30 January 2015

New Year, New You - Dining Event at The Light, Leeds

I'll warn you now, I've been making myself so hungry organising the pictures for this post - so if you have a sandwich handy you might want to grab it now! 

I was recently invited along a dining event at The Light in Leeds. I've seen a few posts in the past about previous similar events but have never managed to attend before so was very pleases to finally be able to pop along to one! The idea of the dining events is that you get to visit a different one of the centre's awesome food venues for each course and on this occasion we began our evenings at Browns for pre-dinner mocktails.

dandelion and burdock mocktail

The delightful drink we were provided with was a tasty combination of mint, ginger beer and dandelion and burdock cordial served over ice in a rather fetching tin tankard. It was delicious, and as I'm often driving it's lovely to have so many tasty non-alcoholic drinks available these days as I can only drink so much coke! 

protein brownies leeds

After drinks, we were whisked off to Predator Nutrition for a tasting session. When I was told it would be healthy starters at a nutrition place, I did not expect it to be brownies and ice cream and I couldn't be more pleased! Of course, these were healthier, protein-filled versions of the tasty treats but no less delicious for it.

Predator nutrition leeds treats

We were also given a little tour of the store and introduced to the wide range or products available for fat burning, muscle building or whatever other fitness goals you may aspire to. It may come as no surprise that I had my eye on the healthier versions of various sweet sauces and syrups - less bad stuff in them mean you can have more of it, yum!

low fat sauces

For the main course we headed towards Prezzo for some of their lighter Italian options. I've never been to Prezzo before but I used to live pretty much next door to one when I was a poor university student and always thought they were taunting me with their gorgeous looking food that I could always smell as I walked past on my way to buy my smartprice noodles.

leeds pasta restaurant

Any inkling I might have had that the 'lighter' options would be a waste of a lovely restaurant experience were quickly pushed aside when we were brought out dish after dish of beautiful looking food.

prezzo leeds light options
Pizzas (on a lighter flatbread base), pastas and plenty of salad were all on offer. I didn't try everything (my lifelong aversion to any and all seafood meant I didn't  touch dishes like the crabcakes, salmon pizza and lobster pasta, but I was assured they were all great by my more adventurous companions), but everything I did try was fresh and tasty, bursting with colour and flavour.

prezzo salad menu

prezzo crab cakes
The extra good news is the boyfriend, who usually avoids Italian food like the plague because of his aversion to tomatoes, found plenty he could eat too - which means I might be able to convince him to head back without too much trouble!

leeds light pasta options

italian food leeds

Once we had eaten our fill, it was time to visit Café Rouge for dessert. We were presented with some adorable little mini desserts, including a passionfruit cheesecake and a delightfully oozy chocolate fondant, but the real star for me was the Peach and Champagne Sorbet.

cafe rouge sorbet
This guilt-free treat was the perfect way to end our meal, and I'd definitely go back to Café Rouge just for this (ok, not just for this - they seem to have loads on the menu I'd like to try, but it's a good excuse!)
This was all just a taster of the various dining options at The Light, definitely a good placed to head if you are in Leeds and hungry!
Big thanks to the Light and all the venues mentioned for having us over!
* Meal provided free of charge

25 January 2015

Ghost Stories and Bolling Hall, Bradford

I know blog post inspiration comes from a wide variety of places, and for some reason Bolling Hall popped up in a recent dream - enough to convince me to drag the kids along for a day of historical exploration and ghostly tales! 

Od house in the snow

Bolling Hall is one of the oldest buildings in Bradford, and I used to love visiting the gorgeous old house with my dad when I was little. We used to live really nearby and it's free entry so as you can imagine it was a pretty regular trip for us! 

Bradford Museums

On my most recent visit there were a number of different quiz sheets and challenges to complete on our way around the house. Simple things like this can make such a big difference to keeping the kids engaged while looking around. Big fancy rooms start to look the same to them after a while no matter how full of lovely old things, but if they have something to look for, clues to find, a story to follow then they get so much more out of it. While Emily and I scoured the rooms looking for ghosts for one quiz, Harry completed the Civil War cypher - deciphering mysterious coded messages to learn facts about Bolling Hall's place in the war. 

Civil War Trail

This is also closely related to Bolling Hall's most famous story - that of it's resident ghost. During the Civil War, goes the tale, the owner of the house allowed the commander of the Royalist army, the Earl of Newcastle, to stay. On retiring to bed in the ornate oak pannelled room, the Earl vowed that when morning came he would kill every man, woman and child of the Parliamentarian town who's defiance had irked him so.

Bradford Ghost Stories

Instead of a restful pre-slaughter nights sleep, however, the Earl was woken in the middle of the night by the sensation of his bed covers being removed from him. He saw the ghostly figure of a woman stood at his bedside, wringing her hands and urging him to 'Pity poor Bradford'.

When he awoke the next morning, instead of complete devastation of Bradford, he ordered his army to only kill those who offered resistance. In the end, only ten deaths were recorded.

Oak Panelled room with four poster bed

Of course this could have just been a rather elaborate excuse for not racking up a more impressive body count, but it's not the only instance of reported ghost sightings at Bolling Hall. The Blue Room, above, has its fair share of spooky tales as do other parts of the house, and when Living TV's Most Haunted filmed an episode there a few years ago they uncovered a range of paramormal activity. 

Family days out in bradford

My work colleague has been to Bolling Hall on an organised ghost hunt and said she definitely felt the presence of something unearthly. Emily decided she was taking no chances so went in her Halloween mummy costume as a disguise and with her axe for protection. Thankfully we managed to escape without too much trouble! 

Bolling Hall Nusery Bradford

In fact, if I found anything incredibly creepy it was the old dolls and toys found in the nursery. Chills, I tell you! 

Bolling Hall Bradford Childrens Room

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom and war and ghosts,... I always enjoy beating the kids at a game of Nine Men's Morris... 

Old Board Games

....and the place is lovely enough to look around as it is, with plenty to see, read and try on.

Kids in old house

Bolling Hall chandelier

Bolling Hall is only about a mile away from the town centre, is free to look around and is well worth a peek! 

24 January 2015

Five Guys - Kirkstall, Leeds

I like burgers. So when Sammie suggested we swing by the new(ish) Five Guys in Kirkstall, Leeds on the way back from our recent York afternoon tea - I was only too happy to oblige. I was a little unsure I'd be burger-hungry after all that tea and cake but found I managed just fine!

Five Guys Sign

Five Guys falls somewhere inbeetween a fancy McDonalds and something like Nandos. It's counter service fast food but freshly prepared and at not far off restaurant prices.

The menus is compact but with plenty of room for variation. Burgers (regular size is a double burger, a 'little' one is a single), hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches make up the skeleton of it, but apart from cheese and bacon which you pay extra for there's a decent list of 'free' toppings so you can tailor your meal to your taste. By piling them all on you could definitely feel like you got better value for money!

food at five guys in leeds

Being a girl of relatively simple tastes though, I just asked for lettuce, tomato and green peppers on my double cheeseburger. I have to say, the burger was really good. Really good. I don't know if it was the  lack of unnecessary sauces turning it into a gloopy mess but it just seemed to hold together better than many other burgers I've had. It wasn't greasy and tasted fresh and delicious! 

add your own toppings burger Leeds

The burger was around the £8 mark, and that doesn't come with fries or a drink - but both of these are definitely worth buying separately. The fries (£2.75 for a smallest size - but for a small portion it's a pretty big portion!) are great. Skins left on give these a really rustic and potato-y taste! 

rustic skin on chips

The very best reason to visit Five Guys though has to be the amazing drinks machine. This thing is seriously impressive! It's £2.50 for a refillable cup but the options available are immense - you don't just get coke but you can choose raspberry coke, cherry coke, orange coke, vanilla coke, lime coke and cherry vanilla coke. Yup. And all these were available in diet too. A lot of the drinks brands have a similarly impressive array of options. I only got to try a couple on my first visit but the Peach Fanta is coming out a winner so far! 

different coca cola flavours available

My full meal came to a little over £13, which is more than I'd initially expected to pay. Though, I've paid a more before for less enjoyable meals, so I don't feel too distraught about it! I initially left thinking that it'd be a good stop-off if I was in the area, but not somewhere I'd go out of my way for... but as I look at the pictures and remember how it tasted I'm definitely considering jumping in the car and heading over to Leeds now for another one so it must have left a deeper impression on me than expected! 

22 January 2015

Crafty Creatives Box - Mosaic

I've been getting these Crafty Creatives boxes for months now - since the fun we had with the Silk Painting Box ages ago - but I've either not got round to doing the crafts or not got around to posting them (and on one occasion made such a terrible job of it that I wanted to pretend it never existed). But in the name of new year organisation, here's what I got in and made with January's Mosaic based box!

Craft Subscription Box
The kit provides all you need to make pretty glass candle holders - three boxes of mosaic tiles, a big pair of tile-handling tweezers, glue, candles and little glass jars to decorate. Unfortunately one of my glasses was damaged in transit but figured it'd be easy enough to improvise with something we had in the house already instead!

red white green tiles

It's theoretically a really simple thing to do, blob the glue on the glass and stick on a tile, voila! Though as you can see my first go round was a tad overly gluey! I definitely like to think I'd got the hang of it by the time I was done though, so if I had a future attempt it should definitely look a little neater overall!

crafty creatives mosaic box

While I stuck to (theoretically) straight rows on my attempts, little miss got a bit more creative with the ones we found her to decorate! She then insisted on lighting the candles and having them placed all around the bathroom so should could have a 'princess bath'....

mosaic candle holders

Though our end products were far from perfect we are both pretty pleased with the way they turned out and we had a lot of fun getting 'stuck' in! We still have a few of the tiles and some glue left for next time too. As it's something the little one can do with very little input from me it's a good way for her to make home made gifts for the family too! (She's a generous little soul and does like making things for other folk.)

crafty creatives mosaic box

Crafty Creatives is a monthly subscription box, costing £15 per month plus postage of £2.95, with no minimum contract. The same merry bunch have also recently stared a stationary sub box called Paperhaul at £10 a month - or you can save money on getting both by opting for the combo deal! I'm very tempted to upgrade for next month - you can never have too much stationary afterall! 

19 January 2015

Afternoon Tea - Cedar Court Grand, York

My afternoon tea efforts of 2014 tailed off badly towards the end of the year due to a dramatic lack of time to do anything, so as you can imagine my first of 2015 was highly anticipated! Added to my natural giddiness was the knowledge that the first one booked was at York's absolutely stunning Grand Cedar Court Hotel. Though we were disappointed with the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea Party on our first visit, that did nothing to lessen our impression of the grand venue itself and we were thrilled to be invited back to try the regular afternoon tea instead.

Cedar Court Grand York Afternoon Tea

First things first is of course the tea! The hotel offer a fabulous range of hot drinks - black, white, green and herbal teas are available, as well as coffee for the ... less refined. I was pleased as punch to see Taylors of Harrogate's China Rose Petal on the tea menu, so my decision was made. The silverware was rather gorgeous too.

Afternoon tea silver service

Next came sandwiches - and again a wide selection of fillings: smoked salmon and cream cheese, ham and mustard, cucumber, egg mayonnaise and watercress, and roast beef with black pepper mayonnaise. I didn't try everything (you may be aware already of my smoked salmon stance), but everything I did try was great, with lovely soft bread. We were asked if we wanted more sandwiches, which I thought was a lovely offer, but we were all ready for the sweet stuff at this point!

Afternoon tea finger sandwiches cedar court grand york

It was a grand looking cake display and we must have looked ridiculous all queuing up to photograph it all. The staff (who were all lovely) seemed to find us quite entertaining!

afternoon tea york

Scones came next after sandwiches and it was lovely to see two each! One plain, and one fruit - both were dinky so you get the variety without being over faced. These were fantastic, light and delicious and served with a range of jams and plenty of clotted cream!

jam and cream scones york

The chocolate delice on the cake stand instantly rang bells, as it also appeared on the Mad Hatters tea. This is definitely one for the serious chocolate lovers, its so rich that I'll admit I didn't manage to finish it this time round! I could have made myself but it certainly wouldn't have been good for me, in any way! The pot of banoffee cream with banana crumb was all eaten though!

afternoon tea cakes cedar court grand york

The rhubarb and custard cone instantly caught my eye, as it's one of the most adorable things I've ever eaten! The top swirl part was sweet meringue, and the cone was filled with custard - brilliant! The lemon cupcake had the most delicious frosting and I loved the cheeky little lemon curd surprise hiding underneath it. The sponge itself was a little on the dry side but I think the lovely flavours surrounding it just about carried it through!

cutest afternoon tea cakes

Overall I thought this was a much better experience than the Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea (as well as being quite a bit cheaper!) and it's always lovely to have an excuse to visit the Grand Cedar Court in York. That being said, one issue we had last time was that everything was way too sweet to actually be enjoyable (and I say that as a big sweet-lover!), and it still seems like someone in the kitchen is being a little heavy handed with the sugar! Each of the cakey things individually were lovely but trying to eat them all together in one sitting was quite an ask!

But I did have fun trying! 

18 January 2015

My Little Energy Box

I wasn't sure if I was going to pop this post up or not, because I've had the hardest time this weekend getting decent photos of anything! The weather has not been my friend in many respects this weekend and one of the products in particular just wouldn't photograph anything close to it's actual colour.... but then I realised that blogging about it was my only excuse for buying this little beauty so if I wanted to keep up the subscription I really should do the post! 

My Little Box French Subscription Box January

The 'My Little... Boxes' started popping up in my timeline later last year and I was instantly smitten with the cute graphics and fab combination off beauty and lifestyle products so I thought it's make a nice New Years treat for sacking off a couple of other unnecessary expenses. Each box comes in at £100 + £3.95 P&P postage (from France!) so isn't dissimilar in price to most of the other well known blogger-fave sub boxes. 

The theme of this one, as is common around January, seems to be fitness/energy/new start based and the lifestyle goodies sent to fit this theme were this gym bag and calendar. The gym bag is cute but feels a little flimsy, and doesn't look as exciting to me as some of the bits and bobs I've seen in previous boxes but I'm sure I'll find a good use for it - you can never have too many bags, afterall! The calendar is adorable, full of sweet illustrations and hopefully just the thing to get me a bit more organised this year! 

The box also came with a little magazine (which I haven't had chance to look through yet but will be heading to the bath with me tonight!) and card and the whole thing is bundled up so prettily that it just makes my heart happy to see! 

My little box energy goodies

The same thing applies to the beauty products - not only have we got some awesome things but they came beautifully presented in a gorgeous little fabric drawstring bag... again something that I'm sure will go to good use somewhere! 

Inside the little box came a very fancy moisturiser from Talika - the Photo-Hydra Day cream turns the suns energy into intercellular hydrating energy (I don't know how this works but assume there's a good sciencey explanation!) - all we need now is some sun! 

The product that caused me so much photography trouble was the Nails Inc polish in Tate. It's actually a beautiful dark red but every picture I took in the house - in different rooms, different backgrounds, natural light, artificial light - made it look nearly black! 

The last thing was a My Little Beauty energising spritz - it might not make me want to run to the gym but sure it'll be lovely for waking up my tired face!

Nails Inc Tate

I'm super chuffed with the contents of my first box, and can't wait to see what comes in the next one! 

16 January 2015

Craiglands Hotel, Ilkley

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that at one point over the Christmas holidays I ran away from the mess and chaos of home to the relative calm and quiet of Ilkley. I'd spotted a deal for the Craiglands Hotel on Groupon or Living Social or one of the other discounted-stuff sites and snapped it up (I go through phases where I buy every voucher I see and then don't use half of them - anyone else?), and got booked for a night in between Christmas and New Years for some much needed R&R.

Ilkely hotels

I love the outside of the Craiglands Hotel, it's just this big dark imposing Victorian monster of a building. I've walked past it couple of times before - it's about half way up the hill from the train station to the cow and calf rocks - as well as attending a wedding reception there a couple of years ago so knew it'd be pretty nice!

Standard double room craiglands hotel

craiglands hotel room bathroom

hotel room toiletries

I thought the little bag of toiletries was great - as well as the standard soap and shampoo I found a lip balm and foot gel! The room was spacious and clean and well stocked with tea, coffee and hot chocolate (plus biscuits!) - and I'm always happy to see a bath instead of just a shower!
After a quick explore of the room we decided to test out the bed thoroughly by going straight to sleep for a couple of hours! I'm definitely not usually a day-time sleeper so the fact I managed to drift off with no trouble shows how comfy the bed was (or how much Christmas had taken its toll? maybe a bit of both!)

Craiglands Hotel restaurant ilkely

After a much needed snooze and a little potter around the room, drinking the tea provided and watching something festive on TV, it was time to head down to the restaurant, Brasserie One, for out evening meal (booked as part of the voucher package). The restaurant was pretty quiet, and service was fast and pleasant.
We were supposed to get a three course meal but despite some very tempting sounding menu options we both decided we were not hungry enough (after filling up earlier in the day at the Cow and Calf) to manage all three - and there was no way I was missing dessert - so we skipped straight to the mains!

brasserie one ilkely meals

The Mr opted for salmon served with new potatoes with a separate plate of veggies - which he said was delicious (he's looking over my shoulder at the minute, saying how much he wishes he had it in front of him again right now). 

I had the pasta, with beans. I can't remember exactly how it was described on the menu but I recall thinking that what turned up wasn't quite what I expected. Still, I was probably still half asleep by this point so I might have just been getting muddled! It was not bad but I do kind of wish I'd gone for one of the other options instead! 

meals at brasserie one craiglands hotel ilkley

Then it was dessert time, my favourite! My other half ordered the chocolate brownies that were served with the most delicious caramel sauce ... 

craiglands hotel ilkely desserts

...and my strawberry pavlova was perfect. It was definitely worth sacrificing the starters to concentrate on these! 

ilkely hotel desserts

I'll confess to and apologies for not getting as many photos as I should have done. My levels of sleepiness had rendered me pretty much incapable of reasonable thought and so I missed many opportunities. The massive Christmas tree in the lobby for example was quite the impressive sight, and I haven't got any shots of the lovely bar area either. Most tragic of all is that I didn't take my camera down to breakfast! By the time I remembered it I could smell bacon and there was no going back for me! 

However, even with these omissions I hope I've given the impression of a lovely and much needed relaxing break, filled with good food and better sleep in a beautiful and peaceful location - exactly what I needed!