24 Days of Christmas: Day 1 -The Nightmare Before Christmas

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For Day 1 there was no other other option for me as this is one of my all time favourite films and I think it’s the perfection transitional film to take you from Halloween to Christmas.

Although it’s often debated whether this film belongs in the Halloween or Christmas movie category, for me it ticks too many of the great Christmas film qualities for it to not find its place on this list. It’s got the perfect combination of a nuanced musical score, a love story and a good old Christmas moral epiphany, not to mention a cameo from the main man himself, Santa Claus. This is a great choice if you like your Christmas with a little twist as in typical Tim Burton fashion it’s a little bit weirder than your typical Christmas film but it’s a cult classic for a reason, and the Christmastown scenes in particular are beautiful to watch.

As we watch Jack discover Christmastown and its bright lights, snowflakes and roasting chestnuts we get to experience the joy of Christmas through his eyes, and as a result it allows us to rediscover everything we love about Christmas and more.

 

 

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24 Days of Christmas Films

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Over the years it seems that escaping from the cold and getting cosy in front of a Christmas film has become an integral part of the holiday season, and I think it’s often the easiest way to get yourself into the festive spirit. It’s certainly one of the things I look most forward to in the run up to Christmas, so I thought what better way to mark the run up to December 25th on this blog than to compile a list of what I think are some of the top Christmas movies to get you in the mood .

From tomorrow I’ll be sharing my favourites starting with the ones that give you a sprinkling of Christmas for those who are wanting to dip their toe before diving fully into the festive season, slowly building in festivity until we reach the full force Christmas favourites we all know and love. Hopefully it’ll help build the excitement for you guys and as there’ll be a few more adult choices as well, I’ve tried my best to incorporate alternatives in those cases so whatever your taste you’ll never have to miss a day!

So starting from tomorrow I hope you guys will be following along and as always I’d love to know if you guys have any particular favourites that you love to watch or hope to see on the list!

A Trip To The Market

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Borough Market is one of those places that has long been on my wish list to visit as it is the ultimate treasure trove of different and fresh produce, the Aladdins cave of wonders of food if you will. Since the 13th Century it’s been bringing lovers of food from all around the world to share in the best of British and international produce. So with one of my best friends by my side who happens to be a chef and highly experienced in traversing food markets, I was ready and willing to be led on a culinary journey (and to eat my own body weight in food along the way).DSC06095DSC06096

Walking through the market I was overwhelmed, as it’s truly a sensory experience like no other where you are encouraged to touch and smell everything so you can truly immerse yourself in the fresh produce.
DSC06098DSC06103DSC06105DSC06094 On our travels we couldn’t help but swing by the Ginger Pig to get something to take away for later, as a massive fan of their cook books I couldn’t miss the chance to try their sausage rolls straight from the source! We tried a sweet chilli as well as a pork and stilton  one, which was my favourite thanks to the quality of the meat as well as the richness of the stilton, topped off with the buttery flakyness of the pastry. Needless to say it’s a stall that I’ll definitely be revisiting again!DSC06106

The best part of going anywhere like this with someone who works with food everyday is the sheer amount of knowledge they bring to the table. It truly richens your experience as she was able to tell me what to go for depending on what was in season and the signs to picking the best produce, not to mention answering all my questions about things I didn’t recognise. For example those longer, grey looking carrots? They’re called salsify which can be cooked similarly to any root vegetable but have a kind of oystery taste. See, learn something new everyday!

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Not to mention the sheer quality and beauty of the produce makes it a beautiful experience in itself, I mean just look at the colours! This is something that you definitely won’t see at any supermarket. It makes for a foodie’s paradise, strolling through the stalls imagining and dreaming of everything you could make.DSC06109DSC06110DSC06116

But finally came the time to stop dreaming and start eating and my friend promised me we had saved the best till last, and judging by the 30 people strong queue I was inclined to believe her. We went for the salt beef sandwich by The Northfield Kitchin, which I was assured was one of the best stops in the market. The smell of the freshest local beef combined with pickle and just enough spicy English mustard to provide a bit of a kick meant I was drooling at the mouth before we’d even got close.
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Each one loving prepared in respect owed to the excellent quality of product means that you can taste the care and devotion in every mouthful, which combined produces one hell of a sandwich and one that was worth every second of waiting.

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From the look on our faces you can tell it was pretty much love at first sight bite.

DSC06136Thoroughly stuffed and satisfied we took a moment to revel in the magic of what we had eaten until we decided it was finally time to move on to see what the rest of the market had to offer, and you never know, potentially pick up a couple more snacks along the way.DSC06140

The best part of the market is that for those of you that aren’t quite so carniverous there’s still plenty of treats to tempt you, from fresh scallops to fallafal and haloumi burgers that would make even the most devout meat-eater go weak at the knees. Unfortunately due to my fixation on sandwiches and sausage rolls I didn’t take any photos of these treats (bad blogger award I know) but be sure to check out @boroughmarket’s instagram for more drool worth photos.DSC06142DSC06144

I couldn’t help but pick up a few of my all time favourite blood oranges along the way, which might be making their way to a recipe soon…DSC06151DSC06156DSC06157DSC06161DSC06162One last look around the treasure trove and I had finally literally had my fill of Aladdin’s cave of wonders. But of course we couldn’t leave without taking a jewel or two for the road…

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I would love to know if you’ve been to Borough Market and what your favourite stalls are or if there’s any other markets around the UK that you love to visit please let me know! In the meanwhile I’ll just be dreaming about those doughnuts for a little while longer…

A Day In Brighton

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For years I have been seeing hundreds of posts and videos of bloggers raving about Brighton, not to mention the hundreds of beautiful instagrams taken of it. As a result it has long been number one on my list of must-go places in the UK, so of course when the chance came for a brief day trip I jumped at the chance! I thought it’d make a nice beginners guide to Brighton and give me a chance to share with you the best places I managed to stumble upon during my day.

 

Mange Tout

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This was one that came highly recommended by pretty much every blogger who’s written about Brighton, and when we turned the corner from the car park to see it opposite I knew it was fate. With a varied yet simple, fresh menu it ticks every box and was the perfect brunch fix. Not to mention it has some of the best coffee I’ve ever had which was served with some delicious homemade meringues! This is the perfect option for the pickiest of friends not to mention those who like things a little on the healthier side, all in all putting our trip off to a great start.

 

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This for me was literally the stuff dreams are made of, a shop dedicated to magazines! This is the hardcore stuff though, no Grazia or Elle to be found here, only slightly obscure yet beautifully made magazines covering everything from fashion to film. Some of them are more like books than conventional magazines, and although I finally manage to whittle it down to one (trust me it took a while) I could have easily left with half the store. Whether or not you’re a magazine obsessive like me I cannot recommend it enough even if just to look and try something new!

 

The Flour Pot

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By this point we’d done enough walking that we were ready for another snack so as soon as I saw The Flour Pot bakery I knew that it was the answer to our prayers. This was another one I’d seen highly recommended by multiple bloggers so I had to pop it and grab a few treats for later. There was an amazing of variety of both savoury and sweet treats and a great gluten-free selection as well (which in hindsight I can thoroughly recommend as some of the best coeliac bakery products I’ve had).

 

Bert’s Homestore

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This is one for those who love all things home, Bert’s has everything from baking supplies to decorations, to toys. It’s one of those places that is impossible to leave without at least a little something, not to mention it’s just a lovely place to look around while you’re reminded of all the things you don’t need but really want. I am so distraught that these stores are only in Brighton, but it’s probably better for my bank account.

 

Edited

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After Bert’s I was definitely in the homeware mood and Edited was perfect to give me that fix. It’s like a combination of all the coolest stuff you’d find on Etsy all in one place. With a brilliant mix of the quaint and quirky there’s something for every style, and left me really wishing that I could fit one of those giant ice cream cushions in the car with me.

 

Brighton Pier

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One of the last places we managed to hit is probably one of the most famous places in Brighton, the beach! It is one of the most picturesque beaches so I couldn’t resist having a ride on the merry-go-round and a go on a couple of the arcade games while I was there. A must have for anyone visiting, it was the perfect way to reflect on the events of the day while enjoying the picturesque scenery. Plus it’s a great place to visit if you’re a big kid like me and can’t resist a ride or two.

 

The Brighton Pavilion

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This is a bit of a cheaty one as we didn’t actually manage to go inside because they were renovating, but the gardens alone were worth the visit. The building itself is so stunning I can’t wait to come back and see the inside, but for the meantime I was perfectly content to wander around the grounds and take some pictures. It was definitely the perfect way to end my first trip to Brighton.

I hope you enjoyed this post and it hopefully gave you a few ideas of where to go if you’ve never been to Brighton before. I enjoyed it so much I’m thinking of doing some more “In a Day” guides, so let me know if you’d like to see some more of them and where I should go next. Also please let me know your favourite places in Brighton too as I’m already compiling a list of where to go for next time!

Plenty at Polpo

Polpo is one of those places that I’d seen mentioned by bloggers millions of times and of course had seen their ubiquitous octopus cookbooks everywhere, but every time I was in London I somehow ended up miles away from their … Continue reading

Morning at The Mac

One of my favourite things about Belfast are the amount of hidden gems there are hidden around the city, and The Mac is one of the best of them. Hidden away in St. Anne’s Square it has played home to collections of greats such as Andy Warhol and has recently been shortlisted for the Art Fund Museum of the Year award.
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Opened in 2012 it’s still a relatively new addition to the ever blossoming cultural scene in Belfast and with three art galleries, two theatres, an artist-in-residence studio and workshop spaces it’s definitely helping to ensure it continues to. Not to mention it’s a perfect way to lose an afternoon as you wander around the amazing space, so we picked up our brochures and followed the rainbow.
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The current exhibition is curated by Gregory McCartney which explores the end of things; of personal and social empires with art from Adrian Ghenie, Pieter Hugo and Olaf Brzeski. I first found myself in the photos taken by Pieter Hugo which were haunting glimpses into his violent landscape of his native South Africa and I have to say I have never experienced photographs with the ability to conjure such feelings. You truly got a sense of the brutality and conflict that Hugo was trying to convey through the pictures which made me so uncomfortable but thus emphasized it’s brilliance.DSC02811DSC02813

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The strangeness of the booklet I feel best surmises the atmosphere of the exhibition, with the strangeness of the masked man conveying the other worldliness of the environment of the photo with a slightly eerie, potentially violent inference to be made due to the man’s choice of a mask.

DSC02820    To try and clear our heads we wandered down to the lowered gallery where the vast space was taken up by an explosive sculpture. Olaf Brzeski’s art is described as representing iconic situations having gone awry, such as the below “Dream – Spontaneous Combustion” reflecting Olaf’s attempt to clean out his chimney. Although this explanation renders any possible imaginings harmless, it was hard for me to shake my initial reaction which was noting the marked similarities between the sculpture and the mushroom cloud made by nuclear explosions. Although I am certainly nothing close to any semblance of an authority of art, I’ve always thought that anything that can conjure a genuine human emotional reaction has succeeded and this exhibition, no matter how darkly definitely succeeded in that.DSC02831DSC02795

It’s fair to say though that after all that exploring we were physically and emotionally exhausted, and that meant only one thing, brunch! Luckily for us The Mac cafe is often heavily featured as a recommended place to eat in Belfast, and with this spread it’s easy to see why.

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After being thoroughly spoilt for choice we decided to stick with the classics (and come back for cakes later). With produce from local farms and bakeries it’s probably one of the most authentic breakfasts you can have in Belfast, and believe me the freshness of the food makes it one of the tastiest. And I bet you can’t guess which breakfast is mine….DSC02780

Of course I had to go for my ultimate breakfast choice of eggs benedict and it didn’t let me down being one of the tastiest (not to mention prettiest) ones I’ve ever had.

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With plenty of food and tea to revive us we discussed what we had seen before finally taking one last look at the beautiful building and heading out to see what the rest of the day had in store for us.

Every time I go to The Mac there is something bold and imaginative to be seen and I can’t recommend it enough even if you’re not an art fan to just pop into the cafe and then have a wander because you never know what you might see.
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Summer Reading List Recommendations

DSC02654Nerdy as it is, one of my favourite things about Summer is the freedom that it gives me when it comes to my reading, with no school work or set reading to distract me. Not to mention the opportunities there are to read whether it’s on a beach break, a city escape or simply in your own backyard, it’s the perfect way to relax while finally getting round to read that book you’ve had on your nightstand for months. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you some of the books I’ve been loving that I think are perfect for a summer break no matter where you’re headed.

The Goddess Guide                                                                                                                      It seems now the markets are overwhelmed with lifestyle guides but this is my absolute favourite and one of the originals. From picking the right pair of jeans to secret city spots it is the perfect guide for any modern woman, not to mention it’s so beautifully designed it’ll be one of the prettiest reads you read this summer. It’s a great alternative for people who aren’t big readers or aren’t a fan of the traditional novel and it’s so interesting you’ll find yourself rereading it again and again.

The Maze Runner                                                                                                                           I was a big fan of the film last year and before the release of the second installment this Autumn I thought I’d try to get ahead of the curve and start the books. I’m a massive young adult book fan and since The Hunger games I’ve been searching for the perfect replacement and I think this is it. We start with Thomas who arrives in a glade who has no idea who he is or his past. He’s welcomed by a group of boys who live together in the glade which is at the centre of a mysterious giant stone maze. They too have no idea of their past of what has happened to the world outside. Every day they try to explore the maze but have to make it back by sundown before the doors to the maze close and the monstrous Grievers patrol. Then one day a girl arrives and everything changes. It’s one of the most gripping young adult books I’ve read so much so I devoured the first four books in record time, and perfect for those who like a bit of escapism in their reading.

American Psycho                                                                                                                            This is by far the weirdest book on my list as it’s definitely one of the most violent and gruesome books I’ve ever read, but also one of the most profound. The novel is a stark comment on the capitalist consumerism of society which was highly controversial when it was initially released, but has since then become a cult classic, It follows the murderous investment banker Patrick Bateman as he struggles to control his insanity as well as his fascination with his material possessions. I really do feel the need to put a disclaimer on this as it’s the most sickening book I’ve ever read in regards to the detail on how Bateman dismembers women, so I really wouldn’t recommend it for those under 18. But the deeper meaning to be found in the novel means that if you can move past the violence, there is an incredible comment being made about society as a whole that makes it a great holiday read for those looking for something a bit different.

The Great Gatsby                                                                                                                         I thought I’d include a classic for the more old-fashioned readers amongst us and this is my absolute favourite. It’s perfect for those who want a lighter option before they start tackling the more heftier classics, not to mention it’s one of the easiest classics to read. It has love, murder, beautiful imagery as well as a deeper discussion on the American Dream and perfect for those who like a bit of history in their fiction.

Paper Towns                                                                                                                                  Another young adult read I’d recommend before the movie comes out later this year which is a perfect choice for those who were a fan of A Fault In Our Stars. It’s about Quentin “Q” Jacobsen who after a mysterious night with his old childhood friend Margo Roth Spiegelman finds out the next morning that she has disappeared and sets out to find her. Unlike The Fault In Our Stars this is more of a mystery story, but again a story that every teenager will be able to relate to in one way or another. I’d definitely recommend it for any John Green fans or for a reader wanting to try one of his novels as it’s one of the easiest and most enjoyable reads I’ve had.

Yes Please                                                                                                                                       If you don’t know Amy Poehler by now then shame on you. Star presenter of the Golden Globes with Tina Fey for the past three years, past SNL cast member and star of the brilliant Parks and Recreation she is a pretty damn funny and impressive woman. She was already one of my number one woman crushes but after this book she moved to number one, as it is one of the best celebrity books I’ve ever read. It doesn’t take the form of a usual biography, instead she uses her past experiences as anecdotes to explain what she’s learnt from them in the funniest way possible. It’s the perfect book for those who aren’t a fan of fiction but still want a laugh along the way.

So there’s my selection of my favourite summer reads, I hope you like them and that I’ve maybe given you some ideas of some new books to try. If you have any favourite books that you like to read on holiday let me know as I’m always on the lookout for new books to try. But more importantly, enjoy your summer where ever you’re going!

Graduation Belfast Style

So as you will probably know last week I headed back up to Belfast to finally pack up the remnants of the past three years of my life, and probably more importantly to graduate university! I’m still waiting for it all to sink in and the possibilities that now lie ahead of me, but in the meantime I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite parts of the day.

After the ceremony (which went by in the blink of an eye) I finally got my piece of paper proving that those three years of hard work weren’t for nothing and left me severely needing a drink. With the family in tow we headed to the newly opened Miel et Moi which is Belfast’s first licensed patisserie for some cocktails and cakes (my favourite combination).

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And boy did we have plenty to choose from! From tarts and eclairs to cakes and gateaus they have everything you could dream of, and with them all freshly baked every morning it was hard to resist not getting one of everything.
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In the end we managed to cut it down to just four deciding that dividing and conquering was the best way to tackle the amazing treats on offer. Trying to tick every box we went for viennese whirls, lemon madelines, a strawberry and white chocolate eclair and a rosewater gateau.

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Note the problem of ‘resting bitch face’ (of which I am a chronic sufferer of), but I can assure you that faces actually translates into me having the time of my life haha.DSC02943 DSC02948

As you can see they were so good it was impossible to get pictures of them all before we’d sneaked a bite. I have to say as a girl who has tasted her fair share of cakes and pastries the bar was set pretty high, but I can honestly say these blew me away. I have never tasted a viennese whirl so buttery and crumbly with the lemon curd cream filling perfectly providing a balance of tartness to the sweet. The lemon madeline (which I had to order to channel my inner Sansa Stark, Game of Throne fans you’ll know what I’m talking about) was so incredibly moist and fresh I could’ve eaten hundreds of them. Now while eclairs aren’t exactly my bag, my eclair obsessed sister assures me that it was the best she’s ever eaten, but my favourite has to be the rosewater gateau. I have never experienced a sponge like it,, it had the texture of air while melting in your mouth and the delicateness of the rosewater can only be described as the taste of summer. Paired with a combination of teas and bellinis with freshly made coulis it was the perfect high tea to celebrate the end of my time at university. Not to mention the setting was pretty idyllic too.DSC02917DSC02972

After all that it’s probably not really a surprise that we couldn’t resist going home without picking up a couple for the road. But with pastries this delicious it’s just too hard to say no!  DSC02912

If any of you are in or around Belfast, or even visiting in the future I highly recommend you swing by for a visit as with breakfast, lunch or dinner menus it’s perfect for every sort of celebration or even for an everyday treat. I’m still coming to terms with the post graduation blues so I’d love to hear your graduation stories, or if you have any cute places you like to visit I am always on the lookout for new recommendations. And if you haven’t graduated yet, good luck!

Culture at Cultivo Lounge

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As I write this I am packing for my final trip to Belfast to graduate (when did that happen?), so you can expect some posts from there popping up soon. In the meantime I thought I’d share with you all I recent trip I made to one of my favourite haunts when I’m back home to catch up with one of my oldest friends for some delicious food and a catch up!

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Proof that everything is amazing on the menu, I couldn’t decide between a cappuccino and their specialty sherbet lemonade. An amazing mix of lemon juice, sugar syrup, soda water and crush sherbet lemons, it’s something i’ll definitely be trying to recreate at home!

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Warning: The following picture may arouse severe food cravings.

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Urgh look at it, able to draw a stomach pang from even the pickiest of eaters. Eggs benedict is my absolute favourite and Cultivo Lounge nails it with super gooey eggs and a perfect, not too sharp hollandaise sauce and the inclusion of salty, crisp bacon really takes it to the next level.

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In the summer they just fling open the doors so you can sit out on the balcony, which is perfect for whiling away the hours people watching. With a menu that caters to both vegans and coeliacs it’s one of my favourite places to take people day or night, and luckily for me I have a lot of friends to catch up with….

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Breakfast with Besties

Every so often life brings a gift in the form of a bank holiday, and when you get that opportunity you have to grab it with both hands and run with it. With University, work and all life’s other chores … Continue reading