Okay, so the other week Lily Kitten and I popped on our dancing shoes and got a little.... squiffy. In a good way of course. We decided to take to Manchester for a Saturday night of F.U.N which involved a lot of cocktails. After working so hard all week in the office, it's got to be done, right? When it comes to nights out in Manchester I am usually a creature of habit and stick to my regular haunts (which does include Satan's Hollow. What can I say? I just love to dance to music of my youth!). For this adventure we went a little bit upmarket instead and went on a cocktail crawl. Which turned out to be the best idea, ever. So, where did we end up?

The Alchemist, Spinningfields.

We began our night with some food and fancy-ness at The Alchemist in Spinningfields. I see so many people instagramming these amazingly magical drinks, so I knew we had to call by. Alongside the drinks we did have some food (but that will be featured in another post). Each cocktail is a unique blend of premium spirits which celebrates 'molecular mixology' - and each one also makes you feel a bit like you're in an adult version of Willy Wonka (get your mind out of the gutter, you know what I mean). 

We were actually invited along to try out their new cocktail menu, which was a blessing in more ways than one. Not only did we get to try the delicious summer cocktail menu, but we almost felt a sense of relief that we didn't have to choose from the extensive menu ourselves. Seriously, so. much. choice. 

The first round was presented in such an array of vessels that it almost felt like a science lesson than a drinking session. Now, I could not possibly give you a run down name for name of each of the cocktails, as it was so exciting at the time we got carried away drinking them before we learnt the ins and outs of it all. But you can check out the whole Alchemist menu online here. The highlight of this selection was the tiny syringe filled with red liquid, which you shoot straight in to your mouth and it numbs it... You then drink the main glass of cocktail as the 'antidote' to make your mouth feel normal again. Weird, but totally amazing.

The main event at The Alchemist didn't come until last though, and that was in the form of the epic Bison's Brew Cocktail, which came in a massive, glass vessel. Billowing with smoke as soon as the waitress popped some magic rocks in to it, it was definitely not a subtle drink. In fact the entire restaurant turned around and some cracked their phone out for pictures! So if you fancy being the life and soul of the venue this is the order for you. 

The cocktail itself was absolutely insane with flavour. It was kind of like apple pie, with an earthy tea flavour. Which makes sense, as the base for the cocktail is Breakfast tea (hence the teacups) and apple, with the alcohol of choice being Vodka. The best bit of this cocktail? It is served warm.  Yup, a warm cocktail. Which you'd probably think is the last thing you'd want on a summer's day? But it was just so delicious I'd drink it any weather.

Be At One, Manchester

Next up we popped along to the new cocktail bar on the block - Be At One. This is somewhere I'd not really heard of before and it was slightly odd on arrival. The inside of the bar lacked atmosphere really, but was trying its best with neon lights and decor. Playing music you'd usually hear in Reflex, it was a bit of a mix, but hey, the cocktail menu itself made up for any of these initial observations.

The cocktail menu itself was extensive. In fact, I think it was the biggest cocktail menu my delicate eyes had ever seen at a bar. With a range to suit any tastes, the bar staff were essential to narrowing down our choices and helping us to have a cocktail which we'd actually like. 

I chose two completely contrasting drinks, because you know - variety is the spice of life and all that. My first choice was the Almond Mocha which actually tasted like a really nice protein shake. I was told about this before ordering, but I am one of those people who actually likes the taste of protein shakes so thought I could at least pretend I was being healthy with this one. Second up I went for The Painkiller that was served in a massive jug glass with a bit chunk of dried pineapple in. Being a rum based cocktail with coconut and pineapple blended in, there was no doubt this would be a favourite.

Limitless at The Milton Club

To polish off the entire evening nicely, we then finished off at The Milton Club. Once again, we were invited to this one, but to be honest this deal is worth investing in as a 'pre-drink' situation before any big night out! The idea is simple. You pay £20 and between the hours of 8pm and 10pm you can enjoy free flowing drinks and fancy canapes until your heart is content!

At first I assumed the drinks would be standard prosecco or beers, but I was so wrong. With a range of wines, beers and spirits to choose from, you could also select from cocktails too. My drink of choice by this point was Disarrono Sour, but you could also go for Bramble, Cointreau Fizz or even a tea or coffee if you were finding yourself flagging. When you consider that a cocktail in any bar would set you back at least £6, then spending £20 for 2 hours worth of cocktails is more than worth the price! I think we ended up having around 4 during the time there, but that was more because we were slowing down at this point after the rather alcohol fueled evening we'd had so far.

The canapes were delicious too, and were refreshed throughout the night. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of these as I was getting a little precious over my camera at this point. Through experience I have found that camera + alcohol = a bad idea. But it survived this time. 

Some may thing that a cocktail crawl in Manchester may be a little ambitious, but if you plan your route in advance and pace yourself (drinking plenty of water in between) you're bound to have a good time. I know we did. *hiccup*

Where's your favourite cocktail place in the area?

Exploring the world of the 'look book' video over on YouTube, I've put together my first one! This is basically what I'll be packing for Leeds Festival next month. When it comes to Leeds Fest you  have to be prepared for every weather situation possible. I've been some years where it's forecast rain and we've had blazing hot sun. Then when we've been promised the hottest weekend it's been a complete mud bath! My main aim this year is to pack as light as possible, with the outfits in the video below. Each year I over pack, so this is my festival 'capsule' wardrobe.

You can find the featured items by clicking the links below:

With Leeds Festival only spanning the 3 days with joyous music, this means that this is the the last Leeds Playlist I have for 2016, booo! It's only a month to go until the August Bank Holiday weekend - where I can stop listening to these playlists on my headphones at work and actually be there, stood in a field watching my favourite bands, everrrrrrr. Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band I honestly never thought I'd catch live. They're just one of those bands that I've grown up with and they feel kind of... I dunno... Not real?! So it goes without saying that I'm excited for that one! In true Leeds Fest style, the mash up of bands on the day is an eclectic one and we have everything from the summery sounds of HAIM through to the hardcore music of my youth, in the form of Dillinger Escape Plan. Last time I saw Dillinger was probably around 2004 when Greg first joined the band in Manchester and it was one of the most crazy gigs I'd been to at that point in my life. Roll on seeing them after a few Strongbows in a field this summer!

The Countdown to Leeds 2016: Sunday Playlist

Brunch is always a good idea. Especially on a Sunday morning after you've enjoyed one too many lemonades (read: cocktails) the night before. This weekend was certainly one of excess, where a sneaky brunch after a night of drinking was much needed. But I'll cover that in another blog post soon. In this one we're strictly talking about Pen and Pencil in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. Boy do they know how to cure a hangover.

Brunch at Pen and Pencil, Northern Quarter

I'd already decided the day before that I was going to go for the Steak and Eggs option for my brunch on the Sunday. I absolutely love having steak for breakfast! It feels so wrong, but tastes so right. As I wasn't sure how delicate I would be feeling I went for the simplest thing possible that I knew I would enjoy. Now, as far as brunch goes, this bad boy was certainly served up to look instagram-worthy wasn't it? Such perfect presentation! The simple combination of slightly seasoned steak with eggs, a hash brown and herby hollandaise was packed full of flavour and really hit the spot. Even though my pesky hangover did prevent me from finishing it all myself, after I'd had a majority of the dish washed down with iced water and a coffee I was back, fighting fit! 

If you're not quite in to having steak for brunch, Pen and Pencil do provide quite the range of other options; including the Avocado and Feta option. This is what my brunch date went for and just like the steak and eggs, the presentation was strong. Served on a thick, toasted bloomer, the perfectly poached eggs complimented the creamy avocado and feta effortlessly. With a hint of chilli to round out the creamy flavour, this seemed like the perfect brunch for a warmer summer day.

With prices ranging from £6 -£10 on the brunch menu, all set in a nice tucked away spot in the Northern Quarter, Pen and Pencil turned out to be a hidden treasure for a mid day pick-me-up. Service was quick and with a smile, despite my delicate state! They also served lunch alongside their brunch menu, but somehow lunch just doesn't seem as fun a meal does it? 

I've been a member at my closest Pure Gym for around 3 years now and my attendance is best described as 'on and off'. The low monthly fee often makes me feel like it's okay if I miss a trip here and there. Then that one missed trip turns in to a missed week, then a missed month and sometimes I'll go up to two months without even looking at my gym kit.

My complacent attitude to keeping fit has come to bite me in my muffin top recently though, and for the first time in my entire life I've now got clothes which no longer fit. It sounds ridiculous, but I swear I've been the same size since I was about 16. Skip 14 years later and despite still looking around 16, my now 30 year old metabolism is becoming my newly acquired enemy. Trying on a few garments from this time last year and finding that I couldn't get them past my thigh led to the exclamation 'SHIT JUST GOT REAL'. In the past I've always found that clothing still fit, but didn't suit my shape. It's always been my shape which has changed, not my weight.

Whilst a few people have commented that they cannot tell that I've put on around 2 inches, this doesn't detract from the issue. I know that these clothes don't fit, so I'm forever wearing loose fit clothing which does fit. That's the beauty of a collection of tunics. I simply refuse to replace much loved summer clothing because I've been neglecting any kind of work out routine and can't say no to eating a full packet of Haribo Balla Balla (aka, the most delicious sweets in the world). 

With my sole motivation being to make my clothing fit, I've had to devise new ways to up my fitness game and get in to the zone to shed a few inches and sort this newly acquired layer of pudge out.

1 - The Starting Point:

Working at the same HQ as MyProtein gives me the little luxury of not only a discount on site, but an office full of people who know their shit. The first thing I did was place an order of some products which I can use to replace other food I often crave. I eat endless amounts of noodles, and these come in at around 280cals a pack (hey, I live alone and have minimal time for food prep). Instead of these I'm going for the MyProtein Spaghetti, which comes in at 7 calories a pack. I don't eat these alone, but instead pop on some stir fry sauce and pile on the veg. The consistency of them is a little weird at first, but they really remind me of glass noodles that you get in Thai salads. I'm going to experiment with different ways to eat these, but for now this is a good daily switch for me. I also bought some Protein Puffs, which are replacing my daily packet of crisps. As the protein content is high and carbs are reasonably low, these are an awesome replacement - coming in at 100 calories a packet. I've also restocked my Impact Whey for after work outs. Having a high protein diet is not only good for building muscle and muscle repair, but your metabolism also has to work harder to digest the food, which speeds it up in the long run.

2 - The At Home Equipment

The one thing which puts me off the gym the most, is that I don't get in from work until 7pm. The gym is about 20minutes from my house, meaning that even a half an hour work out can pile on 2+hours to my day. Being out of the house from 7am makes for a super long day if I include a gym visit. This is where I needed an at home solution. Last year I made great use of my bike and regularly rode it around one of the many greenways near my house, or the two miles uphill to my parents house to collect my post. This year though? Well, the days its not rained we've had blistering heat, making bike riding outdoors a pain in the ass. Whilst browsing eBay for an actual exercise bike, I found this rather nifty clamp so you can use your pushbike indoors. It raises the back wheel up meaning the bike remains static when you're pedaling. It cost around £50. which isn't all that cheap, but I've been on it every day since I got it for at least 20 minutes, so I've more than made my money back. If I added up how much petrol it would have cost to go to the gym for all those days, we're probably pushing close to that amount!  I also have a pull up bar which goes above your door frame. I'm not too great at that, but it's better than not trying at all! (You can find a similar bike exercise stand here)

3 - Joining A New Exercise Class

One of my friends kept posting about going to Caveman classes all over social media, and straight away I was intrigued. It seemed really scary at first, as there's a lot of tyre flipping, weight work and burpees involved, but I've been 4 times now and just signed up for a round of 10 classes. As it's in circuits, I'm finding myself becoming competitive with... myself. Each time I leave I've been thinking about the amount of weight I'm going to go for on the Deadlift next, or how many squats I'm going to manage with a 20kg weight above my head. I think I'm hooked. Apparently it can take as little as 8 sessions to start seeing the rewards of all the hard work (and it is bloody hard work I tell you!), so I've taken a 'before' picture so I can actually monitor my progress. 

4 - Buying New Work Out Clothing

Nothing seems to motivate me more than buying new clothes for the gym. A little treasure I've found for workout clothing is Matalan! Their tops are PERFECT for what I want. I picked up one a while ago which is a T Shirt style, with a racer back, in a really nice and light material. I went in after a new one for Caveman training and found the perfect style which incorporates a layer underneath a floaty top part. This is really good for when I'm a little concerned about my pot belly sticking out! And the underneath layer can be tucked in to my leggings to provide maximum coverage when doing all those burpees and planks!

5 - Setting An Actual Goal

Well this one is just a no-brainer really. I've not had a reason to really go to the gym or lose a bit of weight before, but now I have a goal which is to fit in to all my summer clothes from last year, I can really concentrate on the 'prize' - which is saving a load of money by not having to restock my wardrobe! I'm not measuring or weighing myself though, I'm just trying to get in to my goal clothes once and week and monitoring my progress by how far I can get my floral playsuit up my thighs, or by how many buttons I can do up on my shirt dress. I'm keeping it simple so it doesn't take over my life.

So, in a few weeks I'll hopefully be in a good place to post this 'before' and 'after' picture... If I stay motivated and see some kind of improvement that is! If all else fails, it's just nice to get in to something again which is making me look forward to an activity outside of work. It sounds so sad, but when 80% of your days are in an office, having something more regular to do outside of work with a pal or two is always a good idea. Especially when it's not my usual activity of just eating food!

After last months My Little Box, I was fully prepared to cancel after my July one came. There was something about the last box that really narked me?! I don't think I've even opened it since I reviewed it over on my YouTube channel. However, my tune soon changed as soon as I ripped open the outer cardboard box of the July My Little Box, It revealed not only the most magical looking coconut themed design, but the box itself was packed full with of things which I will actually find useful! Not to mention that coconut is one of my favourite things in the world too - both to eat and to smell.

So Why Was My Little Box July So Good?

Well, let's start with the beauty side of things. Inside the little pouch was some hand sanitising gel (super handy for all the festivals I've been going to!), some Yves Rocher Coconut Perfume (that I've had before and used a full bottle up) and some deliciously scented moisturising after sun, which is also lovely as just a quick moisturiser after a shower. Each thing smells divine. 

Not only that, but did I mentioned the amazing box design? OH, I did? Well I'll mention it again as it's SO BEAUTIFUL. 

The theme runs throughout the box, with each piece of literature and packaging inside echoing the theme, I do love a bloody good narrative. 

Alongside the usual magazine and cards containing information about the beauty products, you also receive a passport holder in a lovely leafy design, and this delicate bracelet from Stella&Dot.  There's so much thought behind getting the theme so consistent throughout and it really does go to show. It's ticked every single box for what I want to see in a... box! And it has more than made up for last months box which left me really disappointed. 

So, I will be keeping my subscription for now and hopefully this high calibre of consistency will continue in to Augusts My Little Box.

If you're interested in signing up too, just head to www.mylittlebox.co.uk. You get it for a few quid cheaper if you have it delivered to your work address too!