29 February 2016

The 'Like Mother Like Daughter' Vendula Giveaway!

My favourite handbag purveyors have come up with the cutest idea for a Mothers Day giveaway! 

I've often discussed my love for the Vendula London unique bags, commenting on what marvellous gifts they make for any occasion (even if that occasion just a treat to yourself!) Not only are the bags incredibly beautiful, but the range of bag sizes and styles in each unique design mean that you can find one suitable for every occasion! 

matching mother daughter handbags

I, for example, prefer the bigger styles like the grab bags. I tend to carry a lot of unneccesary junk with me - as a parent, items like plastic dinosaurs and crayons take up as much room as more practical bits like keys and a purse! My daughter on the other hand just likes to have something to carry sweets in....

My little lady and I have vastly different opinions on many important issues (like who the best character on Adventure Time is, or what constitutes a reasonable bed time), but we do have very similar taste in bags. We even have a few shared bags (a compromise when we see a cute food-shaped novelty clutch and her spending money and my advanced years prevent each of us making an individual purchase),.. but as I said, she tends to keep sweets in hers, leading them to end up a bit,.. well,.. sticky and gross. 

awesome novelty unique bags

Thanks to Vendula's amazing matching bag ranges, we can agree on a design that we both love, but still each get to have a bag that suits our needs - and I get to keep mine clean! One of my current favourites is the beautiful new Chocolatier design - I can't believe how much detail they managed to cram into even the mini purse bag! 

And since Mother's Day is coming up, the lovely bag company have offered a stunning pair of matching bags as a giveaway prize! That's an eyecatching new bag for you and one for your daughter,... or mother,... or sister... or anyone else you want to share with really! (You could even keep them both for yourself, I wont tell!) 

All you have to do is enter via the rafflecopter below! Best of luck! 

* The competition will end on the 10th March, with the winner to be drawn on the 11th. I know this is technically a little too late for Mothers Day but really any day is a good day to treat the woman who gave you life!

* Vendula's T&Cs are as follows - *All prize draws are open to anyone aged 18 or over. Our prize draws may be promoted over several different websites simultaneously & all prize draws have opt in marketing and only one entry per person is permitted. Persons connected with Vendula London or any other prize draw sponsors are ineligible. Winners will be selected at random by computer on the closing date and the winner will be notified by Email within 43 days. Prizes must be claimed within seven days of each draw and unclaimed prizes will be void. By entering these prize draw you agree to receive our offers and newsletter.

18 February 2016

The 1875

Last week, I was invited to the grand opening of the 1875 in Bradford. I went, I ate, I drank, I had a good time. What I didn't do (because I'm an idiot who forgot to check her batteries!) was take any pictures,... so I figured it was only fair to call back in a few days later!

indian street food bar

Our return visits not only enabled us to try out some more of the food and drink offerings from the new Ivegate-based bar, but to have a good old natter with the owner about his grand plans for the business and its place in Bradford's regeneration.

If the name rings any bells, it may be because you are familiar with the highly regarded Indian restaurant in Menston. The bold decision to close down the Menston site and relocate to a much bigger city centre venue, with almost limitless potential, was made. Unlike the previous spot, primarily reserved for fine dining, the new 1875 is a bar first and foremost - but a bar where you can eat, and eat well.

inside the 1875

Anyone who saw the building in it's former guise of the dark and dingy Gasworks nightclub will surely be impressed by the internal refurbishment of the place, which is not only bright and cheerful but also clean and safe (which I'm not sure could have been said about the place a few years ago!) There's plenty of space for eating, working (the booths all have plug sockets and USB ports!) and dancing - with spare floors to expand to if all goes well!

drink selection bradford

At the minute, The 1875 is all alone on Ivegate, a street more known for its charity shops and phone places more than great beer and tasty food. But, like much of the rest of Bradford's city centre - change is a-coming! With a couple more future openings, including the impossibly exciting Sunbridge Wells project, coming soon - everyone is hoping that Ivegate will have the same sort of brilliant revival we've seen at Northgate, elsewhere in the city, in recent years.

great beer at the 1875 bradford

But everything has to start somewhere - and I can't think of a finer place to start than this new establishment! The bar is well stocked - with a nice mix of lagers, ales and ciders available on tap, and fridges full enough to easily find something to suit all tastes. I was recommended the Meantime Chocolate Porter ('very popular with the ladies', I was reliably informed!) - 'twas grand!

I was most excited to try the food though! These small, sharable, tapas-style 'street food' dishes are the favourite culinary choice of many these days - it's a friendly informal style of eating out, in which you get to try out a whole variety of dishes without necessarily overspending or overeating.

nibbles 1875

The menu choices aren't extensive but cover a number of tasty dishes, both meaty and vegetarian (they can cater for allergies and other dietry requirements but may need a little notice!). To get a good spread, we tried a couple of each!

The belly pork went down a storm with the other half. It's not really my cup of tea, but I did try a bit  and thought it was not bad at all (the highest compliment I'm ever likely to give belly pork!). I much preferred the chicken though!

vegetarian indian food

I loved the vegetarian dishes. The spring rolls - filled with fresh veggies and tasty chunks of paneer - were delicious, but the veg samosas were my absolute favourite - absolutely huge for a start, with thick crunchy pastry wrapped around fluffy spiced potato and vegetables. Absolutely lovely. Plus, our little platter - the perfect size for two of us - only cost a mere tenner. Bargain!

I'm really looking forward to seeing this place - and the rest of the area - develops. It definitely wont be my last visit!

16 February 2016

Degustabox January 2016

I don't get a lot of exciting post these days.... Mainly bills, reminders,.. things I have to fill out or file,.. but once a month I get handed a big box full of awesome food and drink products to try thanks to Degustabox, and it makes the rest of the paperwork worth it!

Here's what I got in my latest delivery:

monthly food delivery box

I was definitely pleased to see the Finn Crisp Rye crackers, as anything I can nibble on it work is always appreciated! These are thinner than I expected, but very tasty, especially with a thick layer on Wensleydale on them!

thin sourdough crispbread

I'm not really a bit apple juice drinker (I'm aaaallllll about the orange juice!) but my daughter loves the stuff so I took this Coldpress Golden Delicious home for her. She loved it, and the cold pressing means the juice retains more nutrients than if it had been heat pasteurised, so works out well for us both!

healthy drinks

I'm never going to complain about receiving chocolate in any form, and Conscious Chocolate is a real treat! 70% cocoa means you barely need more than a nibble to satisfy any chocolatey cravings, and the natural sweetening and organic raw ingredients mean there's no need for post-chocolate guilt either! The plain jane variety I received was lovely but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on their 'chili hot' bar in particular!

really strong chocolate

Everyone in the office was quite jealous of my Jordans Country Crisp Fruit and Nut, as everyone here loves a good bowl of cereal - so I feel quite bad at admitting my preferred method of eating this is to just grab a handful and much it dry.... Still dead tasty that way though!

healthy cereal

The Amoy Taste of Asia cooking sauces are great for making tasty dishes easy to create (perfect for terrible cooks like me!). The Thai massaman curry was first to make it onto my plate, and the Malaysian laksa is set to follow this weekend!

asian cooking sauce

It was Chinese New Year last week, and I can't think of a better excuse to celebrate with a bottle of Chinese beer Tsingtao! Goes great with a Chinese takeaway too!

lager from china

The Yushoi Snapea Rice Sticks were a real revelation - a crisp alternative made from rice and peas, and they are delicious! It's weird because you can taste the peas, but they don't taste like peas at the same time? I know that doesn't make any sense.... maybe you should just try them to see what I mean!

healthy crisp alternatives

The Clarks Carob Fruit Syrup is a natural sweetener that can be used as an alternative to sugar in drinks and baking... I don't generally have sugar in tea (there are words for people who do but I won't use them here), but I use plenty in baking so it'll be good to have an alternative!

alternative to sugar

I'll admit, I'm a little wary of the Slim Noodles.... I have this ingrained suspicion that anything with the word 'slim' in the name is just gonna taste awful.... BUT I have been assured by many that have tried these that they're actually not that bad, so will be cooking them up (does only take two minutes after all!) with my leftover Amoy sauce this weekend!

food for diets

The Fruit Bowl Blackcurrant Flakes are perfect for the kids lunchboxes - the little ones love these!

great lunch box ideas

All in all, another pretty successful box if you ask me - containing some things I instantly love, some things I'd have never tried but will do so now that the opportunity has come my way, and some things that aren't really for me but will be appreciated by many others!

If you want to try one of these fab food subscription boxes, Degustabox are currently offering a huge £6 off the price of your first box if you enter the code BLDEG15 at the checkout!

15 February 2016

Winter Driving Tips

As much as I like to encourage visitors to my lovely home city of Bradford, there are a few issues that I can definitely imagine are discouraging to drivers:

1) People drive like maniacs. Despite my familiarity with the roads on my routes between home/school/work, and the drivers on them, it's still not often that I don't have my mind blown by the sheer idiocy/balls of some drivers. It may come as no surprise to many that Bradford has apparently the country's highest proportion of banned drivers still on the road!

2) Bradford is full of hills. Its all hills. It's rolling down big steep hills with your break half on to avoiding picking up the momentum to trigger the sneakily placed speed cameras. It's terrifying hill starts at busy junctions. It's knowing that if you have anything at all in the boot your tiny little car will do no more than crawl up the steep incline, irritating everyone behind you. (Though it could be worse, you could be trying to walk up these mini-mountains!)

3) We have terrible weather. Yorkshire isn't known for its sunny climate at the best of times, but our weather sometimes boarders on the just plain weird. It's not uncommon for me to set off on the clear dry roads near my house and get up to work in three inch of snow, or fog so thick you can't see three feet in front of you. And we are talking a journey of less than a mile here (though admittedly up one of those previously discussed treacherous hills!)
snowy night
Now, I can't do much about Bradford's scary drivers, or the massive hills,... but I have some winter driving tips to share so hopefully our erratic precipitation should be no barrier! Despite the unsurprisingly extensive information out there on the ways to make your driving as safe as possible in the winter months, when LV Insurance wanted to know my suggestions I headed straight to the invaluable font of knowledge that is 'the guys at work' - here's what they had to say:

Slow Down - Might be an obvious one, but the faster you are going the less time you are giving yourself to react to hazards.

Check your tyres - Something that should be done regularly anyway, but is especially important in bad weather when a good grip on the road is all the more important.
Drive in a higher gear - Slow and steady wins the race, but don't let the safe speeds fool you into thinking you should be in a low gear - the higher gears can help eliminate wheel spin.
Make sure you can see - the amount of snowy mornings I've seen people driving round with just a small clear patch, eye-level, on their windscreen and the rest of the car covered in snow... It's really important to make sure you have full visibility (ie all of the windscreen clear!), and that you aren't carting round massive snowdrifts that will only cause problems for other drivers.
Be prepared - like a good boy scout, it's ideal to be prepared for many eventualities! As well as making sure you have ample fuel before setting off (as well as antifreeze, screen wash, oil, and whatever else your car needs!), pack yourself an 'emergency kit' containing food, drink, a first aid kit, blanket and extra clothes, a torch, hi-vis vest, and de-icer!
Don't go if you don't have to - the best way to avoid getting into trouble in terrible weather is to just not drive in it unless its absolutely necessary! If it can't be avoided just make sure you and your car are as ready as possible, and take it easy!
Apparently we've now passed the UK's average snowiest day (10th of February!) for this year so hopefully the sun is on its way and we wont have to worry about all this for a little while - though it was still snowing here this morning so I guess its too early to be that hopeful yet!
And despite all that, I'd still rather drive round Bradford than anywhere else!

8 February 2016

Don't Forget the Pancakes....

As you may have noticed, there's a very special day coming up soon,.. an annual celebration, special to the hearts of folk across the nation. No not Valentines Day, Valentines Day is stupid. This is something way more important, something much more worthy of celebrating,... something a lot tastier!
golden syrup on pancakes

I do have a terrible confession though. Much as I love pancakes,.. I can't make them. I do ok with pretty much every other kind of cake... but my pancake attempts are always horrific. So much so that I invariably make an excuse to visit my dad on pancake day, so I can bury myself in his perfectly round, perfectly light, perfectly treacle-covered creations!

easy pancake

There's nothing more likely to encourage me to practice, practice, practice like a new kitchen gadget though, and I was determined to hone my pancake-making skills in good time for this years big day!
The Breville Traditional Crepe Maker is actually brilliant for idiots like me that can't work their way around a simple frying pan. The crepe maker is essentially a heated non-stick plate, with a small rim so that -in most cases! - you can contain the pancake batter in a tidy fashion. It also comes with a wooden 't-stick' spreader for full and even coverage across the plate. Just pour the pancake mix onto the heated plate and leave to cook for a couple of minutes before flipping over to cook on the other side.

breville crepe

I know that if I can manage this, there should be no good reason why I cant do exactly the same thing in a frying pan. But I can't. I don't know if its the pressure of being expected to do fancy flips or what, but I've never managed to make a half way decent looking pancake before. Just a couple of practice runs on this and I had things that actually looked and tasted like pancakes!

pretty lemon squeezer

Once I'd managed the perfect pancake (or, if not quite perfect yet - at least cooked and round-ish), 'twas time to top it. I'm usually a golden syrup girl through and through but I'd got through so much of the stuff on my 'practice rounds' that I just couldn't face anymore - so out came the gorgeous lemon squeezer and sugar shaker from the At Home with Ashley Thomas range (available at Debenhams).

perfect pancakes

There's a lot more that can be made with the Breville Crepe maker than just pancakes - it comes with a recipe book full of great omelette suggestions, and I have all my ingredients ready for tonight's quesadillas - but mainly I'm just overjoyed at the prospect of putting together a great pancake feast on Tuesday for the kids (from whom I like to believe I've so far kept my shameful failures a secret!)
Now I just need all your best filling ideas!
*Items provided free of charge to help me develop basic life skills.