Recently, I told you all about my amazing Saturday Night Takeaway adventure, and promised to update you on some of the new openings and gossip from Universal Orlando Resort, Florida. While we were in the park, we were really lucky to be given a sneaky peek behind the scenes at an incredible new attraction (and also the opportunity to eat ALL THE DOUGHNUTS at the fab new Voodoo Doughnuts on Universal’s CityWalk – more news of this very soon). The new Fast & Furious – Supercharged at Universal Orlando featuring the stars of the movie franchise as well as breathtaking original vehicles, is due to open very soon and promises an action-packed ride experience. Here’s what I learned…
I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that I feel really uncomfortable looking back to past holidays where we’ve interacted with captive dolphins. We all love dolphins (I spotted this one off the coast of Agadir from a cruise ship), and I’ll the be first to admit that the chance to interact with them was just too tempting, but I know I’m not alone in looking back now and feeling quite sad that we played a part in supporting an industry that, even at the time, made us feel uneasy. Now, I feel that times have changed for the better, and there really has been a shift in what we feel is acceptable with regard to the welfare of dolphins and whales in captivity (in fact, in a poll of 1000 UK consumers* last year, 95% wanted to see tour operators change the way they work with attractions featuring whales and dolphins). I wanted to be the first to tell you about a fabulous new initiative that’s going to make you love Virgin Holidays even more than you do already (if that’s possible). Yesterday, Virgin Holidays announced that they’re going to be investing into a wonderful new project: North America’s first dolphin sanctuary. I asked them all about it and here’s what I found out:
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
One of the best parts of Christmas for me is choosing all the lovely wrapping paper and cards. For some people, obviously I’ll just choose the ‘robin in snow’ variety, but for my friends and family, I’m always looking for great quality, quirky cards and wrapping with a bit of a cheeky edge – and I’ve definitely found it in Love Layla Designs, a fab, family-run small business from Yorkshire who have the most original tongue in cheek, fun Christmas designs. For this weekend’s wishlist, step away from the boring snow scene and come and discover some of my favourite Love Layla Designs:
Recently, an enormous box arrived at English Towers with a lovely note from the folks at Kenwood: ‘we know you love cooking, so would you like this beautiful Kenwood Chef Elite?’ Seriously generous, right? But I didn’t rush to open it, because, well, I’ve got a mixer already that I’ve had for ages and love, and on the box it looks all complicated and new-fangled, not homely and quirky like mine. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, though, and because everyone kept complaining that there was a huge box on the kitchen floor, I opened it up and popped it onto the kitchen counter. Well. Cue choirs of angels singing and all that jazz, because this thing is beautiful. Seriously, I sent a pic to Mr E and he replied ‘erm, wow. It really goes in our kitchen’. To give it a thorough test, though, and make sure it has brains as well as beauty, I attempted some Christmas crumble muffins with my sleek and shiny new baby. Here’s how I got on:
The run up to Christmas can be stressful. For most of us, it’s a whirlwind of online (and real life) shopping, cooking and planning, and of course my work doesn’t stop either (I’ve already cooked three Christmas dinners and it’s only just December). I decided to take a pre-Christmas pampering trip with a little help from Trainline’s new voice app. Here’s how I got on.
You all know that I love everything to do with Christmas, and once the lights have been switched on in London, I’m always desperate to take a trip to go and see them. Mr E works really hard and we don’t get much opportunity to do things as a family, so I thought we’d plan a lovely festive trip up to London on the train to go and see the lights (and maybe grab some dinner and a cocktail or two) while we’re there. While we were planning our trip, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try Trainline’s new Price Prediction tool to get the best possible ticket price. Here’s how we got on.
I’ve been writing about cooking Christmas dinner on this blog for ten years, can you believe that? When you’re thinking about cooking Christmas dinner (or indeed lunch) for everyone, it can seem a bit daunting, but I always say that it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and if you think about it like that, and make sure you’re really well prepared, it’s a piece of cake. The lovely team at Crisp ‘n Dry (remember I worked with them when they sponsored RNLI Fish Suppers?) have asked me to share my top tips and cook a little practice Christmas dinner – a ‘Crisp ‘n Dry run’ if you will – geddit?!), to show you that with a little love (and Crisp ‘n Dry), your ordinary Christmas dinner can really become the ultimate festive feast. Here are my top five tips for planning the perfect Christmas dinner.
So that’s it, Alcohol Awareness week is over, and I promised to tell you about how I got on with my challenge to stick to the recommended weekly guidelines: that’s 14 units a week, spread across the week, evenly over three or more days with a couple of alcohol free days. I continued to keep a track of my units with the help of the Drinkaware app, and alongside it, kept a diary of what I had to drink and the circumstances in which I was drinking. Here are a few things I learned:
How’s your relationship with alcohol? I’d say that mine’s… complicated. When we were younger, I was always the one who would volunteer to drive. I’m naturally quite chatty and happy, and it didn’t occur to me that I needed to drink alcohol to have a good time, therefore I was generally the designated driver, and happy enough with it. Now, we don’t tend to go out much, so our drinking is done at home, and this has increased steadily over time. Add to this the fact that we really love our wine, to the point that I write about it and we even invest in it, and you’ll see why our alcohol consumption has steadily grown. Next week, 13th to 19th November is Alcohol Awareness Week, and I’ve been thinking a little bit about how (and why) I drink. It’s been an interesting time…
One year, when the kids were small and we were still living in Ireland, our whole family came over to spend Christmas with us. I remember it as the most magical time: loads of fun and laughter, walks to the pub snuggled up in hats and scarves, the kids opening their presents together on Christmas morning… Years later, we still talk about our lovely family Christmas together, and one of the things we’ve considered is renting a cosy cottage somewhere and decamping as a family for the festive period. I’m thinking The Holiday but with considerably more people. So why am I hankering after getting away from it all? Well, here are five great reasons why we should all be having a cosy cottage Christmas:
- Fast & Furious – Supercharged at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida April 24, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: chic dressing for sunny days April 21, 2018
- News: Virgin Holidays and North America’s first dolphin sanctuary April 19, 2018
- Discovering the Caribbean on board Viking Sea April 17, 2018
- Easy mini Bakewell tarts April 14, 2018