Cheap & Free Things to Do in Leeds

roundhaypark1

January can feel like such a bummer after the decadence of December. Budgets. Healthy Diets. Exercise. It’s hardly twinkly lights and champagne, is it? But it doesn’t have to be all bad – here’s some fun things you can do in Leeds that will fit with your New Year budget and help you explore this amazing city we live in! 

Take a Walk 

If we’re lucky, January will throw us some sunshine – and I’m not sure there’s anything better than bundling up in cosy layers and enjoying the crisp air on a sunny winter’s day. There are plenty of places to take a scenic walk in Leeds; my personal favourite is Roundhay Park for the excellent puppy-watching opportunities (so cute!) but I also love the dramatic ruins of Kirkstall Abbey. You can also saunter along the canal for more of an urban landscape, or take a visit to Rodley Nature Reserve to discover Leeds’ wildlife. Meanwood Valley Urban Farm is also a great day out if you’ve got kids – it’s a couple of quid but totally worth it to feed the animals and explore their gardens. 

Enjoy Some Culture 

Leeds is chock-full of museums and galleries, and I’ve barely stepped foot in any of them – much to my shame. If you’re at a loss one afternoon then there are plenty of options – Leeds City Museum, Leeds Art Gallery, The Royal Armouries to name but a few. My favourite is the Gallery at Munro House, which is attached the Café 164 so you can grab a cup of coffee and a slice of cake (their apple flapjack is amazing) whilst you enjoy the art. The Tetley is also worth a look and they often have free events on. 

Grab a Bite 

Whilst eating out can get pricey, there are plenty of places to grab a cheap meal in the city – and you might find a new favourite! The obvious choice is Trinity Kitchen, where you can sample some of the best street food for under a tenner, but venture further afield and you’ll find some other great eats like Café Moor, Fuji Hiro, or Dough Boys pizza at Belgrave Music Hall, which is half-price if you know what time to go. If you’ve got a little more money to spend, both Shear’s Yard and Blackhouse have 50% off food in January if you book in advance – a total bargain. 

Test Your Knowledge 

Any pub worth its salt has a good pub quiz, and if you don’t go overboard on the booze then it can be a cheap night out. Plus, if you play well you could go home richer than you started out – some of the jackpots are pretty hefty! I like the pub quizzes at The Mustard Pot, Outlaws Yacht Club and The Pour House but you’ll find one local to you with no problem. If you’re really feeling the pinch, the pub quiz at The Hop is free and comes with a complimentary supper. You can’t say fairer than that! 

See a Show 

The Brudenell Social Club is one of the coolest places in town, and one of the cheapest. They have a full programme of live music and tickets are rarely more than a fiver, so if you fancy something a bit different then head over to Hyde Park and relive your student days. 

What are your favourite cheap and free things to do in Leeds?

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Weekend Link Love

rain boots

Hey friends! I’ve got a little something for you today. Have you heard of Uber? They’re a private hire car service which you can use totally through your phone – so you can order a car, track it, and, most importantly, pay all at the click of a button. No cash needed! They’ve recently launched in Leeds and we’ve pretty much abandoned regular taxis because it’s so much easier than scrabbling around for pound coins at the end of the night. If you fancy trying them out, sign up here using the code UBERAMYLIZ and get £15 off your first ride. Given that my most recent bill was for £3.51, if you’re not going too far that’ll probably mean a free ride! 

Not only that. but I’ve got all these lovely links for you – my first batch of the year. I know there is plenty more good stuff to come. I think it’s too soon to call the kind of year that 2015 is going to be (although it’s been pretty decent so far) but I have a good feeling about it.

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Resolutions

  resolutions

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that 2014 was a pretty good year for me. The best ever, probably. But it’s time to move forward and plan for 2015. Last year I didn’t set any goals but this year I want to set some intentions for the things I want to bring into my life. Some of them are vague, some more concrete – and none are set in stone. Life is prone to throwing curveballs, so nothing ever can be. Speaking things out loud is the first step to making them happen, right?

Blog Regularly 

Read 100 Books

Eat Breakfast Everyday

Exercise Regularly

Make More Pastry

Bake More Bread

Start a Podcast

Travel More  

Take a Photo Everyday

Connect More with my Long-Distance Friends

Learn to Crochet

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December

Prosecco  
Drinking far too much Prosecco.

Reading on my new Kindle – I love it! 

Driving home for Christmas, and back again. 

Wearing my Christmas jumper at every opportunity. 

Receiving so many foodie gifts for Christmas – people know me! 

Playing Cards Against Humanity at the High Tea Cast Christmas Party. 

Feeling lucky to know so many amazing ladies. 

Listening to the final episode of Serial. I am bereft. 

Reflecting on 2014 and all that it has bought me. 

Answering a million wedding questions from curious relatives. Not long now! 

Painting our bedroom white. If only we could change the carpet… 

Reorganising my Pinterest boards. Strangely satisfying. 

Searching for a new knitting project now that I’ve finished all the snoods. 

Cheering my favourite businesses at the Leeds Food & Drink Awards. 

Enjoying my time off work. It’s good to relax. 

Setting some goals for 2015. It’s going to be a big year. 

How about you?

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A Recipe Round Up

It’s been a busy year on this blog. On a few occasions life has gotten in the way – doesn’t it always – but I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to put out there this year. Looking back is always interesting, and I definitely feel like I can see the progress – as well as some of the foodie obsessions that clearly categorised my year. Lemon, French Toast, crab, chorizo and, as always, brownies all make quite a few appearances in my recipes. I’m not going to promise that they won’t crop up again in 2015 – they are delicious, after all – but I do want to spread my wings a bit next year, improve my skills and bring you some interesting new recipes along the way. 

I’ve pulled together a few of my favourites from this year, and I’d love to know which ones were your favourites, too. I know what I like to cook and blog about – I’ve made all of these recipes more than once and some get requested by friends on a regular basis – but I want this to be a fun place of foodie inspiration for you as well as for me. Happy cooking! 

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Weekend Link Love

snowy forest [Photo by Ales Krivec]

So, Christmas is over and this is my final Weekend Link Love of 2015. How did that happen, exactly? My Christmas trip down South to visit my family was short but sweet, and now I’m safely ensconced back in Leeds, trying my best to get ready for 2015. This week is always an odd one, a kind of limbo filled with leftover chocolates before the new year begins. I think everyone feels a bit reflective, it’s hard not to – but all in all this has been a pretty incredible year. The best ever, perhaps. But if there’s one thing that I know for sure, it’s that the best is yet to come. So pour yourself a drink and enjoy these links; relax now before the franticness of next year is upon us. Thanks for reading, friends!

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A Christmas Pub Crawl

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth These really are the days. Prosecco, Christmas jumpers and a whole bunch of my favourite people all in one place. I think that qualifies as a good time. A really good time in fact. The locations may have been questionable – when you have to go to every pub in the area as part of the rules, you’ll end up in some odd places – but the company is excellent and the wine is plentiful so you can put up with some death stares from the locals. It makes for a better story, anyway. I’m not usually one for traditions – I don’t believe that you should do something just because it’s been done before – but this little pub crawl is fast becoming my favourite Christmas tradition. They say that friends are the family you choose for yourself, and Christmas is a time for family, after all. 

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

I’ve never met a group of people who can put away as much alcohol as these ones. As a lightweight, I never make it to the final pub – when you start at 2.30pm then it’s perfect acceptable to have a bedtime of 9.30pm, right? In between the pouring of more Prosecco, the clinking of glasses and the swapping of Secret Santa presents there are secrets shared, stories told and reassurances given. Somehow in between all of the gatherings, the parties and the nights out, this (not so) little group of people became some of the most important in my life. It is so fun to share the highs with them, but good to know that they’re there for the lows as well. 

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth Christmas, however, is very much a high. Before we go our separate ways, all of us leaving Leeds to travel home to our respective families, it’s nice to celebrate together. Merry Christmas, guys. I love you all! 

A Christmas Pub Crawl // Amy Elizabeth

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Weekend Link Love

bridge  Hey friends! The next time we talk, we’ll have celebrated Christmas. It’s come on so fast this year, and I’m still not ready. I will be wrapping and baking and decorating like a whirling dervish in the next couple of days, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m watching Gossip Girl repeats and drinking Sloe Gin, so it’s a pretty merry time. Last night we went on a Christmas pub crawl, all decked out in our Christmas finery – it’s wonderful to have so many of my favourite people in one place, even if we are in dingy pubs. How have you been celebrating the festive season? 

  • I am so into the idea of a capsule wardrobe. So stylish. So easy. 
  • I think my main goal for 2015 is to go back to Norse. It may be the best restaurant in Yorkshire. 
  • What would happen if you lived your life according to Pinterest
  • I’m in love with my Kitchenaid – their maker story is pretty interesting, too.
  • The Real Junk Food Project in Leeds is pretty much the most incredible thing. 
  • Slovenia is pretty high on my ‘to-visit’ list – doesn’t it look gorgeous? 
  • It’s definitely one of my aims for 2015 to get better at food photography, so I’ve bookmarked this guide to get started with. 
  • One of my favourite blogs this year was My Scandinavian Home – so much pretty. 

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Easy Chocolate Fudge

Easy Chocolate Fudge

I have dreams of opening a chocolaterie. This is a new dream, borne of reading ‘Chocolat’ too many times, and certainly not one that is likely to come to fruition any time soon, my chocolate-making skills being what they are. But the thought of being surrounded by the smell of melting chocolate all day, tying boxes of treats with luxurious ribbons and spreading joy with truffles and caramels is definitely a tempting one. To keep the dream alive, I bought the ‘Chocolat’ recipe book and satisfied my chocolate cravings by losing myself in its pages and then opting for the simplest recipe – Chocolate Fudge. I’ve made three batches so far, with different ratios of dark/milk chocolate, and each one has been devoured by colleagues, friends and, um, me within hours of opening the tin. It’s just irresistible. If you’re looking for an easy DIY present for Christmas, or just fancy putting a smile on someone’s face, make this fudge, and be sure to snaffle a few pieces before you give it away. 

Easy Chocolate Fudge

Easy Chocolate Fudge
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Ingredients
  1. 300g dark chocolate
  2. 100g milk chocolate
  3. 397g sweetened condensed milk
  4. 25g unsalted butter
  5. 100g icing sugar
  6. 40g cocoa powder
Instructions
  1. Line a square baking tin with baking paper and leave to one side.
  2. Place the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat when fully melted.
  3. In a separate saucepan, gently heat the butter and condensed milk until the butter is melted and the mixture is warmed through.
  4. Mix together with the chocolate. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl and stir together until fully combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and use a knife to smooth the top. Place in the fridge for at least an hour until set.
  6. Remove the fudge from the fridge and cut using a knife warmed under the hot tap for a minute (it helps cut through). Dust with cocoa powder and enjoy!
Adapted from Joanne Harris & Fran Warde
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

 

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Book Club

Mug in Front of Fire

This month I joined the library. It’s taken me far too long to do so – I’ve lived in this city over 3 years – and I’d almost forgotten the joy of them. My local library is a dream, housed in the old Police Station and stocked with ancient shelves that look just how a library should. Being able to read books totally for free is an absolute privilege and it makes me sad that there are library cuts across the country – not least because it means that the chances of me getting my hands on Leeds’ copy of The Hunger Games is a little thin on the ground. It makes me miss my University library – a true Beauty-and-the-Beast, Hogwarts-style library with racks and racks of ancient wooden shelves and every book you could imagine (apart from that one about Aristotle that I really needed that one time…). Either way, I am grateful that libraries exist – and even then, I am probably less grateful than the elderly gentleman who was learning to use a computer from the librarian whilst I was there. What an absolute joy that libraries exist. 

The Lollipop Shoes, Joanne Harris 

2014 is officially the year that I discovered the work of Joanne Harris – and I am so pleased that I did. The Lollipop Shoes is the sequel to her bestseller, Chocolat, and is equally as wonderful. It has a slightly darker edge than Chocolat, with a much nastier antagonist – Zozie de L’Alba, a glamorous woman who barrels into the lives of Vianne, Anouk and Rosette and befriends them but with a sinister ulterior motive. I spent a lot of this novel frustrated at Vianne, who has lost a lot of her sparkle and confidence – I just wanted her to stand up and do what she really wanted, to tell the truth and sort herself out. That was the point, of course, and the tension was built beautifully to the showdown at the end – you’re not entirely sure whether there will be a happy, or satisfying, ending. I absolutely loved this book, and have picked up the final novel in the trilogy to enjoy over the Christmas break – I can’t get enough of Vianne Rocher and her chocolaterie

In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan 

Ian McEwan is one of my favourite novelists and has written some of my favourite books of all time – Sweet Tooth and Atonement are both on the list – but I’ve not really explored much of his earlier work. This book of short stories is, as you’d expect from McEwan, dark, disturbing and unsettling. I struggled to get through some, not sure on the point that he was trying to make, and it’s clear that he’s developed so much as a writer since these stories. I read a review that calls these stories ‘B-sides’ and I think that description is apt, but perhaps ‘literary experiments’ would be a kinder way to describe them. If you’re a McEwan fan then they are worth a read but otherwise I would pass by and try something else (such as Alan Bennett’s ‘Smut’, which are also short stories about sexuality but are infinitely better and a lot less disturbing). 

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro 

Yet another of my many re-reads this year, I was not sold on this book the first time around. I don’t think I was sold on it the second time around, either. Look away now if you don’t want a spoiler – but the ‘twist’ that they are clones to be harvested for human organs feels a little clunky the whole way through. There is so much that goes unexplained until right at the end when – bam – their ex-headmistress tells all in a spiel that’s supposed to be thought-provoking about human nature but feels a little too convenient. Kathy is also an annoying narrator – don’t tell me what you’re going to tell me next, just tell me! That said, I did enjoy the parts set at school in the beginning of the novel, and the relationship between Kathy, Ruth & Tommy. Ruth in particular was a fascinating character and I kind of wish that she’d been telling the story. I feel like I’m being overly critical of this novel – so many laud it as a great work, and I can see what they’re getting at but I just didn’t warm to it at all. I’d like to read Ishiguro’s ‘Remains of the Day’, which is supposed to be excellent but I think this one is going to the charity shop. 

The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year, Sue Townsend

I have loved Sue Townsend’s work for a long time, and I was very sad when she passed away earlier in the year. This is the only book of hers that I haven’t read, so when I spotted it in the aforementioned library I immediately squirrelled it home with me. I’m a little sorry that I did so – although only a little. This book is unmistakably Sue Townsend – the sharp observations, the wit, the slight absurdity – but it has a melancholy note to it that is absent from a lot of her other work (except, perhaps the final Adrian Mole book which did not end the way I wanted it to…). This book does what it says on the tin – it’s about a woman who goes to bed for a year. Whether it’s a nervous breakdown, depression or just a refusal to conform to society’s rules, Eva goes to bed on the day her children go to University and doesn’t get up for a year. When you find out more about her life, it feels understandable, but as time goes on and she misses out on so much, slowly boarding herself up in her room, it feels very bleak. Not one to read if you’re in a fragile emotional state. 

 

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