Bridges Not Walls

Today, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama left the White House, and Donald Trump was sworn in. I’ve already starting seeing the posts telling those of us are vocally upset here in the UK to get over it because it won’t impact us. If only that were true.

On a purely practical level, America has a lot of impact across the globe.

NATO has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy for over 60 years. But there are fears about it’s stability, after Trump attacked the organisation as obsolete. NATO’s essential purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means…this is what Trump views as obsolete. America spends more on defense than any other NATO member, meaning an American exit from the agreement could have heavy impact financially on other members. Including the UK.

Instead of NATO and it’s members, Trump appears keen to forge closer ties with Russia. He has praised Putin as a strong leader. Russia’s brutal anti-gay legislation, tough laws against foreign nationals reporting on human rights from inside Russia, environmental destruction, vote-rigging, murders of foreign journalists and jailing of activists makes them an unnerving bedfellow for the world’s largest super power.

Trump has threatened to scrap a number of existing free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, which he blames for job losses. He has also suggested withdrawing the US from the World Trade Organization.

Trump has spoken about dismantling Obama’s deal with Iran that prevented the country from pursuing nuclear weapons. He has suggested Japan and South Korea should have their own nuclear weapons, while dismissing concerns that North Korea may soon be testing long-range missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.

President Trump has said that he will “cancel” the Paris Climate Agreement within 100 days of taking office and will do everything in his power to reverse climate change regulations introduced by President Obama. He has repeatedly denied the science of human-caused climate change, describing it as “fictional’.

Still nothing to worry about?

 

Even without global impact, we should surely care about those in the USA who are having their rights threatened.

Within hours of the inauguration, whitehouse.gov underwent a radical change. Pages on LGBT rights, civil rights, climate change and health care have been removed. Instead, pages ignoring climate change, calling for more police in black neighbourhoods, and sharing false statistics on inner city crime went up in their place. The Affordable Care Act is under threat. In the days after Trump’s election, hate crimes surged in the USA. The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report identifying 867 incidents of harassment and intimidation between November 9 and November 18. Many of those incidents involved harassers invoking Trump’s name. The attacks included anti-LGBT, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-semitic, and anti-Muslim related incidents.

Even if it isn’t on our soil, we should care about this. A strong message has been sent that hate wins.

 

It’s easy to despair. But there is hope. A movement sprung up today. Bridges Not Walls dropped banners around the world on iconic bridges. The website says, “We will build bridges, not walls, to a peaceful and just world rid of oppression and hatred.”

Let’s leave the last words to Obama n his final tweets as POTUS, who launched the Obama Foundation in a video with Michelle. “I’m still asking you to believe – not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours. I believe in change because I believe in you.” #yeswecan

Tom’s Kitchen Now Open in Birmingham

Tom's Kitchen

Tom's Kitchen Deli

Sometimes it can seem like there’s a new food spot opening in Birmingham every time you look away for a moment. One of the most recent editions is pretty exciting though. Michelin star winning chef Tom Aikens, known for his appearances on Iron Chef and the Great British Menu, has opened a brand new restaurant and deli in the Mailbox.

Tom’s Kitchen already has four locations in London (and one in Istanbul), making this new opening a testament to the pull of the Birmingham food scene. Each of the restaurants has a real focus on British produce and top notch suppliers, farmers and chefs. The deli offers affordable, express versions of their food, as well as coffees and alcoholic beverages.

Tom Aikens

Canapes

I went along to the launch of the Birmingham branch, and was given a tour of the restaurant by the manager. The relationship with suppliers is immediately clear. Photographs of suppliers and farmers with their produce lines the walls, and a large glass cabinet displays sides of meat, and whole birds. There is no ducking away from where your food comes from in this place. Should you feel like watching your food being prepared, you can book one of the two private dining rooms, which has large windows into the kitchen, and even a serving hatch straight from the pastry section. Perfect. The other private dining area also focusses on suppliers, with one wall dedicated to the venue’s wine offering.

Private Dining Room Birmingham

Kitchen Views

The rest of the restaurant is made up of a main dining room, a faux ‘al-fresco’ section that juts into main Mailbox, and a bar area, with plenty of cosy booths. With dark wood and leather chairs, the place feels warm and has the vibe of an upscale country club.

Food Suppliers

Birmingham Bars

If the canapés we enjoyed at the launch are a good indicator, the food at Tom’s Kitchen is going to be excellent quality.

Every member of staff we dealt with was incredibly friendly and obviously very proud of their new work place. The main restaurant is pricier than is perhaps average in Birmingham, with mains between £15 and £26, but would make a fantastic choice for special occasions, or corporate dining or parties in the private dining rooms. The deli, however, offers Tom’s Kitchen for a bargain price. Located in the main Mailbox concourse, the deli offers a lunch deal of a sandwich, crisps and a drink for £5. Mailbox shoppers can also stop for some bubbles, with two glasses of Prosecco for a bargainous £10 during the week, between 3 and 8pm.

Dining in Birmingham

Tom's Kitchen Birmingham

Tom’s Kitchen is open now. To book a table, or find out more, visit the website.

Friday Round Up

Friday Round Up

Apparently I took no photos this week. Oops. It’s been mad though, so I hand that over as my excuse.

Comics  – Moving in with Dave means there are now a lot of comic books in the flat, with our combined collections. We’ve spent several happy hours researching clever storage methods, and found some excellent ideas we can use our existing Ikea furniture for. How exciting.

Work – It’s been very, very busy. I’ll leave it there.

Tom’s Kitchen  – I went along to the launch of Tom’s Kitchen at the Mailbox, to cover it for Brum Hour. I took quite a lot of pictures, so I will likely write a proper write-up in the week, but in brief, I was very impressed. The restaurant itself is gorgeous, and I had a hell of a lot of fun drinking prosecco with Brummie Gourmand and Out In Brum.

Friday Round Up

Friday Round Up

It’s been a while since I posted a round up. I took a little break from the vlog over Christmas and New Year, partly because I was spending it with family, and partly because I was super ill over Christmas. I went down with flu just before, and spent several days wishing I was dead, basically. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

What was fun though was my work Christmas party. It had a bit of a secret Speakeasy theme. There was an open bar, a great live band, an actual Narnia entrance to the food trucks and fake snow. There was a lot of dancing, a lot of laughing and lot og photo boothing.

Christmas itself was spent up North with David’s family. Between nursing the flu, we managed to go and see Rogue One, which I absolutely loved. It led so beautifully into A New Hope, and it was interesting to see a Star Wars film with such a dark tone.

Geeky Brummie’s Christmas dinner involved burgers made of donut (yes). There’s also been hot chocolate, tapas for New Year and quite a lot of Prosecco. Rather a nice round up this time, I think.

Learning To Share Your Space With A Partner

I’m an only child. I never had to share my bedroom or deal with a younger sibling borrowing my toys. I like living alone, and I’ve chosen to spend more on rent and not share with housemates for quite a while since I left University. I have shared with partners before, and as some of you might know, my boyfriend David moved in with me just after Christmas. If, like me, you’re not a natural co-habiter, it can be tricky, especially if one of you moves to a house the other lived in alone before. I’ve picked up some tricks and tips along the way though, so here’s my guide to learning to share your space with a partner.

Remember it’s their home too
If you’ve been living alone for a while and then your partner moves in, it can be hard to adjust thinking of it as their home too, not just yours. Before they arrive, have a good clear out and a move round of your own belongings, so there’s actually somewhere for them to put their things and they don’t feel like they’re intruding. Don’t let yourself get precious about where things go. Choose homes for their stuff together, but let it go if they want to store something in a way you wouldn’t. Make sure some of their stuff is on display too, not just stuffed into a spare cupboard. It’s a shared space now.

Talk about your quirks first
Anyone who has shared a home will know that sometimes really tiny things make you really angry. Everybody has their quirks about what they like at home, that others just don’t think about. For example, my mum really hates plates being left in the drying rack after you’ve washed up, whereas I don’t care. It feels silly, but talk about these pet peeves before you’re under one roof. That way, you’ll know if your partner will be filled with irrational rage if your shoes are lying by the front door, and they know if you can’t stand it if the bed is left unmade. It saves arguments later.

Be honest and open about finances
If your other half has giant credit card debts, or something of that sort, it’s always best to know before you move in together. Discuss money. Decide how you’re going to divide up the bills, and if there’s something that only one of you will pay for. For example, when I lived with my ex, we split everything down the middle, except for the internet, which he paid for, as he wanted superfast fiber (which was pricey) and I was happy with the cheap option. Agree on any budgets. Don’t assume that your other half feels the same way about money as you do.

Divide up the chores
If it was originally just your place, that doesn’t mean you’re still doing all the jobs. Make sure you’re dividing up tasks fairly. That can mean taking it in turns to do each task, or splitting them up between you, say one of you cooks and the other does the washing up. You might find certain tasks divide up naturally, but find whatever works.

Choose large items together
Need a new wardrobe now there’s two of you? Eyeing up a new sofa? Remember it’s theirs too now, so make sure you’re choosing items for your home together.

Remember you’re both grown-ups
If you’re mature enough to live together, you need to get over yourself a little. Now is the time to let go of things like hiding your tampons or the spot cream at the back of the bathroom cabinet. Trust me, your partner knows you’re a human. Everyone has their own comfort levels on privacy, and that’s fine, but disguising the fact you’re a human is pointless. Plus, it’s much nicer to have your partner look after you when you’re dying of the flu, instead of hiding alone in your bedroom hoping they don’t notice how snotty you are.

Don’t be roommates
They’re your partner too, not just someone you’re having a flat share with. Don’t let yourself settle into just being roommates. Keep up date night, make an effort to do nice things for each other, even if they’re small like making a cup of tea.

Most of all? Enjoy it!

2017 – Hustle

“Life is like going the wrong way on a moving walkway. Stand still and you go backwards. Walk and you stay put. Gotta hustle to get ahead.” – Farrelly Brothers

In 2015, I stopped making resolutions for the New Year and started setting themes for the year ahead. For 2015, I was saying yes. I spent a year saying yes to more things. It was amazing, but tiring, so 2016 became about balance. Learning when to say yes and when to say no.

2016 was quite a year. I lost my job, tried freelance, started a new job. David moved in. I joined a fledgling radio station. My cosplay page grew from hitting 500 likes at the end of 2015, to starting this year creeping up on 5000.

I’ve been thinking about my highlights for 2016. I have ‘stills’ from the year that stand out as the moments I was happiest, and most of them are daft. At Destination Star Trek, standing with people I’d met that weekend, arm raised in the vulcan salute, while Chase Masterson spoke about hope, love and friendship found in a shared fandom. Crowded round a microphone with the Geeky Brummie team, laughing hysterically at a stupid joke about Shaft. Watching my friends, people I met this year, gallop away from the cinema, imitating the highly ridiculous dance from the film we’d just seen. Being stopped for the first time at a convention with the words, “I’m a fan of yours.” TFNation, speaking to amazing costume creators. Interviewing John Barrowman.

2017? Let’s do more. I found the right balance of yes and no, and I’ve learned to chase the fun, so I’ll be keeping that up. For this year, the theme is hustle. Deciding what I want and going out to grab it. I want to make more costumes, work harder at my cosplay, have more shoots and guest at more events. I want to help Geeky Brummie become as successful as we can.

Let’s hustle.

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and Instagrams from the last week.

Friday Round Up

Deskmas – We’ve been decorating the office for Christmas, and our team have gone all out. I’ve got a tree on my desk. Most festive.

Cafe Rouge  – Dave and I won ourselves a free dinner at Cafe Rogue. We ate a huge charcuterie board, steaks, and I had a salted caramel parfait. There may also have been cocktails, prosecco and after-dinner amaretto. All in all, an excellent evening.

Ikea – Adulting win. Giant shopping list ordered.

Imbue  – We checked out the Imbue exhibition at Best of Brum. It was all very cool, as we expected, but my favourite part was definitely the fortune telling machine that told me I was going to be a YouTube sensation. Speaking of which…

 

Coffee Stop: Marmalade

Marmalade Latte

In my quest to sample every brunch in Birmingham, I dragged Dave for a Sunday brunch at Marmalade. Based in the Rep, Marmalade is part of the Bitters N Twisted chain, offering bistro food, coffee and cocktails.

Location

Marmalade is on the ground floor of the Rep theatre, next to the library. It’s just a few minutes walk from the city centre, but just far enough away that it’s not usually heaving (although right now, it has the German market right outside, so that’s not the case at the moment). With large windows, Marmalade is a great spot for watching the world go by, with plenty of bustle going on outside. Heavy curtains seperate the restaurant from the theatre, making it warm and intimate, but with the option to transform it to be an open, airy space.

Interior/Atmosphere

Marmalade is very different to the rest of the Bitters N Twisted venues. It feels grown-up and chic, with literary quotes painted all over the walls and cosy leather booths. The theatre is given a nod too through some of the decor. Faux bookcases and sweeping curtains suggest a stage set, which is a nice touch, I think. Marmalade always feels relaxed to me. The staff are friendly and chatty, and the restaurant never seems to be too busy. The menu reflects the more grown up vibe, with cocktails inspired by whatever is on at the Rep.

Marmalade

The Coffee

Marmalade serves Union Coffee (and Teapigs tea!). Union is a small batch coffee company, who hand-roast. They stock a good range of syrups, and the coffee is always well made, with pretty foam in the top, if you like that sort of thing (I do!). Worth a mention is that during brunch, bottomless filter coffee is available for just £1.80 when you order a breakfast. Bargain.

The Food

Marmalade’s menu focuses on being ‘flexitarian’. This means they focus on creating high quality, tasty dishes be they meat, fish, vegetarian or vegan. I’ve reviewed their food before at a blogger event, which you can read about here. Dave and I have eaten brunch there too, which was very nice. Their brunch menu is well priced, with most dishes around £5 or £6. Last time we went, I ordered Eggs Royale, one of my favourite brunch dishes. The poached eggs were perfectly oozy, although I did find the hollandaise a little rich. It was delicious, but somewhat overpowering by the time I’d finished eating. Being in the Rep, they course offer a pre-theatre menu, as well a standard evening menu, offering a mix of creative and classic dishes. Also on offer is a Sunday lunch option, a sandwich menu, and a kids menu for the littles.

 

All in all, Marmalade is a great spot for some dinner before catching a show, a lazy weekend brunch, or a quick pitstop for coffee before heading to the shops.

Friday Round Up

Links, loves and Instagrams from the last week.

Friday Round Up

Pietanic – You might remember my love for Pietanic. They’ve been in residence at 1000 Trades. I’ve never actually been to 1000 Trades before, but I was surprised by it. I’d expected it to be busy, but it was quiet when I arrived on Saturday afternoon. The bar was warm, with a fire crackling away and I enjoyed a very pleasant, cosy afternoon with a scotch egg, and a G&T.

Good Food Show – I grabbed a press pass for the BBC Good Food Show and went along on Sunday with some friends. We ate a lot of free cheese, drank a lot of free gin and generally had an excellent time.