Category Archives: Life

Reasons to save: Kitchen gadgets to make your life easier

I really enjoy cooking and one day I shall have a huuuuuge kitchen with all the latest gadgets including a built-in teppan plate, two fridges, a boiling water tap and a central island for the hob so I can show off my culinary skills in front of the many guests who will come and visit me in my mansion.

I’ve got a lot of saving to do though!

In the meantime, until I have that kitchen, I shall be filling my current place with all the kitchen gadgets that will fit in an attempt to come across as a proper cook. The items below caught my eye while I was being cooked for by my friends and family recently and are brilliant.  None are really essentials, and several of these kitchen gadgets aren’t particularly easy to use, but they all look good and make my life better and that is enough for me!

graef

The first of my essential kitchen gadgets is this milk frother thingy from Graef. My mum showed me this and while a cheaper alternative would be an electric whisk in a pan, it is very good and made the milk so frothy I was able to build a little house on the top of my coffee with the foam.

This is currently available at Amazon for £37.12.

On the theme of coffee, I can’t bear instant and making a pot of coffee just for me is a waste. If you find yourself in a similar position then you MUST get an Aeropress coffee maker.  It’s cheap, doesn’t take up space in the kitchen and makes a great cup of coffee in seconds.

aeropress

It’s currently £25.99 at Argos.

Another non-essential but totally tempting kitchen gadget is the pasta maker. I appreciate that a bag of pasta is incredibly affordable but seeing the Masterchef guys create some fresh penne was highly impressive and something I wanted to be able to do immediately.

This one from Imperia looked pretty similar to the one they used on tv so I expected the results for me to be EXACTLY THE SAME. They were but it took me HOURS. (Still worth it though!)

IMPERIA

This is available on Amazon for £44.66.

Now, the following was on my wedding gift list because it was something I couldn’t really justify buying for myself but really wanted.

Le Creuset is the best and these are great for cooking pretentious mini dishes.  They also come in a multitude of colours – heck you could get them to match your nails!

creuset

Available again on Amazon for £17 each.

For aaallllll the baking I do, you’d think I would have built up rather strong arm muscles! But no, I cheat! I watched Nigella on the TV with her electric mixer and thought “I too want to be able to simultaneously mix cake and cook dinner!” So I bought a KitchenAid. And it matches my kitchen. Oh yes.

kitchenaid

It’s currently available at John Lewis for £499.95.

Now if I’ve compelled you to buy any of the above, check first if you can get any cashback on any of them.

The best gaming apps for your phone

best-gaming-appsMy phone is my most prized possession (after my loved ones of course!)  and the thought of losing it fills me with fear.  AB-SOL-UTE DREAD. It’s my iPod, my schedule, my personal trainer, my emails and my only record of phone numbers, addresses and birthdays.  I also have a bit of an addiction to games right now….

Perhaps I’m taking a risk having so many important things on my phone but it’s Apple’s fault for making it so damn adaptable and useful.  Having been an iPhone user for years, I’ve collected a great number of apps I find to be utterly brilliant and useful.   So here are, in my opinion, the best gaming apps….. (and there’s no candy crush in sight).

hector

Hector: Badge of Carnage (1,2 and 3)* Witty, rude and British so every joke is brilliant.  Track Hector the Detective as he solves crimes, arrests prostitutes and deals with tramps, all while on the hangover from hell.  Yes, really.

 

wordswithfriends

Words with Friends (on iOS and Android) – I introduced it to my parents and now they’re obsessed with it.  It’s Scrabble but a long-winded, remote version.   You can also ‘try out’ words you’ve made up to see if they’ll be allowed – that’s the only way I ever get a high score.

 

fruitninja

Fruit Ninja (on iOS and Android)– Mindless, easy fun.  You play chef and swipe through a variety of fruit. It’s timed and watch out for the bombs!  No, I don’t know why there are bombs around when dicing fruit but hey.

 

imdb

IMDB (on iOS and Android)– Ok, I know this isn’t technically a game but set yourself the challenge of trying to create a family tree of famous movie stars and you’ll be busy for hours.  Who knew so many were related!


talkingcarl

Talking Carl* – This will entertain kids for days.  You simply talk to it, or poke it in the eye(!) and it squeals or repeats what you say in a high pitched voice.  Simple but hilarious.

 

puzzlecraft

Puzzle Craft (on iOS and Android) – I have spent HOURS of my life playing this! You essentially build a kingdom, harvesting and mining, by grouping three matching items together and it’s so very very addictive.  It was perfect for passing the time recently flying to Turkey and back.  Get it, get it now.

* not available on Android.

What do you think are the best gaming apps?

Non-alcoholic cocktail – Guilt free gin and tonic (and a money saving tip)

It’s Monday and you may very well be craving a drink of the alcoholic variety. Anticipating that, I have cleverly prepared a non-alcoholic cocktail post for you to try. *bows*

lime-907124_1280

With all the scare stories we hear about the dangers of heavy drinking, P and I try not to drink alcohol during the week.  I say try because there is always a reason why a drink or three has usually passed our lips before 6pm on a Friday: evening plans, special lunches, or just simply a shit day.

Anyway, when the latter does happen, I revert back to  a guilt free gin and tonic – a non-alcoholic cocktail “recipe” my husband introduced to me after a PARTICULARLY stressful Monday at work a few years ago.

I came home and P thrust a glass in my hand. My coat was still on, and I was desperate for the loo so I can’t say my concentration levels were high but it did look suspiciously like alcohol.

Clear liquid? Check. Ice and a slice of lime? Check. The special gin and tonic glasses? (We have big glasses for water because I drink MASSES of water and then normal sized glasses are used for gin.) Check. The bastard is trying to make me drink a GIN N TONIC!!!

In response to my scared face, he shouts “Try it!!!” several times. Prone to giving in to peer pressure, I surrendered. “Do you like it????” he asks hopping. “Yes but you know I like gin and tonic.” I say sulking.

“It’s not gin!!” he laughs as if he’s the cleverest person on the planet. “It’s just tonic and lime!”

Folks, it turns out that if you remove the gin from a gin and tonic, it tastes EXACTLY THE SAME!!! Honestly, I would have this on nights out if there weren’t additional reasons for drinking alcohol. It’s AMAZING!

If you can bear it, order it occasionally when you’re out and you’ll save a ton of money. Say you go out to the pub twice a week, and on each outing you buy a couple of drinks.  Each time, swap one glass of wine or one cocktail for a Fake gin and tonic. Essentially it’s just tonic but with the right amount of lime, it’ll taste just like the real thing (TRUST ME).  So 8 nights x (£6 drink less the cost of tonic water at £1.50) = £36.

Try it! There’s no need to thank me! Ok, you’re welcome.

Hen do ideas – mine!

It wouldn’t be right for me to post hen do ideas without mentioning my own special event, particularly as my best mates CarinaandAlyse did an awesome job of organising it and I was so happy to have all my closest friends with me.

I blog so much about hen dos that I really should dedicate a whole section to them. I’ve done London-based, Brighton-based, Bristol-based, PortsmouthandCowes-based and Lisbon-based hen dos and have covered a huge variety of activities from sailing and fancy dress to chocolate-making and ice-skating so my bridesmaids had a challenge on their hands to plan something new for my big weekend!

My brief:
– UK, quite close to a town centre but with the feeling of being remote, and in a house rather than hotel
– NO tacky bride-to-be paraphernalia
– NO stripper
– a new activity to try
– not too expensive for everyone
– no big, heavy clubbing session or group hen do tour (I do love hitting the tiles but it’s not for everyone)
– MEMORABLE and CHILLED

And, man did they do well! This is what the lovely CarinaandAlyse organised:

norton barn, canterbury

This is the house we stayed in, in Canterbury, Kent.  Booked via MulberryCottages.com, it slept 14 comfortably and had two huge living areas for the various activities we had planned. It was also quite peaceful!

canterbury

decoration

The girls also did a fab job of decorating the place before I arrived! No willies anywhere! 🙂 They also made sure the kitchen was well stocked!

food drink drugs

We started on the booze pretty much straight away.  Everyone had been asked to bring a bottle of something and the food kitty ensured we had all the food and drink we’d need.

CarinaandAlyse cooked dinner for everyone and then it was game and gift time (I know, I’m VERY lucky.)

The night got quite messy because every game involved drinking quickly.  The first was pass the parcel with each layer of wrapping hiding a challenge. My favourite one was impressively completed by my sister-in-law who had to read a page of 50 shades of grey out loud.  I need to point out here that the page was one of the sauciest and my mum was there so it was utterly embarrassing for her.

wedding pictionary

We also played wedding themed pictionary. I am CRAP at drawing I’ve discovered but I blamed the champagne at the time.

Instead of pinning a willy on the groom (a common hen do game), we had to stick the lips on P.  We weren’t very good at it.

kiss P

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As the bride, I didn’t get a sticker.

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What?! I’m short.

Then I was given a bowl of bits of paper, each one holding a clue to who had written it.  If i guessed correctly I got a gift!

clue

wedding teddy

gifts

hen do gifts

This was my haul!  How lucky am I?

We all passed out in the wee hours of Saturday morning and woke up some time later feeling remarkably refreshed!  Given that we were in a house, breakfast was very relaxed with everyone mucking in and then I was given ANOTHER gift to open. A clue to the morning’s activity.  It was this onesie.  And I LOVE IT.

onesie

The activity?  PAINTBALLING!!!

paintballing prep

paintballing time

If you’ve never done it before, GO DO IT.  IT’S AMAZING FUN.  We used a company called Mayhemsoutheast.com and they were great (and very patient with 12 scared women). We split into two teams and played a variety of games that also featured lots of  exclamations of “ooh, sorry!”, some strategy, a few minor injuries and bruises.

I learned that it’s better to get hit on a bony part of your body than a soft bit.  A rib or hip shot will be fine but a shot to the buttock will sting for ages.  So now you know!

After paint balling, we all gathered for lunch and I was given…..ANOTHER gift.  This was yet again a clue for the evening activity.

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It took me AGES.  SERIOUSLY. At one point, I guessed “toasting” and they said remove a letter and I STILL couldn’t get it.

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What were we doing?  Champagne tasting!

We went back to the house after a short walk through Canterbury and after several rounds of tea and a bit of a sit down (the paintballing aged us a bit i think!) we all went to our rooms to “glam up”.  And didn’t we do well?

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The tasting session was fab.  Hosted by wine expert Clive Barlow, we tried at least 8 different kinds of fizz and he ran a quiz throughout.  I definitely saw more competitive spirit for this than the paint balling! Needless to say, we all did very well with the champagne quiz and I won a magnum!!

champagne tasting

When we were all sufficiently wobbly, we moved to our second living area and dining room (I told you the place was big!!) where we were greeted by a private chef!  Our 3 course dinner was ready!!

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CarinaandAlyse had booked a local catering company, Noreen Westwood Catering, to use our kitchen to cook a meal, serve, then clean up and leave us to it.  It was such a brilliant idea!  And because we had so much booze in the house already, it was so cost effective!

After dinner, the games resumed!

There was a quiz for all the hens…

hannah quiz

And a dress designing competition where they had to draw their idea of what my wedding dress would look like.  Some weren’t far off!

dress designing

dresses

Then – and this was absolutely amazing – I was presented with a jar.

date jar

Inside, were lots of lollipop sticks coated in glitter with notes on them.  This had been created throughout the weekend in a secret room.  It was a gift from everyone – a jar of date inspiration!

date ideas

date ideas 2

If you are planning a hen do for anyone, you MUST do this.  It’s incredible.

More drinking games followed and then we all crashed in bed.

The next morning, amidst the packing (as it was nearly time to go), I was given a final gift – a clue to our last activity.  A spa kit.  Easy! We were spending the morning at a spa!

We visited the Tor Spa retreat where I was treated to a full body massage. We had the place to ourselves so for the morning, we swam, relaxed, read and chilled.  Bliss.  A great way to end a fab weekend. I haven’t posted a pic here because I’m not sure my mates will appreciate the general public seeing them in their bikinis!

Thanks so much again to my lovely hens Gwun, Emma, Lisa, Amy, Mum, Nancy, Katie, Liz, Caz and Debs.

And to my bridesmaids CarinaandAlyse, I am forever in your debt.  You rock!

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Hen do ideas – London

I posted a few days ago about a great hen do I went to in Lisbon in Portugal but you don’t need to travel that far to have a great time.

I’ve been on loads of hen dos and they’ve all been completely different.  I’ve had booze and fine dining in London, the city weekend in Lisbon, fancy dress and fun in Brighton and a weekend seeing parts of London I had never seen before.  Having lived in the city for years I was shocked!

You may be organising a hen do soon so hopefully these appeal to you…..

Chocolate making

chocolate making

Off Leather Lane, down an alleyway, there stands a Business Centre.  A GREAT place to start off a surprise hen do because the bride to be will have NO IDEA what you’re doing there.  Inside, and down several flights of stairs is My Chocolate, a 90 minute workshop in which you taste different qualities of chocolate, and make various treats using vats of melted chocolate, ganache and fudge.

melted chocolate

It’s soooooo good.  And very messy.

chocolate tasting

Drunken pingpong

bounce bar 1

I love a new bar. Cocktails, a buzzing atmosphere, and lots of your best friends and you know you have a good evening ahead.  Well add to that the hilarious activity of playing ping pong (badly) with a glass of wine in your hand. Try Bounce, located in Chancery Lane and Shoreditch. And for my American readers – if you’re in Chicago, there’s one opening there in June.

bounce bar 2

Burlesque and drag

madame jojos

One of the most memorable events of the whole weekend happened at Madame JoJo’s when a male singer in a gorgeously sexy outfit stripped down to reveal barely covered but PERFECT boobs.  He/she looked AMAZING and also had legs to die for!  All of the performers were gorgeous and made the evening highly entertaining.  (Update May 2016: Madame Jojo’s has now closed. If you are aware of any great alternatives, be sure to comment below and let us know!)

Courtesy of Londontown
Courtesy of Londontown

Afternoon tea and cake

tea party

Finally, the next day, with sore heads, we gathered in North London for a tea party.  Beautifully laid out for the ten of us were scones and clotted cream, dozens of lovely sandwiches, chocolate dipped strawberries and cupcakes topped with sugar bras!  We also enjoyed tea and freshly homemade lemonade.  Lovely!

I hope this helps! And hey, if no one you know is getting married soon, so what?  Try these things anyway!!