Sunday, 25 May 2014

Summer Days...

Like every true Brit should, when the sun comes out, the layers come off and the BBQ goes on. You've got to make the most of it when it doesn't happen that often, after all.

When you feel the need to get outside but can't be bothered with putting together a picnic or walking very far, sitting outside Cardiff Castle with an iced coffee is most definitely the thing to do. Sunnies on and factor 50 rubbed in, we headed into the capital.

We grabbed our Starbucks, picked up some lunch and found ourselves a spot on the grass outside the castle gates. I don't think I'll be bothering with food from Munchesters again. I got a bit carried away with seeing a shiny new place to eat in Cardiff, and only wanted a healthy snack to sit outside with rather than go for a meal. I had very little change from a five pound note for a pretty uninspiring salad. No dressing offered (I noticed after I had paid that it was 15p extra) and no protein on offer. Broccoli, beetroot and a poor slaw with an offputting tangy dressing. Not impressed really. The Mr said good things about the wrap, but not enough to warrant the hype or the price tag.

I'd heard good things about the meat at Munchesters, especially the pulled pork, and so I was surprised and disappointed that this wasn't incorporated into the salad box. They've really missed a trick with this, and once again you're left with few takeaway options if you don't eat bread. It's extremely hard to grab healthy on-the-go food anywhere. Would really appreciate any tip offs for healthy, reasonably priced places to eat in Cardiff if anyone's got any?

Not to worry though, as back home our best friends had dug out the barbie and put the beers in the fridge...

There's no worry of going hungry at one of our family BBQ's...

A lovely summers day rounded off perfectly with family and friends, a chilled beer or two and a crackling fire to huddle up next to when the sun disappears!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Eurovision 2014

I have a confession. I completely utterly love Eurovision. It's cheesy and camp, trashy and predictable and I love every minute of it.

So much so, that all my friends are starting to share in the love, and my Eurovision parties have now become something of an annual event.

My absolute favourite thing about throwing parties is the fun food.  I spend all week thinking about what to make and Eurovision is no exception. A canapĂ© or two always goes down well at parties like this, as everyone moseys around the kitchen all night, and these are easy to grab without making too much mess!

Canapés and bites this year included...

Cocktails to start off the night? Only one thing for it - Bucks Fizz!

Representing Spain we had tapas swords! An easy to munch combination of olives, serrano ham, sundried tomatoes and chorizo.

Afternoon tea for the United Kingdom! Mini sandwich fingers of cheese, ham, tomato and cucumber.

 Greece was a refreshing blend of watermelon, mint and cubes of creamy feta cheese.

Slightly predictable for France, but you can't have a European party without a big hunk of fresh warm, bread and gooey garlic infused Camembert now can you?

Bringing the meat to the party was Germany, with bitesize bratwurst and frikadellen (not pictured).

Next up, a little slice or two of home-made pizza for Italy. Combinations of pesto, parma ham, multicoloured tomatoes and a bucketload of stringy mozarella.

Finally, dessert. I have to admit that I cheated a little with Sweden, thanks to an impromptu Ikea trip the weekend before. But who can turn down those little buns of cinnamon goodness?

And of course, a little fancy dress always helps the cheesy mood too...

Yes, I am supposed to be a viking. The hat was as good as the £3 price tag should have let me believe. Didn't stay on my head for a moment!

A sweepstake, lots of European beer and one bearded lady later?

Douze points!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Newquay, Day 2

There really is nothing better than being woken up naturally by the sun rising and the sound of the high tide crashing against the rocks.

I take it back. There is. It's the above, followed by the most incredible eggs benedict for breakfast with a giant pot of tea, overlooking the Atlantic. Which is how the second day of our getaway started.

Having woken up much earlier than usual, we got back to our room after breakfast at a bit of a loss what to do next. Only one thing for it...

The Headland has its own '5 bubble' rated spa hidden underneath the hotel. Down on the lower ground floor is this modern, chilled out spa that is a completely different world to the Victorian decor above.

I've never really gone in for the whole spa day thing before, as I'm not particularly a girly girl, and always thought I'd be completely bored. However...I had to be dragged out of that hot tub once my fingers had wrinkled up. We got to the spa at about 9am, when it was empty and it was great to have the place to ourselves. By 11ish, a horde of ladies trooped in to get revitilised and we took our cue to leave.

The rest of the day was spent the best way, wandering through the town and playing around on the beach, with a little retail therapy thrown in for good measure of course!

We headed back to Fistral for dinner, to a little place that I'd heard about through Twitter, The Stable. Towering up above the complex of shops and eateries on Fistral Beach, The Stable's floor to ceiling glass windows gives unblemished glorious 180 degree views out to sea.

That's enough to keep you here at least until the sun goes down, but the views aren't the only USP that The Stable has up its sleeve for after dark. The bar is stocked up to the hilt with constantly changing ciders, both local and mainstream brands. Which is a little intimidating to those prone to indecision, like myself, so they have produced the perfect answer.

The cider tasting board! Five 1/3 pints of local ciders to try out, complete with a flyer with details of each one. Perfect! At £7.50, which I think is great value, and fun to share.

For the record, my favourite was the Ashridge Blush, with the Stable Drop pear coming in a very close second.

And I haven't even mentioned the pizza. Oh, the pizza.

Cheesey gooey thin pizza with a multitude of local toppings! I went for Cornish lamb, mint, feta and sweet potato. The verdict?


The husband went for the month's special, which was veal meatballs! Also nom. They also do a varied selection of pies and salads if you're not fancying a pizza, but be honest, why wouldn't you?

Completely carbed out, we nabbed a spot outside to take in the views and wash the food down with the remainder of our ciders. And I made a friend...

The sun started to go down and the wind picked up, so we reluctantly headed back to the hotel to change. Then back out in the blustery wind to sample a bit of the Newquay nightlife, and dodging the never ending Stag & Hen groups. Little tip if you're heading to Newquay and want to avoid the night time testosterone, hunt down this little place, The Red Lion. Good cider and live bands are always winners.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Newquay, Day 1

This weekend we packed up our flip flops, filled the car with pic'n'mix and surf tunes, and drove the 200 miles or so down to one of my favourite places on planet earth.


With a pit stop for coffee, we made it down by late lunchtime and checked ourselves in to the most amazing hotel I have ever visited in my life. The Headland Hotel is on Fistral Beach, Newquay and is an iconic silhouette on Cornwall's Atlantic coastline. The staff at The Headland could not do enough for us, and I thoroughly recommend this hotel to anyone and everyone who's thinking of a trip down to the North Cornish coast. The room was comfortable, cosy and clean, but I'm not going to lie, there was one thing that excited me the most.

This was where The Witches was filmed! As a massive Roald Dahl fan this was pretty cool! I'll be watching the film again now to see if I can spot where I've been!

We were met by enthusiastic friendly staff, who were able to check us in a bit earlier than expected and given a tour of the hotel. Once shown to our room, the first thing I did was stick my head out of the window to get a face full of sea air.

Can you spot me?

What a view! We didn't shut the window for the entire weekend. We fell asleep to the sound of the waves crashing and woke up with the sunrise.

After the long drive, we headed straight down to the beach to explore and stretch our legs and take in the views. And obviously, take the obligatory beach selfie.

But all that paddling and shell collecting can take it out of a girl, and so somehow we ended up trying out the local refreshments...

We were pulled back to the hotel by the lure of the sea and decided that a wine on the terrace was necessary to truly enjoy the view before getting ready for dinner...

The sun headed behind the clouds and so it was time for us to freshen up and get ready for lunch. Especially as the sea air was making me ravenous! Dinner was served at the hotel's restaurant overlooking the same beautiful ocean views as from our bedroom.

The warm Cornish ham hock salad, with new potatoes and broad beans was the perfect opener and stomach quiet-ner! Beautifully smokey ham and wonderfully cooked potatoes, I could have eaten this all day long.

That is definitely my 'happy belly' face! Husband opted for the crab and smoked salmon roulade, which (after swapping a bite) I can vouch was really fresh and light, although I think I made the best choice for my growling empty stomach!

When by the sea, I always feel obliged to take advantage of the local sea fare, and so my choice of main was the sea bream, with sea kale and parmesan gnocchi. The sea bream was cooked just to my liking, big meaty white fish served with the crunchy skin still on.

But the main star of the show was the parmesan gnocchi. It was incredible! Cheesy, gooey, potato-ey goodness to mop up a smoky bacon veloute. I am going to have to try and make this myself sometime!

The lamb also looked amazing, and I managed to steal a mouthful to confirm! So soft and well seasoned, the mint seemed to completely permeate the meat. I don't think the husband was too much of a fan of the lentils though, as he's a bit more of a roast potato man!

We just about managed to fit in dessert, which was an orange parfait with coffee ice cream for us both, which was a beautiful light end to a lovely meal.

By then the food, travelling and wine caught up with us and all I could think about was cwtching up into that uber comfy bed, and dreaming of the next day's adventures...