Crafting with Carpetright

I would love to craft more, but the practical side of me hates the idea of crafting things for the sake of it. The perfectionist in me wants my crafts to look perfect, and the minimalist wants less stuff cluttering up the house. This usually results in crippling indecision, where I bookmark 19 craft projects a day and fill my online hobbycraft basket to the brim, but don’t actually make anything.

When Carpetright got in touch to invite me to a blogger crafting event at Chirpy, one of my favourite spots in Leeds, I thought it would be a good opportunity for a crafting kickstart to force me into action. Also cake was mentioned.

Artist Miriam Laville was leading the session, and she greeted us with some examples of items that could be crafted with leftover carpet offcuts – doormats, mirrors, planter pots and so on. Fully aware that my craft enthusiasm massively outweighs my craft ability, and hoping that I would manage to cobble together something I would actually want to display in my house, I decided to go low key.

I spotted a wide round tin and I thought it would be perfect as a little trinket display tray. I lined both sides with carpet so that both the surface and the contents would be protected from damage, then….that was it. I could have embellished with some bling or added more colour (and actually a lot of people seemed to think I should do so!) but I’m glad I resisted I finished pretty early but that just left me extra time to sample the goodies from Sunshine Bakery and check what everyone else was making!

I couldn’t believe my luck when we were all given gift bags containing extra goodies! The highlight was definitely a £10 Chirpy voucher, which I couldn’t wait to spend. On the way out I had a good poke around and left with a gorgeous Fawn & Rose necklace and a pretty glass candle holder – both pictured below!

In my old flat, I damaged a couple of window ledges by putting plant pots and vases on them that ruined the paintwork. I never would have thought of experimenting with carpet as a practical way to stop this from happening as well as a way to add an unusual texture or a flash of colour. Thanks Carpetright!

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6 ways to be more Danish

Yes, I know, there are lots of ways to be Danish, and we’re all meant to have taken our rose-tinted spectacles off when it comes to our Nordic neighbours. But Ant and I just had a long weekend in Copenhagen, and I’m obsessed. So here are some of the little ways I’d like to make my life slightly more Scandi.

Rethink your interior design

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Think white walls festooned with huge art prints. Bare wooden floors edged with rows of potted succulents. Candles everywhere – and by the way, mobiles aren’t just for kids any more. I could definitely take on board some of the minimalist, functional, everything-has-it’s-place principles of Danish design.

Stop complaining about the weather

Copenhagen is colder and just as rainy as Leeds, yet somehow the weather isn’t a daily topic of conversation. Also, when it’s raining, Danish people still arrive at their destination looking, on average, much more beautiful than me. I have a theory that this has a lot to do with coats and boots. Danish people wear a stunning variety of sleek coats and heeled boots, which also repel wind, rain, and the struggles of a daily commute (I assume).

Go green

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Fun fact: Over a third of Denmark’s electricity is generated by wind turbines. Another one: Denmark plans to be fossil fuel free by 2050. Danes love their recycling and they are gradually reducing the amount of energy they’re using. Add to this the fact that they cycle EVERYWHERE and you’ve got a seriously green nation. Am I likely to take up cycling? No, considering every which way seems to be uphill in Leeds, but I could significantly reduce my energy consumption and do more to support green energy.

Take the top off your sandwich

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It’s time to level up your lunch. Baring your butty’s contents means you need to think a bit harder about what you’re putting in there, which might explain why smørrebrød is one of the best looking snacks around. Beef, salmon, prawns, egg, pâté, chicken, beetroot: you name it, they’ll slap it on a slice of rye and pile on some salad, herbs and dressing. Alongside that, you’ll need a cup of really good coffee and a pastry. Whether it’s a sweet and sticky cinnabun or a fat, flaky fastelavnsbolle, you’ll be glad you didn’t skip dessert.

Stop saying please

Okay, this one’s a bit extreme. But this weekend I found out the Danish don’t have a word for please, and…. I kinda liked it. Even though part of me likes the idea of a word that’s pure social lubrication, aren’t there other ways to ask nicely? And with a decade of waitressing experience under my belt, I can promise you that just because someone says the word please, does not mean that what they are saying is polite. So whilst I won’t be dropping please from my vocabulary any time soon – Britain is so not ready for that – I will be thinking hard about other ways to make people feel appreciated.

Take care of your skin


The green philosophy definitely extends to the beauty department in Denmark. Brands like Rudolph and Olé Henriksen embrace natural luxury and organic ingredients. I’m not sure about the science stuff, but I do know that I’ve never seen skin like it. Every time we went anywhere, I found myself gazing at someone with high cheekbones and translucent skin in the corner; do Danes even have pores??

Are you still as obsessed with Scandi style as I am?

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New menu at Bundobust

Bundobust is one of those outfits that only seems to have been on the scene for two minutes, but at the same time, I can’t imagine Leeds without it.

Ant and I headed down to Bundobust last night to try out the five new dishes they’ve recently popped on the menu, and we definitely weren’t disappointed.

My favourite was the egg bhurji, one of the more expensive dishes priced at £6. It’s an Indian style scrambled egg, cooked with cumin, coriander, peppers and chilli, but it’s only mildly spicy. It comes with a soft naan-like flatbread and is the best winter comfort food. It paired exceptionally well with my gin and tonic, which was garnished with grapefruit. I’m not sure what tonic was used but it was a very sweet, fruity, earthy version of a G&T that really complemented the food.

I also loved the far far, a bowl of colourful fried rice puffs tossed in Bundobust’s own spice blend. They reminded me of Walkers French Fries, texturally, but with an amazing sweet-tangy-spicy flavour. At £2.50, I would definitely order these as a bar snack if I was just heading in for drinks.

Ant preferred the onion gobi bhaji bhaji (£4). It’s not actually one of the new dishes, but we couldn’t resist ordering it. These are the bhajis you hope for when you order a takeaway: light, golden and fluffy, a million miles away from the greasy overcooked mess that normally arrives. They come with a tangy tamarind and red pepper chutney that adds flavour and cuts right through the bhaji’s richness.

Had you told me a few months ago that I’d soon consider a vegetarian Indian restaurant one of the best post-work spots in Leeds, I’d have laughed. Thank you, Bundobust, for changing my mind!

Some of our meal and our drinks were complimentary, but this is my honest opinion as always.

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Independent Christmas Shopping in Leeds

We’re blessed with all the high street chains we could ever wish for in Leeds, especially since the opening of the Trinity Centre, and it would be so simple (albeit crowded and stressful) to just stroll into the city centre, throw handfuls of cash at a few key shop assistants, and walk out with all the Christmas presents I could possibly need. And in fact, what with the length of some people’s shopping lists, and the eye watering costs that Christmas can incur, I wouldn’t judge anyone who did exactly that.

But, this year I’m trying to be careful about where I splash my cash. Whilst I’m not technically against large chains, I can’t help but feel it would be a shame if that’s all we had. Spending with our local independent businesses mean we maintain a wider choice of products, support British entrepreneurs and keep more money within our local economy. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce/remind you of a few local businesses that I’m sure would appreciate your business over the festive period.

Foodie delights

I know for a fact that if there’s anything my family like unwrapping on Christmas Day, it’s food. There are a plethora of Leeds indies offering hampers as gifts this year, packed with unique and carefully curated collections of the most delicious food and drink. Try Salvo’s for authentic Italian produce, Friends of Ham for cured meats, cheese and wine, Millie’s for Yorkshire food hampers and  even a gluten free hamper, or Hepworth’s Deli, who have a popup Christmas hamper shop in Queen’s Arcade. Other businesses to consider are George and Joseph for cheese, The Yummy Yank for cakes and other sweet stuff, or Market Delivered to get your Christmas dinner ingredients direct to your door from independent market traders.

The Yummy Yank's Top Treats

The Yummy Yank’s Top Treats

Handmade Heaven

Whilst I’d love to make all my own gifts, I’m very realistic about my (lack of) talent in that department! Fabrication Crafts is a social enterprise supporting independent Yorkshire makers, nestled in the Light shopping centre. They’re worth a follow on Facebook; they’ve been posting pictures of their gorgeous Christmas stock for the last couple of weeks. A bit further out of town, you’ll find Our Handmade Collective, a hub featuring crafts from almost sixty local makers. Both stores are packed with beautiful jewellery, cushions, furniture, cards, prints, blankets, home decor items and much more. There’s no better way to support local Leeds craftspeople.

Fine Design

Colours May Vary and Chirpy are my favourite shopping stops for arty types. Both have a gorgeous range of prints, cards, gifts and stationery, plus Colours May Vary stock books while Chirpy is your best bet for blankets, mugs and jewellery. Don’t forget, if you’re already in Chapel Allerton to visit Chirpy, you’re surrounded by some beautiful gift shops including Glasshouse Gallery, Radish and Armadillo Toys.

Chirpy Gifts

Chirpy’s best gifts

Unique Experiences

Perhaps your intended recipient is a minimalist or a go-getter looking for experiences over possessions? We’re not short of fun things to do in Leeds. Tick Tock Unlock is a live action escape game that’s fun for all – review to follow! If I was just booking one thing at West Yorkshire Playhouse next year, it would be To Kill a Mockingbird; the Playhouse excels at atmospheric, swampy American drama. Animal lovers would love to feed the penguins at Harewood House, and fine diners might appreciate a luxury or pop-up dining experience. Keep an eye on Dinner at the Manor, Trestle, The Noise of Strangers and The Man Behind the Curtain – not technically a pop up, but certainly a special Leeds dining experience.

 

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m really feeling the Leeds independent love, so please go ahead and share your favourites in the comments. Also, don’t forget Small Business Saturday on the 6th December, a whole day dedicated to supporting your local businesses just in time for Christmas.

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BurgerSearch 4: Twisted Burger Co at Jake’s Bar

BurgerSearch posts document my search to find the best burger in Leeds, as part of my 30by30 goals. I’ve got plenty of places on my list, but I’m very open to suggestions, too! Where was your best ever Leeds burger from?

Venue: Twisted Burger Company, in residence at Jake’s Bar, Call Lane
Burger: Club Classics Vol. One, £6.95

Burger Patty 18/25

I either like my burger patties massive and meaty, or thin and tasty. Twisted burgers are of the latter variety, and in most of their burgers you get two thin, tender patties that fill a hole without being too overfacing. Delicious!

Bun, toppings and fries 20/25

The patties are nestled into a potato bap, which was light and fluffy whilst having some serious staying power. The burger is packed with iceberg lettuce, as I firmly believe all burgers should be, and the techno burger sauce adds some creamy zing. The cheese is a little nondescript flavourwise, but perfectly gooey. My plain fries were hot, crispy and served in a huge basket – sharer portions are absolutely not for the faint-hearted.

Service and atmosphere 15/25

It’s a little surreal going to Jake’s Bar during the day, sober. Truth be told, the place scrubs up quite nicely and comes across as an altogether respectable place. It was a bit quiet, but I imagine weeknights have a bit more buzz about them than a Saturday lunchtime. In fact, things were already starting to pick up when we left. The service was smiley, attentive and efficient, especially considering that they were battling with a missing delivery and a malfunctioning POS system. I’m also a big fan of Jake’s cocktails, so it was nice to sip on a Blighty Mojito (a gin based mojito with a cucumber twist) while I ate.

Value for Money 22/25

Now would be a good time to mention that I was invited down to try these burgers for free. Having said that, though, I actually thought that for the quality this was really good value for money. The price for the Club Classics and the Notorious PIG that Ant had, plus sharing fries and two Cokes, was £20.15. The cocktail did boost the bill a bit, which is obviously to be expected.

Total 75/100

This puts Twisted Burger Company into second place so far, which I think is fair. Although this isn’t a permanent residency, it is the second one they’ve done in the last year and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it extended or see it lead to a more permanent home in Leeds. I for one would welcome them with open arms!

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WBN 60: Watership Down

I’m steadily working my way through the nation’s 100 favourite books according to World Book Night’s poll in 2011. Find out more about this challenge and check my progress here.

I don’t feel like I have that much to say about Watership Down, and actually I’m quite surprised it’s on this list, and by so comfortable a margin, too. It’s definitely a brilliant children’s book, but it seems quite old fashioned in a very dated way. It didn’t seem to me like the kind of book a child could fall in love with, then keep reading again and again as they grew up. Obviously, though, I’m wrong!

If you don’t know, Watership Down is the story of a group of rabbits that flee their warren after young rabbit Fiver has a vision that something bad will happen there. He can only persuade his brother, Hazel and a few other rabbits to go with him on a journey toward a distant, possibly imaginary meadow that Fiver insists will be their future home.

Despite their lapine status, the characters are all classic for children’s literature of that era: the small, clever one, the plucky, adventurous one, the strong but dim one. They certainly have their appeal, but I don’t think Anne of Green Gables, the March girls or the Famous Five will be moving over to make room on my shelf for this.

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BurgerSearch 3: MEATliquor

BurgerSearch posts document my search to find the best burger in Leeds, as part of my 30by30 goals. I’ve got plenty of places on my list, but I’m very open to suggestions, too! Where was your best ever Leeds burger from?

I’ve fancied giving the Leeds MEATliquor a try since it first opened, and this review from Rich, who knows his food, only encouraged me.I headed down for a chilled weeknight burger and drink with a few friends last week.

Venue: MEATliquor, Trinity Centre, Bank Street
Burger: Bacon Cheeseburger, £8.50

Burger Patty 23/25

Huge. Juicy. Tender. Pink. Flavourful. This patty ticked every single box and then some.

Bun, toppings and fries 22/25

I need to talk about the bacon. It wasn’t rashers, it was some sort of reconstituted sheet (?) of bacon that absolutely blew my frickin’ mind. The cheese was plentiful and perfectly gooey, and the sauces oozed out of the bun and got everywhere – I made extensive use of the kitchen roll on the table. The cheese fries were perfect, loaded with generous handfuls of cheese and all hot and salty underneath. (Some might find them too salty; I thought they were perfect.) I gave an extra point because the bun wasn’t brioche, which was refreshing, but I took it back off again because the Dead Hippie sauce they rave about wasn’t all that.

Service and atmosphere 20/25

Service was pleasant and efficient, which is all I ask for. I found the atmosphere fairly chilled – it had a late night diner/pool hall feeling to it, and was quite unlike the dark, loud basement I was expecting.

Value for Money 18/25

It’s on the pricey side, but it’s amazing. Three of us had a burger, a side and a drink each and it came to £56.65, including a service charge and a £1 charity donation. I’d consider that to be quite a lot for a one course meal, but it was a) very filling and b) bloody good.

Total 83/100

I had high hopes for MEATliquor and it has delivered. This is the first time I’ve walked away from a burger and thought: yes, that could have been the best burger in Leeds. I’ve got plenty more places to visit, so anything could happen, but I can definitely see myself returning here pretty soon as well.

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Silliest paint names

We’ve been decorating our bathroom (slowly but surely) over the last couple of week, and by far my favourite part of the process has been laughing at some of the pretentious, undescriptive paint names that I’ve come across when deciding what colours to go with. (Farrow and Ball are, unsurprisingly, by far the most hilarious culprits.)Here are some of my favourites!

Lauren

Who?

Colours One Coat Lauren Matt Emulsion Paint 2.5L: Image 1

Almost Oyster

Almost?? I want Oyster or nothing

Dulux Neutrals Almost Oyster Matt Emulsion Paint 50ml Tester Pot: Image 1

Clunch

I might start using this word to mean lunch + cocktails.

Clunch - Paint Colours - Farrow & Ball

Cat’s Paw

Nothing about my cat is this colour. Oh, wait…there is one thing.

Cat's Paw - Paint Colours - Farrow & Ball

Mole’s Breath

Is this mole seriously ill?

Mole's Breath - Paint Colours - Farrow & Ball

Dead Salmon

Yeah, like salmon…but if it was DEAD.

Dead Salmon - Paint Colours - Farrow & Ball

Nancy’s Blushes

Steady on, Nancy.

Nancy's Blushes - Paint Colours - Farrow & Ball

Etiquette

Crown have nailed it – this is by far the politest colour.

Banana Dream 2

Do bananas dream of yellow sheep?

And I saved my favourite until last:

Silver Fox

Named after Richard Gere? George Clooney? Pierce Brosnan? No, I think that’s the exact shade of Philip Schofield’s hair.

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WBN 11: American Gods

I’m steadily working my way through the nation’s 100 favourite books according to World Book Night’s poll in 2011. Find out more about this challenge and check my progress here.

It’s a really good job I love Neil Gaiman’s writing – if it wasn’t my cup of tea, this challenge would be a complete nightmare. This is the third of the five on this list, and it’s by far the most ambitious and impressive so far. It’s an absolutely massive book, almost the American equivalent of Neverwhere in the way that it takes an average person and plunges them into an underworld they never knew existed.

Gaiman has written the story of the gods that followed their pilgrims to America, and then languished, forgotten and unworshipped. The Norse gods are the stars of the show, but some of the obscure Russian gods are by turns hilariously or ethereally diverting. The main character, Shadow, is unapologetically severe and aloof, but all the same he proves himself to be a man worthy of our attention. Despite the daunting length of the book, and the epic journey that Shadow takes, I remained engaged and interested in the sprawling narrative.

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The Kite Runner at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

kite runner west yorkshire playhouse

I’ve got a busy week this week! All my weeks tend to be quite busy, what with a full time job, an internship and a blog, but this week I’ve also got two theatre visits and a bonfire to attend. It’s tiring but so nice to be seeing lots of lovely people, since working evenings can rob me of a social life somewhat.

Last night I went to the West Yorkshire Playhouse with some of my favourite work people to see The Kite Runner. We loved the book, and we were so excited to see how Giles Croft would bring Matthew Spangler’s adaptation to one of my favourite Leeds stages in the Quarry Theatre.

If you aren’t familiar with the story: rich Pashtun boy Amir grows up in Afghanistan with his Hazara servant Hassan as his closest friend. One snowy, kite-running day, an awful act of cowardice by Amir destroys their friendship, tearing the boys apart and leaving Amir racked with guilt and unsure how to seek redemption.

Ben Turner is truly the star of the show as Amir, a superior, selfish child, desperate for his father’s attention, who isn’t that much more pleasant as an adult. Nicholas Karimi merits a mention too as the terrifyingly sociopathic Aseff and Andrei Costin’s Hassan is loyal and vulnerable without being pathetic.

The sparse staging is used effectively, but much is still left to the imagination and as a result some of the continent-spanning majesty of the source material can be lost at times. There’s not enough contrast between dusty 1970s Kabul and San Francisco on the turn of the century, which means you lack a sense of how hard Amir has worked to distance himself from his childhood home, and of the differences between his life then and now.

However, this production really packs its punches emotionally. Amir’s youthful mistake has consequences he couldn’t have imagined, and his journey to redemption isn’t easy. By the time the play draws to a close, there’s barely a dry eye in the house. The final twenty minutes are raw, touching, harrowing, even, but never schmaltzy.

There’s a reason this production is going to be packed all week. It’s beautiful, a really hard look at a tragic story that shows friendship, betrayal and family ties transcend locations and cultures.

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