This is going to be a MASSIVE post. #sorrynotsorry

 

It’s been a pretty eventful month- I’m back in Manchester, folks! I was away from mid-December till 25 January, during which I made trips around South Korea with my family and went back home to Singapore for a month. It was good to go home for a bit and see my friends and family, since I was getting really bad winter blues and feeling rather homesick.

The funny thing was that I pretty much brought Manchester weather back with me and it rained the whole time I was in Singapore, with temperatures dropping as low as 20 degrees Celsius. For a tropical country, this is a big deal! I was in long socks and jumpers most of the time.

 

I wish I could say I spent the whole holiday lazing around doing nothing but I had two essays due (6000 words each!) and I was sat at my boyfriend’s house most days, working till 10 everyday and trying to sleep off the cold I caught because of the cold weather (typical 🙄).

I’ve caught up with most of my friends from university and my previous housemates- and made new ones too. I’ve met this lovely gal off the app Hey!Vina which touts itself as Tinder for girls looking to find other girl(friends)! I tried it last year hoping to get to know the local community better, network with other women and get to know some new friends, but a lot of the conversations petered out pretty quickly.

I managed to meet up with one of them after I got back to Manchester though, and we had a lovely tea at Richmond Tea Rooms. We both got the Alice Tea and we weren’t expecting the scones to be so huge! While ordering, the server told us: “You guys know it is two scones each, right?” and we looked at her like… yes? Problem? 🤔

And realised our mistake after the cakes, scones and tea arrived. Lesson learnt: always listen to the server 🙈

She dabbles in photography- check out her Instagram here! Look at this gorgeous picture of our afternoon tea 😍

High tea w/ @evangelskies ☕️💜

A post shared by Nicole Marie Kitching (نيكي) (@n1kk1e_k92) on

 

with Jade

with Ella

 

So glad to finally meet up with Jade and spend some time with her lovely pets- it’s difficult not seeing her loads this year since we’ve all graduated- she just lives so far away 🙁

Her house is gorgeous though and there’s lots of space for dog walking. It’s not quite the countryside, but it is a lot quieter than central Manchester (and definitely cleaner). We took the train down to Burnley and stayed overnight after the house party.

I am now old and pass out after midnight even without any drinking or dancing.

With dogs.

I count it as a win, because dogs. In a puppy pile. Best way to fall asleep.

 

More Uni updates:

I really like the classes this semester but the strikes have really been affecting our classes- I’m really hoping the schools will come back to the negotiating table and sort proper pensions for all the lecturers so we can get the best learning experience possible.

The new changes mean that university staff pensions will go from being guaranteed pension benefits to depending on investments, and will result in average member lecturer losing £10,000 a year in their retirement. -(UCU site)

If you’d like to find out more about the strikes held at over 60 universities nationwide (along with Manchester, where I’m at), you can read more information here on the Manchester UCU site.

In other academia-related matters, I’ve submitted my dissertation proposal for approval and I’m waiting for the review and for a supervisor to be allocated.

Exciting times!

I’ve chosen to focus my essay on Modernism and Mina Loy– I had such a fun time analysing her Feminist Manifesto at undergraduate level but felt I didn’t properly delve into her life or her other works.

She was so revolutionary and such a ‘mythic’ character but yet has gone largely forgotten in the literary canon- honestly a crying shame. Her feminism was far too radical for her time and it would be controversial even now. She argued against statements saying women were equal to men and instead focused on the differences between gender and their strengths.

I feel like the feminist movement then and even now is too focused with proving women can be just as strong as men– and it’s a criticism Silvia Federici put forth in her “Wages Against Housework” essay. Women have long proven that they can perform the same jobs and excel at them, but yet we don’t give enough value to ‘feminine’ jobs, skills, or traits. It is still shameful to be feminine: you mock someone for crying like a girl, running like a girl, being emotional like a girl. If we recognise the value in these differences, there is no superiority in either.

Yes, I know you are zoning out.

This is just something I’m so passionate in, I tend to get carried away!

On to the next update-

reclaim the night 2018, manchester, women's march, feminism, feminist

This ties in with the next event: I’ve taken part in the Reclaim the Night march in Manchester- it’s the largest it’s ever been with over 2000 participants from all backgrounds! I marched with my friend Ella and her cousin in the women’s block, but there are other blocks for mixed groups and families as well.

This event takes place every year to raise awareness of the amount of street harassment/ assault/ rape of women on the streets of Manchester. The march starts at the Fallowfield campus (UoM) where it is particularly bad for the amount of rape cases.

You can look up the crime in your area on the police website and it is honestly saddening to see how many cases just get closed after a month. Even with evidence, the perpetrator can claim it was consensual and it turns into a “he said she said” gridlock. It frustrates me so much. Everyone deserves to feel safe on the streets.

And before anyone cries misandry and exclusion, Manchester has the highest amount of male rape victims. Clearly something has to be done! It is so important to stamp out stereotypes and let victims feel safe to come forward about the ordeal, to feel like they will be believed.

And that’s why we march.

Everyone was so lovely and united, women, men, children, everyone from all races and backgrounds and ages collectively standing up for something they believe in.

reclaim the night 2018, manchester, women's march, feminism, feminist

when you hungry for justice but also serving lewks

Fashion talk

It’s extremely dangerous for my wallet being back here- shopping is so much cheaper compared to Singapore, and I’ve been updating my wardrobe rather optimistically with spring wear. And obviously I have barely worn any!

The ‘Beast from the East‘ has swept Europe so I don’t know why Primark is stocking bikinis on half of the second floor- you’re not going to get summer weather in Manchester anytime till April at least! I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to warmer weather- we got the first hints of sun last week but of course it’s all gone to shit this week. I’ve stayed in all week since I got back from Mansfield (Nottingham) for Lee’s birthday party.

My favourite is the Escher Knit Wrap Dress in red motif by Maeve on the Anthropologie site. It’s so comfortable and I can see myself wearing it all summer! The sizes run rather large in my opinion, if you are a UK 6-8 you should go for the XS.

I’ve been in mostly comfy knits and my usual trusty black Primark jeans, but I’ve stocked up on off-shoulder tops and comfy coulettes. It’s too cold at the moment, so I’ve been wearing knit tights under and they still look great!

 

 What's in my wardrobe at the moment...


I’ll be making another post with food-related updates and Feb-March Favourites/ Empties that I’ve seen some beauty bloggers doing!

Until next time!

I was invited to a complimentary three-course meal on Saturday at eXchange Food & Drink Lounge, which is located in Novotel on Dickinson St. I took along my housemate Deborah as my +1 😉 she loves food just as much as I do!

We caught an Uber to the restaurant because it was raining, but you can easily get the bus or Metro into town and it’s only a short walk. It’s just off Portland Street, which has a lot of lovely bars and restaurants- a great selection of food and drink options if you are in town.

I didn’t get the name of the member of staff who initially served us, but he was really friendly and accommodating- showed us to our table and gave us excellent food and drink recommendations. Most of the people about were watching the Man U match that day and the bar was pretty busy, but it wasn’t a terribly long wait for food.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge

We ordered three cocktails in total: a tequila-based cocktail for Deb and two gin ones for me that I really enjoyed. Ask for the Pink Lady! It’s delicious 🙂

I feel like the food portion will dominate most of the review so I must stress that the pictures honestly do not do them justice! I personally was very impressed by the drinks- they’ve got the balance of flavours right and I’ve not had nicer ones elsewhere!

The prices are pretty reasonable (around £7-8 for most cocktails) and I’ll definitely be back for more 😉 not sure if they do a happy hour promotion but that would be perfect.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge, selfies

Exhibit A of why I am not a fashion blogger- I can’t pose to save my life. Deb was coaching me through poses and I couldn’t do any. Ah well.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge

Food-wise, we picked out a few small plates, which are £5 individually and £12 for three.

Our choices: Salt & Pepper Calamari, Garlic Mushrooms with Parmesan Crust, Batter Halloumi Fingers, and the Superfood Salad. The staff member recommended the Chorizo and Potato and the Korean BBQ Wings, which we did order but never arrived.

We left it since we had enough food, but I do want to come back to try them next time!

The superfood salad was pretty different from generic salads- avocado, baby gem lettuce, beets, blueberries, seeds, sugar snap peas, quinoa- lives up to its name indeed! I didn’t expect to like it when it was recommended to us, but I really did.

I would suggest upsizing the salad if you are sharing it- it wasn’t quite enough for the both of us. Having it upsized to a main will be £10, which I’m not quite sure I’d get if I were eating out- but for the quality of ingredients in it I think it’s worth paying £5/10 for. I wouldn’t get the other salads here individually.

I really liked the calamari and the garlic mushrooms. The halloumi is nice but the batter was quite salty on top of the cheese and after it went cold it wasn’t very nice to eat. Get in there while it’s still hot, folks.

critiquesofacritic exchange food & drink lounge

We had a Florentine pizza as our main (£12). All the pizzas are 12-inch. It was a great pizza and I liked the egg in the centre (huge weakness for eggs here). It came hot and crispy and really filled us up! I think getting three small plates and a main will be a perfect amount of food for two people with large appetites, or you could get some add-on sides like chips or other finger food with a main.

I think we ate a lot 😳 there was a lady at the table behind us rolling her eyes and giving us very judgemental stares. Sorry lady, you must be jealous 😉

We had a really nice chat with Rich, the other staff member that served us- Deb picked up on his accent and asked if he was from the Philippines! I’m from Singapore, as you guys know, and Deb is from Malaysia. We’re all neighbours!

We talked about some of the hidden bars in Manchester and other potential haunts as well, and he told us a bit about his family and his time in the UK (over ten years!). I don’t really want to go into detail for his privacy but it was nice hearing him speak so fondly of his country and his experiences living here.

He tried to offer us more drinks and dessert but we felt like we had our fill and didn’t want to impose (ah, Asian mentality back again), so we hung about for a bit, chatting and taking a couple of pictures before leaving.

All in all, I think it was a really wonderful experience and if you’re lost with the amount of options available, just ask a member of staff for help. I think some dishes may be a bit pricier if you don’t purchase them in a set but I think you have to consider the location and convenience- the drink prices are reasonable and I’ll definitely be back for those.

Make a stop during your bar crawls- it’s a little off the long stretch on Portland Street, but well worth going! It’s open 24 hours which is a plus. Drop by anytime or ring them on 0161 235 2200 to book.

+ Bonus videos of us messing about with the Snow app, because there’s no such thing as too many pics. #awww

Hi guys! It’s been awhile since my last review- I’ve been busy with my move back to Manchester and sorting a couple of muck-ups with housing. It’s a long story, but basically I wasn’t sure for a week or two how the place I planned to move into was actually legal or allowed. Why do irresponsible people exist.

So… yeah. Big mess.

It’s all sorted now and by December renewing the housing agreement should be a lot smoother. Fingers crossed! Life update over, let’s head right into this review.

dr botanicals, japanese orange, facial serum, skincare

I signed up for the Dr Botanicals review program and received an invitation to review the Japanese Orange Revive & Firm Facial Serum. I just had to pay delivery, which you can redeem the value of in a voucher for your next order.

To be honest- I was a little skeptical of its claims. A lot of companies are promoting vegan/ cruelty-free skincare ranges now because consumers are now more conscious of the products they buy.

Don’t get me wrong- I think it’s a great example of consumers actively influencing company decisions for the better and i think it’s an excellent step forward for the beauty industry.

However, in many brands it’s simply used as a sort of marketing tactic given not all of their products adhere to this. But rest assured- all of Dr Botanicals’ products are strictly vegan.

And you know how people talk about their “holy grail product”?

This is it for me.

I’m not sure if this was the main purpose of the serum, but it cleared my skin up almost overnight. I was amazed. I’ve never had anything clear my skin up so quickly.

dr botanicals, japanese orange, facial serum, skincare

I was already really impressed with the Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin cream, which saved my skin from drying out on TWO long-ass flights (total travel time over 24 hours, you heard me- this is the long-distance life).

My skin was clearing up with the cream after a really bad case of hormonal acne, but with this serum, it worked beautifully underneath the cream and I actually had glowy skin.

The serum smells lovely and citrusy and is a tad bit sticky, which I don’t really notice since I go to bed immediately after that. I drip a few drops on my face directly (handy dropper tool keeps it hygienic!) and gently pat it in with my fingers.

dr botanicals, japanese orange, facial serum, skincare

You may not like it if you dislike strong scents. It seems a little strong for me upon first application, but fades after awhile. I have sensitive skin which flares up with some strong scented products but this doesn’t affect it at all which is great 🙂

I don’t even know how to describe how happy I am with this- I just paid for delivery on this one, but definitely going to repurchase when it runs out. Not sure if I’ll get the whole line, but I’ll look into it and possibly indulge myself for Christmas.

I’ve already caved and got myself the Ultra-Repair Overnight Regenerating Treatment (a night cream) during their sale, after reading lots of rave reviews about it. I’ve been conscious about my eye bags recently and I’m worried I’ll develop fine lines early, so I’ll see if this works for me like the serum did! I’ll probably review it another time.

You can try signing up for the review program too- I got my friend to try it out, but I’m not sure how they do selections- she never got an invite, but you can try your luck! I don’t think you need a good social media following or a blog 🙂

Here’s the link to the review program.

Here is my post about graduation…. two months late! (typical me!)

It’s been a long journey, but I’ve finally done it! I hate to be cliché, but let me just say life’s full of ups and downs- and if you get discouraged, there’ll always be another opportunity around the corner!

I didn’t do great for my A levels, and going into a course I liked locally was near impossible due to how competitive the arts and humanities were at NUS/NTU. Psychology is pretty much an AAA/A requirement and Journalism an AAA/B or AAB/B.

I was convinced I was good at science and math then and was too stubborn and prideful to switch when my grades started slipping early on. Everything was easy until junior college, since I never felt the need to study for anything except the bare minimum at exams.

I actually did well enough to feel like this state of things was sufficient and got really complacent ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ so obviously I did badly for A levels because there are so many subjects, you shouldn’t be messing around with that.

Back then I was too lazy and too proud to admit I was struggling.

Now, if you tell me I’m shit at maths, I will happily agree and go along with it as if it is something worth being proud about lol!

I think I’m becoming self-aware wow wow 😂 I shouldn’t feel proud of it like I do with all my other bad habits- messiness, laziness, chronic procrastination- and it will come back to bite me in the butt again like it did at A levels, but I don’t bother with all the what-ifs.

I don’t think I would have done it differently given my indifferent attitude towards studying for subjects that didn’t come to me easily.

I made my bed and I must lie in it, and I honestly applaud anyone who works hard enough to pull themselves out of a rut and go against all the people who doubt them.

But anyhow- I got onto the University of Salford through my aunt’s recommendation, my extra-curricular activities, and writing portfolio.

It wasn’t a highly-ranked university by any means, but the teaching was excellent. The lecturers were passionate about the subjects they taught, seminars were never just about them talking to a silent room. I enjoyed myself greatly and for the first time in years, genuinely enjoyed learning/ acquiring more knowledge in the subject.

My future ambitions have also shifted a little during the course of my university degree- I no longer wish to pursue journalism, but I am nevertheless glad I had the opportunity to learn about the processes involved.

Some of my coursemates and the other pure Journalism students got the chance to experience what a newsroom situation was like, which I’m slightly envious about. Ah well. I guess it’s not meant to be.

I start my MA in English Literature and American Studies at the University of Manchester this September, an opportunity I never thought I would have; and I am immensely grateful for everyone who has encouraged me to broaden my horizons and make that leap to an overseas university.

I’ve never been an independent person at all, but this made me grow up very quickly in some ways: I had to learn to cook, clean (arguably a feat that yet escapes me), navigate unfamiliar territories and get out of my cushy comfort zone.

housemates

I’ve met some amazing people along the way- my housemates, coursemates, and random friends I’ve picked up through the university/ my travels- something I would never have got with a local education, not to the same degree of immersion.

I was never the most confident person and hated inane small talk but now I could probably talk about anything under the sun and conjure up enthusiasm about a subject I know nothing about.
I think of it as a necessary part of Adulting™.

I thought of it as being “fake” but as my friend pointed out: by taking interest in things that people you care about, care about- it makes it a sweet gesture *mindblown*

There are other ways in which my worldview has changed while at university, and others reinforced, but we shall not go into detail about that at this point.

This has been an embarrassingly retrospective post, but it feels nice to get all my thoughts out there.

Until next time xx

I was craving Vietnamese food and Pho was brought up after my housemate mistakenly assumed I was heading there (instead of I am Pho in Chinatown, on George St).

I looked at the menu online and saw they do a lunch deal from 12-5pm on weekdays, so I thought it was worth a try.

Unfortunately, I faffed about getting ready and made it to Pho just five minutes late 🙁

Missed the lunch deal (£9.95 for a main and starter- menu here) but oh well, I’m sure I’ll be back for food next time.

I decided to get the Phở chín– tender beef brisket slow cooked in broth (£8.75). According to the description on the site: Phở, (pronounced fuh) is the Vietnamese national dish; an aromatic & delicious rice noodle soup served with a side plate of fresh herbs to add as you please.

Phở chín- tender beef brisket slow cooked in broth, vietnam food, food, vietnamese, soup
Phở chín- tender beef brisket slow cooked in broth (£8.75)

Extra toppings like tofu, brisket, mushrooms etc. can be added on for £1/1.75.

I was quite glad to see that the beansprouts were served raw, as is traditional- too many places boil them before and it loses the taste and crunch.

It came with the usual other herbs: mint, coriander(?), chilli- I would have loved to have more coriander and mint, personally, but I think that’s an issue that you could settle by asking the servers for more.

The broth was quite flavourful but just a tad saltier than I would have preferred- still excellent and nearly just like the phở I had in Vietnam years ago!

I think when a dish is taken out of its country of origin, it can be replicated well, but somehow there is a little essence of something that is lost.

There are so many factors: water, ingredients, etc., but I think Pho Manchester does a pretty good job replicating this Vietnamese dish.

Pho’s website says: our broths are made in each restaurant by slowly simmering bones for a good 12 hours & it’s this authentic preparation that is key to phở retaining all its goodness & developing its own distinctive tastes & aromas.

Is there any wonder that this dish is Gordon Ramsay’s choice of a last meal? It is warm, savoury, intense, and filling (I could gush adjectives all day)- one of my favourite comfort foods.

I got Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee, £2.80) to accompany my main, and when it first came, the coffee was really watery, weak, and barely had any condensed milk in.

Cà phê sữa đá, Vietnamese iced coffee, manchester, vietnamese food
Cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee, £2.80)

I didn’t want to seem like I was being fussy but I didn’t want to waste it- I spoke to the server about it and she sorted it out for me right away without any fuss.

The second try was perfect, good strong brew and sweet without being too cloying. Kudos for the fast and excellent service!

I will probably update this review when I come back for a second visit with thoughts about starters and desserts (eyeing the Gỏi cuốn [spring rolls] and Chuối chiên [banana fritters])

Granted, I’m a bit disappointed there isn’t much variety in desserts aside from ice cream, since a lot of their sweet desserts e.g. Chè Bà Ba, Chè Chuối, are flavourful and easy to replicate: sweet potato, banana, coconut milk make up the base for many of these and would really allow patrons to experience some local desserts that are popular at night markets and street stalls.

I was initially quite wary about visiting this restaurant since many restaurant chains claiming to do “authentic” food end up doing lots of ~fusion~ dishes catered to local tastes (not that there’s anything wrong with that, since that is the majority of their customer base, but it’s sometimes a little disappointing).

Pho has lots of good veggie or vegan options too (e.g. Phở chay: tofu & button mushrooms in a veggie broth), which is quite good for the diet-conscious who struggle to find variety while eating out.

Try great food that’s delicious & isn’t packed with calories at this popular @cornexchangeMAN eatery @ManchesterPho https://t.co/6skOw4rQ4k

— I Love Manchester (@ILoveMCR) January 24, 2017

They gave me a cute postcard with the bill and now I feel like I need to visit Pho in every city just to collect them LOL. Sneaky marketing hahaha

pho, manchester, uk, postcard, cute, journal

Pho Manchester postcard

***
Food: Very Good.
There is a lot of variety but would love to see more dessert options. Food is pretty authentic.
Service: Very Good. The staff were very friendly and helpful when I requested a replacement. Sometimes it can be difficult to get their attention even though there are a lot of staff standing around just chatting to each other.
Wait time: Around 5-15 minutes. Food was served very quickly and drinks immediately, so I did not feel like I was waiting around with nothing to eat. When I went the restaurant was nearly empty so no waiting around.
Affordability: Very Good. The prices are reasonable but if you are on a student budget i.e. in debt and scrimping to make ends meet, go for their lunch deal (£9.95, 12-5pm on weekdays).

Full menu hereLunch menu here.

Opening hours:

Monday to Friday: 12pm – 11pm

Saturday: 11:30am – 11pm

Sunday: 11:30am – 10pm

Tel: +44 0161 464 9779

Directions:

Edit:

I went back for a second visit for the lunch deal and was not disappointed by the spring rolls- I highly recommend getting the peanut sauce with it- it reminds me a lot of peanut satay sauce I usually get in Singapore hawker centres (oh, how I miss cheap hawker fare) and it was sweet and salty- very flavourful and was a perfect addition to the herby, tangy flavours in the spring roll.

My taste buds were in overdrive and I kept making all these ridiculous sounds, it tasted that good. There were so many flavours going on and I love how there was a perfect balance of greens, noodles, and they didn’t scrimp on the prawns like most places usually do.

I would probably go in for the spring rolls alone since it costs £4.95 and for 4 servings, I wouldn’t mind paying that. The size may be a tad smaller compared to I am Pho (in Chinatown) but given the proximity to the Arndale/Market Street it’s quite easy to pop in for a quick pick-me-up after shopping.

The Pho broth was not as good this time around and I was mildly disappointed given how much I sang its praises on my first visit. Also, real talk- why do they use ramen spoons for Pho?? The spoon was absurdly big, awkward to use, and entirely from the wrong cuisine. 

You use one of these:

 

 
Not this???
 
 
Hoping they change it soon because I couldn’t properly drink the soup off the latter (since you don’t actually drink the ramen broth, that makes sense) and the noodles were too slippery and went everywhere.
 
Pho- sort something out please. Replacing the spoons will only cost you a couple hundred quid, please get rid of the ramen spoons and donate them to Shoryu or Wagamamas or something.
 
#rantover

SaveSave