Sunday, 9 September 2018

Monzo: The Bank of the Future!

Hey everyone :)

I imagine when someone mentions "change banks" - you cringe - because there is so much work involved ... moving direct debits, transferring the remaining balance or telling your work your new account number and sort code.

I've was with my old bank about 12+ years and I was bored. I was paying around £12.50 a month (started off as £3.50) just to have an overdraft, warranty guarantee, card protection and mobile phone cover. I rarely used the overdraft (it was just there for emergencies), I didn't use the warranty guarantee or the card protection and from what I heard the mobile phone cover was the worst and getting them to do anything when your phone broke was next to impossible. So I asked myself - "why am I paying £12.50?".

I found Monzo in an unusual way - in that I happened to come across them in one of their new employee's YouTube videos "My first day at Monzo". I was intrigued and started googling them and checking out the reviews on the app store and was really impressed. I found it odd you could open an actual bank account on an iPhone app as I'd never heard of such a thing!!

What drew me to Monzo was the sleek, cool looking app. It's available on iPhone or Android!. I love that it pulls the logos from companies and shows them next to the transactions. Whenever you buy anything you get a notification instantly (signal permitting) to tell you and it also puts it in a certain category to help you track spending. It also lists your direct debits and shows when they come off and shows these in a "committed spending" category. You can also help with testing on Monzo Labs for anything they are doing - I'm currently using the "bill splitting" feature which is really good and lets you split transactions and request the other half from other people.

I applied for the account while sitting on my bed. Entered the usual sign up stuff (name, date of birth, address etc). Took a picture of my passport and then recorded myself saying "Hi, my name is John and I want a Monzo account"... then three days later I had a lovely hot coral card in the post :)

Some people might be a but dubious and worried about an online/app based bank however it is covered with the FSCS up to £85,000 for current accounts and £170,000 for join accounts. Being online/app based they do not have physical branches so you can't visit. They do have online chat and can call them if you have issues.

They do also have their own forum/community where you can chat and talk about Monzo-related issues (and some non-Monzo related issues). I just joined a few days ago and I've learnt a lot more about banking and Monzo than I did before.

Overall I am really impressed and happy with the bank and I'm glad I switched over. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new bank. They do offer the current account switch service or if you like to do things yourself - you can do it yourself at your own pace.

Let me know in the comments below if you have switched or use Monzo.


Thursday, 16 August 2018

Cupcake Jemma 'Red Velvet Cupcakes'

Hi everyone :)

These cupcakes are one of my all-time favourite to make and to eat of course! The original recipe makes 24 so I have halved everything to make about 12 (depending on how much you fill the cases you might only get 11).

The recipe also uses the cream cheese icing for the topping but I find you need to keep that refrigerated or it goes off quicker so I used Jemma's normal vanilla buttercream icing for the topping - of course this option is up to you - both work really well with the cupcake.

Ingredients (for cupcakes):
118g self-raising flour
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
125g caster sugar
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
135f unsalted butter, softened
2 large free-range eggs
1 1/2 tbsp buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp red food-colouring paste
3/4 tsp cider vinegar

Ingredients (for the cream cheese icing):
125g unsalted butter, softened
120g cream cheese
420g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 170
2. Sift the dry cupcake ingredients (apart from the bicarbonate of soda) and 3/4 of a teaspoon of fine sea salt into a large bowl, add the butter and eggs and beat for 60 seconds with an electric mixer (I prefer the free-standing type).
3. Mix the buttermilk, vanilla extract and colouring paste in a small jug, then add to the mixture and beat for another 20 seconds, or until well combined.
4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then give the mix a final blast for a few seconds to make sure it's all incorporated.
5. In a cup, mix the bicarbonate of soda with the vinegar - as soon as you do this, it'll start to fizz. Working quickly, pour the bubbling mixture into the cake mix and whisk very briefly to incorporate.
6. Give the batter a final mix and whisk very briefly to incorporate thirds full with mixture, but don't bother to smooth it out.
7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until they spring back when touched. Leave to cool, transferring to a wire cooling rack after 5 minutes.

1. Beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until pale and smooth.
2. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, then add to the butter mixture in two stages, beating well between each until beautifully smooth - if the mix seems to loose, add a little more icing sugar until the consistency is just right.
3. Once the cupcakes are cool, decorate them with the icing and a few of your favourite sprinkles and enjoy.

Let me know in the comments below if you've made these amazing cupcakes!?


Saturday, 4 August 2018

Stardew Valley

Hey everyone :)

I originally bought this game on a whim for my PS4 when I was in my "recording gaming videos" phase - started recording videos and realised it was going to take forever so I decided to give it a miss - I think I then recorded and did Ori and the Blind Forest (a much better choice).

The game then came out on the Switch which I have and so I bought it on that - and I haven't stopped playing it since - I highly recommend getting it - it's currently on sale (or was depending on when your reading this post).

The game is a farming simulation role-playing video game where you take control of a tired office worker who wants a change - and guess what ... you just inherited your Grampa's farm in Stardew Valley.

There is plenty to do in Stardew Valley and I've been kept very busy the last couple of months - you can clear rocks and trees, plant, tend and harvest crops, buy buildings such as coops, barns, silos, stable etc, speak and build up relationships with the villagers, get a boyfriend/girlfriend and get married, have kids too - the game really does have everything.

It's also LGBT+ friendly - you can be gay and instead of "making a baby" you can adopt one instead.

You can also do little daily quests, longer quests and there is the community centre bundles that need you to collect certain items and this in turn unlocks bigger things on the map - like the bridge being rebuild or your greenhouse being rebuilt.

It is such a good game and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys simulation games.

Let me know in the comments below if you are playing/have played it?!


Saturday, 30 June 2018

Taylor Swift Reputation Tour - Wembley, London - Saturday 23rd June 2018

Hey everyone :)

I've only ever been to one concert back in 2000 when Britney Spears had her Circus Tour so I was not sure what to expect when I attended Taylor Swift's Reputation Tour in Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

I'm struggling right now to find the words to describe it - I'm still playing the experience over and over in my head and trying to figure out if I had enough money to fly to another country to see her again - it was amazing! The music, the lights, the wristbands that glowed different colours, the other fans, the supporting acts, the dancers, the band - all AMAZING!

I went with someone I used to work with in Coventry - Sarah who loves Taylor Swift just as much as me :) Taylor also mentioned in the concert that this was her 13th concert of her career and we all know she has an obsession with all things 13.

She played all her songs from Reputation and also a mashup of a couple of songs from other albums which was really cool - I really enjoyed the mash up of Bad Blood and Should've Said No!

She also treated us to Fifteen (from her Fearless album) the reason for this was because it was her 15th night of her tour and so that made it special.

We didn't realise how close we were to the stage. We both thought we were up on the nosebleeds but actually we were technically on the pitch only about 20 rows from the front I think.

We had such a good time and I can't wait for her next tour!!


Sunday, 17 June 2018

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 'Scots Edition'

Hey everyone,

Hope you are all doing well? I have been rather quiet during May - not sure why which is annoying but I'm back with a book post :)

Dave picked this up on Amazon when he saw it and thought it would be a great little present for me and I absolutely love it! I mean I am Scottish and even some of the phrases in this book I'm finding hard to understand ... truth be told Dave thought it was another language completely.

It would make a great little present for anyone Scottish and who loves Harry Potter aha!

Let me know if you have picked it up or read it?


Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Pokemon Quest on Nintendo Switch

Hi everyone :)

Hope you are all doing well? I started writing this post on the weekend and then got distracted playing the game I was supposed to be writing a post about.

As you can probably tell this post is about Pokemon Quest - a new free to play game on Nintendo Switch. My view on the game is that its a mix between Minecraft and Pokemon and I absolutely love it. They also announced another new Pokemon game due out in November which looks AMAZING! I'll probably do another post nearer the time!

The idea of Pokemon Quest is based on collecting ingredients and making recipes which attract new Pokemon that will join your party. You collect ingredients by completing main quests and challenge quests and by going on expeditions on the island. There are different biomes on the island and each has a different type of Pokemon for you to fight. There are a few levels in each biome and then a boss battle at the end. You have to be certain levels to win so you do this by levelling up your Pokemon and affixing them with strength and health power charms which again you collect like the ingredients.

The game is very addicting but like most mobile games you have a energy bar so you can't do it all in one go. You get 1 energy back every 30 minutes. There is also things you can buy if you don't mind spending money - you can get extra cooking pots, some decorations that increase the amount of Pokemon that come when you make a recipe or the amount of ingredients you get when you are doing an expedition.

The game is really fun and I already have a friend at work playing it - if you enjoy Pokemon you will enjoy this game! There is also a Reddit for it now which is really helpful (some might say its cheating - as all the recipes are on there) and a Discord channel too if you want to chat to other people.

Let me know if you are playing and what your best Pokemon are?!


Thursday, 10 May 2018

30 Questions About Me That Never Get Asked?!

Hey everyone :)

I do love a good question tag ...

1. Are you named after anyone?
I don't think so ... my mum did tell me that I was nearly called Jonathon but they thought I'd get teased so they settled on John.

2. When was the last time you cried?
I can't actually remember - I watch Grey's Anatomy and their episodes are quite emotional sometimes so probably when I was watching one of those.

3. Do you have kids?
Haaaa, no! Haven't decided on that yet!

4. If you were another person, would you be friend of yourself?
Probably not ... I am quite odd!

5. Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Yes ... all the time.

6. What's the first thing you notice about people?
Their appearance normally ... or their accent.

7. What is your eye colour?
They are blue.

8. Scary movie or happy endings?
Happy endings defo!

9. Favourite smells?
Cut grass and apple pie!

10. What's the furthest you've ever been from home?
Canada on holiday

11. Do you have any special talents?
I don't think so ... spending money? Is that a talent?

12. Where were you born?

13. What are your hobbies?
They vary ... I enjoy swimming, TV, PS4, gaming, baking ...

14. Do you have any pets?
I had a cat when I was young, and I got some kittens twice then had to get rid of them due to house rules.

15. Do you have any siblings?
Yes, 1 brother.

16. What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was at school - my idea was a chef ... or something with computers.

17. Who was your first best friend?
I actually don't know - I had a few friends when I was at school.

18. How tall are you?
5ft something

19. Funniest moment throughout school?
I got interviewed by the school radio because I was the smallest in the school

20. How many countries have you visited?
3 - Spain, Italy and Canada

21. What was your favourite/worst subject in high school?
Favourite had to be Administration or Home Economics and worst - had to be Physics or PE.

22. What is your favourite drink?
Right now I'm in love with Tenzing Natural Energy drink.

23. What would you (or have you) named your children?
Haven't really thought about it if honest

24. What sports do you play/have you played?
Not really into sports - I did the majority of them in school - football, rugby, hockey etc

25. Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?
Helen Anderson, Tom Daley, iJustine, her sister too, Trisha Paytas, Shane Dawson

26. How many girlfriends/boyfriends have you had?
If you count the "girlfriends" I had in school when I was 14 - then 3 girlfriends and when I got older 2 boyfriends (including the relationship I'm in now).

27. Favourite memory from childhood
Waking up at my granny/grampas and going to get freshly laid eggs from the chickens. We would go to the shed and open a big chest freezer full of bird seed and then we'd feed them and get their eggs and then granny would fry them :)

28. How would you describe your fashion sense?
Normal I think ... I'm not too out there!

29. What phone do you have?
iPhone all the way ... since I was 18

30. Tell us one of your bad habits?
I chew my nails till they bleed! Need to stop though!!

That is 30 questions ... if feels like a lot more ... probably because I typed all this and didn't copy and paste anything ...


Thursday, 26 April 2018

Netflix 'Lost in Space'

Hey everyone :)

I have been trying not to watch anything new because I'm currently watching so many different shows but I saw the promo for Lost in Space and just had to watch it when it came out. When Netflix released the show - they released all episodes at once so the binge watch began!!

I managed 7 episodes in one day and then the last 3 the next morning!

I only ever knew about the film Lost in Space which has Joey from Friends (Matt Le Blanc) but apparently there was also a very old tv series that ran on CBS back in 1965. The Netflix series is set 30 years in the future where space colonisation is a reality and the Robinson family are off in search of a new planet that can support life ... until something crazy happens (I don't want to spoil it for anyone lol).

The ratings have recently been released and in the first three days after the episodes were released on Netflix it drew in 6.3 million US viewers and 1.2 million watched the finale in that period too. Apparently a second season has been green lit but we shouldn't expect it until 2019, maybe even 2020 but I am so excited already!

Let me know if you watch it as I need to talk to someone about it :) :)


Saturday, 21 April 2018

Pots & Co.

Hey everyone :)

I had a busy week covering shifts while a colleague went on holiday to Japan so my blog has been quiet however that did not stop me discovering a yummy new company!!

As I mentioned - I only just recently came across this company via my work and as I can't just go around eating the product at work - I went straight to Tesco and bought every flavour I could get my hands on :)

My current favourite of the pots that I bought has to be the mango, lime and coconut - the flavours compliment each other so well and the flavours were not too overpowering.

Another favourite - close second - was the salted caramel and chocolate pot. I do enjoy the whole salted caramel train that everyone hopped on ... and the sweet and salty-ness really makes me swoon :)

Let me know in the comments below if you have picked any of these wonderful pots up?!


Friday, 13 April 2018

Salted Caramel & Salted Pretzel Tiffin

Hey everyone :)

Someone I work with has recently been bring in some kind of salted pretzel tiffin made by Tesco - it's those little bitesize party ones you get in a party bag and it's amazing! It got me thinking that I could make something like it - so after searching on Google for half an hour - I came across this amazing recipe - which I have tweaked a little:

Ingredients (for base):
200g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g butter
125g digestive biscuits
135g salted pretzels

salted caramel (either make your own or Tesco do a jar/bottle of it)

Ingredients (for topping):
200g milk chocolate
2 teaspoons golden syrup
25g butter
2 tablespoons whole milk

1. Line a 20 x 20 baking tin (like a brownie tin, preferably non-stick) with baking parchment. I also spray the sides with that oil spray or non-stick baking spray if you have it.
2. Either in the microwave (but do short bursts) or over a pan of simmering hot water melt the dark chocolate, golden syrup and butter.
3. While the chocolate is melting - use a food processor or a bag and rolling pin and smash up the digestive biscuits.
4. Similarly with the pretzels bash them up too but leave some chunky bits.
5. Once the chocolate is melted, dump in the digestive crumbs and the pretzel crumbs and mix until all coated in the chocolate.
6. Tip into the baking tin and smooth out so even.
7. This step is purely optional but I got a jar of salted caramel and a teaspoon and took big dollops and just plopped it into random places and pushed it down into the mix. I think I did about 9 blobs.
8. Set aside to start cooling down.

9. Get a fresh bowl and add the topping ingredients - so milk chocolate, golden syrup and butter and put back above the simmering water.
10. Once melted add the milk and it should go lovely and glossy.
11. Tip over the base mixture in the tin and shake the tin gently from side to side to help the mixture spread. If needed us a spatula/spoon to help it to the edges.
12. Cover with cling film loosely and pop in the fridge.

Note: If you feel uncomfortable about putting it in fridge still quite warm just leave out till its cooled down and then put it in. I never have much other food in the fridge so it doesn't bother me.

Let me know in the comments if you have made something similar or tried the Tesco variation.


Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood

Hi everyone :)

Continuing on from my "gaming" posts - after completing A Realm Reborn and Heavensward - I had to buy Stormblood - mainly because I hit the level cap near the end of Heavensward and I didn't want to loose all the experience.

Stormblood takes players to both Ala Mhigo and Doma. The main focus is to regain control of Ala Mhigo from the Garlean Empire. 

Stormblood brought big changes to the FFXIV world including:

- Level cap is increased from 60 to 70
- New jobs - Red Mage (ranged DPS) and Samurai (melee DPS)
- End of PlayStation 3 support
- More actions for each job to go with the new level cap
- Overhaul of the battle system
- Additional skill system to be overhauled
- Reassessment of unused/ineffective actions, adjustment to "tiered" actions
- Adding new UI elements for jobs
- New areas introduced, comparable in size to Heavenswards areas
- Swimming and Diving added
- New Beatment Tribes
- New Primals
- New Dungeons
- New high-end raid
- The Forbidden Land of Eureka (similar to the Diadem)
- New gear and recipes
- Item inventory expansion

and lots lots more!

So far I have managed to complete the main story questions and the patches that are released at the moment. I have started on Eureka and levelling up other classes and my gathering classes too.

Let me know if you are on FFXIV - I'm on the Ragnorak server :)


Sunday, 8 April 2018

27 Things I've Learnt Now That I'm 27!

Hey everyone :)

I turned 27 last year in December and I didn't do much for it as I was in the middle of moving and everything was a mess! I thought I'd do a quick little post on 27 things I've learn now that I'm 27.

1. I constantly complain about "how old I am".

2. People I know are getting married, having kids or getting mortgages.

3. I'm starting to realise I can't categorize myself as "early or mid-twenties".

4. I don't drink often but if I do my hangovers last up to 3 days.

5. I sometimes lie about my age.

6. Bills, Bills, Bills!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (enough said).

7. My friends talk about politics and I have no clue!

8. Some foods are my enemies but I don't want them to be!

9. I'm trying to watch what I eat (I don't, but I should).

10. I shouldn't worry so much about little things.

11. Paying of that year-old debt does lift that imaginary weight from my shoulders.

12. I have a savings account - that I use!

13. I've started "planning" for the future.

14. Admitting my mother was right (was difficult).

15. I try to not care what other people think.

16. I try (and fail) to drink more water each day.

17. Some friends come, and other go ...

18. I enjoy napping as an activity.

19. I understand that not everyone is going to like me.

20. Ah ... GAMING!

21. It's amazing to travel (if you have the money).

22. Learning to smile more, even on those sad days.

23. Waiting before clicking send on that angry email.

24. Learning as much as I can.

25. Being jealous is okay.

26. A good haircut changes everything.

27. Keeping in touch with those old friends!

Hope you enjoy it!


Monday, 2 April 2018

Mary Berry's Panna Cotta with Pineapple & Ginger

Hi everyone :)

I love the classic vanilla panna cotta, but adding the ginger and pineapple gives in a fresh punch. Smooth, creamy panna cotta with the perfect wobble.

For the panna cotta:
- Sunflower oil, for greasing
- 6 sheets of gelatine
- 600ml single cream
- 300ml double cream
- 75g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract

For the sweet salsa:
- 200g pineapple (i used rings from a can, fresh works too)
- 4 stem ginger bulbs, diced
- 6 tbsp ginger syrup (from the jar)

1. You will need six metal pudding basins (timbale moulds). Oil the inside of each mould with sunflower oil, then leave upside down to drain on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil.

2. To make the panna cotta, soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes or until soft.

3. Pour the single and double creams into a saucepan, add the sugar and gently bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until just scalding (about to boil). Immediately remove from the heat.

4. Remove the gelatine from the water and squeeze to get rid of any excess water. Add to the warm cream and stir until the gelatine has completely dissolved. Stir in the vanilla extract and pour into a jug. Divide the mixture among the oiled moulds, pouring almost to the top. Allow to coll a little, then cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours, or ideally overnight, until set and form to the touch.

5. To make the salsa, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

6. Carefully turn out each panna cotta and invert it into the centre of a small plate. Spoon the salsa on top and around the edges to serve.

Let me know in the comments if you have made this recipe - it was so good!

© ShoutJohn. All rights reserved.