Thursday, 29 January 2015

This year's to-visit list - Hotels4u Competition

In 2015 I am hoping to get away to quite a few places in the UK. We already have our summer holiday booked to go to Santorini which I'm very excited about but I still want to make the most of our year and visit as many places as we can.
We've already got tickets to go and see WWE Raw in London at the O2 Arena in April, so I want to find a place to stay there that will enhance our visit. Hotels4U have a large selection of hotels available at great prices. I had a browse to see what they had to offer in London and came across this trendy place in Shoreditch. Ace Hotel London Shoreditch sits in a very exciting part of town and is only an eight minute walk from the renowned Brick Lane Market. This is certainly somewhere I want to stay!
Around the time we go to London, I'd like to also tag on a trip to Brighton! I'll admit, it is partly because of Zoe Sugg living there and seeing it in her vlogs, and also partly because I read her book which is also based in Brighton. The images I imagined when I read the book make me want to visit and see it for myself! I had a little gander on the Hotels4U site and came across this gem, MyHotel. Every room seems to have a different interior and it looks so stylish! There are even three studio rooms on offer designed individually for a unique touch.
Finally I've decided that this year I really fancy going to Liverpool. Again this was influenced by a blogger, Sprinkle of Glitter, as she seems to love the place and I've always fancied visiting. I'm a bit obsessed which seeing other cities ports and harbours so getting to see Liverpool's would be a treat, plus I've heard there are lots of great shops! For Liverpool I came across a very colourful hotel called Hotel Indigo Liverpool. This hotel looks so fun and exciting with multi-coloured squares adorning the outside of the hotel and many splashes of colour within.
In order to get to all these amazing places I will have to save my pennies. Luckily for my readers, Hotels4U have provided me with £50 worth of vouchers to giveaway! They are currently launching their Romantic Breaks section of their site which will highlight gorgeous hotels ideal for taking a partner away for a indulgent weekend. With Valentines day coming up, what better time to win some vouchers to take a weekend away!
To enter please submit your email address to the rafflecopter widget below. If you'd like to earn extra entries you can follow me on bloglovin and tweet the competition link. Competition ends Monday 9th February.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have a browse through the site and decide which hotel you'd like to spend these vouchers on! Happy shopping and good luck to all entrants!

Monday, 19 January 2015

#SimplyBeReal Moments

Although I have a wicker chest full of different shoes, I always wear the same ones. My black biker boots. I'm on my second pair after spotting my most recent ones in Bank and falling in love. I wear them all the time with everything, they are my comfort shoes and I think they look great. Whenever I have jeans on, they are on my feet. Dresses I love to grunge up with my boots and I would wear them to work if I could but that's going a bit too far.

The only problem with my new boots is the sound they make as I walk. You'd expect a shoe to jingle when it has little bits of metal on and accept that as a small price to pay. My boots have loads of little metal bits that all clang together as I walk making it sound like a have a pocket full of change.

At first I felt a bit self conscious; my mum said I couldn't wear them with her around and my boyfriend asked if Santa had been (jingle jingle). However after a while, thinking and knowing my boots looked amazing (wink wink, nudge nudge) I got over it. The stares continue as people wonder where on earth the noise is coming from but I just strut on past.

The image below, by the lovely Jo Cheung, illustrates the stares that I get when I'm out and about rocking my gorgeous biker boots.

SimplyBeReal -  Gingerbread Smiles - Jo Cheung - Danniannie

SimplyBe have started the hashtag #SimplyBeReal across social media (twitter/facebook/instagram/tumblr) asking people to share the real moments women experience in their everyday life and that fashion doesn't always go as planned. My story certainly shows that it can look good, but it is not always the most practical or the quietest!

Get sharing your #SimplyBeReal moments on social media!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

This broth is my absolute favourite winter warmer. Every time I think of this meal I crave it. Although there is not much too it, it is so filling and delicious especially if you pair it with a lovely loaf of bread with butter. This dish definitely is all about the chorizo, it makes it so tasty!

I pulled this recipe out a Tesco RealFood magazine and since then I have taken good care of it to ensure it doesn't get damaged as I couldn't live my life without it. It has become a firm favourite in our house. It is super quick to make (if you take the right short cuts like I do) and once you've tried it, you'll want to eat it all the time!

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Serves 4 - takes 35 minutes - cost per serve 76p

You will need:

- 100g rice (Uncle Ben's microwave does the trick but you'll have some leftovers)
- 125g chorizo (I used pre-sliced and just broke it into pieces)
- 1 large red onion, sliced (Again I'm lazy so bought a packet of already cut onion from ASDA)
-1 garlic clove, chopped (Very Lazy garlic)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 1 x 400g tin borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 savoy cabbage, cored and sliced

Start by cooking your rice so that it is complete when the rest of the recipe is done. I used microwave rice so I did it a few minutes before I was complete! Meanwhile, heat a dry saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pieces of chorizo and cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp (it smells amazing!). Remove this from the pan and set aside.

Pour out the chorizo oil, then add the onion, garlic, olive oil and season. Cook for 8 minutes, until softened. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chorizo, beans and cabbage, and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Add the rice to the saucepan with the other ingredients, mix and that's it.
You are now ready to enjoy the delicious meal that is savoy, chorizo and borlotti bean broth! Let me know what you think if you decide to try it or have had it before!

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Savoy, Chorizo and Borlotti Bean Broth Tesco Recipe

Friday, 16 January 2015

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

After a disappointing trip to the Cedar Court Grand Hotel in October, they kindly invited us back to enjoy their normal afternoon tea (as opposed to the Mad Hatter's afternoon tea which we didn't like as it was all too sugary!). We had expectations that this would be better than the last and these were met as we all left happy this time!

When we arrived we were directed to a different room than last time on the ground floor. It was spacious, quiet and very bright - brilliant for a ladies afternoon tea. The waiter came over and asked us for our tea/coffee order and we then waited eagerly for our food to arrive.

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

First up was the sandwiches which they brought a lot of including smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise, beef and pepper mayonnaise and ham and mustard. All the ones I tried were lovely, apart from the beef which was a little chewy but I had my fill of the others to make up for it!

Next was the scones and cakes! These were brought on little cake stands full to the brim with lovely looking treats! There was two scones each; one plain and one fruit accompanied by cream and a selection of jams. On the cake tiers was a chocolate delice which was SO chocolately, quite sickly really but I had a good go at eating it. There was also a rhubarb and custard cone, banoffee cream pot and a lemon cupcake. The cone was lovely as it was filled with custard but I thought the banoffee pot was a bit too sugary. As for the cupcake, I didn't even try it. Call me a cupcake snob but I couldn't bare to try it as it was so dense and dry. Others said it was okay, but I had no interest in trying it. Like I say, cupcake snob....

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review

Cedar Court Grand Hotel, York - Afternoon Tea Review
Photo credit to Married to a Geek

Overall I have to say I really enjoyed this afternoon tea. The sandwiches and scones were top notch as well as the presentation and overall atmosphere. As was the problem with the Mad Hatters afternoon tea, for me the sweet section was too sweet. As one of the girls said, having each of these desserts by themselves would be okay but it doesn't seem like they should all be together!

If you can suggest any good afternoon tea venues in the North I'm all ears!

*afternoon tea provided free of charge but opinions all my own

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

TV to get your teeth into

Over Christmas a lot of the regular TV I watch was stopped until it restarted in the new year. This left me with a hole in my life which was filled with a few new programmes we bought on DVD!

First up was Peaky Blinders, a series that centres around the Shelby family in the 1920s just after the First World War. The family essentially run their town in Birmingham as a gangster outfit removing anyone who gets in their way. The Peaky Blinders were a real group who used razor blades sewn into their flat caps as a weapon.

There is now two seasons of this which only feature six episodes in each. The acting is incredible and so is the camera work and scenery! Although I'm not normally into programmes set in an older era I was really drawn into this as it doesn't feel old as something like Downton Abbey does. It's definitely worth a watch. Ooh and Tom Hardy is in season 2!

Next we decided it was time to catch up with everyone and let Broadchurch into our lives! I bought this with my Christmas money and we blasted through the episodes very quickly. Broadchurch is about a seaside resort in which a boy gets killed and the investigation into who did it. It follows everyone in the little town from the family of the dead boy, to the vicar, to the hotel owner, even the local newspaper.

I did enjoy this but I'm not too sure why people compared it to the Missing as they are worlds apart. This is a 'who-dunnit' and The Missing is a 'what happened and where is the next clue?' Both great in their own right. We are currently watching season 2 as it unfolds on TV and we are hooked!

Lastly after it spending months on our shelf, the first season of The Fall finally made it to the DVD player. We'd first heard of this when Jamie Doran was on Graham Norton and were intrigued! It took us two nights to get through the five episodes as it was just so gripping, we just had to know what happens next.

It basically follows a serial killer in Belfast showing his daily routine with his kids, how he finds his targets and ultimately how he kills them. It at the same time follows the detectives who are trying to track him down. It's a strange one as you are torn between who to support, you oddly start to want the serial killer to get away with it. We are now grappling to get our hands on series 2!

Hope this post gives you a few suggestions of TV you can watch as the dark nights continue! Anything you can suggest for me to watch would be great!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Jamie's Italian Restaurant Review - Harrogate

During the Christmas holidays, myself and a friend decided to take a shopping trip to Harrogate. I think the town is very underrated in what it has to offer. It has shops such as Space NK, Jo Malone, Lakeland (my personal fave) and Whistles as well as all the usual suspects like Topshop and Primark! Definitely recommend visiting if you need a shopping destination as there is also a Betty's Tea Room for when you need a tea and cake break!

Before going I remembered that there was a Jamie's Italian in Harrogate and since I hadn't been to one before I fancied visiting for our lunch. When we arrived there was a waiting time of 20 minutes but the lady was more than happy to put our name down whilst we started shopping. We came back shortly after and were seated straight away.

Jamie's Italian Restaurant Review - Harrogate

Jamie's Italian Restaurant Review - Harrogate

The decor of the restaurant is very rustic, industrial and back to basics. There was lots of wood, exposed brick and also lots of hanging meat (which I assume was fake?).

As it was Christmas, I treated myself to a peach Bellini and ordered porcini fettuccine which was wild mushrooms, mascarpone, garlic, white wine, lemony gremolata, Parmesan & herby breadcrumbs. I also asked for a portion of polenta chips as I'd never tried them before! All the food was absolutely gorgeous and I was stuffed by the end! So many carbs!

Jamie's Italian Restaurant Review - Harrogate

Jamie's Italian Restaurant Review - Harrogate

If you have chance to visit Jamie's Italian in any of its many locations I'd say do it! The food is good quality and there is lots of choice.

Have you been before? What did you think?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Sticky Fingers, Middlesbrough and PieMinister Pies!

A few days before Christmas Matt's parents told us about some amazing pies they'd had from a place in Middlesbrough. We'd heard of the place before, Sticky Fingers, but never had chance to visit. Now with this glowing review we decided to venture out and see what they had to offer.

We went of Boxing Day, which also happened to collide with a Boro home match (meaning town was busy!), about lunchtime to sample a pie! As we got there just as they'd opened, the pies took a while to warm but we didn't complain just waited patiently to fill our hungry stomachs!

There was a selection of pies on the menu all made by a Brighton based company called PieMinister, specialising in good quality pies! I chose 'Moo' which is basically steak, and Matt had 'Moo and Blue' which was steak with Long Clawson Stilton. I had mash, peas and gravy with mine whilst Matt went with the peas!

Sticky Fingers Middlesbrough and PieMinister Pies

The pie was delicious, just as pie should be. Packed with flavour, gravy, meat and veg it was yum! Matt felt the same but added that with his you could taste the cheese but it wasn't overpowering.

Sticky Fingers Middlesbrough and PieMinister Pies

Before this Matt hasn't had a pie in around 4 years, and after this one he went back a few days later with a friend for another! Shows how highly he thought of the pie!

Sticky Fingers is a nice quaint bar with a rock and roll vibe. It's nice to find somewhere a little different and I think adding these pies to the menu was a great shout as the word is spreading across Middlesbrough!

Have you been before? What's your fave pie?!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Gingerbread Smiles in 2015

First of all I'd like to say Happy New Year to all my lovely followers! I hope you've had a great year and that 2015 will be all you hope. I really appreciate all of you sticking by the blog through 2014 even though it's been getting a bit quiet towards the end of last year.

I think I'd lost my focus with the blog and also didn't have the time. As I enjoy having my blog and adding to it I'm going to continue to produce content and post! For 2015 these are the areas I'm going to focus on, if these interest you, keep watching this space!

- Food! Food has always had pride of place on my blog as it is something I love to talk about. I love to try new places, cook up new meals and discover new products. Next year all these things will take up more space and be more constant!

- Books and TV, maybe a little film. When I'm not blogging or out and about I'm either watching TV or reading a book so I'd like to feature these more on my blog. I talk to my friends a lot about new TV programmes I'm watching so I think this should appear in posts too. Also with my new sparked interest in reading it's great for me to read reviews of books on other people's blogs to see what recommendations people have. I'd like to do the same!

- Health and Fitness. Although everyone rabbits on about getting healthy in the new year, I've already signed myself up to a 7 week personal training group, so I already have something in the pipeline that will get me fitter! I'm hopefully going to document this in some way but I'd also like to provide ideas on healthy meals!

There will also be plenty more written about including home ideas, events I've been to and anything I'm interested in. I'm moving away from beauty as I really had no business being there, I only wear makeup on special occasions! I am however planning me on having a monthly favourites post so there maybe something skincare or Lush related popping up in these!

I hope you like the sound of this and that you will continue to support Gingerbread Smiles in 2015!
© gingerbread smiles.

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