Thursday, 22 January 2015

Afternoon in Penarth

I had spent the first day of Martyn's only weekend of the month off getting my hair cut and hosting a baby shower for a friend whilst he cleaned the house and went out for a drink with friends. Not exactly what you would call 'quality time together' so on the Sunday after a long lie in we headed to Penarth for an afternoon stroll.

Penarth is only a short drive from Cardiff but I've never been before which is pretty astonishing.I always visit Barry Island if I want a little faded seaside glamour. Built in 1894, and opened a year later, the 658-foot-long Penarth Pier is is one of only two surviving pleasure piers in south Wales, the other being Mumbles.The Penarth Pier Pavilion has been recently restored and has a cinema, exhibition space, cafe, bar and restaurant and meeting spaces. It really is very charming.

On the pier you get wonderful views of Cardiff and the barrage, Flat Holm Island and the Bristol Channel. There were lots of people fishing at the end of the pier and couples and families enjoying a stroll. It was voted Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society in 2014.

The pier appeared in the Torchwood episode To the Last Man, Tosh and Tommy share a brief moment on Penarth Pier, built in 1894, the same year that Tommy was born. Nice little fact for any Whovians like me out there.

I'm really happy with how these photos turned out. I went there at just the right time of day to get the prettiest pink sky and wondeful light. The afternoon out wasn't really planned, was cheap as chips (literally) and it was perfect. All you need for a good day out is great company and a nice view.

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Monday, 19 January 2015

Misssing my friends - Farewell Oonagh

2015 is going to be a year where I miss a lot of my friends and wont be seeing them for at least 9 months. All my friends seem to be taking off, going away with out me and having lots of fun adventures (not sounding bitter at all am I?...). I've chosen to settle down and save for a house and they have chosen to explore and make the most of their time on this planet. I've seen a lot of the world but I'm a girl who likes her home comforts and needs to be secure. Meg and Eliot are in Thailand and you can read their blog here and my other friends Jack and Dan are making their way to Australia via South East Asia and you can read all about their experiences here.

The latest of my group of friends to depart grey Britain for a warmer climate is Oonagh who flew to New Zealand yesterday to spend a year there for university. I'm used to having farewell parties for Oonagh because she's always doing something terribly exciting like moving to Amsterdam or going on arctic expeditions. Oonagh is much braver than me, I managed 10 weeks in New Zealand in 2009 before wanting to come home. There's no place like the Valleys ey?

We said goodbye to her in the traditional way which is a big party ather dads house with loads of cake, produce from their small holding and tasty homemade elderflower wine.

This is a picture of New Zealand Cake
This is a photo of a country kitchen with lots of food

So.Much.Food. We had some lovely cakes, pies and salad which I washed down with plenty of spiced rum.

This is a photo of sparklers spelling out Oonagh

Having swing dance lessons and dancing the night away.

A final word to my friends, next time you have the time of your life in far off lands please go somewhere were I can get a return flight for under £300 so I can come and join you for a couple weeks ;) I love you, stay safe and have a bloody good time.

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Thursday, 15 January 2015

#coffeewithcurrys in Cardiff

I attended the #coffeewithcurrys event a few weeks before Christmas so this post is a tad late but better late than never right? The event was organised by Joe Blogs and held in the rather lovely Waterloo tea rooms. The event was called #coffeewithcurrys and I spent the day with some of my blogging friends and lots of people I've never met before learning all about Nespresso products. I'm not a big coffee lover, I'm a tea girl through and through but I went in with an open mind and drank more coffee in one day than I had done for the whole of 2014.

The event was split into 4 workshops; coffee cupping, coffee cocktails, a machine workshop and latte art. In the cupping workshop we were taught how to taste coffee and were tried lots of the Nespresso pods. I sucked at this and couldn't pick out any different flavours at all. In the coffee cocktail workshop we were shown how to make some coffee cocktails. In the machine workshop we were shown how the Nespresso machines work and told how the coffee is freshly ground and sourced and that the pods are recyclable. Nespresso come and collect the pods for you which is pretty handy.

The coffee cocktail session with James was definitely the highlight of the day for me. This session was more hands on and I got to try it out for myself. I made a mint chocolate coffee cocktail (wish I was sipping on some right now) but if you want to learn how to make some coffee cocktails of tour own check out the video of James from the event which has recipes and some tips. 

Toblerone cocktail, mmmm.

The latte are was also another fun and hands on part of the day but I struggled with this. I think the most I can manage is a Costa coffee style cocoa dusting on the top of my coffee. I think you can easily tell which one of the three below was made by the professional. 

When I thought I couldn't take anymore coffee the guys at Waterloo Tea brought out some coffee came, yum!

I had a lovely day at the #coffeewithcurrys event. I went home with a lot more coffee knowledge and some minor coffee shakes. The video below explains the day much better than I have so take a look.

Huge thanks to Currys and the team at Joe Blogs for
hosting such a lovely and fun filled event.

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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Make your own marshmallows

I've mastered the meringue, baked lots of bundts over Christmas and I'm a bit bored of a classic sponge. It was time to try something new and I wanted to get some use out of my new KitchenAid (Thank you Martyn, best Christmas present ever). My blogging pal and amazing baker Amy suggested marshmallows so that's what I settled on. You might think it's not worth the hassle making your own but pulling off a homemade marshmallow recipe is easier than you think. This recipe gives you perfectly gooey marshmallows which are sooo much better than ones you can buy from a shop. You can toast these on a fire, package them up as gifts or just dip your marshmallow in hot chocolate.

This is a picture of homemade marshamallows

You will need a sugar thermometer and a spotlessly clean bowl to whisk the egg whites, and then you’re just a few steps away from soft, irresistible marshmallows.

This is a picture of homemade marshamallows

You will need:

         450g granulated or caster sugar
         1 tbsp liquid glucose
         2 large egg whites
         9 sheets gelatine, soaked in 140ml water. I used 2 gelatine powder sachets.
         1 tsp vanilla extract
         vegetable oil
         5 tbsp icing sugar
         5 tbsp cornflour


1. Place the granulated sugar, glucose and 200ml of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil.

sugar syrup

2. Cook over a high heat until a sugar thermometer shows 127C. I didn't use one because 
I don't have one so I waited until there were plenty of bubbles and the syrup had thickened. 
I've read a lot of recipes and disaster stories online about marshmallows going wrong if you don't have a sugar thermometer so I think I was pretty lucky to make mine with out one.

3. Place the egg whites into a clean grease-free bowl and whisk to firm peaks.

4. Add the soaked gelatine sheets/powder and water to the hot sugar syrup very carefully. Stir through, you can pour this into a jug or pour straight from the pan into the egg white like I did.

5. Continue to whisk the egg whites, then pour the sugar syrup onto the egg whites, whisking all the time until the whites are shiny.

6. Add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk for about 5-10 minutes or a but longer until the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail when lifted up. 

This is a picture of white KitchenAid

7. Oil a shallow 30x20cm tray.
 Dust the tray with some icing sugar and cornflour, then tip the mixture onto the tray. If you don't have a tray like this you could use whatever you have like a round cake tin or just spoon the mixture into blobs on a tray if you don't mind them being irregular shapes.

8. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours to set or leave on the side overnight to set.

9. Dust some more icing sugar and cornflour over the work surface.
 Loosen the edge of the marshmallow, then turn out onto the dusted work surface.

10. Cut into squares and roll in the icing sugar and cornflour to coat totally.

This is a picture of homemade marshamallows

I can't put into words how well these turned out. I've still got a little stash left and I'm rationing them so I can have some with a mug of hot chocolate on Sunday. They keep really well in a sealed tub or bag. Yes, you can buy a bag of marshmallows for £1 in the shop but these ones will just blow them out of the water. They are a great January treat because they are low fat and if you're following the Weight Watchers plan they are only 1 Pro Point per portion.  I can't wait to try some variations like adding some toasted coconut to the mix or raspberry puree swirled into the tin. You could even add a dash of colour to yours, the possibilities are endless.

Have you made marshmallows before? What would you suggest I try to make next?

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Andrássy Avenue, Budapest - Heroes Square, House of Terror & Miniversum

I hope you're not bored of seeing my Budapest holiday photos. I took 500+ so wanted to share them over a few posts. I've already shared some photos of my apartment, the basilica and the Christmas markets but this post is all about Andrássy Avenue. The elegant Andrássy Avenue is one of Budapest's major cultural hubs with lots of high end shops, museums, theatres and examples of beautiful architecture. The 2.5 km long Andrássy Avenue connects City Park (Városliget) with the city centre. Due to its historic and cultural nature Andrássy Avenue was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. We spent a lot of time in this area because there was so much to see and do there.

Part of the Millennium Underground (M1 metro), the first continental metro line in Europe (built between 1894-96), runs parallel with Andrássy út with stations at Heroes' Square and the Opera. I loved travelling on this metro line, the stations look like they have been untouched since they were built and it's nothing like the one in Paris or London.

The northeastern end of Andrássy út is dominated by Heroes’ Square. The central pillar is defended by massive statues of the seven tribal chiefs who claimed the region in the 9th century, while the angel Gabriel floats above them all with the Hungarian cross and crown in his hands. Two colonnades flank the pillar, each holding seven statues of important rulers and statesmen, from Saint Stephen, the first king of Hungary, to Lajos Kossuth, leader of a 19th century revolution against the Hapsburgs.

It was about -4 and raining heavily the night we visited the square to see it all lit up, hence my less than impressed face. If you're going to visit Budapest in winter wrap up warm and don't worry about looking chic. Layers and sheepskin lined boots with thermal vests are the way to go.

All the department stores were lit up so beautifully along this street, the Hungarians really know how to hang fairy lights.

In stark contest to the beauty of this historic street is the House of Terror. It's a museum dedicated to Hungary’s dark years when it supported Germany during both World Wars and when it was a Soviet state. The building was once the headquarters for the secret police and a focal point for the reign of terror that gripped Hungary during the 1950s.

Exhibits on the museum’s top two floors show what life was like in Hungary after World War II and the persecution many faced during the Soviet occupation. In the basement are reconstructed prison cells, where “enemies” of the communist state were detained, tortured and often killed. Budapest has really made huge steps since the fall of Communism and it's easy to forget what life was like here only a couple of decades ago. I would highly recommend a visit to the museum but hire the audio guide because none of the exhibits are translated into English.

Martyn and I visited the Miniversum because we are both big kids and train geeks.
A whole mini- Budapest and Europe has been set up and can be explored on the rail models.It was a fun way to spend an hour and kids or anyone interested in trains would love it.

The highlight of Andrássy Avenue for me was the Szechenyi Baths.
Szechenyi Spa Baths in Budapest is one of the best and largest spa baths in Europe with 15 indoor baths and 3 grand outdoor pools. It cost under £15 to visit and we had hours of relaxing fun in the outdoor heated pools. It was an odd sensation sitting in 37 degrees water when it was -2 from the head up. I would highly recommend a visit here or to the Gellert Baths on the other side of town.

I'm really longing to return to Budapest and have another holiday. I've got a week in West Wales in early March so I've not go too long to wait for a break. Have you planned any exciting holidays for 2015?

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