Saturday 30 March 2013

The Beauties (and the Beasts) of Living With Other People

Most people at uni live with other students sharing lives, loves and bills.  The beauty of living with your mates at uni is the constant company, similar interests and always having someone nearby to play with when the deadlines are piling up and the procrastinating begins.  Last year I was the 9th person living in an 8 person house (it’s a long story) and this year we downsized to a 6 bedroom house, 3 boys and 3 girls.  This, I feel, is the perfect combination – everyone takes their own roles in a student family, ours consists of a Mum (me), a Dad and posse of ‘children’.  We are the all biggest kids but these roles take their place in particular on a sunny day when the BBQs come out.  I will be in the kitchen preparing all the food and doing the Mum things, while the Dad is outside sparking up the barbeque and the perpetually dirty dishes are being washed by the kids.  

There is always someone to talk to, games to be played (our particular favourite at the minute is Monopoly, cool I know) and inside jokes to be had.  By living in a house with your mates, you are sure to find friends for life.  These are people you couldn’t get to know any better if you tried and who know you so well your belief in magic isn’t even questioned.  Someone like me who could be considered a ‘feeder’ (by definition someone who gets a lot of enjoyment from feeding others) has the perfect audience of tasters to try out my latest cake.

If you are lucky enough to live in a house with people who study the same subject as you, you have fallen on your feet.  Without living with people studying PR as well I would be lost with the all the upcoming deadlines and recommended reading.

Although I would never want to live another way, we have even half jokingly talked about all living together forever in a massive house until we grow old, there are a few negative factors.  Things go missing quite a lot in our house.  My hairbrush for example disappeared a few months ago and I have resorted to using a brush I thought was my housemates until she admitted she had thought it was mine, and we came to the conclusion we both had been using a brush that came with the house.  Gross.  There is the occasional pube spider lurking in the bathroom – I’d rather not know who and where that came from.    In some houses, there is a food thief.  A friend of mine had the majority of their Bolognese (meant for a few more meals) sneakily scoffed over night.

As the final semester comes to an end, for some of us it’s come to the sad time we have all been dreading since first year.  Uni is over.  O-V-E-R.  This is a genuine tragedy. Some of us will be moving on to proper jobs and being proper grown ups or there will be a few, like my friends and I, who will be staying in Leeds and living the dream. 

Friday 29 March 2013

5 People You Absolutely Must Not Trust

Gone are the days of children playing in the streets until it went dark, with just a casual “Don’t take sweets from strangers and don’t get in anyone’s car” from Mum on the way out the door.  The world seems to of become a much more untrustworthy place with deceptions at every turn.  I have compiled a list of 5 people who you absolutely must not trust, this is your warning in advance.

1.      The Person With One Facebook Photo (or even worse, none)

In an era that revolves around Facebook, particularly a student’s world at submission time, we go straight to social media to check out that guy or have a creep of the mean one in your group, but there is nothing stranger than limited Facebook photos.  This is particularly frustrating for me because I must admit I am a prime creep on Facebook, some may say world class (I know I’m not the only one to be secretly proud of it). I’m confused, does this mean you’ve got no mates or that you’re just incredibly vain? Either way I don’t like the idea of this person – definitely not one to be trusted. 

2.      The Girl Who Eats Nothing but Rubbish but is Effortlessly Slim

This is a very shady character, one I am very distrusting of.  I refuse to believe that your metabolism is just that fast and you are model-esqe on a diet of Big Macs and Chicken Wings.  That kebab you’re flinging around and your super toned tummy don’t add up. No. That’s very deceitful and could actually be considered poor advertising.  Probably not a case for the Advertising Standards Agency, but still not to be trusted.

3.      The Person With 5000 Friends on Facebook

I just can’t my head around how this is possible and it surely can’t be a true representation.  The only way this could be so is if the accused person is a serial adder of friends.  I could barely name 50 people let alone know 5000.  I’d consider this person to be a shady character; someone with that many friends online surely can’t have many in real life. 

4.      Anyone Who Doesn’t Like Animals

Anyone who doesn’t like animals surely HAS to have something wrong with them, although I can excuse those who are scared of animals (with those frightened of puppies being the exception to that rule).  Animals are the best thing ever, top of my list is most definitely dogs – I literally can’t stop myself stroking any dog I walk by.  Similarly to this, and what I believe to be a real judge of person, is whether or not a dog likes them.  If dogs don’t like you, something seriously and I mean seriously, must be wrong with you.

5.      A Dog With a Guilty Look in His Eye

This is without a doubt the shadiest of all shadiest characters and the least trustworthy of them all.  A dog with this look in his eye has definitely been up to something and sometimes it’s almost better not to find out what it is.  Your best bet is he has eaten your dinner off your plate, eaten a whole box of tissues or done the unmentionable.  In your bedroom.

Sunday 24 March 2013

Why it Sucks Not To Live at Home Anymore

For many of us spreading our wings to go to uni or start an adult life (booo) begins with moving out of our childhood homes and becoming a grown up.  The prospect of living without parental guidance was exciting and liberating at the time, but now more often than not we long to be taken care of the way only a mother knows how. 

One of the best things about living at home was the food.  Delicious home-made meals cooked with love and kindness are second to none.  A fully stocked fridge is now the stuff of dreams, one containing only an ancient Muller Corner and a half eaten Chinese is an all too familiar nightmare.  Why didn’t I realise that nice food is expensive and I don’t have Mum’s trolley to sneak things into anymore?! And oh God, the dishes.  The god forsaken dishes that despite our meticulously planned cleaning rota never seem to be done.

Being ill is most definitely not as fun as it was when I lived at home.  Don’t get me wrong I don’t enjoy being ill, but being at home when Dad always came up trumps with the Lucozade, meals are made on request and hugs are on demand are things I really miss – even when its just a hangover. 

At first coming home whenever you pleased, and as pissed as you pleased, was amazing. There were no harsh words about how you were wasting your life and drinking all your money away.  Now I almost long for the telling off – reminding me that last glass of Pinot Grigio was most definitely a bad idea, if the reminder of the embarrassingly tipsy texts weren’t enough. 


The worst, and most unbearable, thing about not living at home anymore for some people, myself included, is the lack of pets.  No furry babies to force your cuddles upon and to cheer you up when you’ve had a bad day is surely the saddest fact of them all.  I spend my days stroking every dog I walk past and sobbing uncontrollably at RSPCA adverts on TV, having regular debates with my housemates about how if I did have a dog I would most definitely walk it, even in the rain, and would be first on hand with the pooper scooper. 

Despite the sorrows of not living at home anymore, we mustn’t forget there are so many benefits.   We can make grown up choices, for grown up people, even if that means having to wear bikini bottoms to work because we left it too late to do the laundry, having the messiest room in a 2 mile radius and having a pint.  Of wine.  (It makes for fewer trips to the fridge).

Article written for Proper Gander Magazine available online at:

Friday 15 March 2013

I Simply Don't Believe It

The time of year has come around again where exams are looming and deadlines are coming up faster than we had expected, every year I promise myself I won’t leave it until a few days before but I never learn, and we all do the natural thing.  Turn to social media.  Some days go by in the library when I have barely written 50 words over 4 hours because I have spent my time checking my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline and nipping out for crafty cigs.

I love my Facebook and Twitter as much as the next person but to be honest when the days are hot and long its at the back of my mind.  It’s when my work is piling up on top of me I choose my trusty newsfeed over that really important Consumer Choice book that smells a bit like sick.

I know that at times like these, especially for those of us with dissertation deadlines scaring us down to the pub (God bless us all), I am more irritated than normal with people.  People on TV, people in the library, people queuing in front of me at Morrisons, but in particular people on my Facebook and Twitter.  There are a few types of people who, in ode to Peter Griffin, really grind my gears.

There’s the one who always takes pictures of their food.  I love food and have been known to take a proud picture of my most recent baking but most of the time the photos that appear on my timeline don’t even look like something I would give to my dog.  I know I shouldn’t judge but your dinner is actually putting me off my own.

Every newsfeed has the ‘Gym Bunny’.  Whether its the super skinny girl who somehow has maintained her boobs and bum or the crazily muscle guy, its making me feel guilty. And I don’t like it.  I know I have paid for a gym membership which I haven’t used in two months but its not as if your workout didn’t count just because you didn’t document it on Twitter.

I know its sweet and I was happy for you at the time, and I still am, but your new baby/boyfriend is clogging up my newsfeed.  Like every girl I love sweet stories and romance but it can get a bit tiresome seeing thousands of pictures of your baby rolling around on the floor/all the presents your fabulous boyfriend has got you just for being you.

I can honestly say it makes me want to blub when I see a friend’s latest check-in on Facebook in Dubai or Ibiza or Florida or somewhereamazingandhotwhenI’mstillinthelibrary.  I can admit I’m jealous and its not fair.  The same goes for the lucky girl who’s always uploading pictures of her beautiful pair of Louboutins and shiny new Chanel handbag.

All of these people generally fall under the category of the ‘Instagrammer’.  I appreciate a beautiful Instagram as much as the next person but there is a limit as to what qualifies a photo to become a new Instapic.  I think the reason it annoys me is because to view the photo full size it must be opened in a new tab – which for those of you in a student area can sympathise, can take so long due to the crappy internet I give up.

The tragic fact of this is that in truth, at times, I am all of these people.  I think that might be what annoys me the most.

Monday 4 March 2013

A Hungry Girl's Guide to Eating in Leeds

Like many students, I can safely say that eating is one of my main priorities.  Having a nice meal is often, for me, better than a night out to Call Lane or Stone Roses where my money, and sometimes dignity, is often lost on a night I struggle to recall the next day.  Don’t get me wrong I do love to go out but sometimes I just want to have a nice meal and revel in the enjoyment of knowing I will remember it the next day. 

There are countless places in Leeds to eat to suit every budget, occasion and situation providing busy and stressed out students some comfort and solace.  For those of you who have read my blog or any articles I have written you will be aware that I like to eat out a lot and regularly review restaurants in my local area.  Unsurprisingly I am writing my dissertation on restaurant review food blogs in the vain hope that if I write about something I already have an interest in it will motivate me and encourage me to this space, it hasn’t been massively successful so far!

I have compiled a list of 12 of my favourite places to eat in Leeds for every occasion.

Where to Go If You Are Strapped For Cash:

1.      Miro - This may be an obvious choice, particularly for students at Leeds University due to its location, but I think this is one of the best cafes around Leeds Met and Leeds Uni.  There is an amazing selection of fresh sandwiches, paninis, salads and pastas along with Italian sweet treats like Torta Limone and Pistacchio Aragostine. 

My Choice:  Sundried Tomato, Pesto and Cheese Panini – at £2.70 it would be rude not to.

2.      Roast and Toast – Located on the Kirkstall Road this is my favourite sandwich shop in Leeds.  The choice of sandwiches, koftas and wraps seems to be almost infinite, and the service is always excellent.  Shamefully I must admit the lady who works there now knows my order and says it along with me.  This isn’t really something to be proud of but I think I might just be their biggest fan!

My Choice: Basil Chicken, Salad and Lemon Mayo or Roasted Pepper, Pesto and Mozzarella in a big soft roll.

3.      Kirkstall Morrisons Salad Bar – I know this is a pretty odd choice, but it really needs to be tried to be appreciated.  With so much to choose from, including pastas, salads and fruit, and a large salad box priced at £2.70 I have to admit a lot of squishing goes on when I’m trying to close the lid of the box.

My Choice:  Almost everything, excluding the Tuna Potato Salad (something’s not right about that).

Where to Go For Great Food at Reasonable Prices:

4.      Bangkok Cafe – Situated right in the centre of buzzing Hyde Park, this little treasure is a real find.  The cafe itself sits only a few people at a time, but I feel this even adds to its charm and considering a delivery service is available there is really no reason not to give it a go!  The food is seriously delicious and well priced for a student budget.

My Choice:  Garlic and Pepper Chicken with Noodles, honestly the best Thai food I have had in years.

5.      Love Rouge Bakery – My friends and I are massive fans of the bakery in Headingley, serving cupcakes, cream teas and more to the masses.  As my mother says these are cupcakes which actually taste of something not just of cardboard and I must say that is high praise indeed. 

             My Choice:  White Chocolate and Raspberry Cupcake and Earl Grey teammmmm.


6.      The Clock Cafe/LS6 – Almost across the road from Bangkok Cafe is the quirky and fabulous Clock Cafe, aptly named if you have already been in due to the huge collection of clocks on the walls!  The student vibe almost makes this cafe feel homely and they have a great selection of teas – perfect for taking a break from uni stress and catching up with your friends.

My Choice:  Caesar Salad, swapping the bacon for sundried tomatoes.

Where to Go For the Best Deals:

Before I go on I must inform you of my long standing favourite app, Vouchercloud.  Vouchercloud offers deals on restaurants, clothes stores and more. Not surprisingly I use it the most to go out to dinner.  The app is available from any smart phone app store and is free – you can’t be bad to that.  Vouchercloud works as a mobile voucher so there is no hassle printing off the voucher and it displays the deals which are nearest to you by a tenth of a mile. 

7.      La Tasca - Tapas can be quite an expensive dining experience, but fear not with Vouchercloud you can often get 2 for 1 on tapas at La Tasca on Greek Street.  This usually will halve your bills and ensures you are stuffed with Spanish satisfaction for the rest of the evening.

My Choice:  Anything fishy or meaty or carby – there isn’t much at La Tasca I don’t like!

8.      Loch Fyne - Admittedly this is a pretty up-market place for a student to eat, but with a Vouchercloud discount voucher of 25% it may become a lot more appealing.  This is the perfect restaurant for any fish lover, although there are some chicken and beef dishes on the menu, it really is wonderful food and definitely worth a visit.

My Choice:  Monkfish and Prawn Thai Curry with rice – honestly, it is heaven.

9.      The Box – This is likely to be a very familiar haunt to most students and as well as well priced drinks and a lively atmosphere they also serve great food.  The best days to go are on a Monday or a Wednesday when it is 50% off your food bill.  You might have to wait a little for a table and for your food but surely for a deal like that you will be patient! 

My Choice:  Sweet Chilli Chicken Wrap with Chips – with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeƱos and mango chutney there is nothing they could do to make it better.

Where to Take Your Parents When They Come to Visit:

10.    The New Conservatory – This lively jazz bar in the city centre has seating outside for those sparse warmer days and a large restaurant area inside where delicious food and friendly service can be found.  Downstairs where the restaurant and bar are situated is cosy without feeling cramped and with books all along the walls it has its own sense of individuality.  From past experience, parents love this place.

My Choice:  The Sampler platter is uh-ma-zing.  There are 5 or 6 little delights to try ranging from tempura prawns, brushetta with goat’s cheese and mini burgers – perfect for sharing or equally for going solo and being greedy.

11.    The Living Room –This has long been a favourite in my family and for good reason.  Their food is of an outstanding quality and it is always bustling with hungry customers.  The Living Room is known for its great atmosphere and there is regular live music on the piano, which is soothing background music rather than a blasting for your ears – perfect for parents.

My Choice:  Spiced Duck Breast with Pak Choi and a Sweet Potato Fondant, definitely worth the price but not quite for a student budget!

12.   Piccolino – Italian food in my opinion does not get much better than this.  Piccolino is situated on Park Row in a beautiful light restaurant where the waiters know the menu back to front.  The food is almost beyond fresh and the flavours are simple.

My Choice:  Beef Carpaccio with a Rocket and Parmesan Salad or the Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Salad – both light meals, but two of the best Italian Starters around.

There are some really delicious places to eat in Leeds to suit every budget, many are little gems tucked away which normally you wouldn’t look twice at but I suggest you go out and try them!  I often think that those restaurants which look the least impressive are the tastiest and the best value for money.  So branch out from the typical student eateries like the Scream pubs and Wetherspoons and see what Leeds has to offer.