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    Thursday, 28 April 2016

    THE HAPPINESS LINK UP

    It's been a little while since I did my last Thankful Friday post. I had some very sad news towards the start of the year and I didn't really feel up to trying to put together a list of 'happy things' so I decided to take a little break from these posts.

    I'm now getting back into my stride and have decided to kicks things off by co-hosting the lovely Jasmine's happiness link-up this week! She's been posting them weekly and it's a great way to recollect and be thankful for the little things that happen in life. This post isn't just about the last week but more an update on life lately:

    ROME-ING AROUND
    Last weekend I spent four days in Rome with Tom and I have actually fallen in love with that city. Everything from the food to the buildings to the people - Rome really is a magical place. It's now by far my favourite city in Europe.
    Somethingsomethingsomething...WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK
    The Rihanna song goes something like that right? Anyway you might remember I started a new job back in January - well I have now officially passed my three-month probation (woohoo) so they're officially stuck with me! I've worked on some brilliant campaigns - from organising a Hovis bloggers brunch to managing a campaign with the deliciously thick Joey Essex! (excuse how bad I look - it was a long day!)
    DRINKING TO OBLIVION
    Not exactly a 'happy' topic but Louis Theroux's documentary really was one of the most important things I've seen on TV in a long time. Alcoholism is a very real illness and one which is so close to my heart. I can't describe to you how heart-breaking it is to watch on as someone you love kills themselves through drinking. Louis Theroux did a brilliant job at portraying victims of alcohol and I urge anyone who hasn't seen it to head to iPlayer.

    #FOODPORN
    I took this photo of my gelato in Rome and it's one of the most food porn worthy I've ever taken!
    IF IT DOESN'T FIT, YOU MUST ACQUIT
    I know I'm late to the party on this one (like I always am!) but how good is the People vs OJ Simpson?! I literally binge watched the whole series in one week! Brilliant show but what the hell is going on with John Travolta's face?

    BLOGGING EVENTS
    Now I'm working outside of London, I don't get to quite as many blogging events as I used to so it's so nice to catch up with some of my favourite people when I do! Big shout-outs to the lovely Sheepa who organised the brunch at Pulia and also to Tazz for the recent Tabl event!

    MORE RECIPE CONTENT
    I've been putting a lot more effort into creating recipes for the blog recently and I'm really pleased with some of the content I've been creating. I'm going to dedicate a lot more time to recipes so watch this space for more foodie content coming soon!
    I hope you've enjoyed reading -  as I mentioned previously, this post is part of the Happiness Link-up. If you also blog about happy things, then be sure to join in! There are only a few basic rules:


    Wednesday, 27 April 2016

    10 THINGS I LEARNT IN ROME

    If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen that I spent last week in Rome with Tom. I'm planning to do some detailed posts about our trip but for now I just wanted to share the 10 things which I learnt when in Rome...

    1. ROMAN CHURCHES ARE BEAUTIFUL
    More specifically the ceilings. Everyone knows about the beauty of Michaelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel but walk into any church in Rome, take a look sky-ward and you'll be blown away by the level of detail - it's all gold, baroque and beautiful.

    2. YOU WON'T EAT BAD FOOD IN ROME
    I really mean it. A plate of pasta in even the most touristy of spots is better than anything I have had elsewhere. You just can't eat badly in Rome because the Italians don't know how to cook bad food. The mozzarella, the pasta, the pizza, the prosciutto - the food really was the highlight of our trip and I only wish I could have brought suitcases of the stuff back with me.
    3. I WANT TO BE REINCARNATED AS A ROMAN CAT
    You know when you see stray cats on holiday and they're a bit mangy...yeah cats in Rome aren't like that. The cats in Rome are all glossy and parade around the ruins like they own them - to the point where they pretty much do. There's an old temple site, Torre Argentina - the spot where Julius Caesar was killed, which has since been turned into a sanctuary where you can walk down and stroke the cats which haunt the ruins. Living the feline dream
    4SELFIE STICKS ARE THE DEVIL
    I've never seen so many bloody selfie sticks in my life, nor have I ever wanted to hit someone with a selfie stick so much as I did in Rome. No I don't want to buy a selfie stick. No I don't want your selfie stick ruining my view. Trying to hide your arm from the picture was always half the fun anyway?

    5. THE ROMANS KNOW HOW TO BUILD
    The Colosseum. The Vatican. The Pantheon. Palatine Hill. I could go on and on about the beautiful buildings in Rome but the most majestic of all is the Wedding cake. Built as a monument to Victor Emmanuel, Italy's first king, it's the most outrageous building I've seen - bright white, 450ft wide by 230ft high and complete with pillars, fountains, steps, statues...oh and an eternal flame.

    6. APEROL SPRITZ IS THE BEST DRINK...EVER
    Prosecco + Aperol + Soda - need I say more?
    7. THE ITALIANS KNOW HOW TO PRESERVE THINGS
    Walking around Rome is like stepping into a history book. The whole city is built on ruins from thousands of years ago and the government has done a brilliant job at preserving it's history. The saddest thing that struck me when I was there though, was how unlikely it would be for the same to happen in the UK - we'd definitely have built high-rise flats over the site of the Colosseum by now...

    8. ALL THE PUBLIC TAPS MAKE ME UNEASY
    There's over 2,500 public water fountains across Rome which have been there since ancient times. On the plus side, it's a brilliant for when you're walking around all day in the heat and need a drink but I couldn't help but feel like it was a huge waste of water. The water is constantly flowing and it felt a bit like a big two fingers up to world drought to me...

    9. PERONI ISN'T PERONI AS WE KNOW IT
    So Peroni in the UK is actually called Nastro Azzuro in Italy. Peroni in Italy comes in a different red labelled bottle and is a premium larger but there's also Peroni Rosa which is a red beer but that's a reserve and comes in a fancy bottle...you following? It's all very complex.
    10. ROME IS MY FAVOURITE EUROPEAN CITY
    Yeah I said it. The gauntlet has been thrown down by Rome and I'm naming it as my favourite place I've ever visited. Everything was wonderful from the food, to the sights, to the wine and obviously the company.

    I can't recommend Rome highly enough for a weekend - whether it's with your boyfriend, your friends, your mum, your nan or your dog. Just go. I've got more Rome content coming soon so make sure you check back in to find out more about just why I loved it so much!

    Monday, 25 April 2016

    UK'S HIDDEN GEMS - FORMBY FOREST

    Regular readers will know I've written a lot about Liverpool on my blog but there's so much more to the city than just the Albert Dock. 

    About 30 minutes drive from the city centre, you'll find the beautiful Formby pine forest, a National Trust reserve complete with sandy beaches overlooking the Irish sea. It's located on Victoria Road, home to some of Liverpool FC's footballers, and also the rare red squirrel!
    It costs about £5 to park your car in the reserve at this time of year, a small price to pay to get access to the acres of beautiful wooded paths which twist and turn within the woodland.

    The main reserve is made up of several different walking routes which you can follow to discover red squirrels, natterjacks, fresh asparagus growing or you can head down to the beach for a walk on the sand.
    Tom and I decided to drive up there a few weeks ago when it was a sunny day and it really is such a beautiful and relaxing place - you can hardly believe that you're only a stone's throw away from one of the UK's busiest cities.

    Sadly, we weren't lucky enough to see any squirrels on our visit so I had to settle for this one on the sign but I am reassured that the squirrel population in Formby is thriving!
    There's plenty of areas within the main reserve itself to pitch up and have a picnic but there's also a brilliant pub around the corner, the Freshfield, which serves brilliant food.
    We shared the pulled slider board made up of two hickory smoked beef brisket sliders& two mini BBQ pulled pork served with chips (£10.45) which were incredible!

    I'm such a massive burger fan but can never decide which to go for on the menu so having a little bit of both works perfectly for me!
    We also ordered a portion of whitby scampi which came with chunky chips and some delicious minty mushy peas (£6.95). andddd because we're greedy we also ordered some incredible loaded nachos piled up with pulled pork, cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream and for a fruity twist, pomegranate seeds (£7.45)
    plus an ice cream while we had one more walk around Formby.
    There's plenty of National Trust sites across the country, you'll probably have a hidden gem like Formby right on your step so make sure you check out the website and if you're ever in Liverpool way - it really is worth the 30 minute drive!

    Massam's Ln, Formby L37 7BD

    Monday, 18 April 2016

    MY FAVOURITE INSTAGRAMMERS

    I've become a little bit obsessed with Instagram lately. While my IG feed is mainly food related, I follow a pretty varied bunch of accounts so I've cherry-picked my favourites to share with you, from food to fitness to fashion - if you don't follow them already, I promise you'll want to!

    THE #FOODPORN ACCOUNT - @KS_ATE_HERE (AKA Annixontong)
    Arguably the BEST London food account on Instagram and the one the term #FoodPorn was made for. It's all pure unadulterated cheesy, gooey, calorie-laden deliciousness and I basically have to stop myself licking my screen when I scroll through his pictures. What's even better is that I've met KS in the flesh and he's a straight-up cool guy too.
    THE FITNESS ACCOUNT - @CourtneyDBlack
    After all that food, you need someone to motivate you to go to the gym right? Courtney's body is actually INSANE and she's only 19...and she makes me feel very guilty for all the food pictures I post. She's really candid about her own fitness journey and often posts pointers on workouts/nutrition and she massively motivates me to move my arse to the gym - I'll never have her levels of motivation (or those glutes) but everyone's got to start somewhere right!
    THE WANDERLUST ACCOUNT - @AngieSilverspoon
    When it comes to travel, the first person I immediately think of is the lovely Angie. There's equal measures of food porn and luxury travel on her feed and she's a constant inspiration for my next holiday! Angie also happens to be one of the friendliest and most helpful people on social, whenever you need a recommendation - she's always on hand to offer ideas or advice!
    THE FASHION ACCOUNT - @HELLIBELLS 
    If the word 'sassy' was created for anyone it was this girl. Part of the 'Confetti Crowd' collective, and owner of the 'Sassy World' clothing boutique, Helena is my ultimate style icon. All of the colours, none of the rules. I feel my wardrobe has definitely become brighter since I started following her and I'm forever crushing on her figure/style.
    THE 'CAN I HAVE YOUR LIFE PLEASE' ACCOUNT - @LydiaEMillen
    Lydia looks a mix between Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham. She's tall, she's lifts heavy weights, she has a bengal cat, her life is pretty much the definition of #InstagramPerfect - and she's also one of the most down to earth girls too. I scroll through this feed and just wish I could have her life - but she's worked her butt off for it so massive credit to her!
    I hope you liked my suggestions so far but these are just a tiny handful of my Instagram favourites, there's also a whole heap of my favourite foodie Instagram pals including (but not limited to):

    @BabbleandBite
    @S_LovesFood
    @daltonBanksSV
    @ConnieConsumes
    @GottoBeGourmet
    @AndreasPassions
    @Binnys_Kitchen

    If you've got any great Instagram feeds you'd recommend, leave in the comment box below and don't forget to follow me over at @ElleBloggs 

    Saturday, 16 April 2016

    MANGO & PASSIONFRUIT MILLIONAIRE'S SHORTBREAD

    One of my favourite recipes on the blog, isn’t actually one of my own. It’s the fabulous Flick’s and you’ve probably read it – it’s the Raspberry Millionaire’s shortbread recipe.

    Millionaire’s shortbread has always been a favourite of mine. Rich chocolate, sticky caramel and crumbly biscuit – what’s not to love?

    Feeling inspired by Flick’s recipe, I decided to experiment with different flavour combinations and decided to create a mango and passion-fruit shortbread. Wow. It’s pretty bloody good. It’s a time intensive recipe this so I’d save it for a Sunday afternoon but I promise the results are well worth the effort. I admit I'm no baker so my creation might not be too pretty, but they taste pretty good!
    What you’ll need 
    200g shortbread biscuit (shop bought cos aint no’body got time fo’ that)
    55g melted butter
    150g soft brown sugar
    150g butter
    1 tin Carnation condensed milk
    100g Mango & Passionfruit coulis (I bought mine in Sainsbury’s)
    200g milk chocolate
    100g white chocolate

    What you’ll need to do 
    1. In a bowl, crush up your shortbread and combine with the melted butter
    2. Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper. Pour in your biscuit base and push into the corners until nice and firm. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes
    3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter and brown sugar until a nice thick caramel forms. Pour in your condensed milk and stir, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to thicken
    5. Remove your chilled biscuit from the fridge and pour the caramel over, covering the entire base. Return to the fridge to cool for 30-40 minutes
    6. Remove the tray from the fridge, pour over a layer of coulis and leave to chill for another 10 minutes
    7. In two separate bowls, melt your chocolate.Pour over the caramel base untill completely covered
    8. In vertical lines, pour the white chocolate sauce over the top. Use a pick or knife to run lines through the white chocolate to create desired patterns, working quickly, before returning the entire thing to the fridge for yet more chilling.
    9. If you can bear to wait another hour make sure you do. The chocolate can crack quite easily so allow to completely set before cutting into ‘bite-size’ chunks, ready to be devoured with a cup of tea
    10. Enjoy!

    Pin the recipe for later!

    If you liked this recipe, you might also like: Boozy Banoffee Pie or Raspberry Caramel Shortbread 

    Wednesday, 13 April 2016

    MY GUIDE TO THE SIRAYANE, MARRAKECH

    It's getting to that point in the year where people are itching to book their summer holidays. I've done a couple of travel posts in the past - you might have seen my Mexico or Berlin posts so I thought I'd have another stab and tell you about another one of my favourite destinations...Marrakech! 

    Marrakech has so much to see and do but it's also the perfect place to just relax and unwind. I went with three of my girlfriends back in March last year and we had a fabulous time so I'll give you the low-down on our trip.
    So where did you stay?
    We stayed at the Sirayane Boutique Hotel and Spa, to give it it's full name, which is located just a 10 minute drive from the hustle and bustle of the main Medina in central Marrakech. Minimalist by design, the Sirayane is all about offering guests a relaxing stay in it's ultra-luxurious surroundings.
    It's the perfect get-away if you're looking for a nice relaxing break. Made up of 28 rooms and suites, the hotel is peaceful, quiet and surrounded by the beautiful landscapes that Morroco has to offer - if you squint into the distance, you might be able to make out the snowy Atlas mountains... 
    What are the rooms like? 
    We were really lucky and managed to get an upgrade into one of the hotel's mini-suites which overlooks the swimming pool. The room was spacious - not huge - but comes kitted out with all those little extras like flat screen TVs, DVD and CD player which aren't a necessity on holiday but make it feel more like a home from home - plus there's complimentary WI-FI which is always a bonus!
    The absolute stand-out feature of the mini suite though is the private garden which allows you to relax in your own little area just metres from your front door. Perfect for enjoying a cup of tea in the mornings when you wake up but aren't quite ready to get up and dressed to head over to the poolWhat is the pool like? 
    The pool is the main attraction at the hotel, with all the terracota suites built to overlook it. There's comfy black beds laid out around the edges and always someone on hand to give you a towel or take your drinks order so you can make yourself comfy and pretty much nod off the day. Like I said, relaxation really is a key theme at this hotel!
    What was the weather like?
    We came in late March and whilst it was scorching sun-bathing weather, it was definitely warm enough to sit outside in the sunshine and just relax. There was one day when we ventured out to a pool club (more details below) and it absolutely chucked down with rain but the staff are so hospitable that you won't get bored, even if you are kept indoors!

    Most importantly, what is the food like? 
    I found the food a little hit and miss in Marrakech. Moroccan food tends to come in the form of rich tagines, cous-cous and big bold spices and flavours - some of which I really enjoyed and some that I wasn't so keen on.
    There was a big emphasis on vegetarian food which I wasn't expecting, with lots of aubergine and courgette dishes on the menu but there was also a brilliant choice of steaks, fish and chicken dishes brought to life with the addition of lemon, olives and plenty of ras el hanout. 
    The endless tea is another plus point of the hotel. When you arrive, rather than linger around the check-in desk, they invite you to lounge on the sofas while they serve you tea and on any occasion you find yourself sat down, someone will appear with a pot of this wonderfully sweet, fresh mint tea - or Moroccan Whiskey as I'm told it's called!
    What else is there to do at the hotel?
    The Sirayane has a full-service spa which all guests are allowed to use. We booked in for a traditional Morroccan Hammam, which involves a body-scrub under a beautiful domed-sauna like room. Word of warning though - make sure you take on plenty of fluid beforehand as the room is very hot and I managed to pass out from dehydration! (It would only be me!)

    Did you just stay on the resort is there anything else to do?
    There's plenty to do in Marrakech. The main draw is obviously the souks in the medina which are like nothing I've ever experienced before. There were monkeys on chains, there were cobras, there were people banging drums - once night falls, it literally becomes another world! 
    There's plenty of culture to soak up in Marrakech too. You can visit the Koutoubia Mosque where you'll hear the call to pray 5 times a day, or there's the Majorelle garden, a 12 acre botanical garden owned by Yves Saint Laurent and where his ashes were scattered.
    Another place which we visited on our trip was the luxury beach club, Nikki Beach. It features three large swimming pools, tennis and squash courts and white mattress beds sprawled out so you can sunbathe whilst listening to the resident DJ.

    It didn't have the same party vibe as the one in Marbella, but we were there at the beginning of the season so I'm sure it livens up towards the peak June-August months.
    Moments after these pictures were taken, the heavens opened up and we had to head inside to the canopied area for shelter! The staff were more than happy to keep us stocked with Espresso Martinis to while away the hours untill the sun came back again though!
    Any other words of advice?
    I had a brilliant time in Marrakech but if I were to come back and really explore the city, it would be with Tom. Relaxing on the resort with the girls was lovely but I didn't enjoy being in the Medina with just a group of girls.

    There was a lot of heckling as we walked around, and while I'm not particularly phased by that, it definitely can make you feel uncomfortable once you get deeper into the souks and the sun begins to set! I found Marrakech to take on a whole new lease of life in the night-time compared to the day!

    I hope you've enjoiyed hearing about my experience in Marrakech. If you're planning to go or have been before, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

    Monday, 11 April 2016

    A WEEKEND AWAY...

    I haven't told you about what I got up to on my Easter break yet have I?

    Well, Tom and I decided it was time for a road-trip. We packed up our bags and jumped in the car and set off from Liverpool to one of our favourite cities - Manchester
    We checked in at the beautiful Townhouse Hotel which is right in the city centre and provides the perfect base for exploring the city. 

    Formerly a cotton warehouse, the exterior is made from gorgeous red brickwork but the inside of the hotel is modern and sleek. We had a quick peek in our spacious room, where I was transfixed by the gorgeous bathroom and the generous supply of toiletries....
    before dumping off our bags and heading to the hotel bar for a glass of fizz before setting out into Manchester
    First stop was one of our favourite bars The Alchemist on New York Street ....
    for a glass of Prosecco and a bottle of peroni while we looked over the cocktail menu. 
    The Alchemist bars are part of the Living Ventures brand who are renowned for their expertise in cocktail making as soon as I spied the 'Solero' on the menu, I had to order it

    Kettle One Vodka, passoa, lemon, lime, apple, orange and mango syrup all garnished with white chocolate foam...
    which we naturally washed down with some serious looking shots!
    All that alcohol needing soaking up with some food so we ventured towards Spinningfields, home to some of the best restaurants in Manchester to find ourselves some grub. 

    There could only be one choice. Burgers and ice-cream at our favourite restaurant, Neighbourhood which also has a brilliant bar, complete with DJ, so you can dance off those calories after dinner.
    Full of delicious food and lots of drink, we staggered back to our room and got tucked up in our comfy bed for the night
    The next day, we got up bright and early and headed down for breakfast before making tracks back to Liverpool...
    taking a detour via Crosby beach where we made some new friends in the form of the Anthony Gormley statues!
    Back in town, we headed down to the Albert Dock to watch the sun-set from The Pumphouse which overlooks the Mersey.

    We took a walk around Liverpool One, spent a leisurely few hours shopping and worked up an appetite so we made our way over to Bold Street where we found KO grill. A recently opened Eastern grill restaurant specialising in meats and curries...
    We shared the signature karahi curry...
    ..and the grilled lamb chops which were our favourite. We were also eyeing up the mixed grill that the table next to us ordered so have already made a mental note to come back and try it.
    The home-made naans cooked in the restaurant's clay tandoor also deserve a special mention. We ordered the peshwari naan, filled with a sweet mixture of almonds, raisins and cashews - buttery, fluffy perfection!
    If you ever find yourself in Liverpool, I highly recommend you head to the KO Grill or anywhere on Bold Street in-fact. It's fast becoming one of the best areas in Liverpool to eat!

    Once we'd finished up our food, it was sadly time for me to make my way to Liverpool Lime Street to say goodbye to Tom for another week and head back to London.

    A brilliant bank holiday spent with my favourite person so I hope you enjoyed hearing about it!

    The Alchemist Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato