Hosting a Share A Meal for World Vision UK

Back in September I shared World Vision UK’s latest campaign, Share A Meal. If you missed that post, head back if you want to read all about it.

This past weekend was my turn to host my Share A Meal meal, and I decided to make it Italian themed! Since my guests were vegetarian and I make a darn good tomato linguine (if I do say so myself!), it made sense to build a menu based on that!

Our new kitchen is a very social space, so I started the cooking once we’d settled in, whacked on a playlist on our Echo and we took the time to catch up whilst I cooked.

pasta dish in a kitchen

Using my trusty Le Creuset pan (I love that thing!) I was able to make dinner easily, all in one pot which saved on the washing up and meant everything was a lot simpler.

wine glasses

I chose to serve non alcoholic white wine, since I knew if I started drinking whilst I was cooking, we’d be eating burnt mush by the end!

pasta

Dinner was served (albeit sloppily!) and we all had the opportunity to think about the simplicity of the food we were eating, in the comfort of a cosy house and how by eating this meal and coming together we could be helping people who were less fortunate than us.

linguine twisted on a fork

Next course was Sicilian lemon tarts, which I’ll admit were not made by me, but by Mr Iceland…..

lemon tart on a plate

They were rather tasty nevertheless!

We finished the meal off with espresso martinis, though the creation of these was a little eventful when my makeshift cocktail shaker (a cheap Starbucks sippy cup) developed a large crack in the bottom and thus my kitchen sink got a good drink of our martinis….

Alls well that ends well, though, as my Costa sippy cup acted as a back-up and we ended up with some so-so martinis that still tasted good even if they didn’t look exactly how I wanted them (I think I need to invest in an actual cocktail shaker!)

espresso martini

As the evening wound down, conversation turned to how my guests could use this meal to help World Vision UK. By visiting the Share A Meal site and clicking the Donate Now button, my guests can donate the value of their meal to World Vision UK. These donations will go towards helping vulnerable children in Uganda, who can’t feed themselves. No child should go without food and safety, so this money will help to provide a little more to those who need it.

At this time of year, when people are gathering together and sharing good food, it’s so easy to make your gathering a charitable one. For less than you’d pay for a meal out, by donating the cost of the meal you’ve eaten (or hosted) to World Vision UK, you’ll be making a difference.

clinking wine glasses

And don’t forget, by hosting, you could end up winning a meal cooked for you by star baker Selasi!

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See the World Vision UK Share A Meal site for more details on how you could win!

If you decide to host a Share A Meal event, I’d love to hear all about it. Please let me know in the comments!

 

EVENT PHOTO PROVIDED BY WORLD VISION UK. ALL OTHER PHOTOS ARE MY OWN.

New York, New Year

Hello! I’m aware I’ve probably started the last few blog posts with ‘it’s been a while’. I needed a break and made a conscious effort not to post just because I hadn’t in a while.

Lots has been going on in my life and my brain and I felt I deserved a little break!

I mentioned in my last post that Gary and I were off to New York for a little holiday over Christmas. We flew out on Christmas Day, after having spent the second half of Christmas Eve with family, sharing presents and generally getting into the holiday spirit.

Our cases were only half full, since it was only a 4-night break, however I did intend to utilise this space on the way back and so did my wallet…. The flight out was uneventful and surprisingly full considering the date. We’d opted to splash out on extra leg room seats, which was much appreciated. I made use of the media centre, and watched 3 episodes of The Affair which I’d heard about but was yet to see. I then watched Jurassic World and we landed.

I managed to sleep some on the way there, aided by a large glass of white wine, which abated my jet lag and helped me throughout the rest of our extra-long day – well it was Christmas!

On landing we were immediately aware of the heat and humidity of an unseasonably warm Christmas Day in New York. 18c and very humid, we shed our coats and scarves as soon as we’d checked into the hotel (The Warwick) and ventured out in light sweaters and seek out the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Centre. The streets were teeming with people, and it was hard to do anything but shuffle about. But we found the tree and got some photos and just as we had walked around to come at it from another angle we heard the Home Alone music being played from Saks 5th Avenue, right in front of the tree. It was a magical moment, and a memory we won’t be forgetting any time soon.

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We then shuffled our way to find some Christmas dinner, and settled on a Five Guys in the hotel room – we will now forever call Five Guys ‘Christmas Dinner’.

Our room was lovely and we were upgraded to a corner room overlooking 6th Avenue and were given free wifi too! At this point it was about 2am UK time and we decided it was a good time to sleep.

Over the next few days we hit the Boxing Day sales. The news reporters made me nervous with images of lines out the door but they were all fine, and I was able to get some great bargain – things are way over-priced in the UK! I picked up my ‘You are Here’ New York Starbucks mug and some Macy’s baubles for the tree too. We visited the World Trade Center memorial, new World Trade Center tower and the museum. We ate in some lovely cafes and walked around tons of delis.

One of the things on my must-see list was to eat at Katz’s Deli, which featured in When Harry Met Sally (my favourite, and probably most viewed movie). Arriving a little earlier than we wanted to eat ensured we got a seat in the table service section, and beat the lines which built up within about 5 minutes of us arriving. An amazing place, with a wonderful atmosphere, the deli was full of all kinds of people and amazing food. I opted for a cheese steak and potato salad. Both were amazing and I haven’t stopped thinking about the flavours ever since.

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The weather cooled down after a day or two and we were able to wrap up. Over the days we were there, we rediscovered our love for the city. Having been 3 times previously in a fairly short space of time, we had figured we were over New York. But visiting lower Manhattan showed us that there were so many places we still needed to see. Areas we would never have dreamed of venturing to a decade ago have become more accessible, and Times Square has become so inaccessible – literally, you can’t walk through it, it’s too darn busy!

By the end of the holiday we were tired but back in love with the city. We’re dreaming of going back in the future, but this time for longer, to live out dreams we have and spend more time soaking it all in.

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On our return we still had 5 days before we had to go back to work, so we spent this recovering. An ITB injury returned due to the 45 miles we’d walked whilst away, so a lot of rest was needed, and it usually takes me a while to recover from jet lag too. We watched the whole seasons 1-2 of The Affair which is an incredible show (and have since watched Making a Murderer, because, you know, who hasn’t?).

New Year was spent at home, and I cooked us a Christmas Dinner so we didn’t miss out. We opened the letters we wrote to ourselves last year and read out our Good Things from the memories jar we’d been adding to all year. It was a lovely evening. We even watched When Harry Met Sally (again) and managed to time it so that the end when they’re shouting Happy New Year coincided with midnight in reality.

New Year’s day was spent lazily in the morning, and then a long lunch with Gary’s family. It was during this meal that I made the final decision to begin my 3rd 365 project, this time via Instagram. (You can follow me via @groggits or clicking the Instagram widget to the right.) We also went to Ikea and bought a new mattress which was long overdue, and seriously needed! My poor back couldn’t cope anymore!

Since then it’s been back to work. I appear to have a make-up and beauty obsession. It happens every few years, but this year I seem to be actually using the stuff I’ve bought. My Sephora trip was much needed, but Gary’s starting to get a glazed look every time I speak about beauty products….

I intend to post a blog with my latest favourite beauty products, so stay tuned – there’s quite a few! I also signed up for GlossyBox and have been very pleased with the first box which arrived this week.

I decided not to return to Rock Choir this term, and instead focus on me, health and hopefully fitness for the next few months. After lots going on and things happening in my life I need that clarity. And just making decisions like that makes such a difference overall.

So that’s me, up to date. Keep checking back for new posts, which will hopefully become more regular again from now on – or subscribe and/or follow me via bloglovin’ (widgets to the right)

Sarah’s Ibiza Hen, Pt 3

Hello! This is my 3rd and final post rounding up my recent trip to Ibiza. If you haven’t read the other two you can read part one here, and part two here!

So after an exciting, but soggy day previous, we woke, had a lovely breakfast at the hotel and then headed off to get our cab to the other side of the island and to Playa Den Bossa. At this point the rain started, rain like we’d never seen before.

Being from England we’re used to the rain, but we’re also used to it draining somewhere. Not in Ibiza. That water just sits on top of the ground. I have a wonderful memory of us all sat in the cab, chatting to the driver when the rain hit so hard. Don’t Worry be Happy came on the cab’s radio and we all (cabby included) started to sing along. It was really rather fitting with the weather being as it was.

Our hotel front was down a short path with no access from the road, and so we had to unload and carry our cases down the slope to the hotel lobby. Wading through 5 inch water in flip flops isn’t the one when your case weighs 21kg. The receptionist was wonderful and brought us dry towels before doing anything. We were delighted to find out our rooms were ready already, and so we wouldn’t have to hang about before checking in.

Our original plan had been to head to Nassau Beach where we had reserved beach loungers for the afternoon, but with the rain we knew this wasn’t possible. So we headed to our rooms, opened the complimentary wine and enjoyed our rooms until the sun cleared.

imageThe view from our balcony.

We headed to Nassau Beach club once the rain had cleared, and straight for the restaurant for lunch. I had the most amazing cocktail called a Hendrick’s Cucumber Sorbet, and Yakisoba for lunch.

imageimageThen we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our evening out!

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Pacha is world famous and we’d gotten tickets for their Flower Power night. Dressed in our hippy best we headed to Ibiza town to watch the sunset from the top of old town and then walked the cobbled streets for a shop and a look around until our table was ready for dinner.

La Oliva was a beautiful little restaurant in the bustle of old town Ibiza. I would have loved to visit old town in the day and had a proper good look around as the rising cobbled streets looked beautiful and something out of a painting. I’ll just have to go back!

It was at our restaurant on this evening I tried steak tartare for the first time, and really rather enjoyed it!

imageJust tilt your head for a good look…..

We then headed off to Pacha!

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The tiredness of the week catching up with me, I only stayed a few hours, but Caz and Sarah made it until around 4am because they’re hardcore!

The next morning was a fairly early start for the Aqua Boat towards the Punta Arabi Hippy Market. The biggest of its kind, this hippy market has been going for 35 years. A maze of crafts, jewellery and clothes, we spent a long time mooching and shopping the stalls.

imageI found this gorgeous rose gold tree of life bracelet to match my tan 🙂

The weather hotted up and soon we needed lunch. We had some yummy pizzas, picked up the last of our purchases and headed back to Playa Den Bossa, as we had a date back at San Antonio.

Having postponed our speedboat trip earlier in the holiday we had to return, and it was strange going back to San Antonio after moving away from it. It was kind of like visiting an old friend and I enjoyed going back to the familiar hustle and bustle.

Speed boats are very different from catamarans and we were soon wide awake from our sleepy stupour from the heat and slow pace of the day.

imageimageThere was opportunity to swim, but I decided to sit that one out, since my jelly fish sting was still fresh and itchy. We did, however get our perfect sunset.

imageIt was amazing and beautiful. The water was so calm and looked like undulating foil below our boat. We stopped just off Cafe Mambo to see the end of the sun and then danced until it was time to go back to the marina.

Paula, our skipper, allowed us into the private bathrooms at the marina to get changed and freshen up, and then we headed off to Bambudda our final meal out.

Bambudda is a fusion restaurant designed to tantilise the senses. Caz and Sarah had and shoulder massages whilst Tash and I people-watched. The food was lovely. I think if I hadn’t been delriously tired I might have enjoyed it more, but still it was a wonderful experience.

imageMe sipping on some kind of cocktail!

The next day was our last full day, and a relaxing one, which boy did we need! We caught the ferry to Formentara, a small island off the Ibiza mainland. I was promised beaches the closest I would get to going to the Maldives without actually going to the Maldives, and it didn’t disappoint.

imageimageI actually managed to catch some sleep on the beach before Sarah bought us all an ice cream (thanks Sarah!) and we headed back. Relaxed and tanned (yay!) we changed for our last activity.

Ushuaia was a club not far from our hotel, which hosts different DJ nights. I’m in a State of Trance was our night, with Armin Van Buuren headlining. It’s an amazing venue, with a pool in the centre, and it’s right under the flight path of Ibiza airport so low flying airplanes often cross your sightline over the stage, like some kind of over the top special effect.

imageimageI had a brilliant time at Ushuaia and would love to go back.

Then we headed back to pack. Our last morning was an early one, by choice. We woke, dressed and headed straight out to the beach. We wanted to catch the sunrise and give Ibiza the proper goodbye it deserved.

imageimageimageWe weren’t let down. The sunrise was as stunning as the sunset and it was a fitting end to the holiday. We got back to the hotel just in time for breakfast to begin, ate and grabbed our bags to meet our driver back to the airport.

We did a little shopping at the airport and boarded the plane for a quiet and solomn flight home.

It was amazing to see Gary at the airport when we arrived back, especially as I’d been away from him for our 9th wedding anniversary. But I really missed the girls very quickly, and I’m still missing Ibiza. I’ll definitely go back…. Girls, just pick a date and I’m there!

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Sarah’s Ibiza Hen, Pt 2

This is a follow on from part 1. If you haven’t read that yet, you might want to head on over!

So, I left you at Zoo Project. How was it? It’s all kinds of fun, right?

So the next day was Sunday, and as a lovely follow on from the days before the weather still wasn’t the greatest. Our next surprise for Sarah was postponed for the following day meaning a second 5am start, but it would be worth it. Just keep reading.

So instead of getting up super early we went back to bed for a few hours, got up and ready and not knowing what the next activity was (only Caz knew) we packed our beach bags, donned our bikinis and headed off for breakfast at Skinny Kitchen in the rain.

Gary found Skinny Kitchen one day through Facebook and mentioned it to me, knowing I was interested in eating clean. It’s a little cafe in San Antonio which provides good clean eating food on a San Antonio budget.

imageWe weren’t disappointed as we drank our yummy juices, sipped on protein shakes and nommed on pancakes, waffles and eggs on toast.

imageWe had to move inside when the drizzle started and were a little crestfallen walking to the shops and towards the marina in the rain. But by the time we’d arrived at our next destination the rain had stopped and the forecast was good.

Caz had arranged for us to go on a catamaran! Our own private boat, with a chance to swim in the sea and lunch at an exclusive beach club. Of course we didn’t know any of that at this point.

imageWe popped open the bubbly and headed out to sea. It wasn’t long before we were posing on the nets at the back of the boat… and then we anchored and headed out for a swim. Our skipper provided a paddle board and inflatable for two. As Caz isn’t a confident swimmer I offered to lounge on the inflatable with her, and then after a while jumped into the water. Only to be stung by a jelly fish…..

imageThe picture above was from the next day, but you can see it’s pretty big and it hurt somewhat. Jelly fish aren’t normally in the water this time of year, but the stormy weather had brought them closer to shore and later on we saw them in their thousands.

imageThat’s two of the little buggers but they littered the water the later we drew into the evening. Still in a little shock we were driven off to shore and to Cala Bassa beach club where I was able to collect myself and relax a little.

imageThis shot was taken for my photo bingo. As you can see I decided water was a better idea after the jelly fish incident, but you can kind of sea the shoreline beyond the bottle. It was a beautiful location, to sit and eat a yummy lunch.

imageBack on the boat we knew we wouldn’t be able to swim any more due to the jelly fish and the clouds promised a disappointing sunset, so our Skipper drove us out on a little dingy and showed us some private beaches and also Beyoncé’s Ibiza home.

We listened to music, drunk wine and watched what there was of the sunset.

imageimageimageAnd then, off in the distance I saw what I thought was either a shark or dolphin… Thankfully it was not 1 but 5 dolphins, swimming together all around the boat. Our driver was wonderful enough to keep moving the boat around so we could see them. We watched them for what was probably the best part of an hour before we lost the light.

It was an amazing experience and we were so thankful to Jose our skipper, who gave us a really unique day. From the boat we changed our clothes and headed off to Sa Capella, an authentic Spanish restaurant.

imageBuilt inside an old church, the waiters were middle-aged men with little aprons on. It was the kind of restaurant where people would be, and were, proposed to.

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Our table was up in a little alcove so set away from the rest of the tables, which was lovely and in our relaxed and happily tired states we were able to have a really good chat.

And then, in a little miss communication, they played the birthday music and brought Sarah a birthday surprise. I’m guessing they don’t understand ‘bride to be’ in Spain…

imageWe had a good giggle about that!

And then it was back home and to bed, as we had to be up in a few hours for the next surprise!

Up at the crack of dawn and very sleepy, we were picked up from the hotel by Jose (a different Jose) who drove us far and far and far into the heart of Ibiza. At which point we parked up in a field and this happened:

imageI am rather frightened of heights, but it was a good experience that I’m glad I’ve had. Though I did hold onto the side for a long time…

imageVery sleepy Erin…. Back on the ground we helped put the balloon away, and then ‘blessed the earth’….

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This was having cava with soil poured onto our heads…. as you can see from the photo, it was a little chilly…

imageAnd we couldn’t resist a selfie!

We were then taken into the very centre of Ibiza for a wonderful breakfast of tomatoes and oil on bread (for the lactose intolerant) and ham and cheese on bread for the rest. We also had coffee and fresh spanish orange juice (the best I’ve ever tasted).

And then we were back at the hotel, because we had tickets for a club to attend! Ocean Beach is a day club not far from where we were staying, with DJs, loungers, cocktails and live entertainment. We’d booked loungers on the mezzanine which overlooked the club and the pool area.

With threatening clouds, we ordered lunch pretty quickly and enjoyed some amazing hot sunshine. But then the rain came….. and it was a storm. It went for about an hour and a half constantly. Since we were dressed for pool weather we embraced it and continued to dance whilst the rest of the floor hid under a cover by the bar. We just carried on! People downstairs jumped into the pool, the music kept playing and even though we got a little chilly I’m so glad we stayed. We now have an amazing memory of dancing in the Ibiza rain!

imageHiding under sopping wet towels! When the rain stopped and the sun began to shine again we got dry towels and listened to Lovely Laura Sax playing her tunes, live, below us.

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I was rather soggy….

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We survived the rain! (Look at those clouds!)

We decided to head off earlier than originally planned, because we were chilly and soggy and headed back to the hotel. We briskly changed and then headed back out to the sunset strip for dinner and chats, before heading back to pack….. We were crossing the island the next morning!

Stay tuned for part 3, the final part of my holiday rundown……

 

Good Eats

Last week the G-Man turned 32 and even though he doesn’t really celebrate his birthday normally, we decided it would be nice to go out and have a meal. We wanted good food and something different. Since Milton Keynes now is a mecca for chain restaurants (it has 5 Nandos in the space of 5 miles!) we knew we’d have to go out of MK for something decent to eat.

Gary found the website for a lovely looking pub in Tring called The Akeman. It looked like a London-style pub with a great selection on the menu. I think we’d both chosen about 3 meals worth of food just by looking online at the menu.

We weren’t disappointed when we arrived. The staff were friendly, the atmosphere was relaxed but classy and had it been warmer and not raining their garden area looked very inviting. We had a peruse of the menu, and even though we’re not 3 course people we ordered three courses each!

To start I had chicken crackling: chickenskinI love pork crackling so was interested to try this. It was crunchy, light and very tasty with the sauce.

Next I had roasted golden and pink beetroot with tenderstem broccoli, chia seed, honey, orange zest, yoghurt and thyme dressing.

beetrootsaladThis was delicious. Light and refreshing and felt really healthy. Gary had bruschette topped with tomatoes, basil, garlic and oil.

For my main course I had lemon and thyme chicken, with a pumpkin sage and potato hash, smokey bacon jam and jus.

chicken

I couldn’t locate the smokey bacon jam, but the hash was in a light gravy type thing which could have been the jus. It didn’t taste of smokey bacon though. This dish was in a section on the menu called Comfort Food and I could tell why. The first mouthful of this was seriously comforting. It was as if I’d taken a bite of all the best roast dinners I’ve ever had all in one go. This also came with crispy chicken skin on it. Gary had Penne Arrabbiata which he really enjoyed!

I decided to forgo the desert and have a coffee, but Gary had a brownie with salted caramel ice cream, which I tried a little of and it made me quite emotional. So good!

The place, atmosphere, staff, food and selection of food were great. We’ll definitely be back. We were told the menu changes fairly regularly to change with the seasons, and we could tell thought was put into the dishes just by looking at their specials menu. There was much more we could try so it won’t be long until we visit again.

If you’re passing through or fancy a trip to Tring you should really pop in and give them a try – they even do breakfast!

Eating Las Vegas

Anyone who reads Shutterbug regularly will know I love my food. And I have no problems with whipping my camera out to photograph the food I’m served all over the world. My Dad has actually started requesting pictures of things I eat when I’m away, and I’m more than happy to oblige!

If food photos don’t float your boat, then feel free to skip this post. I won’t hold it against you! All the more for the rest of us 🙂

My foodie journey began on our flight. After being recently confirmed as lactose intolerant, I knew I assumed I would have a hard time finding things I’d be happy to eat. We updated my flight details and opted for a vegan diet on both flights there and back, since the vegetarian option couldn’t guarantee there would be no cheese in the food. A long flight isn’t the kind of place you want to have ‘those’ kind of problems….

I had remembered from a previous flight, years back, that airlines like to stuff you with food, but hadn’t flown with Virgin before so had no idea of what to expect. Here’s a section from my travel journal about the flight:

What’s with all the food?! Still five hours to go on an 11 hour flight and we’ve already had…. a snack, full 3 course meal, ice cream lolly and now a ciabatta/calzone (huge). Will we starve for the rest of the flight? Who knows? Apparently we have afternoon tea an hour and a half before we land. I need never eat again!

The three course meal was really nice. It was a tomato orzo salad, then chickpea dahl, pea and spinach paneer and basmati rice. Then a fruit salad. The calzone weren’t dairy free but I was given a full-sized mixed bean ciabatta roll. I couldn’t eat the pretzels, ice cream lolly or the afternoon tea because it was all cheese and chocolate. By the second half of the flight my stomach was expecting food every half an hour so by the time we were at the hotel (and after a little nap) we were starving!

We headed out to the Rainforest Cafe, in our hotel, since we knew there was a good chance that we would get tired very fast and we knew there was stuff we’d eat there as we’d eaten at the Cafe in Disneyland.

10923641_10155478210920727_4900933054957404483_nI opted for the Paradise Pot Roast which came served on mashed potatoes. I’ve been taking lactase tablets a little before eating anything with a small amount of dairy in, so I popped a few of those knowing there was likely cream in the mash. They seem to work quite well for things like this. Despite the messy bowl, I loved the presentation and the food was yummy and comforting. Just what I needed after a long flight!

After a fairly good night’s sleep, and checking Facebook, a friend Carrie had recommended eating breakfast at a place called Hash House a Go Go. It looked great on the website and had been featured on Man Vs Food. Since we were awake stupidly early, and starving we hot footed it to this 24 hour restaurant, and got seated straight away.

10945409_10155478211130727_6074142470278156142_nGary had a massive pancake (they call these flapjacks) and I had an avocado, swiss cheese and bacon scramble with crispy seasoned potatoes and a buttermilk biscuit. It was all amazing. They gave me some strawberry jam for the biscuit which was wonderful.

We also tried the Cheesecake Factory during our stay. I had a wonderful salad, and thought I’d risk the cheesecake.

1491766_10155478214140727_1435444263095033494_nI got a little emotional eating this, it was so good. I chose Key Lime Cheesecake. But despite it being wonderful to eat, no amount of lactase tablets could save me and let’s just say my afternoon wasn’t as pleasant as my morning had been. You can get lactose free Philadelphia now, so it looks like the only cheesecake I’ll be eating from now on will be home-made!

On one of the afternoons there was a Man Utd game on which Gary wanted to watch so we headed to a sports bar in our hotel called Tap. It’s actually owned by a guy from Watford, who we chatted to for a bit on the last day. We had intended on just having a few drinks and watching the game, since neither of us were really hungry, but we were lured in by their bar snacks. We ended up ordering to share, pig in blanket (a sausage in pastry) which came with an amazing brown beer mustard sauce, and some fried green beans.

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We ate at a Denny’s one morning. After being educated by Beckie, I discovered I should have asked for my eggs ‘over easy’ to get them how I like (we only have one way with fried eggs in the UK!) so I was able to ask for this later on in the holiday. We also ate at a Johnny Rockets and PanAsian. But we really enjoyed the restaurant food. We had planned on eating at a buffet on one of the lunchtimes but ended up eating in Serendipity 3 instead. Home of their famous frozen hot chocolate (which I decided was probably not safe to try after the cheesecake incident!), we were really surprised by how good their savoury meals were.

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I had a pulled pork and slaw pretzel roll with fries. It was so full I had to eat it with knife and fork, but so so delicious! They need to open one of these in London!

Finally, on our last day, we woke late, packed and checked out and then headed back to Hash House a Go Go. This being a lot later than on our first morning we had an hour wait to be seated and then half an hour wait for food once ordered. The atmosphere was great though, since it was so busy.

10171730_10155478209675727_8909387152905351245_nThis time I went for a skillet of artichoke, spinach and mushroom with crispy potatoes and eggs (over easy!). Again the food was amazing. I’d never had artichoke before and was delighted with the flavour. It was like a cross between celery and cabbage but a really light flavour.

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And I didn’t miss out on desert in The Venetian, where I had some dairy free strawberry and apple sorbetto. Just as good as ice cream, if not better!

I was really pleasantly surprised by the amount of food I could eat, which was dairy free, and I haven’t even mentioned the best steak ever that I ate, on one of the evenings! On my return, I expected to have put loads of weight on but was happy to have remained the same as when I left. We worked out we averaged 10 miles a day, walking, which will have helped burn off the calories!

I am missing the amazing choice of foods, and different places to eat, but I will admit I am ready for some home cooking. There’s nothing wrong with a baked chicken breast with a side of broccoli and new potatoes!

 

Overnight Oats

I’m a little late to the party when it comes to overnight oats. I am aware that I seem to jump on the food bandwagon quite some time after everyone else. I hear kale is all the rage so I’ll probably start meddling with that in the autumn….

I decided it would be cool to try overnight oats after spotting a bag of Quaker rolled oats for 99p in my local Asda. For that price if I hated the result it wasn’t a huge loss. I’d seen a load of recipes on Pinterest and knew I had the ingredients to give it a go.

The first one I tried was oats, coconut milk, maple syrup and I topped it with blueberries the next day. It was immense. I made everything in about 3 mins the day before and the next morning I had a loose, cold, porridge like substance that was delicious and fresh and just what I needed.

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Since that day I have tried loads of different alternative mixes, using a basic 2/3 cup of oats, 2/3 cup of milk/coconut milk and 1 tbsp of something flavourful. So that might be maple syrup, nutella (delicious!) or pumpkin. I have also chucked in some chia seeds when I’ve fancied it for a little texture and additional protein. I tried my oats with greek yogurt and honey once, but I’m not sure I got the quantities right and it was a little thick. I’ve used different toppings too; blueberries, bananas and strawberries (these on the nutella oats were amazing!) I want to try some pecans on top soon.

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I also tried my basic mix with some lovely Drink Me Chai spiced chai latte powder and vanilla chai powder. I varied the amounts to get the right level of flavour for me, but they were a mellow and really tasty addition.

photo 3

The one I’ve made the most has been pumpkin spice, since I had a whole can of pumpkin to use once I’d opened it. This mixture consisted of the normal amounts of oats, coconut milk, maple syrup, a tbsp of pumpkin puree (or however much you want and how thick you want it to end up), half tbsp of chia seeds and 1/8 tsp of pumpkin spice (dependent on how strong you like it.)

photo 2

It tastes amazing. The oats take on the spice flavour and the pumpkin adds flavour and thickness. I can imagine adding pumpkin to hot porridge would be amazing too. I love porridge but as the weather turns for the better I prefer a cold breakfast. I’ve started making these oats just before bed and mixing it in a Sistema Breakfast To Go box, then just grabbing it out of the fridge in the morning to take to work and eat there.

 

I take out the part that sits on top because the level of the oats is too high to keep it in, but if I put less in I would be able to add the topping I want the night before and it would be kept separate and then just toss it on top before I eat it. It also has an in-built spoon! Perfect.

I’ve been a bit of an overnight oats bore to my friends and twitter followers of late so it was only a matter of time before I wrote a post about it. I really recommend it as a quick, easy, healthy and so versatile breakfast. It fills me up and I could never get bored with it since there are so many possible variations. I really want to try it with jam next!

Have you tried overnight oats? What are your favourite variations?

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Let’s Eat and Shop!

Hello! I haven’t posted in over a week – craziness. I’ve been feeling a little exhausted and less than fun, so on my days off last week I chilled out and spent time with Gary when I could.

On Saturday night after I’d finished work we took a drive to our favourite local American Diner, Buddies. I have been wanting to try something they’d just put on their menu recently. Having been a fan of chips with gravy for some time, I was intrigued to find out it’s somewhat of a delicacy in Canada, except they add cheese. It’s called Poutine and when I saw that Buddies had added it, with optional toppings, I knew I had to try it. I went for poutine with pulled pork, fried onions and gravy.

poutine

I have to say despite the size of the portion being enough for two, the food was stunning. I’ll definitely order this the next time I’m there. So good. Half the fun of going to Buddies is the drive. It’s a minimum of half an hour there and back, and we love to turn the music up loud and have a good old sing along. We’ve mostly been blaring out Taylor Swift. Incidentally this a bonus track from her latest album Red, which, I think,  should have been on the album. It’s epic.

We decided to go to Bluewater shopping centre on Sunday and have a mooch around. I ate lunch from Wasabi, and it was the first time I’d tried anything from there. I had Chicken Katsu Yakisoba, which was so delicious. I’ll definitely eat there again.

wasabi

I also sampled a piece of cake from Lola’s Cupcakes. It was apple and cinnamon flavour and was so yummy. It was moist and springy and fresh. Better than Hummingbird bakery which can be a little dry. I was very impressed.

We had a look in Uniqlo and I bought a lovely tunic from the Celia Birtwell range. I can’t wait for the weather to change for good so that I can wear it. I also bought some Lemony Flutter from Lush because my cuticles are wrecked from this cold weather. It’s also good on elbows and heels! I WILL be spring ready! And I treated myself to a Butterball bath bomb – though I used it last night and I’m sure they use much less oil in it now than they used to. Anyway, those were my treats.

When we got back we were really tired out so we crashed in front of the TV. We watched Cabin in the Woods for the first time. I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan but this movie fell flat for me. It was a little odd. I have just bought the Japanese film ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ which I’m looking forward to watching. I don’t know anything about it but it seems to have good reviews!

On the reading front, I have so far this year given up on two books. It’s something I decided last year I wouldn’t do because I wanted to hit my 40 book challenge. But this year I’m finding that I haven’t got the time for books I don’t like! I borrowed my first book on my Kindle last week, Tom’s Midnight Garden, after it was recommended by a girl I work with. I’m about a quarter through and it’s good so far. I am finding I have less time to read at the moment, which is a shame. I’m just so tired all the time!

On the up side, the weather seems to be improving and next weekend they’re saying it could get to 15c – tropical! Here’s hoping!

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Garlic Mushroom Linguine

Today I have reinstated a dish which I started to make almost exactly a year ago. I had been starting to use Pinterest a lot at the time and was getting ideas for simple meals to make for lunch when I was on my days off. I used inspiration from various things I had seen and came up with this garlic mushroom linguine. It’s so quick and simple and above all else tastes really good.
garlic mushroom linguine

It’s really so simple I would recommend anyone to try it as long as you like the ingredients pictured! I will say I have been constantly tweaking the amount of butter I use. The following recipe is what I used today, but please add less or more butter to your taste – but remember mushrooms soak a lot of it up and the butter is the only coating for all your pasta, but then again you really don’t want a sea of butter at the bottom of your plate! The amounts below are for one person serving, but it’s easily doubled for two. Anyway, have a go and let me know what you think!

Garlic Mushroom Linguine

25g Butter

3 Chestnut mushrooms (though I used white mushrooms this time, and it wasn’t as good!)

75g Linguine

1 Garlic clove

Salt and Pepper (black)

Boil a large pan of salted water and cook the linguine according to the packet. Slice the mushrooms and crush the garlic. When there’s about 5 minutes pasta cooking time left, melt the butter on a low heat in another pan (this pan must be big enough to hold all the pasta in later, but not so big that the mushrooms and garlic will burn).

When the butter is melted add the crushed garlic. As soon as the garlic begins to colour add the mushrooms. You will see that they soak up all the butter and the pan gets kind of dry. Give the mushrooms a minute to start to go a little translucent and then add some salt. The salt will make the mushrooms start to ooze a little liquid and create moisture in the pan. Add a little black pepper to taste.

By this time the pasta will have cooked al dente. Turn the heat off both pans and drain the pasta. Add it to the pan with the garlic butter mushrooms and coat. By adding the pasta to this pan you will get all the butter off the sides and won’t miss any!

Eat! Enjoy!
linguine
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Bits and Bobs

bits and bobs
O.P.I Mariah Carey Liquid Sand range//Stay The Night//The Impossible//Nanny’s stew//Chocolate Cake//Goodies

I don’t know if you know this, but I’m a real sucker for nail varnish. I like all the new innovations that have come about in recent years like shatter, magnetic, matte and now textures – leather, caviar, cement, suede. I recently bought the new OPI Liquid Sand range which was created with Mariah Carey. It’s a pack of 4 minis in blue, red, purple and black with little glitter bits in it, and it dries to a matte sandy texture It doesn’t require a top coat either. Pictured are two of the colours and I hope you can make out some of the texture from the photos.

They’re lovely to put on. I’ve layered both the colours I tried with a similar block colour underneath so that I don’t have to keep layering – they’re like a jelly texture so fairly opaque, and they dry really fast. I can’t stop running my fingers over my nails because they feel so strange – but it’s a pleasant feeling! I’m really looking forward to trying the other two colours, but I’m wearing The Impossible at the moment and it’s lasting really well so far. I might see how long I can keep it on!

During our week off, G Man and I went to see his parents and he asked his Mum to cook a family favourite they call Nanny’s Stew. I’m sure you can work it out, but it’s called that because it was something their Nanny would make! It’s an Irish stew with beef and veggies and I’d been craving it for months. I pretty much inhaled it as soon as it was put in front of me, and went back for seconds even though I was stuffed. I also had hot chocolate fudge cake afterwards, but who’s going to say no to that, ‘eh? I’m hoping one day I’ll get the recipe for the stew so I can make it for G Man and any kids we might have one day!

At the end of last week, one of my oldest friends came to visit. We have a very bad habit of buying each other presents for birthday and christmas and then not seeing each other for 8 months. We then have to meet up and give presents to each other at odd times of year (see this previous post!) So we met up and swapped Birthday and Xmas presents (except I’d only bought her a Birthday gift….. red face!) I’ve said we need to stop getting each other stuff! Anyway, she came up trumps with my presents this year and she bought me an Orla Kiely recipe box with cards inside and a box full of Essie nail polishes. I love it all so much! 3 colours, a top and a base coat. I couldn’t believe it. She said she just trawled my Pinterest to see what I like at the moment – so it seems masses of unnecessary over-sharing does pay off 😀

If you read yesterday’s post you would have seen that I have been struggling with reading so far this year and not really getting into my current book ‘Gone Girl’. So yesterday afternoon I decided to pick it up and read about 250 pages. I’m hooked guys and gals. It’s a very intriguing read! So glad I persevered and I have not a clue what’s going to happen! On the subject of reading, today’s Kindle deal of the day on amazon.co.uk was A Winter Book by Tove Jansson for 99p. She was the same author who created The Moomin series and (as I previously said) I will write a blog soon about The Moomins and Tove (who, incidentally, illustrated the Swedish translations of The Hobbit – they’re worth a look!). Her first adult novel The Summer Book is on my wish list but I couldn’t not take up this offer! I’m really looking forward to reading it. I also got The Complete Sherlock Holmes for free and The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared for 20p. It’s been suggested to me for a while so I figured 20p was worth it! So now I have an Everest of books to choose from. I really have to get onto reading them!
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