Sunday, 28 April 2013

Week 4: Disco with a Twist

This weeks 'something new' came in the form of an opportunity, rather than a plan, thanks to the wondrous social media target advertisements of Facebook, which incidentally is where I'm pretty sure you've followed the link to this page from!  Apparently my age, gender, interests and location combined made me an ideal candidate for TK Maxx's Silent Disco, an event that they were staging in various locations as part of their 'Do Your Thing' summer campaign... funny they should suggest that as it ties in perfectly with the themes of this blog.

For those of you who don't know what a silent disco is, rest assured that you are not alone.  I too had to look it up on-line before agreeing to attend.  In a nutshell, rather than music being pumped in to your environment, like in a normal disco, the sound is instead directed straight to your ears through wireless headphones.  That's it, such a simple concept but not one that makes me want to go out there and get involved.  It's a good job that I'm looking for new things to write about or I might have missed out.    

Liverpool, get ready to Do Your Thing

The event took place last Thursday at 6:30 in the evening.  It had been a long day, made longer by staying in work until after 6pm to pass some time save going home and coming back.  Let's just say I was tired and not really in the mood.  Yet the incentive to do something new, as well as TK Maxx's own incentive of a £25 voucher for the first 100 people in (!), was just the motivation I needed.  

Doors opened at 6:30pm prompt.  First things first, paper work.  Collection of wireless earphones and signing of waiver for publicity.  Done.  Then it was time for the good stuff.  Earphones on, volume adjusted and channel selected.  There were two to choose from, both rather good, but one featuring the live feed from the in-store DJ and commentary from the event's choreographer... yes, you read that right, there was a real, live choreographer!

Before we hit the dance floor there was just time to head over to the bar for a (non-alcoholic) mojito served with ice and fresh mint. Delicious.  Then a quick wander around the shop whilst the dance floor warmed up.   

 Me with my Mojito getting ready to trip the light fantastic and with
my special John Travolta pose below.

The Arctic Monkeys were wrong - I don't Look Good on the Dance Floor 

The orchestrated highlight of the event must be the choreographer who really got the crowd going, swapping between the two music channels so that there was something for everyone, allowing scope for free styling whilst giving others direction through organised routines.  Not wanting to compete with the lad in his teens doing the caterpillar or the larger than life 50-something-year-old trying to do the splits, I went for the stylised option.  

 Here I am behind the girl in the orange top demonstrating my 'speghetti arms' 
(I don't think that's a technical term nor one to aspire too!)
Good fun all the same
 Below - being cool, brushing off my shoulders as part of the routine.  This part I mastered as it didn't involve moving my feet at the same time.  Co-ordination isn't one of my strong points. 


I'm glad I made the effort to attend not only for the bonus £25 voucher that I managed to bag but primarily because it was really good fun.  Clearly, this was probably quite abstract for a silent disco, being in a shop rather than at a club or festival, but 100% effort was put in by all involved and it certainly had novelty value.  I'd definitely give this ago again but there is probably a right place and time - not sure that a sober 6:30pm start in a shop is something I'd do again... oh, what am I saying, of course I would but if possible I'd probably prefer somewhere a bit darker and a bit later next time.

Top tip - if you ever find yourself at one of these events just take your earphones off for a short time, even if its just for a minute or two.  Watching people dance to no music and clap to their own time is just hilarious - worth a visit to a silent disco on its own! 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Week 3: A Near Disaster Averted

You may have noticed that this weeks blog post is a little bit late.  It wasn't for the lack of trying. I'd thought about this weeks activity in advance.  It was planned for Sunday evening, I'd invited my Scottish friend around to share the experience and I'd almost starved myself in preparation all day for what has to be the most quintessential delicacy from north of the boarder.  

No not the humble haggis. I am of course talking about the Mighty Fried Mars Bar!

The Best Laid Plans...

Unfortunately I didn't take in to account the lack of hot-food outlets willing to humour me in cooking up this this rare and desirable treat.  I'd bought my own Mars bar, all they had to do was dip it in their pre-made batter, drop it in the hot fat and let it sizzle until golden but no, I was turned away at the till.  Mission aborted. Food Fad Fail...or was it?

What's a Girls to Do

Sunday was a write off after my disappointment in the take-away shop and I spent the rest of the evening thinking about how I could make this right.  I was only on week 3, I couldn't allow myself to be defeated at this early stage.  And then it struck me - I have a Mars bar, I have a pan of oil and I have a bowl of batter.  All the ingredients are there in my kitchen.  There's only one thing for it then, if this fad was to succeed then I'd have to make my own.  

I soon found out that this is what Mondays are made for.  I'll talk you through the process...

How to Make a Mighty Fried Mars Bar   

First take a Mars bar.  I'd recommend the original and best although I'm sure you could use a cheaper supermarket version if you just wanted to try it without fully committing. Unwrap it and set it to one side whilst you prepare the other elements.

Mix an egg with flour and milk to make a batter.  You don't necessarily need to follow a recipe for this as it needs to be fairly thick to coat the Mars bar.  Pancake consistency, for example, would be too thin.  If you feel it is too thin just add more flour.  Mix well until you have a paste that looks something like that below.
Place 4-5cm of oil in a pan and place on the heat until very hot.  Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a small amount of batter in to the oil.  The batter should sizzle and ball.  Be really careful.  
 Cover the Mars bar with the batter using a spoon for better coverage.
 When the Mars bar is fully covered and the oil is nice and hot, just drop it in and stand back! 
You may have to turn it once depending on how deep your oil is.  It is ready when it's golden brown.
(There are 2 Mighty Fried Mars Bars in the pan below though I didn't eat them both!)

Introducing the Mighty Fried Mars Bar! 

Ok, so it looks fairly gross on the outside.  That's caramel seeping out from the side by the way, although you're right if you're thinking that it looks as though somebody has squeezed a boil!
Neither the outside nor the inside resembles the product that it previously was but don't like that put you off. 

 The crisp crunch on the outside gives way to a smooth, chocolate-caramel centre.  Think melted, warm Mars bar wrapped in a pancake.  Mmmmm.


It was disappointing that the local eateries wouldn't indulge me but ultimately it was no big loss.  From the comfort of my own kitchen I was able to create a truly tasty but unusual snack that needed very little effort in its preparation but had a handsome payoff.  Whilst I certainly have a sweet-tooth, I'd also recommend this to people less sugar inclined as the savoury element of the batter detracts from the sweetness of the Mars bar.

I will definitely be indulging in the Mighty Fried Mars Bar again in the future but not too regularly though, I hasten to add (before the Fat-Police turn on their sirens!). 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Week 2: A Typically American Fad

For decades now, like it or loathe it, America culture has had a massive influence on us here in the UK.  As a child of the 80's I couldn't imagine growing up without McDonalds birthday parties (they were better than Wimpey, fact!), New Kids on the Block, Disney and The Cosby Show.  In fact American Culture continues to be a massive influence on our society today trickling in from all angles, without our knowledge or consent, but usually with some level of enjoyment.  

I've visited America a few times.  I love it.  It is a country of continual fads.  The one that I have always coveted more than any other peaked in the U.S. during the early 1960s but it wasn't as though I missed out, this fad never really took off in the UK anyway... I am of course talking about the all-great DRIVE-IN MOVIE.

My Drive-in Experience

Imagine my total glee then, when recently, I came across the Route 66 Drive-in Cinema just 45 minutes away from home! It claims to be Europe's only outdoor digital cinema experience operating from its permanent position within an industrial estate in Trafford Park.        

Having never been to anything like this before I was unsure what the picture quality would be like, if the sound would be in sync and whether I'd be able to see at all through the rows of cars, so I decided to go for a classic that I know fairly well - Pretty Woman.

Now, you might not think that a wet Saturday night in an absurdly cold April would be the best day to experience an outdoor movie for the first time, and you might be right, but I have made a commitment through this blog to try 52 new things in a year and I intend to stick with it for at least more than a week so we went anyway!  

The venue

Don't expect Hollywood glamour from this place - it's in the middle of an industrial park, surrounded by HGVs! There's no access to the site until the previous film has finished and when I arrived I was unsure what I was supposed to do but I followed the lead of the other 'drive-inners', turned the car around and joined a queue on the street.  A drive-in employee was there to take our details within minutes (we'd booked ahead on-line) and explained that the current film was running 20 minutes late.  It wasn't a big deal - the fact that the staff were efficient and attentive made a difference.  

Once the gates were open we rolled in and parked in the front of just 2 rows; in total there were about 45 cars.  You would probably have a good view from wherever you were in the park and we were more than satisfied with our spec.  Just to give you an idea of the scale of the production - the projector is within the second storey of a mobile building and projects on to a humongous screen that fills the side of the industrial building.

The projection tower (above)

The Experience

Once inside we tuned the radio in to the designated drive-in frequency so we could hear the movie sound, left our lights on so that the attendant knew to come and take our food order, reclined the seats, put our feet up on the dash and the film began...

It's Richard Gere (above) getting in to a car he can't drive in a city he doesn't know.  Good job he bumps in to Julia Roberts (below), who'll help him out!

Popcorn and cans of cola were delivered to the car within half an hour of the film beginning and about half an hour after that our Domino's pizza arrived!  All this was arranged through the staff when we got there but this appears to be optional.  I think the hot delivered pizza and popcorn buckets lent themselves well to the overall experience but if I went again I would probably bring my own.  It does not appear to be 'against the rules' to bring your own food and drink here as it is in traditional cinemas and this in itself is a draw to using this facility again. 

Bucket of popcorn (above) against the backdrop of the dashboard (!) and the freshly delivered Dominoes  BBQ chicken and bacon pizza (below).  Hopefully next time I'll have got used to the fact that this is my blog so I should be in the pictures rather than taking them!

I needn't have worried about the quality of the viewing whatsoever.  I have absolutely no complaints. Whilst I was initially surprised by the setting of the location in an industrial area, once inside its clear that it works really well and, actually, you'd be hard pushed to find a more suitable place for it.  The visuals were great and the sound was perfect all within the the familiarity of my own surroundings (notice I didn't say comfort - its a KA with dodgy heating!) with the added bonus that I could sing along as loud as I liked!  It was a truly chilled-out, enjoyable experience.  


I will definitely be doing this again! 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

And so it begins.....

Hi, this is Niki.  Last week I was listening to a conversation between two very interesting artists.  One was my lovely husband, Leigh, and the other was a very good friend of ours.  They were talking creatively and with passion about their ambitions for the future and, I must admit, they made anything seem possible.

Later in the week I came across the BBC's Class Calculator, a new system for categorising the status of the UK population on a wider sliding scale from that previously used but basically still rating everyone between marvellous to, well,  the complete opposite of marvellous.  I answered a series of basic questions about me and my friends only to be identified as 'Established Middle Class'.  I must say, I was disappointed.  It reminds me of suburbia, 9 to 5 and a Ford in the drive-way.  Surely this isn't me.  I don't even have a drive-way!

These two events might seem quite separate and unrelated but they've had quite a profound impact.  They've made me think about me!

I realise that I don't have that single source of drive and motivation that runs through my life like letters in a stick of rock but, on the other hand I'm always on the look out for that certain something that will grab my interest and keep it...  

My Personal Fad-history

Now, I'm not adverse to participating in the odd fad, that's true.  Over the years I have been passionate about my various hobbies - pottery, sewing, zumba, scuba diving, running, pole dancing, pilates, cake decorating, hoola hooping, candle making, dock swimming, indoor rock climbing, yoga, cycling, salsa, in-line skating and writing a novel to name just a selection.

 One of my earlier (and arguably better looking) cakes

That's me in the middle of the shot swimming in the Liverpool Docks and below selling my home- made candles  with my mum at a craft fair. 

Whilst some of these have been just a flash in the pan, I've stuck with others for years and still partake in them to this day.  Regardless of the time I've spent on each one, I have loved each minute that I've dedicated to anyone of these fads and, if led down that conversational path, I'll still chatter away with the utmost enthusiasm about the benefits of all of them to anyone who cares to listen.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog.

I'm looking for a new interest.

For the next 52 weeks I intend to do 52 things that I have never done before.

Some of these may well turn in to fads, others may become habits or longer-term interests and others might make me want to cry and hide under the bed!  I don't mind, I'm ready, I have a default position of 'yes' and I'll go along with almost anything providing that they are realistic, don't involve jumping from great heights (or anything over 50cm - I don't like jumping) or going upside down at great speed!

That's where I need your help.

I must admit, like all the fads I've ever had, I have not really given this too much thought.  In fact, I only decided to do this yesterday but in typical 'me' style I'm already fully committed.  I've got a few ideas but I need plenty more so if you have an idea for an activity for me to do, an event for me to attend or food for me to try, then please let me know.

I know a lot of interesting people (if you're reading this then assume I mean you!) and I'm sure you'll give me all the ideas and support that I need to keep this thing going.  In return, I'll review my experiences every week on here for you to read.

Your suggestions don't have to be limited to just activities, I'm looking to do 52 new things within 52 weeks.  This could be anything from ice-climbing to eating a banana.  Really, I have never eaten a banana.  So, if you ever see a post on here where I'm thinking of eating a banana, please help me I must be getting desperate, I need ideas!
There may be some people reading this who have stumbled across this blog and would like to be part of it but maybe don't know me.  Well, to be honest, I don't think that there is that much to tell.  I'm 30-ish and live just north of Liverpool in NW UK.  I'm sure you'll find out more within the next year but for starters: I can't act, dance, sing, paint, and I'm not particularly physically fit but I'm the first to laugh if I make a fool of myself and I'll try anything.  So, come on, suggestions please.

That brings me to the end of this post and the first of my 52 new things in 52 weeks:

Week 1: Start a Blog!

Let's just hope that this isn't one of those short lived fads and I can keep it up for at least 12 months, otherwise this could be quite embarrassing.

I can't wait to hear from you.