My favourite lunch spots in Manchester right now

I’ve worked in Manchester’s Northern Quarter for about 5 years, and I have tried and tested so many lunch spots in the city centre. Seriously, there are more than I can remember! But there are a few that impressed me so much that they are regulars, faves, and my go-to places for lunch in the city. (There are actually a few more than this, but I decided they qualified more as “brunch” spots, so I’ll make sure I do a separate post about those). Here are my top 6 lunch spots you may not know about:

West Cnr 

West Corner MCR

Conquistador salad with fried chicken

This very stylish diner has popped up in the Northern Quarter in the past year, and not only is it very convenient for me, it also has my favourite salad dish in the city! Seriously, it tastes so good that I don’t know if it even classes as a salad. I don’t really have the time to dine in on a work lunchtime, but I’ll admit that I get my lunch from their takeaway entrance about once a week.

Slice

Slice Pizza Manchester

They serve amazing pizzas and focaccia by the slice and now have a tasty selection of salads, which are great as a side order or as a meal on their own. This little gem is very popular on sunny days thanks to its outdoor seating area and their delicious selection of Italian gelato flavours. You can eat in here (and enjoy an Aperol spritz), but it’s just as easy to grab lunch on the go. 

Evelyn’s 

Evelyns Manchester

If you like your lunch with instagrammable leafy interiors then Evelyn’s is perfect. It’s tucked away on Tib street and the menu is varied and hip. Healthy options include their “Green Bowl” but I went for this potato hash with fried egg on my last visit, which was amazing!

Vapiano

Vapiano lunch Manchester

Vapiano is a chain you might already be familiar with, but it has made the list because I love the bespoke fresh pasta dishes made in front of you, the bright spacious interior, and the weird (but convenient) paying system which means you don’t have to wait for the bill at the end. You can get your food really quickly here, but the place is very chilled out and you don’t feel rushed. Which makes it kinda perfect!

Oak Street café bar

Oak Street Cafe Bar Manchester

This cute café can be found inside the Manchester Craft and Design Centre and it’s a tiny but peaceful spot with an ever-changing menu of freshly made soups, salads, quiches, stews and cakes.

Ezra & Gil

Ezra & Gil Manchester

Ezra & Gil is the latest addition to my list, because it’s usually so full that I’ve only just had chance to try it out! It’s popular for its amazing coffee and speedy service. It’s very rustic inside, but their menu is tasty with great specials and I loved this unusual dish of butternut squash and feta on rye toast with a poached egg.

Have you “lunched” in any of these spots?

6 Beauty Items You’re Not Sure You Need

I think we all know what it feels like to constantly hear about beauty products we can’t live without. We could spend an absolute fortune on the latest must-haves and beauty trends, and that’s on top of our old faithful products that we already use on a daily basis. So we really want to know whether a product is really worth having – does it even make a difference?! Here are my thoughts on 5 beauty items that I’ve wondered if I even need.

Beauty items you might not need

Toner

This is the age old one – do I really need this additional step between cleansing and moisturising? What does a toner even do? Well apparently a good toner removes excess impurities (you’d be surprised what cleansers miss!), shrinks pores and helps with oily skin. Cult favourite Pixi Glow Tonic goes even further – it’s an exfoliating and conditioning toner which clarifies the skin to leave brighter, glowing skin. I’ve just started using this product and I do really love it. A lot of people really swear by it and say it’s transformed their skin.

My verdict: I don’t have problem skin so I have never seen toner as totally necessary, but I do think that if you choose the right toner it can make a noticeable difference.

Pixi Glow Tonic

Charcoal face masks

There are all sorts of face masks out there claiming to do various different things, and charcoal masks have been seen everywhere lately. I have to admit I love applying a face mask and relaxing in the bath, but apart from being a nice way to relax, do they really do anything? Well I haven’t tried any of the peel-off charcoal masks that you see everywhere, but I am a big fan of The Body Shop’s Himalayan Charcoal Mask. This mask really detoxes the skin and thanks to the purifying charcoal and the addition of tea tree oil it puts an end to spots quickly if I see any starting to appear.

My verdict: I swear by my charcoal mask for sorting out breakouts fast!

The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal mask

Makeup primer

The point of a primer is creating a smooth base to improve your makeup finish, and it should also help your makeup last longer. People swear by primers and if you find your makeup doesn’t stay put then it’s probably worth investing in, but I’ve never noticed a difference to be honest. That’s why I use Illamasqua Radiance Veil, which is part primer, part illuminator, because at least I get to see a visible difference (see my review of Illamasqua Radiance Veil here).

My Verdict: It totally depends on your skin, but I don’t see it as an essential addition to my collection.

Illamasqua Radiance Veil primer

Body scrub

I always have a body scrub in my bathroom, and I have various favourites. I have even made my own in the past using sugar and carrier oils. Regularly using scrubs is recommended for buffing away dead skin cells and increasing circulation, and the result should be smooth glowing skin. You might not see a noticeable difference but its good skin maintenance to use a body scrub once a week.

My verdict: It’s not an essential daily use product, but it’s good to “scrub” every now and again.

Coconut Coffee Body Scrub

Lip scrub

If you love matte lipsticks you’ll know that if your lips aren’t perfectly smooth, your lip colour will highlight every imperfection! I bought a lip scrub to make sure I’m regularly buffing off any dry skin on my lips, and it works perfectly! But I am also perfectly aware that I could have sorted this problem by gently brushing my lips with a toothbrush…

My verdict: You can certainly achieve the same results in a different way, so really you don’t need this product. But £6 for a lovely Lush one is worth it in my opinion.

Lush popcorn lip scrub

Base coat

The point of a base coat is to provide a smooth base for nail polish and give it something to bond to so that it doesn’t chip as easily. I never used to use a base coat, and used to moan about how soon my polish chipped – even though I applied top coat! I have totally seen a difference since I start using one – a good one will really make your nail polish last longer!

My verdict: I actually swear by base coat now and I never apply nail polish without it!

Butter London base coat

What do you think? Are all these products essential to your beauty routine?

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Beauty products you're not sure you need

My Favourite Ways to Wear Statement Sleeves Right Now

Of all the trends that have appeared this season, statement sleeves is the one I can seriously see sticking around for quite a while. From tiered ruffles to big volume to flared cuffs, there are loads of sleeve shapes that can add drama to an outfit with very little effort. Here are my favourite ways to wear this trend for right now, with pieces that will flow right into the start of the autumn season.

Dresses with statement sleeves

Short dresses with dramatic sleeves are a great way to give some balance to your outfit. I recommend wearing with barely-there sandals too, so that your sleeves get all the attention.

Ways to wear statement sleeves - dresses

Dark blue satin dress from H&M

Mustard frill dress from Zara

Wear with…

Ways to wear statement sleeves - dresses outfits

Silver sandals from H&M

Floral cross body bag from Accessorize

Knits with statement sleeves

Knitwear shapes are changing, and sleeves that are a little extra are definitely the way forward. Even a simple casual outfit with jeans and boots will look stylish with this trend. Tip: I’d keep my jeans skinny to balance out the outfit.

Ways to wear statement sleeves - knits

Mustard extreme sleeve jumper from Topshop

Pink balloon sleeve sweatshirt from Topshop

Wear with…

Ways to wear statement sleeves - knits outfit

Skinny ankle jeans from H&M

Pink chelsea ankle boots

Pretty blouses with statement sleeves

Shirts and blouses are anything but basic with oversized bell cuffs and tiered ruffles. Pair with jeans and flats for a very easy smart-casual way to wear the trend.

Ways to wear statement sleeves - tops

Embroidered ruffle sleeve shirt from Pretty Little Thing

Tiered sleeve top from Warehouse

Wear with…Ways to wear statement sleeves - tops outfit

Silver pumps from Dorothy Perkins

Skinny jeans from H&M

Is this a trend you’ll be wearing?

This Lipstick Lasts All Day

I’m dedicating this post to my favourite lipstick brand – Sleek Matte Me. If you’re looking for lip colour with staying power (who isn’t?!) I can wholeheartedly recommend this brand, and there are actually quite a few reasons why I love it so much…

Lipstick that lasts all day

It does not budge all day long

I now own 2 colours from the Matte Me range, and both of them just last for hours and hours. And I’ve never met a lipstick wearer who didn’t want their lipstick to last all day!

Sleek Matte Me lip colour

It has a perfect matte finish

Despite being packaged and applied like a lip gloss, Matte Me has a gorgeous matte finish (as the name would suggest), and I always prefer matte lipsticks.

It’s so pigmented!

The first thing I noticed when I tried Party Pink, the first Matte Me lipstick I owned, was the amazing vibrant red hue. It’s probably the most pigmented lip colour I’ve ever used! And even Birthday Suit (the perfect classy nude), is just as pigmented. It’s a much higher quality than its high-street price tag would suggest!

Lasting lipstick - Sleek Matte Me Party Pink

Lasting lipstick - Sleek Matte Me Birthday Suit

It’s cruelty free!

This is my number 1 priority when shopping for cosmetics, so I’m very, very happy that Sleek is a cruelty-free brand. (I also love their BB cream and eye shadow palettes by the way).

It’s a total bargain

It costs just £4.99, which is an amazing price for such a great lipstick. The Sleek range is sold in Superdrug stores, so it’s very easy to get hold of too.

Lip colour that does not budge

I cannot recommend Sleek Matte Me enough, and although I could go my whole life only using these vibrant red and classy nude shades, I’d certainly consider expanding my collection to try some of the others in the range.

How to feel summery when it’s not sunny

Technically summer is not yet over, but the hot days have all but disappeared. If, like me, you’re not ready to accept the autumn is on its way just yet, what you need is a list of ideas to help you feel summery, even when it’s raining. Lucky for you, that’s exactly what I have right here!…

Summer feelings

Summer scents

If there’s one thing that really gives me the summer feels, it’s the smell of sun cream. And I have been known on occasion to put some on, even if it’s not particularly sunny. Find the scents that make you feel summery and use them! I also have a coconut-scented hand sanitiser that I keep in the office, which is the smell of pure summer.

Have an indoor picnic

Picnics are the essence of summer, so don’t miss out just because the weather isn’t great. Gather some friends and pack up your hamper with all your favourite treats – for me that’s pink lemonade, egg sandwiches, pork pies, veggies and hummus, strawberries, maybe a summer fruit tartlet. And then set up your picnic in someone’s home! Lay out the picnic blankets in exactly the same way you would outdoors, and enjoy the fact that there are no insects to bother you. And here’s a cute idea – if you have a big screen in the room, why not put something summery and outdoorsy (like this) on loop to give the impression you’re outside.

Picnic hamper

Holiday reads

Some books are just too summery to be read at any other time of the year. So even if it’s raining outside, curl up with one of your favourite beach-based reads (and perhaps some ice cream!) and imagine you’re exactly where they are.

Eat ice cream

Eat ice cream in a cone. Or make fruity ice pops to enjoy. Who said it had to be hot before you could do this?

Ice cream

Create a playlist of summer theme tunes

Every summer has a theme tune, and whenever you hear these songs you’ll think of summers past. So put all of them into a playlist which you can stick on whenever you need it. I can’t lie, mine features a lot of J Lo songs which make me feel so summery!

Drink rum cocktails

Pay a visit to your local Tiki bar or Caribbean-themed restaurant (hello Turtle Bay) for some holiday cocktail vibes. Or why not experiment with some rum cocktail recipes at home?

Plan day trips

Day trips are the memories you’ll have of this summer, so don’t put your plans on hold because it’s not sunny. Do them anyway! Or find new things to do that can’t be rained off.

DSCN2605

Cook up some summer recipes

Use Pinterest to find some new summery recipes to try. I’m currently being inspired by colourful non-basic salads, grilled fish and Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Check out my Food and Recipes Board here.

Summer movies

What films make you think of summer? In the run up to my holidays I like to watch these movies to get me in the mood, because they are full of sunshine, beach locations, holiday romances and general happy feelings:

  • The Beach
  • Dirty Dancing
  • Moana
  • Mamma Mia
  • Six Days Seven Nights
  • Cocktail

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How to feel summery when it's not sunny

Tips for a Great Day Out on a Canal Boat

If you’re looking for a great day out with a difference then I would absolutely recommend hiring a canal boat for a day. I recently did this with 9 of my friends, hiring a boat from Ellerbeck Narrowboats for 8 hours. It’s completely different to a party boat experience, as you get full control of the boat. You can steer it along a 12 mile stretch of the Leeds Liverpool canal in whichever direction and at whatever pace you fancy, moor when you feel like it, and it’s a no-stress situation because you aren’t allowed to pass through any of the locks (which would make things more technical). It’s as simple as steering your boat along the canal at a leisurely pace, whilst enjoying a party atmosphere with whatever food, drinks and games you bring along.

Canal boat day hire

We had such fun on our canal boat and I think it’s the perfect day trip for a birthday or celebration, so I’ve decided to share these 10 tips for making sure you have the most fun on your narrowboat day trip.

1. Go with a fun crew

Everything is fun when you’re with the right people, so choose your crew wisely! It helps when at least one of your group is great at driving, but it’s a low pressure environment and it wouldn’t really matter if you were all rubbish at it. Our boat capacity was 10 people and although it is quite a squeeze, it is worth having all the extra hands on board so that a few people can drive whilst others prepare food.

Canal boat friends

2. Have a nautical dress code (just for fun)

We decided to embrace a nautical theme for the day, which was pretty fun and makes our photos look extra special. A dress code is obviously optional.

3. Have a go at steering

Everyone on board should give it a go at the helm. Canal boats travel at a low speed so there’s really nothing to be worried about, although turning them around is slightly trickier.

Canal boat at the helm

4. Cook up a tasty breakfast

The first priority after setting sail has to be a delicious breakfast. Our boat had a hob and grill on board, and sausage sandwiches and bucks fizz were a welcome morning treat.

5. Enjoy the views

Take some time to enjoy the picturesque scenery and, at certain points, gaze enviously at luxurious waterside houses that you can’t possibly afford. Make the most of the scenic photo opportunities so you’ll always have reminders of your memorable day.

Canal boat day trip

Canal boat day hire 2

Canal boat day hire 3

6. Play games

No day of fun is complete without a few games, and it’s simple enough to moor up the boat so that everyone on board can join in.

7. Serve Pimms and afternoon tea

Once breakfast is done you’ll need to consider other meals, and I think something typically English like Pimms and afternoon tea would be perfect. We had a kettle on board for making hot drinks.

8. Moor up for a break

We moored up once for games and a second time to pay a call to a waterside ice cream parlour. I’m sure there are plenty of other stops we could have made too, if we’d fancied visiting a pub or having a short stroll.

Fredericks Ice Cream

9. Prepare for the weather

It’s England and impossible to predict the weather. We prepared for everything, with blankets for the chilly morning, wet weather wear in case of rain, and (luckily, because it turned out glorious!) sun cream.

10. Take it easy

This is not a fast paced day by anyone’s standards. It’s a leisurely, casual, fun-filled, fun one, so enjoy the slow pace and take the chance to relax with friends.

Canal boat day hire 4

Why Outdoor Theatre Should be on Your Summer Bucket List

If you read my summer bucket list earlier in the year, you may have seen that Outdoor Theatre was on the list, and a couple of weeks ago I ticked this off when I watched As You Like It at Ordsall Hall.

As You Like It - The Handlebards

This was a production by The Handlebards – a group of 4 actors who cycle around the country carrying their sets and props on their bikes with them. They even incorporate cycling paraphernalia into the shows with handlebars, bells, helmets and horns featuring as costumes and props.

Open Air Theatre - Handlebards

Open Air Theatre - Handlebards As You Like It

The show was set in the gardens of Ordsall Hall, and we enjoyed the humorous interpretation of this Shakespeare comedy with a picnic on a lovely sunny evening. I’d definitely recommend this particular theatre group for a fun show and great performances, but here’s why I think everyone should give any outdoor theatre a go this summer:

Summer is about spending time outdoors

Getting outside is what summer is all about, and open air theatre will be one of your most memorable summer activities.

The weather is all part of it

We may be in England and it may seem like a risk to book an open air show, but even if you aren’t as lucky as we were for As You Like It, it is still lots of fun. When we watched Pride and Prejudice at Brockholes the weather was windy and raining, and the cast simply made it part of the show in a hilarious way. And as long as you prepare for the worst (bring rainwear and warm clothes) it doesn’t have to spoil your fun.

The laid-back atmosphere

Set up your own deckchairs and blankets in plenty of space and enjoy the chilled atmosphere, good humour and some fresh air with your theatre.

Enjoy a picnic and a glass of prosecco

If eating a delicious picnic with a glass of prosecco in an al fresco setting isn’t appealing to you then we do not share a wavelength!

Discover beautiful locations

Every venue is different and it’s a chance to discover some of England’s nicest stately homes, nature reserves and gardens that you might never have heard of otherwise.

The prices are relatively cheap!

Tickets are cheaper than for regular theatre, which makes it a nice reasonably-priced summer activity. There are plenty of family shows too, so it’s a great activity for children without breaking the bank.

It’s a unique experience

Due to small casts playing several roles each and limited sets and costumes, open air theatre  productions have to be very creative and they are often interactive. So it’s something very different from your usual theatre experience.

Outdoor Theatre - Ordsall Hall

I’ve decided that my summers won’t feel complete without an outdoor theatre experience, and there are plenty of options all over the country. Here are just 8 of the many places to watch outdoor theatre in the Manchester area this summer. (And many of the shows are coming up in August so check them out now if you don’t want to miss out!):

Ordsall Hall

Walkden Gardens (Sale)

Chorlton Park

Heaton Park

Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens

Brockholes Nature Reserve

Dunham Massey

Hoghton Tower

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OutdoorTheatre