A Christmas Break in Fareham, Hampshire perhaps?

Christmas Tree

I have to admit that this term has literally wiped me out, studying full time, working and juggling sick children has made me very tired and so all I want for Christmas is a few days break over the Christmas period. At home would be great but even better would be a few days away.

The question is where, I love London, and being in London for New Year’s eve would be fantastic, but I think I’ve had enough hustle and bustle for a while and at this time of year being by the sea comes into its own.

Having done a little research, Fareham in Hampshire seems like a great place to visit, not too far to travel to and whilst the market town between Southampton and Portsmouth won’t leave me feeling completely cut off there are also coastal walks by the solant that are sure to help blow any cobwebs away. There really is nothing more exhilarating than salty wind blowing your cheeks pink on a cold winter’s day,  it certainly is one of the best feelings ever.

Where to stay in Fareham

Of course I need somewhere to stay and the Holiday Inn Fareham seems like a good bet with rates starting at £75 per night and if I book early enough in advance I may qualify for a rate that includes breakfast and a three course dinner. Any money saving ideas are welcome here.

What to do in Fareham

If we want to add some sightseeing to our trip there is of course the Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard where we can also see the HMS Victory. A little light relief will be found at Marwell Zoo, which isn’t too far from Fareham. Of course a wintery riverside walk in Holy Hill Woodland Park sounds great too. Hmmm decisions, decisions…has anyone got any ideas to add? Or are you getting away for Christmas or New Year?

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

 

Lovin Dublin

 Lovin Dublin Jack McCarthy, Kanturk, Co.Cork. Black Pudding with baby leeks & gorgonzola at Coppinger Row

A couple of weeks ago I took a short trip to Ireland to attend the very first Lovin Dublin show which was a showcase of local talent and seven Lovin Dublin food and drink awards with categories such as The Best Brunch, Best Pub and Best Coffee Shop in Dublin. Plus there was a food start Nobóup prize of a whopping €25,000 which went to Nobó, who make the worlds first ice cream alternative made from avocado, coconut milk, and sweetened with pure honey. After seeing this ice cream I am hoping really hard that it makes it way over to the UK. All the winners of the awards can be found here.

The show was a great mixure of raw hard hitting chat from speakers such as Marco Pierre White, Niall Breslin and Mark Pollack plus motivating talks and a celebration of Dublin. This was followed by a double decker bus ride to the after party which then involved Jameson’s whisky, pizza and an incident involving a candle. Who says my life is boring?

 

Lovin Dublin

Lovin Dublin Photo Credit: Lovin Dublin

It is clear that whilst Dublin has been through tough times positivity is on the up and food plays a large part. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of restaurants and cafés in Dublin and it appears to never sleep considering the number of people that were still milling about at midnight on a cold Monday night.

Lovin Dublin

Coppinger Row is a Mediterranean restaurant specialising in using Irish ingredients, we had a delicious taster menu which included Barbequed Carlingford oysters with Merquez sausage, Co.Cork Black Pudding with baby leeks and Gorgonzola, Kilmore Quay Mackerel with Moroccan spices, fennel, olive & orange, and the most gorgeous Liscannor Bay Crab claws with garlic butter.

Coppinger Row

Lovin Dublin

I just about managed a morsel of this delicious cheese with Irish biscuits

Lovin Dublin

On my short Lovin Dublin trip I also ate at Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse and Grill, in Dawson Street. I couldn’t resist the Irish beef fillet with a classic béarnaise sauce with sides of triple cooked chips and creamed spinach. Mmmmm, it was lovely.

Lovin Dublin

The ambiance in the restaurant is great, I couldn’t believe how busy and buzzing it was for a Monday night. The decor of numerous photos of Marcus in various forms is ummm interesting but I’ll forgive him because the food was great.

Lovin Dublin

I’ve just scratched the surface of this trip, watch out for my next installment when I take you on a visual tour with Dublin Tasting Trails and more…

Thank you to Lovin Dublin and Visit Dublin for the trip to Dublin and to Lovin Dublin’s sponsors:  obrienswine.ie, Heinz Ireland, SuperValu.

 

 

Win a NOOK Simple Touch GlowLight with Paidshop.com

Win a Nook Simple Touch Glowlight

Just in time for the Christmas shopping season, money saving website www.PaidShop.com is giving you the chance to win a brand new NOOK Simple Touch GlowLight.

PaidShop.com is a money saving website set to help savvy shoppers make huge savings with the ultimate in online deals and discounts. The site allows users to not only bank cashback on their shopping but to also search for the best retailer price on over five million products – making PaidShop.com THE easiest way to cash in when shopping online.

PaidShop.com also offers an ongoing reward for introducing friends, with users getting paid every time their friend receives cash back on the site. This unique reward system doesn’t have an expiry date so you will keep earning for as long as you and your friends continue using the site, with no limits to what you can earn!

The money saving site lets users find the best deals on all sorts of great products, from clothes and home-ware to electronics such as the Nook. This fabulous competition prize allows you to read glare-free in the sunshine and late into the night with the easily adjustable lighting. Lose yourself in over a month of reading without having to re-charge and enjoy a customised experience with a choice of font styles and sizes.

Enter to win a NOOK Simple Touch Glowlight

Answer the following question and put your answer in the comment section below, and, fill in the Rafflecopter widget.

What is top of your Christmas list this year?
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to UK residents over the age of 18.
There is one prize of a of a Nook Simple Touch Glowlight.
Competition closes at 11.59pm on Sunday 4th January 2015.

Disclosure: I have not been paid to host this giveaway.

Brain Box Candy Giveaway

Sometimes it is just so hard trying to buy gifts for certain people, that is why I love quirky, humerous pressies from companies such as Brain Box Candy who have a range of unique gifts that you won’t see everywhere else. How about a Custard Cream ipad case? Or how about an Aaahh!! It’s Wine O’Clock’ Coaster?

Brain Box CandyIf you have an awkward teen they will love the innuendos and cheeky messages on a lot of the products.

Brain Box Candy Brain Box Candy sent me a mug which is especially apt as I do declare myself the queen of procrastination…of course I’ll do it tomorrow!

Brain Box Candy

There are also aprons, tea towels, funny cards, rude cards, notebooks, tins…

Brain Box Candy Giveaway

Brain Box Candy are giving one lucky person a chance to win a ‘Baking Legend’ apron and a ‘Coffee First then World Domination’ mug in this giveaway.

Brain Box Candy

 

Answer the following question leaving your answer in the comment section below and fill out the rafflecopter to confirm your entry.

Q. Head over to Brain Box Candy and tell me what you would buy and for who. Put your answer in the comments section below

 

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Disclosure: I was sent some Brain Box Candy products to review.

The Ultimate Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese

Cauliflower Cheese is one of my absolute favourite meals, it is the ultimate comfort all in one dinner, lunch, sshhh even breakfast or makes the best side dish ever. I’m not sure why but a roast beef dinner is not the same without cauliflower cheese accompanying it, and of course it will always make it on to the table on Christmas day and then used as lovely leftovers with cold meats on Boxing day!

Mmmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. If I am making a truly all in one meal I like to add bacon to it, and top off with slices of tomato.

Cheese Awards

I was invited to the BBC Good Food Show featuring the World Cheese Awards, with Barbers 1833, makers of vintage reserve cheddar. It was really interesting to learn about the cheese making process which Barbers do using a traditional starter culture (unlike many other cheese producers) and to have a sneaky peek at all 2500+ cheeses entered in the cheese awards.

Cheese Awards

Barbers asked me to come up with a dish using their 1833 vintage reserve cheddar, which incidentally is crumbly, rich with a strong flavour but not too strong for the children, and some local ingredients from my area of East Sussex.

Barbers 1833

Thus I decided to make my ultimate cauliflower cheese using a local Northiam double cream along with a locally grown cauliflower.

Cauliflower Cheese

If using bacon use a good quality one for extra flavour and of course the onion can be substituted with leeks which are one of my favourite vegetables, but the children don’t like them!

Cauliflower Cheese

Okay I don’t use a traditional method to make my cheese sauce because if there is an easier way then that’s the route I will take and I hate making a roux first, but…you must remember to be patient and take things very slowly when doing the first stage of the sauce otherwise you risk ending up with a lumpy sauce which is really really annoying!

Cauliflower Cheese

The Ultimate Cauliflower Cheese Sauce Recipe

The Ultimate Cauliflower Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: dinner
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Large Cauliflower
  • 200g Streaky Bacon chopped (optional)
  • 80g Barbers 1833 Cheddar
  • 1 Large Onion chopped
  • 30g Butter
  • 500ml in total of milk and double cream
  • 2 Tbsp Cornflour
  • 2 Tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC
  2. Cut the cauliflower into florets and parboil in boiling water for approximately 7-10 minutes
  3. Drain the cauliflower
  4. While the cauliflower is cooking, dry fry the bacon until golden then remove from the pan
  5. Gently cook the chopped onion in the bacon fat until translucent but ensure it doesn't get burnt and then take off the heat
  6. Put the butter, cornflour and milk and cream mixture in a saucepan and heat very slowly, stirring all the time
  7. When the mixture starts boiling leave to simmer for five minutes stirring every so often. The mixture will start to thicken up slightly.
  8. Crumble or grate in two thirds of the cheese and stir until completely melted.
  9. Season with black pepper.
  10. Remove from the heat and add the onion and bacon to the cheese sauce.
  11. I like to add the cauliflower to the sauce to ensure it is completely coated but you can also pour the sauce over the cauliflower (that you have placed in a baking dish).
  12. If you haven't already put the cauliflower and sauce into a baking dish and grate over the remaining cheese.
  13. Slice the tomatoes and place over the cauliflower.
  14. Bake the cauliflower cheese in the oven for approximately 15 minutes until the cheese has melted and you have a golden brown finish to the dish.
  15. Serve straight away with green vegetables or salad, or chunks of bread.
  16. To prepare in advance, leave placing in the oven until ready to eat and bake for about 45 minutes until the cauliflower cheese is bubbling and warmed through.

Cauliflower Cheese

Thank you to Barbers for the invitation to the BBC Good Food Show and for the huge wedge of Barbers 1833 that I used to create this recipe.

 

The Snow Queen 2 : Magic of the Ice Mirror

The Snow Queen 2

We were very lucky to have a sneaky peek of new film The Snow Queen2 : Magic of the Ice Mirror which is a lovely festive treat in selected cinemas from December 12th 2014.

Although we haven’t seen the first film, The Snow Queen, this second film has Gerda, Orm and her friends  characters in another adventure in the wintry wonderland.  The Snow Queen 2 follows the troll Orm, as he exaggerates his exploits creating a web of lies in which he single-handedly defeated the treacherous Queen. He claims he is destined to marry the princess and inherit great power and riches – but where will Orm’s stories lead him? In this film Orm learns that friends, happiness, and true love cannot be won through deceit.

The Snow Queen 2

The cast include the voices of Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium) as Orm, Bella Thorne (Blended) as Gerda, Isabelle Fuhrman (The Hunger Games, Orphan) as Alfida and Sean Bean (The Lord Of The Rings, TV’s Game Of Thrones) as General Arrog.

The Snow Queen 2

M, aged 7 years old really enjoyed The Snow Queen, even though he hasn’t seen the first film he could follow along, I would have liked a little bit more background incorporated into it as I was slightly confused at first (it doesn’t take much). However this is a lovely film to get into the Christmassy spirit, it isn’t quite Disney’s Frozen but it still has a feel good factor with a chilly theme.

The Snow Queen 2

The Snow Queen 2: Magic of the Ice Mirror is in selected cinemas from December 12th 2014, a great way to get the whole family in the festive mood.

 

 

Delicious and Easy Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

gluten free chocolate cake

I am always trying to tempt my number two son with food as having a gluten free diet and more, means that he struggles to eat sometimes. I came up with this recipe after adapting another one and am really pleased with the moistness, especially for a gluten free chocolate cake, and it also has a lovely crunchy finish. Oh, and it is also egg free so suits daughter number one who has a problem with eggs!

gluten free chocolate cake

I finished the gluten free chocolate cake off with a sprinkling of icing sugar to give it a more everyday feel and although it has a strong clean chocolate flavour it isn’t too rich. It can easily be jazzed up and made into something more for a special occasion with icing, ganache or buttercream. Or how about serving it with a dollop of thick double cream or créme fraiche? Mmmmm.

gluten free chocolate cake

It can easily be jazzed up and made into something more for a special occasion with icing, ganache or buttercream. Or how about serving it with a dollop of thick double cream or créme fraiche? Mmmmm.

 

Chocolate cake This was a triple layer Gluten free chocolate cake layered with cream cheese frosting and toffee sauce and cream cheese frosting to finish

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe

4.0 from 1 reviews
Delicious and Easy Gluten Free Chocolate Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Obviously as per all my other gluten free recipes, just change for normal self raising flour if you don't need to worry about gluten!
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 50g unsweetened gf cocoa powder
  • 300ml natural yoghurt (greek or greek style works well)
  • 40ml espresso coffee (if you don't have a coffee machine dissolve 2 tsp instant coffee in 40ml of hot water)
  • 125g demerara sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100ml coconut oil (if you don't have any use sunflower or olive oil)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºc
  2. Grease and line a 20cm (8') cake tin
  3. Mix the sugar, yoghurt and vanilla in a bowl until well combined.
  4. Add the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and whisk, leave for a couple of minutes, it will bubble slightly and appear to rise.
  5. Add the espresso and the oil to the mixture and mix.
  6. Gently fold in sifted flour and cocoa powder until combined.
  7. Put the mixture into the cake tin. If you've used coconut oil it will appear thick but gently spread so that it fills the tin.
  8. Bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes- one hour. Check after 50 minutes. Use a skewer to check if it is cooked through.
  9. Leave in the tin to cool for ten minutes before cooling on a wire rack.
  10. Once cold sieve icing sugar over the cake and eat!

Enjoy!

Pamper Parcels: Give the Gift of Me Time

Pamper Parcels

My lovely friend Rosie started up a company called Pamper Parcels a few months ago and asked me if I would like to try out some of the products. Never one to pass up on the opportunity for a bit of pampering I was more than happy to take up Rosie’s offer.

It is not that often that you come across a company whose ethos is to pamper but with a clean conscience, using natural, fairtrade and organic products and products sourced from small businesses. In Rosie’s words she hopes that Pamper Parcels gives something back to the environment, nature and workers of the developing world thus aiming for guilt-free pampering!

Pamper Parcels

Every part of the Pamper Parcel is a delight from the gorgeous spotty packaging that arrives via the postman to the cute little quotes you find on opening the package “A Little Me Time’ and “Unwind and Enjoy” as you unwind the cord sealing the box.

Pamper Parcels

Inside my Pamper Parcels box I was thrilled to find individually wrapped presents, this was Christmas and birthdays rolled into one, a beautiful drawstring cloth bag (which I have already taken on my travels), plus some very cute penguins and snowflake sprinkles. I really savoured opening each item, and was thrilled with each one especially chosen for me by Rosie.

Pamper Parcels

How did Rosie know I am such a huge fan of chocolate I wonder…and all the chocolate (I deem myself quite an expert on chocolate matters) was divine. Fairtrade chocolate buttons, the best hot chocolate spoon I have ever had (now on my Christmas wish list) and a Montezuma chocolate heart with butterscotch pieces. These have certainly helped me through a tough couple of weeks. And well, did you know if someone gives you a gift, it isn’t polite to share…because they gave it to you. :)

Pamper Parcels

Then, as well as the chocolatey pampering there was also pampering of the bath and body sort; calming and relaxing body cream from Nougat Naturals which smells heavenly and a cooling lavender and peppermint foot cream, plus a Tisserand bath oil. I am feeling well and truly pampered and relaxed now.

Pamper Parcels

Apart from the ethical thought put into each product it is amazing how much attention and care has gone into the whole Pamper Parcels ‘package’…there is even an extra little gift so that you can pass the parcel and spread the love and kindness to someone else, and giving as well as receiving can’t fail to make you feel good. Pamper Parcels really is so much more than ‘just’ receiving a gift, you get a sense that you are giving something back.

Pamper parcels

The site is very easy to use, you can search gifts specially for a someone or for an occasion. No one is left out, there are gifts for men, ones for women and even specially selected products for teens. How about a stress relieving gift? Or something for a chocolate lover? You don’t even have to send a gift to someone else, you can just do a little ‘selfie’.

Pamper Parcels is the perfect place to find beautiful gifts for all occasions and somewhere I will be using, in fact I have used the site to send a gift and the recipient was extremely happy.

 

Disclosure: I was sent a Pamper Parcels gift with a selection of products to review but all opinions are my own.

 

Pancake Art & Abra-Ca-Debora Hamper Giveaway

Pancake Art Moose Maple Butter topped with blueberries for the eyes, Nutella antlers & a cherry nose!

It is common knowledge that children who ‘make’ their own food are much more likely to eat it without any fuss and although I have never had a problem getting my children to eat pancakes (who has…ever) we have still been having some fun with Pancake Art! Oh boy, off cuts and melted maple syrup butter is sooo good.

Abra-ca-Debora, who make ready made dutch pancakes, have a Facebook Page dedicated to Pancake Art masterpieces, head over there for some amazing inspiring ideas.

Pancake Art Teddy bear cut outs on a bed of Nutella served with flaked almonds, grapes and silver ball eyes.

Our creations are not quite in the league of the pancake art on the Abra-ca-Debora page where you will find an Abra-Magritte and an Henri Matosse.

Pancake Art Orange wedges for ears & mouth, grape arms & legs, dried banana pieces and blueberries for eyes, blueberry hair.

Abra-ca-Debora make original dutch pancakes, sweet dutch pancakes and also diddy sweet dutch pancakes. They can all be heated up in the microwave so there is no mess involved and you can have pancakes in seconds. Perfect.

Pancake Art

Create your own Pancake Art with this fab giveaway

I have a box of Pancake goodies from Abra-ca-Debora to give away so that you can create your own Pancake Art!

Pancake ArtThe prize will include:

  • 3 packs of Abra-ca-Debora Sweet Dutch Pancakes
  • 3 packs of Abra-ca-Debora Original Dutch Pancakes
  • 3 packs of Abra-ca-Debora Diddy Dutch Pancakes
  • Whole Earth peanut butter with sunflower, pumpkin & flax seeds
  • Clarks maple syrup
  • Clarks clear honey
  • Moose Maple Butter

To enter the giveaway answer the following question in the comments section below and follow the rafflecopter instructions.

What is your favourite pancake topping?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bloc Hotel Gatwick : Review

Bloc Hotel Gatwick

I had a very early morning flight so rather than pay expensive taxi fares or risk missing the flight due to a cutting it fine train journey, I had the opportunity to stay at the Bloc Hotel Gatwick. Conveniently situated right in the south terminal you can’t really get any closer to the check in desks. It is also about a 30 second walk from Gatwick train station.

Bloc hotel Gatwick

On arrival at the Bloc hotel Gatwick, make sure you allow a total of shall we say , a whole 20 seconds to check in…yep, assuming you have booked the room online it is just a case of saying your name and reception will hand over your key card, and a convenient free wifi code and then you can go and jump into bed.

My room was on the fifth floor and when I stepped out of the lift I was pleasantly surprised at the gorgeous smell wafting along the corridor. I certainly wasn’t expecting that in an airport hotel.

bloc hotel gatwick

Prices at the Bloc hotel Gatwick start at £59 and I stayed in a double windowless ‘Sleep’ room, 9.5 sq m in size.  Although this is a windowless room I was arriving at night and leaving very early when it would still be dark, and not having a window didn’t matter at all.

A Samsung Galaxy tablet attached to the wall controls the lights and air conditioning. I loved the ambient lighting, but as much as I kept trying to lower the temperature it was very warm in the room, so maybe I was doing something wrong but I’m not sure what.

A nice touch, considering the low cost of the room, was two complimentary small bottles of evian on the small bedside/desk table.

bloc hotel gatwick

All the rooms have a Samsung LED smart television with cable/satellite television. My room had a king size bed and it was very comfortable with four good sized pillows and a duvet.

bloc hotel gatwick

The bathroom at the Bloc hotel Gatwick is a wet room so be prepared for the whole room to get wet when using the shower. The shower was very powerful so that ticked an important box for me. The towels provided were very fluffy and there were even bath sheets.

bloc hotel gatwick

Zenology hair and body wash, and a hand soap were provided. One very small gripe was the fierce toilet roll holder which would only allow me one square of toilet paper at a time, extremely frustrating, and if I tried to get any more it had ‘teeth’ that kept catching my fingers.

There isn’t a wardrobe in the room but considering these are supposed to be handy pit stops I really wouldn’t expect anything else, a couple of hangers were provided with hooks so I could get out a few bits if I wanted to.

You may think that because you are in the heart of Gatwick’s south terminal it would be noisy, but absolutely not, in fact it was very quiet and I didn’t hear one plane. The only noise I heard was in the morning when people were wheeling their suitcases past my door.

Full marks to Bloc Hotel Gatwick

I would highly recommend the Bloc hotel Gatwick, it is somewhere I would stay again to avoid a middle of the night mad dash to the airport. I was very impressed with the high standard, the cleanliness of the bedroom and wet room, the comfortable bed, the shower and above the ease of checking in and out in seconds and being on the doorstep of the check in desks. I certainly didn’t expect such luxury at these prices so full marks to Bloc.