I had some pastry left over after wildly overestimating the amount I was going to need for an apple tart, and decided to try my hand making some mini Bakewell tarts. I kid you not, these babies are delicious and were completely demolished in less than five minutes. If you want to go all Mr Kipling, feel free to slather them in really thick icing. I prefer just a drizzle and – of course – a cherry!
What an exciting week it’s been! In my head, I’m still at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida in the audience at the live finale of Saturday Night Takeaway, laughing at Dec, Scarlett and Stephen’s rowing race at Volcano Bay, boogying to Craig David, learning dance moves with Jason Derulo and singing the Friends theme with The Rembrandts. If you don’t follow me on social media (and if not, why not?!) you might have missed the exciting news that last week I was lucky enough to fly out to Orlando for a behind the scenes sneaky peek at the Saturday Night Takeaway live finale. My Saturday Night Takeaway adventure began when I joined the lucky place on the plane ticket winners and boarded a specially chartered Virgin Atlantic flight to Orlando. As you can imagine, the atmosphere on board was pretty electric, Stephen Mulhern and Scarlett Moffatt were milling around, chatting to the winners and the gorgeous, glam Virgin cabin crew were on hand to make sure we were all safe and looked after.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about discovering (or rediscovering) the Caribbean after it was battered by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and promised to tell you more about our ship, the beautiful Viking Sea. So what’s it like to sail on Viking Sea around the Caribbean? Well, it’s a relatively small ship carrying just over 900 passengers, and on board, you won’t find a casino, on board photographers, gaudy kids’ clubs (in fact, any kids) or drum and bass by the pool. The emphasis is on relaxation, and – cliché alert – connecting with the sea, so what you will find are wide ocean vistas, calming colours, friendly staff and breathtakingly beautiful design details. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a ship as much. Everywhere you look there’s another gorgeous, mid century chair in a perfect little corner inviting you to sit and read, or sip a cocktail.
Breakfast on a weekday can be a bit of a rushed affair. I don’t generally even bother with breakfast, but if we do anything it will be a quick piece of toast or bowl of cereal. On the weekends, though, we really like to take our time and do a proper family late breakfast/brunch. Often this will be bacon and eggs or pancakes and syrup, but my absolute favourite is our vanilla French toast. The lovely chaps at Prestige sent me one of their fab Dura Forge square grill pans, so I thought it was about time I shared my recipe (it’s not a difficult one, but I have a certain way of doing it) and tried out my swanky new pan at the same time.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed a short video that I did for the Ultrasun #myskinis campaign. It’s a fab campaign, not gimicky or hyper hard-sell, but basically created to spread the word on choosing the correct sun protection for our particular skin type, and also about applying it properly. I did a little piece to camera, talking about my skin and also about a few new things I’d discovered during the campaign. This was filmed just after my Dad died and I’ll be honest, I was having a rotten time. The guys at Ultrasun were the sweetest, kindest, most understanding people during this time and I think it’s just made me love everything about Ultrasun even more.
I love it when my birthday comes round and I get to make exactly the cake I want. I’ve been planning this chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel icing for a while as I’m a bit obsessed with everything salted caramel at the moment and knew I wanted to make this frosting (icing? I never know what to call it). You can buy the tins of caramel ready made now, which saves you boiling a tin of condensed milk for three hours the old fashioned way and risking first degree burns into the bargain. Take it easy when you’re salting the caramel icing. Start off with a little bit of salt and keep tasting until you get the required balance of sweet/savoury. Too little and it’s just caramel icing, but then too much and the whole cake will taste salty and yucky. This chocolate fudge cake recipe is SO easy – I’m not claiming it as my own, sadly, as I’m pretty sure I copied it down from a magazine years ago, but it’s one I make a lot and it always comes out soft, moist and delicious. I recommend using muscovado sugar as it has the proper, fudgy taste, but use whatever you have.
As the parents of two young lads, one of the charities very close to our hearts is Centre Point, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity. Centre Point has recently launched a new fundraising initiative, The Big Broth. It’s a competition to find a new and exciting soup recipe. The winning recipe will be put into production by Yorkshire Provender this autumn with 20p from every pot sold going straight back into funding Centre Point’s work with the young homeless in London and other major UK cities. The competition closes very soon (end of this month) and they’re keen to get as many entries in as possible, so if you have a favourite soup recipe, please please take five minutes to enter the competition. It’s such a worthy cause. I’ve entered our new favourite, a slow cooked chicken leg soup which is deliciously warm and tasty, perfect for chilly days or to perk up anyone feeling under the weather.
We love flying with Virgin Atlantic. And – not wishing to slate the opposition – but having had some not-so-perfect flying experiences with other airlines recently, we really think their service and attention to detail is second to none. Now, at a time when a lot of other airlines are cramming even more seats onto their planes, Virgin Atlantic are investing more money to make sure flying in economy can be personalised to suit you, so if you want to push the boat out and grab some extra legroom, you can, but equally, if you just want to get there and get the absolute best value flight, you can do that too. Read on to find out all about the three new ways to fly economy with Virgin Atlantic.
As an early adopter of the slogan tee (yes, I had an original ‘FRANKIE SAYS RELAX’ as well as an oversized ‘CHOOSE LIFE’ which I wore tucked into my rara skirt with my jelly shoes) I feel that I’m highly qualified to choose the best slogan t-shirts. The trend shows no sign of slowing down, and if you’re a late adopter (perhaps the horrors of ‘my <insert relative> went to <insert place> and all I got was this crummy t-shirt’ memories are still too raw for you), I promise it’s totally fine to wear one now, evidenced by the fact that they’ve popped up everywhere from Primark to Prada. And while I don’t really want to walk about with ‘u okay hun?’ or ‘BABE’ emblazoned upon my chest, there are some really nice slogan t-shirts about. I promise. Here’s a little roundup of the best slogan t-shirts about at the moment, from high end to bargainous.
It’s not often that you get invited by Disney to go to a special exhibition in Paris, so I was really excited this week to head to St Pancras to be whisked to the beautiful City of Lights. Unfortunately, being the travel professional that I am, I turned up without my passport. My heart sank and I was absolutely convinced that I would have to miss this wonderful opportunity. Happily, my amazing family came rushing to the rescue and managed to deliver my passport to me at Euston, allowing me to hop on the next Eurostar and arrive just in time for lunch (always my favourite bit). Anyhoo, after all that drama, it was time to immerse myself into the wonderful world of Marvel Superheroes and find out all about the plans for Marvel Summer of Superheroes at a special exhibition, live from the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Last September, we were on the first Virgin Atlantic flight out to Orlando following the airport’s reopening after Hurricane Irma. We met people from the Florida Keys and Miami who had left their homes and belongings behind and been evacuated north to the resort hotels of Orlando. The next morning we walked the empty streets of Universal Orlando Resort, and stepped onto rides with no queues. I remember chatting to our Uber driver, a Puerto Rican who, at the time, was worried about his friends and family at home as the second hurricane, Maria, powered towards the island. It was a sobering time. Fast forward six months, and I’m boarding a flight from Miami to Puerto Rico to join Viking Cruises’ Viking Sea in San Juan for the first leg of Viking’s West Indies Explorer itinerary, sailing from San Juan on a roughly south easterly track that will take us down to our final port, Barbados. I’m curious to know how cruising the Caribbean after Irma and Maria will be, and wondering if, frankly, we’ll be unwelcome guests, strutting around demanding drinks and ice creams while people rebuild their homes and businesses.
It’s a happy coincidence that it’s Paddy’s Day today, but honestly, I was already planning a green roundup, I promise! As long as you ignore the rumours of a return to -3 degree temperatures this weekend, there are certainly signs that spring is well and truly on the way, and what better way to celebrate than introducing a few fresh, spring greens into your wardrobe.
‘Another social media platform?’, I hear you groan. I know, I know – we’re all supposed to be breaking up with our phones, not spending more time on them, but I’ve been using Vero for a while now (mostly lurking) and I really like it. There’s a transparency and a – gasp – honesty about it that’s quite refreshing. The makers of the app seem to be focusing on the sharing and collating aspects of Vero, and that’s what’s drawing me to it. If you haven’t heard of it – or indeed are a new adopter and a bit baffled – here’s a quick rundown, and here’s how I’ll be using Vero.
You know I absolutely love baking, and one of the recipes I’ve been trying to perfect for ages is for proper American style double chocolate muffins. American style muffins tend to be denser and less sweet than cupcakes, and I wanted to make ones that really erupt out of the case like the muffins you buy in bakeries in America. After a fair bit of twiddling, I’m pretty sure I’m there with this one. Oil definitely seems to work better than butter (no, me neither), and as usual with muffins, you need to remember the golden muffin rule: wet into dry and mix as little as you can possibly get away with to avoid developing the gluten (nobody wants a tough muffin). Don’t use huge muffin cases either – you want to fill the cases about 2/3 full so you get the proper volcano-erupting shape.
This week, we had a very special delivery. I’m one of those really sad people who always gets excited when the postie knocks, and this week it was completely justified as we got cake in the post! I know! Meg Rivers is an artisan bakery from the Cotswolds who send all sorts of delicious goodies by post, and they very kindly sent me one of their fabulously retro cherry cakes. It’s deliciously moist, studded with glistening red glacé cherries and a lovely texture too. It’s one of the cakes that they send out as part of the Meg Rivers Cake Club (I mean, forget beauty boxes, I’d much rather get a monthly cake, wouldn’t you?), the perfect pressie and just in time for Mother’s Day too.
I do realise, as I’m perched here on the breakfast bar right next to the snowy scene of devastation that is currently our garden, that talking about holiday dressing might be a bit of a stretch, but honestly, I’m all about the escapism. Right now, if I can imagine myself on a sunkissed beach somewhere, I’m a very happy bunny. So even if your current surroundings might not scream (or even whisper) new bikini, I feel that we could all do with a bit of beach dreaming to warm us up. And with so many gorgeous holiday clothes new in at Boden, it would be rude not to have a quick look, no?
- 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