What I love about London is all the unique pop ups you get in the summer! As I don’t actually live there now it’s hard to squeeze them all in, but don’t worry I do… More
I had the great experience of helping to plan my Big Sister’s Hen Do. I was so excited when she asked me to be her bridesmaid but the thought of planning a Hen Do made me nervous, like really nervous! Who do you invite? What should we do? Where should we go? So this is my mini guide for all those out there having the same stresses as me.
Talk to the Bride
The best place to start is to talk to the Bride – it is her day (or weekend) after all! Find out what she would like and go from there. Some people want a lots of classic hen do things (talking willies everywhere), some people don’t want any of that and other will want a combo of the two. It’s hard when you fall into one category but the Bride another. Obviously bring some of your own personality to it too, otherwise it will end up feeling very forced but not just that you won’t enjoy yourself either. The main thing is though, don’t force the Bride to do anything they won’t like.
Also get the Bride to do up a guest list!! Don’t guess as you never know you might miss someone off or invite someone they aren’t that close to anymore! Either way make sure you get that list very early on. In fact, pester the Bride until you do and don’t start any major planning until you know. If you’ve got a group coming from all over check everywhere flights/trains to that location or make sure people can drive to it. Pick a location and give everyone an idea. We planned for the most number of people but made sure that if X number of people couldn’t make it it would still be affordable for everyone else.
Pick your location
This is hard, but hopefully your Bride will give you an idea of what she wants. My Sister was after sun and relaxation. So as she lives in the UK that meant time to head abroad, as, let’s be honest the UK isn’t the sunniest. We went off to the amazing Lisbon! It was perfect for what we were after, sun, scenery and lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. We were able to get an AirBnB big enough to fit us all in and still have space to hang out and play games. Now that leads me on to the next point…
I was feeling uncomfortable about thinking of games to play – remember it’s my big sister’s hen do, not a friends. I was lucky enough though to be planning with one of her best friends! She came up with some amazing ones, here they are so you don’t have to worry about thinking of things to do:
Pass the Parcel – instead of music you stick an embarrassing story of each guest on the different layers. Whoever has the parcel has to guess who the story is about. It’s a great one to ease people in when not everyone knows each other. They get it right first time they nominate someone to do a shot, get it wrong first time and they have to do one.
Find your Partner – everyone picks a piece of paper out of a bag and they have “position” on and you have to get into them with your male/female counter part. This can cause lots of screaming! Be warned your neighbours might not like this one as we found out!
Build your Willie – you have 2 minutes to make a willie out of play dough. The bride picks her favourite
Make a Wedding Dress – lots of loo roll is needed for this. Split into teams, pick one person to dress up (one should be the bride!) you have 5 minutes to make the best dress. The game host picks the best one.
For our winners – they nominate a shot
Our losses – got shots
But you don’t have to have alcohol! These games are just as funny sober!
When we looked for our accommodation we made sure there was a space to play these games. Lots of people just get hotel rooms but this felt much more personal, I would highly recommend getting a house/flat!
This is a hard one! In groups you are always going to have people on different salaries. Don’t make people feel pressured to come, never ask why when they say they can’t attend. Main thing is plan to a budget and make people aware of that when you start planning. Give a list – flights, accommodation, an activity, food/drink and what you think they will cost. Also some hen groups will pay for the bride…I personally don’t think that’s necessary and thankfully neither did our bride. Ours came to about €240 plus spending money. I didn’t think that was too bad for 3 nights in a different country.
It’s great if you can to plan an activity out. We went for wine amd port tasting, we were in Portugal after all. It meant the Bridesmaids could also relax and not worry for a few hours as we were very much in the hands of someone else. It doesn’t have to be very big but try to do something that the Bride has always wanted to do or will just enjoy. If she’s an out doors girl maybe go rock climbing or if she likes to be pampered book nails to be done. Don’t make it an expensive thing, I would aim for around £30 per person if it’s a full afternoon thing.
Now this has become a thing to do recently and I think it’s entirely optional. You should never go expecting a gift bag. And if you do do one, it doesn’t have to have anything expensive in! Plus remember you have to get it all to the location to so try not to get anything too heavy or bulky. I did not take my own advice – I took 13 glasses with Beyoncé quotes on a plane, in my hand luggage! Safe to say I did not have many clothes! Get the transfers from here – bespokebride.com – if you fancy being as crazy as me!
We then got paracetamol, tic tacs, Bride Tribe transfers and a homemade glass charm! I have to say one of my favourite parts was the Bride Tribe transfers, super simple but brings everyone together. I also advise you take spares just in case anything goes wrong, don’t want one person feeling left out. One of the other bridesmaids also found some fantastic personalised bags too! “Lets Party Bitches” one side and the girls names on the other! It was a great little touch.
I think the more the better – and they don’t have to be expensive. We printed off 80 photos of the bride through the ages and stuck them all up around the flat. Safe to say this was one of the best things we did. All the girls had a great time laughing at them all…
We also got the classic “Team Bride” banner and some colourful pom-poms. Also, it tends to be the case, but a lot of one group will start to get married and have hen dos around the same time. So when packing up, don’t throw them away, up-cycle and give them to the next person planning a hen do! They will appreciate it and it doesn’t feel like a waste of money!
Number One Rule
ENJOY YOURSELF! You’re going to have put a lot of effort into it all and it is a break for you too so make sure you’re having fun!
It’s been one of those weeks at work…long and stressful. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this but when I am stressed I just don’t sleep. This just makes the days longer, harder and more stressful, it becomes a vicious cycle. So I have a lot of Help Beverages – aka COFFEE!! As The Boy would say, I have a slight addition but hey it’s social acceptable to drink coffee so it doesn’t count.
The problem is my job has been active, making me hot and bothered, coffee doesn’t help so along came the bright idea to make cold brew…
Cold Brew has (apparently!) more caffeine in than your regular cup of Joe. Between this and the fact that it was cold I feel like I’m on to a winner here. It took 24 hours from start to finish but it’s a super simple 24 hours.
I went for the 1:7 ratio of coffee to water.
I used coarse coffee grounds, the ones I used are the same level of coarseness as my French Press.
100g Coarse Ground Coffee
700ml Cool water (not super cold), think room temperature.
Weigh and mix the water and coffee in a large bowl or jug. Leave to soak for 24hours.
Strain through a muslin cloth or coffee filters to get separate the coffee and your cold brew. I left mine to hang overnight. You don’t have to but I like to make sure I get out every drop possible
Bottle and refrigerate – told you it was simple! It keeps for up to two weeks!
When drinking dilute your coffee with water 1:1 ratio. You can have it black with or without ice, with milk, regular or nut, or even add syrups! Basically play around with it and have it your way!
Also don’t forget you can use your used coffee grinds as face scrub or as compost! Don’t go wasting them!
When we moved to Dublin we promised that we were actually going to see a bit of the country. We had lived in Edinburgh for a year and never quite got round to leaving the city! I worked weekends and The Boy was at uni during the week, making it harder to really get a few days to go somewhere. So this time we said we HAD to see more of the country. Plus all the pictures I’ve seen of Ireland make it look so gorgeous, I didn’t want to miss out.
We hired a car for 24hrs (not long!) but we just wanted to head down to Wicklow and Glendalough for some walks and a scenic drive. We do try to make the journey as part of the day as much as the destination. We went via Greystones so I could try out The Happy Pear café! And oh my, it was so worth the little detour. We parked next to the beach and walked along the sand up to the café. It was so lovely to be on the beach…it has been a while since I’ve properly seen the sea. The café is a healthy little place with a great courtyard to sit in while you enjoy your breakfast. I went for the porridge with everything on. It was so good and super filling – just what I needed before the long walk we were going to do. The coffee was also pretty tasty. The café was really busy but still the service was quick. Unfortunately though they had already sold out of their avocado on toast but one of those things…just gives us an excuse to go back again. We headed back to the car but walked through the town this time, it’s a classic seaside town which always makes me really happy. Reminds me of my childhood! I could have happily spent an afternoon just wondering around there. But we got back to the car and headed down to Glendalough and the Wicklow National Park.
The drive took about 30-40 minutes from Greystones but what we didn’t realise was the rest of Ireland seemed to have the same idea! To get into the car park took us about 45 minutes!! So if you do go down, go down early or try to not go down whenever one else is!! I know that’s easier said than done. Anyways, we parked up and set off. We took the long ish walk (I believe it’s the orange one on their map!) which is about 8km taking around 2 hours. And it was gorgeous!! We went left passed the medieval ruins, which are pretty cool. The most obvious part is the 30m Round Tower. It’s a pretty spectacular building. I loved how the door is high off the ground as to stop intruders coming in. There are also ruins of a Church built in the 6th Century along with all the grave stones. It’s amazing what can survive.
Not many people were doing the full walk, or if they were they were walking in the opposite direction to us, and even then it was probably only 3 or 4 couples that passed us! We felt truly alone and it was wonderful. The walk was of medium toughness, though take into account we are both semi fit. There is a small incline about half way. This takes you to one of the most beautiful views of the valley! We just stood there for about 15 minutes taking it all in. It helped that the weather was perfect too… warm with blue sky with a little overcast, perfect walking weather in my eyes. Once I had finished taking lots of photos we moved on. You then go into the more foresty part. This is where the Poulanass Waterfall is. It’s so pretty but I warn you now this is where it is a lot busier! It does take away from it a little but it’s still gorgeous. Plus the sound of the waterfall semi-drowns out the other people.
From here, we walked back passed the car park and headed to the Upper Lake. Yet another fantastic view. Between the refection and the mountains it was stunning. There are also a lot of people with their dogs which I find great fun to watch! Watch them bounding in and out of the water. Wicklow is a real family place, it’s great for kids get them out the house and running around.
We headed back and instead of taking the main roads we drove through the park. It was dusk at this point but it was still so gorgeous. And, much like our walk, it was quiet! The roads are super bendy so at points I did get a little nervous. Though I always do when I’m not too sure on the road. It only took about an hour and forty five minutes to get back, not too bad in the grand scheme of things. And it was worth taking the scenic route, to me it just makes it feel so much more special.
I found it so lovely to see this part of Ireland and it really isn’t far from Dublin. You can easily get there by public transport, so you don’t have to get hire a car. I highly recommend going down if you want to get out of the city.
Many things led to this recipe! I’ve lived in Dublin now for 7 months (SEVEN! Wow, time has flown by!) and I realised I hadn’t cooked or baked with Guinness. This is poor on my side, one: I live in the home of Guinness and two: The Boy works for them, which has meant we have a lot of Guinness in the house! Plus Easter is just around the corner so we all need a good themed Easter recipe in our lives. Also, why should kids get all the chocolatey goodness…
200g Caster Sugar
125g Plain Flour
½ tsp Baking Powder
150ml Guinness Extra Foreign Stout
150g Icing Sugar
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder plus extra for dusting
6 Crème Eggs
Pre heat the oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line a 25x19cm tin.
Melt the butter in a medium sized bowl and stir into the cocoa until it forms a paste. Slowly add 100ml of Guinness, it will foam! Slowly mix together, this is why you need that medium sized bowl! Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until nice and pale. Add the flour and baking powder and fold together until smooth. Repeat with the cocoa powder and remaining Guinness.
Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes. They should be soft to touch but baked all the way through, insert a skewer to check they are done. Set aside, and leave to completely cool.
Whisk together the icing sugar, butter and baileys until light and fluffy. Take about a third of the buttercream and place in another bowl. Add the Cocoa Powder and whisk until smooth to make your cocoa buttercream for the outside of the scotch eggs.
If you have a food processor, place the brownie in and pulse until they look like breadcrumbs. If you don’t, don’t worry! Break up the brownies into small ish chunks, using your electric whisk, on the lowest setting whisk until they break up and again look like breadcrumbs.
Mix the brownie breadcrumbs with Baileys buttercream! Using your hands separate the mixture into 6 balls, approx. 135g each. In your hand, flatten one of the balls, place the crème egg in the middle and fold the brownie mixture around the egg. Squeeze together until you have a smooth ball. Repeat with the other crème eggs.
In a bowl add some cocoa powder ready to cover the scotch eggs
Now it gets messy…
One at a time – using a palate knife, cover the ball in the cocoa buttercream. Place in the bowl of cocoa powder and light roll around until they are completely covered. Repeat until you’ve finished all six!
(N.B – remove the alcohol and this is great to make with kids – you can even cover in sprinkles instead of cocoa powder!)
Every month I get my BBC Good Food Magazine (via my Mother as it’s posted to her house in the UK!). And to my great delight on their feature page was a restaurant in Dublin – Mosa! Not just that it was Sushi Burritos – two of the best things, Sushi and Burritos!! So come date night it was obvious where we were going to go for dinner. It was a bit odd at first as restaurant is a bit of a stretch, probably more café/fast food! They specialise not in the sushi burrito but bubble tea. I know a lot of people love this but I just can’t get over the texture so we didn’t try it. Though I do think next time I go I will, just to see if it was because I had a bad experience once.
There is a wall covered in colourful post-it notes where people have written everything from reviews to love notes to quotes. It’s sweet as you sit there waiting for you food having a little insight into other people’s lives. There are also origami cranes hanging from the ceiling. I have a massive soft spot for the cranes, as a long time ago I made them for The Boy when we weren’t seeing each other regularly.
To the food…I managed to convince The Boy that he wanted to go halves, which was a miracle in itself! I went for the California Dream – Crispy chicken, sesame seeds, avocado, cucumber and mayo. While The Boy went for the Fantastic Salmon – lettuce, avocado, salmon and lots and lots of mayo! He was definitely glad we went halves as mine was definitely the better one. The Salmon was just not as flavourful, and had way too much mayo on.
The sizes were also pretty small, definitely more snack size than dinner size. Two things wrong here – the price is not snack size and we went there for dinner! So we ended up getting some popcorn chicken which was deliciously salty.
The service was great! They all seemed to be really happy bubbly people. It’s always so nice getting great service in places, however big or small they are
In all it was good but that’s just it, it was good…nothing to spectacular. I might go back again but there is a lot of other places I would like to try before I do.
I’ve realised this blog is “Travel, Food and Me” and I’ve not written a single one about me! So this is my life with my lovely Crohn’s Disease…
First and foremost everyone’s disease is different! I have it relatively easy, but it doesn’t stop it being any harder – especially when someone knows someone else who has it so much worse and mine is nothing compared to theirs.
For those who don’t know Crohn’s Disease is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (gross right!). It can affect any part of the gastro system from your mouth to your anus (again, ewww!). It’s an auto-immune disease – in layman’s terms my body attacks itself, all fun and games. Turns out I’ve been suffering from it since I was 16 but not diagnosed until I was in my 20s. And here I am nearly 10 years later…
A lot of people will ask “oh no is it your Crohn’s” when you feel slightly unwell. It’s hard to get annoyed as they mean it in such a caring way but trying to explain that it’s not always that, sometime like them I just get ill. It’s is exhausting. Most people think Crohn’s is a pain in my side that makes me go to the loo a lot. They really don’t know the half of it.
I have a lot of problems thanks to Crohn’s. Some days I can’t stay awake. Fatigue takes over and all I want to do is sleep. I’ll get home from work, cook dinner and sit on the sofa not doing anything and I find myself wanting to go to bed at 7.30pm! I’m 26 years old and the thought of going to bed that early makes me feel ancient. Sometimes when I am in the middle of a flare up I have to sit down in the shower because my body is just too tired. To get across to people how the pain in my side is nothing compared to the exhaustion I can feel.
My joints – wow who knew your joints could feel on fire. When it gets bad I fidget endlessly trying to find that comfortable spot, I’ve been known to be in the oddest positions with limbs everywhere as for that minute it might just stop it. Last Sunday was the first time my Crohn’s has really affected my life (note – I’ve been in hospital, missed my last semester of uni and cancelled so many events) but this was the first time I’ve been out and couldn’t do anything about it. The Boy and I went to see Bear’s Den, and I could hardly stand. I moved around so much, felt so unwell that we had to leave 30 min before then end. I felt ill and upset. My disease ruined someone else’s night and I feel so guilty about it.
My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo! But I made things worse; I put on a bit more weight than I should have so I’ve been working hard to get it off. I’ve managed it WHOOP! I’ve lost a stone since the beginning of the year. The downside – I instantly get asked if I’ve been ill, if my Crohn’s has been causing problem. I don’t get that praise normal people get. I’ve also been told it’s not because I’ve been working hard but because “I’m lucky and my disease helps me loss weight”. But that’s life, sometimes you have to be strong and tell people they are wrong. It can be hard as it makes you second guess yourself.
My diet has changed a lot over the years, not because I was unhealthy before but I have to deal with the consequences of my eating habits. I used to love pasta, I think when I was at uni I had it 5 days a week. Now, I have it once, maybe twice at a push. I used to have a lot of cereal with skimmed milk. Now I don’t even have milk in my coffee. It’s odd, lots of this was just natural progression, some of it I made a conscience decision. I can’t have a lot of dairy as it’s hard to digest so I cut milk so I could have cheese. Sounds crazy but for me it works. And that’s it, for me it works. It makes me happy – I tried to cut dairy and gluten and it made me depressed. I am a foodie and I couldn’t live with a life where I couldn’t eat things. So I go for the little of everything method.
But here I am, I work 40hrs a week, gym 4-5 times a week and have a social life. My life isn’t bad, in fact my life is pretty damn good. I just happen to have this disease but it will not define what I can do. It will never stop me living the life I want, I’m too stubborn for that.
If you’ve just been diagnosed stay strong, half the battle is mental. If you’re suffering, it will be okay, your more than just your disease. 🙂
HAPPY SUNDAY!! It’s spring time (ish!) and I’m getting into preserves and fermenting recently. I think it’s great to stop wasting food but also I find it’s really therapeutic. It’s great to get a product at the end that shows such love and care. It’s also a great way to liven up your cupboard – no more plain strawberry jam for us! You can also use smaller jars and give them to friends and family as gifts.
I know these berries aren’t in season, they literally are called Summer Berries but I’m new and wanted to try with some fruit I knew before doing anything too crazy. I used frozen berries but you can obviously use fresh when they get into season.
And what’s better than using your homemade jam in a Bakewell tart! It’s also a great way to show off, how many times can you say that it’s completely homemade. So here are the two recipes for you…but don’t worry if you don’t like Bakewell Tarts, the jam goes fantastically on toast (even with some cheeky peanut butter too!)
650g Mixed Berries (I used blackberries, raspberries, red currents and black currents!)
35ml lemon juice (approx. half a lemon or use pre juiced)
550g Caster Sugar
1.5tbsp thyme, finally chopped
Yields approx. 0.5l
Place all the berries with the water into a deep, heavy bottomed pan and place on a low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Add the lemon juice and sugar, stir and bring to the boil until it reaches 104°C.
While you are doing this sterilise your jars! Turn your oven to the lowest setting and place your jars in there for about 15 min.
Take the jam off the heat and use the wrinkle test to check it’s ready. Do this by placing a spoon in the jam, using another spoon, on the back of the spoon push a strip through the jam. You are looking for it not to spring back. Stir through the thyme leaves
Spoon into your jars and seal! Your jam should last 6-12 months unopened. Once opened consume within 4-6 weeks.
Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150g butter, chilled
25g icing sugar
1 large free-range egg, beaten
150g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
1 large free-range egg, beaten
1 tsp almond extract
300g icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
First start with the pastry. Measure the flour into a large bowl with the cold butter. Using your finger tips, rub the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add in the icing sugar and stir using your hands. Pour in the beaten egg and mix to form a soft dough. It can be a tad sticky but it will be fine. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, approx 5mm thick. Place into your 23cm/9in fluted flan dish. Pop in the fridge for 40 minutes.
Pre heat your oven to 180C Fan/200C/Gas Mark 6.
Scrunch up some baking paper and place on top of your pastry. Fill with baking beans, or in my case uncooked rice! They both do the same trick! Just make sure you push it into the corners. Bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and take out the rice and bake for a further 7 minutes. Remove and reduce the heat of the oven to 160C Fan/180C/Gas 4 Leave to cool while making your filling.
For the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, egg and almond extract and mix.
Place 5tbsp of your lovely homemade jam into the cooled pastry case. Spread evenly, making sure you get into the edges. Top with your frangipane mix. Carefully push this to the edges making sure you can’t see any jam. A spatula is the easiest way for doing this. Bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden-brown and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.
For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in the almond extract and about 3 tablespoons cold water to make a smooth, fairly thick icing. When the tart has cooled completely, spoon the icing on top and spread to form a smooth surface. Leave to set the icing to set (I know it’s hard! But you’ll hate yourself if you don’t) serve in slices. I recommend some yogurt and some raspberries to top it, makes a great dessert!