Back to it

A photo from Times Square, New York

It’s been a very, very long time since I last blogged. 19 months, to be exact.

I’ve really enjoyed the break. In those 19 months I’ve become a far less stressed person and now have no intention of reverting back to pre-19 month blogging break me. But I’ve missed blogging. Or as my boyfriend put it, I’ve ‘missed keeping track of everything’.

It’s true! I love documenting, listing, recording and reflecting, and a blog is a great way to do all of those things.

Since the lad hit the nail on the head with exactly what it is I miss I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to write about. I’ve never ever stuck to one topic – just in the same way I’ve never stuck at one ‘thing’ in any area of my life.

First I blogged about my daily life, and books. Then it was travel when I spent two years backpacking on and off. After this I moved to Melbourne for a year, and my blogs morphed into being about setting yourself up in a new city and seeking out cool things to do.

Then I came home and started putting the same spin on the cities in my home country – places like Sheffield, Leeds and even Doncaster. I gave seeing these places in the same positive way I saw Melbourne a really, really good go, but ultimately it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Eventually, I got a job in Manchester and put the same spin on my blog there too, but after a few months I became incredibly burnt out and bored with what I was writing. I was also fed up of having to mirror every blog I did with posts on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook blah blah blah.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t even upload images to any of the posts and I miss that simplicity. I miss just writing for me, without even thinking about site analytics.

All’s well that ends well though, because learning about the promotional and analytical side did interest me and I was good at it. Fast forward to now and it is how I’ve ended up building a successful career in digital marketing. I’ve gone from freelancing and working part-time at a charity to managing and growing my own team in my current role at a big corporate company. Pretty chuffed with that to say the least.

Anyway, back to blog topics. I think what I’ve settled on is: How I Manage My Life. I mean things like living within my means, finding new ways to save money, learning to live in a more sustainable way. All stuff like that.

It’s exciting to be back!

Band and Bean with Matter of Sound

Last night I went to Band and Bean, a new live music night by Matter of Sound. The idea (loosely) is live music in a cafe, and it kicked off at Grindsmith Media City.

Music aside, it was really fun to work with the folk behind Matter of Sound for an evening. They were so friendly and welcoming, this really added to the good vibes the evening carried with it.

We had the pleasure of three excellent acts: Violet Youth, Dantevilles and Natalie McCool. Getting gigs right is difficult I think, they must take so much organising and planning and management on the day. What I enjoyed most about Band and Bean is how smoothly everything ran despite the occasional last minute change. It had a laid back but professional vibe – and you’ll be able to see this professional touch when they publish the video on their YouTube channel.

For now, here’s some photos:

Side note: how amazing are Natalie McCool’s sparkly boots?!

I’m already looking forward to the next Band and Bean, if you want to find out when it is you can follow Matter of Sound on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Rudy’s Pizza

A Mancunian legend, one I’ve heard a lot about since I moved here: Rudy’s Pizza.

Tonight, I finally experienced Italy right here in Manc-land. It’s in an area of Manchester called Ancoats, which is just next to the Northern Quarter and a little bit more grown up. There’s been a lot of regeneration in Ancoats and it’s been done to a high standard – whenever I visit I start imagining myself living there in my own little flat.

You can’t book tables at Rudy’s and it is renowned for getting very busy very quickly, so we planned ahead by getting there half an hour before it opened. I recommend doing this because it paid off – we were seated and served drinks immediately, and got seen to first when the clock hit pizza time at 5pm.

The venue is very simple and makeshift – in a good way. If it hadn’t been freezing outside, I would definitely have felt like I was actually in Italy.

We ordered some drinks and crisps to keep us going, then went straight in with a pizza each and a side to share. Our side was green, meat, cheese, bread and oil – the classic Mediterranean combo. This kind of food makes me think of sitting by the sea somewhere warm.

The pizzas were equally authentic and SO delicious. The best thing about mine was the basil – so many times I order pizza in a restaurant and can’t really taste the basil, but here it tasted fresh and strong! Definitely how the taste experience should be in my opinion.

We rounded up with two scoops of cinnamon-ey ice cream each and then sat there for a good fifteen minutes feeling blummin’ stuffed!

I want to take my friends and family to Rudy’s because it’s got a great atmosphere and definitely the best pizza I’ve had in a while. What made it even better, was the bill. Between two of us, we had two alcoholic drinks each, a bowl of crisps, a pizza each, a side to share and a dessert each, and the bill came to just under fifty quid. Much cheap. Plenty value.

As much as I do love some of the similar pizza places in South Manchester, you would literally pay double that amount for the same meal.

Monzo – What are this?

I’m hoping most of you got the Jenna Marbles reference, but if not see here. I recently signed up to Monzo and I think it is AMAZING!

But people keep asking what exactly it is, along with a number of other questions, so I thought I would explain through the medium of blog. I’m going to list the questions in below with answers underneath, so if you have a specific one to ask, skim read!

1. What is it? What are this?

Monzo is a company working to create a new kind of current account & banking system. They started out in February 2015, and with their UK banking license offer users a banking app and a prepaid contactless MasterCard. They are hoping to roll out free current accounts later this year too!

2. Is there a set up fee?

No, the only requirement is that when you activate your card you give it an initial top up of £100.

3. Can you categorise transactions?

Yes! There are a number of automatic categories such as ‘groceries’ and ‘eating out’, but you can even label transactions with emojis and group them that way (double win).

4. How quickly does it update?

My new favourite thing to do when I’m out with friends, is pay for something with my Monzo card and then make everyone watch as the app updates almost instantly.

5. It sounds too good to be true!

I thought the exact same when I first heard about it, but so far there is no catch. It’s genuinely as simple and as good as it seems.

6. Is it just card payments?

No, you can withdraw cash at ATMs too, there are also no fees for using it abroad. Direct debits and standing orders are in the pipeline!

7. Where is your money kept?

With Monzo, and it displays in your app.

8. What about security?

In the app and on the Monzo blog there are loads of resources on ways to protect your money, what to do if your card is stolen etc. There are lots of other tricks you can set up too, such as using touch ID to access the app and enabling location based security – meaning the app will match your location with your card payments to flag anything suspicious.

9. Is the budgeting actually effective – has it helped you save?

So far, I’d say it is effective. You can set targets so that each month when you reach your set budget for say, eating out or shopping, you’ll get a notification warning you to cool the spending. I’m also generally more aware of my spending because I can see at all times how much disposable income I have left.

The way I’m currently using Monzo, is I’ve set myself a monthly spending budget to cover all social activities, travel, food and random things like bags with pandas on them from Thunderegg. I put that budget on my card and that’s it for the month. Then money left in my current account is just for paying bills, rent and other direct debits. Separating my money this way makes it much easier for me to see where there’s wiggle room for more saving (or spending).

I would also say that based on my own experience, budgeting is only really effective if you stick to it. Even the best app in world can’t stop some impulse buys.

10. Are there any incentives for joining?

Well, no – not monetary benefits anyway. I’ll admit that at first the idea of giving a bank my money with no interest in return, seemed odd. BUT, for me the biggest benefit of Monzo is the budgeting power. The second biggest pull is the community, one glance at their social media channels is enough to understand that Monzo is a transparent organisation with a genuine purpose and a real desire to change the way the world manages its finances. I like organisations like that.

Other things I really like about Monzo are:

Efficiency. Everything happens FAST, even people who I know signed up without a golden ticket received their cards very quickly.

Ease. It is SO easy to learn how to use the app.

Emojis. Because internet lol.

Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope)

Alright everyone, can we just take a moment to stand up and cheer? This is my first theatre blog post since moving to Manchester! YAAAAY!

Okay you can sit back down. Just before Christmas I received an email from a theatre company called Powder Keg. They are from Manchester and they had a new show called Morale Is High (Since We Gave Up Hope), which they asked me to come along and review. I punched the air with a grin on my face and said yes. I was also thrilled to learn that my beloved Theatre Deli back in the steel city had helped produce this play.

I really got into seeing plays and theatre productions in Sheffield, and it’s something I definitely wanted to pick back up after I’d settled into Manc life a bit. I took my housemate along not really knowing what to expect but feeling certain that if Moor Deli had a hand in it, it would be good.

We picked up our tickets at HOME (after a very delicious and satisfying meal), then walked round the corner to the International Anthony Burgess Foundation where the show took place.

With the seats arranged in a U shape and two guitars waiting expectantly I felt sure we were in a fun and entertaining evening – in fact, that’s the word my housemate used to describe it afterwards, ‘entertaining’.

The guys from Powder Keg used a mix of song, storytelling, props and sometimes dance to tackle a very relevant issue: after the last few years, and particularly after 2016, what will the future hold? Will we be okay?

I loved how they delivered this play. Tapping into our fears, but also giving us hope (ironic considering the name). It was fast paced without being too fast, and slow without dragging. The music was fantastic too, and had me tapping my feet at every song.

My favourite story from the show was the one about Lindsey, who likes making lists. A sad ending, but a story that didn’t really feel that far off into the future.

I’m very grateful to Powder Keg for inviting me along and feel keen to see some more local shows soon. I’ve said before that one of the reasons I love theatre is because it’s a good way to tackle difficult or uncomfortable topics, and Morale Is High achieved this well.