There’s no denying it, cruising is big business. CLIA, the Cruise Lines International Association predicts that 27.2 million passengers will take a cruise in 2018, and with so much demand, the cruise lines are busy commissioning more and more new ships. This year sees Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Carnival Horizon, Celebrity Edge, Norwegian Bliss, and many more take to the seas. With so much choice, and so many cruise lines, what’s the best way to choose, and is it possible to get a good deal? Well, if you’re thinking of setting sail on your very own cruise adventure this year, here are my top tips for booking a cruise.
This year, Mother’s Day is on Sunday 11th March. Did you know that the reason the date changes every year is that it’s on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday, and the timing of Lent changes every year (it’s linked to the lunar calendar)? Mother’s Day, Easter and my birthday are always linked in my mind as they’re around the same time of year, and this lovely few weeks always makes me think of spring: delicious scents, fresh flowers and all the food (mostly hot cross buns, but also Easter eggs and roast lamb). I always feel like Mother’s Day gifts should be something indulgent that your Mama might not splash out and buy herself, so whether it’s a posy of pretty flowers, sweet treats or beautiful beauty pressies you’re after, I thought I’d have a look and give you some M&S Mother’s Day gift inspo.
You know Mr E, he loves a bit of upcycling. Now the wall has been taking down between the kitchen and the dining room, I’ve obviously lost all the kitchen cupboards that were on that wall. Hence, I’m always complaining about not having enough storage in the kitchen, so wasn’t at all surprised when he appeared one night with his latest Ebay find: a tall, pine unit with a cupboard and lots of shelves. It looked absolutely perfect, the only problem was that it was a pretty hideous shade of orange. As we discussed colours, I mentioned that I’d seen some really dark grey interior finishes recently, and that I really wanted shades of granite and khaki for the kitchen, with accents of copper that have been dominating my Pinterest for a while now.
I never know how I feel about recipe boxes. I’ve had some good, and I’ve had some very, very bad (think teeny portions and an absolute ton of unnecessary packaging to get rid of). Recently Waitrose have joined the (dinner) party by launching their own recipe box delivery service. Cook Well from Waitrose delivers fresh, portioned ingredients straight to the door. All the meals are approved by a Waitrose nutritionist and most have at least two of your five fruit and veg a day. There’s quite a decent range of dishes, including a range of vegetarian and pescatarian recipes as well as meat options. Waitrose very kindly asked me if I’d like to give Cook Well a go, so I chose three dishes to try out. Here’s how I got on.
With news just released of the opening date for the brand new Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, there’s never been a better time to visit Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Toy Story Land is just the beginning of the expansion plans for Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with next year seeing the opening of the 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. So whether you’re an old-school Disney fan, or if you’re a mad Star Wars fan (or both!), there’s really something for everyone. Read on for all the info on new Toy Story Land.
Skincare is SO confusing, isn’t it? I love it, but what with acids and peels and peptides and vitamins and minerals, it can be a worry that you’re not doing enough – or even doing too much. I try and keep my skincare regime relatively simple (I love a good hyaluronic acid serum and a decent SPF moisturiser), but I’m often worried that I’m not doing enough. I’m not too bad day to day, but I’m terrible about remembering to exfoliate (I don’t like gritty scrubs) so when I read about REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic (£25) , I was desperate to give it a try. I’m a big fan of Caroline Hirons on YouTube: she talks a lot of sense and really cuts through the beauty jargon to give you great advice, whatever your skin type. Caroline talks about acids a lot (see her cheat sheet on acids here) and I know she’s a big fan of REN too, so with the promise of exfoliation without the grit, I thought I’d give it a try.
You may remember a little while ago, I told you about my favourite little gadget, the Breville Blend Active Pro. It’s perfect for smoothies, purées and sauces because it’s small and neat, but I’ve often thought how nice it would be to have a bit of a bigger receptacle (is that the right word?) so I could use it for soups and stuff like that without having to haul out my enormous blender/liquidiser. Well, happy days are here, because there’s now a fab new Blend Active accessory pack which includes a whole bunch of attachments that allow it to do loads more stuff: whip cream, process larger amounts of food, grind herbs, and even juice fruit! Breville set me a little challenge to come up with a delicious hummus recipe using the Blend Active Pro and new accessory pack, and I had great fun playing with flavours. I think you’ll like this Moroccan spiced hummus with spiced roasted chickpeas – and I’m still thinking about ways to make it even more delicious (see notes at the end).
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to Skye Gyngell’s gorgeous (and aptly named) Spring restaurant at Somerset House in London for the prettiest of breakfasts to celebrate the launch of the new hush spring 2018 collection. With fresh petal colours, delicate prints and new twists on some of my favourite pieces, I could very easily have packed the whole lot up and taken it home with me. Read on for a look at that beautiful breakfast and a peek at some of the pieces that caught my eye.
What if I told you I’d got a recipe for the floofiest pancakes you’re every likely to make, AND that the secret behind them is cheaty, home-made buttermilk, AND that you can make them all in advance, keep them warm in the oven and they don’t even sink a teeny, tiny bit? I know, right? Feeling pretty smug right now. So, quick sciencey bit: buttermilk is more acidic than normal milk (it’s also thicker, making your batter less runny) so using buttermilk in your pancakes (and indeed scones or whatever) means that there’s more acid to react with the baking soda, therefore making more bubbles and making the pancakes lighter and fluffier. See? It’s not magic, it’s science. But I never remember to buy buttermilk, so I use the next best thing: normal milk soured with lemon juice and left at room temperature for a couple of minutes. It works in exactly the same way and will give you the perfect, fluffy pancakes. Want the recipe? Read on!
When I’m cooking for the family, my intention is always to nourish (I know, I’m just so new age). I want to choose foods that will fill our bodies full of good things, so that kind of excludes all the delicious stuff like cakes and biscuits, right? Well, maybe, but sometimes you just really need a biscuit with your cup of tea, so I started to think about creating a little sweet treat that still has some good stuff in it. Oats are so good for you: a great source of fibre as well as lots of important vitamins and minerals, and oat bran is high in protein (although if the taste of bran is too ‘knit your own yoghurt’ for you, feel free to replace it with wholemeal or rye flour instead). I’ve tried to keep the butter to a minimum by adding banana (but hey, I’m a fan of full-fat dairy) and they’re not too heavy on the sugar either, so if you’re desperate for a sweet treat, why not reach for one of these cookies instead of that packet of biscuits? If you’re calorie counting they come in at about 120 kcal each which isn’t bad for a nice, fat cookie. I’m not going to go so far as to say they’re healthy, but let’s call them healthier oat and cranberry cookies instead.
Picture the scene: it’s Friday night, we’ve both had a hectic week and we’re slumped, finally, in front of the TV, bra off (me), joggers on (him), and both boys out with friends. It’s the perfect opportunity for us to head out to dinner together, just the two of us. We discuss options and various restaurants we quite fancy, but it would mean getting dressed and putting make up on and driving/taxis and whatever and there’s a good film we both fancy on the telly, and delicious wine in the rack. What to do? We don’t have the luxury of many takeaways that deliver here, plus that option can be expensive (and frankly not always great), and although I love to cook, sometimes the thought of getting creative in the kitchen when I just want to chat and sip wine with Jim while we catch up after a busy week means I’d love an easier, but still delicious alternative. This week we’ve been trying The Supper Club range, a collection of premium luxury ready meals new to Sainsbury’s, so we popped the Red Thai Chicken Curry in the oven instead.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I know many people will be thinking about booking a restaurant table for a romantic dinner for two. I do know, though, that going out on Valentine’s Day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Restaurants are extra busy and there’s too much pressure to be ‘romantic’ while everyone’s looking, too! Plus, Mr E and I have been together for about a gazillion years, so I think the need to impress me has long gone. Still, I want to cook a gorgeous dinner for him, and I’ve been looking at the new M&S food to order products, where you can find some interesting cuts of meat that you’d normally have to order from your butcher, plus some great ideas for reluctant cooks, plus of course, delicious desserts.
Yesterday I went into London to catch up with the lovely folk at Viking Cruises (you might remember me mentioning that I wrote the recipes for their cookery book and also for the gorgeous Nordic Style book they have on board). Viking Cruises are the sponsors of a brand new exhibition at the V&A: Ocean Liners: Speed and Style, which opens this Saturday, and I really do recommend that you give it a visit. Whether your interest is history, engineering or fashion, the whole exhibition is a fascinating insight into the glamour of the golden age of cruising. Known for their cool, Scandi-inspired ships and attention to detail, Viking Cruises really are the perfect match for this exhibition.
- Staying overnight at the airport, BLOC Hotel Gatwick May 22, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: the perfect holiday capsule wardrobe with M&S May 19, 2018
- Breaded baked barbecue cauliflower May 17, 2018
- Why I’m pondering becoming a pescatarian May 15, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: 10 ways to live a more sustainable life May 12, 2018