Makushi Coffe Roasters, Lincoln

24 September 2016

Lincolns city centre feels like it is constantly changing. Every week or so a different shop or restaurant closes and something new quickly pops up in its place, after a while you start to lose track but something about Makushi coffee roasters really caught my eye recently. Located a little way up steep hill, the coffee shop is a hipster dream - all exposed brick and woodwork, edison light bulbs and specialty coffees roasted on site. I've made quite a few visits now (I'm on my second loyalty stamp card already) and I think I can now say that I've completely fallen in love with the place.

It's a small venue, with a few tables in the entrance and then two cosy back rooms (one of which I've heard affectionately referred to as 'the cave') but it seems like there are big plans to open up the site further and eventually include outside seating too. The atmosphere is really relaxed and the staff are amazingly helpful and friendly. Every time I've been in the place has been packed, which isn't bad for a shop that only opened a few weeks ago.

#EastMidsBloggers Meet-up at Manhattan 34

28 August 2016

Getting to be part of the #eastmidsbloggers group is one of the best things to have come out of this blog. It's such a nice group of girls and its crazy to think the group has only been going since last year. I've met some really close friends now thanks to the meet ups and our group chats have always been great fun. Even though I've not been as on top of this blog, or reading anyone elses as much as I'd like recently, I was really excited for another meet up.

The latest event was organised by Emmie and a few of the other girls at Manhattan 34 in Leicester, a gorgeous cocktail bar. It felt a bit strange being in a bar at lunchtime, kind of like being a student again, but the atmosphere and decor was amazing and I couldn't resist sampling some of their amazing gins (and then getting made fun of by the bartender for taking too many photos of my drink).

We started the afternoon off with some drinks and an icebreaker, trying to find the owner of a 'fact' from the other bloggers in the room. I normally hate icebreakers but this one was really relaxed and it actually was a great conversation starter. I found the owner of my fact with the first person I asked and couldn't help feeling a bit smug but also a bit sad not to get longer to hunt, but I soon got involved in the detective work of helping everyone else try and identify theirs and learnt loads about the other bloggers in the room.

Cider Fruit Punch

12 June 2016

So we probably need to stop for a minute and have a chat about my obsession with drinks in jars. If you're one of the people that wishes the trend would hurry up and die already then I'm sorry, but I'm still not over it.
I've been dreaming about one of these jar drinks dispensers for months now, so when I spotted one in Aldi (my currently fave for all kitchenware) while shopping for ingredients for this recipe it just felt like fate, even if an 8litre drinks dispenser did seem a little large considering I can never fit more than 3-4 guests over at once in my tiny flat.

Aside from wanting an excuse to buy this new dreamy and completely ridiculous jar, I created this punch recipe in partnership with Four Walls and Ocean Loans to celebrate National BBQ Week, because all summer parties need a good drinks menu.

Cider is such a great drink for the sunny weather and this punch has the brilliant illusion of seeming a bit fancier than just drinking from a can but takes barely any more effort to make. The trickiest bit is planning ahead to soak the fruit but if you forget you can just throw it all into a jug and it'll still taste amazing. The tropical flavours are also nice for pretending you're actually somewhere warm and not having your bbq while wearing a cardigan as usually seems to happen to me.

Innocent Unplugged - A Weekend Off the Grid

5 June 2016

When I was planning how to spend my annual leave this year, one thing I really wanted to do was to get to more festivals. We had such an amazing time at sound city last year, and they're just a great way to get away from the real world for a bit, so when I heard about Innocent Unplugged I knew straight away that it would be the perfect place to get my summer started. An 'off the grid' festival, Innocent Unplugged asks that people stay off their phones while in the festival site - no instagramming, tweeting, texting, whatsapping - nothing.

As a blogger and a marketer, I find it super difficult to unplug. I know I'm not the only one here, I've seen a lot of people talking about it and it is a bit of a millenial, 'first world problem' but I never ever leave my phone at home and check it constantly. With most of my friends and family living far away, my phone lets me stay in touch with them wherever I am, which is pretty great. We can share photos, thoughts, questions, and maintain our relationships even at a distance. But I'm also very guilty of wasting hours scrolling through my twitter feed, even when I am with people, so I was excited (and a bit scared) to try a weekend without it.

Vegan Sticky Ginger Cupcakes

22 May 2016

So generally speaking, my keeping up with having meat free days since veganuary has gone pretty well, but vegan ones, well they've been a bit non-existent. Even though it's not something I feel I can fully commit to at the moment, I still want to explore veganism more, the meat and dairy free options now are so much better than when I was vegetarian as a teenager and I'm working hard to try and get more of them into my diet. One of my biggest disappointments during Veganuary though was vegan desserts - I tried a few different recipes for vegan cakes and other sweet treats and they ranged from underwhelming to total disasters. I didn't want to give up on them completely though, since so many people have had success (or at least claimed to) in feeding their sweet tooth while staying cruelty free.

Then Mrs O's Fuss Free Mixes* offered to let me try one of their dairy free packet mixes and all my prayers were answered. I'm normally a bit of a snob when it comes to cake mixes but I felt like with vegan cakes I could use all the help I could get.

The mix I chose was for a sticky ginger cake, which I decided to make into cupcakes instead because I'm not going to let a packet mix tell me what to do. I tried them in a mini bundt tin first but the cake was so crumbly it just fell to bits (so maybe I should have just followed the instructions) but as cupcakes they turned out really well. They had tons of flavour and were really moist although still not very solid. I topped them off with some dairy free buttercream. It didn't hold quite as well as real butter would, and ended up a bit sweeter but I thought it worked really nicely with the rich ginger cake. I'm definitely counting these as my first successful vegan cake, despite the dodgy piping work.

Elite Fish & Chip Company, Sleaford

24 April 2016

Is it weird that I'm kind of excited to be telling you about a fish and chip shop today? Probably, but just stick with me a minute. Fish and chips is a staple British meal, a complete classic, and in many households a weekly occurrence. But it's something I've always thought of as more of an eat at home sort of meal, or at most eat from a cone on a rainy beach. So when Elite Fish and Chip Company*, who are usually thought of as one of our best local chippys invited me to try out their more modern Sleaford restaurant, I was intriuged enough to give it a try.

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough

7 March 2016

Since finally getting a car (or rather a personal chauffeur because Dave now has a car), I feel like I've spent 95% of my free time on the road. We had a pretty hectic christmas trying to visit various family members so when the suggestion of a weekend away in January came up I wasn't convinced at first. Then I took a look at some photos of Ox Pasture Hall hotel in Scarborough and immediately began planning the trip. More than worth the short drive up to Yorkshire, this country house hotel is surrounded by beautiful country side, including their seventeen acres of grounds.

We were immediately blown away by the views of the grounds so we made it our mission to get there early in the day and take a walk in the surrounding countryside. The staff were only too happy to help provide us details of nearby walking routes and somewhere to leave the car. It turns out though we weren't very good at listening to their directions so we took a wrong turn as soon as left the grounds and ended up in a nearby village instead. Luckily for us it was still pretty picturesque and when we returned to the hotel we were greeted with a large pot of yorkshire tea by their fire, a perfect way to warm back up and relax. It also gave us a chance to get to know the hotel cat ginger nuts, who made a sneaky check in a little while before christmas and has been hanging around ever since. No-one seems to know where he came from but I definitely wasn't complaining at some cat cuddles during our walk around the site.

We decided to spend some time checking out our suite before heading back down for dinner and we were not disappointed. The decor was really classic and polished - and I mean the polished part literally, my mug of tea kept sliding off the coffee table. I think these sorts of venues can sometimes feel a bit too stiff and cold but the room was really comfortable and cosy. The friendly staff (and cat) definitely created a really relaxed atmosphere too.

The room came with everything you could possibly need, a tv, radio, plenty of tea and coffee supplies and ton of storage space – which made it even harder not to just try and move in permanently. I think often when you go away you don’t want to spend too much time in the room because you want to make sure you get the most out of the trip and see the local area but at Ox Pasture Hall it is so hard to drag yourself away. We spent a couple of hours just relaxing in the suite, listening to the radio and looking at the grounds. I also had to make the most of the enormous bath tub since I only have a shower at home. It made me wish I’d taken a bath bomb or something with me but then again they probably wouldn’t have appreciated me filling their bathroom with glitter.

If you can’t tell, I was pretty in love with the place by this point but obviously I couldn’t form a final opinion until sampling some food. When dinner time finally rolled around we were shown through again to the reception area to warm by the fire while we browsed the menus and had a drink. This was such a nice touch, we felt really looked after and it was so comforting by the fire.

It also really cut down our time waiting for our meal when we did move through to the restaurant which was nice. For our starters, Dave had chosen baked goats cheese and I went for herring fillets with lemon mayonnaise and cucumber. It wasn't something I'd usually order so it was nice to have a bit of a change, and I really enjoyed it, the flavours worked beautifully together and the presentation was amazing. The portions were also completely enormous, I could have easily eaten mine as a main course.

For the main, Dave chose steak - I of course had to have a little try and can agree it was one of the best steaks I'd ever had, cooked totally to perfection. I on the other hand chose the rack of lamb, I don't order a lot of lamb usually but this was amazing, really succulent meat, with some fancy mash and mini veggies. I was almost speechless at how delicious this main was. It has changed my opinions on lamb forever.

At this point we were both completely stuffed, but some chats with the restaurant manager convinced us we would have to try a dessert so we went for the sharing desserts, expecting them to be just a few bites each. Shortly after our waiter presented us with two small glasses filled with boozy sorbet, and asked if that was what we'd expected for our dessert. He then revealed these were only a palate cleanser and brought us the biggest tray of desserts I've ever seen. To say we had misjudged the situation would be an understatement but I am giving extra marks for the top quality jokes.

We just about managed a try of all the desserts, including a bitter chocolate tart, tiramisu, cheesecake, ice cream and some others I'm not really sure on the names of - it really is tough running this blog sometimes, but I can promise that every one was delicious.

For our second day, we made another attempt at the nearby walking tours (listening to the instructions this time) and took in some of the amazing views. The hotel is tucked away in miles of beautiful yorkshire countryside and was perfect for a crisp winter walk with our cameras.

When it finally came to check out time I was incredibly disappointed to be leaving, and from how often it interrupted us the cat seemed to feel the same way, but I quickly perked up with a short drive into Scarborough for some even more brilliant sights and a walk along the seaside. I'm completely in love with Yorkshire now so hopefully it'll be somewhere we can return to a lot more in the near future.

*I was offered a complementary stay at Ox Pasture Hall in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own, images are my own or taken by David Gurney. 

A Macaron Manicure Party

21 February 2016

As you know, one of my absolute favourite things to do is gather up my friends to shower them with tea and cake. Food is such a brilliant tool for bringing people together and I love being able to create things that make people happy - plus it stops me eating entire cakes to myself. Recently Brioche Pasquier invited me to throw a macaron manicure party to celebrate (a slightly belated) Galentines Day and the release of their new range of macarons and of course I took them up on it right away. 

Dave not surprisingly declined my offer of a manicure, but luckily some of my favourite blogger girls were on hand to help me taste test the macarons and get our nails did over some cups of chai. I sadly couldn't use all the decorations that they sent because of living in a shoebox but we did get to try out all the nail gear and try each flavour of macaron (necessary to provide a proper review, obviously). 

Rose Gin Martini

10 February 2016

Rock rose gin martini

It's fair to say that gin has been huge over the last few years. It made a sudden move from 'only drunk by your nan' to one of the most fashionable things to be seen sipping and we haven't looked back. There are so many new gins on the market now, each with their own unique take on the classic spirit.

I'd seen the odd snap of Rock Rose Gin* across the internet last year, so it had been on my radar for a while when they invited me to give some a go. It's a small batch gin from the North Highlands, made with local botanicals and I've really enjoyed trying it out.

Chai Pancakes with Spiced Oranges

8 February 2016

Chai tea pancakes with spiced oranges

One of my favourite days of the year is nearly here and for once I actually managed to get a recipe up before it happens, this is a big moment for this blog.

I think I've been a lot more excited by pancake day as an adult. It's not exactly a holiday, but if you were comparing it to holidays, I reckon it's one of the better ones. You don't need to buy presents, or dress up, or go on a gushy romantic date, or pretend to like being around children/your extended family. All you need is a good non stick pan and an empty belly. Pancake day, you are a true legend. 

This weekend I treated myself to a new ceramic pan (I really don't get out much) and set my mind to coming up with something a little more exciting than sugar and lemon ready for the big day on Tuesday. With a bit of help from Dave, I settled on chai flavoured pancakes topped with spiced oranges. I can't believe how long it has actually been since I cooked anything chai flavoured, so this was long overdue, but I'm really pleased with how they turned out. The chai flavour is there, but not totally overpowering and gives them a really great, rich colour. I cooked the oranges in some sugar and spices until the juice formed a syrup, and finished it off with a spoonful of creme fraiche, The flavours came together so perfectly and this is a recipe I'm definitely going to be coming back to in future.

Veganuary 2016 Part 4

5 February 2016

Almond butter crumpets and coffee

I wanted to wait a little after Veganuary ended before I put down my final thoughts on the month (even though I had finished a little early). I just wasn't sure what I was going to want to do next.

In a lot of ways Veganuary was really, really hard, and the post-January blow out on cheese and chocolate happened in a big way, even though I tried not do (this may or may not have included me eating half a jar of nutella with a spoon after a particularly long day). But in other ways it has made me a lot more aware of what I eat. I'm really conscious now of just how much meat I was eating and I actually really enjoyed being pushed to experiment more and up my fruit and veg intake. 

I'm not, if you couldn't tell from my instagram this week, going to be staying vegan. Not at the moment anyway. But I do think the experience will have a lasting impact on my diet. I'm going to be trying a lot more veggie/vegan recipes in the future (which will all be collected on this new veggie part of the blog) and will be taking more of a 'flexitarian' approach to dining for the time being.

Maple Water

31 January 2016

DRINKmaple maple water

So this week has been mostly spent feeling sorry for myself for still being sick (I'd gone nearly all autumn/winter without getting ill until now so thanks January, nice one). I always feel like I need to give my body a bit of a boost when I'm feeling sick and usually turn to smoothies as a quick way to sneak in some extra fruits and veg.

Veganuary Week 3

23 January 2016

Casa wabasabi vegan sushi lincoln

Week 3 has been kind of a mixed bag. Last Friday I had a trip away with Dave which I'll be writing about more in an upcoming post. We'd arranged the trip before I'd decided to do Veganuary and for various reasons I felt like I'd have to cheat for one of the meals while we were there. I knew this already, it was one of a couple of exceptions I knew were coming up but I still felt really weird about it on the day. Like I was cheating myself a bit.

The rest of the week wasn't too bad though. I made a sweet potato curry that I was really pleased with and was super impressed when we went out to a pub for dinner and actually had plenty of things to choose from (I settled on a veggie burger and it was brilliant, it looked much better than everyone else's meat dishes).

I've been eating a lot more fruit and veg tonight and a lot less beans, pulses, etc. which means I'm feel a lot healthier than I had for the first part of the month, although I'm still waiting to see any improvement in my skin or energy levels. I finally picked up some sweet freedom choc shot and haven't been craving chocolate anywhere near as much. I'd actually say this is one of the nicest hot chocolate at home mix I've had (second only to the east india company's chai drinking chocolate) and is just a lot easier to work with than the powdered mix. Even if you're not vegan you definitely want to give this stuff a go.

Sweet Potato Vegan Curry

20 January 2016

Vegan sweet potato and coconut curry

First off, let's have a quick catch up on Veganuary. I didn't write a round up post last week because I didn't really eat very well most days. A stupid cold ruined all my grand plans to experiment with some specialist foods by messing with my appetite and sense of taste all week long so I almost exclusively ate soup and biscuits most of the week. It wasn't very instagram-able.

Aside from this, I did actually find it a lot easier than the first week. I had my first go at eating out as a vegan accompanied by Dani and Rowena (Dani is also doing veganuary so make sure you take a look at her blog!). It was the perfect excuse to try Cafe Shanti, Lincolns newest veggie offering which gave me some great ideas for meals I could cook at home. I also ordered my first vegan takeaway thanks to everyone on Twitter letting me know that you can order in pizza sans cheese and it'll still be delicious, which was a great comfort to me when I couldn't bare to leave my bed.

One thing I was still a bit worried about as week 3 rolled in was cooking for others, particularly my fussy, vegetable hating boyfriend. I didn't want to force my experiment on someone else but I also didn't want to cook separate dinners for us both when he came to visit. Then I remembered this sweet potato curry recipe I'd made some time back and I just had to get to work creating a vegan version. It was one of the best things I'd cooked in ages and even better, carnivore Dave agreed with me. Did I ever say vegan food couldn't be exciting, cheap or easy? Well I never will again.

Veganuary: Week 1

8 January 2016

Homemade vegan bolognese

So, week one of #Veganuary or as I've been calling it most of the week - what the hell have I done?

Ok so it hasn't been that bad. The first days were hard, like really bloody hard. I thought I was really well prepared but it turned out I'd forgotten everything and was not ready to cope with all the chocolate withdrawal. But it has gotten easier as the week has gone on. I'm still not quite ready to preach about it transforming my life or anything, but I am definitely starting to enjoy it a lot more and find it a bit easier to adapt. So let's see how the first week has gone and what I've actually been eating...

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