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Favourite Posts From 2015

30 Dec 2015
Hey guys!

So, quite a lot happened in 2015. Some of it I blogged about, some I didn't. Some moments I enjoyed, some I didn't. The months of January - June were spent mainly in France, but I also went to Spain and I went to Italy. I learnt a lot, I baked barely anything, I ate a lot of yummy food, I met a lot of new people and I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone... like, every single day.

Today, I was looking through some of my posts from this year and decided to bring all my favourites together into a sort of, 'highlights' post. 

Christmas At Kew Gardens

22 Dec 2015

Where have I been?

17 Dec 2015

Autumnal Flowers From Appleyard London

2 Nov 2015

The Martian // A Film Review

20 Oct 2015

I don't understand people who describe themselves as not being 'a film person', or 'not enjoying going to the cinema'. I literally cannot get my head around this idea. To me, there's nothing more relaxing than snuggling into your bed or sofa, fairy lights on, popcorn at the ready and a relaxing movie. The only thing that beats that, depending on what mood you're in, is heading on down to the cinema for some big screen action. It was Saturday night and my friend invited me to see this film I'd never heard of. It was called 'The Martian' and had 93% rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, if you call yourself a film lover then you'll know that 93% positive is pretty freaking amazing. I mean, some of the films I go to see have about 30% positive reviews and I still absolutely love them.

I expected it to be great, but I didn't expect it to be that great. Without meaning to make an awful generalisation, I thought it might be a bit like Gravity (that one with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) and although I did enjoy that film, I didn't think that it lived up to the hype and it did kind of disappoint. 

The Martian is based on a novel by Andy Weir, and is a film based mainly on Mars about a guy who is believed to be dead and is left stranded by his crew on their mission. He is, in fact, alive, and the film follows his personal one-man journey, along with those in NASA who are also involved in the mission. Said guy is played by the ever wonderful Matt Damon, who I have to say looks pretty fine throughout the whole movie. I always find movies that are based solely on one character particularly interesting, because the actor/actress really can make or break the film. In this case, Damon absolutely made it and played the part fantastically. He was lovable, courageous, sexy, funny and everything in between. If you don't already consider yourself to be a Matt Damon fan, then you will after seeing him in The Martian. The other characters were great, and I particularly loved the appearance of Donald Glover from Community as the astrodynamics guy (I think that's what he was...)

In terms of the actual film and plot itself, The Martian is the perfect combination of light-hearted humour, scintillating problem solving and thrilling action. It wasn't too much action for someone who's a massive wimp like me, but plenty enough to get the adrenaline pumping and leave me on the edge of my seat a couple of times. Any film that makes me tear up also gets a gold star from me, especially if it's because of Matt Damon.

Probably my favourite thing about this film is that it is incredibly mentally stimulating. I won't sit here and pretend that I could follow all of the physics talk throughout the film (though there's not that much, don't worry), but I can't remember the last time I was so in awe of the intelligence of movie characters. It was so full of problems that required well thought out solutions, more problems, more solutions, more problems etc that I genuinely thought there was never going to be a happy ending. In fact, maybe there was and maybe there wasn't, I don't want to spoil it for anyone!

All in all, it was one of the best films I've seen in the long time, and this is coming from a self-confessed chick flick addict.

Afternoon Tea at Vintage Salt, Selfridges

11 Oct 2015

Could there be anything better than cake, in my favourite city, with two of my favourite people? 

I briefly spoke about my breakfast at 26 Grains in Neal's Yard the other day, and now it's time to discuss one very yummy afternoon tea. As with everything, I spent a lot of time researching places for Afternoon Tea in London, and I found that most of them were either crazily expensive (er, The Ritz, Fortnum & Mason) or just your typical cute but kind of samey tea rooms. We came across Vintage Salt in our research, which is an adorable little restaurant pop up on the rooftop of Selfridges. Unfortunately, I have just found out that it's closing and being replaced this weekend (!!!) but I thought I'd blog about it anyway.

To get to Vintage Salt you have to take a special lift on the ground floor of Selfridges, walk along a nautical themed corridor and enter the also nautical themed cafe. As you'll see from the photo above, me and Anna embarrassingly fitted in perfectly with the theme and looked like we worked there, damn that stripes trend. 

Inside the café it was classy, cute, and felt more homely than hotel restaurants. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go for afternoon tea somewhere seriously fancy like The Ritz, but this place was perfect for us. It wasn't very busy at all when we arrived which was also kind of nice, but I'm really surprised there weren't more people who'd heard of it. 

We were able to choose from tea or coffee (there's also an option of Champagne Afternoon Tea), which arrived in beautiful vintage style cups and saucers and teapots. Anna's cake stand then arrived with her very own treats without chocolate, as she can't eat it. Mine and Rowan's then arrived and boy did it look fantastic! There were some delicious classic finger sandwiches in the middle, scones on the top and an array of beautiful, colourful treats on the bottom. I was excited to see the macarons as they're my absolute favourite, but along with that we also had some kind of a strawberry cream tart, a chocolatey cake burger and my personal favourite - an indulgent brownie topped with golden popcorn. I couldn't fault anything because it was all absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, we couldn't finish two scones each but I guess that's just something I'll try to improve upon next time...

The service was also absolutely fantastic and the waiters who served us were all ultra friendly and lovely.

I have of course already blogged about the delights of afternoon tea before, once in the amazing Bill's Restaurant and once in Oakley Hall, a beautiful manor house in Hampshire. Both times for my Mum's birthday (can you tell we like cake in my household?) So have a look at them if you want more pictures of cake.

A Little Note on Breakfast at 26 Grains

7 Oct 2015

I met two of my best friends Anna and Rowan on my year abroad, and within about a day of meeting each other we were making plans for day trips, all of which centred around food. We were lucky enough to be in a fantastic location which was close to the Spanish border and other beautiful surrounding areas such as the Pyrenees and Provence. We managed to travel quite a lot, to places like BarcelonaProvenceAvignon and Perpignan, experiencing lots of interesting sights and interesting people!

Back in England and the summer blues hit hard. We all missed Montpellier but we probably missed each other even more, so a trip to London went straight into the diary, along with afternoon tea and tickets for The Audrey Hepburn Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery (which is just about to finish!).  

First stop when I got off the train was, of course, breakfast. Anna and I met in Neal's Yard which is quite possibly my favourite new place in London. We wanted to check out 26 Grains after seeing a billion and one delicious looking pictures featuring them on Instagram. The fact that they're ultra healthy was an added bonus, especially when an indulgent afternoon tea was booked for later in the day (more on that later!)

We sat down, ordered our breakfast and lo and behold a table of healthy goodness appeared before us. I couldn't order anything but the Banana Cacao Porridge Bowl, which was made up of almond milk oats, coconut yoghurts, banana, cacao nibs and maple. Although I'd be lying if I said that it tasted better than if it was made with slightly less healthy ingredients, it was pretty damn good. I'm always skeptical about how good a substitute these things actually are for the classic ingredients, but 26 Grains has increased my faith! Turns out that Cacao nibs are actually a tasty substitute for chocolate chips, albeit slight more bitter in comparison. I also loved the coconut taste coming from the yoghurt.

Anna had a Raspberry Chia bowl which consisted of a handful of things I've forgotten, but including some delicious apple and blackberry and spiralized apple.

Next up will be afternoon tea at Vintage Salt - an adorable and seemingly inconspicuous little café/restaurant!

I'm A Featured Blogger

4 Oct 2015
I've heard some bloggers say that one of the greatest things about blogging is being able to work with brands and collaborate with other bloggers. I had yet to experience this until an email popped into my inbox in September, asking if I would like to write and shoot pictures for a recipe tutorial. When I was told that it was National Coffee day on the 29th September and that I could do a coffee themed recipe if I wanted, I was completely sold and got planning straight away. The recipe I decided to undertake was for Macarons with a Mocha Ganache, which seemed to me to be the perfect light, but deliciously sweet and elegant dessert. It took me a good few attempts to perfect them because, as with everything it seems the presence of presence and a deadline meant that everything suddenly went wrong!

I hadn't actually heard of the company, Wayfair, before, but when I looked around their site I saw so much cute looking homeware and I will definitely be going back to it! Their prices are incredibly reasonable as well; there are a few pricey items but it is mainly great value.*

*I received some baking goodies in return for the recipe, but this blog post is not sponsored and I genuinely do love the items Wayfair has to offer! The adorable cake stand pictured can be found here on the website!

Speculoos Cupcakes

3 Oct 2015

For those of you thinking 'what the heck is Speculoos?!', it's a delicious biscuit spread that tastes somewhere between gingerbread and digestives and it is heaven. Some people even have it straight on toast (not me, that's too far.)

Also, I'm sure none of you will have noticed but I have been away from blogging for a few weeks. This is down to the fact that since I've started back at uni I have been swamped with social plans and preparation work and to say that I have been feeling overwhelmed would be a massive understatement. Turns out that final year is hectic and I'm struggling to find time for everything right now. Fingers crossed it settles down soon!

You will need:

150g butter
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
Speculoos/biscoff spread

125g butter
250g icing sugar
a few tsp water

Step One: Cream the butter and sugar together.
Step Two: Beat in the eggs and the vanilla essence.
Step Three: Stir in the sifted flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
Step Four: Fill one third of your cupcakes cases with cake mixture. Add a dollop of speculoos spread in the centre and cover with more mixture.
Step Five: Bake in a preheated oven at 180c for 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Step Six: Beat your butter in a bowl and add the sifted icing sugar. Mix until combined and smooth, adding drops of water as and when needed.
Step Seven: Add streaks of speculoos spread to the inside of your piping bag, followed by the icing mixture. Using a large star nozzle, decorate your completely cooled cupcakes.

Lake Garda // Garda Town

17 Sep 2015

Time for another Italy post? I think so.

The first time my family and I went to Lake Garda on holiday, we stayed in Garda. Although we definitely prefer Limone on a whole, Garda itself has its own fantastic qualities. Unsurprisingly, it's a stunning town with lots of character and a ton of gelaterias and restaurants; it's also a heck of a lot busier than little old Limone, which makes it a much better place to stay for young people. We even spotted some young Australian guys walking by while we were filling ourselves up with pizza, which was enough to make me momentarily wish I was staying there instead...

Our day began with a very stressful drive into Salo in an attempt to find the ferry port, tensions ran high and we eventually gave up and drove on over to Desanzano instead, where we then hopped on a boat to Garda. 1 1/2 hours later, a substantial way into my book and about five towns later and we arrived in Garda. The ferry times were so awful that we ended up with less than two hours to wander around the town and have lunch, but it was worth it.

Unfortunately the weather was a little bit unpredictable, and within thirty minutes the heavens had opened and the rain came pouring down. This put a stop to my plans for ice cream along the lakefront, but we did manage to nip into the many cute shops they have in the town. 

If you look through the pictures below then you'll see the charm and the individuality of the Italian streets in Lake Garda. 

I Might Have Tweaked A Few Things

14 Sep 2015

Hiya everyone!

I wasn't 100% happy with my blog design, so I decided to change things up a bit. I allocated myself a very small amount of time to change it and ended up reorganising a lot of aspects, but I am pretty happy about the way it's turned out. Let me know what you think!

So, what's changed?

Lake Garda // Mountain Choirs, Llamas & Paragliders

10 Sep 2015

Does that seem like a weird title to you? It kind of sounds like I've just made it up in a desperate attempt to entice you all into this potentially underwhelming post - that is not true, I promise. I really did head up a mountain only to find an Italian choir performing, llamas and some risky paragliders. The post will also hopefully not be underwhelming because there are lots of pretty pictures of pretty places, and who doesn't like pretty pictures?

Apparently Sunday is Funday and gets all the Italians (and tourists) out. It really was quite unexpected and there turned out to be something for everyone - Mum liked listening to the beautiful choir voices (we all love a good all-male choral group), Tash liked the funny llamas, Dad liked the mountain in general and I liked watching the exciting paragliders. A good 50% of my bucket list must be some form of extreme sport now and paragliding certainly features on that list, so it was not only in awe that I watched the paragliders set off from the top of the mountain overlooking the lake but also in envy. There was the little issue of a long and hot wait for the overly packed and stuffy cable cars to head up Monte Baldo, but overall it was a fantastic day trip.

Today, you will also be seeing pictures from our boat trip over the lake from Limone, the town I was staying in, to Malcesine and Monte Baldo. Got it? Okay, enjoy!

A Cookbook Wishlist

8 Sep 2015
 ...featuring a book dedicated solely to chicken

In less than two weeks, I will heading back to Leeds, back to University life and back to cooking for myself every day. In all honesty, I really don't cook much when I'm at home. I bake, yes, but I never seem to cook any family meals. When I'm living without my family and my darling wonderful cook of a mother, I will spend hours on end in the kitchen. As in, like a whole afternoon sometimes. Some say that time could be better-used studying, I say that food is life and we must always dedicate the vast majority of our days to it.

In preparation of my exciting move to final year and more cooking for myself, I have put together a little cookbook wishlist. It's a collection of books that I think would be suitable for a student on a middle range budget, who is also a keen aspiring healthy eater and likes food that looks pretty. Some of these are vegan, vegetarian, plant-based and all that jazz but I have absolutely no intention whatsoever to move over to any of these diets, ever. I am however willing to give a few recipes a go!

Lake Garda's Little Gem // Limone Sul Garda

6 Sep 2015

Lake Garda is my favourite place to be. It encompasses a blue lake, mountains and adorable little towns all in one. You know those places you keep on going back to year after year? Lake Garda is the one for us. Admittedly, I've only actually ever been to four countries so there isn't all that much to compare it to. In fact, I've never seen any of the other Italian Lakes but whatever, I'm sticking with Lake Garda for now.

If you asked me what kind of a 'holiday person' I was, then I would probably say most types but anything but a city. I like city breaks. Not city family holidays. In fact, the countless 'What Type of Holiday is Right for You?' quizzes I've taken over my lifetime have told me that I am either a 'beach' or an 'active' holiday girl, that is to say, I enjoy lying on the beach/lakefront, doing nothing all day one day, but I would happily get on a jet ski or paraglide off a mountain or something like that the next day.

The Best Carrot Cake Ever (& Orange Cream Cheese Frosting)

3 Sep 2015

I've never seen myself as a big fan of carrot cakes. I'm just always thinking, why have a carrot cake, when you can have a chocolate cake? So when my Dad asked for a Carrot Cake for his 60th, I wasn't overly enthused about making it.

Because of this lack of enthusiasm and because I've only ever actually attempted (and failed) a carrot cake once before in my life, I knew that there was only one website I wanted to look at for my recipe. Sally's Baking Addiction has been my absolute favourite from the start and every single recipe she posts seems to be absolutely spot on. She is literally the ultimate baking goddess. So I turned to her for a carrot cake recipe and I figured yeah, it'll probably turn out to be half decent at least, right? Wrong. It was half decent times two, which equals 100% decent which equals perfection. Yes, I said it, the tables have turned and I am now a carrot cake convert.

Making The Most Of Your Year Abroad: My Top Tips

31 Aug 2015

Around this time last year, I moved to France to begin my year abroad. This year abroad just so happened to be the best year of my life, but although it was fantastic, there are a few things that I wish I'd done and a few attitudes that I wish I'd made an effort to change whilst being abroad. It's so important to find a balance between having fun and learning, but it's also so easy to get lost in the excitement of your new country. So, I've thought of a few things that I wish someone had told me before I embarked on my adventure and have listed them down below.

10 Reasons Why I Couldn't Possibly Go To The Gym Today

28 Aug 2015

"I have never made up an excuse for not going to the gym" - said no one ever.

If at any point in your life you've joined a gym, then you'll probably know what I'm talking about when I say gym excuses. We've all been there; maybe it's raining, maybe it's not; maybe the sun is shining, it's a lovely day and you just can't be bothered. Well, I joined my local gym slightly over a month ago and I can safely say that I have probably used each and every one of these excuses at least once. Sometimes I've managed to convince myself out of it, but other times my darling mum has had to step in with a brutally honest comeback (she's good at those). Today I'm going to share with you my (sometimes very blunt) comebacks to the most classic gym excuses. You never know, it might even motivate you.

So, without further ado, I couldn't possibly go to the gym today because...:

Recipe: Viennese Fingers

26 Aug 2015

Wednesday is baking day, I have decided. When I'm back at university I am going to dedicate the day solely to baking (and my morning classes of course), and I am going to shower my housemates with freshly baked wonders as a congratulations for getting halfway through the week. Lucky them.

This Wednesday, I have a little biscuit recipe for you, which is adapted from the good old BBC. Viennese biscuits are some of my absolute favourites, because they are incredibly light and moreish and they're so blooming easy to make. Trust me. 


22 Aug 2015
Firstly, thank you to one of my absolute favourite bloggers Beth, for tagging me in the ultra positive, sweet 50 Things That Make Me Happy tag. It's always especially lovely to have someone mention you in their blog unexpectedly and I've realised that I should probably do it a lot more. It's pretty easy to forget how far a little appreciation can go, and it will quite often make someone's day. Now that I've finished this little introduction, I'm off on a commenting/expressing my undying love for other bloggers spree...

I've tagged a few people at the bottom as well!

1. Smiles from strangers.
2. Long coffee catch ups.
3. Cold evenings on the beach.
4. Rollercoasters.
5. Heights.
6. Fizzy strawberry laces.
7. Studio Ghibli Films.
8. Starry nights.
9. Molten Chocolate Puddings.
10. My good day playlist.


18 Aug 2015

When I was very little, my uncle bought a holiday house in Pembrokeshire, Wales. We spent a week there most summers for what was probably about ten years of my life until my teenage years came about and I began making other plans. One year it was Reading Festival, next it was driving lessons, next it was work. The main thing was that I simply wasn't bothered by it anymore. I think a lot of people go through stages early on in their lives where they just lack the appreciation for simple, beautiful things that we should be incredibly grateful more. I wish I'd made more use of the house, but perhaps because I didn't for the past four years, it's made me appreciate it so much more this time round.

Fortunately, my lack of full-time job meant that I was able to venture up there last weekend with my family (minus the big brother who is far too busy working away). I'm pretty sure my parents were surprised when I said I'd come and when I actually committed to it and stuck to my word.

How would I describe the area that we stay in? Well, it is without a doubt incredibly rural Wales and I'm not just talking no wifi hotspots, I'm talking no 3G (let alone 4G). Admittedly it was kind of nice, because although I'd find it ridiculously impractical to be living there, it was lovely to be able to switch off when I was out and about. Having said that, I did find myself taking snapchats and then sending them properly when I was back in the blessed with wifi house, but I just wanted to share my experience with my friends so I am definitely completely excused from that.

Our first full day consisted of a walk along the moors with a beautiful coastal view and a lot of rocks to climb on. My parents still act annoyingly surprised when I volunteer to go on a walk with them, but I guess the last time I was in Wales was when I was 16 and in that annoying phase where walks are just boring and tiring. I must be getting old now, or just wiser. We'll go with wiser.

There's a big pond at the bottom of the garden where I decided to attempt to row a boat with my dog in it. She did want to join me I promise, despite the worried expression she seems to have on her face! I love anything that's on water and I love canoeing, so I always wondered whether or not I'd be good at rowing. In fact, I like to think that I'm fantastic at ever single water sport there is despite never even having done most of them. I pretty much led myself to believe that I'd have a natural talent and would find my calling and have to join the Rowing Club in Leeds and become an absolutely blooming fantastic rower, but surprise surprise, that was very ambitious thinking. I definitely got the hang of it though, considering I've never rowed before!

And this was the glorious view from the house. You can just about make out the sea in this photo, along with a not so picturesque digger at the bottom of the garden... nothing's ever perfect is it. I'll be posting pictures from my coastal walk in a few days so look out for that!