Let’s be honest, one of the best bits of being on holiday is getting to try ALL the local cocktails, am I right? When the lovely bunch at Travel Republic asked me to contribute to their cocktail-themed travel guide – packed with information about destinations and their signature cocktails – I was happy to oblige and I knew exactly which city (and cocktail) to champion. Mr E and I absolutely love Paris, and to us, the French 75 (or soixante quinze) is synonymous with our favourite destination: chic, stylish, and just a little bit outré. It’s Paris to a T. Here’s how we make our perfect French 75 cocktail at home.
Now Charlie has gone off to university, I’ve been doing a bit of research on student discounts for 2017 and beyond. Loads of companies are really generous with their student discounts and, as some will be on a limited basis, this is the best time to think about using your discounts. First things first, though, you need to prove that you’re a student and most companies want to see your official NUS Student Card.
So you already know that we’re all Halloween crazy, and last week – a dream come true – I got to take Mr E and Sam to Universal Orlando Resort, Florida to experience the amazing Halloween Horror Nights 27. I don’t want to be one of those people who give all the good bits away before you even get there, so I’m not going to go into huge detail about everything you’ll find at HHN27, just in case you’re due to visit. If you’re tempted to attend next year, though – and you really, really should – here are my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, plus a couple of my awful blurry pictures – you’re welcome!
Since arriving back from Orlando on Thursday, we’ve really noticed how autumnal it seems to have become in just that short period. Our gorgeous parrotia tree, experiencing its first autumn in the garden, is now aflame with orange, coral and red, showing off its glorious, glowing colours every time I’m at the kitchen sink, and there’s a new nip in the air that I’m certain wasn’t there when we left. Still, I’m happy to be spending a few days snuggling at home before I jet off on my next adventure, and top of my weekend wishlist are some delicious, autumnal interiors: scented candles, soft throws, plump cushions and more (I need all the comfort after the trauma of waving Charlie off to university). Here are a few bits I’m loving right now:
As Charlie goes off to university very soon (sob), and as we all know, being a student means living on a pretty limited budget. I want to make sure that he has loads of recipes that he can refer to here so that he can make himself a few decent meals without resorting to expensive takeaways. For a Friday night treat, is there anything better than pizza? It’s horrendously expensive to buy, but incredibly easy – and much cheaper – to make at home. Step forward my favourite essential Waitrose range which stocks all the products you need at great prices (and great welfare standards) without compromising on quality. Charlie loves halloumi, so I’ve created this pizza especially for him, piled high with all the ingredients he likes: here’s how to make my halloumi, olive and mint pizzas at home:
I absolutely love the essential Waitrose range – we buy loads of the products, from store cupboard staples like tins of tomatoes and dried pasta, to keeping the fridge stocked with easy things for the boys to cook when they’re hungry: thin and crispy pizzas, filled pastas, as well as everyday items like ham, cheese, bread, fruit and veg. At the end of the day, I’m a firm believer in buying quality food, but that doesn’t mean I want to compromise on affordability or welfare (I especially like the fact that all Waitrose chicken is British and reared to Waitrose’ higher welfare standards. To show you quite how versatile the essential Waitrose range is, I’ve created this delicious Jamaican jerk chicken marinated with allspice, thyme, honey and lime and served with a sweet, refreshing caramelised pineapple salsa, made using essential Waitrose ingredients, giving the quality you’d expect from Waitrose at prices you really wouldn’t:
I’m obsessed with make up. I love watching beauty tutorials, and I’ll often be found happily attacking a pile of ironing while watching my favourite YouTubers, the lovely Pixiwoos, gorgeous Victoria, superstar Tanya Burr, skincare guru, Nadine Baggott and fabulously funny and honest Ruth Crilly. One problem this does present is that they’re always discovering fab new makeup and skincare and making me want to buy it. Obviously nobody has unlimited funds for that sort of thing, but I do keep a little list on my phone of items that the experts have recommended, so that next time I’m really, honestly in the market for that specific product, I can check it out. Here are a few of the new season beauty recommendations that have caught my eye:
My Dad’s not been well recently, so he’s not as active in his garden as he once was. He rang me last week and asked if I wanted any fruit, and Sam and I popped in to see him and to perform a quick raid of his gorgeous fruit trees. There are so many plums on the tree they’re weighing down the branches (and the wasps are having a field day), so we picked a load of those and also a load of his apples – I’m not sure of the variety but they’re somewhere in between an eater and a cooker and make awesome crumble. Seeing as we’d picked some blackberries on our walk, I thought I’d make an apple, plum and blackberry crumble. Here’s how to recreate it:
You’ll probably already know that I’m a huge fan of Attraction Tickets Direct: they’re one of the world’s largest attraction ticket brokers, and we’ve been everywhere from the West End of London, to Disneyland Paris, and even Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando with them. Last week I headed to the gorgeous Sea Containers in London to celebrate their 15th birthday with them, and to hear some really fabulous news about new Attraction Tickets Direct Disney hotel, ticket and dining packages!
I think I told you a while back that I’ve been working with Nat and her team from The Hair Secret in Berkhamsted to save my poor, frazzled hair. I love being blonde, but I find it quite damaging on my fine hair, so Nat’s been using Organic Colour Systems colour on me, which is a lot kinder (and also ethically sourced and cruelty free), and suggested that I try their new Organic Colour Systems Rep-Hair Follicle Strengthening System: a great range of products designed to strengthen hair and reduce the amount of hair that falls out. I was keen to give it a go.
As a family, we’ve always used this blog as a bit of a recipe resource. If the boys are making brownies or a pasta bake, they’ll look up the recipe on here, and I love that they’ll always have that connection with home. With Charlie just about to go off to university (we’re going to Universal for Halloween Horror Nights – yay! – then he goes practically as soon as we get back – boo) I thought it would be nice to share a few of our family favourite recipes so that he (and any other student looking for decent, great-value recipes for sharing) would be able to recreate them when he’s away from home. I’m starting with this easy, step by step lasagne al forno. If I’m taking my time and making a lasagne at home, I’ll make the sauce with red wine, carrots, celery and tomatoes (hit me up for the recipe, I’ve got a fab one), but there’s no shame in using a jar of tomato sauce, especially not when you’re in a hurry (or on a budget – a 500g jar of Tesco Bolognese pasta sauce is about 75p – also, look out for any that are on offer and stockpile them in a cupboard at home). Likewise with the cheese: Parmesan is lovely, but cheddar is cheaper.
I’ve never been particularly tiny or particularly big, so apart from the few occasions over the years when I’ve completely and unhealthily starved myself down to a ridiculous and completely unsustainable size 8, I’m generally around a healthy size 12. We eat quite well (we’re experimenting more with meat free, veggie-rich recipes at the moment and loving it) and try to be sensible with alcohol. Add that reasonably healthy lifestyle to the fact that, thanks to the NHS Couch to 5k programme I’m now running 5k three times a week and I’m kind of annoyed that I haven’t really toned up that much. Cue, then, the most exciting email I’ve had in ages from the fabulous S-Thetics Clinic in Beaconsfield, inviting me to come and try SculpSure body contouring: the first ever treatment to use gentle heat technology to eliminate stubborn body fat without going under the knife.
Okay, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely autumn now. Regular readers will know I’m an absolute autumn obsessive. I always think of it as a time of new beginnings. It’s a ‘new notebook month’, not just because of the new term connotations, but because it’s maybe a time when we retreat indoors a bit more, giving us time to reflect, take stock (see my positive life plan if you’re interested in exploring this a bit more) and to welcome a bit of softness and comfort, even – dare I say it, more joy – into our lives. Autumn is snuggly jumpers, soft throws, cushions and flickering candles (and let’s not even get started on comfort food, shall we?). The change to cooler weather also brings the opportunity for a bit of a wardrobe refresh – retiring our summer pieces and exploring new collections from lots of our favourite brands, and – wow – the M&S autumn winter 2017 collection has so many nice things – I’ve taken you through a few of my favourites.
- Weekend wishlist: scented Christmas candles November 18, 2017
- Slow cooked beef and red wine stew with dumplings November 16, 2017
- Alcohol Awareness Week: my Drinkaware Challenge November 15, 2017
- Battling the common cold (with a little help from Olbas) November 14, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: the new hush winter 17 collection November 11, 2017