in February and is already promising to be huge. If you can't wait until February, the preview show, featuring Lee Nelson, Nish Kumar and others, will be on at De Montfort Hall on 8th January.


Chickenhead Lounge

The first Chickenhead Lounge of 2016 will be on at the Musician on Friday 22nd January, featuring The Highway Junkies, Slim Jim and Tony Alles. Free entry on the door and a great but complementary mix of genres this is easy on the pocket but beautiful on the ears.



Give your grey matter a workout

Leicester's pub quizzes will be back with a vengeance in the new year. Whether it's some serious league action you're after, or just a one-off laugh with mates, there's something available for everyone. Every night of the week except Friday and Saturday you can find a quiz in and around the city and many of them are free! Check out my latest blog directory for more information!

Grants for not-for-profit arts organisations

You've got 29 days left to apply for a grant of up to £5000 to run an exciting arts activity during Diwali or the City Festival in 2016. These are already some of the biggest festivals, so now is the time to step up and make them even more exhilarating. In 2015, we enjoyed Richard III sand sculpture, The Spark Arts brought us super-fun 'Tangle' during the City Festival and of course the Wheel of Light has been a big hit over Diwali and Christmas. More please!

Meet and Eat

A supper club style event is starting up at the Orange Tree in the new year. Meet, eat and socialise on big tables with a three course meal and free drink thrown in for £25. Sounds like a fun evening, and we all know the Orange Tree's food is pretty darn good so this is bound to be a winner!

Smartphone Darkroom

Another free event, the Phoenix will be hosting a free smartphone darkroom workshop on Saturday 23rd January, inspired by Kenny Wong's mixing of technologies new and old. Use your smartphone to print directly on to photo sensitive paper to create exciting, deeply satisfying and rapid results.

Leicester's Best of 2015

My favourite apocalyptic image!
Well, here we are, New Year's Eve. It's been a great year for the blog, with lots of new readers, hitting half a million page views and a heap of exciting new things happening in the city. Here's my roundup of what was best about Leicester this year!

Best City Spectacle

By far this was the demolition of New Walk Centre, back in February. It's been lovely to have the open skyline at the end of Pocklington's Walk throughout the year, but no doubt no the site is clear something new will be going up there soon. You can enjoy my video of the demolition (with unnecessarily violent musical accompaniment) by looking back at the post here.


Best New Venue

2015 was the year that Crafty Burger turned from pop up shop to permanent fixture in the city, and much to everyone's delight it continues to go from strength to strength. Honorable mentions should also go to Gelato Village - rapidly becoming a local favourite - and Meatcure who opened their second branch in Leicester this year. However, for me, the best new launch this year has been 45 West - a deliciously cool bar and bottle shop with excellent selection of wines and of course, plenty of Burleigh's Gin. Local products and local passion at its best.



Best Media Attention

Naturally, this was the year that the King under the Car Park got a new resting place under the Cathedral. Tens of thousands lined the street for the parade and then filed past Richard III lying in repose in the Cathedral, while millions around the globe watched the coverage on TV. A vast array of events, talks and activities got us all engaged and for me, it was the culmination of five years' long work. The Cathedral are reporting 'a new normal' in visitor figures and happily, most people are taking the opportunity to pop into the Guildhall (also for free) and find out more about medieval Leicester during their visit.



Best Beer Garden

This spring, The Boy and I set off on an intrepid adventure to find Leicester's Best Beer Garden. Joint winners were the Queen of Bradgate on High Street and the Black Horse down in Aylestone. Both worthy winners and both worth a visit even in the winter because of the range of events and fun stuff they put on year round.




Best Community Spirit

My top award of the year has to go to the Real Junk Food Project who run out of LCIL as well as operating at special events around the city. When I first met TRJFP back in May, they were looking forward to trialing their first Pay As You Feel Cafe. Now they have found a permanent home, intercepting food and using it to feed over 3800 people this year. 

They have saved over 8 tonnes of food from landfill and helped to feed those in need across the city, as well as providing delicious Friday lunchtime treats to people like me every week who are more than happy to Pay What They Feel (money, music or otherwise!) for a thoroughly enjoyable lunch at the Social Media Cafe. If you haven't been down to see them yet, put it on your list for 2016. They are using all donations above what covers the utilities to save up for a mobile catering unit, so they can reach all the more people next year. A worthy cause and a great set of ambassadors for Leicester.


How was 2015 for you? It's been a big year for burgers and burials in the city, what have you enjoyed the most? And what is coming up that you are looking forward to?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Leicestershire traditions: The Christmas Pie

I have only recently discovered that it's a bit of a local tradition to eat a pork pie on Christmas morning here in Leicestershire. Not surprising as the Melton Mowbray pie is a protected designation of origin, first popularised amongst fox hunters in the 18th century.

If you haven't already got your pie in ready for Christmas I have found some that have an unusual and delicious twist! A few weeks ago I was invited to give a talk to Leicester CAMRA at The Harrow Inn. It was a great meeting to be invited to as Syston butchers, Gamble & Hollis had kindly brought them a box of very special pork pies to sample. 

There was a stilton topped pie and a black pudding one. Although it was hugely tempting to try them both I managed to resist and just went for the black pudding. It was phenomenal. Firm, well packed meat with a delicious and solid hand raised crust was topped with a good inch or so of lightly spiced black pudding. An awesome flavour combination and one that I would be proud to have atop the Christmas Breakfast Table!



There's still time to get down to Melton Road in Syston to pick some up for yourself! Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

ACT FAST: Deliveroo's Cool as Food Giveaway

Too late! Scroll down to see what you missed!

Get your dancing shoes on, Christmas is nearly here! Not only that, but for one day only, friends of the blog, Deliveroo and Cool as Leicester have joined forces to give away some tasty food, so you can see the awesomeness that Deliveroo can bring to your door, your office, the park... anywhere really.


This is me and my mates enjoying food delivered to The King's Head. Bootiful.

Of course, you know all about Deliveroo and their top notch delivery service in Leicester, because you've read my review and you've seen the video. So I don't need to say too much more. What's the lowdown then?


TOO LATE!
Friday 18th December 2015
Orton Square, Leicester
12.30pm - 3.00pm
5.00pm - 6.00pm

So let's bring the last full working week before Christmas to a close in style. Get yourself over there, grab some grub and let's start off the Season of Giving as we mean to go on. Merry Christmas Leicester.



Did you get along? There were regular deliveries from Peking, Stone Baked Pizza and Meatcure. We managed to bag ourselves a deliciously dirty burger from Meatcure, with crispy bacon and mahoosive pickles. Then, just as we were going to leave, some Chinese food turned up, so we gave the spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken and a really awesome spicy fried bean curd dish with rice. Wonderful stuff!




Monday, 14 December 2015

REVIEW: Scruffs Expedition Tech Jacket

If you're looking for a new jacket to get you through the cold, dark winter then I can highly recommend you look out the Scruff's website for something durable and warm. Scruffs kindly sent me their Expedition Tech Jacket and I've been testing it for the last week. The British winter has been happy to oblige and has been throwing every wintery condition at me that you can imagine and so I've really had the opportunity to put it through its paces.
I absolutely adore this coat. Black and understated, it is practical but without being an overtly 'workwear' or 'waterproof' coat - it feels like I am wearing something that looks good as well as keeping me protected from the outside world. It is amazingly snug and warm - I have taken to calling it my sleeping bag because it feels like I am wrapped in a lovely duvet wherever I go! Even in zero degree conditions, I have been kept lovely and toasty. So warm is it indeed, that I have taken to cycling to work with just a vest top underneath it, carrying my regular winter layers in my pannier for when I get to the office!

The taped seams and waterproof fabric mean it is completely rainproof - trust me, I have worn it cycling in heavy rain, walking around in hours of drizzle and come out absolutely dry each time. It also retains its comfort when still damp - perfect for when I've had to go out to a meeting after cycling in in the rain just an hour before. There are loads of handy pockets and the main ones zip downwards, which is continuing to baffle me but everyone I have mentioned it to has assured me that this is to make them more waterproof - and I have found that even a tissue in the pocket stays dry in the rain.

Another great feature is the little breastpocket which contains a see-through window and a little torch, with a strip LED light on the side. It is super bright and I find it really reassuring to be extra secure when cycling to work in the dark evenings. You can take it easily out of the pocket and use it as a regular torch as well, should the need arise.

So you can tell, I am so happy with my portable sleeping bag, I have found it to be insulating in the deepest cold, windproof because of the taped seams and really effective at keeping out the rain. It only has two snags - the taped seams mean you have to be slightly more than carefree when doing up the zips as the tape can get a little caught if you don't zip them up straight. And the main problem? Trying to stop The Boy from stealing it. Never in the history of the world has someone been so jealous of a coat. At least that's Christmas sorted - and imagine how cute we'll look in matching coats!

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Jeremy Corbyn, reindeers and guerilla crochet

It's a busy time of year for crafting and happily not everything is wrapped up under the tree and super secretive so I can share some of them with you. This year, Jeremy Corbyn Christmas tree toppers have been in high demand. A friend who lives in the Philippines asked me to make some for her favourite lefty friends back home, from the fabulous pattern created by Snorkers Imaginarium (which you can buy from her Etsy shop). Foolishly, as I made them I showed people the photos and this led to a demand for more and more, until I had created a small army! Snorkers is charging £40 for the made up version, so at least I've saved my friends a few quid. Can't say I blame her though - her pattern has received national media coverage.


The Pacifist Army, mid construction.



I adapted the pattern, so all of them were different and none of them have a tie. Corbyn does not wear a tie. A couple of them also got bonus hats thrown in as well and I've since received some lovely pictures and feedback - it's good to see them adorning their respective Christmas trees. What a world we live in.



Keeping with the Christmas theme, I also made a super cute patchwork reindeer from a free pattern from Sew Magazine. I really enjoyed making it, and it worked up relatively quickly. I like making cuddly toys but they are a little bit fiddly. I think he ended up with a nice character and he has also already gone to his forever home to be part of the family's Christmas decoration tableaux.


I received a text message last night confirming that he was a big hit - so much so he had been carefully tucked up on the sofa at bedtime by one of the children. Now if that doesn't give you a big hit of Christmas cheer then I don't know what will.


Night night!
I've also been keeping up with my crochet, notably through my guerilla crochet experience at the Palace of Westminster, which I wrote about here if you missed it. I can't tell you what I was making though, as that was a Christmas gift which has not yet been given!



Alongside that I have been crocheting for a lovely lady I met through the ABW Network, Ann Marie Topham. Ann Marie is a fabulous travel counsellor and offers some great bargains, so do check out her facebook page. She's always wanted crochet blankets, so I've been more than happy to oblige. 



I designed this small throw for her and now am working on a kingsize throw in her favourite colours. Making things that are appreciated is so lovely and I have so much fun doing it! Today I'll be taking my crochet on the bus to Nottingham (on my way to see DEF LEPPARD - so excited) and make some more squares for Ann Marie's afghan. Fabby!

What have you been crafting in this festive period?

Saturday, 12 December 2015

45 West: Bottle Shop & Bar, Leicester

Well, it's been a good year for this young blogger's relationship with gin. Local gin, as it goes. I've tasted it, I've made my own and I've tasted some more (it's important to taste a few times in case you weren't paying proper attention originally). Yes, it's really been the year of Burleigh's for me here at Extreme Housewifery, the best thing to come out of Nanpantan since, well, anything really. The outwoods are lovely though - and of course provided some of the inspiration for the botanicals that Master Distiller Jamie uses in his creations.

Now it's even easier for us Leicester folk to enjoy this wonderful gin and more excellent drinks besides with the launch of 45 West, a bottle shop and bar on Hotel Street. We popped down to the press launch this week and were treated to some delicious drinks and very tasty canapes in the relaxed lounge environment.

It's dark and ambient, with subtle lighting accents and tasteful decoration. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to take a comfortable seat - in essence its a wonderful place to escape the winter night.

They have an interesting range of wines on offer, naturally cheaper by the bottle to takeaway than to drink in and there is a good range of prices to suit all pockets. I opted to try the Los Tres Curas Chardonnay from Chile. While I have no idea of the colour because of the lighting in 45 West, I was impressed by the cherry blossom nose and full, balanced flavour in the mouth which has a good acid tang which fades into a lighter vanilla and gooseberry without losing the sharpness. I found it was a particularly good match with the earthiness of the pesto/grilled aubergine canape and a really easy drinking wine with interesting texture and mouth feel.



Of course we also had to have a signature Burleigh's gin and tonic, but we mixed it up a bit by having the Distiller's Cut (my absolute favourite) with Fever-tree's Mediterranean tonic, to add extra floral notes at the recommendation of our very knowledgeable bar tender. It was garnished with pink grapefruit and rosemary and really hit the spot. I think Burleigh's may well be my favourite gin in the world, but I will have to keep testing that theory, so I can make sure.



45 West also has a comfortable lounge in the basement which you can hire and rumour has it that they may focus it in the future as a cigar lounge, which would certainly be a unique offer in the city! All brown leather chairs and muted earth tones, this is definitely a much needed dose of masculine charm in terms of the hire spaces available in Leicester, although I for one would be more than happy to while away an evening with friends in there, it's certainly not just set up as a boy's retreat.

Welcome to Leicester 45 West! The only bind it puts me in is that I now have yet another beautiful watering hole on what is now a very long list of fabulous places that serve excellent drinks and have wonderfully well-trained, knowledgeable and friendly staff. Drinkers of Leicester, we are being spoiled. What a crying shame.




Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The House of Commons House

Guerilla Crochet Winner
So I got invited to the House of Commons for a Parliamentary Reception for the first time last week, as one does. I left plenty of time to get through security, which, as it turned out, was actually too much time and I breezed through security and wound up with 25 minutes to kill. 

So naturally, I crocheted. This seemed to baffle the armed police who guard the chamber, but such is the way with guerilla crochet.

Anyway, one of the things, naturally, I was most excited about was finding out what wine they serve in the House of Commons. Little did I know, having never been invited before, that they have their own house wine! Of course they do. It's the House House! Which begs the question, is there a branded House of Lords House? If so, can I try that? Is it better? Does it cost more?

I took my little notepad with me so I could grab some notes and here they are... NB I only tried the white, I'm not an animal and I was behaving myself. I was not there to wine taste.

House of Commons 
Colombard/Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Hailing from the South of France (anyone disappointed they don't serve English wine as the house in Parliament? I kind of am - we have loads of good ones), this wine was quite fruity and rounded. Relatively crisp with an interesting balance of green apple acidity and light floral notes, it was pleasing, but unremarkable. Which I suppose is what you look for in a house wine. Inoffensive, ever so slightly bland and therefore an easy, if unambitious match with most foods. We were having canapes, they were very nice (small). It was a 6, maybe a 6.5 out of ten for me on the Sauvignon.



After I was done with my reception and I went to leave Westminster, there was a little Christmas fair with a variety of stalls of food, Christmas treat and Parliament branded tat. Now I was released from my formal duties I knew I was all good to try some more wine.


This time I met a representative of the House's latest own label supplier, Pierre Andre. They were touting samples of the new addition to the range, the White Burgundy. It would have been rude not to have stopped to have a little try and I thought I'd make some more notes while I was there.

House of Commons
White Burgundy 2013

This has a lovely deep, honeyed colour and begins with a good bite which is then followed through by a flow of buttery vanilla, a slight floral note like pear, or peach. It is a lovely balance, this real change through each sip but it is not that overly rich, butteriness that you get from some Chardonnay's, it has enough crispness to keep it in check. I liked this much more and would happily go for a 7.5.

Where's the most unusual place you've tried a wine?


Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Low carb cauliflower and leek soup

Look everyone, I learned something!

I went to North Bar and Kitchen the other week for Dine on a Diet with UFit Studio, and I enjoyed the starter so much that I said at the time it was definitely something I would try myself, and I've only gone and done it! Mine doesn't look as pretty as theirs, but it was nice. A full on creamy taste explosion with great texture, this is a completely viable alternative low carb version of leek and potato soup. Although I put some cheeky extras in mine...

Cauliflower and Leek Soup
 

(serves 4)

Half a cauliflower (stalks and all)
One leek
A small carrot
2 cloves of garlic
One stick of celery
Stock (cube or fresh, whatever you prefer)
A pinch of chilli powder
A tsp of paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • You can make it without the extra flavour ingredients (carrot, garlic and celery) - it'll take less time, but it's all veg, so who cares...
  • Chop up your carrot, garlic and celery finely and gently fry off in a tiny dash of oil (spray oil is fine) until softened.
  • Add in the chilli, paprika, chopped leek and cauliflower and fry gently for a further couple of minutes. 
  • Throw in the stock (and boiling water if you use a cube) so the liquid comes up to just below the veg.
  • Simmer gently, covered, for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is softened.
  • Use a handblender to blitz, add salt and pepper to taste.




In my naughty version, I added a parmesan rind along with the stock, then a splash of full fat milk just before I blitzed. I know how to live. A lovely warming winter dish. Serve with a toasted muffins if you are missing the carbs. And lots of butter. You could probably put some butter in the soup too. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Competition winner announcement!

Well, we got there... Half a million views. It feels like my little blog has gone a bit popular. Thank you all for popping along to have a read, a comment or a bit of banter on Twitter. It was very fitting to reach the magic 500k views last night as I had been invited to speak to Leicester CAMRA's meeting about the Tapas Trail and working with independent pubs in the city, so it really felt like the things I am doing here, in the virtual world, are starting to spill out into actual reality and have a bit of a benefit.



So, you'll be wanting to know who won my little competition, run thanks to the kind sponsorship of The Exchange (top notch house wine and pizza selection if you want my recommendation!). I have been over to Random.org to pick from the qualifying comments (adjudicated by The Boy to ensure scrupulous fairness) and the winners are as follows:

1st Place
A pizza party for two and 10% loyalty card
Comment 6 - Simon Lake

2nd Place
A gallon of beer or bottle of Prosecco and 10% loyalty card
Comment 10 - Paul Featherstone

Runners up (x3)
A coffee and a cake and 10% loyalty card
Comment 8 - Jo Bryan
Comment 11 - Mark
Comment 5 - Charlotte Gransden

Congratulations to all the winners - I hope you have a lovely time enjoying your prizes at Exchange. Just in time for Christmas. And I hope this sort of competition-based bribery means you will all keep reading the blog for another 500,000 pages!
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