Four places I'd love to visit for a country weekend away

I say this time and time again but I really do need to explore more of the the UK - there really are some Great Little Breaks to be taken advantage of.  I have a list as long as a piece of string but as soon as I look into booking a trip, I automatically start booking flights. I really need to make more of a effort to see more of my home country. Here are my top five places I'd like to visit for a country getaway from the Big Smoke - one day I'll make it here!

1. Peak District
I have this weekend planned for when I finally get to the peak District. I want to do a slow drive up there before basing ourselves in Bakewell to enjoy the country pubs. From here I want to spend a day at the gorgeous Chatsworth House before spending a day doing the Monsel Trail. The former railway tunnels along the limestone dales look so picturesque. I imagine it just can't be beaten on a sunny day.

2. Bath
I have no idea why I still haven't made it to Bath as it's only a few hours away. It's not the country as such but it's a lot more like the country than London is! I'm dying to lose a few hours in the stunning architecture, the Roman-built baths, the quirky independent shops and follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen. It seems like such a vibrant city and I'd love to see it during the festive season for the Christmas markets.

3. Isles of Scily
Located off the Cornish coast, this archipelago doesn't even look like they belong in the UK. The southernmost point of the country, the islands seem to have their own microclimate. I'd love to spend a week island hopping, soaking up the rugged coastlines, incredible locally sourced food, the slow pace of life and the interesting history.

4. Vineyards of Kent
It's my dream to spend a weekend on a vineyard but it's so expensive to go to France and Italy. I could have a two week holiday for the amount it would cost me for a weekend. But I really don't have to venture that far to tick it off my list. Kent has fast become the heart of the English wine-making industry. So Kent is where I would like to go!

This is a collaborative post with Great Little Breaks

Restaurant review: The Hanoi Bike Shop, Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is a great foodie city, I don't think you could ever run out of places to eat. Hanoi Bike Shop, the only Vietnamese restaurant in the city, was just a ten minutes stroll from our apartment. Vietnamese is one of my favourite cuisines to eat so I knew we had to squeeze in a trip. Boy am I glad we did as it was glorious! Hanoi Bike Shop offers small sharing places, with the dishes on the menu all as locally sourced as possible and made from scratch.

We opted for some prawn crackers and a creamy peanut butter and chilli sauce to help us pursue the menu. They recommend three to four dishes per person so that's exactly what we ordered. Highlights of the meals included spicy chilli and cauliflower bites, dense sesame seed chicken livers, a flavoursome rich pheasant curry served in a clay pot and sweet honey and crispy salted duck leg. The dishes were so moreish and light with each one just as good as the previous. You really could taste the high quality of the food served with each bite. The portions were a great size for sharing plates - sometimes restaurants can be a little tight when it comes to small plates.

It was all really reasonably priced and service was attentive and informative. It was one of our foodie highlights of the trip and I'll definitely visit again if I ever find myself in the city. It reminded me once again why Vietnamese scores so highly on my tastebuds.


Recipe: Orange layer cake

I'm a massive fan of citrus flavoured cakes so this orange layer cake was always going to be a winner.  I slightly adapted the Mary Berry recipe to cut out the glaze she suggested. Instead I just used plain buttercream in the middle. It's a really simple cake to make and it went down a treat at the BBQ I made it for.

225g baking spread
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
Zest of two oranges

For the buttercream
150g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar

1. Heat the oven to 180 / 160 fan / gas mark 4. Grease two cake tins liberally with butter and line with parchment paper.

2. Keep a quarter of the orange zest back then put all the cake ingredients into a stand mixer and mix until combined and smooth.

3. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for around 20 minutes but keep an eye on it as it cooks very quickly! As you can tell because it looks a little brown around the edges...

4. Once cooked, leave in tins for five minutes before taking out the cake and placing it on a wire rack to cool down.

5.  Put the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and beat until it is light and fluffy. Spread half the butter on one half of the cooled cake. Then sandwich both the cakes together.

6. Mix in the remaining orange zest with the rest of the icing sugar. Smooth on the top of the layer cake.

7. Cut yourself a big slice and tuck in!

As always I would love to know what you think of this and if you try it yourself. Just drop me a tweet to let me know!

How to style a tiered midi skirt

Black roll neck body: ASOS (similar)
Black and white patterned tiered midi skirt: ASOS
Black midi heel shoes: Primark (similar)
Poppy red Lily bag: Mulberry
Faux leather jacket: New Look (similar)
Red liquid lipstick: Kat Von D

I wore this over the weekend for a little mother/daughter date to London. We had such a lovely day catching An American in Paris in the West End (highly recommend it!), buying ridiculous yet fully essential things for my garden to make it look pretty for an upcoming BBQ and stuffing our faces in Bills with ribs and chicken burgers. It turned out to be such a beautiful day and it finally felt like spring. Looking out the window I had high hopes for the weather so I decided to wear my favourite skirt again. It makes me feel like the red lady dress emoji which is never a bad thing right?

This weekend looks to be just as fun as I'm on my way to the French Riviera for a weekend with my favourite internet friends. We've got the perfect guide in the form of Elodie showing us all around her hometown. I can't wait for a weekend of good food, great company and warm sunshine. It's been a long four months since I've been on a plane so I'm so excited to be exploring another part of the world.


Four places I'd love to visit on a cruise holiday

Planet Cruise never really appealed to me until the last few years - now I love the idea if being about to tick so many things off my bucket list in one holiday. It seems like river cruises are my thing. So many incredible cities are located along riverbanks. Here are four different types of cruises I'd love to go on...

1. River Danube cruise
We spent time along the River Danube in Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna but there is so much more I want to explore. Starting in the Black Forest of Germany, the river flows through ten different countries. This time it'll be great to visit during the winter months to see more of Germany along the river. Catching the Christmas markets at Nuremberg, Bamberg and Wurzburg are all top of my list. Alternatively, it'll be great to see the Balkens - a region of Europe I'm not too familiar with but am keen to change. I've heard so many good things about the slightly undiscovered Serbia.

Image credit Lily Lipstick
2. River Mekong cruise
The world's 12th longest river is based in south-east Asia. But the two countries I've most interested in seeing along the route are Cambodia and Vietnam. Angkor Wat is top of my list! I'd love to see the rural floating communities as well as the big city of Ho Chi Minh City.

Image credit Bow Dream Nation

3. Iceland, Norway and Faroe islands cruise
This part of the world always seems like it's from another planet and I think that's part of the reason why it appeals so much to me. All three countries are brand new to me and all high on my list of places to visit. I've spent many hours looking at blog posts about the beautiful Bergan, Reykjavik and Torshavn. I can imagine the scenery on the cruise will be absolutely breathtaking.

Image from Planet Cruise

4. River Nile cruise
My nan did this a few years ago and the pictures looked amazing! I don't think you can fully appreciate these ancient wonders of the world along the longest river in the world until you actually see them in person. The Valley of the Kings have been on my bucket list for ages and I'd love to finally tick it off.

This post was written in collaboration with Planet Cruise - one of the largest independent cruise agents, offering deals to over 3000 different ports.

Restaurant review: Yuu Kitchen, Whitechapel, east London

As soon as I looked online at the menu at Yuu Kitchen I knew I was going to take up their invitation to try their new dishes. It looked delicious! Located on Commercial Road in the East End, the Pacific Rim inspired restaurant specialises in sharing plates. The best kind of restaurant in my opinion because who doesn't like to try and sample everything on the menu?

To help stop our rumbling bellies as we pursued the menu, my BFF and I decided to order some addictive salted edamame beans and crunchy pork chicharron (pork scratchings) to wet our appetite. They were the perfect introduction to the menu and left us craving more. Our stand out items included the moreish sweet & sticky aubergine which left us desperately needing more as soon as it was finished, tender salt and pepper calamari, twice cooked pork belly bao with the perfect accompaniment of BBQ sauce and cucumber pickles and baby back ribs with a decent amount of heat, they just fell off the bone. A deep fried bao filled with creamy pistachio ice cream was such a game changer. It was probably one of the best things I have eaten in a long time. A revelation!

The menu was fun and inventive. It fully deserves its place in the London restaurant scene. We got to sit at the bar which I highly recommend. It was great fun watching the busy chefs work their magic and they were so helpful, answering any questions we had about the food. In fact all the staff couldn't be any more helpful. A Friday night very well spent - thanks so much for having us Yuu Kitchen. We had a blast!


Recipe: summer fruit drizzle cake

It feels like it's been an age since I've had time to do some baking so I took advantage of some free time on Bank Holiday Monday. It's made me realise how much I've missed locking myself away in the kitchen and just concentrating on the task at hand. I wanted something simple with ingredients I didn't need to do a big shop for. The end result was this delicious summer fruits drizzle cake from Good Food. It came together wonderfully and couldn't be easier to make.

2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
175g of strawberries, halved and blueberries
140g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
175g of Stork baking margarine
175g caster sugar
250g self-raising flour

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees / 160 degrees fan oven / gas mark 4. Line a loaf tin with parchment paper and grease liberally with butter.

2. Put the butter, caster sugar, flour, vanilla extract and eggs into a large bowl or stand mixer. Beat until pale and creamy. Keep in mind the mixture will be quite thick so don't worry!

3. Scatter 1/3 of the cake mix into the tin then scatter a small handful of fruit evenly. Then pour over another 1/3 of the mixture and repeat the fruit process. Finally pour over the remaining mixture before popping in the oven.

4. Cook for around an hour - pop some tin foil over the top if it starts to go too brown too early.

5. Once cooked, leave it in the tin on the side while you make the drizzle mixture.

6. Put the remaining fruit in a bowl with the lemon juice and sugar. Give it a good stir, slightly mashing up the fruit as you go. It should turn into a pink paste.

7. Pour over the top of the cake and leave it to set in the tin and fully cool down.

8. Once it's all cooled down, cut yourself a slice and tuck in!

I'd really love to know if you attempt this at home so please do drop me a tweet. Happy baking!


Three of my favourite candles at the moment

Since buying my own house I've become obsessed with candles. I feel they really help to create a warm, welcoming home and find them so relaxing flickering away after a long day at work. Here are three of favourite candles at the moment...

1. Roam by 42 Pressed*
Named after my favourite city in the world, this 100% natural soy wax candle was made for me! Boasting spicy black pepper, floral lavindin, woody oak moss and musky labdanum, it has a really rich and warming aroma. It's powerful yet not too over bearing.

2. Alchemy and Thistle*
The amber vintage-style glass immediately caught my eye and then I smelt it and fell hook, line and sinker. Made from eco-friendly soya wax, the rich aroma of zesty bergamot and warming frankincense circles the room. It helps to create such a cosy atmosphere and really evokes feelings of autumn. Despite being in spring, it's still a little chilly so the candle is still burning bright.

3. Scandinavisk
Keen to embrace all aspects of Scandinavian culture, I had to add one of these candles to my collection. - how pretty is that glass jar? I opted for Island Solitude which promised to evoke images of Scandinavian islands with subtle notes of driftwood, hardy rose, white flowers and green leaves. It smells beautifully light and fresh, making it perfect for the warmer months.

Restaurant review: Firezza, Soho, central London

It seems like I've been eating a lot of pizza lately. Heaven eh? Last week I was invited along to the launch of a new pizza joint in Soho. Firezza decided to open their first sit-down restaurant and throw an insane pizza party to celebrate. Based in Dean Street, the location couldn't be more perfect - right in the heart of London.

They helped to wet our appetites with a selection of delicious bruschetta and endless glasses of prosecco. After we sampled everything on offer we took a seat and waited for the main event.

Served by the metre, the pizza is ideal for sharing. That's if you can bring yourself too - you might not want to after you have your first bite. Starting from £6, there are a variety of different topping on offer. My favourite featured generous lashings of creamy chunks of mozzarella, spicy pepperoni and torn flavoursome basil. Quite often the base can let a pizza down but the thin, chewy base blistered perfectly at the chunky crust. Make sure you try their signature potato and rosemary pizza too. It sounds strange but it works oh so well!

Filled with oozing cream, sprinkled with sweet icing sugar and dipped in chocolate chips, I fell in love with cannoli. It was my first time trying this Sicilian pastry but it won't be the last. They are unbelievably addictive and one of the must-try items on the menu.

Firezza has a lot of competition in London but it certainly lives up there with the best of the pizza joints on offer. It offers great value for money which is something often hard to find in the capital. It's a great place to get a group of friends together over the weekend for a catch up without breaking the bank. Enjoy the good food, craft beer and delicious desserts. Thanks so much for letting me come along - I'll certainly be back guys!


Exploring Europe: Mussenden Temple, Castlerock, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Another site on our Game of Thrones Northern Ireland wishlist back in January was Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple. The weather didn't play ball but it was a cracking visit nonetheless. Owned my National Trust, the vast 18th century estate was built around 1772 by the Earl Bishop Frederick Hervey. The stunning temple itself, perched on a cliff edge was actually a library. The whole site is open from dawn until dusk and is free to visit.

Now I bet you're wondering about the Game of Thrones reference? Well, the beach the temple overlooks is where Melisandra burned the old gods on Dragonstone.

But even if GoT isn't your jam, it's still worth popping it into your itinerary. We went on a gloomy weekday in the late afternoon -as you can tell from the photos above - and it was practically deserted. Just the three of us chattering, the sheep grazing and the wind howling. It was so tranquil and peaceful, just the ticket to soak up the beauty of the Emerald Isle. I'm in such a hurry to back across the sea and see more of the country I've fallen head over heels in love with....


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