Washington DC

Washington DC

We had a completely different experience of Washington DC to a lot of visitors as we had a very knowledgeable guide. My friend lives and works in Washington DC and has really made the most of living in the capital city and all it has to offer.

We started our visit at a barbeque restaurant (where I was so excited to eat that I didn’t take any pictures). We continued the next day in this vein with a visit to Old Ebbitt Grill which serves delicious food to diplomats, government staff and locals. The brunch was divine and really set us up for the Monuments Walk.

The whole of Washington DC has been perfectly designed so that everything is aligned, making it straightforward to navigate. I particularly liked the reflecting pool and the Roosevelt monuments. The Monuments Walk is the thing to visit in Washington if you only have half a day to see the most famous sights, including the White House.  I only wish we had been there early enough in the year for the cherry blossom festival.

D and I rounded off our day with a visit to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Washington has so many amazing museums open to the public for free. If anybody is visiting Washington DC soon my friend particularly recommends the Arboretum.

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Self Care is important

Self Care is important

“Self care” always seems a very millennial term to me. My mum often ends phone calls telling me to “look after yourself” and I think for me this isn’t about living extravagantly or being greedy with food or possessions. It’s more being kind to yourself, taking care of yourself even when things feel bleak and not going to extremes to make yourself feel better.

Caring for oneself might not be flashy, it might not give you the best social media following or Instagrammable moments 24/7 but it can keep you going when things get tough or when you’re feeling burnt out.

Here are some things that always help me when life starts getting on top of me (for whatever reason):

1. Have a bath. If you’re like me and your wonderful family and friends buy you a lot of bath stuff for Christmas or birthdays keep a stash to feel like a treat. There’s nothing like using something lovely smelling to lift your mood.

2. Soul food. There’s nothing like cooking the sort of thing you used to be fed when you were growing up to make you feel a bit better. If you’re really struggling with life even a bowl of kids cereal is fortified with vitamins and minerals and soup is cheap and filling (souper).

3. Take one thing off your list. In my job I write lists to help me to remember what I have to do and I encourage the people of my team to keep lists. I advise you, if you’re feeling truly overwhelmed with everything you expect to get done be realistic. Are you really going to have time for everything? You don’t have to be superwoman. Take something of your list to ease the pressure if it’s not an urgent task.

4. Sort out your socks. This is a silly one but tidying and cleaning helps you feel in control (this from a messy person!) and I realized just this weekend but actually wearing matching socks helps with the overall feeling of taking some pride in your appearance.

5. Spend time with loved ones. When life gets hard it is so easy to withdraw but I promise you company will help. Even if you’re sitting drinking tea at your friends house or playing games with your siblings. Don’t doubt the magic of spending time with people where you can just be yourself.

6. Get outside. See some nature. Get some fresh air. Blow those cobwebs away. Simple.

7. If you have a pet there is literally nothing nicer than them coming up to you and nuzzling you. I know not everyone is an animal person but if you are you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Be kind to yourself ladies and gentlemen.

A change of scene

A change of scene

You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.

Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.

However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.

D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.

Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.

Adding some pizzazz to your Halloween drinks

Adding some pizzazz to your Halloween drinks

With Halloween coming up on Monday (and with the weekend fast approaching) I have a couple of easy and festive drink recipes you can try at home. They can be scaled up or scaled down really easily so would be perfect for smaller gatherings or larger groups (just make sure these are kept out of reach of little ones!) These won’t require lots of complicated spirits and a lot of ingredients you might already have in. I think mulled cider is a wonderful drink around Halloween and Bonfire night, while the vodka and grenadine looks pretty spooky. Perfect for all you vampire lovers.

To make mulled cider you will need

2 cans cloudy apple cider

2 shots spiced rum

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Heat the ingredients on a low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved and the spices have started to release aroma. Strain with a sieve and serve (Initially I forgot this and let me say, it is not pleasant! I call it witches brew at this stage).

Scale up or down depending on how thirsty for cider you are.

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To make bloody vodka you will need

The vodka of your choice (we had vanilla)

Grenadine Syrup

Ice

The mixer of your choice – we had coke

The fun of this recipe is obviously that it looks a little bit like blood. However, unless you’re really trying to “get on it” you might want to add a mixer, otherwise you could end up falling asleep in a corner or something. Anyway all you need to do is mix 1 part grenadine syrup and 1 part vodka and serve over ice for the red effect. Then dilute a bit with something to make it more palatable.

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While these are no means the most complicated cocktail recipes and you will probably not win any mixology awards with these, they were pretty fun to make and drink. The simplicity of these makes these great for any budding party host!

Sunday Dinner at The Refectory

Sunday Dinner at The Refectory

A wise person once told me that Sundays are for relaxing and eating lovely food. While I am very much inclined to agree, that is what we SHOULD make time for its safe to say life can often get in the way of this at times. For me its having a busy job, running this blog on the side of that, looking after 2 bunnies, being in a play, doing up the house etc. etc. Life can be busy and its easy to forget that mealtimes should be leisurely and help you unwind from the week. So, in addition to inviting me for lunch I’d like to thank the staff at the Refectory in the Royal York Hotel for reminding me how chilled out a Sunday lunchtime can be.

The Royal York Hotel (I think) has recently changed hands and has such elegant interiors combining traditional elements of the architecture with a modern feel throughout. (I’m no design student but my friend Mrs E and I both liked what we saw). The refectory itself was pretty trendy and modern – sort of a conservatory with a Scandinavian vibe. Pretty perfect for weekends in York as it is close to the city centre but with a genuine feel of modern Yorkshire that I think a lot of people will enjoy.

We were made to feel so welcome by the restaurant staff and they all seemed pretty knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the food they were serving. The food is locally sourced which I am very much in favour of, especially given the amazing quality of the local produce in this region.

Also I was pretty impressed that Mrs E tried the piccalilli made on the premises (she is not usually one for condiments!) so this must have been pretty special. To start with Mrs E had the pressed ham hock – with the aforementioned piccalilli and mustard monkey bread. The ham hock and piccalilli went perfectly together and was beautifully presented. I had calamari, a rare treat for me as D is not a fan of squid. The squid was cooked to perfection and was incredibly tender.

For the main course I had roast of the day which was beef and Yorkshire pudding. I was impressed that I was asked how I would like my beef as I know preferences vary on this. I had mine rare and it was beautifully cooked (also I particularly enjoyed a roast dinner I had not had to cook myself). Mrs E enjoyed her confit duck leg (the chef’s special) which seemed to fall off the bone.

We decided to push the coat out and have a dessert each (something pretty rare for either of us these days). I had a Yorkshire cheese board – 3 kinds of cheese which I believe makes it a gentleman’s cheeseboard. I love cheese boards for having my own personal one was pretty cool. Mrs E had strawberry sorbet which looked fresh and inviting and I think a great palate cleanser after the duck.

We sat and relaxed in the light airy restaurant and finished our wine (we had Sauvignon Blanc) and then walked around York to digest our lunch.

All in all a pretty great Sunday lunchtime don’t you think?

We both really enjoyed our food and we were genuinely touched by the attention of the staff. Thank you for inviting us! The Refectory is a great venue with some wonderful food – I think this was reflected in that we could see family groups of different sizes, friends on days out like us and a few couples. I would really recommend this place to anyone visiting York and will definitely be coming back.

For more information about The Refectory including booking details click here. Click here for information on the Royal York hotel including booking details, how to get there and hotel facilities.

I was invited to review the Sunday Lunch at the Royal York Hotel but all opinions and enthusiasm is my own.

Afternoon Tea at Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Afternoon Tea at Blackpool Tower Ballroom

Visiting Blackpool always gives me a lot of Nostalgia. While it wasn’t somewhere my family visited as frequently, I have very specific memories of the place. Getting stuck on top of the big wheel on the pleasure beach in the pouring rain with my mum, windy games of crazy golf and going on a school trip to the tower as a very little girl. Part of the school trip involved us eating our packed lunches in the ballroom so you can understand why I jumped at the chance of reviewing their afternoon teas on here.

I brought my lovely friend Mrs E with me for this trip. As as being a fellow Yorkshire resident; she also comes from Lancashire, so she also has memories of the place. We both wholeheartedly enjoyed eating sandwiches and cake watching different couples dancing. As somebody who has never properly learned how to dance with a partner apart from the odd waltz around the living room with her father, I was impressed by the couples gliding gracefully across the dance floor. Forget Strictly, I was imagining a time when young couples met up in that very ballroom in the not too distant past.

While this wasn’t the most luxurious afternoon tea I have ever eaten, it ranks pretty highly in both taste and atmosphere. The ballroom itself is beautiful and the music from the Wurlitzer organ was very pleasant (and no, there was no rendition of “I do like to be beside the seaside). In fact, we were so distracted by the scones and tea we stropped noticing the music being quite as loud. I think its good to note that while most of the visitors were older, it is something that is lovely for all younger people too and is especially suitable for families (you can buy Slush Puppies at the bar which are a personal favourite!) For those of you who don’t know; in the Tower at Blackpool there are several attractions including the Blackpool Tower Dungeon, the Circus and the Eye at Blackpool so the Ballroom afternoon tea is an ideal place to chill out in between these and would also make a more tranquil setting for an afternoon tea for those of you considering a girls day out in Blackpool (as we were).

For those amongst you wanting finer details of the food – you could tell everything was freshly made. I don’t know what brand the tea was but we both liked it. The sandwiches were made with a pleasant variety of fillings. The scones were sultana scones and were pleasantly soft rather than crumbly. The jam provided was in those little jars and was a high quality conserve and the clotted cream was also excellent. I particularly liked the variety of little cakes (although we saved these for later as we were both too full to properly enjoy them). We had tiffin, a fruit meringue, a freshly baked miniature apple pie and a miniature cheesecake. The cheesecake was so creamy! (D’s reviews of the cakes were also very positive).

I think from this post you can tell we really did have a wonderful time and appreciate being invited to visit so much. The staff were very kind and boxed up uneaten cake for me to take home (which D enjoyed later). The only downside of the entire trip was that I happened to pick a Saturday when the weather was so horrible and stormy we were completely soaked by the time we reached the Tower. (That’s weather in the North West for you!)

For full details of Afternoon Tea and the Blackpool Tower click here.

For further details of the attractions of Blackpool Tower visit here.

We followed this visit with a trip to the Sea Life Centre and a game of crazy gold. Which I lost. Spectacularly.

Our visit to Afternoon Tea in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom was a press trip so everything was complimentary, but all views are my own. Thank you for inviting me!

10 things

10 things

So you may have noticed I have been a bit quieter than usual. There were several factors leading to this (I changed jobs, D and I went to Italy and we were both in shows in the space of about 5 weeks). More on all of the above later. Anyway, I have a lot of posts planned for the next couple of weeks and for some rather wonderful reason I have a lot of reviews lined up which excites me quite a lot (including afternoon teas and a low sugar chocolate spread). In the meantime I decided to just sit down and write. Writing is what I love and when the proportion of food posts to more general posts dropped, it was the writing I kept enjoying.

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So onto my list which is based around some of my random pondering.

  1. If you’re going to a party and you don’t know anyone much beyond the host its always a good idea to take snacks. If you like baking or its a birthday you might want to make cupcakes or a birthday cake but generally you can’t go wrong with fancy crisps. There will always be someone who will be excited to see some Kettle Chips. (I am reliably that person).
  2. Life is so much better when you get past the point in your life when you envy people’s life events and feel genuinely happy for them. There is literally nothing nicer than sitting around with your old friends and having that lovely squishy feeling of contentment knowing people have achieved goals they set themselves, found their life partners or are expecting children. Jealousy weights you down and gets in the way of friendship, supporting your buddies just increases your happiness.
  3. In the same vein let the important people in your life know you care. Its always nice to feel appreciated.
  4. You never know what you can achieve until you put your mind to it. It takes guts, it takes practise but sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone is the best thing.
  5. Sometimes its good to take recommendations from friends and family on things. Tried and tested can be better than taking a risk (especially if its for something like a plumber or a roofer).
  6. If you’re regularly earning try to put a bit into savings each month, even if you’re not saving for anything in particular. When an opportunity does come along that you want to take it’ll mean you can just go for it without worrying so much about your finances.
  7. You know you’ve got a good one when you they tell you they’re proud of you when you achieve something you’ve been working towards.
  8. I’m just going to put this out there….I’m not sure I 100% understand all these people on my Instagram feed on holiday who are posing on inflatable things like doughnuts and flamingos. Where did they all come from?? How are they managing to pose so well on them? y brother and I had a blow up crocodile when we were 8 and 10 and we couldn’t stay on it for more than 3 minutes without falling  off and we were a lot smaller back then.
  9. Don’t feel bad for occasionally taking time out for yourself. Just to stop and relax and enjoy your own company. Down time is important.
  10. Even if you don’t manage a long holiday or to visit any exotic locations, try new things this summer.

Be happy my friends.

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