2017: A year in travel

Considering this year was suppose to be one spent mostly at home, it's somehow snowballed into a pretty busy year. I never made it to Brighton for a girls trip nor will I be visiting Germany for a Christmas market. But I did have the surprise trip of the French Riviera. This year has also reinforced my love of Europe, I really do live in on the greatest continent on the planet. So where have I visited this year?

I spent my birthday weekend in Paris with my mum and had such a wonderful trip. Probably my favourite time I've had in Paris. We walked to the top of the Arc D,Triomphe, watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night, ate dinner in a restored Orient Express carriage, wandered around Galeries Lafayette and inhaled crepes as if our lives depended on it. Every time I hop of the Eurostar, I can't never quite believe how lucky we are to practically have Paris on our doorstep.

Northern Ireland
To help commiserate being stuck together for ten years, Connor and I headed to Northern Ireland for four days. It was great to catch up with Connor's family in Derry and take road trips along the Causeway Coast. It's one of my favourite places to visit and as soon as I touch down at the airport, I feel at home. I've already got a trip planned for next summer as it's about time I finally visited the Giant's Causeway - fourth time lucky!

French Riviera
After stumbling across flights to Marseille for £35, I gathered the girls Hannah, Michelle and Sarah together to jet over to visit Elodie. We spent a wonderful day in Marseille, an afternoon exploring the brilliant Villa Noailles and a lazy day wandering around Elodie's hometown of Sanary-Sur-Mer. It was such a chilled weekend and just what I needed. It made me realise just how lucky I am to have found my Girl Gang.

Poland is one of my favourite countries I've visited and I still can't believe just how undiscovered it is. Everyone was slightly bewildered when I mentioned I was taking my two week holiday to Poland and I found myself getting quite defensive. Poland really is a great place and I've been twice now, visiting four different cities, one seaside town, the largest castle in Europe and spending a few days in the countryside. Gdansk was absolutely wonderful and by far my favourite Polish city. It was great to visit Warsaw again and I still stand by my view that its got a certain edge over Krakow.

I trotted down to Cardiff for Gem's wedding. It was a weekend of too much gin, lots of delicious food, sore feet and the one of the loveliest Air BnB's I've stayed in. It was such an honour to be invited to Gem's wedding and Cardiff is such a great city. I was blown away by the food culture and vowed to return soon!


What I've been cooking #2: Mary Berry's Baking Bible

So this cookbook series didn't really go very well did it? I only reviewed one book and it was another Mary Berry one - who said I'm a creature of habit? I just find her recipes so simple and effective. I'm going to try and start this series up again as my cookbook collection has gotten out of control and soon I will have my own kitchen! I find spending a Sunday in the kitchen really relaxing and have been trying to keep that day aside each week to try and chill out after a hectic week. So without further ado, here is what I baked from Mary Berry's Baking Bible...

Madeira Cake
This is such a classic and one I can't believe that I have never baked before. The beautifully dense cake is one of my favourite afternoon treats. Loaf cakes are one of my favourite things to bake as they're just so simple. This was no exception to the rule. Just keep an eye on it as I feel like 30 minutes is a little too long to be in the oven. It cooks very quickly and I popped some tinfoil over it after 10 minutes. I'll definitely be rustling up a Madeira again.

Blueberry Muffins
Yet another classic. This American muffins are a great sweet treat for breakfast.Make sure you fill the cases up the top as they don't seem to rise as much as I think they should. It will help you get the 'muffin' look. The finished muffin is gorgeously light and perfectly tart, making it impossible to stop at just one. Another recipe I'll be making again. Can Mary Berry do any wrong?

Date and chocolate loaf
I had high expectations for this and mixed thoughts when I finally tasted it. The chocolate was a little bit non-existent but the date flavour was lovely. It tastes very similar to malt loaf and is made much better with a slick of salted butter. Everyone else raved about it so maybe it was just my fussy ways. I'm not sure I'll make this one again...

Maple syrup cake
I loved the maple syrup and orange combination of this cake. It had the perfect amount of sweetness. But I wasn't too keen on the American style frosting which was basically whipped double cream. Give me buttercream icing any day. Whilst I'm glad I tried this cake, it's not one I'm going to be adding to my regular list any time soon.

Irish soda bread
I'd never made any type of bread before having been easily intimidated. But I decided to try my hand at some soda bread as a treat for my Irish boyfriend. Despite forgetting to add the salt, I KNOW!, I added some salted butter and it actually tasted really nice. I imagine it'll taste even better when I remember to put in one of the most important ingredients. It was so, so simple to make and came out with such a gorgeous crust. I'll definitely be rustling up one of these on a regular basis.

Fruit scones
How can you go wrong with some scones? I've always made my scones from Mary Berry and they've always came out great. I alternative the type of fruit I use every time and each variation is tasty. The recipe never usually makes as many as she says it will so always double up. You can never have too many!

So my thoughts on Mary's baking bible? Like all the other Mary books I've tried, this is flawless. She just has a knack of producing really simple, traditional recipes that always come out trumps. I've yet to have a real disaster and another I haven't liked is just due to personal taste. She is always my go-to when it comes to a good classic cake. It's a great cookbook for a lazy Sunday afternoon of baking as you never have to concentrate too hard on a recipe. Another success from the Bezza! 

Am I a narcissist?

I was on the bus a few weeks ago and was listening to a middle aged couple talk about the yoof of today and how awfully narcissistic my generation are. It's all selfies and social media. We only think about ourselves and how we're too busy being vain to be of any use to anyone. We validate our lives by how others perceive us.

It got me thinking. I've been taking pictures of my mug for the internet for the past seven years. Shamelessly posting it all over social media and writing about my favourite clothes and make up. Put a camera in front of me and I'll happily strike a pose - so long as I get to take 76563543 pictures so I can choose the most flattering. So why exactly do I post pictures of myself on the internet for everyone to see?

Of course it's nice to hear people tell you like they like your outfit you've spent a good hour deciding to wear and when you hit 50 likes on that cake you've spent a whole morning slaving over on Instagram. It does give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside. But this isn't how I validate my life. I promise.

I've always been the one to take lots of pictures even back in the days when it was cool to take a disposable camera out to a Saturday night out in a grimy, sticky-floored club. So why change the habit of a lifetime? I post pictures on my blog and social media because I love to keep an online diary of what I've been getting up to. It's so easy to forget those little moments in life as you get bogged down with the mundane. I scroll back through my Instagram and blog with a smile on my face, remembering all the dreamy holidays, fun days out with friends and ridiculous outfits I once thought looked stylish. It's a way of hoarding my memories.

So no, I wouldn't class myself as a narcissist. Where's my iPhone? I need to take a picture of my face thanks.

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