Sunday, 28 February 2016

Cherry Pick of the Week: Twenty One Pilots ~ Stressed Out



It's been a while since we've popped up on a Sunday with a Pick of the Week, right? But this tune WILL NOT LEAVE MY NOGGIN!

I'm thanking the 'Discover' option on Spotify, that and a concerted effort to listen to more music when I'm out & about. Truly, the biggest loss in not driving is the loss of caraoke . 

Twenty One Pilots though, they're a little bit sound, aren't they?

Tell us, what's been playing on repeat in your world this week?

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Things That Rustle My Jimmies



Given the cracking weekend we've just had it was pretty difficult to identify five jimmie rustlers this week; difficult BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE!!



1. The fact that we still have to put our tiny liquids in tiny plastic bags to get on an airplane.



2. Not being able to say 'No' when I'm asked if I want to play the Lotto. I'm not generally suspicious and I don't play the lotto usually but if I said no & they won I would never forgive myself. Ever. 


3. People that rev at pedestrian crossings. 


4. People that share Live Leak videos of gruesome deaths or images of cruelty and abuse on Facebook under the guise of 'spreading awareness'! 



5. 'I won't be voting. Why bother?'


And those are them. Feels better just getting back into the jimmie unrustling habit to be honest. 

Tell us, what's been rustling your jimmies this week? 


Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Pitfalls of Booking Bargain European Trips & How to Avoid Them!



Cherry Sue kindly bought me a ticket to join her and my two nephews for a 4 day break in the Netherlands’ Capital, Amsterdam. I haven’t been away with the lads in a long time so I’m really looking forward to catching up, even if they make me feel ancient as I still can’t believe they are grown men (Sue here, WHO YA TELLIN'?!). There were a couple of pitfalls in booking though, so I thought it'd make a handy guide so you can avoid them altogether. 

As it was a surprise she didn’t tell me when she was booking, unfortunately she was duped by edreams. I would have told her to stay well clear of them, they are notorious for horrendous customer service and 'dubious business practices', just one look at their social media will show you that. Ryanair are currently embroiled in a legal battle with them to stop them from using their graphics, so you think you are on Ryanair’s website when you are in fact on a mirror image site that is edreams

First of all she booked Amsterdam and they sent her confirmation mail with Eindhoven as the destination. When she eventually got through to someone she said ah yeah that’s no problem it’s near enough to Amsterdam! WHAT?! Then they took a double payment from her debit card and held it for over a week, numerous calls, mails & tweets later she was refunded the overpayment. Well now she knows not to use them again and hopefully you do too! 



I was asked however to give a hand with getting us a hotel or hotels I should say as we are going to Eindhoven we decided to spend a night there and 2 nights in Amsterdam. My first port of call was trivago.ie as they are a price comparison website, then lastminute.ie as even though they are predominantly for last minute breaks you can also book in advance and if you happen to find a secret hotel you might just save a packet. I wrote a post all about the secrets of secret hotels you can catch up here. I must admit I don’t really use hotels.com anymore as, for the most part, they only give you a room only rate so by the time you add breakfast it ends up costing more than if you book direct with the hotel(!).

I decided on Amsterdam Tropen Hotel, a modern museum hotel located just 2.5km from Central Station. I found this with Amoma.com through trivago.ie. Just before I booked it I received a mail from Amoma, as I had used them before, inviting me to book any hotel for any dates using promo code LOVE10 for a 10% discount to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I was delighted; it’s nice to get an extra few Euro off an already good deal. 

See why I fell for The Tropen?

Now this is where it gets tricky, to book with the discount code you must book through the link on the mail they sent. Off I went and clicked the link only to find that the hotel is actually more expensive using the link. When I searched through Trivago.ie I got a price of €360 for 2 rooms for 4 adults including breakfast with no credit/debit card fees. When I used the link from Amoma.com I was quoted €390 using the promo code brought it down to €351 BUT there is a credit card fee of €10.49 bringing it back up to slightly more than the original quote with Trivago.ie. There is however no fee for using a debit card so I booked it that way and got the €351 rate. 

A peek inside The Tropen

While I was researching all of this my phone rang, it was Amoma, they had seen I was searching prices as I had signed in and wondered if they could help. I explained the discrepancies in prices, especially with the credit card fee differences, unfortunately he couldn’t help, he just wanted the booking. The moral of this particular story? Just be careful when you receive a promo code as it might be what it seems at all. We paid €87.75pp for 2 nights B&B for Amsterdam Tropen Hotel, this does not include a local city tax that must be paid at all hotels in the Netherlands, ours will be €19 total for this stay.

The Queen Hotel - Eindhoven
It was then time to book Eindhoven, as we are only staying one night I decided we really needed to be slap bang in the centre of it all so we wouldn’t waste any time travelling when we could be enjoying the culture (beer and food!). I scoured the usual sites trivago.ie, hotelscombined.ie even priceline.com. I found a fantastic deal with booking.com through trivago.ie for The Queen Hotel on Market Square; you couldn’t get more central if you tried. We decided to book room only as a cafe nearby was recommended to us for breakfast. The total cost for 1 night, 2 twin rooms, room only was €112.10. That works out as €28pp excluding €3.50 City tax pp to be paid locally. 

Rooms at The Queen

We will be using public transport for the duration of our stay in the Netherlands; I got all the information we needed about trains, trams & buses from Gloogle Maps, http://9292.nl/en and http://en.gvb.nl/ The last two are local public transport websites.

Sop how's about you come along with us? We’ll be snapchatting from @ItsCherrySue & @Stonetravel, we’ll also be tweeting from @itscherrysue, @stonetravel4 & @DIEhardDublin (that's our movie buff Aaron by the by).

Have you any recommendations of where to eat/ drink? Or what to see/ do while we are in Amsterdam and Eindhoven? We’d love to hear 'em!


Friday, 12 February 2016

Zoolander 2 - Movie Review




Who's In It?

 and 


What's It About?

Derek Zoolander, hoping to get his son back, returns to modeling with the help of Hanzel.




Any Good?

I think what bothered me about Zoolander 2 is that it felt like it was trying way too hard to be outrageous but fit it in the little set of rules they were given.

The jokes just seemed so weird the first time, but it does the same joke over and over until it kills any semblance of funny. There were some great celebrity cameos in the film that are funny in themselves, and give a saving grace to it.




Ben Stiller is Derek Zoolander again, but for some reason watching him I couldn't shake the idea of White Goodman doing a Zoolander impression in Dodgeball. Owen Wilson wasn't bad as Hanzel, but he is Mr. Whispertalk and you can't hear what he says a lot of the time. Rest assured, it's pretty much some variation of "who am I". 

I was never the biggest Zoolander fan, so I found the movie not as bad as everyone else it seems. The only joke in the movie that actually had any subtlety was the opening 9/11 one, which goes to show that if you try too hard the film ends up being the joke.

Rating: 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Things That Rustle My Jimmies


The fact that this post nearly didn't make it today might tell you just how this week has gone so far. Ready for some unrustling? I know I am!


1. The fact that I react entirely differently now to Justin Bieber popping up on my Spotify playlist...



2. Toddlers in the cinema for evening screenings!


3. Diesel now deciding 2k is the absolute limit that he'll walk - have YOU tried to force an 10st Rottweiler around a park?!



4. The visual vomit that is a bajillion election posters - there's only so much gurning we should be expected to tolerate!


5. When you're second language is emoji & someone joins the conversation using an iPhone so all you see is X X X X



Tell us, can you relate? What's been rustling your jimmies this week? 


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

An Evening at Sika in Powerscourt Hotel ~ The #AAFoodies Experience!


Coming at ye with a little something different this week, in the form of a peek inside an evening with the AA Foodies and a look at exactly what Sika in Powerscourt Hotel have to offer by way of heavenly eats. 

I was over the moon last week to receive an invite to join the AA Secret Inspector and some other food enthusiasts at the AA Hotel of the Year Powerscourt Hotel, Resort and Spa, Enniskerry Co Wicklow for what was billed as the AA Foodie event of the year; they weren’t wrong! If you’re a regular reader round these parts you’ll know that while I often review hotels, I also give you recommendations on where to eat and what to see in the locality. Today’s post however is all about food, glorious food.


Powerscourt in all her glory


Last Friday I was really nervous, although I knew some of the people attending through social media I hadn’t actually met any of them. I really needn’t have been worried at all as when I arrived at Powerscourt I met Vicky from the AA at the door; she’s so lovely and immediately put me at ease. We proceeded into the reception area of the hotel where we were greeted with a glass of bubbles and a very warm welcome. We had time for a quick chat so we could get acquainted with each other. I met Darina who was recently a contestant on the Great Irish Bake Off, she’s friendly and so funny, and we had a giggle or two before we were ushered down to Sika Restaurant itself.



We had the honour of sitting at the Chef’s Table in the heart of the kitchens in Skia, an AA Rosette award winning Restaurant. I had the pleasure of sitting between my home baking hero, Catherine Leydon and Niamh, the AA foodie of the Year. Chef de Cuisine Peter Byrne introduced each dish from his Black Truffle Dinner, a 6 course tasting menu; as did George the in-house Sommelier. George told us about the particular wines he had chosen for each dish and his reasons behind each choice. We were thoroughly spoilt on the night.



The majority of the produce used on the truffle themed menu was sourced locally with the emphasis staying true to the Sika ethos, based on two key factors quality and seasonality. Each course was constructed with a lot of care taken to get the taste, balance and presentation just right. As we were at Powerscourt I was expecting fine dining, all of my expectations were not only met but entirely exceeded. I was mesmerised watching Head Chef Paul Byrne and his team of Chefs work their magic, before each and every dish got the final seal of approval before they left the pass. It was a wonderful experience to spend the evening chatting with like minded people over scrumptious food.

So what did we devour? What DIDN'T we devour is an easier question!



  • Truffled Jerusalem artichoke soup with toasted hazelnuts

  • Torrontes, Crios de Susana Baldo, Valle de Cafayete, Argentina
  • Knokdrinna’s goat’s cheese, blood orange jelly, beetroot, charred cucumber  
  • Gruner Veltiner Wolfsgraben, Sepp Moser, Austria
  • Terrine of foie gras, radish, herb salad, toasted brioche
  • Jurancon, Clos Uroulat, Charles Hours, France
  • Wild halibut, savoy cabbage, stuffed chicken wing, truffles cream
  • Masetto Bianco, Endrizzi, Alto Adige, Italy
  • Sirloin of Irish rose veal, buttered leek, chanterelle mushroom, artichoke, truffled potato purée
  • Pinot Noir, Nuits-St.Georges, Louis Jadot, Burgundy, France
  • White Chocolate mousse, orange, truffle ice cream
  • Moscatel, Floralis, Bodegas Miguel Torress, Penedes, Spain

If you’d like to follow some AA Foodies on Twitter you can search #AAFoodies for lots more photos & insights from the night or follow these fab folk: @AAInspector @GourmetGrazing, @EatDrinkRunFun, @gamebirdFC, @eatsleepchic_ie, @_melaniemay, @emma_ratcliffe, @CatherineOdlums & @darinacoffey

Pic via the gorgeous Steph over at EatSleepChic.ie




Tell us, have you stayed in Powerscourt or dined in Sika before? Would you consider them for a treat now? I know I'll be returning to stay over and Sue has made me pinky swear to bring her with me!



Disclaimer:

*As stated above I did not pay for my meal, nor have I
been paid for this post. I was lucky enough to be chosen 
as one of the #AAFoodies. If you’d like to dine at Sika Restaurant 
bookings can be made online at HERE or by calling 
01 2749313; prices start at €51pp - worth every cent IMHO. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Monday's Moments ~ 08/02/16


How do, Monday? How do indeed! We're back to regular giving of thanks and counting of blessings and this week has been no different. I'd love to hear what's going great in your world today, pop me a comment, get in touch on one of our other platforms or ya'know say thanks directly to whomever is chasing your Monday Blues away:


1. Managing to get in a movie night last Saturday with Aaron, they're a rare occurrence these days and even rarer that the three of us will be home to partake. As an aside, both Tucker & Dale vs Evil (stupidly funny slapstick horror) & Housebound (darkly hilarious NZ horror) on Netflix are worth your time. We both loved 'em both!


2. While at the Benefit launch of the Bold is Beautiful campaign last week I bit the bullet and allowed the artist there to draw a caricature of me. Delighted I did, as despite it resembling a young Esther Rantzen (see HERE) it also depicts yours truly as a super hero. 

Great fit for the campaign but also great choice of artist as normally those lads look at you, identify your greatest complex AND MULTIPLY IT A THOUSAND TIMES. Not this time. 


3. One of my very best work pals was transferred to a different section over a year ago. Short of catching her at the occasional break I've been pining ever since. Yes, I'm a grown woman. No, I don't care. Well, she's only gone and gotten a transfer back!! 

I'm giddy at the thought of having her in the office & fairly sure she was over the moon to hear she was coming back to me too...



4. I made a new rule this week: If you knock on my door then I won't be voting for you. It's now Adam's job to answer the door and lie that he's too young to vote and I'm not home. 

The thing is he's now taken to coming up with ever more elaborate excuses as to where I am. Today I was 'Gone to Rosslare to pick up her sister because she couldn't risk the airports' (!) The bewilderment on canvasser's faces leaving is almost enough to get up from the couch for, ALMOST. 


5. Getting the mail to invite me back to Midday! I was bowled over by support from you lovely lot for the trial days and have no doubt that the fantastic reaction across all platforms helped in TV3's decision but they've invited me back. I'M GOING BACK!



So tell us, what Moments mean there's no Monday Blues around your way today? 

Do share!


Friday, 5 February 2016

Goosebumps - Movie Review




Who's In It?

 and 


What's It About?
Zach believes his new neighbour is abusing his daughter and sneaks into their house to rescue her. After accidentally opening a locked book, he discovers his Neighbour is R.L. Stine and his locked Goosebumps manuscripts release the monsters into the real world.




Any Good?

I remember growing up with Goosebumps, reading the books in primary school then watching the show because Are You Afraid of the Dark was too scary for me. I'm delighted to say that the film really captured the feel of the (pretty bad looking back) tv show with a bit more comedy.

The movie is pure cheese (as was the show, which is on Netflix!), but the monsters themselves looked great - in a B movie way. It's not that the monsters were bad, they were actually fantastically animated in both design and movement; but they were obviously designed for 3D in some scenes and it gives them a weird look.


I'd mentally blocked out Slappy for YEARS


The cast actually is made up of younger people which surprised me, because the main character who's my age (20) looks about 30. The younger characters were just the usual teenage movie actors, but I really liked Jack Black as R.L. Stine and Slappy. He was mostly himself as R.L. Stine, but as Slappy he did his best Joker impression to remind me how much that doll freaked me out.

I'd been cautiously optimistic when I first read about this movie a few years back, but I really enjoyed it. It opens as a bit like Fright Night, but becomes it's own as the film goes on. It's a great B-style movie which I had a lot of fun with, I'd recommend it for new kids and people who grew up with the series. 

Rating: 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Revealing the Secrets of Secret Hotels!



I’ve been booking loads of hotels around Ireland lately as my husband’s new job requires a lot of travel. While using the usual booking sites to find the best rates and I’ve come across “Secret Hotels” on lastminute.ie. They’ll give you a description of the secret hotel and tell you it’s at a better rate, sometimes up to 45% off regular rates. But you won’t know the exact hotel until after you’ve booked. Well I’ve figured out the secret about secret hotels. Thus taking the mystery out of it before I click “book” so I can make an informed decision as to whether I’m making a great saving or not; I'm all about calling out travel 'bargains' that aren't bargains at all.

With a little detective work you’ll most likely find the name of the hotel. First thing to do is keep an eye on the url as sometimes the hotel name will pop up there. If it doesn’t Google is your friend, simply copy the description of the hotel and do a general google search. This either gives you the name of the hotel or narrows down your search significantly.


Ssssh.... it's a secret locaysh!


If you still have a couple of possibilities you can then use the description to triangulate using Google maps, for instance, they’ll usually tell you if it’s within walking distance of a landmark or near a certain restaurant. 

Eeeee - it's a mysteryyyyy


I was searching for a hotel in Belfast last week when I was offered a “Top Secret Hotel” Modern 4-Star Hotel In Belfast City Centre**** I Googled the description and came up with a handful of hotels so by method of deduction, I worked out that it’s the Clayton Hotel as they have a pool. There was only a Euro or so price difference between lastminute.ie and lastminute.com (UK site). I’d say this was just due to currency conversion.



Which hotel were we staying in here? WHO KNOWS?!


By going direct with the hotel getting their “best available rate room only” it was €223.39(£169.32) withlastminute.com as a secret hotel room only it was £135 (€178.11) so I made a saving of €45.28. My only reason for using the UK site to book was that I also Google searched for a promo code for lastminute.comand found one giving me a further £5 (€6.60) off but it would only work on the UK site and not the Irish site. I made a total saving of €51.88 for my husband’s 2 night stay.

I have to laugh though as I made the saving for my husband’s company not for us as it’s all on expenses. This budgeting and bargain hunting obsession I have is an illness!

Ahoo, where could this be?

Stone Travel Detective Work REVEALS...

Here are a few more hotels I have worked out using the steps above:

Trendy 4-Star City Centre Hotel with a Plush Spa**** Malmaison Birmingham

Historic 4-Star Hotel, with Contemporary Style, in the Centre of Belfast**** Malmaison Belfast

Iconic 5-Star Hotel in Southern Amsterdam***** Hilton Amsterdam

Modern 4-Star Hotel Near 3Arena**** Clayton Hotel, Cardiff Lane

Centrally Located 3-Star Hotel near Trinity College Dublin*** O’Callaghan Mont Clare

Great Hotel in the Heart of Dublin*** Maldron Hotel Pearse Street

Wonderful and Convenient 4-star Hotel near the River Liffey**** The Ashling Hotel

Lively Hotel Right in the Heart of Temple Bar*** Temple Bar Hotel



Have you ever booked a Secret Hotel? How was it?