Cosplay 101: Pressure

Black Canary Cosplay

Photographer: Sandy Smith Photography

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. But how far should you push yourself? For most of us, cosplay being more than a hobby is a distant dream. We can’t all be Jessica Nigri.

Despite the fact it’s meant to be fun, however, I do see a lot of cosplayers putting themselves under major pressure. With the internet, and cosplay Facebook pages, it is possible to become ‘cosplay famous’, but it also makes it very, very easy to make comparison with other cosplayers. We see them announcing guest bookings at conventions and wonder why nobody ever asks us. We see them getting adoring comments and wonder why our costume doesn’t inspire such devotion. We see them churning out a new costume every week, and spend an hour staring at our own bank account trying to find some spare cash to buy piles of worbla and LED lights. We see them with 30,000 likes and feel bad about our own numbers.

In a word? Don’t. Cosplay is meant to be fun. Agonising over success sucks all the joy from it. It’s also impossible to know how that other cosplayer got where they are. For all we know, they emailed 100 conventions before getting that one booking. They could be spending hundreds on Facebook ads to get those likes and those comments. Maybe they’re turning out costumes so fast because they’re wracking up some wicked credit card debt to buy supplies. Or maybe, they just have a bigger salary, or more time, than you to spend on these things. It can be tough, but not letting it get to you is important.

The best cure is to focus on you and your work. Mute those pages that make you feel crappy about yourself. Don’t go and look at them. There’s a drag saying; don’t get bitter, get better. If you think you deserve more success, the only way to get there is with some real hustle. Concentrate on creating the best costumes you can, and work hard on pushing your public profile. Get over your insecurities and make sure you’re posting content on social media every day. Be brave and a bit a cheeky and reach out to those booking cosplayers for events. That’s allowed. Make a polite enquiry, letting them know you’re interested in their event. You never know what might happen.

This entry was posted in Cosplay.

Whisky Women: Birmingham Whisky Club

Birmingham Whisky Club

Everybody knows I’m a ride or die gin drinker, but I’m also never one to turn down some alcohol knowledge. Birmingham Whisky Club run regular tastings in the city centre throughout the year, but for International Women’s Day they decided to do something a bit different. Whisky definitely has a reputation as being a drink ‘for men’, but it turns out that whisky actually owes a lot to some rather awesome women. Birmingham Whisky Club is actually run by two women, Vicky and Amy, so when I was invited along to their Whisky Woman night, it seemed the perfect way to discover a spirit I’ve always liked the idea of, if not the taste.

We were given six different whiskies to try, already neatly laid out when we arrived, on a numbered mat. An accompanying sheet told us which whisky was which, and the name of the woman we’d be learning about. Amy talked us through each whisky, explaining the differences in production, and a bit of the history. Amy is clearly very passionate and very knowledgeable about whisky. She was interesting to listen to, and left us all feeling like we really needed a holiday on Islay, an iconic location for Scottish whisky.

I felt the balance of information was perfect. A lot of the group were new to whisky, but we had some old hands too, but Amy walked an ideal line between helping us newbies understand what we were drinking and how best to taste it, while also providing plenty of new and interesting information for those who were more knowledgeable.

Whisky Tasting Birmingham

Vicky talked us through some of the amazing back stories to the whiskies we were drinking, from the brazen ladies of bourbon bootleggers who smuggled bourbon in their skirts, to the incredible story of Rita and Taketsuru. I can’t do it justice, but I recommend doing some googling to discover a beautiful love story between a Japanese whisky producer and the Scottish girl who supported his business, before being accused of spying during the second world war.

I definitely don’t know enough about whisky to intelligently review what we tried. However, I can say that I was really surprised. Having assumed I didn’t like whisky, I actually did enjoy most of what I tried, once I’d got over the initial burn of the bourbon. My favourites were Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt and Mackmyra Svensk Rok. The Taketsuru was light and almost friuty. According to the bottle, you should expect notes of espresso beans, which perhaps explains why it was my favourite. The Svensk Rok tasted very clean, and smelt slightly like good cake. Very, very drinkable.

If you’re like me, and like the idea of whisky but don’t know where to start, I highly recommend booking a tasting with Birmingham Whisky Club. They have some great events coming up, including food pairings and a taste along with the original Godzilla movie. I’ll certainly be exploring more whisky from now on.

Ju Ju’s Cafe, Birmingham

When not one, but two food bloggers have told you how much they like a place, you should probably visit it. Ju Ju’s Cafe, hidden away in canal square, has appeared twice on Brummie Gourmand in recent weeks, and I’ve heard Out in Brum sing the cafe’s praises too. Dave and I took my Mum for breakfast a couple of weekends ago, and decided it was high-time we investigated Ju Ju’s.

The cafe itself has great canal views and after a recent makeover, has a punky British vibe, with all sorts of quirky things on the walls to catch your eye (my favourite was a unicorn head). We were seated quickly by a window with canal views, despite the fact the place was clearly busy. Unfortunately, the coffee machine was broken so they couldn’t do any drinks involving steamed milk, but as we were warned about this as we were sitting down, it wasn’t a problem. Machines break down, it happens, but it’s a pet hate of mine when places wait until you try to order something to tell you that you can’t have it. Instead, I opted for a black coffee, and Dave an Earl Grey. My mum is very particular about her coffee; she likes an americano with the tiniest speck of milk, so she was pleased when, on ordering a white coffee, she was asked how much milk she would like, and then offered a little jug on the side when it was clear she had a very specific requirement. The drinks arrived speedily, and the coffee was tasty, even if it wasn’t my usual latte.

Avocado Smash

The breakfast menu at Ju Ju’s is vast, and it all sounded delicious. After much deliberation, I chose the Smashed Avocado, which is spicy tomato salsa and avocado on a toasted muffin with poached eggs. As well as looking delicious, this tasted delicious too. The salsa was very fresh, with some nice crunch to the tomatoes, and there was a good amount of avocado. The eggs could have been a tiny bit more oozy, but they did ooze well when I cut into them. All in all, a very tasty breakfast!

Breakfast Hash

Dave helpfully ordered the other breakfast I really wanted to try, Ju Ju’s Hash. The hash is crushed hash browns mixed with sausage, bacon and onions, topped with tomato and fried eggs. Dave also went for the optional side of toast and hollandaise. Served in the pan, this looked and smelt gorgeous. The egg yolks were runny when cut into, mixing nicely into the rest of the medley. Dave was very pleased, and I will definitely be ordering this myself next time we visit.

Mum chose scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, which I apparently didn’t photograph, but got good reviews. The toast was an absolute doorstep of a slice, and the scrambled eggs were clearly cooked to order as they were light and fluffy. For busy breakfast service,a  lot of places batch cook scrambled eggs (quite understandably) but being left to sit in a hot pan does impact the quality. Mum and I have both worked busy breakfast services ourselves, and can always tell when corners haven’t been cut. Very impressive!

The cafe was very busy but the service times were perfectly reasonably and the staff were friendly and attentive. Ju Ju’s is a bit of a hidden gem, and we will definitely be visiting again!

 

We paid in full for our breakfasts. They didn’t know I was a blogger. All opinions are entirely honest and my own (or dragged out of Dave). 

Zen Metro, Birmingham

Nothing if not practical, I’ll confess to hating restaurants on Valentines Day. Instead, Dave and I booked a deal for Zen Metro the day after. Sister restaurant to the already popular Asha’s, Zen Metro used to be Metro Bar and Grill, but after being bought out and getting a £250,000 makeover last year, Zen Metro now serves Thai food, one of my favourite cuisines.

Zen Metro

Restaurant Decor

Zen Metro is seriously stylish inside, and deceptively large. Right in the heart of the Colmore Business District, the frontage looks narrow, but you go inside to be greeted by a sweeping bar with cosy booths either side. Our server greeted us and took us up a dramatic mirrored walkway to the tables, which are cosily lit, grouped around a beautiful tree, lit with colour shifting spots.

Prosecco

I’d found a deal for three courses and a glass of Prosecco, which it appears they offer quite often. I couldn’t resist a flick through the drinks menu anyway, and was pleasantly surprised by how well priced the cocktails are. I didn’t try one this time, but I will be going back for drinks some time, for sure. Offer menus can often be a little sparse, but there was a good range of options to choose from here.

Thai Mussels

To start, Dave opted for Mussels in shell, which come steamed with thai herbs, and a coconut and chilli broth. The portion was enormous, and Dave was convinced the mussels were rope caught, which are usually more expensive but better quality. I can take or leave mussels as I often find them gritty, but these were tender and tasty. Dave was extremely happy working his way through the giant pile.

Tom Yum Soup

I chose the Tom Yum Goong soup. It was filled with fat, juicy prawns and the broth was perfectly flavoured, with that distinctive sour, spicy combination of thai dishes. It was quite hot, but I like spice, so this was spot on.

Teriyaka Salmon

For main, Dave chose roasted fillet of salmon with stir fry noodles in teriyaki sauce. The piece of salmon was enormous and cooked perfectly. I tried a tiny piece and the flavour was delicate, letting the fish taste come through the teriyaki flavouring. Dave made short work of this, so safe to say it was good.

Thai green curry

I chose a classic, the Thai Green Curry, which has chicken, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, green beans and fresh basil leaves. I was able to choose how spicy I wanted it, and selected medium. Again, the portion was massive, and I only managed about half of it. The heat level was exactly what I wanted. The first taste is creamy and the heat gently rolls across your tongue as you keep eating, making for a very pleasant experience, that is hot without being overwhelming.

Creme Brulee

For dessert, Dave tried the Lemongrass infused crème brulee. Not my sort of thing at all, but Dave’s review was very positive and it promptly disappeared despite the fact he’d been telling me how full he was just before.

Thai desserts

The dessert options were all a bit creamy for my taste, but I decided to try the Thai-style crème caramel. It wasn’t quite my thing, and I only ate about half of it, but it looked gorgeous on the plate, and the caramel was very tasty. If you do like cream heavy options, this would be great. The chocolate dipped strawberries were fantastic though.

I was very impressed in how much food we were given, considering we paid just under £20 a head for the offer menu. Offers can be a bad way to try a place, but the food was absolutely delicious and we will definitely be going back. Our waitress was incredibly friendly too, checking in on how we were handling the spice and making suggestions. We also chatted with another waiter, who found us some of the Valentines chocolate boxes they’d been giving out the night before, which was very sweet of him.

We had a truly excellent evening, and I can’t recommend Zen Metro enough.

I booked and paid for Zen Metro myself. They didn’t know I was a blogger. 

Rofuto, Birmingham

A couple of weeks back, a group of Birmingham Bloggers were invited along to test out the new menu at Rofuto, a modern japanese and pan-asian restaurant and cocktail bar. Located on the 16th floor, high above the Park Regis hotel, Rofuto certainly boasts some of the best views around, but would the food experience match up?

I went to Rofuto in it’s opening week last year, and I was impressed by the incredible views, and chic, stylish interior. The service was good and the sushi was excellent, although I wasn’t as convinced by the rest of the menu. With a new team in place, I was interested to see what the new menu had in store.

We started with a Tom Yum Soup, which contained shiitake mushrooms, galangal, chilli, tofu and thai basil. I’m a fan of Tom Yum, so was bound to enjoy this, and it was very good. The tofu was silky, and the veg still had plenty of bite. The spice level was about right too; warming without melting your sinuses.

Rofuto

Next was Sea Bass Tiradito, which is slices of raw sea bass with passion fruit and tiger’s milk. I’ve never tried sea bass raw, so I was very curious about this dish. Sea bass is quite a ‘meaty’ fish so I wasn’t sure how good this would be, but it was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The fish was rich in flavour, complimented beautifully with the sweet passion fruit. It looked beautiful on the plate too, which is always a bonus.

Dim Sum

The Dim Sum platter comes with Scallop Shumai, Beef and Foie Gras Gyoza and Wild Mushroom Spring Rolls. This was another real stand out for me. The scallop was tender and delicious, clearly cooked perfectly. Foie gras is a controversial ingredient at best, but the gyoza were rich in flavour and crammed full with the beef filling. The mushroom spring rolls, which didn’t sound very exciting, were gorgeous too, with plenty of flavour.

Japanese Woods

Bringing some drama was Japaense Woods. Served gently smoking (steaming? I wasn’t sure if it was dry ice or something else causing this, but it looked very cool), Japanese Woods is textures of salsify, charcoal grilled eel and black garlic. I didn’t really get this dish. It certainly looked impressive and the eel was very tasty, but the ‘bark’ type piece the toppings were laid on was an odd texture and mostly just tasted like burnt toast to me. It was the only misstep with the food though. Others around the table really enjoyed it though, so worth a try anyway.

Next, we were given dishes of some of the main menu to try. The Chilean Sea Bass is served with mandarin and ginger flower, in an enormous rice crisp. The wow factor of the look of this dish is fantastic and I loved how colourful they’d made a dish of white fish. Sea bass is a great fish, and this was very tasty. Well cooked, the strong flavour of the fish was allowed to speak for itself, which is always the best way I think.

The Sesame Otoro Tuna Tataki has a sesame and pine nut crust and is served with textures of apple and yuba. I love tuna like this, just barely seared. It was tender and delicious, with a nice added texture from the crust. The fish at Rofuto remains their strongest point, as I found before. The fish is treated with respect for it’s natural flavour and it makes for incredibly good dishes.

The Red Roast Baby Chicken, with water chestnuts, kumquat and master stock was very good too. The chicken was very juicy and was a generous portion, which I like to see. The rich colour of the sauce invited you to dive in, and the flavours lived up to that visual. There were also Korean Spiced Red Pepper Lamb Chops, which I didn’t get to try, as there weren’t quite enough to go around. Judging by how fast they were devoured though, they were clearly very good!

Finally, very nearly full to the brim, we were presented with a slightly unusual dessert. Miracle Berry is Yuzu Parfait with Togarashi Popcorn and Shiso Sorbet. I love sour flavours and this sharp dish was very refreshing after a big meal. The miracle berry itself has a surprise in store though. After a few minutes, the berry begins to trick your tastebuds into thinking that sour tastes sweet. It did make a little difference, and it was a fun touch that got us all talking.

Rofuto also has an excellent alcohol offering, with an extensive wine and cocktail list. The staff are very knowledgeable; several of them were happy to make suggestions for what we might enjoy from the cocktail menu (including making off menu mocktails for one blogger who was driving) and or came to talk us through each dish. The service at our table was very friendly, and I left very impressed by Rofuto. As when I went a year ago, the stylish atmosphere impressed me, and the sushi was just as good. I was very pleased to find the main menu now matches the sushi in it’s high quality.

Rofuto is not cheap, I admit, but you are getting one hell of an experience for your money, so I think worth it for a special occasion.

 

I was a guest of Rofuto, but all opinions are honest and my own and I paid for some of my own drinks. I also took lots of photos but my memory card ate them. Thank God for Richard Kiely and his beautiful photographs of the food! 

 

A Moment of Calm with Henny and Joe’s

Henny and Joe's

There’s an old saying that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. I don’t know how true that is, but I think it’s probably true of bloggers. All the bloggers I know are always doing a million things at once. This week, I took a break from all the busy, and it’s been amazing. A few days off work is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered, with a book, a hot drink and some sofa time.

Henny and Joe’s sent me a bottle of their award-winning Chocolate Chai to try out and it ended up being the perfect accompaniment to my chill-out days. I drink coffee by the gallon, but I’m careful about keeping my caffeine habit sensible; I don’t touch caffeine in the evenings and try to have some caffeine free days if I’m being feeling stressed out. Hand-made in Bath, the chocolate chai is totally caffeine free, and made a gorgeous, comforting latte.

Chocolate Chai

The chai is flavoured with cardomom, ginger, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, all spice, mixed spice, fennel seed and cinnamon. The first sip is lightly spiced and warming, with a sweet chocolate note after taste. The flavour is subtle and somehow soothing. The soft flavours definitely encourage you to sit back and focus on enjoying the drink rather than gulping it down while doing something else. I’ve been drinking it as a latte, but you can just mix the chai with hot or iced water to make regular or iced tea.

Give yourself a break (from life and from caffeine…). Trust me, you probably need it.

 

Henny and Joe’s sent me a bottle of their chai to review. All opinions are entirely honest and my own. 

 

This entry was posted in Food.

Minmin Noodle Bar, Birmingham

Minmin Noodle Bar is a regular spot for my friends at work. It’s close to work, and has become a go to choice for birthday, leaving or payday lunches. Tucked just behind the Arcadian, Minmin is in a great location for lunch while you’re shopping. It’s bright white and green interior gives us a slight cafeteria air, but the food quality speaks for itself. Dave and I visited for lunch during the Chinese New Year Celebrations.

Minmin Noodle Bar

The place was packed out, but we were seated instantly and the service was quick throughout, despite how busy they were. We started with the Mix Combo Starter, which serves two. This was vietnamese spring rolls, chicken spring rolls, spare ribs and yuk sung. The ribs were perfectly cooked; the meat just fell off the bone. The chicken spring rolls were a particular stand out too. The batter was light and crisp, and the rolls were packed with well seasoned, flavourful filling. As a starter for two, the portion size is about right too. You eat one of everything each, and a few mouthfuls of yuk sung, so you’re still hungry for the main course, without feeling short changed.

Salt & Pepper Squid

For mains, I opted for my usual order of Salt and Chilli Pepper Squid. You get a very generous portion of squid, lightly battered and stir-fried with fresh chilli, salt, peppers and vegetables. I always order this, because it is delicious. Served with rice, the portion size is generous, with plenty of juicy squid. The spice is just the right amount of kick, adding flavour and heat without melting your face. The fresh veg adds crunch, and attractive colour on the plate.

Birmngham Noodle Bar

Dave ordered the Salt and Pepper Beef Cutlet, and a side of fried rice. The cutlet is slightly battered and stir-fried with salt and chilli pepper. Still on the bone, the meat was tender, with enjoyable crunch from the light batter. As with the squid, the chilli adds enough heat to give a kick, without overwhelming all other flavours.

Minmin is a great place for good value, well cooked food. I’ve eaten here a lot, and the service is always fast and friendly, the food is always spot on, and the bill is always pleasantly low. Definitely visit, if you haven’t already.

Friday Round Up

Friday Round Up

Bunny Plans  – I caught up with Bunny Mother Katie Cosplays for a prosecco or three and a cosplay chat. Katie is one of the founders of Cosplay Bunnies UK. I’m joining the Bunnies for two conventions this year, and I’m super excited. First up, I’m going to be Batgirl Bunny for DC Bunnies at MCM London in May. The girls are all posting their designs and early tests on the Facebook page, so keep an eye out for updates!

Chinese New Year – Dave and I went along to check out the Chinese New Year celebrations. Photos to come, but you can see some footage of it in the weekly vlog. Unfortunately it poured with rain most of the day, but the crowds still come out to watch traditional lion dances, shop at a variety of stalls, eat street food and watch amazing performances of dance and acrobatics. Despite the rain, it was a lot of fun, and nice to have something so colourful in the midst of all the January grey.

Cosplay Shopping  – I’ve been buying cosplay supplies this week, which is always enjoyable. I did very well buying fabrics at the Bullring markets, and even managed to finish my Batgirl Bunny ears.

This week’s links:
Queer Coding in Wonder Woman.
Stay Outraged.
Finding Balance.
Illustrator captures the beauty of being alone, not lonely.

Bloggers Bites at Chung Ying Central

Chung Ying Central on Colmore Row is one of Birmingham’s premier destinations for modern dim sum, traditional chinese dishes and quality cocktails. The restaurant has primarily been a destination for business clients and workers from the surrounding offices, but Chung Ying are gradually making updates to their menu to bring in some more traditional dishes, in line with their other branches. As diners move away from sticking with the ‘safe’ Katsu curry or chicken chow mein, allowing Ching Ying Central to get a little more creative. Myself and a selection of other bloggers were invited along to Bloggers Bites to test out the new menu items.

Shanghai Rose

We were greeted with a Shanghai Rose cocktail (lychee, rose syrup, vodka), which was incredibly drinkable, as evidenced by the array of empty glasses by the end of the night. It was sweet, and reminded me of turkish delight.

Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle

First up to taste was the Szechuan “Dan Dan” Noodle, wheat noodles in broth with minced pork and prawns. Once we’d figured out how to get the noodles onto our plates without dropping them all over the table, general agreement was that these noodles are delicious. The chili oil added to them gives a pleasant background heat without being overpowering. I hear they’re also a favourite with one of Chung Ying’s owners, so you know they’re good.

Deep Fried Chicken Karaage with Honey and Garlic offers a twist on the ubiquitous fried chicken. Made used chicken thighs and deep fried in tempura batter, the chicken was packed with flavour. The sweet flavour of the honey was unexpected, but worked perfectly with the richer meat. With limited heat, this could be an excellent choice for kids, or for anyone in the party a bit suspicious of more traditional dishes. The chicken was a firm favourite with all the bloggers.

Pei Par Tofu

Next, we tried Pei Par Tofu. Be aware, despite the tofu, this is not a vegetarian dish. The tofus is combined with prawn and pork, and then deep fried, before serving with mushrooms and spring onion. The tofu is perfectly silken, with added crunch from the deep frying. Not convinced by tofu? Order this, and be converted. The tofu’s texture is pleasant, and soaks up so much flavour from the other ingredients.

Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao

Pan Fried Pork and Vegetable Steamed Bao are sweet buns filled with, surprise, pan fried fork and vegetables. The filling was delicious, with the saltiness contrasting nicely with the sticky sweet bun. Personally, I felt there was a little too much bun to filling ratio, but it wasn’t too stodgy despite this. The sweet bun was a little divisive, but those salt-sweet flavours are a Dim Sum classic.

Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli

Perhaps the most controversial dish of the night came next. Stuffed Pork Intestines in Salt and Chilli. Now, before turning your nose up, it’s worth remembering that most good quality sausages are made with intestines too; we just don’t name the product after that fact in the UK! For some, the idea of it was too much, but I found these really tasty. Anything with salt and chilli is a winner for me, and these were crisp and tasty. Almost like pork belly in texture, the flavour was rich and intense. Be brave and give these a try.

X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Lap Cheong

Last on the savoury side was X.O. Lap Cheong Fried Rice. Lap Cheong, or Chinese Sausage, is essentially the Chinese equivalent of Chorizo. It added plenty of flavour to the fried rice, which would be a great accompaniment to a main dish to share between a few of you.

As if we haven’t eaten enough, a selection of desserts hit the table. Chung Ying Central has a portion of it’s desserts supplied by Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. I am one of those odd people that can find things ‘too chocolatey’, so I skipped the  Triple Chocolate Brownie, but judging from appreciative noises from Brummie Gourmand next to me, if you’re a chocolate fiend, this is an excellent choice. Instead, I dived into the Salted Caramel Brownie. Anything involving caramel is alright in my book, and this was excellent. Gooey, sweet, indulgent, and with plenty of caramel.

Chung Ying Central

On the more traditional side of things, we also tried a Steamed Caramel Bun. The sweet bun had a filling of egg yolk and sugar to make a rich, caramel custard. I had expected this to be more oozy, whereas when I cut into it, it reminded me an over cooked poached egg in appearance. It was tasty though, but I don’t think I’d want the stodgy bun after a large meal. Lastly, we sampled Pan Fried Water Chestnut Paste. To me, this looked more like jelly than paste. Some of the bloggers loved this, finding it a refreshing palette cleanser, but for me, I couldn’t get my head round it. I wasn’t prepared for it to be warm, for some reason, and I found the chunks of water chestnut a weird texture against the soft jelly. It doesn’t taste of much either. Not for me.

Finally, as if I hadn’t drunk enough, there was Changyu Golden Diamond Vidal Ice Wine. Ice wine is made with grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. This creates a sweeter, more concentrated wine. The wine had notes of lychee and honey, and was delicious, if syrupy and strong tasting. Definitely a dessert wine to be drunk sparingly!

 

I was a guest of Chung Ying Central and East Village PR. All words and opinions are entirely honest and my own. 

This entry was posted in Food.