Winchester Life Hacks

I love a good Life Hack…you know, those handy tips and quick fixes that save time and energy. Sometimes it’s the simplest tricks that make the biggest difference. Things like rolling your clothes instead of folding them when packing for a holiday – you can get so much more in and there are far fewer creases!

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I started thinking about some of my favourites tips and tricks for life in Winchester. After a few years of living here, you start to build up your own secret knowledge bank of how to make the most of the city. So here are a few of my favourites…

St Giles Hill – Avoiding the hike

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Views from the top of this panoramic spot in the city are beautiful, you can see out across much of Winchester. I personally love a trip up to the top of St. Giles Hill, however there’s no denying it’s extremely steep in places! The climb can require a certain amount of effort, which is itself rewarding, but if you’re feeling a little lazy or pressed for time, there are a few less strenuous routes you can take. My preferred one is to simply use the footbridge by the Chesil Street Multi-storey Car Park. This cuts the journey and the effort required right down, getting you to the top in no time.

Black Bottle – Make the most of your credit

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Who doesn’t love a trip to the Black Bottle now and again? Winchester’s unique wine vending machine venue is a great place to try different wines and relax with friends. After visiting, I often found I was left with odd small amounts of credit on my Black Bottle card, little did I know you can actually drink every last drop of your credit! Even if you don’t have enough left for a glass of your chosen wine, put your card in anyway and you’ll be rewarded with an equivalent amount of wine (this can work quite well if you pick one of the less pricey wines!). Is it just me who was excited to discover this? And am I the only one who didn’t know about it?

Bombay Sapphire Distillery – No need to drive

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Want to do the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery experience out at Laverstoke Mill but don’t want drive and miss out on all the gin? Don’t be fooled by it’s rural location, there are a few public transport options from Winchester. You can catch the 86 bus, which stops in Overton, from there it’s about half an hour walk from the distillery (or there are shuttle services available). Alternatively, if you can hop on the direct train to Micheldever, there’s a shuttle service running to the distillery too – offering you a perfect, gin filled day out, with no-one having to miss out on the fun.

Christmas market – avoid the crush

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I love Winchester’s Christmas market, it’s my happy place…apparently a lot of other people feel that way too, judging by the significant queues to get in. Avoid the slow-moving squash of bodies to get into Winchester’s fabulous Christmas market by entering from the back. Make your way in via the archway at the end of College Street, where it meets with St. Swithun Street. You’ll get into the market much quicker and avoid the crowded Christmas crush (especially if you go on a week day too). Keep this one in mind for December people! I know it’s summer right now but you could familiarise yourself with the route in readiness for the festive season. There are some lovely independent shops in the area that are well worth a visit.
What have I missed? Tell me yours!
These are four Winchester Hacks that came to my mind immediately, I’m sure there’s many more I’ve missed and even some that I’m completely unaware of. I’d love to hear your tips for getting the best from our fair city, please do share yours with me.

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Dry-ish January – can it be done?

Last year as 2016 began my partner and his brother decided to do ‘Dry January’ – oh how I scoffed at the idea and made my lack of faith in them very apparent. But now that we’re in January 2017, I find myself wondering if I shouldn’t give it a go this year?

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It can’t be a completely dry 31 days, we’re going skiing at the end of the month and I don’t plan to miss out on the après-ski drinks…but can I last until the day before the holiday?

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No way am I missing out on the apres-ski action!

Incidentally, last January the boys only lasted two weeks (so I was justified in my lack of faith!). That said, we didn’t really go about it in the right way last year. With them off the booze, but me still on it, I made the excellent suggestion that we should drive to some out of town restaurants on the weekends (always looking at what’s in it for me!). The kinds of places that are near and you’ve always wanted to go but would be rather extortionate in a taxi…The Pig, Limewood, The Crab at Chieveley and the like. It was an amazing idea in theory, it meant we all got to experience the wonderful food at these places (and I still got to drink the wine). However, in practice it was total temptation of the highest order for the teetotallers! And it was the stunning bar out at The Pig in the New Forest that broke their will and saw them succumbing to a fabulous gin & tonic. It was a wonder that two dry weekends were managed with this approach really. In hindsight, going to lovely restaurants with amazing cocktails and wine lists was a terrible idea for those avoiding the booze (it worked well for me though!)…I’m surprised they agreed to it really!

So, after a very indulgent festive season and with a ski holiday coming up, I could certainly do with shaping up, losing a few pounds and generally getting back on track – and this is why I find myself contemplating a dry-ish January. I’ve never been tempted before, the closest I’ve come is giving up drinking on Fridays whilst on a pre-holiday diet and I found it incredibly boring! Never the less, I’m still feeling like giving it a go.

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I’m not sure how well I’d fare out in a restaurant and it’s the weekends I’ll struggle most with. Wine or a drop of gin, certainly makes you feel like it’s time to relax after a hard week of working. Lucky that I love tea really I suppose. This year we both got an abundance of board games, Lego, books and activity themed Christmas presents to keep us occupied, so perhaps this is the way to fill the weekends instead?

Have you ever done a month off the booze? What are your tips for staying away from the wine? I welcome any advice!

 

New Launch: The Wine Utopia Warehouse

It’s all been a little bit wine themed lately at FoodTeaLife (well, I need something to get me through the dark months until Christmas!)…so in keeping with the theme I thought I’d tell you about Wine Utopia’s newly opened wine warehouse.

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The Wine Utopia Warehouse (image credit – Catherine Skinner Photography)

I popped along to the opening evening in October and enjoyed a few fabulous glasses of Hattingley Valley’s Classic Cuvée and some delicious canapés.

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Tom and I enjoying the launch evening (image from Catherine Skinner Photography)

The newly opened warehouse is located on London Road in Kingsworthy, just on the outskirts of Winchester. It was great fun getting to take a sneak peek at the new store before it officially opened and there were some lovely people in attendance too. A very good evening!

I learned that the new Wine Utopia Warehouse is open to both trade customers and the public, offering the same quality wines and friendly service that you get in the Winchester and Stockbridge stores, just with all the benefits of wholesale buying. Sounds good to me! It will be perfect for stocking up for events and parties or just getting a stash of your favourite wine in.

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So much wine! (image from Catherine Skinner Photography)

Parking is easy too, the place literally perfect for filling your car up with wine! I hope to pop in soon and stock up in time for the festive season. If you fancy stocking up too you can find the new Wine Utopia Warehouse at Unit B1, The Foundry, London Road, Kingsworthy, SO23 7QA.

Many thanks to the Wine Utopia team for the invite and a lovely evening!

5 Reasons I’m looking forward to Wine Festival Winchester

Winchester and Wine…two things I love! So, naturally I am very much looking forward to Wine Festival Winchester in a few weeks time and here are just a few of the reasons why…

The brilliant ‘Follow Your Taste’ system

Follow Your Taste at Wine Festival Winchester

Trying to articulate which wines you like isn’t always easy, so Wine Festival Winchester has something a little different to assist with this. In order to help you find wines you like at the festival, organisers Susie and Peter have devised a colour-coded system called ‘Follow Your Taste’. Wine is broken down into six flavour styles and bottles at the event will have coloured neck tags to indicate their style.

English Sparkling Wine

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I think it’s just fantastic to have our very own wine producers creating bubbly that tastes as good, if not better than Champagne. It’s even better that so many great producers are local to the area too. I’m delighted to see that Hattingley Valley, Hambledon Vineyard and Cottonworth are all exhibiting, along with many others. I can’t wait to stock up!

Listening and Learning

I don’t claim to know an awful lot about wine but I do love learning about it and hearing from passionate producers, tasters and sommeliers. Last year I heard some great stories about the production process, how certain wines got their names and even the inspiration for different wine labels.

Trying New Things

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Image credit: Catherine Skinner Photography

The wine festival is great place to step outside of your usual wine comfort zone and try something different. In a restaurant you so often just stick with what you know or make a snap decision when buying wines from a shop. How often do you get the chance to really think about different wines and trying something you wouldn’t usually go for? The festival is the perfect place for this.

Foodie Favourites

Chococo at Wine Festival Wincester

Image credit: Catherine Skinner Photography

Cheese and chatting with the team from Chesil Rectory was lovely last year and I’m happy to see that they will be exhibiting again. Chocolate enthusiasts will be delighted to see Chococo has a stand too. It’s also great to see that some of my farmers market favourites like Devese Farm Animals will be there too. So there’s plenty of foodie experiences to discover as well as wine ones.

These five choices are a mere snapshot of the reasons why Wine Festival Winchester is going to be a fabulous event – I plan to write more about the festival as we get closer to the date (27th – 29th November). Until then, you can find out more at www.thewinefestival.co.uk.

6 Things no-one tells you about weight loss

I never had all that much weight to lose, just a stone or so…easily acquired when you’re eating out a lot and partial to cheese and wine! However, last year I did manage to shift it with a switch to the 5:2 diet, intensified for the first few months.

Sticking to this straightforward way of life and eating only 500 calories for two days of the week means I have kept my excess stone off for over a year. Where am I going with this rather uninteresting tale? Well, successfully losing weight does feel great but there are a few surprises no-one tells you about…

1) You miss your appetite

A large pizza at Pi Woodfired in Winchester!

The 5:2 way of life and eating a little less does rather seem to shrink your your stomach and your eating capabilities! Bizarrely, I miss being able to eats lots of food. I used to be a massive fan of grazing, I still am, but it really fills me up! When you know you’re going to get full pretty quickly you really have to pick your food carefully.

2) You can’t choose where you lose weight from

It’s true, you might just want to shift a little from around the middle but you end up losing it from everywhere, even places you didn’t want to slim down! If you’re a woman, you can expect to lose hips and bust, not something I was prepared for!

3) Some of your favourite outfits won’t look so good on any more

Partly due to point number 2 and a changing shape, dresses, favourite jeans and tops can all not fit as they once did. Some clothes will look better on but some you’ll have to say goodbye to. It is an excuse to go shopping though!

4) Your shopping habits increase!

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Yes point number 3 brings you every excuse you’ll ever need to go clothes shopping. Whether it’s buying old favourites in smaller sizes or embracing bold new trends now that you feel more confident. You may have lost weight but your credit card bills will be getting fatter!

5) The fear of re-gaining weight is ever present

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While it feels great to be slimmer, there’s always a faint glimmer of worry that you might gain the weight back. One too many takeaways and you could be back where you started, ruining all your hard work. If you’re being healthy it probably won’t happen (beyond a couple of easily shed-able pounds), but the fear lingers in a way you never expected. I guess maybe it’s the motivation to stay healthy?

6) You become a bit boring

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Yes, like people who give up drinking or get really serious about the gym, you’ll lose a little bit of your fun self. Maybe it’s not true for everyone but having to be sensible about what you eat does make you a little dull and even annoying, in my opinion. Loving food and being adventurous with it is part of who I am…I like farmers markets, day time drinking, brunch and cheese on everything! So to have to reign these elements of my character in, sometimes doesn’t feel quite right. Like everything though, I suppose it’s all about balance. It’s important to get the calorie counting Vs living life balance right and I guess I’m still adjusting…and slightly mourning those carefree, eat-anything days!

So there you have it – some of the unexpected results of weight loss! This isn’t intended to put anyone off their weight loss goals, it’s just a one year on reflection from me I suppose. Would love to hear your thoughts on losing weight too…

xXx

A Taste of Summer with Wine Utopia

The Wine Utopia Summer Tasting Event last Friday made for a fabulous start to the weekend! Set inside Winchester’s picturesque City Mill there were over 30 carefully selected wines to try, all with the summer season in mind.

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I could only stay for an hour but made the most of my time there sampling wines from around the world and thinking ahead to summer days, barbecues, warm evenings and sunshine.

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It was a tough decision deciding what to purchase but I opted for two New Zealand wines in the end (Wine Utopia’s speciality). Two Rivers Pinot Noir Rose seemed to be the perfect, vibrant summertime wine to me as did the Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris – so those were my two picks. All I need now is the warm weather to go with them!

Wine Utopia offer free local delivery too, as I live in Winchester I was able to place my order at the event and head off home to await my wine delivery! There’s good news if you live further afield than Hampshire too – you can now get your hands the specially selected wines on offer from Wine Utopia via their new website. 

It was a busy but certainly well-organised event, the City Mill was filled with people looking to get a taste of summer, I wish I could have stayed a little longer!

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There are plenty more fabulous tasting events coming up with Wine Utopia – I recommend taking a look at their website wineutopia.co.uk for more details on these. Alternatively you can pop into either of the shops in Winchester or Stockbridge for a chat with the friendly team.

WIN! Tickets to Wine Festival Winchester

Local FoodTeaLife readers may have heard the buzz about Wine Festival Winchester, the exciting new initiative by BBC1 wine experts Susie & Peter taking place right here in Winchester. Tickets are selling fast – but lucky for you I’ve got two tickets to give away worth £25 each! Read on to find out more…

Team behind Wine Festival Wichester

The team behind Wine Festival Winchester – BBC1’s wine experts Susie & Peter

The event, which is being held in Winchester Guildhall from 21-23 November, will feature hundreds of wines from around the world, all free to taste as part of the entry price. There will be local food, music, masterclasses featuring cheese and chocolate, prize draws and a free wine glass worth £12.50 for all visitors.

I particularly like the fact that so many of my favourite local producers and retailers are involved too. There are six Hampshire sparkling wine producers, including Hattingley Valley, Hambledon and Jenkyn Place, alongside local retailers Toscanaccio, Stone Vine & Sun, The Naked Grape, Caviste, Berry Bros. & Rudd and Wine Utopia.

Here’s the interesting bit that makes Wine Festival Winchester a little different – in order to help you find wines you like at the festival, Susie and Peter have devised a colour-coded system called ‘Follow Your Taste’. Wine is broken down into six flavour styles and bottles at the event will have coloured neck tags to indicate their style. Sounds like a great idea to me and takes away some of intimidation that can surround wine tasting.

Winchester Wine Festival Colour Code

Fab Idea! The ‘Follow Your Taste’ colour-coded system that will be in place at Wine Festival Winchester

The festival is supporting local charity Naomi House and launches the same weekend as Winchester’s Christmas market just round the corner – what a weekend! You can find out more about the festival by visiting the website www.thewinefestival.co.uk.

HOW TO WIN TWO FREE TICKETS:

For your chance to win two free tickets for the Sunday at Wine Festival Winchester simply tweet me: “@franini_daze I want to win tickets to @WineFestWinch

You can also email foodtealife@gmail.com. The winner will be drawn at random and notified within 28 days. Terms and conditions can be found here.

Good luck!

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