Want a FREE* holiday to the US?

Be savvy with your hard-earned pennies and bag yourself a trip to the US and a new iPhone X without spending a penny more!

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Living in the UK and buying the new iPhone X when it’s released on November 3rd? Why not be savvy with your pennies and include a mini holiday over to the US for launch day at no extra cost.

Wot

WOT! NO HIDDEN CHARGES? HOW? WHY? GET ME THERE!

I’ll explain.

One of the talking points of the iPhone X is that the UK and the US versions are both carrying price tags of 999 for the 64GB and 1149 for the 256GB no matter whether you’re paying in GBP or USD. So it’s cheaper to buy the X in the US. In a freakish turn of events the GBP is also gaining traction and strengthening which means that it’s not just cheaper, it’s becoming cheaper by the day.

Current exchange rates of £1 = $1.36 (16/09/17) holds a saving of £264.44 on the 64GB and £304.15 on the 256GB if you bought it in the US compared to buying in the UK. So let’s see where we can fly to and stay for those sorts of savings.

Scotland (Edinburgh Airport)

Anybody near Edinburgh? You can fly direct from Edinburgh to Stewart International, New York for three nights with Norwegian Air for just £261! Or for a week for £275! Camp sites close to the airport charge from £8 a night or bag a private room at Greenwood Lake for just £19 a night. Flying the 2nd November and returning Sunday 5th November you arrive just in time for launch the next morning and spend the next three days Instagramming a beautiful part of the US with the wide angle feature on your new phone instead of the same old coffee in the same old part of town.

Greenwood Lake
I mean, seriously, look at this beaut of a place. Imagine the colours the beginning of November!

Fancy 7 nights on Rhode Island? £261 to fly direct to Providence which, in my opinion, is an absolute steal! A quick check on Wiki tells me that there are more coffee and doughnut shops per capita of any other city in the US. There is also plenty of park space and I’m informed the historical part of downtown Providence houses some beautiful architecture.

London (Gatwick)

How does a few nights in Boston, MA sound? Fly from Gatwick on launch day, returning Sunday for just £275 with Norwegian Air. That leaves a £30 budget for accommodation, which there is plenty of if you use AirBnb. Okay, you’ve got until 4pm on launch day without one when everyone else has spent hours showing off with theirs but you should be packing. You’re off to the US for the weekend!

If Colorado would be more your thing, you can fly direct from Gatwick to Denver from Thursday 2nd to Saturday 4th. It’s at the upper end of the iPhone saving budget at £316 but you can get rooms for around £15 a night, taking you just £20 over the cost of a British iPhone X! And, let’s be honest, for an extra £20 who’s quibbling?

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Denver is home to some pretty spectacular buildings and art pieces. 

Seattle is also an option at the upper end of the budget. Staying for four nights you have a day to get your bearings before purchasing the one thing that has made your trip possible. And then three days to experiment with all the new features on it before coming back to the UK and showing everyone what a fab place Seattle is.

Northern Ireland/Wales

Flights from some of the smaller Irish airports such as Cork and Shannon offer ridiculously cheap flights over to the US. New York, Boston, and Rhode Island were three coming in at less than £300 for several date combos across the weekend.

Downtown Providence
Downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

In addition to this, Shannon and Dublin both have US Pre-clearance which means a quicker passage through the airport and to your iPhone X on the other side of the Atlantic. If you’re travelling from Wales check out Stena Line who have fantastic offers for foot passengers crossing the Irish Sea that start at just £5.50 for a return sailing. Much cheaper than a train up to Manchester!

So if you fancy a short break to the US (with or without the iPhone X) here’s how to do it:

All the flights I found were with Norwegian Air who currently have a sale on flights to the US but you need to be quick as the sale ends tomorrow (18/09) at 22.59 BST. To have a look and book direct with them the link is here.  If you’re pretty flexible you can search using Skyscanner all flights from the UK to the US and this will pull up all US airports with the cheapest ones first. Have a play around with date combos to see what comes up.

For places to stay I searched on AirBnB to find the cheapest places in the vicinity as these tend to yield cheaper results than price comparison websites who tend to have just hotels. However if a hotel is more your thing I like using Trip Advisor as a price comparison site. To make these cheaper still use a cashback website such as Quidco or Top Cashback where you can get a % of the cost of the flight and hotel back in a few months’ time. Sites such as Expedia, Hotels.com, and Trip Advisor all have offers through cashback sites.

So, if you’re after the iPhone X, why buy it in the UK when you can fly to the US and buy it there for the same price? In a sense a free weekend break with your new top of the range phone. Just don’t forget to pre-order on the 27th October!

Gone but not Forgotten (I promise!)

Moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. I can confirm that doing it twice in less than a month causes breakouts of stress-related problems such as, and not limited to, eczema, psoriasis, weight gain, and probably more grey hairs. Thankfully though I’m blonde so will get away with the grey hairs for another few years!

So I have a totally legitimate reason for not posting anything in nearly two months. Or supporting anybody else’s posts. I haven’t even been on to read anything so I’ve a lot of catching up to do. If I follow you expect a deluge of notifications from me the next few days!

The best thing about being away from my laptop for a while was that I still had that urge to write. So much happened alongside the move that I wanted to sit down and put it all in words but I just never got the time. The first place I moved to I was staying with family and was pretty much restricted to living in just one room. I’d never been so sick of a takeaway as I was at that point as I rarely got the opportunity to use the kitchen. Add to that my stuff was split over three houses and my cats over another two and I was heading for a meltdown of ballistic proportions!

I got the phone call for my new house in the middle of August and I’m glad to say that I am all moved in and am well on the way to making it cosy for my son and me! But not before time either. When I got here the house was disgusting. Urine stains on the wood tiles upstairs, the walls and ceilings were nicotine yellow and there were stains everywhere. The person before me was a bit of a scruff really. It took a week of cleaning and painting just so I could move my stuff in.

If there’s a song lyric that accurately describes me the last two months it’s on The Script’s new album ‘Freedom Child’ from a song called ‘Arms Open’. (If you haven’t heard it, check it out on Spotify. It’s boss!)

“If you’re looking at the sky and thinking Lord you must be joking.”

I have cried so many times at the situations I was facing and then laughed like an idiot because it could only happen to me but now I am sat in my Living Room as I type this. No tv on and one of my puss cats sat on my arms while the fake flames in the fire flicker. I’ve had a bit of a pamper of myself and I’m feeling the epitome of zen. And I sit here and acknowledge that there’s still a lot of work to do on my house but that I’m out of the other side and my two months of being cursed by a deity above are over.

Meanwhile stay tuned for a boss post about a “free” holiday to the US in November. Purchase necessary.

#TheMinecraftProject Introduction

My son is an absolute nut over Minecraft. And I mean obsessed. He watched You Tube videos for hours on end of people playing the game and showing cheats, mods, and walk throughs. I feel like I know Dan TDM (The Diamond Minecart), Thinknoodles, and others like they live next door! He’s always playing on the game and has half the toys. So when I announced to him that we’d be moving house, he of course wanted his bedroom with a Minecraft theme.

Now for those of you reading this that may not have come across Minecraft before, it’s a computer game played in first person in which you build, mine, and create your own world. You can trade with villagers, fight zombies and skeletons, and even brew potions. It’s Medieval in its nature in that you grow your own food, smelt metals, and craft tools and weapons. It’s unique in its appearance in that everything is pixelated.

So I get online and have a look at stuff for his new bedroom. I’ll be honest with you here, stuff is limited in its availability and very expensive. Basic cushion covers – £8. Posters for the wall? Anything up to £20. The same for light shades and bedside lamps. £8 for a small wall canvas of a Minecraft face. Where there’s Minecraft there’s money to be made! Being a single mum on a very limited budget there is no way I could afford all of this. And, between you and me, the stuff that’s out there looks very cheap and one of my pet hates is stuff that looks cheaply made.

Now I’ve attempted decoupage in the past and it turned out really well. I’ve experience in using a paint brush and I’m a whizz at using a sewing machine to sew in straight lines! So I thought to myself; how hard could it really be? And I got to work. So this is the introduction, how I came about to start this really long, laborious process (some of this has taken ages to complete!), and what you can expect to see from me with hints and tips of how to get around the expense of a fully kitted out theme room.

Face canvasses

Cushion covers

Bedside table

Bookcase

Minecraft paper craft

Accessories

I will link to all the above as and when I write them so make sure to keep an eye out and follow, especially if you’re looking to redecorate in the near future! You can also search #TheMinecraftProject on Instagram to see pictures of my progress so far. I am also hoping to showcase the finished room with the help of a Vlog although that involves skills I have not yet acquired! If anybody has any tips on making these please get in touch.

My Love Affair With an Irish City

I first visited Dublin, the capital city of Ireland, when I was just 21 years old and even though I was with the most miserable company imaginable I had the best time.

I didn’t understand it. I went with the same miserable boyfriend to Spain on a holiday and refused to go back for eight years!

But Dublin was different.

I still remember one of the drivers of the big, red City Sightseeing buses singing Molly Malone on the way round and having a laugh at the expense of some tourists who didn’t speak English. I remember the statues dotted around the most beautiful park I’d ever seen, St. Stephen’s Green and the singers busking on Grafton Street. I walked so much for three days trying to take in everything and yet not realising at the time that there was so much more to Dublin than the small part I’d seen.

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I mean, seriously now, how beautiful is this? No filters, no posh cameras. Just a point and click with my S7!

Since my first trip over 10 years ago now I’ve been back what seems like a million times. It didn’t help that it was quicker and cheaper for me to travel to Dublin than to Liverpool or Manchester, especially when the £ was stronger so I’d go on day trips shopping, take my son to the zoo there, and stay overnight with friends.

The more I have visited the place for differing reasons the more I have realised that, for me, there is something very special about this city. Put simply, I am head over heels in love with it. I love the music, culture, and passion that is evident all over the city. Being there makes me smile, even after seeing a loss at Croke Park in the League final and getting soaked walking back into town I was stood at the bus stop yearning to come back before I’d even left.

There is much to do that can immerse you into the history, the passion, and the culture of this vibrant place and even after the millions of times I’ve been there I’ve still not done it all. Dublin is a city that needs not just to be seen but to be experienced.

Edit: I’m in the middle of drafting some blogs about different aspects of Dublin as a city. If there’s anything you feel you’d like to know about, or hear more about, please comment and I’ll include them in later posts.

Magical Morocco

Morocco: a country that lies on the Northern coast of Africa, just nine miles from the Gibraltar Strait. Renowned for its bustling medinas, fantastic scenery, and amazing food there is something there to delight all types of traveler.

Marrakech is a mere three and a half hour flight from the UK and is surprisingly cheap to fly to. I bagged return flights from Liverpool with Ryanair for just £146; excellent value considering I was flying during the Whitsun school holidays and at the start of Ramadan.

A word of the warning before I continue though: Marrakech can get seriously hot and humid and will easily reach the 40’s even in May. I spent one night there and struggled to sleep. I would recommend if you wanted to visit somewhere inland that you book something during the winter months.

I stayed in Essaouira which is a coastal town famous for both its water sports and, more recently, being the setting for Daenerys and her dragons in Game of Thrones. That being said this place also has plenty more to offer than just waves and dragons.

The walled part of the town, which is also home to the Medina, is definitely worth a visit. It is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site owing to its 18th century European architecture and is a jewel of Essaouira. If you’re interested in reading up on the history, more information can be found on UNESCO’s site here.

Medina
Part of the walls to the Medina

Game of Thrones was filmed in part of the Medina although unfortunately this was closed off whilst we were there for building work. I am informed that there are tours that will take you round when it is open to the public though I can’t recommend any here, unfortunately.

The Medina is also home to the local market where you can indeed grab a bargain or six! Bartering skills will come in useful as most places won’t expect you to take the first price they offer. This is where I bought my Tagine and my spices, things of beauty that are now a staple with a lot of my cooking, like my Chicken and Sweet Potato Curry or Moroccan Meatballs.

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There are also many bars, cafes and restaurants all serving excellent quality, local food at really good prices. **TOP TIP** the more you venture off the main street, the less you’ll pay for food and drinks and the better the quality of food and service. I prefer to go down the little side streets in search of a bargain as it feels like an adventure and who doesn’t love a bit of adventure!?

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Down the little side streets you’ll find plenty of Moroccan Spas, also known as Hammams. I had the pleasure of a head and shoulders massage at Azur, situated within the walls and off the main roads. As spas go this one was up there with the best and it comes very much recommended. A big plus of this one was their roof terrace where they take you to wait for treatments. Take their offer of the mint tea too – you won’t be disappointed!Hammam Terrace

While in Essaouira I stayed in the Riad Zahra. It’s located just back from the beach and about a 20 minute walk from the Medina. I stayed for six nights and would recommend this Riad to anyone staying in Essaouira. During my time there I was made to feel very welcome and all staff were so helpful with many different queries that I had. From posting a letter for me, to cooking a meat tagine when fish was on the menu. What’s more the staff were good with all of their guests and it’s why I would also recommend this Riad to all guest types; couples, older guests, and families including those with younger children.

Riad Zahra
Restaurant and Bar in Riad Zahra

 

With regards to it’s amenities the Riad Zahra had a good wifi signal around the hotel and their restaurant served a range of meals throughout the day and evening. The pool wasn’t heated and so was a little cold but I did visit as it was coming into the warmer season and so I’d imagine a pool heater isn’t really necessary in summer. The rooms don’t have air conditioning but given that Essaouira is on the coast and cooler, it is not needed. I found I had six very restful nights’ sleep even with the window shut. The room is cleaned each morning and leave fresh towels and you are given mini soaps and body wash on arrival.

As I work in travel I have a pretty long list of places I’d like to visit and Morocco was never really up there with some of the more popular locations around the world. I suppose with having a closed currency it fell off my radar. My visit to Essaouira was my first time venturing out of Europe and I’m finding it hard to figure out why there are not more people exploring this gem of a place. It’s definitely got me wanting to go back and explore other regions in Morocco.

Moroccan Meatballs

I have to say, with a certain level of pride, that this is one of my go-to meals that I’ve honed down to a tee. The boss thing about this recipe is that you can switch up so many of the ingredients to make the dish Italian, Spanish, Swedish or filled with cheese American stylee!

I first tried this recipe after buying some minced lamb at a reduced price and, using my old faithful, stumbled across this idea. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to this meal and this combo of spices. Firstly, even though cooking was still relatively new to me, I’d never seen cinnamon in a savoury dish before. And with mint and cumin (what even was cumin?) this was going to either be a massive hit or a horribly-tasting flop.

But I was intrigued. Something about this recipe made me want to waste my student bursary buying new spices. It was way out of my comfort zone, not least because I’d never encountered Moroccan cuisine before.

Fast forward eight years and tonight they’re taking the form of Albondigas or Spanish meatballs. So you can tell it went pretty well. Even better, when I was in Morocco recently I had meatballs out there and it was very similar to the one I make. So I can almost say that this is an authentic recipe too!

Versatility is something I love with a recipe and meatballs is one of the best for this. But today, I’ll tell you what goes into my Moroccan Meatballs.

Ingredients (for two people)

For the meatballs:

400g minced lamb

4tsp mint

1tsp cumin (this makes them averagely spicy)

2tsp cinammon

2 garlic cloves, minced

half an onion, finely diced.

For the sauce:

200ml chicken stock

400g chopped tomatoes

2tsp cumin

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp chilli powder

So we start with making the meatballs. Add all the ingredients into a bowl and form into balls. I find a lot of recipes like this use breadcrumbs and egg but I don’t feel it needs it. Fry the meatballs in batches until browned and then put to one side. You don’t even need oil for this as lamb mince will usually give off enough fat too. So if you’re following a macros diet these meatballs are an ideal meal giving a higher % of protein to fat and carbs. The sauce will increase the carb ratio though with the tomatoes.

That’s them done!

In the same pan add the cumin, cinnamon, and chilli powder to the meat juices and stir them into it for a few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and when heated add in the meatballs. Leave to simmer for around 20 minutes and season to taste.

Moroccan Meatballs

I’ve said to use the frying pan but you can stick them in the slow cooker and leave them while you’re at work, or I use my tagine which works in a similar way to a slow cooker but just works a lot quicker! Once again, versatility is key and once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, add whatever you want or have in to make loads of different meals.

Crunchy Cornflake Chicken

So I have a confession to make. I’m a massive fan of that Feed Your Family for £20 page on Facebook. It is choc-full of recipes but that’s not why I love it. I feel like it’s a nice community to be part of. You ask questions and people share hints and tips. In fact, the page actively promotes this by asking questions anonymously on behalf of people, or by simply asking out on a post what people struggle with or, their most common one, what’s cooking?

I take a lot of the credit for teaching myself to cook. I’ve actively tried different things and watched and read so many recipe things that it’s almost hard not to know instinctively what is going to taste well together. But this page has taken my kitchen skills to a new level. It has taught me all about what freezes well, about batch cooking, hints and tips to save money such as making my own spice mixes. If you haven’t seen this page, I’d recommend giving them a follow. You can find their website here.

Anyway, I digress. But it is all relevant, I promise. So I had this huge box of cornflakes sat in my kitchen and, apart from cornflake bars, I had no idea what to do with them. Eating it as cereal was out of the question since soggy cornflakes make me heave! I’d bought them to make cornflake cakes for a bake sale and then didn’t use even half as many as I’d thought I would. Scrolling through Facebook I saw that Feed Your Family had asked if you had an ingredient that needed using and needed ideas on what to do with it so I told everyone about my lonely box of cornflakes. Unused and unloved.

Overwhelmingly, people suggested I use them in place of breadcrumbs. Especially with chicken.

I’ve made this twice now and both times as different meals and flavours and it seriously is just so easy to jazz up a piece of chicken. What’s more, because you’re making the chicken pieces bigger with the cornflakes, one chicken breast gives you a lot of crunchy chicken pieces. So it’s a good money saver or meal for when you’re close to the bottom of your freezer!

So how did I make it?

Time for confession number two: I’ve never stuck breadcrumbs on anything before so I did have to double-check that it was just an egg dunk followed by the crunchy dunk. Last thing I wanted to do was waste a perfectly good chicken breast!

Anyhow (I’m good at this digressing aren’t I!?)

  1. Whisk an egg and in a separate bowl give the cornflakes a damn good bashing. The finer the crumb, the less crunchy it would be though leave the cornflakes too big and they won’t stick to the chicken. It’s about trial and error. Start big as you can always make the cornflakes finer.
  2. Cut the chicken into pieces and dip firstly into the egg and then into the cornflake bits. *As an add-on here, if you’re keeping the chicken pieces dry i.e. no sauce you may want to add some salt to the cornflakes*
  3. Arrange on a baking tray and stick it in a preheated oven to 200 degrees C for around 20 minutes, turning half way.

See! How easy is that!

As I said before, I’ve made these twice now on request from my six year old. So if he loves them I’m onto a winner! Tonight, I made these dry with some wedges and a sticky barbecue sauce for dipping. Last week I went Chinese and stuck them from the oven into a wok with a hot garlic sauce and served with noodles and stir fry veg.

I love meals that are so versatile and this one is hooking up to be a firm favourite with me and my son. Easy to make and different enough to not get bored of it. Let me know what you think and if you have any other recipes you’d use these in. And, most importantly, enjoy it!

Crunchy Cornflake Chicken
Cornflake Chicken with a sticky barbecue sauce.