Saturday, 10 June 2017

#WorldGinDay - How to make three simple gin cocktails

World Gin Day always falls on the second Saturday of June. That means that World Gin Day is TODAY. Hurrah! World Gin Day is now in its 9th year and is run by Gin Monkey with the aim of bringing gin lovers and friends together all over the world to celebrate glorious gin. You can get involved on social media using #WorldGinDay or attend a gin day event - events are listed on this map.

I don't need much of an excuse to indulge in my favourite tipple but I'm jumping on the World Gin Day bandwagon and sharing some of my favourite gin cocktails today. I love a classic G&T but cocktails are great for entertaining or a special occasion and you should really go all out for gin day. The three cocktails below are some of my favourites and are easy to create at home with limited ingredients.

world gin day 2017

First up is ...

Pink Fizz


This is a picture of a pink lady cocktail

  • A Pink Lady generally doesn't have lemon or sloe gin but this is my own twist on the classic so I've kind of freestyled it and given it a different name. There isn't any fizz, I don't know why I've called it Pink Fizz. Anyway...

  • You will need - 

  • 25ml sloe gin
  • 25ml gin
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp egg white

It's as easy as putting all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shaking hard for 30 seconds.  Empty the ice and shake again to froth up the egg white, pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with some lemon zest. 

Sunny Intervals 

I saw Edinburgh Gin everywhere on my holiday to Scotland but as we were travelling around by train with a backpack I didn't want to buy souvenirs and have lots of lovely Scottish gin weighing me down. I placed a big order of Scottish gins that I enjoyed whilst on my holiday when I returned home and this eledflower gin liqueur was one of them. It's amazing but I wasn't sure how to use it other than in a G&T. The cocktail below is really refreshing and a summery way to use the liqueur. 

this is a picture of a gin cocktail in a tall glass


40ml Edinburgh Gin
20ml Edinburgh Gin's Elderflower Liqueur
20ml freshly squeezed orange juice
20ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup (equal quantities of sugar and water)
  1. Add all the ingredients to a tall glass and stir, fill glass with ice and add a splash of soda water. You can garnish with a lemon or orange twist. Easy peasy. 

Bee's Knees

The Bee's Knees is a very easy cocktail to create from the Prohibition era. It is believed that the drink was concocted to mask the smell of the pungent bathtubs gins brewed illegally at the time and to make it more palatable. This doesn't require any specialist ingredients and couldn't be simpler. 

bee's knees cocktail


50 ml gin
20 ml Lemon juice
20 ml Honey syrup (honey and water mixed in equal quantities)

Shake all of the ingredients together with ice and strain to get a clear and crisp drink. I garnished this with some lavender from my garden but you can use lemon or thyme. You could also experiment with different types of honey like orange blossom.

Gemma
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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Travel - Pisa photo diary


Many tourists visit Pisa for just one thing – the Leaning Tower. Pisa is a shore excursion destination on a cruise or is paired with Lucca and crammed into a day trip from Florence. The tower really is an impressive sight but is only one of four beautiful structures in the stunning Campo dei Miracoli/Field of Miracles. The equally and impressive Duomo, Baptistry and Camposanto are also located on the same site and the city has a lot to offer if you venture away from the main landmarks. 

Pisa is bustling with tourists but it also has a large student population and is home to a prestigious university. I enjoyed the lively feel of the city which offers a vibrant cafe scene along with plenty of pizza and aperol spritz. Pisa was the perfect location for a trip with some of my oldest friends back at the start of April and was easily accessible from my local regional airport - Bristol. Flights cost around £65 for a return. Pisa is an ideal base for exploring Tuscany with Florence and Lucca close by and easily accessible by rail. We ventured out to explore both locations during our four day trip. Florence was around 7€ each way and Lucca was around 3€, bargain!


Things to Do in Pisa

Camposanto Monumentale - Pisa can be crowded with tourists, especially during the high season but a trip to this cemetery lets you change the pace of your trip and enjoy some quiet reflection whilst taking in the beauty of the frescoes and tombs. The Camposanto was built in the 12th century but was heavily damaged during WWII. It has been sympathetically rebuilt with 84 tombs still intact and the frescoes are looking bold and vivid after a lengthy restoration process. 

Pisa Duomo/Cathedral  This is one of the most lavishly decorated churches I have ever visited and is a fine example of a church from the Romanesque period. The cathedral was designed by architect Buscheto in 1604 and has some interesting Byzantine and Islamic influenced. Pisa was once a Maritime Republic and ships would have departed to North Africa and the Middle East and travellers and sailors would have brought these influences back to Pisa. Some noteworthy things to look out for are the mosaic of St. John the Evangelist which dates back to 1302, the pulpit and art by Beccafumi and Andrea del Sarto in the chancel.

Baptistry – Also within the same vicinity as the tower and cathedral is the Baptistry. My favourite view of Pisa was from one of the windows at the top of the stairs. You get an amazing outlook of the cathedral with the tower pocking out behind it. I paid 7€  for entry to the Baptistry and Camposanto, this ticket also let me enter the cathedral at any time I liked rather then queuing for a free, fixed time entry ticket to the cathedral. 

Borgo Stretto Borgo Stretto is a popular pedestrian zone with shops, restaurants and a market. You can find a plaque at Caffè Settimelli highlighting Galileo Galilei’s birthplace.

Ponte Di Mezzo – For a great view of Arno river and buildings looking over it head to Ponte Di Mezzo. You will get the best light early morning or late in the afternoon.

Santa Maria della Spina – This small church sits next to the Arno river and has an elaborate gothic facade. It looks really out of place next to the river and is worth a look if your taking photos at the nearby Ponte Di mezzo. 

*Top Tip - It takes around 25 minutes to walk from the central station to the Square of Miracles if you arrive by train. However, it takes only 5 minutes from Pisa San Rossore regional station*









Normally I would have lots of recommendations for places to eat and drink but to be honest all the pizza, pasta and wine we had in Pisa was wonderful and much cheaper than you might find in Florence and Venice. You can't really go wrong. My only tips are to eat away from the Leaning Tower as restaurants and cafes near the landmarks add costly cover charges per person. My other tip is to pop into La Bottega del Parco for a coffee (only 1.50!) the owner is an absolute star, so friendly and welcoming. It stood out from the majority of outlets aimed at tourists and has a lovely selection of bread, meat and cheese which you can eat in or have wrapped up to take out on a picnic. 

I stayed in a small town house which my friend found via Owners Direct. It was a 20 minute walk to the train station and an extra 5 minutes to the tower. The house was ideal for us, located in a quiet neighbourhood away from the crowds of tourists. It was also an absolute steal for about £40 a night between the 6 of us. The owner Virginia was very accommodating and popped in to give us recommendations and check that everything was ok. 

If you’re thinking of visiting Pisa I urge you to go ahead and book it. It is the perfect place for a two night weekend break or as a base for exploring the rest of Tuscany as part of a longer trip. I'll be sharing some of the highlights of my days in Lucca and Florence in separate blog posts. Caio for now! 

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Gemma
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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Spring Adventures with Coco in Cardiff


Introducing our Shih Tzu Coco to the family has honestly been the best move Martyn and I have ever made. Forget buying the house, getting a puppy has been so rewarding. Shih Tzu means little lion, but there’s nothing fierce about Coco (unless he's hungry) The Shih Tzu was bred purely to be a lap  dog and companion rather than a hunter. Coco is affectionate and the perfect furry friend but he's very stubborn and is going to need some training. 

To introduce Coco to the world and get him used to the sights and sounds of a busy city Martyn and I took him for a day out in Bute park in Cardiff city centre where there are lots of people, other dogs going for a walk and bikes rushing past. We had the perfect spring weather to wander around the park and let Coco explore the herbaceous border with its beautiful flowers. Coco got so much attention and we were stopped every few yards by people wanting to pick him up and pet him. 

this is a picture of a small shah tzu puppy on a lead


For our spring adventure I wore my new floral playsuit from Boohoo.com, they have a great selection of playsuits and jumpsuits at the moment and it's perfect for running around after the dog and a spot of afternoon tea. Most of my pins on my denim jacket are gifts from Martyn and music related - a couple of Smiths pins and a Brand New one.

Floral Playsuit - c/o boohoo 
Jacket - New Look

This is a picture of a collection of enamel pins

this is a picture of a enamel pin with smiths lyrics

this is a picture of the herbaceous border in bute park

Bute Park is 130 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland that once formed the grounds of Cardiff Castle. The park is named after the 3rd Marquess of Bute, whose family owned the castle and made their fortune developing the ports in Cardiff to export coal. It's a pretty vast park and I spent a lot of time here as a student as my halls of residence backed on to the park. It was the perfect spot got revision and a post exam picnic. 

There aren't many places you can sit down and eat in the city when you have a dog but Pettigrew Tea Rooms is a great spot with a puppy friendly outdoor terrace. Pettigrew vintage-style tea room is located in the historic West Lodge building on Castle Street. You can relax and indulge in the pleasure of taking tea in sophisticated surroundings inside the lodge, or like we did, sit outside on the terrace area with views over the river Taff.

this is a picture of a male shah tzu puppy


this is a picture of a scone and a cup of tea

Whilst Martyn and I polished off huge scones and a scruptious selection of sandwiches and cakes washed down with assam tea Coco behaved beautifully. He sat next to me the whole time and let me eat in peace, I don't think he's discovered the joy of human food yet and doesn't beg for for at the table. 

This is a picture of cardiff castle

This is a picture of purple flowers in full bloom

I think our first adventure with Coco was very successful and we all thoroughly enjoyed our day out organised by boohoo.com. I'm trying to find more dog friendly places to visit in South Wales, if you've got any recommendations please let me know. Shih Tzu dogs only need two 20 minute walks each day so we won't be taking him for a hike up Pen y Fan but it would be nice to discover some new parks or lakes where we can enjoy a family walk. 




Gemma
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Monday, 24 April 2017

Life lately - A big catch up

I thought that I hadn't really been up to much recently and I was in a cycle of going to work, watching TV, sleeping and repeating it all again but that isn't strictly true. Despite cramming in some overtime over the past couple of months I've managed to go on a trip abroad, had a lovely weekend with friends and taken in some culture. I've also got some very exciting family news but I'll tell you more about that later... 

Since moving in to our new home this time last year we have tried to put our stamp on the place and have had some major work done on the house. The roof is now in tip top shape and completely water tight, the front wall has been re-built and is no longer leaning like the tower of Pisa and we have added a splash of colour in some of the rooms to add some personality. I adore the bold blue in the dining room and have added lots of house plants to give the house a more homely feel. 

this s a picture of my dining room with a navy blue feature wall
(photo by Katy)

My friend Emma welcomed baby number two into the world on the same week as her two year olds birthday so we had a little party to celebrate. (I can barely look after myself, no idea how she does it!) Quinn and Caspian are such beautiful little boys, I wished they lived a little closer so I could spend more time with them. 

this is a picture of a cake with a lion and elephant topper



I don't visit the theatre as much as I would like to but I like to think I chose wisely when I do get the opportunity to go. I highly recommend going to see Matthew Bourne's production of The Red Shoes when as it tours across the UK. The Red Shoes is based on the Oscar-winning film starring Moira Shearer, and has inspired generations of dancers with the star struggling to chose between love and success. The show features ballet, jazz and modern styles of dancing, a bold and dynamic set and a wonderful cast. The Red Shoes is not to be missed, I might go and see it again when it visits a neighbouring city.

red shoes ballet

I'll be having a whole post dedicated to my adventure in Tuscany but wanted to briefly say that Pisa is gorgeous, Lucca was so peaceful and the architecture in Florence wowed me. My friends and I had been saving up for a year for a joint 30th birthday trip as we all turn thirty on 2017. We ended up going to Pisa as we were able to get cheap flights there from our regional airport. It was the perfect way to celebrate our big birthday milestone and I can't believe I waited so long to visit Italy. I would love to go back and see more of the region, hire a car and get out to the little towns and villages to discover all the sights, sounds and tastes of Tuscany. 

this is a picture of the Piazza dell'Anfiteatro in Lucca


Three days after getting back from a jam packed and exhasuting weekend in Italy my blogging friends came to stay and I had a much needed lazy weekend. Sarah, Katy and Kim joined me for a weekend of lie-ins, brunch, a day at the beach and a feast in Wahaca, A word of advice, two street food dishes and some sides is more than enough in Wahaca. We thought we needed three dishes each and extras and I could of done with a golf buggy to get me back home after all the food that ended up on our table. I had to slowly waddle back to the train station as my eyes were far bigger than my stomach. I'm forever grateful to have met such wonderful people online, the blogger community has been a wonderful source of support and friendship for me. 

This is a picture of rest bay in porthcawl

this is a picture of a wahaca feast including tacos

I managed to fit in another excursion in April when I headed to London on Good Friday to spend the afternoon with Sophie. The day was filled with catching up, the best food, walking around pretty streets near Hampstead Heath and visiting the home of my favourite poet (is it weird too have a favourite poet?) 

This is a picture of coffee and cake from Gail's bakery London

Keats House in Hampstead was the home of the poet John Keats from 1818 to 1820. It is where he was most prolific and the setting inspired some of his most memorable poetry, including Ode to a Nightingale. It was also where Keats fell in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne. The guide was fantastic and was able to bring the stunning Georgian villa to life and summarised Keats life and works. Highlights were Keats's books and the ring he gave to Fanny Brawne for their secret engagement. Whilst I am a fan of his work you can pop along just to enjoy the gardens for free and the house would be interesting to those with an interest in history or architecture. 

This ia a picture of keats house near hampstead heath

After being cultured at the museum and looking at all the beautiful houses covered in wisteria in Belzise Park Sophie and I headed to Franco Manca for a sourdough pizza and pale ale. The prices struck me as pretty affordable compared to other pizza restaurants and the sourdough bases which are proved for 20 hours were delicious. We both opted for a pizza topped with Gloucester old spot ham, mozzarella, buffalo ricotta and wild mushrooms which rivals my favourite 'The King' pizza from Pizza Pronto in Cardiff. 


The main reason for my visit to London was to go and see Don Juan in Soho with Sophie starring my favourite Scot in the lead role. David Tennant didn't disappoint and was both hilarious and captivating with a special mention going to Adrian Scarborough in the supporting role. This play won't be for everyone, especially those under 16 or those easily offended but it was perfect Friday night fun and managed to cram a few comments in that left me pondering the play and its message on the train home. 

This is a picture of the wyndhams theatre in soho where David Tennant is starring as don juan

I've saved the biggest news for last... as you may have already seen on twitter I now have a PUPPY!!!! Little Coco is such a bundle of fluff and excitement and I'm so happy to finally have a little fur baby. He's incredibly affectionate and a joy to be around and he completes my little family perfectly. I can't wait to take him along with us on our honeymoon in September. I've got a feeling my life will never be the same again... 

this is a picture of my dog coco a shih tau


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Gemma
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