The Handmade Fair @ Bowood House.

bowood x

The weather has been absolutely glorious in England this weekend and it looks like the sunshine will be staying put for a little while yet which makes me and I’m sure the rest of the UK want to stand up and rejoice!! I was lucky enough to have been invited by Rewired PR to an event at Bowood House in Wiltshire at the weekend called The Handmade Fair. The event was over three days from the Friday to the Sunday and was blessed with the most fantastic, sunny weather. As soon as I heard about this I really liked the idea of this fair. Created by Kirstie Allsopp as a great way to get more people into arts and crafts as well as uniting art, craft and handmade lovers far and wide which I really like. This is the ultimate creative day out whether you want to brush up on your skills from experts or if you want to dabble at something new and uncover a hidden crocheting talent there really is something for everyone. There’s plenty of things going on at The Handmade Fair whether, like me, you’re happy ambling round The Shopping Villages. They’re all bursting at the seams with handmade products and full of people  are full to the brim with handmade products of the highest quality by the talented makers and creators. If that doesn’t tickle your pickle you can always head over to The Super Theatre, Skills Workshops and Grand Makes marquee’s where you can learn a new skill or two hosted by the UK’s most renowned experts. Oh and did I mention they had some magnificent street food vans dotted around too? I could have gone around twice collecting my £200 for passing GO everytime. I really loved how inclusive this event was. Since going vegetarian back in November it has been somewhat tricky for me to find foods when out and about that I really like and get excited by. But there was so much choice here from homemade ravioli, to a specific vegetarian/vegan food truck called Eats Shoots and Leaves (I LOVE a good pun, especially a panda related one).

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Nestled in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, not too far from Chippenham, sits a Grade I listed Georgian country house also known as Bowood House and Gardens. The Fair was held in the Gardens and you have to give The Handmade Fair team their credit for picking some of the most stunning locations. From Ragley Hall in Warwickshire in May to their later dates of being in Hampton Court Palace in September. Such an ideal way to make a weekend of it by visiting the Fair and spending another day having a nose around the house and gardens!

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My sister and I set off on the Saturday morning just before 10. It was a gorgeously sunny and only took about an hour from my house despite getting a tiny bit lost as I thought I knew better than the directions on my phone. Apple 1 – Abbie 0.  As soon as we parked up and got our wristbands from the desk we practically bounced on inside. The staff on the gates and checking tickets were all so friendly, happy and welcoming, asking us if we needed any help or wanted to know where to start and gladly pointed me in the direction of the RewiredPR tent so I could say a quick hello to the lovely team that made this possible. This was my first ever blog related event and I was feeling a bit anxious/nervous about it all. My sister helped me put my mind at ease and so did the PR team. They were so lovely and I found it really nice to meet the people or the person behind the emails and put a face to a name. So with that I went to go for a wander around the site armed with my phone and my camera as I was worried all my storage would be gone in a matter of five photos and a boomerang.

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My sister and I are both big foodies so were naturally drawn to the Artisan Marketplace marquee. It was like someone knew I was coming as it was filled with delectable sweet treats, cakes and several different gins. Naturally I had to sample them all and I was actually surprisingly taken with a coffee infused dark rum from Cornwall.

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As a lover of gin I can safely say how happy I am that it appears to be really having a ‘moment’ and is the ‘in’ spirit of choice. I know a few people who don’t really like it or find the scent of it quite woody or ‘piney’ in their words. But I think with so many different tonics available, flavoured gins and even flavour pairings you could add different herbs and spices, fruits or even a slither or cucumber to give it a rounded, cleaner taste if the taste of juniper isn’t for you!

From the same stand my sister and I purchased some savoury biscuits which were so incredible. We bought three boxes and they didn’t even last as long as 24 hours from unboxing as soon as we got them home. They were from the same company as seen above called Popti and they may be the most delicious biscuits I’ve tried. I love the packaging it’s so simple yet the choice of bold colours makes them really stand out on a shelf. They have a good variety of different flavours which you could snack on, on their own or even as an accompaniment to cheeses. If you ever come across this brand I urge you to try them they were so moreish and buttery. They honestly tasted like a savoury shortbread or something. INCRED. Also the lady we spoke to was so kind and lovely!!

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I even tried a small sample of moonshine. I did read the leaflet and the gentleman selling these did explain what moonshine *actually* is but other than a delicious and smooth alcohol they made in the prohibition era I still can’t quite remember. I tried one that tasted just like ameretto and could have easily drunk that neat all day long.

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A variety of different cheeses were also on offer and I tried a charcoal cheese which was mild, creamy albeit being rich and black in colour. If you had your eyes closes and weren’t any the wiser you wouldn’t have had any idea I don’t think as it didn’t have that overpowering smokiness sometimes charcoal can give. This type of thing would look great on a cheeseboard. BTW this chap is totally caught off guard but I’m living for the pose I might make that my go to pose in photos…White gloves optional.

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These marshmallows were incredible from a company called Grown Up Marshmallows.  I’ve loved marshallows since I was a child and I love seeing the different flavours or the gourmet ones you can get now. I tried the dark chocolate and raspberry one and it was amazing, it was soft and gooey but still had some chewiness to it. To me it tasted just like a normal, regular marshmallow if it wasn’t for the fact the sign and the lady talking to me said it didn’t contain any gluten, fats or egg I wouldn’t have been any the wiser.

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I’ve never in my life seen so many different ways with garlic as I did on this stall. Garlic butters, different types of garlic mayo, whole garlic bulbs, pureed garlic, garlic oil even to garlic beer?! All freshly grown from their Isle of Wight farms.

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I love these Mighty Fine nuggets of joy so much. My sister got me a peanut butter flavoured pouch for my birthday but my one true love is dark chocolate and it goes so nicely with their honeycomb I had to get this one especially as it was a £1 cheaper than usual shop price. Mighty fine you really are mighty fine.

Around midday we decided to take a bit of respite and get something to eat. You’re spoilt for choice for things to eat whether you want fish and chips, sheeps milk ice cream, gourmet cheese on toast to vegan nachos. You could easily spend all day trying some of each food stall until you burst. Eventually my sister and I decided on a food truck called RaviOllie. I love a good pun me. RaviOllie was born when the chef, Ollie, had spent many years working in top restaurants in London learning every inch of the kitchen including perfecting the art of making fresh and incredible pasta. Taking this love of food and pasta he decided on putting his own stamp on things, specifically ravioli. And I’m blimmin’ glad he did. We had spinach and ricotta filled ravioli topped with Parmesan, cracked black pepper and a choice of different oils.  The pasta was like nothing I’ve ever tried before. It was absolutely sensational. The pasta itself was gorgeous and nothing at all like ones I’ve had in restaurants or shop bought. You could just tell the ingredients were fresh and of good, high quality as it looked and smelt so fresh and vibrant.  The filling was so creamy but not too rich, it was cheesy and delicious and I wish I could have an endless supply for the rest of my life because it is legit the most perfect comfort food.

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bowood x x

Feeling a bit peckish we found somewhere selling a pot of strawberries and cream. But this pot was like a Nigella Lawson style levelled up treat. Like Wimbledon hasn’t got a patch on this. Sweet strawbs topped with a lavender cream, vanilla mini meringues, a homemade gin and tonic jelly and mint leaves. HEAVEN. It was the perfect summery snack on a hot afternoon.

After a leisurely bite to eat and soaking up some of the rays we headed into the Shopping Village tent filled to the brim of everything and anything you can think of when it comes to the world of arts and crafts.

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The first stand right by the door took my fancy. You could buy little wooden shapes and paint and decorate them onto to things to make them look so much more decorative and ornate like this little wooden wreath as seen above. This would lovely if you wanted to design a little photoframe for someone as a gift or put a nice picture or even leave it how it is as a wall hanging. These types of things are so versatile if you wanted to make a scrapbook for someone you could make their name out of letter shapes or if you wanted to make a memory box you could decorate it with their products too. The possibilities are endless.

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I love, love, LOVE these quills that were on offer on one stand. You could learn the basics of calligraphy too as their was a workshop on that too! These would make me feel so fancy and like I was in Harry Potter.

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If fabric working or upcycling is much more up your alley there were several different stands selling beautiful prints and fabrics. I’m a magpie for pretty things, bold colours and prints and this whole section really stood out to me. As someone who would love to be able to make their own clothing I looked on at this like a kid in a candy shop. There was another stand that was teaching people to make their own pom poms which I thought was really cute. They would make such good keyrings or decorative pieces.

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This gentleman was showing an older method of weaving wool and attracted quite a crowd. It was really nice to be involved in a day and an event where people with different crafts, hobbies and skill levels came together to celebrate all things homemade. There is something special in having something that you can say I made this. Or I took the time and actually completed this and look how fab it looks!

Other than blogging I’ve never really had a long term hobby that I’ve actually loved, enjoyed and stuck with (maybe playing the recorder at primary school but didn’t everyone do that?!) So I was hoping when I went along to this I would find something that would take my eye and I would develop a new hobby, skill or love away from technology for a little bit of time per day or week.

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I stumbled across this stand selling cross stitch kits and naturally the gin related one jumped right out at me. Seeing as I got this on Saturday and today is now Wednesday and I’ve already taken it out of the box to have a go I think that’s a good start compared to other things I’ve bought with good intentions of doing and never quite getting round to doing.

If you’re a literal magpie for all things shiny and pretty just like me there were these gorgeous rings on display that look so glamorous and elegant. I love the sea themes in the first picture, in particular the rose gold seashell earrings.

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There was so much going on at The Handmade Fair it would be an enjoyable day out for people of all ages. You can book tickets in advance for places in their workshops and talks from the experts and having just had a look on their website for the Hampton Court Palace timetable (here) they have got some amazing workshops lined up from learning to do brushwork lettering to making your own beading hoop earrings. Whether you’ve always had a dream to make your own funky willow bird feeder, sew your own kimono or learn to make butterly origami, along with the help of The Handmade Fair’s exceptional team of experts it could make these dreams possible. If you get the opportunity I would definitely recommend going to their next Fair. I really enjoyed my time here and I’m sure you would do too!!

I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at RewiredPR for asking me along to this event I’m really appreciative of it and I really enjoyed my day. Thank you so much to all the kind people working at The Handmade Fair whether that be all the staff I met, the staff behind the scenes who made this event come together so well or all the kind creators, makers and bakers I met too. I know I’m not the only one who would say I had such a lovely time! I hope this event gets better and better upon each year with even more people going along to their next one!

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*What I wrote in this post is all 100% genuine from me and my thoughts on it all. I don’t want to mislead readers into thinking I only wrote positive things as I had been invited to attend. 🙂

Three days in Brighton.

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If you follow me on either Twitter or Instagram you’d have seen back in April I went for a few days away with my friend to the gorgeous seaside city of Brighton in Sussex on the south coast of the UK. I will admit it’s taken me way waaaay too long for me to post all about my trip on here but I can finally say ya gurl has got round to it. If you’ve never been to Brighton I would totally visiting. There’s something for everyone there with a plethora of fantastic bars or eateries, so many shops from big brands to high street brands and independent shops aplenty too. There’s a lot to do as well from lazing on the iconic beaches to winning some absolute tat from the arcades on the pier, to visiting Brighton Domes, traipsing around the eclectic Laines quarter or even catching a show. You’ll never be bored round here! So what better way to show you all the things I saw and ate on here, rather than boring you all to death over on my Instagram account! So if this is your thing, get yourself comfy, sit back and enjoy!!

We got up super duper early on a grey Tuesday morning, to catch a train just before seven, getting us into Brighton at about 10 O’Clock in the morning. I heart train journeys big time and this one was actually lovely as it winded through the countryside. We had a quiet commuter train and table seats the WHOLE way. There is nothing worse when travelling by train when you don’t get a good seat or if you don’t get a seat at all. The first time I visited Brighton was when I saw a friend who was at uni there and anything that could have gone wrong on the journey down did. The train was delayed at every stop, it was packed and to top that off I was stood by the toilets the whole way. I was overjoyed by the time we arrived! Anyway, so once we disembarked, armed with our bags we went from the station and ambled through The Lanes (which are several little narrow streets home to independent shops, boutiques, antique shops and plenty of gorgeous restaurants and cafes. Something Brighton is quite famous for) Eventually making our way to our hotel for our stay which was nestled in Kemptown. Since I hadn’t and still haven’t mastered the subtle art of packing accordingly or lightly for that matter, I desperately wanted to get to the hotel so I didn’t have to lug my suitcase around with me. I know I was only there for 3 days not even really that altogether, but you never know what you might need?! What if it rains, pack a coat? And if it rains I’ll need a hair dryer AND my straighteners. Whoever said thick hair is the best clearly hasn’t ever had to dry it for practically a decade at a time.

We stayed at a hotel called New Steine which was actually perfect for what we wanted. Neither I or Jimmy wanted to spend hundreds of pounds on somewhere we would just be sleeping or getting ready and nor did we fancy kipping down in a hostel for the time we were there. Not only were we such a short walk from the beaches, Brighton centre itself but there were so many shops, pubs and cafes close by that we could have quite easily just stayed there for our time away from home. The staff that greeted us when we arrived were all so friendly and helpful. They let us leave our luggage there when we got there around half past 10 even though our check in time wasn’t until the afternoon so we could go for a wander and grab some food. But considering we paid £110 for a two night stay, so £55 each, I was actually really, really impressed. And so happy with it as well. We had two single beds in a very comfortable sized room in the basement floor of the hotel. The beds were comfy, which can be kinda make or break of a trip for me. There was a tv with freeview, free wifi and a huge corner shape bath and a power shower. It ticked my boxes and if I was to go back again soon, I’d be more than keen to stay here again.

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This was the view right from the steps from our hotel. Can you imagine living in one of those idyllic houses, literally a 2 minute walk from the sea with a nice of square of gardens right in front too. THE DREAM.

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SO after we dropped off our things when we arrived we walked by the beach, hoping to find somewhere nice to get some brunch, a coffee or a snack. Jimmy is more of a meticulous planner than I am and he had already written a list of great looking breakfast joints, coffee shops and juice bars so we were hoping we would find our bearings relatively soon and find something on his list. We came across a place called Lucky Beach in one of the arches on the seafront. Check out my review just here! The weather was absolutely glorious, blue skies and barely any cloud we were lucky enough to sit outside as we ate. After we finished and paid we walked along the beach front, both feeling very full, enjoying the weather and chatting about what we both wanted to see or do over the next few days. I mentioned how I wanted to take lots of pictures, one in particular of a beachside pagoda that I saw on Instagram but didn’t know where it was. Then about five minutes later of zig zagging through the midweek crowds it was stood before us. I waited like a creepy little vulture, until an American couple had finished looking around so I could take my happy snaps.

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After a few hours of wandering up and down a few of the different side streets, it was mid afternoon by this point and we both decided we could do with something else to eat. When I think of must see places in Brighton I personally think of either the Laines or Choccywoccydoodah. If you haven’t heard of it, well it’s famous chocolatiers and cake shop with their original store deep in the heart of Brighton’s Lanes and now a couple in London too. Having grown up watching the Choccywoccydoodah show on tv I was a bit fascinated with the place and whether the food tastes just as good as it looks. Take a look at my review of it >here< to find out more! I was NOT disappointed.

With a belly full of decadent food, we were going to head back to the hotel via the pier. Brighton pier is a day out in itself really. Well for me and Jimbob it is at least, not one to toot my own horn but we i’m not too shabby at those 2p machines at the arcade. Like if I don’t go on tipping point anytime soon I really am missing out on my big fortune. We have a rule between us that we both have to try and win the absolute tackiest thing we can find. I like to think we excelled at rule as we came away with our winnings of some glow sticks, a pack of cards, two Brighton shot glasses and some novelty keyrings which I think are still floating about at the bottom of my bag. Yeaaaaah I really need to clean that. And not only that we saw the Queen of tacky on the pier, Gemma Collins from TOWIE. Did you know she’s actually a lot slimmer than you’d think in real life?!

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Getting back to our room, our little home away from home for the next few days, we charged phones up again, had a lay down (cos y’know I’m 23 going on elderly) and FaceTimed my fam before getting ready to go out for food that evening. You’re probably thinking, daaaaaamn do these two do anything else but eat?!! And all I can say is well…You’re not wrong. But no seriously we did so much walking on the first day and hey I was there for a good time not a long time. I’m not going away on a little break to have a juice fast and a body cleanse?! We strolled into town later on that evening all dressed up and nowhere really to go. Neither one of us had decided on somewhere to go eat but were both hoping we’d see somewhere soon we’d both agree on and try there. Me wanting to try something new, somewhere a bit different to what I usually would have. Jimmy wanting something edible, filling and well sooner rather than later. After walking around for probably an hour and a half, as we couldn’t decide on anywhere. We saw Street Thai in the distance, with its bright lights and Asian cooking smells filling the dark streets it was like an actual mirage. Being enticed in by it’s great 3 course meal offer, emptyish restaurant and also by the fact they were serving food and we were both about to eat each others arms we thought this would be brill. I wrote about my experience there just here, if you fancy checking out the pics and what I thought. From there we were going to find a nice bar or a pub to have a cheeky bev or five, seeing as we were on our holibobs after all. We headed into the Be At One on the high street and sampled some of their new cocktail menu and some of their old classics too. I would definitely recommend this place, great cocktails, the playlist was on point all night long, not too clubland and not too camp. It was the perfect mix of boozy bar tunes. The staff were also so lovely inside too. There’s been some places I’ve been too where the staff really didn’t want to give you the time of day, but they were all SO nice. Read all about it here!!!

WEDNESDAY

The next day, was really hot and abfab had a bit of a hangover. Cocktails are so naughty as they can taste like juice, until you’re swearing your undying love to your best mate cos they bought you some cheesy chips when it hits you, maybe it wasn’t just juice??? Just to clarify it’s defo not juice. Sorry. Anyway, the only way I can describe how I felt that day was a grape about to turn into a raisin. Strange analogy I know, but combined with the beautiful sunny, warm weather and the alcohol in my system I legit felt like there wasn’t a single droplet of water in my body and any second now I would *POOOOOF* into thin air and there would be a dried up sponge in my place. Told ya I had a weirdo imagination.

We went to possibly the most Instagrammable place for breakfast I’ve ever seen. With gorgeous food and drinks, plants decorating the inside and crisp white tiled walls. Redroaster is a Blogger’s paradise if I’ve ever seen one. I opted for a shakshuka and iced coffee and Jimmy had a classic avo on toast with an iced coffee too. We sat outside on the street watching the people rush past as we could take our morning coffee nice and slowly before carrying on with our day. Read about my visit to Redroaster here. We went into the Laines for the morning, having a mooch around, browsing through the little boutiques and antique shops. It was nice to be able to take things very much at our own pace and go as slowly as we wished as we didn’t have to rush. I really am a huge fan of the graffiti, street art and architecture throughout England and we wandered around Brighton’s back streets, smartphones in hand, appreciating the nooks and crannies of prettiness. Around midday we stopped in a pub for a drink as I was beginning to flag at this point. I had the worst headache and felt rotten and was half tempted to go back to the hotel so I could have a nap and sleep it off. But I didn’t want to ruin our time away and wanted to enjoy as much as possible so powered through.

From there, as it was baking hot we decided to sit on the beach and make the most of the sunshine. Although I brought a whole suitcase with me I didn’t bring anything I would have found comfortable to wear in the warmer weather after about an hour or so of sitting in the sun we made our way to the shops so I could buy a summer dress or something. We got some ice cream, I grew a blister on each little toe the size of Jupiter and got some ice cream. Because of said blister growths it was super painful to walk and the only shoes I had were trainers so I didn’t really know what to suggest what to do for dinner. I felt bad and didn’t want to order a takeaway and sit in the room and Jimmy would miss out cos of my silly feet. Nor could we decide what we both wanted to eat. Jimmy wanted mexican food and for the first time in my life I really wasn’t feeling it. Usually Mexican food is one of my favourites cuisines but that night I really didn’t fancy it. So we decided to get a Deliveroo of what we both wanted to come direct to the hotel and then we’d decide from there. I ordered some Greek food from Yefsis of Greece (read my thoughts heeeerrrrrreeeee) and we took our food and ate it on the beach. It was only about a 3 or 4 minute walk away and it was so pretty and nice.

THURSDAY

The old saying, that you must walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand what they are going through was put to the test when Jimmy lent me a spare pair of his trainers to wear on the last day before we came home. Fanks bae. I don’t think I’ll ever appreciate that gesture as much as you realise. We were really lucky that the Hotel allowed us to leave our luggage after we checked out cos I really wasn’t feeling like dragging that round with me. We headed off to look for one of Jimmy’s recommend breakfast places. This one was called Coffee Counter and was in the Lanes. I had a veggie breakfast naan and it was sensational. I’ve never had anything like that before so was so impressed and a little bit sad it’s so far away if I want another one. It was OUT OF THIS WORLD. And I don’t say that very often but I was so in love with this, I might attempt to recreate this at home at some point. READ MY REVIEW HERE.

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From there we were on a mission to find the Prince Albert pub. I’d seen it online and one wall was completely covered with pictures of famous icons and I just HAD to see it in real life. Turns out it is literally SO close to the train station I felt a bit silly at how close I’d been to it beforehand. We stopped here for a drink and I had such a cheap g&t so I was a happy bunny. Sitting out in the sun, nursing our drinks we wondered whether the passersby thought we had super cool freelance jobs so could actually afford to laze around in the sunshine outside cool artsy pubs and cafes or whether they thought we bunked off work for a quick drink OR whether they didn’t think about us and our lives at all. I’m hoping it’s the first option but most likely the latter. Thinking we better get back to the hotel and think about heading on soon we dawdled back, before spotting Burgers and Cocktails. A Restaurant specialising in well, you guessed it, Burgers and Cocktails. I’d been there a year or two before but had completely forgotten about where it was. We popped in thinking we’d have just a drink before heading home to reality. A few hours later, several amaretto sours, two cauli burgers and a couple milkshakes later. We decided it was time to get our stuff and prepare for the long journey home. Yup yep yup you guessed it you can read my review on Burgers & Cocktails just here.

Other than the blisters, which I feel is kinda gross and I should stop bringing them up, I had an absolutely wonderful time and am so SO excited for my next adventure away. I hope this post wasn’t too rambled for you. Plus if you ever decide to go to Brighton I hope you love it as much as I do. Much loves as always ❤

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Yefsis of Greece – Brighton.

On Wednesday night as I was still suffering from blistergate we really didn’t know where we were going to get from. We were a little walk away from the city centre itself and I was in a bit of pain, like who knew two stupid blisters could cause so much of an issue?! We sat in our hotel room unsure whether to stay in, go out, order a takeaway, call an uber or just try and find somewhere nearby or a skateboard for me. I didn’t want to ruin the evening nor did I want to have to walk in ages in fear of my feet ACTUALLY falling off. So we decided to actually order our own dinners through Deliveroo to the hotel and then we’d walk down to the beach and eat it there. Luckily my pal lent me his shoes and oh my days it felt like I was walking on clouds.

Greek foods is up their as one of my favourite cuisines. I love greek salads, feta cheese, souvlaki and gyros. So after browsing through loads of totally different food places on Deliveroo and Yefsis of Greece took my fancy. It had a wide variety of different foods both snack style options and full meals and I kinddaaaaa wanted to order loads but played it safe and stuck with a halloumi gyros and halloumi fries.

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As I was ordering it I totally forgot I was actually having halloumi twice. The Gyros was a warm pita flatbread filled with herb dusted halloumi, diced tomatoes, peppers, onions, chips and a traditional greek tzatziki dressing. Complete carb overload but a) I’m defo not going to judge or turn that down and b) when it tasted that good I’m not going to be counting my syns or macros.Mainly cos they’d be through the roof I’m sure.

IMG_6685 The battered halloumi fries were honestly just as good as they sound but by this point I was kinda cheese’d out if that were even possible?! It had a drizzle of thick greek yoghurt, herbs and pomegranate seeds which I think were definitely needed to give the fries some freshness and tang to it otherwise i’d have found it a bit too rich.

If I was to visit Brighton again for longer I’d want to pay Yefsis a visit and actually visit the restaurant rather than getting takeout. I love the relaxed, chilled way of Mediterranean meal times and would love to visit here for a meze of different dishes and try little bits of Greek delights. I live in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere in Dorset and it’s so difficult to come across places like this that serve authentic dishes outside of their native country.

Be At One – Brighton.

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We decided to head into Be At One on a whim as we were about to stroll back to the hotel and I’m really glad we swung in for a cocktail or five. It was quite quiet when we walked in with the girl behind the bar ushering a shiny, brand-spanking-new cocktail menu in our hands. She was nice, hilarious and attentive as we sat down at the end of the bar and she offered her opinions on which cocktails we liked based on what we already drink. She was like one of those quizzes you got in magazines that pointed you in the right direction of which Backstreet Boy was for you. Except she pointed me in the direction of a glass of something much more delicious. Soz JT I’m forever a gin girl.

Me being like a magpie and attracted to the pretty shiny things in life (FYI their whole cocktail menu is absolutely glorious, filled with drinks that look *almost too pretty to drink* but definitely pretty enough to Instagram) chose to have a lurid blue cocktail called Blue Steel. So I whacked on my best Zoolander pout, stuck my pinky out as I sipped on this sweet, gin, white peach and prosecco based beaut. It went down like a dream I’ll tell ya. To the point it went down a little too well. I was quickly onto the next.

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When someone dangles a cocktail menu in front of your face it can be quite hard to not ask them for one of each. But when you remember you don’t want to look like an actual alcoholic on a Tuesday night and also aren’t made of money you only stick to the ones either you can pronounce or look the coolest. Which leads me onto me then asking for Bit of Me. After screaming loudly from the top of my lungs that I’VE GOT A TEXT I can tell you I definitely wasn’t bantering you when I say this was 100% my type on paper. Have I got enough Love Island quotes in here yet?? Either way this was sublime, another gin based cocktail for yours truly and it was really refreshing and fruity with the strawberry and rhubarb infused to it. That’s why I’d definitely want to pair up with this cocktail again. Ps did I mention I was in Blazin’ Squad?

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I definitely have a sweet tooth and a sweet palette when it comes to food and drinks. I much prefer clean spirits that are easily blended into cocktails and honestly, ones you can’t really taste in a cocktail too. My alltime favourite cocktails would probably be either an amaretto sour or a pornstar martini. Both sweet and zesty but not with that hard liquor after taste you can often find with whiskies and rums. The last one I ordered was called Candy Pants. It was a gentle blend of vodka and chambord mixed with strawberries and lemon juice over a large glass of ice. It was sweet but wasn’t overpoweringly so.

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The new cocktail menu we tried definitely whet my whistle to visiting my nearer bar in Bath. I really love and enjoy how many pubs and bars are upping their cocktail menus and cocktail game and this one in particular is one I’d definitely return to. Who can say no to a pretty pastel cocktail whilst enjoying the sun?! I know I could definitely think of worse ways to spend a day!

If you’re ever in the Brighton area and fancy a quick tipple I would definitely recommend this bar. Both the waitress and the bar manager were on hand all evening and they were an actual delight. AND they make great cocktails!? Although it did give me my first hangover in several months but that might have been more my fault than theirs???

I MADE A GIANT JAFFA CAKE.

I’ve conjured up a sure fire way to put end to the age old debate as to whether the humble Jaffa cake is a biscuit or a cake, by making my own version larger than my own blimmin’ face! No seriously this is huge and delicious. Just like me amirite? I found this recipe through UniLad would you actually believe it. No offence you absolute lads buuuuut I never had this site synonymous with baking cakes especially chuffing good caked bakes at that! Not only is a gigantic Jaffa Cake totally heavenly to gorge on but it’s also super pretty to look at too PLUS the recipe and method is really easy to follow too! win win eh!

I haven’t done any fun bakes in a while and as soon as I found this I couldn’t wait to put it into practice and share it with you all! I’ve tweaked it a little bit here and there to make it more suitable for how I wanted it but as you can see on the link above you can follow that straight through to the UniLad version.

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So, before I get too into this recipe post, a word to the wise this cake can take a little while to fully create so if you’re hoping for a quick and easy bake to show off to your friends, frenemies and exes on IG maybe give yourself a a good few hours!

You will need:

  • A frying pan lined with baking paper.
  • A round cake tin smaller than your saucepan lined with cling film.
  • 135g packet of orange jelly cubes.
  • 250ml boiling water.
  • 200g unsalted butter.
  • 200g caster sugar.
  • 3 medium eggs.
  • 200g self raising flour.
  • 1 tsp baking powder.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Zest and juice of half an orange.
  • 200g dark chocolate.

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

To give the sponge that bouncy, half spherical shape a lot of websites/recipes suggest baking the cake itself in a frying pan. Sounds weird I know but it works so go with me on that.  I covered the base of the pan with a circle of baking parchment and sprayed the sides with some coconut oil frylite spray to make it easier to get out of the pan.

Cutting the jelly into cubes (who else used to just eat the cubes as a kid??No me neither that would be weird…) I line a round cake tin with some cling film at the same time putting the kettle on to boil. Multitasking check me out eh!? Pouring the boiling water over the top of the jelly cubes and stirring til all the jelly lumps have melted away. I add the zest and the juice of half an orange into the jelly giving it a super orangey kick. One of your five a day right??? I then pour into the cake tin to set up and chill in the fridge for a few hours.

THE SPONGE

This recipe was a standard sponge. Cream the butter and the sugar together til light and smooth. Slowly add the eggs and the vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and baking powder and once its all delightfully mixed to perfection pour into the frying pan. Sounds proper mental and to be honest I was a bit nervous I was going to catch fire to my Mum’s fancy pants frying pan but all is well in team What Abbie Says camp. They recommended the baking time of about 30-40 minutes. I’d keep checking on it from that time onwards, as mine actually took somewhere up to 45 minutes altogether as it was still uncooked in the centre.

Once done, transfer the cake on to a wire, cooling rack and leave til its cooled completely. Making sure the jelly is chilled like Snoop Dogg on a day between the 19th and 21st April I melted the dark chocolate over a pan of water. Also known as a bain marie if you will. Wait til the chocolate has fully melted and leave to cool; if it’s too warm it’ll melt the jelly when you pour it over and you’ll either have to eat it on your own VERY QUICKLY or serve a sad jaffa pud. Placing the jelly circle in the middle on top of the cake I poured the melted chocolate over the top, making sure the entirety of the top was covered and that it didn’t drip down onto the edge. Dipping the knife into the top  drawing lines both horizontally and vertically. Quickly putting back into the fridge to set up for the fiiiiiinal time and once it’s cool you can serve it. YOU’RE WELCOME. Jaffa cakes are fab, bigger jaffa cakes are extra fabulous.

If you fancy making this recipe, I would totally recommend. It was super fun, totally easy to do and looks really impressive as well. To give this recipe a little twist how about using a dark chocolate and lime jelly or even raspberry. Equally you could use something like a tropical or pineapple flavour jelly with a white chocolate coating and coconut sponge like a pina colada without the hangover!

 

Lunch at The Ritz, London.

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Your birthday is the one day of the year for the good majority of people when you will be completely and utterly doted on and treated like an absolute QUEEN. So imagine my joy when I was lucky enough to be able to spend my birthday this year in London having a lavish three course lunch date with my family in the very beautiful and the very palatial The Ritz, London. I can only imagine I’d never been before and was so excited at just the sheer thought. The grandeur building standing as elegant and tall as ever, peering over the rest of Mayfair is an iconic London landmark. It opened in 1906 and was known as the ultimate stay for opulence and luxury. The whole experience was utterly divine and completely faultless. From the outside every doorway is adorned with one of their impeccably dressed doormen greeting you on arrival, holding the door or hailing a taxi to help you on your journey. I wish I took more pictures of decor inside but believe me when I say it is all absolutely stunning. With the smell of gorgeous fresh flowers, the sound of beautiful harp music and chatter filling the air, The Ritz has such a decadent feel and ambience to the whole place.

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Having placed our coats in their cloakroom we made our way to their dining room to be seated.  The waiters, just like every other employee couldn’t be faulted and waited on you hand and foot. The attention to detail was incredulous. My sister and Mum were given their usual menu whereas I had a seperate, vegetarian one. The menu wasn’t extensive offering three choices for all three courses with every single option sounding as luxurious and decadent as the next. The ever attentive waiting team came to our table and treated us like royalty, pouring glasses of water, wine, homemade breads, melba toast and a selection of canapes.  Savoury macarons filled with cream cheese and smoked salmon, chicken cigarellos and a gorgeous creamed goats cheese biscuit sandwich.

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As I said the attention to detail was absolutely stunning, the food was just as beautiful to look at as it was to taste. For my starter as seen above I opted for the artichoke royale. It was crowned with coils of carrots, truffle and pear nibs and then adorned with edible flower petals. The artichoke royale was so smooth and creamy accompanied with the tang of the pear it really went down a treat.

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For my main course I chose the cauliflower dish. With the menu they didn’t really give a lot away about what was what. The other options were a pasta dish and another one with wild mushrooms and as a self confessed mushroom hater that one didn’t appeal to me at all. Plus as I was dining in one of the finest restaurants in the country with a Michelin star I wanted to try something a little bit different. My main dish was a slice of cauliflower steak, with seperate cauliflower florets. Romanesco florets dotted around the plate like little trees, toasted hazelnuts and toasted yeast with a mini potato croquette and then finished off in a rich white sauce. Divine.

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For dessert, already feeling pleasantly sated I chose the blueberry souffle with a tart buttermilk sorbet. The souffle was light, fluffy and flavourful. It was so beautifully rich in colour; perfectly purple inside. The sharp, piquant flavours of the sorbet cut through the sweetness of the sorbet. It was blimmin’ well glorious. Can I eat you again please Mr Souffle?

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Finishing off the meal was some petit fours from top to bottom they consisted of, some creme anglaise filled macaroons with a slight coconut flavour. Orange and passionfruit jellies, a brown sugar biscuit topped with a citrus and mango cream finished with some gold leaf and finally a handmade chocolate filled with salted caramel. Careful I might get used to this extravagant lifestyle!

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As this very luxurious and special occasion was to celebrate mine and my Mum’s birthday we had a fancy Ritz birthday cake of a genoise sponge, filled with fresh cream and raspberries.

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Considering I can barely write in a straight line with a pen I was completely blown away how anyone can do this in chocolate. Perfect!

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I had such a tremendous time and feel well and truly spoilt rotten by it all. The whole experience simply cannot be faulted and was absolutely perfect from start to finish.

My Prestige Christmas Hamper!!

Hello! Recently the very kind people at Prestige Hampers sent me a luxury Christmas food hamper to review,  how cool and more importantly kind is that?! Even though it is the middle of November and some people may deem it too early still, I am very much in the Christmas spirit already. Whether that might be because this is my first year out of many I won’t be working in retail and I won’t have the pleasures of irate Christmas customers during the most wonderful time of the year or just because I am a great, big kid when it comes to this time of year.

I love everything from hunting for the right present for a loved one, going to Christmas markets munching on sweet, roasted chestnuts and daydrinking mulled ciders and wines. The dark winter nights aglow with fairy lights and candle lights too, and snuggling by the fire with a hot chocolate in hand watching some feelgood Christmassy films. In my household Christmas has always been such a lovely time of year and I am eternally grateful to my parents for raising me with some cherished memories over the festive period. We always have a lot of family time and enough food and drink to make a King jealous as do a lot of families all around the world I’m sure so with that in mind that’s why I think a food hamper would make an excellent gift at Christmas. Well at anytime of year really but Prestige Hampers do an amazing selection perfect for any occasion and also would suit anyone from your parents, your tricky in laws, that friend that already has one of everything to the colleague who has gone above and beyond for you. You don’t need me to recommend who to give it to, you get the gist!

hamper Continue reading “My Prestige Christmas Hamper!!”

I made homemade body scrubs.

I probably spent FAR too much time and money on my skincare and beauty regimes. I’m thoroughly getting into the crafting mood thinking about what I can make or bake next and after an afternoon out shopping and spending a ridiculous amount at Lush I tried my hand at making my own body scrubs. For some reason I thought it would be really quite difficult but I honestly couldn’t be farther from the truth with that. I was so, so shocked at how easy it was and also how much money I’ll be saving from now on. If Lush go into administration you can entirely blame me for no longer buying their Rub, Rub, Rub salt scrub. All you need to create your own concoctions are:

  • A sugar or salt. You could you any kind depending on what you want so you could really personalise it to you or even someone you’re gifting it too. Fine, course, maybe even himalayan pink sea salt if you want to make it look nice and pretty. Brown sugar, caster sugar, demerara, once again it’s all completely down to you and your preference.
  • A base oil. Coconut,vitamin E oil, olive oil, jojoba, sweet almond oil, wheatgerm, avocado oil are all really good options. They are all really nourishing for the skin, available in most health food shops or online too and all have a neutral scent so wouldn’t overpower your scrub with a strong smell.
  • An essential oil or something similar to add some scents or even colour to your scrub. Things like herbs might make for an interesting addition, freshly chopped mint, lavender or even rose petals. Rose would look lovely with a pink himalayan salt. I used coffee grounds to make a lovely coffee scrub. It helps reduce the appearance of cellulite so I think I might start bulk making it and selling it off!

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I had these four mini mason jars I originally bought from Ikea with good intentions to do something creative with but they were unused and I filled them instead. You could use kilner jars you can buy pretty much anywhere, bargain shops do them for a relatively cheap price. Old jam jars that have been washed out would look really cool and kitsch.

I made four different flavours or scents if you will. As tasty as these smell, I’d probably recommend against eating them!

I made a coffee scrub. Filling half the jar with brown sugar and the remaining half of coffee grounds I then poured that into a bowl. I did it like that so I knew it would definitely all fit in rather than making waaaaay too much. I poured the coffee/sugar mix into a bowl and then added a tablespoon of coconut oil until I got the consistency I wanted.

I also made a gingerbread scrub. Inkeeping with the christmas theme on my blog at the moment this would also make the perfect gift at christmas for those also keen on clean beauty and skincare. I used the same principal as with the coffee scrub but I filled the little jar up full of brown sugar. Pouring it into bowl with some ginger essential oil, cinnamon essential oil and a dash of star anise. mixing that altogether I poured it back into the jar and screwed the lid on tight.

Switching it up a bit I thought for my next two I would use a course sea salt base instead. Sea salt can be a bit more vigorous so using that in a body scrub would help with shifting dead skin cells and also helping to shift toxins from the body. Rubbing it in, in a slow circular motion helps to get the blood flowing reducing the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite as well as removing the toxins from the body.

I used sea salt with some coconut oil, a few dashes of some spearmint essential oil and some finely diced mint leaves from the garden.

For my last and final scrub, I added some lavender essential oil to sea salt and coconut oil. I wanted a runnier consistency for this one as I love applying it to my hair. It helps with repairing the hair shaft and it leaves it feeling so silky, smooth. It sounds mad I know, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

 

 If I knew just how easy it was to make these beforehand I would have been wailing it from the rooftops. Scrubs like this are usually fiendishly and wrapped with a nice bow and a tag would make a lovely present for a friend for Christmas. Or even yourself, I’m sure you deserve it a whole heap more!

Working with Branded 3.

I was approached by the ever so lovely Carrie who is one of the PR gurus and all round wonderwoman working at a company called Branded 3 towards the end of September about working alongside themselves on sharing my handy hints, tips and tricks on homemade crafts to make the Christmas period that little bit easier. They even sent me this lovely Christmassy care package as a kind gesture and their way of saying thank you (and also getting me straight into the Christmas spirit in October. Apparently it’s still not socially acceptable to be singing christmas tunes then? I heart Boney M what can I say? Plus I’m dying for a white fur coat they all wore in the Mary’s Boy Child music vid…Just me?

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This was the very kind parcel of joy they sent me one dreary friday afternoon. A biscuit that made me feel like a sheriff saying ‘thank you Abbie’ on it. A hexagonal marble white coaster with an A for Abbie inscribed onto it. A very delicious smelling Yankee Candle perfect for christmas in a fruity, cranberry spice scent. And a tesco voucher to help with the planning and preparations for what I’ve planned with them.

Christmas is very often a stressful time of year for a lot of people, whether you’ll be overworked and underpaid over the festive period, catering for your whole entire family even that cousin of yours who has a new intolerance and allergy every family occasion picking something else for you to cook off of your not so secret A La Carte menu but of course. Shopping for loved ones, well Christmas shopping is an experience in itself, leaving it til last minute and buying everyone random giftsets from the local health food shop because THERE IS LITERALLY NOTHING LEFT IN BOOTS and hoping they appreciate the random purchases and have perfected their I-didn’t-want-this-gift-but-am-going-to-give-it-the-once-over-say-oooooh-i’ve-always-wanted-this face. Or being that annoying smart arse who takes great pleasure that they have already bought and wrapped their gifts for everyone this year in July 2010.

So i’ve compiled a few different posts that’ll be appearing on here today on simple ways in which you can craft your own Christmas. I’ve made a homemade Christmas chocolate cake that would make the perfect centrepiece, easy homemade chocolate bark which you could customise as personalised gifts or even just to treat yourself. And homemade body scrubs, which could also make a lovely gift or an even lovelier treat for yourself.

There’s something quite nice about receiving a present that is homemade and crafted. Knowing that person went to the time and effort to make you something possibly a little bit different and not something you’d see everyday or even get as a present. More and more people I know are opting to making someone something over buying this year and I’d like to think I’ll be able to show you just how easy it is and how impressive it is too!

I made a sticky toffee pudding!

Tell me one thing better than slobbing out in bed on a Sunday morning eating lots of warm, buttery toast and drinking copious amounts of tea? Maybe add in some easy watching E4 american tv show is on in the background, the sun is shining through your bedroom window and Tom Hardy is on his way back up the stairs with another round of breakfasty carbs.Sadly the last part for me didn’t come true, I can’t help but feel Mr Hardy keeps going to the wrong address for some reason? The main feeling that I get from that analogy is comfort. Sometimes that is all you need and it just does the trick. After a horribly long day, getting soaked in the rain on the way home and all you really want is deep fried carbs and chocolate coated errthang.

Creeping into the Autumn and Winter months and all I want to eat is sweet, carb laden foods. To be fair I feel like eating sweet, carb laden foods all year round but more specifically in the colder months. Comfort foods like jacket potatoes, mash potato covered in a thick gravy, pies and any of the types of foods you see on pub food menus that are hearty, wholesome and leave you feeling all warm and gooey on the inside. The more I’ve been trying to get better at cooking and baking the more I’ve realised how I find it so relaxing and therapeutic. It’s a good way for me to escape for a little bit and make a delicious little something to cheer me up, feed the family and also show off on instagram and twitter with a smug little ‘oooooh look what I made, and it was so simple and I made zero mess everyone’.

I decided to bake a sticky toffee pudding one afternoon basically because I really wanted to eat some. I always think of it as a typical pub grub pud  and one that would involve so many technical bits and foods it’s easier to bang a microwave one in your basket than make it yourself. But BOY was I wrong. I went online and had a scout for some simple recipes. I’m a simple type of girl I really can’t be bothered to flambe a fruit or what have you. Trust me when I say how easy this recipe is though and if I can do it I like to think anybody can!

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So I actually used a recipe from the Sainsburys Magazine website and you can use the same recipe found here. It’s a super simple recipe to follow I found and there were a few bits I either tweaked or skipped on.

For this super yummy slice of goodness you will need:

  • 250g of dried dates that have been stoned.
  • 75g softened butter.
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar. The recipe calls for light but I accidentally picked up the dark one whilst I was in Asda. It gave it a richer, more treacle like taste which I like anyway so win, win!
  • 2 medium eggs.
  • Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice.
  • Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

That’s all the ingredients for the cake for the sauce you will need:

  • 100g dark muscovado sugar.
  • 100g butter.
  • 150ml double cream.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  1. Start off by turning your oven to 180c and lightly greasing a 20cm by 20cm tin. I love a thiiiiick slice of cake so I used a slightly smaller one than the recipe required. And also because I’m not a chef that doesn’t have ENDLESS supplies of different shapes and sizes in tins. That might have accidentally come across a wee bit passive aggressive but sometimes when you’re watching a cookery show (Love you Nigella but you’re the worst for this) they act like getting things like samphire, tagine pots and himalayan rock salt whilst living in deepest, darkest Dorset to be an easy; and cheap feat. It is not.
  2. Next take your dates and chop them up to smaller pieces. It’ll make it a lot easier on yourself when you come to mashing them later on. Once they are all finely chopped put them in a saucepan and submerge them in water and then bring it to the boil. Let the water boil for a few minutes. Then drain it and mash it until its a mushier consistency. I used a potato masher because I found that a lot easier, less messier and a lot less of a workout than using a fork.
  3. Whilst the dates were boiling I put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat it until creamed together. I had left the butter out for about half an hour so it was softened a little which helps it bind together a lot quicker.
  4. Add the eggs to the sugar and butter and beat until smooth.
  5. To the dates add the bicarb, it will foam up a little bit and then add straight into the batter mix. Following this add in the flour, spice and vanilla extract and gently fold in until it’s all mixed nicely.
  6. Pour this into your tin and then bake for about 25 minutes. Or until the cake feels firm to the touch.
  7. Leaving the cake to cool, I made a start on making the sticky toffee sauce. Putting the butter, sugar, cream and vanilla extract into a pan and bringing to a boil. Making sure all the sugar crystals have melted I poured it into a jug and left it for serving later.

I was super impressed with this AND myself for managing not to set anything on fire nor kill anyone. It was so yummy, food for the heart and food for the soul. I would totally recommend you trying this, I know a lot of people don’t like the taste of dates but they give it a fudgier, treacle like taste and you wouldn’t even know it’s there.

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my fav comfort eats what’s your favourite winter warmer?