Going to Florida Without Visiting the Parks….. Are you Mad?!

Well, yes, I may be a little mad. But it is entirely possible to visit the State of Florida, and stay in the Orlando area, and NOT visit any theme parks.

Not everyone has the budget or the inclination to visit theme parks. Think of the millions of people who live there who don’t visit the parks. I personally love the place, and even though I would love to go to Disney World and Universal Studios on every trip, it’s just not practical from a time and money perspective. Plus there is SO MUCH to do when you’re there, it would be silly not to venture away from the parks and see what else is around.

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What you choose to do will be purely down to what interests you. My personal choice is to try to get a little bit of Disney and Universal in my trip, without forking out on the park tickets.

To do this, I usually check whether there are any event tickets I can buy (if the budget will stretch to it) for one evening in a park. I tend to visit during the Halloween period, so there’s Halloween Horror Nights if you can stomach it, at Universal Studios (I tried it and hated it, despite being a huge horror fan. Let’s keep the peril on the screen and not in my face, thank you very much), and there’s Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Disney’s Magic Kingdom (much more my style). Both offer you entry and the run of the parks for a dedicated number of hours on one evening.

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You also have the option of the park’s leisure areas, so City Walk for Universal and Disney Springs for Disney. You don’t need a park ticket for either of these. City Walk has restaurants, bars, shopping and I believe there’s a cinema there too. Disney Springs is bigger and offers shopping (both Disney Parks merchandise and other branded stores) restaurants, bars, bowling, cinema, and other activities.

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I personally LOVE Disney Springs, because there’s so much to do. The shopping is great, the restaurants are excellent and there’s a lot to do and see. Plus parking is free there, unlike at City Walk.

From Disney Springs you can also take a free bus to any of the Disney resorts so you can have a nosey around the hotels, partake in their activities and eat in their restaurants. I love visiting the resorts even if I’m not staying in one.

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But if you’re not at all interested in exploring Disney or Universal property, you can still have tons of fun. The little all-American towns in the Orlando area are well worth an explore. Places like Celebration and Kissimmee are lovely and one of my favourites is Winter Park with it’s shopping, restaurants and little train track that runs right through it.

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It’s also home to the head office and flagship store of one of my favourite brands Rifle Paper Co.

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As you’re probably aware, I’m back off to Florida in a few weeks, and we had loads of things planned. As well as going back to pretty much all of the places above, we intend to pack in a lot more. Our trip is double the length we stayed last year and I still feel like we won’t have enough time to fit everything in!

Included in our trip is an NFL game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium, a trip to the Kennedy Space Centre (a bucket list item!), Wonderworks (a hands-on science exhibit) and possibly a visit to adventure golf and an epic looking escape room!

Of course I plan on visiting the shops, and the list I have is getting as long as my arm! Have you been to Orlando and had a non-park holiday? I’d love to hear about the places you’ve visited and the activities you’ve done! Maybe something you suggest will make my list for this year’s trip!

Food Challenge Recipe 29: Baked Tomato Sauce

This week’s recipe was adapted from one I saw from Smitten Kitchen, after seeing her post about it on instagram. I have one of her books, but this recipe wasn’t in there, so I got it off the website.

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When I saw the ingredients and method, it looked so simple, but I was afraid that the mild watery cherry tomatoes available to me would affect the flavour of the finished sauce. Thankfully, this recipe, and the accompanying ingredients, worked together wonderfully to create a fantastically fresh and beautifully tomatoey sauce, in all the ways you’d want it to be tomatoey!

Here’s what I did for sauce enough for 2 people:

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I took a small punnet of cherry tomatoes (about 250g) and sliced each one across its equator. Then I lay each one out, cut side up, in a baking dish, which had had 1 tbsp of olive oil coated over the bottom. You need to create a single layer of tomatoes.

Next I combined 1/6 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1/8 cup of vegan parmesan, 1 tbsp of lacto-free mature cheddar cheese that had been grated and 1 crushed garlic clove. I mixed them with a fork to combine.

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Then the whole lot was spread over top of the tomatoes.

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You’ve got to make sure each tomato has a good amount of coating. Then I added a little salt and pepper, and drizzled with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.

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This was then popped into the oven at 180c (fan) for 20 minutes, until the crumbs are starting to brown and the cheese is all melted.

At this time I put some pasta on to cook, so that it was ready at the same time as the tomatoes.

At the end of their cooking time, I took the baked tomatoes out of the oven and added 1/8 cup fresh chopped basil and lightly mashed the tomatoes with a fork.

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This created the sauce! The recipe then asked for another tbsp of oil to be added, but I didn’t want to add any more oil for dietary reasons. I don’t feel like it needed it.

I then mixed in the pasta, and Bob’s your uncle!

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The finished sauce was fresh, tasty and well seasoned. The tomato flavour wasn’t lost. The breadcrumbs had mushed up, so weren’t crunchy at all, however they had mixed with the cheese to create a savoury, thick, seasoning. The basil was a fantastic addition. It added a fragrant green freshness.

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We chose this pasta shape because I know it holds onto sauce very well. If you make this, I’d recommend that you use a small pasta shape that will hold onto the sauce, too.

I can see me making this pasta sauce regularly. It was simply, quick and so tasty!

I give this recipe 10/10

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

And so the wonderful run of hot, sunny and dry weather continues. I’m totally loving this weather, though I could do with it being a little warmer in the day and a little cooler in the night. We were promised a thunder-storm on Friday which turned into about an hour of rain, which was much needed.

So, a couple of weekends ago, we headed to London’s Hyde Park to see Bruno Mars performing at the British Summer Time festival. I’ve gotta say, festival food has changed a lot. I actually looked forward to some food van noodles, but there wasn’t a noodle to be found. It was all artisan pizzas, chicken wings and vegan falafel. They had sold so many tickets it took us an hour to get to the front of the line for chips, and we’d chosen the shortest line to queue up at! They weren’t even that nice… But that wasn’t why we went.

Bruno was, of course, amazing. He always is! Gary got me some merch (I hate that word) when I got chilly, and now it’s too warm to wear the sweater I got, but I loved wearing it that night. I’ll crack it out again in a few months.

I also visited a launch of a new type of corporate Christmas even (Christmas in July!) and had a lovely evening with my bessie (who I’m lucky enough to work with!) drinking fresh mocktails and eating the most amazing calzone from The Calzone Kitchen. The tunes were banging, the sun was setting and it was nice to have some catch-up time!

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This past weekend I visited the Cosgrove Craft Fair to see a friend’s stand. Apollo Creative, you may remember, made my Mum’s birthday present recently. I picked up a couple of bits for my home and a gift for my niece. Check Apollo Creative out on instagram!

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We’ve been having some quiet weekends of late, since we’re trying to save some cash for our upcoming holiday, to Florida. We have a few more little trips lined up, but nothing major (from what I remember!)

I’ve also been thinking about how I want to ‘cover’ my holiday on my social media channels. I usually just post the odd photo when I’m away, since I’m taking a vacation and I want to be ‘off’ for the duration. But since we now have instagram stories and IGTV I was thinking I might do some videos, a bit like I did last year, of places I’m visiting, stuff I’ve bought etc. Do you think that’s something you’d like to watch? Obviously I’ll write some blogs on my return, too 🙂

That’s it for now. Do you have any exciting trips coming up? I’d love to hear about them!

Food Challenge Recipe 28: Sweet & Spicy Baked Cauliflower

I’m trying to get better at tolerating spicy foods. It’s not that I don’t like it, or I’m not willing to try it, it’s just that too much spice in food results in me being unable to taste ANYTHING any more. That’s not the point of food!

But I don’t avoid heat, and at times will deliberately try foods slightly outside my comfort zone in a hope that it’ll ease my tolerance up. I’d wanted to try a baked cauliflower recipe for a while, and so when I saw this one, I thought “why not??”!

You start with 4 cups of cauliflower florets. For me this was a whole small cauliflower head.

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For the next part I grabbed a quart sized Ziplock bag to put the liquid for the marinade into, which made for a quick mix and simple cleanup.

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I added 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Sriracha (the recipe asked for 2 but I was too scared to add that much hot sauce!), 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

To this I added all the cauliflower, sealed the bag and smooshed and shook the whole lot until it was covered as evenly as I could get it!

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I’d already lined a baking sheet, and had the oven on at 180c (fan). This might have been a little hot, so next time I’ll bake this at 170c.

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I was able to simply pour the whole lot onto the sheet, spread it out evenly so that everything had the chance to bake and crisp up (if the tray is too crowded the veg will steam instead of crisping) and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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I took my baking sheet out a couple of minutes early, when I noticed some of the edges were starting to char. I also think that my tray might have been slightly over crowded in areas as the florets were a little too moist in parts. I gave one of the florets a try whilst it was still warm.

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I was glad I hadn’t added too much Sriracha as the bit I tried was really rather spicy! But my intention for this recipe was to allow the cauliflower to cool, and then top a salad with it. So that’s what I did!

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Once it was cool, I found the spiciness had reduced a LOT. In fact, if I make this again, I might add more hot sauce if I intend on eating this cold again. The flavour was really lovely. Spicy but also sweet (like the title suggested!) and the cauliflower flavour still came through nicely.

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I really enjoyed eating this. We had quite a bit left over, and I must admit it did leave the fridge smelling rather pungently of cauliflower, but the flavours were really good even days afterwards.

I give this recipe 7/10

Visiting The Allergy & Free-From Show

Every year The Allergy & Free From Show exhibit at the London Olympia in Kensington. I’d been once before a couple of years back, but thought I’d give it another go this year! Tickets are free and as well as the  Allergy and Free From show, you also get access to the Just V Show (vegetarian and vegan) and Love Natural Love You (natural lifestyle and skincare) areas.

Once we got into the show we picked up our lanyards. This year the show organisers have arranged it so everyone who has bought a ticket gets a lanyard with a barcode and their name on it. Then if you’re interested in finding out more about a brand at any booth, they just scan your barcode and the show organisers will pass on your details to them. I’m sure this is a GDPR move, but it seemed very simple and effective!

The first booth I noticed was Haymax. I worked with them a little while ago, letting you all know about their fantastic natural hay fever remedies! It was great to see them there.

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By the time we had arrived, we were both pretty hungry so my focus was on finding something dairy-free to eat.

We tried a few samples on our way through the booths.

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At Portabello Attic I tried I sample of their vegan Nutty Nutella cheesecake. It was really amazing. Gooey and buttery tasting, but lovely knowing it was totally vegan.

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Then we spotted The White Rabbit Pizza Co who offered some vegan options. I love vegan pizza because the ingredients are usually more exciting than with standard pizza.

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Gary tried this pizza which is due to come out soon, and is on a brand new base style. He said it was amazing!

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I tried this vegan option and it was truly delicious. So flavourful and really yummy!

I have already looked and you can buy this brand in my local Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I’ll be heading there soon to pick one up!

By this point I knew I needed something proper to eat, rather than samples. The only issue with this show, is that unless you want to fill up on samples (which won’t be suitable for every dietary need) or buy something from the standard permanent and over-priced cafes that line the Olympia (which don’t offer anything dairy free) then you’re pretty much stumped for food. There was a lovely looking vegetarian stand with salads and quiche but nothing suitable for me. But then we stumbled over Mahi Vegan Street Food.

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I decided to go for the Mac N’Dawg and Gary got the V-Dawg, both seitan hotdogs with toppings. Gary’s had crispy onions, chopped pickles, mustard and ketchup. Mine had mac n’cheese, chives, crispy onions and ketchup (it was meant to have sriracha but I’m a wuss!) The staff were so nice, and really efficient.

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Neither of us had has seitan before, but we both thoroughly enjoyed our hotdogs. So, So tasty and just what I needed!

But of course after you’ve had your hotdog, you need ice cream right? So off I trotted to Booja-Booja, a brand I’ve known for years but only recently tried their ice creams. The staff were so lovely, and served their deserts from a cute converted Tuk Tuk!

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I went for a scoop of caramel pecan praline, and it was divine!

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Despite it being a warm and busy show, I really enjoyed seeing what was on offer this time around. It’s so good seeing so much being offered generally for people with allergies, intolerances and alternative dietary choices.

Anyway, now I’m off to dream about that hotdog…..

Food Challenge Recipe 27: Home-Made Frappe!

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been rather hot of late. I’m not complaining – I bloody love the heat and can’t get enough of it. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin ALL THE TIME. But sometimes it’s nice to have something icy and cold to eat or drink.

This week I decided I wanted to have a crack at making a blended coffee (or frappe) at home because I blooming love them, and figured it would be something nice to start my day off. On the day I made this, by the time I’d gotten up it was already 24c outside, so it seemed only appropriate!

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If you want to give this a go yourself, you’re going to have to work out the measurements for yourself based on how much coffee and sweetness you want, and also how big your cup is. I was making one blended coffee, I didn’t need it very sweet and I didn’t want a huge amount of caffeine. I was making mine for an average sized cold drink reusable travel cup, with straw.

I made my blended coffee in a BlendActive machine and it was more than capable of blending the ice. I filled the blending bottle 3/4 full with ice cubes.

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I then used light soy milk to fill the cup to almost the height of the ice.

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Next I made some hot coffee with 1.5 tsp of freeze-dried instant coffee, in an espresso cup.

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I added 2 tsp of Monin caramel coffee syrup to this hot coffee and mixed it in. This probably wasn’t enough syrup so add more if you like it sweet.

I tipped the hot coffee and syrup mixture into the blending bottle, on top of the ice and milk. Then I blended it!

It took less than 20 seconds to be blended and ready!

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And here’s the finished article! The ice was slightly more chunky than those you’d get if you bought it in a coffee shop, but crushed enough to go through the straw with no issues.

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This was a very refreshing alternative to my usual hot morning coffee, tasted great and stayed icy for a really long time in this cup, so I was able to take it out and about in the hot morning sun as I ran my errands.

Next time I think I’ll add a little more syrup, but for this occasion it was perfect!

I give this recipe 9/10!

Craft & Cleaver – or Not-So Clever…..

We love visited BBQ restaurants, and frequent Big Easy, Red Dog Saloon and Bodean’s fairly often when we can. So, I got really excited when I heard we were getting a ‘Brooklyn Style BBQ’ restaurant fairly locally to us, in Milton Keynes.

I read some of the opening reviews, which were mixed, but wanted to try for myself since I loved the look of the food.

We visited with friends on a Wednesday lunch time, so it was fairly quiet and it was just a few couples and some office-based traffic coming in.

The Atmosphere

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We had a friendly welcome, and the smell inside was just right. BBQ and wood! The decor was lovely and I’m always comforted by the sight of squeezy sauce bottles on the table!

We were welcomed and seated, and had a look at the menu.

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There’s a dedicated lunch menu, but we all chose from the main part of the menu as we were all quite hungry.

The Food & Drink

Two of us ordered the chargrilled lemonade which was home-made lemonade with a slight bbq taste to it. It was very tart at first sip but as the ice melted it became refreshing. I chose to have an Arnold Palmer (which is 50/50 iced tea and lemonade) It tasted fizzy to start with but then that went away. It shouldn’t be fizzy so that threw me to start with!

Two of us ordered burgers, one ordered a salad and another ordered a half rack of ribs.

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My order was a Naked and Proud burger, which came with 50/50 fries (half sweet potato and half potato), coleslaw and pickles.

The burger was two patties with mustard and tomato relish. The burgers were nice, however there wasn’t enough sauce paired with the amount of meat, and as such you couldn’t taste the relish or mustard. The fries were very nice, with a tasty seasoning on them. I don’t usually enjoy sweet potato but these were lovely. The coleslaw didn’t have much flavour and the pickles were odd. I was expecting gherkins or cucumbers but I got two bits of celery and two small chunks of carrot. They didn’t taste vinegary, but had an asian flavour to them which I couldn’t pinpoint and I don’t think went with the rest of the food.

I tried some of the BBQ sauce from the table. It was a very mild sauce, almost watery with a more tomato flavour than I expected, but it wasn’t bad.

I was told the ribs were dry and the salad barely had any dressing on it.

Having paid quite a lot for this food, we expected a little more.

This was were the trouble happened. We paid for the whole bill on one card, and the waitress hadn’t noticed there was no paper in the card machine. Not knowing how these machines work, we didn’t realise we had already been charged once when we were asked to put our payment through again, since she thought it hadn’t worked the first time. When the receipt didn’t print the second time, the waitress realised and told us we might have been charged twice.

She spoke with her manager and asked to take out details. We were to then check our account and if the amount had come out twice, come back to get a refund. We were told the manager was stressed, and so she couldn’t deal with it herself. We had noticed the managed wandering around looking stressed already, throughout our visit.

We checked, it had come out twice, and so we returned. On our return a couple of days later, our original waitress recognised us, apologised for the inconvenience and got her manager. The manager, and who I now assumed was the assistant manager who we’d seen walking around previously, stood for some time at the till point. We had shown them a text from our bank showing the two full amounts coming out of the account (including tip) and also shown them the recipt we were given for the second transaction. For some reason they decided to refund us in cash, even though our original transaction had been on card, so they had to split the refund between two tills, since I don’t think they had enough float to give a cash refund at that time. We were stood around for about 10 minutes waiting, whilst the waitress made small talk with us.

When we were handed our refund, we pointed out that we had also paid a tip on both transactions (and not a small one) and that they hadn’t refunded that. The manager told us point-blank there was nothing she could do. At no point did she apologise, or offer us any other kind of compensation for the original error, for us having to come back to get our refund, for the wait, or for us not getting our tip back. We were obviously an inconvenience to her day, and she clearly just wanted the issue dealt with and gone. I was FUMING.

I have since complained to Craft and Cleaver and they have confirmed our service should have been refunded and offered to refund it or give us some credit towards drinks on a future visit. We declined both. Needless to say this was a sour experience, and we won’t be returning. They also said they had taken steps to properly train their staff on refunds going forward which is a step in the right direction.

Incidentally, completely unprovoked, a friend told me about her bad experience there for her birthday dinner. Wrong orders cooked, inconsistent portion sizes, too little food for the cost, and plastic found in the food with no apology and no compensation.

It’s such a shame, that something that could have been so good ended up being pretty darn bad.

Food Challenge Recipe 26: Easy Baked Churros

And just like that, we’re over half way through the challenge! I must say, so far, I’ve not had a huge amount of trouble finding a new recipe each week. I think because foods are seasonal (obviously) and I’m picking things that I know I’d love to eat, it’s made this an enjoyable challenge!

This week we picked another theme park food. It will probably be our last since I can’t think of any more that we love and we haven’t tried yet! We decided to make Churros – but bake them in the oven!

I’m not a fan of fried foods and the idea of deep-frying anything at home gives me hot sweats, so I found a decent looking recipe on Pinterest and away we went.

You start off with a preheated oven 160c (fan) and a couple of lined baking sheets.

Then you add 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (I used Vitalite), 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tbsp granulated sugar and 1 cup of water to a medium saucepan.

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You pop this on the hob on a medium heat until the butter has melted and the water has started to boil.

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Then you add 1 cup of white flour all in one go, still on the heat, and beat it fast to make a dough. Once the dough has formed you keep beating for another 30 seconds, so the flour all cooks out.

You then remove this from the heat and add 3 large eggs, one at a time. You have to work fast mixing each egg into the dough, to ensure the eggs don’t scramble!

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It was at this stage I realised I was making choux pastry. Yes, I know I’m slow on the uptake, but I didn’t realise that was what churros were made of!

I then added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and mixed this through, then added the mixture to a piping bag with the largest star tip I owned. Which wasn’t big enough so I had to pipe two strips on top of each other for each churro but it worked!

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I began piping and left 1 inch between each churro. Then I piped on top again with what was left. I had way too much mixture for two trays but I made it work!

These then went into the oven for 22 minutes.

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You know they’re done when they’re golden and crispy. I left these on the cooling rack to completely cool.

Then I melted 1 tbsp of Vitalite in a pan. I added 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon to a ziplock and shook the mixture together. Then, in batches of two, I brushed the churros with the melted butter and popped them into the bag, shook them around and made sure they were all coated with sugar.

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The result was this lovely looking pile of goodies!

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The verdict:

The churros were baked so were a lot lighter than the fried equivalent I’m used to. They were light and airy in the middle, and I kept thinking they needed something inside them like cream or chocolate.

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They were very Eclair like, which makes sense since it’s the same pastry, however they had a very eggy flavour to them which I didn’t expect.

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On trying them straight away they were lovely. I packed some in a tin to take to a friend’s house and they were eaten again about 2 hours later. By this point they’d lost their crispness and were starting to go a little soggy, which was a shame. They were still all eaten though!

I think these were a nice little treat. They take a little effort, and would need to be eaten right away. They would be lovely dipped in caramel or chocolate sauce, and were a nice light equivalent to the fried version.

I give this recipe 7.5/10

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

Last week Gary and I took our first week off together since last October when we went to America. Somehow all our plans to take time off together before now have fallen flat. We weren’t going away anywhere, but we wanted to keep ourselves occupied, and we definitely did that!

My holiday started on the Friday night, after work, having dinner at my Mum’s with my sister to celebrate my Mum’s birthday.

I made her a card, using my new calligraphy skills, and I had a bookmark made for her, with some of the lyrics from When I’m 64 on them, since she was turning 64 and she loves the Beatles!

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The next day Gary and I headed to London, for brunch at one of our favourite places, Balthazar in Covent Garden.

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I love the decor and atmosphere inside. The weather was hotting up so I chose poached eggs on avocado toast and an orange Julius (non-alcoholic).

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All delicious! We then headed off for some shopping and by the end of the day we were shattered!

We headed to Thorpe Park on Monday, with some family, for a very fun but very hot and tiring day. It was really busy considering it was a Monday and the schools hadn’t broken up yet, but there were a ton of school trips there. We ended up getting unlimited fast track bands so we could ride the rides without having to wait too long and it was SO worth it!

Tuesday I had a friend visit for lunch and then Gary and I headed to the cinema to see Hereditary. It was very relaxed going in the middle of the day and in the week! The film wasn’t worth the ticket price though, unfortunately!

Wednesday we headed out for lunch to a new BBQ place called Craft and Cleaver. I’ll post a proper review of our experience shortly.

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And then we headed to a new crazy golf place, not to far from there. It’s called Mr Mulligan’s Lost World, and we got a great deal and ended up playing 3 courses with drinks in the middle.

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We had great fun!

Thursday and Friday were fairly low-key. On Thursday morning we both woke feeling a little shattered, and wondering if we were coming down with something. So much doing stuff combined with the heat and random relaxing periods was knackering us out! We needed to pop to Bicester Village to their Samsonite store, as we need a couple of extra cases for an upcoming trip.

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We managed to pick some cases up at a great price, had a little mooch around the other shops and then headed home for naps and films.

On Friday evening I visited a friend. There were a few of us, we got the chance to catch up and I met some new kitties!

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I know how you feel kitty cat!

We had been so lucky with the weather. I even managed to get some of my Florida tan back!

It really was a lovely week off, filled with a great mixture of busy and relaxing. Now I need another holiday to recover…..

 

 

 

9 Things for 9 Years – Things I’ve Learned on Musings’ 9th Birthday!

Oh yes, Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug turned 9 this past week! How exciting is that?

Despite having been blogging for 20 years this year (omg!), this particular little home-of-my-thoughts has been going for 9 whole years. Other than my marriage I think this is the longest I’ve ever stuck at anything!

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To mark this momentous occasion, I thought I’d share 9 important things I’ve learned during this time!

  1. No one will understand what Blogging is or why you do it, unless they blog themselves or read blogs. Even if it’s friends and family you’re talking to, they just won’t ‘get it’. You can say it’s your hobby until you’re blue in the face but unless you’re telling them you’ve taken up martial arts or cross-stitch, you’re going to be talking to a brick wall. If they read blogs or blog themselves, on the other hand, then you’re golden.
  2. Blogging isn’t for fame or free stuff. There are mega downsides to both of them. You get fame and you get bashed for being fake (there are plenty of big bloggers giving the honest ones a bad name), you get trolled and you find yourself having to make a choice between staying true to yourself or getting the big deal and engagement. And then if you’re getting loads of free stuff you feel like you’re working all the time. You might get to go to great places but it’s not to relax, it’s to work and portray the perfect perspective for the brand, or try out 50 face creams in one week and still try to keep your skin feeling tip-top.
  3. You have to write for you, and only you. I don’t have the biggest readership (HI!) but I appreciate each and everyone who does read (HI again!). But I can’t focus on engagement stats or let them get me down if they’re not what I expect. Sure it can be hard to put your heart into an article for it to be swept away in the masses of mediocre new Urban Decay palette reviews, but I always remind myself, I’ve written everything I write just for me.
  4. Blogging can be daunting. From month to month you can be posting away and all of a sudden you can get contacted by 5 or 6 different PR companies all asking you if you’d like to post for them. It’s fantastic to be wanted, but the pressure can be huge, especially if the what you’re receiving in return is hefty. My aim in writing a blog isn’t for money, however when you’re representing a brand in what you write, you want to be as honest and professional as you can be.
  5. You can start to see things a little skewed. I’m constantly seeing people talk about spending money on props for photos, going to specific cafes for brunch because it’s the place all the ‘bloggers’ hang out. I always keep it real with my blogs. If I blog about a place I’ve been it’s because I was going there for some reason anyway, not just to blog about it. I don’t think I’ve ever bought something for prop’s sake, so I can photograph it.
  6. Never under-estimate the power of community. About 2 years ago, I jumped into the blogging twitter community. It’s changed a lot since then, but back then the sense of support and community was epic. I’ve met some amazing people through it, and even though we all seem to have drifted from twitter slightly, I still check in with them from time to time.
  7. Don’t feel you have to utilise every single platform out there. I dabbled with YouTube and though my most popular video currently has 5.2k views and counting (what?) I felt like it wasn’t for me. It was forced, and doing it for the sake of doing it. I enjoy watching my Disney World video, but at the time I was too self-conscious to film properly, and I never felt like it was worth my while to overcome that. I do quite enjoy instagram stories though, and who knows what will occur with IGTV!
  8. If you get writer’s block, don’t force it. Sit that one out. Only write when you have something worth writing, otherwise you’ll fall into that trap of putting out content you’re not 100% happy with. It’s not worth compromising!
  9. And I’ll finish with the most important one: I’m still into blogging for the reason I started. I wanted to write and put my thoughts out. Again, I feel like sometimes it’s more valuable to me if I think no one has actually read what I’ve written, since I’m such an introvert. But it’s nice to know it’s out there!

So those are my 9 things for 9 years! Who knew I’d continue to have the momentum to keep it going for all this time?! Not me!

If you’ve been reading for a long time, short time, or this is your first time here, Thank You so much for popping by! And I hope you’ll stick around 🙂