29 June 2014

My Last 2 Weeks in Leicester

Following on from my last post, I attempted to make the most of my last 2 weeks in Leicester. I made a list of things I wanted to have done before I left and now, having moved home about a week ago, I am going to report on how they went.

I didn't manage to complete all 8 of the ideas on my list. In fact, I only managed 5 of them. Part of this was because I went home for the first weekend and the other part was because of the amount of 'celebrating' I was doing, I had to write off a couple of days for recovery. Although 5 of 8 isn't too bad, at least I've left myself some things to do when I visit at some point in the future.

First up was the international supermarket. I decided to walk there in flip flops rather than drive on a very hot Thursday.. not my best decision. By the time I got there I was really thirsty and just wanted to sit down. But, it was definitely worth it. It's not as big inside as you would expect but there is so much stuff in there it's amazing. It felt a bit odd wandering around a supermarket like it's a museum but it really was quite interesting to walk around. I ended up taking so many pictures that I used up all of my phone battery.

They had lots of vegetables I had never heard of, giant fish loose in lots of freezers, a meat counter selling all different types of meat, including goat! They had massive bags of powdered mashed potato, aisles and aisles of rice (which all looked the same to me) and a whole aisle dedicated to pasta! My favourite part was a cake counter they had near the back which housed about 30 different, large cakes with bright icing. They looked so good I could hardly tell if they were real or not. 

After wandering around for about an hour, I bought some of the food colourings and flavourings I needed for making sweets (also on my list); some spices I needed, some pasta and multi-coloured vermicelli. Although I took £20 to spend I ended up only spending £6 (partly because I didn't want to carry too much home). I had planned to go back on another day with my car but I ran out of time. I'd recommend everyone have a look there though, I was very impressed.

Next, in the order I completed them in, was making sweets. This took me longer than expected, not because making the sweets was all that hard but finding all the ingredients, especially for the cola cubes, was difficult. Other than heating the sugar to the right temperature, which is much easier to gauge with a sugar thermometer (luckily I already had one of these), making them was quite easy. The wine gums were really easy to make and tasted pretty good. The cola cubes were harder but mainly because the mixture cooled down really quickly so a lot got left behind in my saucepan and jug. I think the next sweets I'm going to make are rhubarb and custards which look even harder.. I'll let you know how they go.

I then wasted a couple of days doing nothing much which meant I had even less time and I ended up having to do a couple of things from my list on the same day. On the last Thursday, a friend who left university the year before came back to visit for a couple of days. So I decided she could join in helping me accomplish the ideas on my list too.
As she's a vegetarian it made the next thing on my list a bit easier to do. I wanted to try to make a meal with food only bought in the market and although there is a new meat and fish section in the Leicester markets, it is primarily a fruit and vegetable market. Cooking for two, I decided I would make a three course meal instead of one course, adding to the challenge. Although I bought almost every ingredient in the market, there were a few things I already had or couldn't get there, but I did my best. We cooked all of the food together and it was really easy to do. (If you want recipes let me know.) It's fair to say we were a little full after all of this, especially before a night out but definitely better than my normal tomato pasta.

The menu went as follows:
Starter: Spinach and leek pancakes with grated parmesan.
Main: Soy mince chilli with rice
Dessert: Low fat chocolate and banana brownies with vanilla ice cream.

Somehow between all the food shopping and cooking, we managed to fit in going to The Pheonix to see Grace of Monaco. After seeing that Rotten Tomatoes had given it 1 star I was highly apprehensive about watching this film. But I didn't want to see any of the others and the trailer looked good so I went for it anyway. (Before the film they advertised a new movie called Downhill which looked really funny, like a middle aged version of The Inbetweeners, which I now really want to watch too.)
All in all, I thought Grace of Monaco was pretty good. I'd give it 3 stars. The costumes, something I always notice, were really amazing, especially Nicole Kidman's dresses; the acting and scriptwriting were good and the historical content was informative and engaging. One criticism I would make was that the camera angles and the tendency to zoom-in and linger on Nicole Kidman's face was quite off putting, and detracted from the scene. Overall, though, I was very happy we managed to squeeze this in and I think I'll be looking out for more alternative cinemas in the future.

The final thing I managed to complete on my list was a big picnic with all my friends in Victoria Park. When I say big I mean BIG. Postponing this from Friday to Saturday was the best decision we made. I had forgotten that this was the day Kasabian were performing in Victoria Park. Although some of my friends had tickets, quite a lot didn't so we sat just outside the walls listening with our ginormous picnic, which had everything you could possibly want (mountains of sandwiches, houmous, crisps, amazing pasta salad, 3 packets of party rings and loads more). You could hear the music really clearly and the atmosphere was so chilled that we ended up sitting here from 2pm 'til 10:30pm. This, combined with the university's Summer Festiball the next day, felt like the perfect end to a great three years at Leicester.

I didn't manage to see Richard III (but I sort of knew this was going to happen anyway), go to Sophbeck/Basement or have a day out with my camera. But I did manage to really enjoy my last 2 weeks in Leicester. After some research I saw that they are opening a new Richard III centre in Leicester in the middle of July so this is going to be a great excuse to come back and visit all my friends next year. Other than that, I'll be back on the 18th July for graduation. My next mission is finding something to wear for it.

9 June 2014

Achieve Before I Leave

As promised on Friday, I am posting a list of things I want to 'Achieve Before I Leave' Leicester, in exactly 2 weeks time. I've spent most of my weekend thinking about this, especially as I've had nothing to do. I've had a couple of suggestions from my friends, such as learn to do a Rubik's cube (I have only just realised it's not spelt with an x) which sounded good except I'd have to buy one.. Another idea was booking a holiday but after 3 years of university, I can barely afford take-out, let alone a nice holiday in a country where it is actually sunny.. And finally a few people have said get a job which isn't exactly something I can control. I mean I can apply for loads but when it comes down to it's not me who decides if I get it or not. All I can to it try and hope.

So all of the things on my list are things that I can actually achieve. I was planning to do 10 but I can only think of 8 good ones so if people have any more suggestions that would be great.

So here's what I've got:

1. Go to the international supermarket. It's the giant lime-green supermarket near the bus station and every time I drive past it I tell myself I want to go any have a look. I've been putting it off for almost two years now, I'm not really sure why, but if I don't go I know I'll regret it because it's meant to be really good and unique.

2. Have a big picnic in Victoria Park with all my friends. It's something that I always think of on a burning hot day when I'm in the library slaving away (which doesn't happen thaaat often) or when I walk past and see all these families doing it. I'm always really envious but I don't know why I don't just organise one myself. My friends and I have all finished now so we've got no excuses. And when I say big picnic, I mean BIG. Loads of sandwiches, party rings of course, crisps, cakes, Coca Cola, everything we can think of. Oh, and everyone is invited to join.

3. See Richard III. I'm pretty sure I've actually missed this opportunity.. Which is a bit gutting but I will go to all the museums to do with finding him and the walking trail. It's probably what Leicester is most famous for and other than watching TV documentaries about it I don't really know anything. So I'm going to spend one day learning as much about it all as possible. Then when I come back to visit next year, I'll go and actually see him (if I can).

4. Make a meal with food only bought in the market. Leicester is also famous for its market, which is great. I've bought stuff from there every now and then. Sometimes material and sometimes vegetables but I think it would be a nice challenge to try to do a whole meal with only market produce. Anyone is welcome to join me, eating with others is always more fun.

5. Go to Basement and/or Sophbeck. These are the only two clubs in Leicester that I haven't been to that I actually still want to go to. I can never stomach XY after Wednesday nights.. I've heard pretty good reviews of these two so I definitely want to see what they're like myself.

6. Have a day out with my camera. My family surprised me at Christmas was a professional SLR camera and I haven't used it at all except on the day. This makes me sound so spoilt but in all honest I haven't had an opportunities to use it and I'm a bit scared of breaking it. But now I have time I want to go out for a photography day around Leicester, working out how to use it properly and taking some pictures of the campus and city centre. It's actually quite picturesque in places if you look up.

7. Make sweets. This is something I've really been looking forward to. My brother bought me a vintage sweets book at Christmas and I haven't made any. At all. And I love sweets. You're probably wondering why I have all these presents I don't use - which is fair. I really can't believe I'll need anything this Christmas. Anyway, I have time now so I want to make some. I think I'll go for cola cubes for my brother (he's already placed an order of 1kg) and wine gums for me. I'll let you know how they go..

8. Go to the Pheonix and/or the Curve. The Pheonix is an alternative cinema in Leicester where you can see movies that you wouldn't normally get the chance to see. I've had a look at what's on and I think I'd like to see 'Grace of Monaco', it's staring Nicole Kidman and looks really good. The tickets aren't that expensive so I'm pretty keen on doing this. I may or may not make it to the Curve (Leicester's main theatre) purely because the tickets are quite expensive. If I do go I'll see Birdsong which is on between 17th-21st June but we'll see.

And that's the end of my list. So far. I'm sure I'll think of other things to add but at the moment I'm stuck for more ideas. Please let me know if you think of any good ones or what to join me on any of these.

6 June 2014

What To Do Now?

Exams are over, my course is finished, the hockey season is long gone and I've only got just over 2 weeks left in Leicester. What am I going to do now? I've got more free time then I could possibly imagine and a list of ideas so long I don't know where to start.

I've actually had all this freedom for the last 2 weeks and it's taken me that long to write this! All I've done in that time is celebrate and go to the gym... Okay, I've been to London and the Lake District but I haven't actually achieved anything. My friends are frantically applying for jobs now or sorting out where they're going to live next year, and what am I doing?

Nothing is the honest answer. Until today. I updated my LinkedIn, which was my new years resolution, refreshed my CV and emailed some friends about finding more work experience. This is the last time in a long while that I'll have this much free time so I don't want to waste it being lazy. I agree that it's a good idea to relax and enjoy myself but I wasn't that stressed in the first place so I can't really use that as an excuse..

This video really sums up for me how I want to live and I think everyone should watch it:

Don't waste time thinking about what you're going to do, just do it. It sounds like I'm writing a Nike advertisement, I know, but I mean it. I think the best way for me to make the most of my last couple of weeks in Leicester (and complete freedom) is to make a list of what I want to 'Achieve Before I Leave'.

I'm going to have a think over the next few days and post my list on Monday morning. Then when I leave I'll assess how well I've done. All suggestions are welcome.. Watch this space!