Sunday, 31 May 2015

Easy Meals #3 - Stuffed Peppers


Not including spices/seasoning you can make this meal for around £9 for two people (and if you don't eat it all it's perfectly fine to microwave one of these stuffed peppers the next day for lunch) 

Estimated cooking time: 45 minutes


Ingredients

-  Whole peppers 
-  Goats cheese or Feta (whichever you prefer)
-  Baby spinach
-  Chicken fillets
-  Garlic
-  Thyme
-  A side of your choice (I had flavored rice)

Instructions

1.  First of all pop your oven on so it can start heating up while you prep, I normally put it on 180c.

2.  Slice your chicken fillets into smaller chunks that you can fit into the peppers and season them with garlic and thyme. I normally pop my chicken into the pan for 5 minutes to start it off.

3.  Chop the top of your peppers off and scoop out the seeds. Then fill it with a mixture of your chicken chunks, spinach and goats cheese or feta. Stuff in as much as you can because as it cooks it will reduce in size (especially the spinach and cheese).

4.  By now your oven should be heated, simply put your stuffed peppers on a baking tray and put them in the oven on the middle shelf for around 40 minutes (check at about 30/35 minutes in that your peppers aren't burning, a little chargrilled is fine though)

5.  Now you're stuffed peppers should be all done (be careful when you eat them as the inside will be super hot) you can pare these with whatever you fancy. I normally put a side of flavored rice or couscous but you can mix it up with anything you like!

Hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think!


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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

My Blogging Essentials


Macbook Pro Retina 13"

My Macbook Pro was my first ever Apple purchase, up until recently I just couldn't afford anything Apple. Before I started working in Design I had never even used a Mac and it all just seemed so confusing to use. But as it's pretty much an industry standard to work on a Mac I had to get used to it. Over time I became comfortable using them and I began to really like them and now I can't live without my Macbook! 

I would definitely recommend to anyone thinking about getting a Mac to consider a Macbook Pro first. Obviously it all depends on what you will be using it for but I assume most of you will be interested in using it for blogging or some type of creative hobby or business. In that case i'd suggest going for a Macbook Pro over a Macbook Air, they may be thinner but you will find they are much slower. If you compare both the specs and price of the Pro and Air you will find you'll get much better value for money with the Pro. 

Pro's
-  Better value for money compared to an Air 
-  You can use it as your main computer - because of the great specs it's super fast
-  The advantage of it being portable
-  Retina display 
-  You can connect it to a Thunderbolt display and get the desktop experience


Dropbox

I personally use Dropbox Pro which gives you 1 TB as I have a huge amount of files and all are very important to me. A lot of them I probably don't use very often (like photography) but the idea of possibly losing them worries me. It doesn't happen often but it has happened to me in the past. Thankful I had my files backed up on Dropbox, but if I had just used an external harddrive I would have lost everything! It's also great to work directly off, all you have to do is install the app and you can work on files from Dropbox as if they are saved onto your laptop. 

Dropbox Basic
-  2GB of free space
-  You can earn up to 16GB more space by referring friends and doing simple tasks like following @Dropbox on Twitter etc. 

Dropbox Pro (For £7.99pm or £79pa)
-  1TB of space
-  Restore a previous or deleted version of any file within 30 days
-  Set expiration dates for shared links
-  Set passwords for shared links
-  Remote wipe for lost devices
-  The Dropbox mobile app backs up photos as you take them, keeping your memories safe
-  Priority support


Fujifilm camera

I used to use a large fancy looking Nikon DSLR when I was younger but it just became too bulky and heavy. I found I used it less and less so I started looking into CSC cameras. The first thing that drew me in was the look, I love the vintage travel style a lot of them have! They are much smaller than the DSLR's I've previously had but the specs are just as high which is perfect for when I'm traveling and I don't want my camera on show all the time. It's also really handy for photographing for blog posts, especially if you feel a bit silly pulling out a massive DSLR to take pictures for a restaurant review or something. 


Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

It may seem odd to a lot of people that I use an Android phone and an Apple laptop but I like both but for different things. My Macbook Pro is perfect for my Design work and because I use Macbook's and iMac's all day at work I get used to Apple shortcuts so it wouldn't make sense to use a Windows desktop at home and learn different shortcuts. My Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is perfect for all my social media needs as well as photography and one of the main things that drew me to it was the incredible battery life. On a normal day where I would use Twitter, Instagram, replying to emails, using Spotify and using the camera and It would still only be at about 50% battery!


Buffer

You have probably heard lots about Buffer mentioned on blogs and within the blogging community but that's for a reason! Buffer is a free app that lets you schedule posts for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and App.net - but unfortunatly you can only schedule 5 posts at one time with the free version. You can upgrade for £6.50pm or £66.50pa for 100 posts and 10 social profiles so you can plan all your posts far more in advance. I use Buffer as much as I can, it really helps to schedule Tweets especially for promoting posts or competitions and you have the advantage of stats for each of your posts.  


Afterlight

This is one of the best apps I have purchases so far and it didn't even cost very much! Afterlight costs 59p for Android users and 79p for iOS users. It's the only app I use to edit my photos and unlike Instagram it doesn't reduce the quality of the images. You have a huge range of options for filters as well as custom settings to make your images exactly how you want them to be. There are also textures and frames available which I don't use very often but are still a fun thing to play around with. There are add on's you can buy such as Instant Film frames pack to get even more customization but I've never purchased them because you have so much to play with anyway.


Creative Cloud

It's definitely not a must for all bloggers but I use Creative Cloud for my work and my blog so it is something that I get my money's worth from. For most Photoshop will be enough for what they need and you can get it for £8.57pm on it's own, alternatively if you use some of the other applications as well you can get the £45.73pm account which gives you Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator as well as others. Plus you get 20GB of cloud storage, Typekit desktop and web fonts and ProSite portfolio website.


So these are my blogging essentials, what are yours? Let me know in the comment box below, i'd love to hear from you!


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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Great Free Fonts #1


Heres a great selection of the best free fonts i've found out there for you guys. Some you may recognise more than others like the super popular Bebas thats been used all over the internet and in print for the past few years. Enjoy!


Bebas Neue

(4 styles available for free)
Credit to Fontfabric.com

Nexa Rust

(3 styles available for free, plus some extras) 
Credit to Fontfabric.com

Amatic

(2 styles available for free)
Credit to: Newtypography.co.uk

Remember to always read the licences that come with each font if you are thinking of using them for commercial work. And if you are unsure just drop the creator an email to double check - better to be safe then sorry!


If you liked this selection of free fonts keep an eye out for the next 'Great Free Fonts' post coming soon!

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Travel Tips - Shanghai (China part 4)

This is the last part to my China travel tips, you can find the my post on Beijing here, Xi'an here and Guilin here.
The best way to describe Shanghai is that it's the London of China. So in theory if you love London you should love Shanghai?

Expect to come across any of these in China:

- People can spit a lot, especially the older generations.
- Don't expect many western toilets in public areas, most will be squatting loos.
- Remember to take toilet paper in your bag everywhere, a lot of public toilets don't have them.
- They won't smile back at you, it's nothing to do with you, but the Chinese don't smile at strangers.
- A lot of your normal sites will be blocked in China, for example Facebook and Google.
Don't be afraid to haggle, it's amazing how much they are willing to reduce the price by. I was told that you find on average they double the price of things for foreigners.

Shanghai Specifically:

- The Yu Garden in Shanghai is famous for being one of the most beautiful gardens in China and it really is magical. The layout is thought out so well and you can tell every stone/tree/wall and window are there for a reason. It's also full of beautiful Koi fish that fill all the rivers and lakes in the garden.

- We also went down the Huangpu River which gives you great views of the famous Bund, it was nice but I wouldn't particularly plan your day around it.

- One of the main places I would recommend after visiting the Yu Garden is to have a walk around the shops surrounding it as well as a visit to the Huxinting Teahouse which is in the beautiful traditional style building with a large selection of teas (and a small selection of snacks or tea/snack combos) which overlooks the crowds below and the river that continues through to the Yu Gardens. I would say it's a must in my opinion if you're walking through!

- Shanghai is famous for it's crab, so definitely try some fresh crab while you're here!

- It's been driving me crazy because I can't remember the name of the restaurant we had dinner at on our last night in Shanghai but it was amazing! It was near the Crowne Plaza Hotel but it doesn't seem to come up on Google maps or Trip Advisor but i've found this with a lot of places in China are hard to find on the internet. But it was a really nice restaurant, very artistic with sculptures and 3D wall art around and a huge menu of delicious sounding food. We ordered the soft crab meat, bruised pork in some sweet bbq style sauce and this cold chicken that was covered in a sweet liqueur? It was honestly the best meal I have had in a long time.

(Yu Garden)

(Yu Garden)

(Boat ride down the Huangpu River)

 (Shops surrounding the Yu Garden)

(View from Huxinting Teahouse)

 (Huxinting Teahouse - Blossoming tea and hard boiled eggs and tofu snacks)

 (Bruised pork in a sweet bbq style sauce)

(Soft crab meat)

(Cold chicken starter covered in a sweet liqueur)


Have you visited Shanghai before? Would you recommend any other places to visit? Any questions about my experience in Shanghai?
Let me know in the comment box below, i'd love to hear from you!


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Saturday, 9 May 2015

London Coffee Festival 2015


This was my first experience of the London Coffee Festival and I would definitely recommend it to anyone that loves their coffee! A standard ticket is around £11 and you choose your slot for the day which is either morning, lunch or afternoon and you get 3 hours to wander around the venue taking in all the lovely coffee smells. But i'm sure you're thinking "what about the free stuff?!" don't you worry there are plenty of free samples and little bits you get in your goody bags when you enter the venue. You'll be well looked after with free espresso and latte samples as well as other little tasters from the chocolate, smoothie, popcorn and juice stalls.

But it's not all about the amazing free samples (although it's a great part of the event) you also have stalls where you can make your own espresso's, custom blends of coffee and demonstrations from world-class baristas. But if you've had a walk around and just fancy a break you can chill out to some live music while you sip on your espresso martini.




This is one of the stalls where you could make your own espresso's (it's so satisfying!). The crew are really friendly so you don't have to feel embarrassed if you don't know what you're doing. They will talk you through it step by step and show you how to use the grinder and coffee machine and in the end you get a great tasting espresso. 










When you exit the venue you're taken out to a back street where there's a great food market. Luckily we had some great weather so we grabbed a pulled pork burger from Meat Porn and OMG it was amazing - the name definitely fits.



Then after having a little walk around we came across a pop up vinyl sale at a basement vintage market and they had pretty much everything. So obviously we couldn't leave without buying a few records! We ended up buying some Queen and Pink Floyd and the man even popped a free random record in the bag for us (not sure what it is but the music is fun and upbeat!) 




If you're interested in going to the next London Coffee Festival (which I highly recommend!) the next event will be April 7-10th 2016 at The Old Truman Brewery near Aldgate East Station. Make sure that you subscribe to the London Coffee Festival's email or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you don't miss out on the ticket release - tickets go fast! 



Have you been to the London Coffee Festival before? What did you think? What were the highlights of your day? Let me know in the comment box below, i'd love to hear from you!

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Monday, 4 May 2015

Tips & Tricks: Revising


It's that time of the year and everyone is stressing about exams and all their finals coming up and I know how stressful it can be! So heres some revision tips I found helped me when my brain just wasn't taking it in.

Repetition

One of the things I found the most difficult about revising was remembering all of it! I understood it but I just couldn't remember it all which was so frustrating. One of the techniques I ended up using a lot when I was doing exams was writing down things I just couldn't remember over and over again. And when I mean over and over again I would literally have a notebook with the quotes/facts/formulas written again and again on each page. It may sound silly to some people but it really helped me! I think the reason it worked so well for me is because it was 'visual memory' and 'muscle memory' which I guess as a more creative person its the easier way for my brain to soak up information.

Post it!

I wouldn't even be able to guess the amount of post-it notes I went through while revising. All those poor trees...but those little trees really helped me big time! I'd write small bit of information on each post-it (it has to be small concise bits of information so it's easy to take in) and I would stick them up everywhere. Especially places that I would sit and chill out, so in the bedroom or living room. And after a while your brain starts picking up the information you see in your peripheral without you even realising. Revising without even knowing it - perfect! 

Songs/Rhymes

A lot of people use this trick for spelling (it's the only way I managed to remember how to spell beautiful when I was younger). But you can use it to remember anything really! If you have a set of dates you need to remember for History for example you just need to give it a bit of a tune that you can sing in your head and bobs your uncle. By adding a repetitive tune to information it really helps you to remember information quicker. Think about it - all the songs that you know all the words to. So apply the idea to your revision!

Make it fun

One of the things that holds us all back is how bloody boring revising is! But it doesn't have to be boring and horrible! If you feel like you take information in easier when it's visual why not try making some art out of your revision? So gather your quotes or key bits of information and create a collage. Create a poster of pretty hand lettering with watercolours/marker pens or create a typography poster from fonts you love. As you're doing it you will be looking at your notes a lot and your brain will take it all in. Once you're done, put your art up! Visually interesting things are far easier to remember then boring text books. 

Eliminate Distractions

Have a think of what distracts you the most, for me it would have to be my phone, laptop and tv. So get rid of them! Grab all your distractions and put them away until you're done because if they are in easy distance you'll find yourself using them without realising and it will slow you down. I've heard some extremes that people deactivate their Facebook and other social media accounts until their exams are done. But if it works for you then why not! 

Support each other

If you feel yourself struggling then team up with a friend and help each other. Theres nothing better than supporting eachother when your both stressing out and sometimes some human company when you're locked away revising does some good. If you can imagine yourself getting distracted by company then set a plan together before you meet up for your revision session. Make a list of what you want to go through, things you need to test each other on etc and stick to it.



I really hope some of these tips help you all and I wish the best of luck to all of you doing exams at the moment! 

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Saturday, 2 May 2015

I got the chop!


I've been thinking about this for so long

And when I mean long I mean years. Until now I haven't had anything but a small trim since I was about 12/13? And I really didn't like short hair then because it made me look so young which put me off a bit.

Looking young has always annoyed me

People always think i'm way younger then I am which will be great when i'm older but right now I just want to look my age. I believe it can make a big difference in the workplace as well, even if people will never admit it. If you look young you will most probably be expected to have little or no experience, which is only a natural assumption I guess, but I don't want it assumed of me.
I always wanted to have those cute but choppy long bobs but I would always think back to when I had my hair cut short at 12/13 and it would scare me away from the idea. So for years I grew my hair long and after a while I got so used to it and I didn't realise how long it had got. If I straightened it my hair would almost reach my hips! Then it eventually got to a point when I hated it. I felt like my hair always looked messy and like a rats nest and it really started to annoy me. That's when I took the leap - if I goes wrong it will grow back right?

Naturally curly hair

Which can be such a pain! One of the reasons I grew it long at first was because the weight of it smoothed out my curls and made them more manageable. When I had shorter hair it would go into tight ringlets, but as it grew longer it started to go into more soft waves. So cutting my hair short again would surely make my hair look like a poodle again right? I was wrong. It seems over the years of using heat on my hair, dying it etc it's smoothed out my curls so even cutting it my hair still stayed as soft waves. Fab!

Before  |  After 

Thankfully it all came together nicely, the short hair (I don't think) makes me look any younger and I really love the change! My hair feels so soft and in such good condition now i've chopped off all the dyed hair and it even drys less frizzy which is an added bonus. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner!


Thinking about cutting your hair short? What style are you thinking of going for? Have you ever had any bad haircut experiences? Any tips? Let me know in the comment box below, i'd love to hear from you!


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