Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Dining with DFDS

DFDS King Seaways Explorers Kitchen

When you think of an overnight ferry to Amsterdam, I’m sure for the most of us, the food isn’t really at the forefront of our minds, right? If you’re like me, you’d be heading onboard for a fun night of drinks and entertainment before a whistlestop trip to the ‘Dam the next day (a day in the city is long enough to get some decent shots for the ‘gram, right?) and then back on the ship for your voyage home.

I was invited to try out the Explorer’s Kitchen on DFDS’ King Seaways recently and let’s be honest, nobody is going to turn down an all you can eat buffet with a bunch of bloggers, right? After a slightly frantic drive up from Leeds which saw me going through the Tyne Tunnel THREE TIMES on my way there (cheers Google maps), I arrived and checked in at the port and got my boarding card for the ferry. Disclaimer, the port is actually really easy to get to, but my ability to follow directions is somewhat lacking.

What surprised me about the experience is the quality of the food. When I stepped onto the ship and saw the sheer size of it, I must admit I was a little dubious as surely producing really good food for that many people must be a task and a half for the kitchen staff. In reality? I was blown away. The options pretty much took us around the world with British, American, Nordic, Spanish, Italian and Asian food, so naturally I tried a bit of everything. Mac and cheese lasagne? That can come right at me. On the same plate as a Spanish tortilla? Absolutely.

DFDS King Seaways Explorers Kitchen

DFDS King Seaways Explorers Kitchen

DFDS King Seaways Explorers Kitchen

DFDS King Seaways Explorers Kitchen

DFDS King Seaways Explorers Kitchen

Since getting off the ship, I’ve actually recreated the Spanish tortilla at home because I loved it so much and wanted to share the recipe as it’s such an easy lunch option (plus if you’re on Slimming World, it’s both filling and free).

4 small salad potatoes
6 eggs
Handful of chopped peppers (I go for three colours of peppers)
1 red onion, diced
4-6 mushrooms, diced

  • Boil the potatoes for 20mins
  • During this time, soften the veg over a medium heat
  • Drain and slice the potatoes, use them to line the bottom of a greased flan dish (I used Frylight)
  • Spoon the veg over the top of the potatoes evenly
  • Beat 6 eggs and pour over the veg and potatoes
  • Bake in the oven, preheated to 180 degrees, for 20mins
  • Serve with salad either hot or cold

Spanish tortilla recipe

After we dined on the ship, we had a tour which confirmed to me that should I book a trip ferry to Holland with DFDS, I will most certainly be getting a Commodore Cabin as they are very fancy! With those cabins, you can access the luxury Commodore Restaurant and as it’s a two night crossing, I would definitely do one night in there for a holiday ‘treat yo’self’ and the other at the Explorer’s Kitchen as 20 euros is an absolute steal for an onboard all you can eat.

So tell me, when was the last time you indulged in a really good all you can eat? Let me know in the comments.


Monday, 28 May 2018

Ed Sheeran: The Divide World Tour

Ed Sheeran: The Divide World Tour
Ed Sheeran: The Divide World Tour

You know when you book tickets so far in advance that something just creeps up on you? That’s what it felt like when I booked Ed Sheeran tickets this time last year.

I’ve been to a lot of concerts in the past for a lot of big artists but this one was definitely a stand out to me (and probably the people who filled the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on four consecutive nights too – a pretty hefty achievement for a guy who seems just as surprised as we are that he made it this big). Normally with a gig that big, you’d expect a massive production, but in reality, he took to the stage with just a guitar and a loop pedal so that he could create all of the backing tracks live on the night. There was no band, no dancers, no pyrotechnics. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of his music, there’s a lot of skill involved in getting an entire arena absolutely bouncing when you’re up there on stage alone. I loved that because of this, each show is unique as the tracks get wiped every night and recreated the next time.

This show was also my first stadium experience which definitely made it different for me. As I’m not a sports fan, I had never been in a stadium before in my life and I think the beautiful weather and being seated in a block fairly near the stage were deal breakers. If we’d been in the furthest block in pouring rain, I imagine it would have been a bit of a shit night! It definitely took a bit longer to get the crowds in the stands warmed up as when you’re seated, the crowds are like sheep – if one stands, they all do, if nobody does, you’re sat for the night. It was maybe two or three songs in before everyone was getting involved but after that, the atmosphere was incredible.

The only concern I’d had on the evening of the show was around the logistics of getting there and back as having never lived in a city with a tram system, there’s always that little unknown of will I make it back in time for my train afterwards. In my mind, it was going to be absolute chaos getting out of the stadium but in reality, it was organised how it would be if it was a match day – you were separated based on how you were getting home (whether you were walking, going to the carpark or getting a tram). As we ducked out just before the end, we managed to get on a tram within 15 minutes of leaving the stadium and it was only for 10 minutes or so to get back to the station. We ended up back around 40 minutes before our train home which worked well for us.

As a gig venue, it was great to see an artist I love perform on a bigger scale and when it was a warm night, for it to be open air as the sun went down, that really added to the atmosphere. But at the same time, I still prefer smaller venues and I think Leeds Arena is probably still my favourite – it’s small enough to feel like you’re not miles from the stage no matter where you’re sat but big enough for it not to be a nightmare getting tickets.

Overall, it was a fantastic evening and we felt like we’d got a great deal paying £50 per ticket to see Jamie Lawson and Anne-Marie too. Would I go back to a stadium? It probably wouldn’t be my first choice of venue but if it was in the summer for a massive artist? Absolutely.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

How to make an occasion special

Bakerdays Cake review
Bakerdays photo cake

Everyone has that one friend who always goes a little bit extra on a birthday or any occasion, but how do you become that person? It’s always that extra effort that you remember someone making that leaves you feeling a bit #blessed which is why I’ve partnered up with Bakerdays for this post which is full of tips – mainly borrowed tips from when my sister went a bit all out on my birthday.

Get them a cake
Well, obviously! Bakerdays do personalised cakes which can be as big as a party cake or as small as a treat that will go straight through your letterbox. Think posting a cake is risky? Let me tell you, when it turns up in a tin and perfectly intact, it’s not even worth worrying about. The one Bakerdays sent me was actually for my mum’s birthday so naturally I got a photo of her face on it and it was even gluten free as she’s a coeliac). It’s just a personal touch.

Decorating a table
When it was my birthday last month, my sister contacted the restaurant I was having lunch at with her and some friends ahead of time to make sure she could come and decorate the table before I arrived. This was a total surprise to me, but it meant I walked in to a table dressed with balloons and confetti which made it really special.

Make a favour for each of the group
Another thing my sister did was create the equivalent of a ‘party bag’ for me and all of my friends, which was a paper bag with some sweets in for everyone. It’s one of those things which isn’t expensive but the thought and time really does make difference.

Present your meal
When I have guests over, my go-to dinner is Mexican, mainly because it’s my favourite cuisine but also because it’s easy to make a simple meal look impressive. Making your salsa and guac from scratch and laying out the meal in bowls so that your guests can create their own shows that you’re thinking about them, even though you end up doing more washing up.

So, they’re my little tips to going above a little bit extra to be thoughtful on an occasion without going absolutely overboard (though if anyone wants to throw me a surprise party complete with flashmob, I would be overjoyed). Like the look of a Bakerdays cake? Get 15% off with the code GLASSESGIRL15 and surprise someone with their face on a cake via their postman.


Monday, 21 May 2018

Spending or saving with GiffGaff Game Plan

Cuckoo Leeds

FYI, all the photos in this post are credited to the fantastic team at Search Labs who put on the event, they did a way better job at capturing it than me. It turns out my photography skills go out the window once I've played beer pong).

I’m the first to admit that money management isn’t my strong point. I’m definitely more of a yolo-er than a saver but you know when you do something that throws your attitude into a harsh reality? That’s where I’m at.

I was invited along to Cuckoo (one of my fave bars ever in Leeds) for a night with GiffGaff who were there to chat about GiffGaff Gameplan which is their financial service to help people save. I mean, they have their work cut out with me, but the night made me stop and think a little more seriously about where my finances are going. As LOL I spend a little too much time eating and drinking my bank balance rather than saving it.

We played a Monopoly style board-game on the night where you collect your wages for passing go and on each square you landed on, you’d have to complete actions like paying money for date night or council tax, or receive money from a work bonus etc. There were also scarily real chance cards including ‘you just got paid and your money turned to beer tokens, pay £100 for a spontaneous work night out’. Umm how guilty am I of going for one drink after work and it escalating into rolling in at 2am with a Dominos? Yup. But moving swiftly on.

GiffGaff Game Plan

GiffGaff Game Plan

 The night made me think about where I really want to be spending my money. I want to find the balance between living my best life and financial security as whilst it’s good to enjoy your spare time, it shouldn’t be to the detriment of your future self. There’s only so much living in the moment that you can do whilst being a responsible adult, right?

GiffGaff Game Plan

For me, it’s working out whether what you’re spending money on is worth it. For example, I brought my car over to Leeds recently which is a costly investment when it comes to parking but it also brings me freedom – even if I only use said freedom to go to the supermarket! But spending money on going out? That’s taken a back seat in recent weeks as whilst I love my friends, I don’t want to be regularly paying for the privilege of having a hangover – and it means I can get up and drive the next day without worrying about being over the limit!

beer pong cuckoo leeds

beer pong cuckoo leeds

Money is such a personal thing, as is what we prioritise spending it on. I’ve only been out the county twice in the last 5 years because I’ve chosen to spend my money on gigs, day trips, nights out and things that I want, whereas some people might have a mini-heart attack at the thought of not going on holiday for so long. But it’s personal preference and I stand by that despite the judgement I seem to get!

I think what I really took away from my night with GiffGaff Game Plan (aside from the knowledge that I’m shit at beer pong) is that money is there to be enjoyed not wasted and the better you are with it, the more you can enjoy it, regardless of whether your priorities are the same as anyone else’s. What are your money saving tips? Let me know in the comments.


Sunday, 20 May 2018

Was the Royal Wedding a right royal waste of tax payers money?

Royal Wedding
Royal Wedding Yui Mok / Press association
Photo Credit: Yui Mok / Press association

It’s easy to see why at first thought that spending an estimated £32m on a wedding is a little OTT when it’s the Royal family (AKA, the tax payer) footing the bill. Why should we pay for it? We don’t know them, they’re not our friends and the vast majority of us aren’t attending. Seems a little ridiculous, right?

But then you think about it. That £32m (of which it’s thought £30m was spent on security, which is a winner for everyone involved as that wedding had terror threat written all over it, let’s be honest), has been matched and more in the profits that have come out of it. Profits which are taxable. In fact, of that £32m, you have to consider where it was going. To businesses and services, which for the most part are UK based and therefore some of that will go into VAT, before you get into anything else.

And then there's the fact that the Ro
yal Family (which are a business in their own right) paid for 'the core aspects of the wedding, such as the church service, the associated music, flowers, decorations, and the reception afterwards.' So the tax payer wasn't quite as out of pocket as first thought.

People flew from around the world and travelled the length of the country to be in Windsor for the wedding. Those people paid money into our transport system, to hotels, to restaurants and shops, just to be there. In fact, I doubt there was an empty hotel room in Windsor that weekend, or a quiet pub or bar. Or a supermarket not having to order in extra bottles of water, convenience food, party snacks and prosecco. And that’s just in Windsor.

What about the rest of the country where city centre bars were packed with those making a day of it to watch the wedding as they just love the royals? Or spending their cash throwing parties and BBQs? Or even better, being a guest at the wedding itself as I doubt many of those filling St George’s Chapel weren’t wearing a whole new outfit which came in at a hefty pricetag, a hotel that was sold at a premium rate and everything else on top.

Suddenly, (not to take it away from Harry and Meghan as it’s their big day), but the wedding itself is a marketer’s dream.

It might have seen some heavy tax-payer investment but the profits to be had out of this outweigh it massively through increased sales from everyone wanting to be a part of it. Think about the companies who make cardboard masks of famous faces? They will have been rubbing their hands with glee – and let’s face it, they probably won’t make that much money again until Prince George ties the knot.

Marks and Spencer rebranded as ‘Marks and Sparkle’ for the weekend, ASDA was selling ‘When Harry met Meghan’ tshirts, and that’s before you get to online discounts by every highstreet retailer to encourage us to part with our cash. Behind a lot of this will be creative agencies, evens planner and your every day staff at anywhere doing anything wedding related all earning an additional pretty penny out of the day.

And then of course there’s the good that came out of it. The going against outdated traditions as a mixed race, American and divorced feminist married into the royal family and the defiant step forward in history that the day was. The look on the Queen’s face when Bishop Michael Curry absolutely stole the show in the same way that Pippa’s arse did when Kate and Wills got wed. (He is my hero). The fact that so many people spent time with family and friends to celebrate it. I don’t see any negatives here.

Overall, in my oh so humble opinion, I think the royal wedding was an investment in tax payers money. And to all those scrooges whinging that the money could have gone to the NHS? Be realistic, it wouldn’t have happened and you know it.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.


Friday, 4 May 2018

10 things about going to IKEA as an adult

10 things about going to IKEA as an adult
IKEA shelves in store

Photo credit: pixabay

Confession time, I recently went to IKEA for the first time as an adult. I must have been around 6 years old when I last went to IKEA and let me tell you, it’s a weird af experience to someone who’s never been before as a grown up. I recently went with my friend Maz who is an IKEA enthusiast to say the least and whilst I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic about the shop itself, I was definitely looking forward to seeing the scale of excitement she experienced – I wasn’t let down. Here are my thoughts on going to IKEA as an adult.

1. It’s just like Argos but instead of flicking through a catalogue, you walk through it.
2. All of the little rooms that are done up look like they’re straight out of an AirBnB.
3. Why don’t I have a blank canvas of a flat to just do out exactly like the done up rooms?
4. As I walked round, I quickly realised that the person I bought my fully furnished flat from clearly had the same idea as I spotted a fair few things that I own from said done up rooms.
5. How many pencils is it acceptable to take? (I opted for three).
6. How are there so many variations of a frying pan?
7. Likewise utensils, bins, toilet seats and rugs.
8. When you forget something and have to go back for it, it’s like the arrows they project on the floor flicker menacingly at you for breaking the one rule of IKEA.
9. The kids toy section is still as exciting at 26 as it was when I was six. Who doesn’t want a large cuddly toy shark to snuggle down with at night? (I ended up leaving the shark in the shop, sob).
10. After the whole horsemeat scandal of a million years ago, it’s a relief to see that IKEA in Leeds is on a retail park with a Nando’s. I don’t even have any objection to horsemeat, I just don’t want to feel tricked into eating it, y’know?

So, have you been to IKEA recently? Did you go to the one in Leeds and sack it off for Homesense which is next door? Did you risk the meatballs or did you indulge in some peri peri chicken?

Let me know in the comments.


Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Home interiors on a budget

Home interiors on a budget

You know when you see someone with the most Pinterest-perfect home and wonder how the hell they managed to afford it? That’s me, every damn time. When you’re not an interiors guru (which I definitely am not), it’s actually surprisingly hard to develop any kind of home styling or theme when you first move into your own place and have the opportunity to go wild. Living in a one-bed flat means I don’t have much space to play with but I’ve decided that 2018 is the year that I make it more ‘me’ (it’s taken me long enough, I’ve only lived here nearly four years). Here are my tips to home interiors on a budget.

Get rid of the stuff you haven’t chosen yourself
This was a big one for me as I was renting my flat when I bought it so it came fully furnished – right down to the canvases on the walls and the shitty pleather sofa that moults every time someone sits on it. Over the last few years, I’ve gradually binned and replaced as much stuff as I can so that things are actually to my tastes, not the tastes of the previous owner. For other people, this may mean binning things they’ve been gifted in the past (#sorrynotsorry) and replacing hand-me-down furniture with new things.

Go to budget stores
It’s easy to go into shops like Aldi, Primark and Home Bargains and see budget buys next to other budget items on the shelf and think they look cheap – but out of that context and in your home, actually, they look nothing of the sort. My bedside tables are *those* marble topped ones from Aldi (I got two sets of two tables, for £20 each) and my bedside lamps were £8 each in Primark. I also have another small table in my living room which is from Sainsburys that I absolutely adore.

Have fresh flowers
There is nothing better than fresh flowers to make your home feel ‘finished’ when you’ve done a big clean and tidy. And if you don’t want fresh? Pick up some fake flowers.

Put up prints
Having artwork on your walls doesn’t have to involve spending a fortune or banging nails into walls. My prints are from Fy and Desenio, frames are from IKEA and Amazon and have been put up with command strips. As I live by myself, I see the prints that I have as for the flat rather than the future so I’ve gone for everything which is exactly to my taste – I mean, this is the only time I’m living somewhere which is entirely my own and I don’t have to consider what anyone else thinks.  And this my friends is why I have a framed print of the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Belair rap on my wall.

So, that’s my tips for interiors on a budget – let me know yours in the comments.

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