Thursday, 17 April 2014

Miranda Jones

I am a mixture between Miranda Hart and Bridget Jones. It's a very well known fact amongst friends and family, and is something few try to question. Things happen to me that just don't happen to anyone else.

Here is some proof/similarities I share: 

I can assure you, honestly. When I moved to France, my French skills were as good as Bridge's German, and if I attempted skiing this would be me (without the pregnancy bit, of course!)

From my tragic night out recently where I woke up with a black eye after deciding a pavement would want to be friends with me, to my solo wine drinking whilst watching chick-flick films like This is 40 and Pitch Perfect, it's pretty set in stone. I am Miranda Jones. However if that were not proof enough, I'm turning into that crazy animal lady.

Followers of my Instagram feed (which if you don't have, you can look at my Twitter feed which should link you up) will have noticed my recent obsession with posting photos of my dog and my cats (obviously food is still a frequent feature.) 

With house sitting, I've been with the pup a lot. I say pup, it's her 13th birthday on Saturday. That said she is still ceeeeerazy.

I've realised how much I miss having a little pal around me when I'm in grey Lancaster, so it's been added to my 5 year plan. Along with the whole job and house thing, I need a cat and/or dog. (Of course I'm still hoping for Hector the Hedgehog or Trevor the Tortoise.)

 I told her to pull a funny face.....she clearly didn't get the memo.....

 Until later on....

And then she pulled out the puppy dog eyes...

And here's a man after my own heart; loving the Mulberry. Sadly he needs to learn that the bag is mine and will never be shared with him...unless he's offering to get another one?

In other news, I've recently been on a date. I was hoping today's post could have been a re-run of my successful date in Lyon. Is hoping the right word? No, I guess not! 

Obviously I wanted the date to be a success - no one wants a disaster of a date - however there's more to blog about had that been the case. (You know your blog is too important to you when you think around every corner "hmm this could be a good blog opportunity.") 

I managed to not make a fool of myself though and saved face...unlike Miranda.

There was no tragic cheesy flirting though (thankfully,) so Connie did that for us...

How YOU doin'?

*UPDATE* I went for breakfast the other day with my dear friend Lucy, who said "hmm actually just the other day I was watching Bridget Jones and I thought how similar you two are..." That's that then!
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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Wildwood: a Dozy Dinner

So there's another 'new' place in Market Harborough. It's another Mercado Lounge situation in that its been in town for a while however my absence from home due to Lyon, Hertfordshire and Lancaster, means it is a new eatery to me. 

This time it's Wildwood. Another up and coming chain of restaurants, that is yet another Zizzi/Pizza Express/Ask/Prezzo Italian restaurant. It's less mainstream and a little bit more diverse in terms of the menu; they have pasta, pizza, grill, salad and burgers.

Mum and I went for an extended Mothers' Day on the recommendation of Mum's friend, Rachel. Apparently the Smoked Haddock and Cheddar risotto with a poached egg on top is to die for. Sadly I had to take their word for it thanks to Lent.

We both got a vino and had a natter about life and the like.

I'm a sucker for Calamari (like what I did there?) so tucked into some as my starter. It was absolutely gorgeous, and the heated mayo it came with added to the dish.

The only qualm we had whilst there was the slightly slow service, but it didn't matter as we were aiming to take our time. 

In between that date and my next visit, I popped back up to Lancaster and had my mini-break to Edinburgh

The last time I was back in Leicestershire for more than about three nights was Christmas and before that was the previous Christmas. So when I'm back for substantial periods of time, I like to make the most of seeing my pals. 

Rosie is one of those pals; she's affectionately known as Dosie.

I can't think why....(she's actually not dozy...she's intelligent and doing very well in her accounting career.)

Anyway she's still based in the beloved Shire, which means a date was required. We pencilled in Friday night for some dinner and lovin.' Wanting to give Wildwood another whirl, and given that Rosie hadn't been, I booked us a table for two.

We entered and were ignored. Not the best of starts. 
"Maybe it's because we're not at the bar/till area....."
"Hmm shall we advance?"

5 minutes passed, 3 members of staff had seen us, 0 acknowledgements had been received. 

"Well...this is awkward. Maybe we should head up to Zizzi."

Another 5 minutes. 

"Excuse me. We have a reservation for two."
"Oh OK. I'm not dealing with tables tonight so can you wait for him up there [points to waiter/manager midway through serving a table of at least 25.]"
"Err yeah OK."
"Oh, do you want to sit down?"
[we mutter to each other "well, a drink might be nice..."

Not the best of starts.

Eventually we were shown to our table and handed the menus, to be told that a significant amount of the specials weren't actually on the menu now.

It drew my attention to the pudding menu. (Always the first thing to consider when decided what your main is going to be!)

HOW CAN A PEANUT BUTTER BROWNIE CHEESECAKE NOT HAVE NUTS IN? I'm sorry, this is 100% NOT Peanut Butter. Please don't insult us Peanut Butter buffs by insinuating such a thing.

We made our decisions on vino and food, and did the usual: natter natter natter natter.

We haven't seen each other for a few months and there have been lots of changes in both of our lives since our last catch up, so it was good to get up to speed with one another's lives.

Rosie went for the Courgette and Parmesan pasta...(one of her recent pieces of 'news' is her declaring she is a vegetarian - imagine my reaction!)

It wasn't very cheesy and needed the extra Parmesan on top (it actually did but I'm always one to get extra queso!) There was an odd liquid residue swimming at the bottom of the dish with the pasta which was intriguing to say the least.

I went for the seafood risotto.
Sorry, I went for the undercooked seafood risotto.

It wasn't horrifically undercooked; the fish was all fine, but the rice wasn't cooked through and there was excess stock again.

Thankfully we could laugh about it.

Of course, when it came to paying for the bill, we had to wait a while. Apparently they have two credit card machines which cannot be used simultaneously. 

The manager came over to take our payment. Now, we both hate confrontation. Rosie more than I, and I am completely confrontation-shy.

Nonetheless, when he asked how it had been, there really had been too many issues not to highlight.
He was extremely understanding and very very good at handling the complaint. 

Rosie hated every second of it.

He apologised profusely for the terrible service, and admitted it wasn't up to scratch. In terms of the food, he said there was nothing that they can do unless we say as soon as we realise something is the matter. The issue for us was that we had waited for so long already, and they were so busy, that we couldn't hang on any longer.

He thanked us for mentioning the issues, have his apologies to Rosie for making her feel so uncomfortable, and said we'd handled the situation very well, thanking us for saying what we thought in a nice manner. (He then gave us his card and offered us half price on our next visit and a free bottle of wine- woo!)

It was a bad evening in terms of the food and service, however given that Mum's friend (equally as much as a foodie as I am) recommends it, and the first experience I had there, I wouldn't write it off just yet. Give it a whirl and see what you think.... (The Calamari and Spag Bol are delicious!) I really cannot fault the conduct of the manager. (Thank you, if you read this!)

Still, our pudding stomachs were in full force. Over to Zizzi we headed.

THIS, is an incredible Banana and Chocolate Calzone with a toffee sauce. Absolutely mind-blowing.

Rosie went for the classic Chocolate Melt. It is equally delicious.

Just like her face.

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Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Lounges

I'm home! It's an unplanned visit. The decision went along the lines of.....

Mum: "Hat do you fancy dog and house sitting, we're on holiday" [AGAIN!]
Me: "Errrr" [Then I realised that the fridge would be full. Then I realised I'd get the comfort of a wonderful sofa, the dog for cuddles, the ability to escape Lancaster for a little bit, the ability to see my friends and family, and these views.....]

I mean just look at this, it's just beautiful.

As of today, I have 52 days until freedom from exams. That translates into 18 days until they start..... Help.

Anyway, being at home means that I am distraction free and can get on with some work. So far so good, and the good weather has helped massively.

On Thursday I had a much needed revision break and met Imogen for lunch. There's a fairly new place open in Market Harborough which is part of The Lounges chain. I first discovered the chain the other year down in Southampton where there are one or two. Mercado Lounge is new to the Market Harborough scene. I tried it back at Christmas with Chloe, and decided that the meet-up with Imogen warranted a new blog post with a wee promotion of this chain.

So first things first, the Lounges are an ideal location for any situation or occasion. I used to go to Trago lounge for dinner or breakfast. They have a lovely yard out the back, which is perfect when the sun is shining.

These are in the yard, obviously I took them for being Lyon promo!

They also do a specials menu that goes for a monthly duration. I normally get food from there because it always sounds delicious. However they do incredible fish finger sandwiches. These were my first experience of a Lounge, and it was probably the best one in terms of food.

Now, back to my trip to Mercado Lounge the other day. Imogen and I met up for a good old chinwag. We went to school together and have been good friends ever since. She graduated last year and is saving up money this year before the amazing gap yah she's planning. This was obviously the topic of conversation - far more interesting than 7 exams, dog sitting in the most boring (yet quaint) village, and french literature. She has so many plans, options and ideas, I am so jealous; the world truly is her oyster.

We grabbed a table in the corner looking out onto the street; prime people watching position (something we both adore doing), ordered some drinks and perused the menu. I knew I what I was having straight off, Imogen took a little more time.

Sadly Imogen's 'Dog' fell apart before I could grab a blog-worthy photo. No dramas - her facial expression makes the photo blogworthy. Its a pulled pork hotdog.

I went for the Pollock risotto, with mushroom and spinach and a poached egg. (I love a smoked fish risotto with poached egg on it!) It was tasty...reallly tasty. I'd say it was the second best meal I've had in a Lounge (the first being that fish finger sandwich.)

The company was also great! I am so so jealous of Imogen's year (or more) gallivanting off seeing the world...meanwhile I'll (hopefully) be doing my office job living vicariously through her emails and updates.

I was very sad (jealous) of this prospect, but I was cheered up by this amazing package that I came home to.


Bored in my cottage on my own, with nothing but revision and my sleeping dog for entertainment, I went to play at Dad's with the cats. They are so much fun.

This is Grace (the mummy)

And this is Archie. He is completely bonkers (and tried to play with my hair and Mulberry - I don't know which I was more upset about.)

So, in short, go to one of the Lounges. They are fast-growing all over the country. Have a look on their website to see where they are. Get the fish finger sandwich and the old fashioned lemonade....or the fish risotto if you go this month!

They also do some really cool and nice cocktails, not to mention my favourite Barcelona beer - Estrella. Its ideal for catch ups, dates, meetings and just general hanging out. 

Grab a sofa, grab a board game and grab a beer (a friend might be advised too - otherwise you just look a bit daft...unless thats the way you role of course.)

Next up I have another food related blog (let's be honest - that is what my life is all about.) 

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Last week, I was last-minute invited to Edinburgh with one of my best friends James. We used to live together in second year but have known each other from about day three of university. It sort of went along the lines of.....

[Scene: French class no.1]
Teacher: Class, introduce yourself to your neighbour in French
James: I'm James and I'm from somewhere no one seems to know up here...Leicester

Anyway, due to unforeseen circumstances I was drafted in to join James on the trip. So we met at the train station (bacon sandwich in hand) on Monday morning ready for the journey. We were excited...

The journey was nice and swift. I had a nap....

On arriving we went the very long way round to find the hotel, which was totally worth it when our room presented us with this view:

We grabbed a cuppa and a bite to eat and headed over to Princes Street and the Royal Mile for a gander around the city. The weather wasn't ideal; it was that fine type of rain that makes you drenched without it actually raining.

We then had some fun with souvenirs....

I adore this photo
We were exhausted from all the fun, so we headed home, freshened up and hit the nearest Prezzo for a quick dinner before bed (with the Game of Thrones.) 

James struggled to sleep (let's just say I am as talkative when asleep as when awake.) So I sat up in bed reading my book (yet another non-pleasure book!) and waited for his awakening. The weather was stunning outside, so we decided today was the day to go around the castle. We weren't overly hungry for breakfast so we headed straight to the castle, where we stood and queued for about 45 mins....which made us peckish.

Getting our priorities straight, we bought our tickets and went off for Brunch with plans to return when it was quieter (when others were eating...)

First off though, we took some photos in case the sun vanished.

And then got stuck into the truly important stuff.

We then made way back to the castle to have a history lesson on Scotland. It was brilliant to learn about Scottish history, which (being a history nerd) allowed me to link it to my history course I'm studying.

We then had some more fun...

We then headed back to the hotel for a nap and a quick read of our book. En route, we took in a bit more of the city.

Years ago, a very good (old) friend of mine moved away to Scotland. She was one of my best friends, and a family friend. We were so close we'd been on family holidays together several times. When Sam went up to the land of the kilts, I wept (we were like 12 - it's allowed!) We visited each other a couple of times but we've had a dry patch of 7 years.

We took advantage of location and went for cocktails (and sent this picture to our parents hinting that another family holiday was required....)

Meanwhile, James got some more sightseeing in, and did some souvenir shopping.

We then had a rendez-vous back at the hotel and beautified ourselves ready for a posh meal.

So I have a confession: I was so excited about the prospect of haggis and the good food and wine that I forgot to take photos. I'm sorry, OK. I'M SORRY!

BUT look up Angels with Bagpipes which on the Royal Mile, and if you're ever in the area GO. Try the haggis (it's delicious!) try the belly pork (see below) and try the vol-au-vent main course. 

Our banks were screaming at us, so we turned down the option of pudding. Despite the very tasty sounding ginger sponge. Instead we made way for cake from Patisserie Valerie, grabbed our pyjamas, and watched TV in bed....with PB of course.

PB is James' bear. He goes obviously there were three in the bed for the mini break.

The next morning I snuck out in the early hours of the morning to meet a second old friend of mine who, like Sam, had left at a very early age. Only this time, she went to Kenya (and then Bournemouth way.) She's now studying in Edinburgh, and on seeing that Sam and I had met up, wanted to catch up too. Sadly, Hannah had a horrific assignment to do so we went for a breakfast coffee and had an enormous catch up. With both the girls, it felt like no time had passed. We chatted like old friends do; work, uni, boys, etc. It was brilliant.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city which I thoroughly recommend. It's now on my list of places I'd like to live....with my Scottie dog....which is going to be called Doogle and will get on like a house on fire with Hector the Hedgehog and Trevor the Tortoise.
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