Friday, 24 July 2015

Iced Ginger Green Tea



Golly, it's hot, isn't it? What a heatwave we're having! The sun is splitting the sky, we're all walking around looking lovely in our sundresses and...

I can't, I can't. It's FREEZING here. It's boiling in Dublin, sweltering in London and I'm sitting here jealous as sin. In a cardigan.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Street art in Downtown Las Vegas


Sometimes it's a little difficult to avoid cliches in travel writing. I don't mean the obvious ones, like "hidden gem" (which is just the worst) or "breathtaking views". I mean the other ones, like "There's so much more to Las Vegas than gambling and showgirls"

But guys - there's so much more to Las Vegas than gambling and showgirls. 

Pure Results: What to expect at bootcamp


I'm a tricky person to motivate. Scream in my face, and I'll likely giggle (or scream back, depending on my mood). Encourage me gently and nicely, and there's a high chance I'll take advantage of your lack of authority and overthrow whatever organisation you belong to. Leave me to my own devices, and I'll get distracted by a weirdly shaped cloud or do a google image search on Jeff Goldblum. 

So, when it comes to exercise, and bootcamps, I may be a difficult customer. There are a few things that will get me going, though - jealousy and a fear of embarrassment. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Hotel Room Video Review: The Scarlet, Cornwall


I really hate the phrase ‘Bucket List’. Almost as much as I hated the film, The Bucket List. And I actually switched that mess off after about half an hour, something I rarely do that with a movie. Trust me – I’ve stuck with some really terrible films right through to the end (Jurassic Park III, I’m looking at you)

But much as I hate the phrase, I have to borrow it briefly to talk about the hotels that I have on a long-standing wish list. I may have read a review of it somewhere, heard someone gushing about a place, or just happened upon a picture somewhere online. I’ll catch a glimpse and then pop it onto the list, in the hopes that one day I’ll get there.

The Scarlet is one that has been on the list for a while.

An adults-only, cliff top resort with wood fired hot tubs overlooking a Cornish bay, a swish spa and top restaurant. Surely the stuff that hotel dreams are made of.



I visited back in March, and it honestly exceeded all of my expectations. It really is steps away from the beach – a small, winding path leads you from the resort to either the cliffs or the sands. I’ll write more about it soon, but in the meantime, here’s a video review I shot of my room.



You can see more about The Scarlet here - www.scarlethotel.co.uk

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Tomatini - the summer cocktail you need in your repertoire



There's something pretty badass about a signature drink, isn't there? And I don't mean something run of the mill, like a glass of Pinot Grigio (I do not seem like a badass when I order this. I seem like a Real Housewife)

No, I mean something like an Old Fashioned, or a shot of bourbon on the rocks. Or even better, this jazzy new cocktail, the Tomatini, which has become my new favourite drink.

I was recently in Amsterdam on a vodka-tasting trip with Ketel One. One evening, we had dinner with one of the Nolet Distillery's head honchos, Bob Nolet (11th generation of the family business) When I asked Bob about his favourite way to drink Ketel One, he told me of the Tomatini, which was created by Jimmy Barrett de Cecco in Dubai.

Bob's trick is to leave his drink in the hands of a capable barman (or mixologist, if you're that way inclined). Instead of asking for a specific drink, ask them how they would best prepare a certain spirit, or simply for their speciality. 

Or just order this, because once you've tasted it, you won't want anything else. And just by ordering it, you'll be almost as cool as Bob himself. 

It has similar notes to a Bloody Mary, but without the thick spiciness. The finished cocktail is a translucent pale pink, speckled with pepper, with a taste that is pure summer. It's like a fresh consommé, or caprese salad (without the mozzarella) with a hefty kick of vodka. If you don't like your cocktails super strong, then top it off with some sparkling water.  

The real zinger in this is the white balsamic vinegar. I'd never even heard of this before the tomatini came into my life, but it's a zesty, punchy little number. At a push, you could use regular balsamic... but it muddies up the colour and is just a little too rich. The white version is lighter and gives the cocktail plenty of pep, without overpowering the delicate balance of flavours. If you didn't know it was in there, you'd just be wondering what that vaguely familiar tang was.



The Ketel One Tomatini


Ingredients

1 fresh tomato (or 2-3 cherry tomatoes)
50 ml Ketel One Vodka
15 ml White balsamic vinegar (this is easy to pick up in any deli/fancy food shop)
15 ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
10 ml Sugar syrup (you can skip this if you don't need the sweetness - I personally don't use it)
1 pinch Salt
1 pinch Black pepper

Cut the tomato into 8-10 chunks and muddle in a cocktail shaker. 

Add the remaining ingredients with lots of ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with black pepper.



Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Wheat-Free Banana Pancakes (that actually taste good)


I'm just back from boot camp. This means that I am a lean, mean, (calorie-counting) fighting machine. I'm hoping that this new me is going to stick around for a while, because she's a little skinnier than the last one, and has a mean right hook.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Bluebird Cafe comes to Dublin (kind of)


I could have sworn I was in Nashville. In front of me, two songwriters were talking about how they wrote their award-winning tracks. One was in an embroidered checked shirt, and the other in cowboy boots. A man had honest to God tipped his hat to me earlier, and I was tucking into a bowl of chicken wings. It felt a little strange, truth be told, to be nibbling on a wing while making eye contact with the girl singing… but not strange enough to make me stop. In fact, if anyone else tried to make a pass at my wings, they received a Look. A sharp Look. 

All of which is beside the point. I wasn’t in Nashville: I was in Dublin. The Liquor Rooms, to be precise, where the Nashville tourist board were hosting an event last Wednesday. As you know, I left my heart in Nashville (along with a portion of my liver and whatever organ processes an excess of pork fat). So I was there like a flash. 

We were there to see Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall, who performed a few of their hit songs, and told us a little bit of the story behind them. Jessi wrote The Climb, which you’ll know as a Miley Cyrus (and X-Factor?) song. It was also in the Hannah Montana movie, which I didn’t know because I didn’t watch the Hannah Montana movie, not even when I was looking after someone’s kids that one time and I don’t even think her dad is good looking so why would I have seen it twice? God. 

She also wrote (but didn’t perform) I Drive Your Truck, the track that won Song of the Year at the CMA’s the year I was in attendance. 


Jon wrote Whiskey Lullaby, a song which I’d never heard of but was sung by Allison Kraus and Brad Paisley.


What I love about The Bluebird Café (apart from the moody low lighting and the waitresses who shush talkers) is the way you hear a song in a completely different light. Instead of the bells and whistles of a high octane performance, or an elaborate track meant for radio, you hear what the songwriter had in mind when they put pen to paper (or iPad to Garage Band, or however they do it now).

You mightn’t know the songs, or even be into country music, but you can see the raw talent of the songwriter, and hear them sung as their creators intended. 

Hopefully I’ll be back in the Bluebird one day, but until then it’s nice to have had a little taste to tide me over.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Hull - Least romantic town in Britain, or city on the up?


Poor old Hull. It always seems to get the rough end of the deal, written off as a bland city in the north which nothing much to offer. Just recently, it's suffered another blow, being dubbed the least romantic town in the UK in a survey conducted by Hotels.com. It's a bit of a bum deal, if you ask me, but the rest of the list is also a bit odd. London? Really? You won't include Milton Keynes, but you'll throw London in the pile?

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

5 Tips for First Time Skiers


The snow is thick, the runs are clear, and ski season is officially in full swing. If this is your first time hitting the slopes, and you're a bit wary of heading off into the unknown, allow me to pass on some of my wisdom. And, when I say wisdom, I mean that in the loosest form of the word. What this really means is that I am the best person to advise newbies because I still am one myself. I've only ever been skiing once, on a trip to Avoriaz. So I know what you're thinking, what you're worrying about, and what you should do.

1. Before Departure: Prep Those Thighs

I am 100% serious about this. After my first few hours on the slopes, my thighs were on fire. When you're starting out, your legs aren't used to the position they're forced into all day. Add in a bit of accident anxiety and you're likely to be holding on to a fair bit of tension in your legs. The answer is a pre-emptive strike. Before you head off, do your squats. Build up the strength in your thighs and your bum, and you'll be laughing. I do the Live Lean 15 minute workouts from Brad Gouthro. Do these for a couple of weeks and you'll have the legs of an ox.

2. Think Like a Bunny

If you have never set foot on the slopes, then you're at exactly the same level as a toddler. And, to be honest, you're probably a few steps behind them. I think kids tend to be better on skis because they don't have the panic that most adults do about injuries. I was so terrified of falling that it was all I could think about. I went down the runs at practically a crawl, as small kids whizzed by me. My advice? Accept the fact that the best place for you to learn is with the small bunnies on the children's run. You'll get a good solid starting point, and the bonus that no one tells you about is that those kids are at the perfect height to steady yourself if you start to fall. They're like little moving hand railings.

And do make sure you start out with lessons. They're offered at almost all resorts, and will be a million times better than a friend or loved one showing you the ropes. They'll get bored, you'll get frustrated and it will likely end in tears.

3. Know Your Limits

This leads on from number two, but is an important one. Don't expect to be flying down the black run after your first day. You'll be lucky if you stay upright for most of it. If you're a competitive sort, don't be disheartened if you watch your friends going off on the super runs while you're left staggering around trying to get off the lift. Take it at your own pace.

4. Save Your Pennies

Before you head away, it's tempting to splash the cash on a load of new gear. Think about all that you'll need - as well as the pants and jacket, you'll need goggles, hats, gloves... the list goes on. But even if you do go on to fall in love with winter sports, chances are you won't wear the stuff for most of the year. Spend your money on things that you can wear off the slopes, like cosy base layers, thick woolly socks and funky hats. For all the rest, try your best to borrow from a friend, or buy second hand. That way, if you don't find that you're a pro in the making, you haven't wasted your cash (and stuffed your wardrobes with bulky gear).

5. Think Beyond the Skis

If you're heading away for, say, a week, don't plan on spending the whole time skiing. You'll need a bit of a break and besides, there's usually plenty more to do and see. And by that, I mean fondue and raclette. Eat both with wild abandon, with enough frosty glasses of white wine to numb that ache in your thighs (and the bruise on your bum)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

A Moonlit 'Spirit Stroll' through Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky



The story of the Shakers is one which stuck around with me for a while after I left their village. Partly, I was charmed by Pleasant Hill, where they made their base - a charming rural patch of land in Kentucky, lined with stone walls and undulating fields. But mostly, I was intrigued by their history.

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