Sunday, 4 December 2016

Easy cheese fondue

I had my first ever cheese fondue whilst on holiday in Grenoble over three years ago and it's been a long wait to have one again. Grenoble is known as the Capital of the Alps and a popular ski resort so fondue can be found in many restaurants across the city. Fondue is great served after a long day on the slopes but you can enjoy it at home too so I'm sharing my recipe for a Swiss/French fondue. 



Serves 4

You will need


225g chopped or grated gruyere cheese
225g chopped camembert (remove the rind)
225g emmental cheese, grated
300 millilitres white wine
2 tsp cornflour
3 tablespoons kirsch (optional)
1 clove garlic (peeled)
Pinch of black pepper

To serve
Cubed bread
Potatoes
Charcuterie
Whatever vegetables you have - tomatoes, peppers etc

Method


Rub the fondue pot with the garlic clove, you can either discard the garlic or leave it in the pot for some extra flavour.

Put the chopped and grated cheese into the fondue pot with the wine and heat until boiling on the hob, by which time the cheese should have melted. 

Turn the pot down to a simmer. Mix the cornflour with the Kirsch in a small bowl, and add to the fondue pot.  I used wine instead of Kirsch which is just as tasty but less traditional. 

Season with the pepper, stir well and place the fondue pot over a flame at the table. 



Once everyone is at the table tuck in and prepare to enter a CHEESE COMA. Cheese fondue is the best but you may need a little nap after consuming this amount of cheese. I think as long as you have gruyere in the mix you can add whatever cheese you have at home and create your own fondue mix. It might not be typically Swiss if you add cheddar but who cares?



A cheese fondue mixture should be kept warm enough to keep the fondue smooth and liquid but not so hot that it burns. When the fondue is finished there will be a thin crust of toasted cheese at the bottom of the pot. This is called la religieuse (French for the nun). It has the texture of a cracker and this can be lifted out and eaten. Martyn bought us a fondue pot but you could keep a pan and your cheesy mix warm by popping it on a grill rack or wire cake cooling rack with some tea light candles underneath.

Remember, don't drop your bread in the fondue because if you're a woman you kiss your neighbours around the pot and if you're a man you buy a round of drinks for everyone at the table. 

Gemma
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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

My Festive Home

Martyn and I purchased our first home back in March and there is still a lot of work to do until it is just right. I would love a new kitchen, the roof needs some work and there are some cosmetic things that require a touch up too. Despite the long 'to do' list the house is starting to feel like home and we can't wait to enjoy the first Christmas together in our own home. 

Martyn and I are big kids so we started to get the house decked up for Christmas this week (before December *the horror*). I think our preferred style of decorations could be described as Scandinavian/Alpine and draw influence from our Austrian and German holidays. I like a traditional feel  for the decorations as our home is Edwardian but there are a few modern and glittery bits added to the mix. 

A lot of our items have been picked up at Christmas markets and whilst on holiday but I'll try and link to items where possible if they are still available on the high street. 

this is a photo of a dining room with a christmas tree and fairy lights

Martyn treated me to the Gilmore Girls print as a Christmas present but caved in and let me have it early. I was guaranteed some new Gilmore Girls (4 new epodes, yay!) but there's no guarantee I will get some snow so this might be the closest I get. I've got all my fingers crossed for a white Christmas. 

 "Everything's magical when it snows, everything looks pretty. The clothes are great. Coats, scarves, gloves, hats."

You can pick up this print from WindowShopGal on etsy. 

this is a picture of a red christmas bauble

Many of my tree decorations are handmade or personalised but Wilko is a great place to get some filler baubles at a bargain price and I've picked up loads from there. I've added a few new decorations to my collection this year including the one above from John Lewis. I'm really loving their Chamonix range this year. The print below came as a freebie with my bigger Gilmore Girls print and the cute wooden Christmas Market scene was a TK Maxx bargain last year.


My last house had a modern fire with no mantelpiece which was impossible to decorate so I was really excited to get my new one looking festive with a garland. I'll definitely be hanging my stockings up on the fireplace this year. The garland was only £15 from Matalan (you can find it here) and the nutcracker was a steal too, the one I have is no longer available but they have some other colour options

This is a picture of a festive fireplace with a snowy garland

this is a picture of a tall wooden nut cracker
this is a picture of alpine themed cushions

I want all the rooms to have a festive feel and bedding is a easy way to do this. The set below was from George last year but they have a great selection of prints this year and a double duvet cover only sets you back about £12 which is a relatively cheap way to spruce up a room. 

This is a picture of festive bedding with christmas tress and snow


My wreath is from Sainsburys and has just been reduced to £16 

this is a picture of a festive wreath with red berries

I think this might only be the first phase of Christmas decorations. I fancy another tree for the living room, loads of white lights around the windows and a garland winding its way up the stair case. I basically want MORE of everything and to turn my house into a grotto but I'll try not to get too carried away.

PS I know some of you may be judging me because my decorations are up so early but I think advent started on Sunday 27th so I figure I'm allowed. 

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Gemma
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Sunday, 27 November 2016

#AllAboutThatLace Festive Party Dress - Kaleidoscope

Finding the perfect party dress which can fill you with confidence, make an impression but also be appropriate if you are partying with colleagues is a tall order. The dress I'm wearing to my office Christmas night out manages to tick all the boxes for me. We wear formal/business wear in work so I feel like this needs to be reflected in my outfit choice. I've opted for a midi length lace dress which is an appropriate length but the lace makes it feel more opulent than my normal work dresses. 

My dress if from the Kaleidoscope party wear range and they had a great selection of dresses to chose from with plenty of sequins, sparkle and embellishments but this intricate lace dress was the one that eventually lured me in. 


Even though the dress has plenty of detail in the lace it is all one colour so I added a necklace with hints of berry, pink and grey for a bit of interest. 


Dress: c/o Kaleidoscope - Shoes: New Look - Necklace: Dorothy Perkins - Ring: gift



I think this dress would take you from cocktail parties to black tie events and is demure but fun at the same time (the big net skirt is perfect for swooshing on the dance floor). Kaledeiscope have a handy guide if you want to incorporate more lace into your wardrobe which you can read here.


When i'm wearing a dress and cardigan in work I'm not overly bothered about a sleek silhouette or smooth lines but as this dress is pretty fancy I'll be wearing this waist Maidenfom waistnipper with it. This has the best sucking in power of any shape wear I've ever tried. I might get one in nude for my wedding as my dress is quite floaty and light so this will help to create a lovely shape.


Whether you chose lace, sequins or an LBD I hope you all have a wonderful time at any Christmas parities you may be attending. A big fat Welsh Nadolig Llawen from me!

*some items in this post were provided by Kaleidescope but all words are my own
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Gemma
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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Travel - Budget friendly Berlin

Berlin is a wonderful place to visit if you are on a budget. As one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe, Berlin offers visitors the perfect opportunity to enjoy a short break without worrying about your spending money running out. There are plenty of cheap flights from the UK to Berlin, my return cost just £60 from Cardiff with flybe and you can get even cheaper flights if you are flexible with your place of departure. I loved my time in the city and a 3 night break set me back just £230 including food and attractions whilst on the trip.. This could have been even cheaper if I had opted for a budget hotel or hostel.

Berlin isn't very traditional or what you might expect from a German city. If you're looking for steins of beer, forests and fairytale castles you will need to head to Bavaria. Berlin is mostly new because it was virtually destroyed during WWII by the Allied forces. The city is still being rebuilt and you'll see loads of construction cranes all over the city. What the city might lack in terms of traditional beauty it makes up for with an interesting history, vibrant nightlife and plenty of museums and attractions all of which can be enjoyed without spending much money.


Bebelplatz


You can find the state opera, Humboldt University Buildings and the green domed St Hedwig's Cathedral all located on Bebelplatz. The university has been associated with 40 Nobel Prize winners and has notable alumni and lecturers such as Karl Marx and Albert Einstein. On the square you can find a sunken glass plate between the pavement that provides a view into a room full of empty bookshelves. The bookshelves could accommodate about 20,000 books and serves as a reminder of the books from the university which the Nazis burnt on May 10th, 1933. These works were by  writers seen as a threat to the Nazi ideology.

this is a picture of the humboldt university building on bebelplatz

Alexanderplatz


You can find this weird-looking TV tower which was built in the late 60s on the famous Alexanderplatz. It is the tallest building in the city but I wouldn't recommend spending 12/13 Euro to get views of the city from the top. You can climb the Victory Column for 3 Euro and get equally as wonderful views. You can stroll around the immediate area of the tower and find the very grand baroque Neptune fountain, St Mary's church which dates back to the 13th Century and the impressive red brick Rotes Rathaus where the Mayor of Berlin works. 

This is a picture of the tv tower in berlin

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church 


One of Berlin's iconic buildings, the half-ruined Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is located on Breitscheidplatz in the centre of western Berlin. The church was partially destroyed during a bombing raid in 1943. Following the war, several different options for the church's redevelopment were considered, including the construction of a new church made from glass in the old church's ruins, and also its complete demolition and replacement with a new structure. Eventually it was decided to leave the ruined tower as a memorial to the futility of war, and create a new church around it. A little interesting fact is that the new church was consecrated on 25th May, 1962 - the same day as the new Coventry Cathedral - and features a cross made of nails from the old Coventry Cathedral. The church and an exhibition is free to visit and the new worship hall is very impressive inside with hundreds of blue glass window panes.

this is a picture of the kaiser wilhelm memorial church in berlin

this is a picture of an east berlin watch tower


This is a photo of a train going over a bridge in berli

Visit the East Side Gallery


The East Side Gallery is located in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and is a 1.3km long section of the remaining Berlin Wall which was painted in 1990. This open air art gallery features graffiti artwork which turned the defining structure of the Cold War era into a positive symbol of hope and a reminder of Berlin's dark past.

this is a photo of the east side gallery

Climb to the top of the Reichstag


It’s free to enter the Reichstag and all you have to do is register online in advance to secure your ticket. It’s well worth checking out this unique building which was designed by Norman Foster. It has a unique design of the old building blended in with a glass roof that represent political transparency. You learn about all the cool features of the building if you pick up a free audio guide before heading to the top. Make sure you book this attraction well in advance because the only slot available for me and Martyn was at 9.45pm. 


Enjoy a free concert


For music fans, there are free lunchtime concerts at 1pm on Tuesdays in the foyer of the Berlin Philharmonic. They’re performed by members of the orchestra and music students and last around 45 minutes. Make sure you get there early though as they’re limited to 1500 spaces.

Gaze at the Brandenburg Gate


Built in 1791, The Brandenburg Gate is the symbol of Berlin and the reunited Germany. During the period when Berlin was a divided city, the Brandenberg Gate was located in no man’s land behind the Berlin Wall. It now serves as the centerpiece of Pariser Platz where you can find various embassies and the infamous Michael Jackson baby blanket dangling hotel.

this is a picture of the brandenburg gate at night

Splash the cash


There are loads of free things to see and do in Berlin but there are a couple of things that are worth paying for but won't break the bank. The number 100 bus drives through the centre of Berlin and on its way passes many of the most recommended attractions. For the price of a single AB ticket you'll get your own cheaper guided bus tour of Berlin for a fraction of the alternative.

this is a photo of a currywurst shop in berlin

Berlin has some amazing street food and the easiest to find are kebabs and currywurst. You can get a super filling lunch for around 3 or 4 Euro. I recommend Curry 61 which is close to the Hackescher Markt S-Bahn station. It is close to the Ramones museum and you can pick up a Berliner doughnut on the way back to the station from one of the market stalls outside in the square. You can find some other things to do in this area (Mitte) here

If you're looking for something a bit different head to Street Food Thursday at the Markthalle Neun to sample some of the best street food Berlin has to offer.

Obviously the cheapest way of getting around the city is by walking but Berlin is a sprawling city and can be very chilly in the winter so I recommend making use of the public transport. For travel within the city, the Berlin WelcomeCard gives unlimited free travel on Berlin’s S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries. This also gives you discounts to many tours and attractions so worth picking one of these up at the airport when you arrive so you can make use of the discounts and trains straight away.

If you have any Berlin tips or just want to share your thoughts, leave your comment below.


Gemma
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