Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Reasons to be Cheerful

I have had a great year. I'm not saying that to be smug, but rather to remind myself, because when I think about it, I've spent the year doing a lot of complaining. Going from sharing a flat to sharing a spare room hasn't been one of my favourite things ever, and that's been the source of much moaning, but when I step back and look at it, it gave me the opportunity to save up a house deposit which I would have never been able to do alone. And this year's been good for other reasons. I've spent it working in a job that I really love, I got engaged to a stone-cold weirdo who I adore and I've visited some amazing places. Yes, 2016 has sucked and overall, the world is a bit broken, but doesn't that make it even more important to count our own blessings? I kind of think it does.

So I'm bringing back my Reasons to be Cheerful posts - at least sporadically - because I used to be so good at updating them regularly, but I've lost the habit. So here's what's making me happy at the moment.
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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

TRAVEL: Places to eat and drink in Dublin

Food and drink recommendations in Dublin on a long weekend

My Dublin post got super long as I was writing it, so I felt it made sense to split it into two parts. We ate a lot of good food when we were there, and went to some great bars, so I wanted to create a compendium of our favourites. Honestly, I think we barely scratched the surface - there's just SO MUCH there, and in my limited experience, it's basically all amazing. Aaaanyhoo... here are our faves.

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Saturday, 26 November 2016

REVIEW: The Crooked Chimney pub, Welwyn

Review of new menu at The Crooked Chimney, Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Review of new menu at The Crooked Chimney, Welwyn, Hertfordshire
Review of new menu at The Crooked Chimney, Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Living in Hertfordshire, I get the best of both worlds. Any time I want that busy city life, I can hop on a train to London and be there within an hour. But if I want to escape to the country, and be somewhere quiet and scenic and pretty - well, that's right there on my doorstep.

As such, there are lots of pretty places to go around here, and where there are pretty places there are pubs. Lots of pubs. And while I was offered the chance to review The Crooked Chimney, if I'd stumbled across it whilst exploring, I would have absolutely gone in. I mean, look how adorable it is.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

INTERIORS: We're buying a house!


After talking about it for what seems like forever, we are finally getting ready to move into our new house. Contracts have been exchanged, the completion date is set (for next week!), and we are spending all our free time looking at sofas, beds, paint and the entire contents of Ikea.

Where I live has been quite a big part of this blog’s identity for a while now, and this move will change that a little. As of next month, I will no longer live in St Albans – I’m moving to Tring, which is a lovely town on the Hertfordshire/Buckinghamshire border.

I’m not going far. Tring’s about 18 miles away from St Albans, and my family and several of my friends still live in the area, so I’ll be back regularly and it will still very much feature on this blog. All of my favourite restaurants are in St Albans, after all! But I’ll be casting the net a bit wider now when I blog about local restaurants, including Tring, Berkhamsted and other local towns in my reviews. I’m excited to explore Buckinghamshire more, which has a wealth of stunning scenery and amazing pubs and restaurants. If anyone is reading this who wants to work with me, I’m still happy to come to St Albans – but am open to anything in Herts/Beds/Bucks. I drive, I’m flexible.
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Saturday, 19 November 2016

TRAVEL: Crieff, Carradale, Edinburgh - Scotland

Trip to Scotland with food recommendations in Edinburgh, where to stay in Carradale, wedding in Crieff
Trip to Scotland with food recommendations in Edinburgh, where to stay in Carradale, wedding in Crieff
Trip to Scotland with food recommendations in Edinburgh, where to stay in Carradale, wedding in Crieff

I've already talked quite a lot about our trip to Scotland - it was somewhat eventful - but we did so much when we were there that I haven't even touched on! So here's what we got up to...

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Wednesday, 16 November 2016

REVIEW: DSTRKT, London

Review of DSTRKT club and restaurant, Leicester Square

I don't often go out in the Leicester Square area - while I'm in London quite a bit, I tend to shy away from the super busy, touristy parts, apart from the occasional visit to Oxford Street because I gots to have my H&M Home, y'know? So when I was asked to review the food at DSTRKT, I was intrigued - it's really not in one of my usual haunts. DSTRKT is a club with a restaurant attached, and they've been making more of their food lately, so I headed along with a friend to see what was on offer.

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

TRAVEL: Visiting York at Christmastime




One of my favourite opportunities that my blog has given me is the opportunity to explore new places. I may not get sent to the Caribbean or Disneyworld like some lucky ladies, but I do love travelling to different parts of the UK and getting to know somewhere new. This last year, in particular, when we've been living with my parents and saving so hard to buy our house, we've jumped at any chance to get away on our own for a night or two.

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Thursday, 10 November 2016

RECIPE: Sweet Potato Cake from Dominica

Recipe for Sweet Potato Cake from Dominica

It's cold and wet and miserable and the world may just have ended, so I think that calls for cake, don't you? It does. Don't argue. Eat the cake. Any cake. Maybe this cake!

I was actually challenged to make this cake by Inntravel as part of their #CaribbeanTreasure campaign, in honour of the new holiday they've just launched to the Caribbean. I would not say no to the Caribbean today, I can tell you. No rain or politics? Blissful.

This is a traditional Sweet Potato Cake from Dominica, also known as Pan de Batata. The grated sweet potato means there's no need for flour, so it's gluten-free, and the consistency is a little like carrot cake. You could also replace the milk with coconut milk to make it dairy-free.

I found the cake absolutely delicious - spicy and flavourful with a crispy caramelised crust on top - although the texture was a little strange, as it was very soft in the middle despite overcooking it. I'm not sure if it would work better in a deeper tin, or perhaps cooked for longer on a lower temperature. Either way though, it still tasted good - even if I did need a spoon to eat it!

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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

REVIEW: Freddie's Restaurant, St Albans

Freddie's St Albans review - Mediterranean fusion gourmet cuisine
Freddie's St Albans review - Mediterranean fusion gourmet cuisine
Freddie's St Albans review - Mediterranean fusion gourmet cuisine

I’ve always thought of St Albans as being the place that all my friends live. For years, it was – we met when we all went to STAGs and Verulam, and even though we scattered to attend university, we made our way back every holiday, and when uni ended, most of us got jobs in the town centre and moved back in with our parents. Gradually a few people moved to London, then a few moved further afield, and then one day I looked up and realised that only one of my friends lived in the centre of St Albans now. Even I don’t live in the centre of St Albans any more, and in a couple of months, I won’t live in St Albans at all. I’m not going far, but it’s a little strange to move away from somewhere that I’ve lived pretty much my whole life.

I’m nostalgic, though, for the years we spent all living within a stone’s throw of each other. The flats that various friends shared at different times, when we’d just pop over when we felt like it, instead of calling first. So many epic parties. One such flat seemed to house most of my friends at some point or other, and it felt like I spent every evening there after work, watching films, eating pizza and drinking copious amounts of wine. We were always very amused that this flat was above a restaurant, but none of us ever made it there. I think we always felt it was a bit too nice for the likes of us. And now, around ten years later, I can say with utmost accuracy - it was definitely too nice for the likes of us. For today I am reviewing that very restaurant, and it's really, really, really nice.

I will hold my hands up and say that I had some preconceptions about Freddie's in St Albans, and that's probably why I've never been before. I thought it was going to be a bit old fashioned, with a nice but safe menu - meat, vegetables, potatoes... not much else. I was wrong in some ways - I really wouldn't call the menu 'safe' at all - but not in others. Freddie's is a little old fashioned, but in a lovely way - we were met by Freddie himself, who spends the evening mingling between the tables and chatting to his guests. The service is excellent - the food came quickly, and the staff were so attentive that we felt like total VIPs. The food is described as modern European influences, and that's a pretty good description, but I think it's quite hard to describe as the combinations are so unusual. You'll see.

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