Wednesday, 30 August 2017

How to: spice up your salad



Let's be honest, salads can be pretty boring. I know I'd pick chips any day! But in the height of summer, they not only add some colour to your plate but can be deliciously refreshing too.

So seeing we're enjoying the last of the hot weather, why not try your hands at this...


Ingredients

Rocket
Assorted tomatoes - how many you like!
1 avocado
Fresh mozzarella
1 pack of pomegranate seeds
Chicken mini fillets
75ml olive oil
25ml white wine vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon of whole grain mustard
1 heaped teaspoon of honey
Salt
Pepper

Method


  1. Place all your rocket, avocado and tomatoes on a plate. 
  2. Cook your chicken mini fillets with some pepper in a pan until browned.
  3. Create your dressing by mixing your olive oil, white wine vinegar, whole grain mustard and honey together. You can add a touch of salt and pepper to season if you wish.
  4. Melt your mozzarella and arrange on the salad with your chicken.
  5. Add your dressing (as little or as much as you like!)
  6. Sprinkle your pomegranate seeds over the top to finish.

Easy!



Monday, 28 August 2017

Running - The beginners guide



I started running about 3 years ago as my cousin and I decided we wanted to do the Race for Life in honour of my auntie who had passed away from cancer. I'd never ran before in my life - apart from the odd try at cross country at school. Honestly I was awful! With this in mind, I decided to download the app - Couch to 5K to see if that could spur me into action. It did! And not only that but after we'd completed our race, I carried on running for fun. I still can't believe that was me!

But about a year and a half ago, I started to lose my motivation. I don't know whether it was because I'd lost a lot of weight or because my personal life had started to take away any time I usually had spare. Looking back I think it was a bit of both as I suddenly got too skinny and my relationship with my boyfriend stepped up a notch and I found I'd rather go out and spend time with him than going out for a run. That was my first mistake... in reality we can all find at least 20 minutes to do some exercise but in my mind if we had plans - I just didn't have the time to squeeze anything in.

It's only recently that I've started looking at myself properly in the mirror and thought I needed to get back into it. I'm by no means overweight but I could do with toning up. When you're petite and you tell people you're trying to have a healthy diet or trying to exercise more, you always get "but why? You're not fat!" This leads me on to my second mistake... listening to people who say that! There is nothing wrong with being skinny and wanting to lead a healthy lifestyle. And quite frankly, we shouldn't have to justify ourselves if we want to!

I don't believe running is the easiest thing to get into, but for anyone out there who's trying to do it or used to do it but has lost their motivation, hopefully some of my tips below will at least spur you on!

Mindset

For me exercise is all about mindset. And the hardest thing is getting up off the sofa and getting outside. Once you do it though, you'll find you can carry on but putting on your trainers is always the first hurdle you have to get over. I'm guilty for getting my exercise gear on and then talking myself out of it because I need to clean the house, walk the dog, do the shopping etc etc. But I've tried to tell myself to at least get out for 20 minutes. Even if I start running and stop and start walking - at least I'm out! Basically I have to tell myself to stop making excuses. It's hard but once you get over that, you'll be on your way.


No cost

Running is free! Why pay for a gym membership when all you need is some comfy gear and some decent trainers. Obviously when it's winter, a nice warm gym sounds appealing rather than pounding the icy pavement, but if you're on a budget - it's perfect. And if you're like me and you try to justify not going out because it's too hot, or too cold - try going out early morning or late evening as you'll usually find it's a bit more bearable. 

The fear

Is it just me that goes out and suddenly has the fear everyone is looking at them? It took me ages to go out on my own when I was first training with my cousin as I had someone to talk to and I didn't feel so alone. But again this is something you have to try to get over. My trick is wearing sunglasses as I feel like no one can really see me. Bit like Harry Potter wearing his invisibility cloak - haha!

Fitbit

I can't live without my Fitbit! It's the best thing I've ever bought as it's something I wear on a daily basis and it drives me to do more. The poor thing is nearly on its last legs now so I need to invest in a new one soon, but it's really helped me improve my fitness. Even if I'm not running, I've set myself a daily goal of at least 10,000 steps a day and it allows me to be quite competitive with myself if I don't reach it - or I exceed it! You can even set-up challenges with your friends if being competitive is what drives you to exercise more. Of course there are plenty of exercise watches out there, so it pays to do a bit of research before you buy one.

Distance VS time

I often see friends sharing their workout information on Facebook and Instagram and a lot will be time focussed as that's what they're aiming to improve. If you're more like me and you just want to at least get out, try to set yourself goals with distance rather than time. What works for me won't work for everyone but I find if I tell myself to increase my distance by 0.5-1km each time I go out, I figure I can work on my timings later. I know I'm never going to be running at Mo Farrah's pace but I want to be able to say I can run a distance of 10km - so for me distance is more important.

Endomondo

There are loads of apps available which allow you to track your exercise whether it's cycling, running, walking etc. And all of them will never be 100% accurate but Endomondo is one I've been using for years. I even use it when I track how far I'm walking the dog to make sure he's getting enough exercise, so it's handy just to switch on whenever you're out and about. 

Have faith

Lastly, have faith. If you're struggling to get out like I do or you don't go as far as you wish you had on one of your runs - don't dwell on it. I found when I did this, my motivation started to decrease and months would go by before I went out again. As long as you're getting out, then you're doing well! Remember it takes time to build yourself up, so if you feel like you're not getting where you want to be - just keep trying. I firmly believe if a non-runner like me can do it - anyone can!


Does anyone else have any tips? 



Saturday, 26 August 2017

Weekend walks...



No matter what season it is... I always love going out for long walks and exploring the countryside. Now I've got a dog, I pretty much walk about 10km a day which my Fitbit loves but I tend to do the same routes which can get a bit tedious. But there's nothing I love better than enjoying the sunshine and getting my bum off the sofa and getting out and about. Que Luton Hoo. You might be thinking, what on earth is this (strange name I know) but it's actually a hotel and spa which is situated on the border of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.You don't always think of Luton as being picturesque but hopefully what I'm about to show you will prove you wrong.

Luton Hoo is popular for weddings, afternoon teas (of course I tried one here!) and its walking trails. With a 1,065 acre estate, you can imagine there's a lot on offer. You don't need to be staying here either as we went for the afternoon tea and then ventured outside to explore the grounds. 


Standard afternoon tea shot!


Beautiful grounds on a sunny day

If you take a steady stroll through the grounds you can be out for a good couple of hours and then there's always the option to head back into the hotel for a drink to cool down. Luton Hoo is a perfect place if you're looking for a few hours to relax and if you can afford to part with some cash - why not stay the night or indulge in a spa session. Not something I've done yet, but it's on the bucket list!

I love visiting stately homes and would love to hear your recommendations of where I could go next. Share them in the comments below!




Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour with B-Bakery



You might have guessed by now that I’m a fan of afternoon teas. So when I was lucky enough to get an invite to experience B Bakery’s Afternoon Tea Bus Tour – I literally jumped at the chance! Instead of taking the train as I normally would, I chose to travel down with megabus, as I managed to grab a return fare for £12 which I thought was a right bargain! Luckily they have free Wi-Fi and power sockets onboard so I managed to get through some work emails on the way and even managed to sneak in a cheeky viewing of Ozark which I’m currently binge watching on Netflix!

megabus drop off at London Victoria Station which was so handy as this is where the B Bus departs from so that gave me some time to grab a drink and a snack before getting onboard the vintage Routemaster bus. Yes you read that correctly, I did have a snack before I went on. Big mistake as the portions are big onboard!


The bus


So as I said the tour takes place on a Routemaster bus which you can’t miss going around Central London. In fact whenever it stops, you’ll usually see people grabbing their cameras taking snaps! I wasn’t sure what to expect with the bus as I’m prone to motion sickness so combining a bumpy journey as well as eating cake – I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t feel too good on the way round. I didn’t need to worry though as the journey was fairly smooth and the whole experience is so unique that I didn’t really have time to think about how I was feeling. The bus is decked out with gorgeous flowers and fairy lights and you feel so at home onboard. We were on a table of four but they also had tables of two and if you can even hire the whole bus out if you want to. Great for birthdays and hen dos! You get to choose where you sit when you book but if you want to spend a bit more cash you can book a VIP table which is just for two and this will give you the best views from the top. Prices vary between £45 and £65 depending on where you choose to sit but you can check all of this out when you book.

Sweet treats & drinks


So mostly importantly, what do you get to eat? We had gorgeous sandwiches and quiches – favourite of mine was the chicken and mayo roll. And for those with a real sweet tooth, we had cheesecakes, cupcakes and the most amazing lemon meringue I’ve ever eaten! Honestly, it’s the best I’ve had and I could have easily eaten several. If you’ve got any dietary requirements and are a bit worried about what I’ve mentioned, B’s are really good as they offer gluten-free, vegetarian and Halal – so there’s no need to worry. Of course an afternoon tea isn’t an afternoon tea if you don’t have scones and these beauties made an appearance towards the end of the tour. They were still warm and you got the standard clotted cream and jam to go with it. If that all sounds too much, B’s don’t let you leave empty handed as they’ll give you a carry box at the end if you didn’t manage to fit all your treats in. Perfect snack for travelling home! For drinks, there is small selection of teas, coffees and hot chocolate and orange juice and bottled water if you don’t fancy something warm. They will put your hot drinks in your very own Brigit Bakery flask which not only helps keep your drink upright for the journey but you also get to keep it which was a lovely surprise at the end. I know I’ll be using this a lot in the winter!
If you’re anything like me who needs the toilet every 5 minutes, bear in mind there isn’t a toilet onboard, so be careful what you choose to drink!



Exploring London


If you’re looking to do some proper sightseeing around London, you might not see everything you want to see on this tour. Although they take you around some top sights like Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and the London Eye – you’ll find as you’re eating that you tend to miss these along the way. The tour does offer a small commentary but I’d say this bus is more about enjoying the unique experience rather than getting snap happy with your camera.
We were on the bus for about an hour and a half but it could take a little longer if you get stuck in London traffic. It wasn’t too hot onboard until we got towards the end so if you’re going in summer, I wouldn’t suggest wearing jeans as you may get a little hot. 


Should you take the plunge and book?


If you love afternoon tea and want to do something different with your friends, I’d definitely say yes. You might not actually see a lot of London but you do get to experience some amazing baking which was right up my street. It is very girly onboard but it’s definitely one for the guys too so don’t be put off taking your boyfriends or husbands! They will definitely come away loving the food.

To book, all you need to do is go to the B Bakery website and pick your date and time. It’s that easy.
B Bakery also offers a River Thames afternoon tea boat tour and they have a bakery in Covent Garden. And if you’re not in London, they also have a bakery in Bath and offer the tours there too! So if you’re heading there on a city break, make sure you check them out and also have a look at what I did when I was in Bath recently on my post if you’re looking for other ideas.


Do you think you’d want to try this tour? Let me know in the comments. And if you have any other suggestions of where I should try next for afternoon tea – let me know!


Sunday, 20 August 2017

A sweet treat...



I've got a real sweet tooth and absolutely love spending Sundays baking in the kitchen. I don't get chance to do it as often as I'd like now but when I do - it always has to be something sweet.

This recipe is easy and absolutely delicious so even if you're a novice in the kitchen - everyone will love this bake!

So I give you the often understated... Millionaire Shortbread.

Ingredients:

- 250g shortbread biscuits which need to be crushed.
- 55-100g of melted butter. I found that 80g works best.
- 150g butter.
- 150g dark brown soft sugar.
- 397g can Carnation condensed milk.
- 200g dark chocolate (I prefer Green & Blacks)
- 55g Milkybar
- A 20cm brownie tin will work well and make sure you line it with baking parchment.

How to make:

1. Crush your shortbread biscuits and combine with the melted butter. Once in the tin, put in the fridge for around 20 minutes.

2. Heat your sugar and the remaining butter in a pan gently. Make sure you keep stirring until everything has melted. Add the condensed milk and bring to the boil whilst stirring continuously.
When it starts bubbling, make sure you take it off the heat! The filling needs to be thick so it should be ready in around a minute or so. Then pour the caramel over the base, and then cool before you put it back in the fridge to set.

3. Melt the dark chocolate and then pour this over the set caramel. Then melt the Milkybar and add spoonfuls of this on top of the dark chocolate. Swirl together with a spoon to create a cool marbled effect.

4. Pop your shortbread back in the fridge to chill. Mine took around an hour and a half. Remove from the tin and then cut into squares. Tip: Dip your knife in hot water and then dry on a kitchen towel as it will make it easier to cut through your set chocolate.

5. Dig in!


Monday, 14 August 2017

Relax in Bath

Bath is one place that's relatively nearby and one I'd always wanted to go to, but just hadn't made it yet. Well that was true until last week when we ventured there for a cheeky 2 nights away. As we weren't going to be there long, we packed in as much as possible - so as usual for me it wasn't actually a relaxing break. I've come to realise over the years that I crave the time to relax but when I actually get to do it, I end up getting bored quite quickly and longing for something to do. Typical!

We chose to stay at the Oakhill Inn in Radstock which is around a 15/20 minute drive from Bath. And offers a great alternative to staying in the city itself. Plus if you're travelling on a budget, you're not paying the city prices too! If I could sum up Oakhill Inn in 3 words, I would say quaint, friendly and comfy! The room was an adequate size and quite quirky but reasonable for what we paid. But the food was amazing. We had breakfasts both days and tried the evening menu on our last night. Safe to say we didn't finish our dishes as the portions were huge!
Oakhill Inn, Radstock






Typically being British Summer Time, we had a mix of weather whilst we were there. Sadly, it was mainly overcast but I still think Bath looks beautiful even without a filter. What do you think?


So Bath has loads on offer. But we chose to mainly think about our bellies (surprise surprise!). The Pump Room was of course on my list for (shock horror!) Afternoon Tea. Whilst I chomped on sandwiches, cakes and some delicious plain scones, we had a lovely live band playing music. This really set the tone for the tea and adding that little extra to the experience.




We then headed to Bath Racecourse to have a flutter and although we didn't win a thing, the sun managed to make an appearance which went down nicely with the Pimms!

And to finish off the whole getaway, I finally got round to using my 30th birthday present of a trip to Britain's original thermal spa - Thermae Bath Spa. We couldn't quite stretch the budget to treatments, but we made our way around the newly opened Wellness Suite where we experienced a lot of heat with the steam and sauna rooms and then ventured to what felt like Antarctica with the ice room. Luckily I read the sign about not throwing ice before the boyfriend got a face full! To top it off, we headed to the top floor to relax in the breathtaking open-air rooftop pool. Spending time just floating around the pool was just what we needed after a hectic couple of days. Word of warning, the pool is deliciously warm, however when you get out - the air is cold! You'll get a small workout just running for your robe to warm up!

So can Bath be visited on a budget? It can indeed! You just need to be savvy about where you stay and what you decide to do. If you want to follow our suit, we booked everything in advance so we paid bits off here and there. So we even had enough to enjoy a cocktail or two!



Do you have any recommendations for where we should try next? Leave a comment below with your suggestions - I'd love to hear them!
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