Viking Stationery ArtyParty

 

I know you’re probably thinking I’m mad. A stationery party? Seriously?

Yup seriously, last Saturday I went to an arty party because arts and crafts events are the best!

As a child some of my earliest memories are of my mum taking my sister and I to local souqs in Saudi Arabia (we lived out there) where she would shop for gifts for the children at the school she taught at. The only thing I remember about the place is how AMAZING the stationery was. I’m pretty sure that’s where my obsession stems from. My sister and I have had a love for writing and desk accessories ever since.

I have many passions in life, art, travel, writing, all of which I can showcase on the blog. For the last year I have regularly written notes to myself to try and include some form of craft post, it’s something I absolutely love doing and I just wish I had more time to indulge in it.

When I started having my aversion to watching television, I took up crochet as a way to give myself something to do whilst I was sat with Mo and he was catching up on his programs. Kept me busy, very addictive and it meant I didn’t have to sit bored whilst the TV rattled on.

Since then my spare time has become less and less frequent and I do really value any time I can dedicate to arts and crafts. When you’re an adult there are so few opportunities to unleash your creativity if you happen to be stuck in the corporate world so an arty party hosted by Viking was definitely a welcome breath of fresh air.

 

Venue

The venue for the day was the exquisite King Street Townhouse hotel, the only one in Manchester to boast a rooftop pool. Boutique in style, kitschy-but-modern interiors, it was the perfect place to host a bunch of bloggers.

The sun was beaming on Saturday, almost as if it had been scheduled to do so, as our craft party was being held in the 6th floor event room, with outdoor terrace. An outdoor terrace with views looking out over the city, what a location.

 

 

Activities

The Viking team were joined by some wonderful helpers: Chloe and Stacey from the crafty hen and the lovely Joyce from Artsynibs. Three separate crafting stations had been set up: Notebook customisation, block printing and calligraphy.

We separated into groups and tried our hand at each one, getting stuck in the minute we sat down. We stopped only for lunch and mini tea breaks in between activities and I think I picked up my phone only a handful of times that day, my camera even less.

 

 

One of my main takeaways was how accommodating the Viking team were. I’ve been to many blogger events and this one had been so well thought out. Viking really focused on bloggers getting stuck into the activity at hand, just enjoying the moment with a photographer floating around taking snaps – saving us the hassle in feeling pressured to take our own. What a genius idea. And highly necessary as the moment I started the day on notebook customisation my focus was very much on my creation and nothing else in the world mattered!

 

 

I’m pretty chuffed with my little take aways, the file organiser and notebook are things I always need and the whole personalisation process inspired me to think a bit more on my home office and how I can create a spectacular working space, using simple accessories and jazzing them up. (I sense a Pinterest spree on its way).

 

 

Calligraphy wasn’t really my strongest skill, but as a typography nut I loved it anyway. I’ve met Joyce a few times before at various events and it’s always lovely to catch up with her, and whenever I get the opportunity to watch her in action, its quite mesmerising!! We were treated to not only an introductory lesson but also a newly released calligraphy set, which I am determined to practice at home with.

 

 

And of course not only was I able to create some fun take home accessories, but I got to spend an afternoon with a collection of pretty fab bloggers too! I finally got to meet the wonderful Maggie whose journey I have been following as she travelled through Asia recently, worth checking out trust me! I also met Holly, the lady behind WeBlogMcr, very excited to get networking with her in the near future. And of course there were many others, I’ll list them all at the end if you fancy some new blogs to read.

The whole day made me realise all that talk I posted about recently on wanting to introduce a digital detox really needs to be something I take seriously now. Having an afternoon where my mind was focused on anything but a screen, was so therapeutic. Even though it was a busy afternoon I felt completely relaxed (I think the sunshine helped!)

Viking were sure to give us a goody bag to take away too, luckily mine had lots of gold inspired stationery, perfect as I can use it to finish off my notebook 🙂

Fabulously fun inspirational day, at a stunning city centre location.

Can’t wait to get my craft back on.

 

 

*** Huge thanks to Viking for organising a wonderful bloggers event . All images used on this particular post are my own, with no editing apart from a couple have had brightness adjusted as I was using my c*** phone. ***

 

Some lovely bloggers I met who are definitely worth checking out:

 

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Enzo Manchester review header image

 

New pizza place in Manchester?

Oh yes please, let me just call up my pizza-loving sister and we’ll be there, don’t you worry.

Enzo has had a successful run from its base in Nantwich and there was a lot of hype online when the news spread that they were looking into opening a city centre restaurant. Sure enough they followed through with their plan and last week we called in for the launch evening.

Traffic had been an absolute nightmare, so the minute I flung my car into a space, I ran to secure my seat at the new Fountain Street pizzeria. Walking in a bit flustered from my run, I was greeted with smiles and was offered a nice cool drink as I chose a perfect, people-watching window spot.

A few moments later, a wonderful waitress came round with a plate of marathon peanut butter bars, cut into bitesize pieces ready for tasting. Not a great lover of chocolate, but hungry and with still no sign of my guest, I decided to try one as a tummy teaser. So much nicer than I was expecting! In fact so nice I needed another when she passed by again. I had my eye on that plate for an apres-pizza treat.

 

 

It wasn’t long before my sister showed up and we were ready to try a selection of the menu and see how Enzo had managed to establish itself in the competitive world of pizza making.

When I ran past earlier, I thought it was quite strange that they were so close to Pizza Hut, setting themselves not just on the same street but literally a few feet away from an established brand selling the same product, very strange no?

As the pizzas started to be brought round I realised that they may both be selling pizza, but that’s about the only similarity. There’s no deep pan here at Enzo, all the dough is prepared fresh on site daily and it’s very much all about the authentic crispy, Italian-style pizzas, offering a variety of unusual – well thought out – toppings.

As the meat wasn’t halal, they made sure to pass round a selection of vegetarian options for us, including some that were vegan friendly. Vegan cheese isn’t one of my favourite things on earth, but it wasn’t bad, and my un-enthusiasm is linked more to personal preference rather than taste.

 

 

The pesto pizza with feta was a real treat, as well as the buffalo mozzarella. With all these delicious varieties being showcased, I grabbed at the menu wandering where they planned on fitting themselves in price wise. Nice surprise, the prices of even the fanciest sounding pizzas were very reasonable.

Before heading off we were also treated to a couple of pasta dishes to try out, just like the dough all pasta is homemade, fresh on site! Now thats impressive.

 

 

The energy at Enzo was really refreshing. They look like an established franchise-style restaurant, but the service and grounding of the company is very much that of a family-run independent, where the focus is on keeping things fresh, wholesome, ensuring there is real taste and passion in everything they do and serve. Nice to see such a place in the middle of the big City.

It’s a feat making the journey into a high profile city centre location, for anyone, but more so for restaurants. The food scene in Manchester has definitely taken off over the last few years, with seriously stiff competition. Hopefully Enzo will continue doing what they do best, focusing on keeping the food ‘real’ and the atmosphere positive. I look forward to seeing them stay on for the long haul!!

Can’t wait to take the boys with us next time, see if the coffee is as good as the pizza…

 

 

*** Many thanks to Enzo Manchester for inviting us to the launch evening. As usual all opinions, thoughts and images are my own. In keeping with my last article on going ‘real’ with my photos, all images here have not been adjusted in any way! ***

 

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“Will you start the fans, please!”

If those words fill you with extreme excitement, you MUST book to visit the Crystal Maze Manchester experience.

My sister and I, like many others grew up watching the TV series back in the 90’s. Richard O’Brien hosted a game show with a difference, where teams fought to beat the clock and complete challenges to collect crystals. Each crystal buying you time in the iconic crystal dome where you and your team mates will scramble to collect tickets, which will then translate into prize money.

OK, so at the Manchester experience, you won’t win any money.

But you WILL have the time of your life!!

The preview nights have been ongoing for the last two weeks and I decided to secure a team to test it out as pre-birthday celebration last Friday.

Lets start with the venue…

IT’S PERFECT (insert lots of smiley-heart-eye-emoji-faces)

The Manchester experience is at the old Granada Studios and I was expecting it to be good, but not this good. Exactly like the TV series there are four zones: Medieval, Futuristic, Aztec and Industrial and these guys have really gone to town to try and re-create the magic of each section. There are tunnels, narrow corridors, overhead walkways, bridges and sand! The Aztec zone really did have sand!!

 

Crystal maze manchester zone map from tv show

 

Before you go in, you have the opportunity to wear one of the fetching Crystal Maze jackets and take a group picture. Which we did. However, you don’t get to wear these stylish suits as you do the games, they are purely for picture purposes. Don’t be sad though – you will most definitely be grateful they didn’t let you wear it once you get in as you will get very warm as you dash around.

 

crystal maze manchester group picture

Our team – The Hateful Eight

 

After all the paperwork and safety briefings, the first task is the most important – choosing team and sub team captains. Sub team captain very important, just in case the team captain gets locked in. Of course, as the pre-birthday girl and organiser, I forced myself into the team captain role and appointed my partner in crime G as the sub.

A short welcome video from the legendary Richard and then boom! Out pops our very own Maze Master – Edward-something-something-something-the seventh. He was eccentric, dressed in tweed, very tall and skinny, carried a briefcase… oh and most importantly, he was BRILLIANT. The Maze Master job was one that was quite sought after, the Crystal Maze opened the applications out to actors and actresses as it is very much a dramatic role rather than simply having a host walk you through.

I’ll get back to Edward later, but let’s move on…

After a quick getting to know each other session, it was time to get cracking. 60 minutes on the clock and we were off.

The games! Oh gosh, they were completely on point. I was so pleased. Just like the original once again, you can choose between physical, mental, skill or mystery. The Maze Master offers the options in that particular zone and as the captain I got to choose who played WHICH game.

I’m not going to ruin the surprise for you by describing them all, but think maths puzzles, laser beams, pulley ropes, puzzles… and they’re all SOOO GOOD!!!

Once the chosen team mate is in the room facing their task, the rest of us could watch through windows… you know what I’m going to say next, it was just like the TV show!

I could give you plenty of tips at this point – such as, don’t all shout at once, read the instructions clearly out loud, move on if you don’t understand something… but the beauty of the game is once you’re there and the door has closed, even when you’re watching someone else do the task, you’ll completely forget everything you’ve read or heard as adrenaline kicks in and you move into competitive mode.

We won seven crystals in total, that gave us 35 seconds in the dome. We came soooo close in some games but we didn’t want to risk losing a team mate (although I’ve heard there are some novel ways of getting them out, so maybe its worth a try??)

Now, I said I’d come back to Edward-something x 3-the seventh. I kid you not, this guy was incredibly talented. Throughout our whole experience, he stayed in character, he worked off our enthusiasm and played a truly exceptional host. He was comedy GOLD. Our very own compere to take us through and he literally had us in stitches the whole time – G and I took the brunt of his jokes (we did ask for it though 😉 ).

 

 

If I could do this whole thing again. I would. All day every day until we’d tried every single challenge. And I’d want Edward to go through the pain of leading us all through it too.

If you want something fun to do with a group of friends, whether you’re a fan of the show or not…

BOOK THIS.

But book it NOW – because those slots are filling up fast.

 

 

 

*** Booking information ***

Ticket prices vary £45-£55 depending on when you book – Click here to see what available

If you don’t have a team of 8, you will be placed with other people, I’d say that’s a neat way to make new friends.

There’s a trailer on the website if you want to get a real feel for it – But if you can resist, I’d recommend leaving it a surprise 🙂

 

 

Have you tried the Crystal Maze? Were you a big fan of the TV show?

 

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Grand Pacific Manchester Review

 

When I first received the email for the Grand Pacific launch, I didn’t even look at it, I just said yes. I was away at the time and all I had received was an invite stating it’s location, the date and there was a cool graphic image of a pineapple. Honestly – that pineapple was the only reason I agreed, I simply thought pineapple accessories are Mo’s favourite so if that was the theme of this place, I was all for it.

 

The Venue

If you’re familiar with Manchester City Centre, Grand Pacific is situated where Room used to be, Spring Gardens – a great location. We arrived on the cold launch night starving and ready to eat. The first thing I noticed before walking in were the beautiful door handles on the glass doors at the entrance. A beautiful brass pineapple split into 2, one half for each door – the pineapple being the logo of Grand Pacific. The hostesses were very cheery on arrival, they politely took our coats and asked us whether we wanted drinks at the (busy) bar, or if we wanted to be taken straight to our table. Bellies rumbling, we chose the latter option.

 

 

Interiors start to step up the minute you hit the stairs, as I looked up towards the sweeping staircase and it was a real masterpiece. A truly majestic entrance for what we discovered, is a truly majestic place.

As we got to the top of the stairs, the house beats were pumping, not too loud so we couldn’t hear ourselves, but loud enough to let us know Grand Pacific is here and it is here to stay. This place is serious interior design porn and for design junkies like Mo and I, we literally couldn’t get enough of how spectacular this place looked by night. The gorgeous lights, the beautiful bar area, the old fireplace thankfully still intact, my eyes darted across the space simply trying to take everything in.

 

 

The hostess took us to our table, which (to our surprise) was the best table in the house, with views of the entire restaurant and bar, raised slightly higher than the rest of the restaurant seating and with views of King Street just through the window. It is the far corner table, by huge windows, crowned with a beautiful, crystal chandelier. We couldn’t believe our luck. Other bloggers were due to join me but ended up sitting elsewhere so we had eventually had the table to ourselves. Happy hubby!

 

 

It’s funny because as we sat there soaking it all in, a feeling of deja vu started to creep up on us… we realised the last time we had visited Room was seven years ago where I had met up with some of my old school friends to introduce them to the man that I had just got engaged to. It was so bizarre to be in the same place and near enough the same month at such a different point in our life and to then revisit many moons later. Very surreal and really put into perspective how much had changed not just at this venue, but in our lives too.

Ok moment over back to the night…

The table was dressed impeccably. The glassware and cutlery glinting away like jewels under the subtle lighting. As a typography lover, the lettered embroidery on the napkins was driving me nuts – I loved it! I know, that’s a really weird thing to point out, but if you too had a love for lettering you would totally understand where I’m coming from!!

Seated and comfortable, the staff came to collect our drinks and then food orders. We literally didn’t know where to begin. Our waiter for the night was Marcus, who knew this menu inside out. He was able to advise on dishes, portion sizes and recommended his own particular favourites. And the best bit, he spoke about the menu with such passion, it was literally a breath of fresh air. He was also very patient with me constantly asking him questions and struggling to make a decision.

 

The Food

Grand Pacific is designed to evoke old school sophistication, with a menu inspired by the tropical lands of the old empire. To that end and to our luck, there was plenty of fish on the menu, which was perfect as the meat is not halal.

For starters, we had the tuna and salmon lomi and chirashi sushi bowl. The sushi was a large portion and could quite easily have been a main, but both dishes were incredible and the fish tasted so fresh, I felt they could quite literally have been caught that morning. The fish from my chirashi bowl was amongst some of the best sashimi I’ve tried, the fish had no smell and pretty much melted on my tongue – it was exactly what I had been craving.  Pickled mackerel, avocado slices, sushi rice… it was an artistic creation for the eyes and the taste buds.

 

 

For mains, Mo ordered the tempura Szechuan sea bass with crispy noodles, pineapple and cucumber and I had the tea smoked salmon with cucumber salad.

Again, absolutely impeccable both in taste and presentation. The Szechuan sea bass was the overriding winner though. Two large fillets of fluffy white fish, lightly battered in a chili tempura batter and served with a bed of crispy noodles drizzled in the most beautiful sauce. Although my salmon had been smoked, it was delicately infused with additional flavour, a more conservative portion in comparison to the gargantuan sea bass, but no less satisfying.

Mo says that there is always a separate belly for dessert and tonight was no exception. I ordered the creme brûlée with jasmine tea bread and rose petal jelly, Mo had the chocolate fondant with ice cream and honeycomb. The fondant was delicate and soft and the molten lava chocolate inside erupted beautifully as soon as Mo put his spoon through. Even as a non-chocolate lover, I can attest to the fact that it was DELICIOUS. The salted caramel sauce, honeycomb and peanuts were a nice textural touch and of course cleverly complimented the rest of it.

 

 

Overall, our experience of Grand Pacific was excellent. The location, the interiors, the staff and most importantly the nosh, are all nothing short of superb.

Prices are on the higher side and although they are justified given the quality of what you getting and the ambiance of this sensational building and space, this may be one you want to reserve for special occasions.

We almost certainly will be back.

 

 

*** Thank you to Grand Pacific for inviting us to the launch of their restaurant. As always my opinions are not influenced and Mo and I look forward to visiting again some time in the near future ***

 

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heart & parcel

 

Have you ever had the pleasure of enjoying a meal out you know has been cooked straight from the heart?

No?

Well I feel extremely privileged to say that I have.

My mum is a fantastic cook and I know that every dish she gifts me with is one that she has cooked with no other thought than to make me happy, and yes this is the premise that every chef should have but when you go to a restaurant you can’t expect them to have that same personal connection with you.

However…

Should you be invited to a supper club… well the rules of the game begin to change.

The menu is pre-set. The tables are pre-booked. The setting is generally more homely, much more intimate.

Throw in two of the loveliest hosts you’ll ever meet and you are in for a heart-warming night.

Last Monday I visited the Heart and Parcel supper club for the first time. Despite endless nagging and lectures from my sister to book in and trial out one of their events, I’ve just never had the chance. It was a place I had been genuinely dying to check out, yet I was not really sure what to expect.

I think I’ll start with giving you just a little bit of background on this project…

Heart and Parcel was founded by two friends who simply share an interest in dumplings and social work. They set up this project as they realised there was a need for greater support within their community to help migrant women support and respect each other, all the while teaching valuable English skills which will in turn, help them realise their full potential.

“Making dumplings involves many hands, communication and teamwork. We use this process as a method to engage with women using English as the medium.”

Simple idea right? Simple, effective and you can tell both Karolina and Clare work their socks off for this.

As well as running courses and getting these women together, the ladies also sell dumplings at markets, offer private workshops and of course… host supper clubs to raise funds to put back into this amazing project.

Which brings me back to our evening.

So off we went to meet friends and family at the Inspire centre in Levenshulme. We were greeted at the door by Karolina and Clare, both dressed beautifully in traditional Asian attire, a really cute touch (and they both looked fab). We were shown to our table and offered drinks until the room had been filled ready for us to start.

 

Images taken from www.heartparcel.wordpress.com

 

Last week was the largest supper club event they had ever run in a single sitting, 50 covers I believe, yet it didn’t feel rushed, overly busy or noisy. In fact, I’m pretty sure we must’ve been the noisiest!!

Once all the tables were filled the starters arrived… quite a decent portion too. Bal bora, Sodji pakora with eastern slaw, apple chutney and mint sauce. DELICIOUS. Devoured mine at super speed, completely forgetting that we had many more dishes to come so I probably should have paced myself. I don’t think there was a single element left on anyone’s plate actually, it was a real hit.

 

 

And so too were the other dishes, one by one they filtered out of the kitchen, just the right portion sizes, neatly presented no element from the menu forgotten (I ate a few too many seriously spicy chilli’s that set my mouth on fire but that was totally my fault – I didn’t learn after the first one I ate!). We were treated to a traditional Bengali fish curry, Okra & tomato, stir fried cabbage and mushroom served with roti bread and rice. The sweet semolina pancake at the end was something I thought I wouldn’t enjoy much, I’m quite fussy about my desserts, but I ended up inhaling it within seconds, leaving only the glazed cherry.

In between our courses Karolina and Clare asked for our attention for a few minutes where they brought out the three chefs, Monira, Bibi and Sweety and they each held the floor to introduce themselves and pass on their thanks in their newly learnt English.

It was magic.

These women had been attending the ESOL classes and had been learning to speak a language that wasn’t native to them and here they were standing up in front of a crowd of people trying their best to show us their skills. I know I would have struggled to do such a thing.

I was so impressed by their bravery. One of the ladies got a bit emotional, all because she was so happy that we had made the effort to come out and support them by enjoying food that represented… well it represented them. It was their national cuisine, food that they know and love.

Everyone has a food that reminds them of ‘home’ and this was theirs. That’s a special kind of meal right there and all fifty of us were privileged enough to share it with them.

All three returned to the supper club floor later on, to check everything was ok and to practice a bit more of their English speaking skills one on one. It was a lovely touch and really made the whole evening quite memorable.

Each month the Heart and Parcel club try to go one step further, they share something different, but they never forget the reason they are doing it and you can tell that they do everything to show that these ladies who work hard in the kitchen for us, are definitely the stars of the show.

I can’t think of a bad thing to say about this experience.

Ok thats a little lie – the cumin tea wasn’t really my thing! But I’m always up for experimenting, thats another thing I love about this concept, I got to try things I never would have normally picked out. If the tea at the end was the only thing that didn’t catch my fancy, I’d say that’s pretty good going. (My not taking to the tea could also have been a consequence of me eating way too much food).

I’m going to end by saying Heart and Parcel supper club only release a certain allocation of seats each month and I believe they sell out each time.

Bearing that in mind I do believe the next batch will be due out pretty soon and you know what? Now that I’ve had a taste of this experience…

I’ll bloody fight you for those tickets.

 

 

P.s. if you get some time please visit their website and read more about it, you’ll be impressed trust me!

-> https://heartparcel.wordpress.com – this is not a request from them, this is a request from me 🙂

 

*** Thank you to hafs and G for treating Mo and I to dinner as part of his birthday treat, and thank you once again to Heart and Parcel and all of the ladies who make these supper clubs a great success. I hope you realise how amazing you are and how inspiring your project is. Keep up the good work and see you next month! ***

 

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