If you follow me on Vivino (if not, please do – I love to chat about wine), or if you’ve read any of my wine writing, you’ll know we’re huge fans of American wine. My obsession properly started after tasting the fabulous American wines available at some of my favourite restaurants at Walt Disney World, especially Citrico’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa where the award winning wine list runs to several pages and the Sommelier can recommend some really fabulous wines. It was at Walt Disney World that I first got a taste for delicious, medium bodied floral Oregon Pinot Noir; and rich, peppery, fruity Californian Zinfandel. From there, we went on to buttery brioche Chardonnays too. I love tasting and learning about wine and you can imagine my delight when I found out that during our recent foodie trip to LA, we were going to be visiting Temecula wine country with Virgin Holiday Experiences.
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to Disney’s fabulous Halloween party in London. As you can imagine, there aren’t many parties better than a Disney one and sure enough, there were spooky drinks (served by even spookier characters), pumpkins and witches amidst lots of swirling dry ice and, of course, Mickey and Minnie in all their Halloween finery! I know you all love to hear a bit of Disney news too, so I thought I’d update you on a few new pieces of news for 2018 and beyond: from brand new Disney Cruise Line cruises in 2019 to the exciting Marvel announcement for Disneyland Paris made yesterday at Comic Con in London. Read more
I do love a good muffin, don’t you? Here’s a quick muffin vs cupcake factorama for you: muffins are different from cupcakes because a) they don’t have a big swirl of icing or frosting on top (but they can be glazed), b) the texture is denser (wet ingredients are stirred briefly into dry, rather than creaming butter and sugar) and c) they tend to be much less sweet. Anyway, I wanted to do something with a bit of a Halloween twist involving the cupcake’s less sweet, denser, unfrosted cousin, but I’m absolutely no good with novelty things (as evidenced by these rather clumsy Halloween cupcakes back in 2013), so I decided on chocolate orange drizzle muffins basically because chocolate orange is my favourite flavour combo and also because the drizzle seems suitably autumnal and pumpkin-coloured (I’m always thinking about the ‘gram). I used cacao powder because I think it gives a better chocolatey hit than cocoa, but feel free to use either.
So you’ve booked your dream holiday: you’ve chosen a great hotel, maybe scoped out a couple of decent restaurants (you know how important this is to me) but what’s the best way to really get under the skin of your destination? Well, Virgin Holidays has come up with the brilliant idea of Virgin Holidays Experiences: a breathtaking range of over 300 experiences for everyone from foodies and shopaholics to the thrill-seekers and outdoorsy types, and even those in search of the perfect Instagram shot. These fab new experiences will enable all of us to create a bespoke holiday experience that truly reflects our interests and obsessions. So whether you’ve always dreamed of shopping with your own personal stylist in New York, fancy taking surf lessons in San Diego, a seaplane trip over Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver or discovering Chinatown in San Francisco, the world really is your oyster! I was lucky enough to travel to LA and San Diego with Virgin Holidays earlier this month to try out a few of the amazing new Virgin Holidays Experiences. First up, an incredible foodie tour of East LA.
I think we’ve already established that I rather like everything (wait, did I mention crunchy, flame-coloured leaves, blackberry picking, cosy evenings in front of the fire, red wine, blankets, flickering candles, pumpkin spice, bobble hats, Halloween, shiny conkers… yes? Okay, I’ll stop now) about autumn. I do feel, though, that we haven’t really touched on one of the best things: snuggly autumn knitwear. Along with not having to fake tan and leaving my legs to be unnaturally unkempt, I think a soft, chunky jumper is one of the loveliest things about the turn in the weather. There are some great sales on at the moment, so it’s a great time to shop. Grab your pumpkin spiced latte, snuggle up and browse through my top picks:
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and just to make it extra special, this year is the 25th anniversary of the pink ribbon. Breast cancer will affect one in eight women in their lifetimes, and at the moment, one person is being diagnosed every 10 minutes, so it’s really important that we all come together and raise as much money as we can. Loads of brilliant brands have teamed up with breast cancer charities to provide opportunities for you to donate while you shop, and with Christmas coming up (67 days, folks!), it’s a really good time to get a start on your Christmas shopping, and do something brilliant for a great cause. Here’s my Breast Cancer Awareness Month roundup. Read more
If you’re anything like us, one of the biggest considerations when you’re planning a holiday (along with: ‘will there be enough to do?’ and ‘what’s the pool like?’) is ‘are there loads of great places to eat?’. Food is a huge part of our family holiday budget – it’s a big part of our family life at home, so that naturally carries through when we go away together – we want to enjoy gorgeous food in beautiful places. I’ve been thinking for a while now that I really should create a little (well, quite large, actually) guide to dining at Universal Orlando Resort, so if you’re considering a Universal family holiday, you can do a little advanced planning (plus, you know I like taking photos of my food). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I’ve tried to include everywhere I’d dined in and enjoyed as well as a couple on my still to do list.
Last week I was in San Diego (I know! I’ve got loads to tell you about it – coming very soon), and one of the meals we all completely loved was a visit to Galaxy Taco in La Jolla. San Diego is really close to the border with the Baja Californian Peninsula, so it makes sense that a lot of the cuisine has a Mexican influence. I loved my beef taco but had massive food envy for the crispy fish tacos that a couple of the others had ordered. The fish has a Baja spiced crispy coating and is served on soft tacos with a zingy tomato salsa laced with green chilli and heavenly fresh guacamole. I decided to recreate the dish for the boys when I got home and this is the result – I’m sure it’s not 100% authentic – especially the spicing, but it tastes pretty good! If you read my last post, you’ll know that Crisp ‘n Dry are supporting RNLI’s Fish Supper fundraising event this weekend and I thought that a whole bunch of these yummy Baja fish tacos with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole on the side would be perfect if you’re joining in (more of that on my creamy fish pie recipe here).
Many of you will know that Mr E is a helicopter pilot. For many years, he flew helicopters over the North Sea, based in Aberdeen and because of that, we’re always huge supporters of the RNLI whose crews work tirelessly to rescue people and save so many lives (including those of 12 oil workers and two pilots who ditched in their helicopter about 30 miles off the Aberdeen coast in 2012). Did you know that 2016 RNLI lifeboats rescued 8,643 people? And they do all that good work with the majority of funding coming just from voluntary contributions. When Crisp ‘n Dry contacted me to tell me that they’re supporting RNLI’s Fish Supper campaign, I was happy to join in and I’ve got two delicious recipes for you if you want to host your own fish supper, including this yummy, creamy fish pie with sweet potato mash, plus a delicious crispy Baja fish taco recipe coming on Saturday.
October is a super exciting month in the cruise industry. It’s when everyone who loves to cruise comes together to celebrate Plan a Cruise Month: a whole month devoted to everything to do with cruising and the perfect time of year for you to plan your own cruise – especially as there are loads of fantastic offers and incentives available throughout the whole month. This year, the theme of Plan a Cruise Month is ‘destinations’, and I thought I’d tell you about Grand Cayman, one of my very favourite cruise destinations, by having a reminisce of my own lovely trip there, on assignment for Cruise International with Charlie.
You know that I’m a complete Halloween addict. I love all the little bits and bobs that come out around this time of year, and yesterday I was nosing around John Lewis, intending to buy a few baking bits to make my spiced chocolate skeleton gingerbread men (more of these in a second). They have some absolutely gorgeous gifts, decorations and treats for Halloween this year and I ended up buying rather a lot of that stuff too (I mean, mini pumpkin fairy lights, come on!).
If you’ve read my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, you’ll know that we had a fabulous trip, and this time – thanks to Dixons Travel – I get to truly share it with you as we made our first GoPro video! Yes, there was some jerky camera work (and rather a lot of screaming) but I’m actually really proud of our Halloween Horror Nights GoPro movie. GoPro have an excellent editing app called Quik that’s simple to use and allows you to edit your movie, blend clips together and add music too.
We love where we live. We’re so lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world, surrounded by gorgeous countryside and yet just 30 minutes’ train ride away from London. I feel like we have the best of both worlds. Recently, the lovely chaps at booking.com asked about our favourite places to eat and stay in the Chilterns, and it’s honestly taken us lots of evenings of chat (and lots of bottles of wine) to narrow down our choices, such is the wealth of fabulous places throughout Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and beyond! Here, then, without further ado, is my perfect foodie weekend in the Chilterns. I do hope if you’re ever in the area, you’ll come and give some of these fab places a try!
- Things I learned during Alcohol Awareness Week November 21, 2017
- 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