Travelling light? Not if I can help it!

I like stuff. And I like choice. I also like to be happy with my appearance, because not being happy with the way I look can affect my enjoyment of an experience. Sad but true.

So, when I go anywhere, I take as much stuff with me as is feasibly possible. So that I have choice when I get there. None of this capsule wardrobe/one colour palette/3 outfits for 3 days nonsense.

Luggage

Case in point was this weekend. Travel Thursday / travel back Sunday. Leaving only 2 full days to dress for, and 3 nights out. Here’s a summary of what I took:

  • 2 vest tops for layering
  • 4 jumpers
  • A hoodie
  • 2 70s style blouses (hate that word, but not sure how else to descibe them?!)
  • A t-shirt
  • 2 pairs of leather look leggings
  • 1 pair of standard leggings
  • 2 pairs of skinny jeans
  • 1 pair of coated skinnies
  • Pair of white skinnies (in March? What was I thinking????!!!!)
  • High waisted black denim shorts (to wear with tights, I’m not completely barking)
  • Leather look sleeveless top
  • Sleeveless oversized band tee
  • Sleeveless chiffon top
  • A dress
  • Long sleeve chiffon shirt
  • 70s style fluffy knit waistcoat
  • Pair of tartan trousers
  • 4 pairs of boots (1 for daytime/3 for evening)
  • 4 coats (leopard fur/leather bomber/heavy jersey military/lightweight leather biker)

Plus the t-shirt/boyfriend jeans/hi-tops I travelled up in on Thursday.

Ridiculous, no? That’s the trouble/bonus of travelling by car – no weight or space restrictions, so you can cram EVERYTHING in!

Overpack

A good point I think?

A mini break and lots of music

Today I’m off to North Wales for a 3 day mini break at a music festival called Hard Rock Hell. Which sounds very brutal and hardcore, but will actually be a lot of fun.

The organisers take over Hafan y Mor holiday park for the duration and there are lots of live bands playing in three different arenas. Because it’s out of season some of the holiday park facilities won’t be open, but there’s an on site shop, pub, etc. Accommodation is in a caravan, which I always turned my nose up at until a couple of years ago but now actually love due to the cosy home-from-homeness of it all. There are 5 of us sharing, which will be a new experience, so we’ll see how that turns out!

Hafan y Mor

I have very eclectic music tastes and like a whole lot of stuff (some of it cheesy and embarrassing, but I don’t care!) I didn’t go to my first live gig until I was about 24 so was quite a late starter, but since meeting my husband I’m really into live music and love being at gigs with friends. He’s introduced to me a lot of smaller bands I would never have heard of otherwise, and things like Hard Rock Hell which I would never have dreamed of going to.

Hopefully we’ll get out and about for a wander and some sea air as well.

Restaurant Review – Shogun Sushi and Noodle Bar, Birmingham

On Sunday my husband and I went for food at Shogun Sushi and Noodle Bar. We’d purchased a Groupon voucher pre-Christmas and not got around to using it for one reason or another, and the fact that it expires today meant it was use it or lose it. The deal was salad appetiser; haromaki (japanese spring rolls) and yakitori (chicken skewers) to start followed by rice, vegetables, salmon, tiger prawns and teriyaki chicken. The restaurant is in the bottom of The Cube – the latest addition to Birmingham’s skyline and the popular Mailbox area of the city.

The Cube

I have mixed feelings about The Cube, mainly due to the awful colour of the exterior cladding, but it’s certainly adds a welcome extra dimension to Birmingham’s food and drink landscape.

The deal was valid pre-7pm and we arrived at round 6pm, expecting it to be pretty quiet, but it was surprisingly full (lots of people using up their vouchers, obvs). There were a number of people seated around the sushi bar, with the teppanyaki cooking plates situated towards the rear of the restaurant. We were seated alongside another couple who had just arrived and immediately served our starters which were fresh and tasty.

Shogun Teppanyaki starter

While we were eating a member of the team came out and cleaned the cooking griddle area with steaming water. After our starters had been finished and cleared away, our chef came to the cooking area and again cleaned the area thoroughly. Then the show began! He was incredibly friendly and enthusiastic, and looked like he was genuinely enjoying his job. He did some fancy showboating with his cooking tools, juggling and banging them like drums – much to our delight! His hands were so fast, it was hard to get an in focus picture!

 

 

He began by frying fresh garlic which was then pushed to one side to be used in future dishes; then added a pile of white rice and vegetables, followed by 6 eggs which were cooked into an omelette roll (after he’d juggled with them). The speed and presentation were brilliant, and he engaged with the diners by throwing bits of omelette in the air for us to catch with our mouths. The rice was served which we began to eat while he then moved onto cooking the salmon and prawns, followed by the teriyaki chicken. Everything was so fresh and tasty, beautifully cooked and delicious – right in front of our eyes, from raw.

Shogun Teppanyaki chef 3

I can imagine that this dining experience would be a whole lot of fun with a group of people. We were the only 4 people on our teppanyaki table so it was over more quickly than we would have liked. The theatrical side of it for a large number of people would really be quite something, especially with the nature of our exuberant chef.

Definitely one to consider for a future group night out.

Twit of the Day award…

…goes to the person in charge of ordering supplies at my local Asda supermarket ; for running out of both standard size carrier bags AND bags for life, meaning the only options for packing up my shopping were the teeny tiny ones the size of a postage stamp (ok, slight exaggeration, but they’re so small that I needed 7 of them for one hand basket full of shopping).

Think of the environment! And my poor sore hands!*

Bags

*Disclaimer – those are not my legs!

Skinny Flares Rock

I’ve been wearing skinny flares for a couple of years now. Not regularly, but I wheel them out every so often and always get told how flattering they are, how slim they make me look compared to other jeans, yada yada yada.

A good skinny flare is fitted around the bum and to the knee, like a pair of skinny jeans, then flares out from the knee, fairly (or flarely!) dramatically. Not to be confused with bootcut. There is a definite wideness of hem.

The truth is, I like the silhouette. I don’t care if they’re on trend or of the moment. They remind me of a cool insouciant 70s rock chick. They always make me want to put my hands in my pockets and my nose in the air like I just don’t care.

My first pair was black. Not faded black, but a true overdyed black. They’re perfect worn with pointy heels – the pointier the better. I have a pair of loooong pointed leopard print courts that are perfect; I’ve had them for years and I will never part with them.

So it was with interest that I read about M&S’s foray into the skinny flare market (not a place I ever EVER think of shopping for myself; although I do buy quite a lot of my Mother-in-Law’s Christmas and birthday gifts there – I think that says it all). Lauded by Vogue no less, these Limited Edition high waisted offerings come in 3 different lengths, with 70s style front patch pockets (nice touch) and a lovely shade of blue for the impending summer. Skinny Flares are thin on the ground, and I’ve only ever found them at Dorothy Perkins (not to say they don’t exist at the higher end of the market, but that’s a place that doesn’t interest me) so I decided to give them a go, with high hopes (especially as I was lucky enough to have a 20% discount code).

Jeans

Unfortunately they didn’t live up the hype. The rise was good and I liked the front patch pockets. The flare was a good flare-ness. But the fabric was poor – verging on cheap (and I’d know all about that, with my nose for a bargain). There was too much stretch, the colour wasn’t quite right, the stitching puckered somewhat. Plus I was unable to get the correct size/length combo due to their popularity and stock levels.

On the plus side, I saved myself £28.

Still having a hankering for some mid blue ones – to wear with wooden heeled sandals, vest tops and huge sunglasses in the better weather – I wondered whether Dorothy Perkins would once again fit the bill. And I’m delighted to say they did! They have exactly the same style as my black ones, in a good weight denim, and the Long length is perfect for 5’6″ me to wear with heels while still skimming the floor (nothing worse than a flare that finishes too far above the ground).

DP list them as bootcut. They’re definitely not bootcut.

Here they are in the blue – yet again the old cliche of the picture not doing them justice (and they definitely look more flared on).

Blue jeans

And the black, which I already have.

Black jeans

Best of all, they’re only £15.

Of course, now that the 70s are officially “in fashion” again, I’m sure there’ll be a proliferation hitting the high street. Farah Fawcett eat your heart out!

Restaurant review: Cucina Rustica, Birmingham

Cucina Rustica is an italian restaurant in Birmingham, just outside of the city centre near the Jewellery Quarter. I hadn’t heard of it until my Dad mentioned it last week, and last night he took us there for dinner.

The outside is deceptive in terms of size – it looks quite small but opens up inside to a large dining space. Dad had requested a table in the window which is housed in one of 2 booths and was perfect for the two of us, my husband and Dad’s wife. The front area of the restaurant has a more cosy rustic feel, while the larger rear dining area is more modern and stylised.

The menu is extensive and, as usual in a restaurant environment, I turned into Mrs Indecisive for fear of making the wrong choice (I’m always worried that I’ll prefer the look of everyone else’s food and spend the meal regretting my own decision – food is that important). I think I get this from my Dad, who was still deciding on his main course when the waitress was taking our order!

To start, I ordered “Capesante” – gratinated king scallops, parmesan, parsley, garlic butter & shrimps. The presentation was stunning and the flavours were perfectly balanced; I was so excited that I only managed to get a photograph once I’d finished!

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For main course I ordered veal. I know it’s still viewed as a controversial meat by some, but its so rare to see it on a menu that I couldn’t possibly have ordered anything else once it caught my eye. “Involtini di vitello”, to give it proper credit, was veal, parma ham, asparagus, mozzarella, marsala wine. The ham, asparagus and mozzarella was wrapped inside the veal, with a generous helping of deliciously rich sauce. It could have benefitted from a little more cheese for extra gooeyness, but the flavours were great and the side order of saute potatoes I decided on were the perfect accompaniment (and great for making the most of the marsala wine sauce). No picture, I was too intent on getting it in my tum!

The restaurant itself is finished to a very high standard, and our waitress was incredibly friendly, helpful and patient (we spent too much chatting and not enough time perusing the menu when we first arrived). We were served complimentary bread and olives as an appetiser, and drank rose wine by the bottle.

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I rarely go to Italian restaurants, mainly because I always think Italian cuisine is easy to recreate at home (which is pretty dumb and insulting to Italian chefs) and I wouldn’t think of ordering  pasta dish for the same reason. But I’ll definitely dine at Custina Rustica again, and will be keen to try “Fagottini al cinghiale” (wild boar filled pasta with light cream porcini sauce) – how delish does that sound?

A H&M shaped lament

Dear H&M, why is your bottom sizing so rubbish? (as in the sizing of your clothing, not your actual rears). I’m not a slave to labels by any means, but it would be nice to order my size and for it to, y’know, actually fit? And not to have to order TWO sizes bigger just to be able to get the buttons to fasten.

I know I’m not the skinny minnie I once was, but I’m also not a size 16.

On that basis, who on earth is buying your size 8 stuff? Children? Fairies? No-one?

Strange really, when a size 12 top is often big enough to house a small country, all it’s inhabitants and a group of visiting tourists.

An online order triples in size (at least) due to having to select at least three sizes in everything to get the right size. Think of the poor delivery man, having to cart all that stuff upstairs to my apartment.

Courier

Yours,

A disgruntled online shopper

Old England and an orange face!

Today I had a meeting in Stratford upon Avon – the birthplace of William Shakespeare; steeped in culture and history. Half way there, I noticed that my face was an unfortunate shade of orange! I had used new bronzing pearls this morning and evidently they were too effective. Rather than a warm glow I had a look of an oompah loompah (with a pale neck); not ideal job candidate material. Cue frantically rubbing my face with a tissue while navigating country roads.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time for a wander round Stratford. I did, however, make an unexpected stop in Wootton Wawen.

My only prior knowledge of this place was going through it on a train, and laughing because I thought the pronunciation sounded a bit Jonathan Woss-esque (I’ve since found out it’s pronounced Warn, which isn’t nearly as much fun). But today I drove through, and was thrilled by it’s prettiness, even on a grey day.

The Bulls Head pub was built in the 17th century – those are original beams and real thatched roofs.

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St Peter’s church is one of the oldest structures in England’s Midlands. Its tower dates back to the 900s, if not earlier.

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The building in the distance is Wootton Hall, and the grounds are home to a residential caravan site, aimed at “mature residents”. I couldn’t see any of the homes from the road, but what a picturesque place to live.

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There’s also this weir waterfall, I think it’s connected to the lakes in Wootton Hall. I do love the sound of coarsing water; so powerful and nature-ish.

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 Oh,and I saw my first crocus of the year! And this sweet sign outside the village shop.

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Wootton Wawen is probably only about 30 minutes drive from home, but couldn’t be more different. I’m going to head back in summer when the trees are in bloom, and maybe have a cheeky vino and some lunch in that wonderful pub.

Giz-a-job

After a few days of letting the redundancy news sink in, I’ve started to get pro-active on the job front. So yesterday I made some calls to recruitment agencies, and today I had interviews with two of them.

I’ve only had very brief experience with agencies previously, and that was 8 years ago when my skill set was very limited and people like me were two-a-penny; hopefully my career currency has improved since then. What to wear was a slight quandary, as it’s not formal but also you want to project the right image. I took my nose ring out to show I mean business!

While trying to find the first office I came across a young lad with a nosebleed, who told me he’d just had his wallet stolen and was trying to get enough change for a bus. Then I realised I was in completely the wrong place (my geographic knowledge of my own city is poor at times), plus the waistband on my tights was loose so I was scuttling along trying desperately to hoist up my opaques without drawing attention to myself. All this in galeforce winds. At least it wasn’t raining; no-one needs a frizzy me on their hands asking for a job.

My second interview was in another part of the city. I took this photo when I came out; it was beautifully sunny, although cold.

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I thought I’d have a little sit down near the fountain before I left, but then the sun went in and my cape started blowing perilously close to the water (it’s a blanket wrap, I don’t think I’m a superhero). I did spot a lad walking round in a t-shirt, and a girl in sandals. Pretty daft when it’s only 7 degrees.

Be Prepared

It’s very rare that I get invited to an event and have to buy something new to wear. The main reason for this is that I buy suitable things when I see them, usually at a bargain price, and then I have a choice of outfits when the time comes. The great thing about that is:

a) it’s cost effective
b) the chances of someone else wearing the same thing are very slim

Case in point is this dress from Tesco F&F.

Prom dress 1

Because I can’t resist a sale email (I try, but get suckered in “just to have a look”) I had a root through the dregs of the Tesco F&F sale, and ordered a few bits. Most were consigned to immediate return, as was this dress on first sight, but trying it on “just out of curiosity” it became a keeper. The picture doesn’t do it justice (what a cliche)  but it’s too much of a bargain and a lovely item to return. Costing the princely sum of £10 (reduced from £35), for someone who can pop into Poundland for one thing and come out £15 lighter in pocket, this is a no brainer.

Prom dress 2

It’s not a length that I would usually go for, but there’s something quite unusual about it.. It’s made in panels, and the fabric has a metallic sheen which catches the light. I’m far from boobilicious, but with a good strapless bra I think there could be some decent curves going on.

So, how and when will I wear it? At the moment I don’t know. I don’t have an event in mind, but it would be perfect for a wedding (full day or evening only), or a summer party. It would look lovely with metallic accessories (shoes and clutch) or I could add a thick black waist belt and very pointed black court shoes to toughen it up a little. It would also work with a black velvet short jacket for a winter event.

But, I’m thinking I may wear it for something left of centre – like Download Festival with a pair of chunky boots. That would be fun!

It’s always good to have things in your wardrobe that you love and look forward to wearing, and it certainly takes the pressure off trawling round the shops in a blind panic and throwing money at the situation.

On the other hand, it can also make you question your social life when you spot stuff in your wardrobe that’s been there for quite a while and no event has arisen. I’ve just realised this applies to me…