REVIEW: Chocolate Wine

As we get older, special occasions can lose their magic.

You come to realise how your presents actually get there on Christmas morning, Birthdays are less about laser quest, bowling or other activities and more about nursing the hangover acquired from one too many to blot out the glare of candlelight from the ever-increasing amount on your birthday cake (carrot cake these days, must mind t

he calories – even if it is your special day) and you get more excited about the four day weekend at Easter than the amount of eggs that you can get your grubby little mitts on.

Chocolate Shop Bottle & Glass

But no more. Easter time is now for grown ups.

I had been sent a small bottle of the UK’s first chocolate infused wine, Chocolate Shop ‘The Chocolate Lover’s Wine’ .

Say no more, wine? Check. Chocolate? Check. Perfect.

The chocolate-infused ruby red wine, blended with rich, velvety chocolate, boasting aromas of black cherry and dark cocoa and complemented by a soft vanilla and creamy mocha finish is more luxurious and indulgent than any Easter egg.

But alas, should you have any more than a small bottle, you will be feeling as sickly as if you had scoffed those eggs!

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this wine as a one-off treat and as a novelty, it is fabulous but     I would recommend replacing a rich dessert with this instead of having it alongside.

However, I was sent a recipe along with the wine which should utilise it to its best.

I would certainly recommend trying it;

‘CHOCOLATE SHOP’ BROWNIES

  • ‎10 oz self raising flour
  • 10 oz caster sugar
  • 10 oz unsalted butter
  • 5 large eggs
  • 200 grams dark chocolate
  • 80 grams cocoa powder sifted with the flour
  • 3 fluid ounces of chocolate shop wine
  • Zest of orange (optional)

Method:

Cream the sugar and butter together till soft. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder then add all the eggs. Melt the chocolate over a bowl of hot water on the cooker until soft. Once all the ingredients are mixed in thoroughly add the chocolate wine then lastly add the meltedchocolate. Bake in a square or oblong greased tin lined with greaseproof paper; pour the mixture in then before you put it in the oven sprinkle on some peanut sized chunks ofchocolate over the cake, on gas mark 5 for about 25 minutes. They should be springy around the edges but gooey inside. Leave to cool, then lift out and cut into bite size pieces. Serve with double cream with an added 4 or 5 drops of vanilla extract.

(Recipe created by Carol Vli, a Chocolate Shop fan)

xx

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REVIEW: In love with Lush

There are some days when my job doesn’t feel like a job at all.

Monday was one of those days 🙂

On day 8 of 9 and a half I was feeling somewhat fazed, sleepy and positively grumpy but I had a ‘job’ (in the loosest sense of the word) to go on so off I trotted to the Lush store at Preston’s Fishergate Centre.

I arrived just in time for an evacuation – the centre’s entire population gathering on a nearby car park during a delightful ‘Spring’ freeze was just what the doctor ordered(!) – but the lovely Lush ladies were not to be thwarted in their quest to bring me a little bit of sunshine.

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Back in the warmth of the store I was met my Heather, Danielle (who incidently has a rather fabulous blog here), Millie, Charlotte and Tracey. As I arrived I was the first person back inside after the near-dramatic fire drill but the area quickly filled up with customers including one group of schoolgirls from a local primary school who, like me, were there to be shown the inner workings of the Lush machine

Though the current weather conditions may be eager to keep us in an icy grip, we ladies are ready to Spring forward and banish the Winter woolies to the back of the wardrobe for another year

But before we get ahead of ourselves, our skin needs to be warm-weather ready.

The Lush company makes their products by hand every week and at the Preston store, I was given the opportunity to get my hands dirty.

Under the instruction of Heather Smith, who works at the store, I was provided with the ingredients to create one of Lush’s face masks; ‘Catastrophe Cosmetic’ (a review will be on it’s way!)
Combining blueberries, almond oil and essential oils, the mask really is food for your face.

Heather says, “The natural products really help in getting the best out of your skin.
“And as blueberries are a natural antioxidant, this particular mask is brilliant in times of emergencies when your skin breaks out.”
As I gazed at the array of pots on display, highlighted

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with asparagus, lemons, garlic and even chocolate drops, it was difficult to refrain from eating the stuff – something I must remember as all of the masks need to be stored in the fridge as they’re so fresh.

Stacey Smith, showed me around the shop’s facial scrub collection, and added Spring is the perfect time to shed dull complexions.
She says, “Most of the scrubs we have in store are fine to use every day and, again, they all use natural ingredients rather than harsh chemicals so are lovely on the skin and help us to get rid of the dull layers of skin and toxins that build up in the skin.”

Another top tip to banish Winter skin blues it to feed dry skin that has been battered by harsh winds and overactive central heating with attentive moisturisers.
Though there are plenty on offer, the aptly named ‘Gorgeous’ is a Lush best seller.
Stacey continues, “The formula was favoured by Princess Diana and is one of our customer’s favourites.
“Though a little more expensive than the other moisturisers we stock, this one is made using the most effective ingredients.”
If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for me!
*The ladies at Lush, Preston, are on hand to provide consultations seven days a week. For further information contact 01772 555 776.

INTERVIEW: Georgia’s rally cry to female drivers

Last week I spoke to a fabulous young lady by the name of Georgia Shiels who is on a one woman mission to change the stereotype of female drivers.

Here’s my interview with the 17-year-old rally driver.

Female drivers receive more than their fair share of bad press.

But  Georgia Shiels looks set to put that particular stereotype to bed.
Having been introduced to rally driving after her dad, Antony, took her to Knock Hill Motorshow in Edinburgh, two years ago, Georgia found herself bitten by the rallying bug.
“I didn’t really want to go,” says Georgia, who is currently studying A-levels at Lancaster Grammar School.
“I’ve never been a huge fan of motorsport but I went and I had a 10-minute teen driving lesson.
“The coordinator approached me afterwards and said he was setting up a junior rallying championship because although there was already a British championship for juniors, there wasn’t one in Scotland.

“It kind of snowballed from there – when my dad moans at me now, saying I have to go and work on the car with him I do say, ‘Well, it is all your fault dad!”
Georgia lives at home in Catterall near Garstang with her mum (whose cakes go down very well at rally driving events), dad and 20-year-old brother.
She says, “My dad has always been a petrolhead, he has three motorbikes in the garage that have been a bit neglected since my Micra turned up.
“He tried to get my brother into it for a long time but he just wasn’t interested.”
As well as fitting in her studies in maths, English literature, history and music, Georgia is also part of the Motorsport Association Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence.
The course, which looks at becoming an elite athlete in motorsport, leaves students with a NVQ qualification.
“You have your own nutritionist, psychologist, and a coaching mentor so it is very helpful,” says Georgia.
“The nutritionist helps to prepare you for rallying in hot countries because if you don’t maintain the right nutrition, racing can be dangerous.

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“Drivers have been known to pass out from dehydration in races and end up on a drip in hospital, all sorts. It’s an extreme sport really, it takes so much energy and physical strength.”
Though competing in events takes up most of Georgia’s time, luckily for her, the somewhat male-dominated world has provided some lifelong friends.
“It’s quite a small community, quite close knit so everyone knows everyone and you get to meet and know some amazing people.
“My co-driver is Chris Davies who is a well known international co-driver and he has become a very dear friend to me.”
Tipped as being, “one to watch” by Jimmy McRae, Scottish rally car driver and father of both World Rally Championship driver Alister McRae, and the late 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae, Georgia looks destined for big things.
Many of her critics have commented on the way she puts on a “show” for spectators.
I’m very brave,” she says, “some people can’t determine whether it’s bravery or stupidity but I like to think I’m brave.
“I just love everything about rally driving – the highs and the lows.
“When David Lee Owen, the former British Champion drove my car that was pretty amazing.
“I would love to become a World Rally Champion, but I think that’s most rally drivers’ dream really, I’d quite like to make it to Europe in a few year’s time.
“It’s difficult to say where I’m going to go from here but I have high expectations.”

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day

I believe you should always show you mum how much you appreciate her but today is Mother’s Day, so an extra special effort must be made.

My mum has taught me a lot. Amongst the many nuggets of gold is how the kitchen is more than a room that comes with the house, that a sense of humour will see you through life, and that a bottle of wine should never be left full 😉

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In all seriousness, my mum is a superwoman. H has held together this family in times of grief and depression (whilst battling the dreaded D word herself) and has shown me that with determination, anything is possible. This is the woman who dreams big, works every hour God sends and is always there at the end of the day to share a cup of tea/glass of wine/bucket of gin with. Nothing phases her and from her strength I have become a great believer in myself.

Happy Mother’s Day mumma H

xx

REVIEW: Midnight Treat at Gaucho, Manchester

REVIEW: Midnight Treat at Gaucho, Manchester

Midnight feats conjure up images of slippered feet creeping downstairs, eager to discover what treats lurk in the dead of the night – Enid Blyton’s Famous Five searching for jam sandwiches and Ovaltine.

But show up to Gaucho, Manchester in your PJs and you may be given some funny looks.

The Argentinian restaurant recently launched their first ever series of Midnight Feasts, served every Saturday between 11pm and 1am.

Chilli Beef Popcorn at Gaucho, Manchester

Chilli Beef Popcorn at Gaucho, Manchester

Aiming to cater for demand for late-night dining, the menu is a little more high brow than the usual after hours choice of greasy pizza or hear-attack-inducing kebab .
Following a cocktail from the extensive bar menu, we were shown to our cow-hide covered seats and a shared plate of Beef & chilli popcorn kicked off proceedings.

It was a little too dry for my tastes but what do I know? I’m just a heathen who takes their popcorn in cardboard buckets. The beef and the chilli parts of the dish were delicious, just wish the popcorn hadn’t showed up to this particular party – sorry popcorn, back in your box.

Next up from the four courses, a Ceviche dog – a combination of raw fish marinated in citrus juice and spices.
It reminded me of a posh prawn cocktail on a flatbread and was utterly delicious. Don’t be put off by the raw fish element – try it! You won’t be disappointed.

As we waited for our next course, acoustic duo, Katie and Johnny, continued to entertain both customers who were still dining and those easing of their dinner in the bar. Their mix of songs from the 60s, 70s and present day set a relaxed mood – perfectly match to low lighting and laid-back vibe.

Ceviche Dog at Gaucho, Manchester

Ceviche Dog at Gaucho, Manchester

A trio of savoury sweets, designed to tantalise our taste-buds arrived next. Lomo lolly pop (tenderloin of beef rolled into a lollypop shape with Chimichurri inside), Humita cones (a waffle cone with pureed sweetcorn which looked like an ice cream) and candied mixed beet root. The beef was tender with just the right amount of kick to not leave you feeling uneasy when it was time for bed. The sweetcorn was light and moorish and the beetroot gave a much-need zing.

By now, feeling a little full, having had to wait a little longer than usual to eat, I had rushed the previous courses somewhat, but how glad I am that I saved space for the fourth and final instalment.

Trio of savoury sweets at Gaucho, Manchester

Trio of savoury sweets at Gaucho, Manchester

Dessert arrived in a similar guise to the main, except this time the sweets were just that.

Dulce de leche candy floss formed a playful centre piece alongside Dulce de leche ice cream in a waffle cone and Dulce de leche panna cotta

The dreamy pieces of cloud-like fluff melted in the mouth and the ice cream and panna cotta were as smooth as they come.

I can imagine that Gaucho will take full advantage of Manchester’s theatre and music audiences looking for a late-night after show feast.

And what a feast it is!

Dulce de Leche dessert at Gaucho, Manchester

Dulce de Leche dessert at Gaucho, Manchester

To Book:  2A St Mary’s St, Manchester, M3 2LB 0161 833 4333. £35 a head, Saturdays only. Parking available at House of Fraser and NCP Deansgate

REVIEW: Girls Aloud ‘Ten’ Tour

REVIEW: Girls Aloud ‘Ten’ Tour

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Ten years ago, five young ladies began a journey on a prime-time Saturday night audition show to become part of a brand new girl band.
That band would go on to secure the title of the UK’s biggest selling girl group of the 21st century and on the Manchester leg of their ‘Ten’ tour, they showcased their top ten hits that made them household names.
Now they are a little bit older, one has seen rehab, another been there, done the court case, got the footballer husband and the rest, well, they’ve all had their tabloid moments, but none of this seemed to dull the love from their fans.
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Descending from on high, propped on a sparkly Girls Aloud pedestal, the fabulous five kicked off with their first single ‘Sound of The Underground’ – the hit that started it all – before costume changes into outfits akin to the Victoria’s Secret Angels they continued onto ‘Love Machine’ and showed off their 1920’s Charlston dance moves.
Nicola Roberts, usually the quietest band member and friend of the fashion world, had the best vocals of the night and Kimberley Walsh had clearly benefited from her time on ‘Strictly’, with a new found confidence in her dancing ability.
However, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Sarah Harding at Blackpool Tower any time soon. Though she had the chops to almost match Nicola, her dancing could be described as more than a little wooden.
As for Cheryl Cole, it appears she didn’t need to even appear on stage, as the screams for her from the audience started when her image was simply projected onto big screens either side of the stage.
Like any group of friends, each have their own strengths and personalities and it is this blend that creates the magic of GA.
But alas, the girls have announced that this tour will be their last, and, with that many hits, what a swansong to bow out on.