My flight essentials

I'm off to NYC on Friday! Have I spoken about that on social media a lot? I have a few trusty things that I take on every plane journey - long or short haul. I've been lucky enough to visit a far few places and feel like I have my backpack down to a tee now. Looking at these photos, I feel like my kit is looking pretty scruffy. But it's all well loved! Here is what I always make sure I have before I board a plane.

My backpack
First things first, I get my travel backpack out of storage. My trusty Kanken may have seen better days but it's been on me to six different cities now and I can't bear to part with it. For such a small size, it can carry a surprising amount of things. Sometimes I think it comes from the Mary Poppins department of bags. Its so lightweight and I love the fact it can be put on your back or you can carry it by its handles.

This is without a doubt the most important thing you will pack because how can you be a Brit abroad with this eh?

Even if you're not visiting a cold country, a scarf is a great multi-purpose item to pack in your backpack. I find planes really cold and tend to send up sitting next to someone who is a very hot person and insists on having the air con on so I use this as a blanket. It can also double up as a pillow when you fancy a nap.

Relevant guidebook
I'm a guidebook addict so I always carry one - or three - around. I've spent endless hours before hand making lists upon lists of sights I want to see, places I want to eat and bars I want to enjoy a cocktail. I love to read them as last minute research on planes, just incase I've missed anything. Plus it helps to get even more excited for what is to come!

Most of the time I don't actually read this as I have been visiting a lot of city breaks so I've been too busy trying to explore every nook and cranny. But I have a few train journeys and beach holidays this year so this will be my best friend. I always bring it just in case because you never know when you might have a spare 30 minutes.

Holiday purse
I have a special holiday purse that I always take away from with just my spending money, bank card and driving license in it. As a person who is the Queen of forgetting things I always think it's slightly tempting fate to bring my everyday purse.

These are my second pair of UrbanEars and I love them. I think for the money they're really good and I love the fact they come in such bright colours. I picked these yellow ones up from TK Maxx for £16. The light colour means they go grubby pretty quickly but I love how bright they are.

BONUS: Bottle of water
I always make sure I buy a bottle of water airside as I don't want to take out another mortgage to buy one on the plane. And it's never about getting dehydrated before you've even arrived at your destination right?


What I've been cooking #3: Rachel Allen's Home Baking

I seem to have rediscovered my love for baking since I moved out from my parents. One of my favourite things to on a Sunday is to spend all day in kitchen, trying my hand at new recipes. The last few weeks I have been working my way through Rachel Allen's Home Baking cookbook - I was sent her book through work as I look after the food page so featured some of the recipes online. I'd read a few reviews that her recipes are foolproof so I was looking forward to great things. It turns out her recipes - no matter how difficult they sound - really are simple. The book is full of detailed recipes that cover everything and exciting bakes. I tried my hand at some out of my comfort zone and they turned out perfectly. It's definitely a book I'll be coming back time to time again. I haven't had a bake requested so much from friends than when I made her chocolate orange brownies for a few house gatherings!

Banana and date loaf
A classic banana loaf is one of my favourite things to make. So I was keen to see if the addition of dates could improve a bake that I already think is tasty. Turns out they do! The dates helped to add a delicious richness to the loaf. It's so simple and the perfect cake to have on a weekend afternoon when you have guests round. Such a crowd pleaser!

Chocolate orange brownies
I don't have a very good track record with making brownies. But I was determined to finally make an edible batch.  I did cook these for a touch too long as they came out more cake-like rather than fudgey. But they were absolutely delicious! The orange zest really gave them something special. I took them to a baby shower and they went down a treat. The second time I cooked them I think they could have done with a couple more minutes. But the gooey inside was delicious! Third time lucky and I'm sure I'll get them right.

Lemon and poppy seed loaf
The original recipe called for muffins but I don't have a muffin tin in my house yet so I turned it into a loaf. I added a simple glaze of lemon juice and sugar as you can never have enough lemon right? It took around 50 minutes for it to cook as a loaf apposed to the 25 minutes predicted for muffins. It's quite a dense cake but utterly delicious. It's a good loaf to have in a tin for when people come round for a cuppa. I'll definitely be making it again.

Baked doughnuts
I'm a bit of a safe baker. I stick to classic cakes that I know I can do rather than try my hand at different things. So in an attempt to try and get out of my comfort zone I tried my hand at making some doughnuts. I promised myself this year would be the year I tried to use yeast - and be successful. Now these doughnuts are basically a whole day's job. They're not quick and certainly not simple so a lazy Sunday would be the time to try them. I think waiting for the dough to rise, cooking and decorating, it took around four hours. They came out tasting quite bready which I think is because they were baked rather than fried. Despite being a bit of a time suck, they were pretty simple to make. It's just a lot of waiting around. They were really tasty but I'm not sure I'll make them again.

Spiced ginger cakes
Instead of making 16 individual cakes, I made one large round one. This was absolutely delicious and so simple to make. Just a shame some of the top came off when I peeled off the tinfoil halfway through cooking. I usually make a Levi Roots recipe but the added ingredients of black treacle and golden syrup gave this one the edge for me. It has such a great punchy flavour thanks to the ground ginger and crystallised ginger. Definitely one I'll be making time and time again.

Chocolate and coconut flapjacks
This was my first time baking flapjacks so I was little nervous. It turns out I didn't pat them down hard enough so they came out a bit too soft for my liking. Luckily they hardened up a fair bit as they cooled down. So my tip is to be very sure they are really compact. I couldn't really taste the coconut so I'd add a bit extra next time I make them. As there will be a next time! The would be great if you dipped half in melted chocolate for a little something extra.

A catch up: March 2018

Learning to budget
Since February I've been on a strict £40 a week as we try to pay off our insane credit cards bills. It's been difficult, especially as I'm someone who loves spending my hard earned cash. But it has made me really think about everything I'm buying. I've realised I really don't need to buy my lunch from Pret twice a week as it means I can then go out for dinner with friends at the weekend. I paid a good amount off my credit card last month and put aside half of what is needed to pay for my accommodation in NYC - and my account still looks pretty healthy. Usually by 11 days before payday I'm in single figures. So I'm feeling pretty smug but I am having daily browses on ASOS wishing I could splurge on all the pretty dresses for my summer holiday. That it killing me but yet I can't seem to bring myself away from my screen! Do you have any tips on how to make saving money seem fun?!

Going to NYC
I can't believe it's been a whole year ago since we booked our flights to NYC. It's gone so fast! We flight out on 16th March for a week in the second greatest city in the world. I've made our itinerary and am really excited to tick things off that I didn't manage to do in 2014. But if you have any suggests for restaurants and bars then I'd love to hear them. You can never have too many on your list!

Mother's Day gifting
Biscuiteers got in touch to see if they could send my mum a special gift for Mother's Day. Who says no to a box of delicious biscuits? Especially when they look as delicious as this! I've been lucky enough to nibble of a fair few of their biscuits so knew my mum was in for a treat. I went for the 'Time for Tea' gift box as we are both huge fans of going to afternoon tea together and I thought it was very apt. Presented in a pretty tin, you'll receive up to 12 biscuits with the option to have one on the top layer personalised, helping to add a lovely touch. I know my mum will be thrilled to receive them!

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A Essex based lifestyle blogger who lives a champagne life on a lemonade purse!

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