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Travel Guide: Atlantic City

Next up in my mini-series of Travel Guides is Atlantic City. When people ask me which was my favourite destination from our recent America trip, I have said Atlantic City simply because I love the beach and being by the sea. I think ‘glitz and kitsch’ sums up this place pretty well and it has been known as ‘Vegas by the Sea’. I don’t imagine that you would fly from the UK solely to visit Atlantic City but if you are in New York then I would definitely recommend adding a few days by the beach onto your trip.

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EAT

Wingcraft

Possibly Ian’s favourite restaurant from the entire two week trip, specialising in chicken wings and craft beer. We ate here several times and every meal was great.

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Boardwalk Cupcakes

If you fancy something sweet then this bakery has an amazing selection of cupcakes – I had a red velvet cupcake which was delicious.

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Cuba Libre

Located in the Tropicana Hotel, this Cuban restaurant does a mean rum cocktail and if you are feeling adventurous then I recommend the 15-course tasting menu which takes you on a culinary journey of Cuba…just make sure you are wearing your loosest jeans!

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DO

Explore the Boardwalk

I think the first thing you need to do after you have checked into your hotel is walk the Boardwalk. This four-mile stretch is the heart of Atlantic City and you get beautiful sea views as well as seeing everything the city has to offer. There are nightly light shows, firework displays and performance art as well as a huge selection of shops and restaurants to choose from. The pink sunsets are beautiful too.

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Go to the beach

A huge stretch of white sands, you must spend an afternoon on the beach. The waves are huge so expect to get knocked over at least once!

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Gamble

There are several themed casinos along the Boardwalk so you really should pop inside and try your luck either on one of the roulette tables or with the high rollers playing blackjack. We weren’t very lucky this time around but you never know when you might win big!

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Enjoy the Fairground

Along the Boardwalk is the Steel Pier which has a great little fairground on it. Depending on how brave you are feeling, have a go on one of the rides.

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Shop

Atlantic City has the Tanger Outlet shops and we went a bit crazy! Here you will find your big-named brands like Nike, DKNY, Aldo and Forever 21 and all offer amazing discounts.

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STAY

We stayed at the Atlantic City Sheraton which was a couple of blocks back from the Boardwalk but right next to the Tanger Outlet shops which was fine with me! The rooms were really spacious, there was a Starbucks in the lobby and there was parking too. Whilst our stay here was fine, I think if we came again we would probably stay in one of the hotels along the Boardwalk simply because I love a sea view.

TIPS

One of the best days of our holiday was a day trip we took to Cape May, about  50 minutes away from Atlantic City. If you have a car, you must visit this town, voted the best beach on the Jersey Shore. The beach is stunning and we even spotted a pod of dolphins when we were swimming! My dream is to return here, rent one of the beautiful pastel-coloured houses overlooking the beach and spend the whole summer playing in the waves and exploring the area. We also paid a visit to the Cape May Brewery and worked our way through their various beers which was very fun!

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Travel Diaries – New York (Part Two)

If you haven’t already, you can read Part One of our New York trip here!

Day Three – Wednesday 29th July

We were up bright and early for another beautiful, sunny day in NYC. We jumped on the Metro and headed for breakfast at Tick Tock Diner. I love American diners, especially their breakfast and brunch menus, and I had some delicious lemon and ricotta pancakes with a raspberry sauce and maple syrup.

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That morning, we decided to head up to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s one of those iconic New York buildings and just has the most breath-taking views, including my favourite building, the Flatiron. Weirdly, this also really helped me get my bearings and see how far apart various areas were – there was also another good audio guide session here!

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After we had taken in the views, we walked the High Line. This wasn’t in existence the last time we visited New York so was something I really wanted to do. An abandoned railway line, it is now an elevated walkway lined with wild flowers, art work and great views over the surrounding neighbourhoods. We wandered along, cooling off with some ice lollies (I had a refreshing cucumber and mint one), adding to the Lego artwork, dipping our feet in the water features and relaxing on the day beds.

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We ended up at the end of the High Line near Gansevoort Market, aka foodie heaven! There was such a lovely selection for lunch but I opted for another lobster roll, a mint iced tea and macarons for pudding.

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After lunch, we had a wander around Greenwich Village, visited Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker (which was a huge let down!) before popping back to the hotel for a cat nap as I had something very cool planned that evening…kayaking!

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I found a place online that offered free kayaking on the Hudson River and was slightly worried it sounded too good to be true. However, it was so much fun and such a pretty sight as the sun set although we did get very wet bottoms so had to go back and change before dinner!

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That night (the last in my twenties!) we went for wings and margaritas at Hooters (I love their chicken wings!) before heading back up the Empire State Building for a second view of the city at night. Although we had to queue for a bit longer, this was just as magical and I just don’t think I could ever get sick of the 360° views up there.

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Day Four – Thursday 30th July (and my 30th Birthday!)

I started my birthday off with another Central Park run and chai tea from Argo then opened my presents from Ian. He knows I can sometimes suffer with post-holiday blues so he bought me tickets to see three of my favourite comedians so we would have something to look forward to over the next few months – an excellent present!

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We went to Stardust Diner for breakfast, near Times Square. This place is so much fun – the waiters sing (mostly show tunes) as they serve and there is just a great atmosphere inside and the food was good too!

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After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro and spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum before a spot of shopping, which included theatre tickets for that night.

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I love Mexican food so we had an early dinner of taquitos and margaritas at a place near our hotel (it even had its own mariachi band!) before going to Broadway to watch the play ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. I enjoyed the book of this and had wanted to see the play for a little while. I loved it and thought the staging was excellent, although some of the Wiltshire accents were a little off!

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We ended my birthday with beers and mini birthday cakes in bed.

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Day Five – Friday 31st July (and our two-year wedding anniversary!)

For our last full day in New York, we hopped on the Metro again (we definitely got our money’s worth from our weekly passes!) and went for breakfast in Grand Central Station. The building upstairs is stunning but it also has a really nice food court downstairs too.

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We then had a very cultured morning visiting the Guggenheim and the Met. This was my first visit to the Guggenheim and I loved it. Lots of variety inside and I really love the way the curved inside of the building guided you through the exhibitions.

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We then walked up through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This place is huge so we decided to just pick a couple of exhibitions to enjoy and explored the Ancient Egyptian section, the featured ‘China’ one which had lots of Chinese-inspired clothing from the major fashion houses and then saw some Monet paintings (one of my favourite artists).

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It was getting on to lunchtime then so we headed to a New York institution – Katz’s Deli. The queues were out the door but well worth the wait. We got one pastrami and one beef brisket sandwich and they were huge! I think I preferred the brisket but both were exceptional…my Dad was very jealous of this visit!

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We decided to spend our last afternoon chilling in Central Park so grabbed some drinks and snacks, a good book and found a quiet spot on the grass. On the way we bought each other our anniversary presents too. You are meant to give cotton after two years of marriage so we bought each other an ‘I Love New York’ t-shirt to remember where we spent the day.

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We had planned a big, posh anniversary meal that night but were so stuffed from the huge sandwiches at Katz’s that we just decided to do that the following evening and opted for cocktails and a slice of pizza near to our hotel before cheesecake and wine in bed!

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And that was the first stop on our trip. We love New York and cannot wait to return. Next up, Atlantic City…

Recipe – Easy Mini Victoria Sponges

A bit of a cheat recipe today but one that I think is perfect to take on picnics – what is better on a summer’s day than a little Victoria sponge?!

I was in TKMaxx recently and picked up this baking tin for my cupboard, not realising it contained a baking kit inside too! I made my vanilla cakes as per the enclosed instructions but you can find a simple cupcake recipe online or buy some plain fairy cakes ready-made.

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I made my cakes, let them cool and removed the paper cases.

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To turn your plain cakes into Victoria sponges, you simply need to slice them in half and add jam and cream. I mixed mine up a bit and used strawberry jam, blackberry jam and lemon curd – I have to say the lemon curd ones were the winners for me! Not strictly speaking a Victoria sponge but a lovely summery twist on a traditional cake.

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You can either used freshly whipped cream or butter icing for the other filling – I find that fresh cream is good if you are going to eat the cakes that day but butter icing lasts a bit longer.

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Enjoy with a cup of tea or pack them up in your picnic basket and eat in the sunshine! x

Recipe – Cola Cupcakes

Happy weekend! It is a rather dull and grey Saturday here but I forced myself to go for a run and was really pleased to see I have hit the half stone mark on my New Year weight loss! I keep seeing the saying about summer bikini bodies being made in winter and I guess it’s true although it’s so tough to pull on your running shoes when it’s cold and windy outside.

In a complete about-turn, I am going to talk cupcakes now! I only made a small batch of these again and have been rationing myself to half a cake per day so although I am eating much healthier at the moment, I don’t feel completely denied of all treats.

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These have that lovely sweet, almost lemony cola flavour and I put this in both the cake and the icing to get a double hit of flavour…and of course, I just had to decorate them with some cola bottles too!

Ingredients (for 8 cupcakes)

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For the cakes

40g of butter or margarine, at room temperature

140g of caster sugar

120g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

A pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of cola syrup/ flavouring

140ml of milk

1 egg

For the icing

125g of icing sugar

40g of butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon of cola flavouring

15ml of milk

Cola bottles for decoration

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4 and line your muffin tray with cupcake cases
  • I used my Kitchen Aid for the mixing but it can obviously be done by hand too! Whisk together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until combined

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  • In a separate jug, mix the cola flavouring, milk and egg then gradually add this to the dry ingredients in the mixer until smooth

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  • Pour the batter into the cupcake cases (about half to two-thirds full) and then pop them in the oven

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  • Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked throughout

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  • Allow to cool while you make the frosting

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  • Whisk together the icing sugar and butter
  • In a separate jug or cup, mix the cola flavouring and milk then add it to the icing until it is light and fluffy
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread the icing on top with a knife or teaspoon
  • Top with the cola bottles and enjoy!

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Recipe – Parma Violet Cupcakes

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It feels like ages since I baked but truth be told we received sooooo many chocolates and biscuits for Christmas that we have spent the last few weeks working our way through them. I still have one Chocolate Orange lurking at the back of the cupboard but am pretty much done with the various M&S biscuit tins and Miniature Heroes so I felt it was time to dust off the Kitchen Aid and get baking.

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The trouble with being a keen baker and trying to eat a bit healthier is that the two just don’t go together. However, we all need a sweet treat now and again so I am going to try baking half batches of cupcakes and treats in order to ration myself slightly.

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Now, I know this recipe will invoke somewhat of a love/hate reaction in people as rose and violet flavours tend to be that way. I personally love these delicate tastes and these cupcakes are definitely for those that love Parma Violets as there is violet flavouring in both the cakes and the icing. If you are somewhere in the middle of the love/hate spectrum then I would advise replacing the violet flavouring from of the cakes with vanilla extract and just have the violet-flavoured icing.

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As well as using my new violet flavouring (thanks Mum!), I was also able to bake in my new pop-art cupcake cases (thanks Lucie!)…my friends and family know me so well!

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Ingredients (for 6-8 cupcakes)

For the sponge:

40g of butter or margarine at room temperature

140g of caster sugar

120g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

A pinch of salt

Half a teaspoon of violet flavouring

140ml of milk

1 egg

For the icing:

125g of icing sugar

40g of butter at room temperature

1 teaspoon of violet flavouring

15ml of milk

Edible glitter to decorate (optional)

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4 and line your muffin tray with cupcake cases
  • I used my Kitchen Aid for the mixing but it can obviously be done by hand too! Whisk together the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt until combined

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  • In a separate jug, mix the violet flavouring, milk and eggs then gradually add this to the dry ingredients in the mixer until smooth
  • Pour the batter into the cupcake cases (about half to two-thirds full) and then pop them in the oven

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  • Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and cooked throughout

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  • Allow to cool while you make the frosting

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  • Whisk together the icing sugar and butter
  • In a separate jug or cup, mix the violet flavouring and milk then add it to the icing until it is light and fluffy
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread the icing on top with a knife or teaspoon

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  • I sprinkled some pink edible glitter on top for decoration too

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Beauty Review – April Birchbox

It is shaping up to be a gorgeous Bank Holiday here! We have been determined to make the most of the fleeting sunshine and have been to a great new lobster pop-up restaurant (review coming soon!), saw some friends yesterday at a little beer and cider festival then popped across Bristol to see more friends and their pups and have an amazing chilli together!

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Today is looking a little more chilled out with a nice long walk to see the lambs and calves in the surrounding fields followed by a huge roast dinner tonight with a film…can we make three-day weekends mandatory?!

I’m a bit late with this Birchbox review but it is well worth the wait as yet again, I received a great box of goodies – they are doing so well with their brands and products at the moment!

Here is my first peek in the box…

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This month has a foodie theme to the box with the products being ‘Good Enough to Eat’ and a Hummingbird Bakery cupcake recipe included too. I love using nice-smelling body products so I thought this was a pretty cool theme to follow.

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First up, the foodie in me grabbed the bag of popcorn! I have tried ProperCorn before but not this flavour – Sweet Coconut and Vanilla – and it was delicious. Coming in at under 40 calories a bag meant it was a totally guilt-free treat too!

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Next up, a Laura Mercier Fresh Fig Body Butter. I love this brand so was really pleased to see another product from them and fig is one of my favourite scents so I am looking forward to using this.

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Now I don’t really need another mint green nail varnish but this one by Color Club in the shade Breakfast At… has a lovely pearlescent finish to it which makes it unlike anything I already own. I like this nail varnish brand and I think this shade will make it into my next manicure.

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I was pleased to see a new brand included in the box too. I received Yin Yang’s Skin Cleanser which smells really refreshing and is an all-natural product.

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I have used foundations by RMK before and really liked the dewy finish they gave my skin so I was happy to find another product from them – a lightweight make up base. This doesn’t provide any colour or coverage but is meant to smooth and hydrate the skin to make your base last that little bit longer.

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Finally, another of my favourite brands – theBalm! I love the packaging of their products and this gorgeous cheek and lip cream is no exception. I received the shade Pie which is a bright pinky-red shade which can be built up to achieve your desired colour. I have used this as a blusher and a lip colour so far and was impressed.

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Overall, a great little box this month!

Wishing you a lovely, food-filled and relaxing Bank Holiday weekend x

Recipe – Cookies ‘n’ Cream Cupcakes

And so another wet and grey week comes to an end. It’s been a good one but I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing for some sunshine! It took me over an hour to get home on Friday night as the town I drive through was busy putting up their flood defences as we brace ourselves for another wet weekend.

It’s not all bad though. When you can’t go outside, you have to work extra hard to find things to do inside and I can usually be found pottering away in the kitchen.

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I decided to try out a new cake recipe, with the help of a few packets of Oreo cookies in the cake batter and the icing. These cupcakes are delicious and the crunch of the biscuits add another texture to make these even tastier!

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Ingredientsoreo24

For the cupcakes

225g of room temperature butter or margarine

225g of caster sugar

225g of self-raising flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

10 Oreo cookies

For the icing

375g of icing sugar, sieved

225g of room temperature butter

A pinch of salt

10 Oreo cookies

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4 and pop your baking cases into a muffin tinoreo1
  • Cream together the butter and sugar then add the self-raising flour, baking powder, eggs and vanilla extract until combinedoreo8 oreo9
  • Bash up the first lot of Oreo cookies – I find a rolling pin and a sandwich bag does the trick!oreo5 oreo7
  • Add the cookie crumbs to the batter and stiroreo11
  • Spoon the cake mixture into the cases – I managed to make about 20 cakesoreo13 oreo18
  • Bake for 20 minutes and allow to cooloreo23
  • For the icing, beat together the icing sugar, butter and saltoreo19
  • Bash up the remaining 10 Oreo cookies then mix these crumbs through the icingoreo20
  • There is no point trying to make this icing look perfect so dollop a spoonful on and smooth it down with the back of a teaspoonoreo26

Food Diary – One

Like a large chunk of the UK population, I started the year trying to put my naughty Christmas eating habits to one side and focus on making sure I was eating slightly less and a bit healthier. I am loathe to use the word ‘diet’ as, to me, that indicates something temporary whereas I wanted to get back into the healthy eating routine I was in before Christmas made it OK to have cheese and cream as one of my daily food groups!

I decided that rather than keeping a food diary (something I have found useful in the past), I would go digital and photograph my food for a week to see where I could make some improvements.

I often photograph the food I make and share it on here or Instagram but this was slightly different in that I was taking a picture of everything, even my boring bottle of Actimel I have each morning!

January 1st

I don’t know how people can start their new routines and resolutions on the 1st – I always have to wait until the 2nd as I’m usually a hungover carb-craving mess! I woke up to 2014 at my friend Lucie’s house, who was the hostess with the mostess and made us the best fry-up, complete with a large plate of pastries to start the year off.

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After a long drive home, Ian and I spent the evening grazing on leftover Christmas snacks and cheese and drinking lots of tea and coffee.

January 2nd

I started the day with an Actimel drink and a peach yogurt mixed with granola. I didn’t actually eat this until about 11:30 so just had an apple for a snack in the afternoon and for dinner we had pancetta, chicken and ricotta ravioli with a lovely garlicky pesto and Parmesan.

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Treat? My treat for the day was a slice of chocolate yule log.

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Exercise? I forced myself to go on my first run of the year – a 6km lap of our village.

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January 3rd

Another Actimel drink and a pineapple yogurt with some granola for breakfast. Lunch was cheesy beans on tiger bread toast followed by a satsuma. I had a strange craving that night for something pickled and found these gherkins in the cupboard – no, it’s not a pregnancy craving, I always have unusual foodie urges! For dinner, I made a healthy, wholesome vegetable stew of onions, carrots, swede, parsnips, potatoes, tomatoes and lots of herbs. I couldn’t resist a bit of cheese on top too.

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Treat? Another slice of chocolate yule log, this time heated up and topped with cream.

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Exercise? Another 6km run

January 4th

I started the day with an Actimel then vanilla yogurt with granola and fresh pomegranate seeds. Lunch was toasted tiger bread with scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes and some hot sauce. Dinner was my Cheeseboard Quiche with salad, still hot and slightly gooey from the oven!

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Treat? Warmed chocolate yule log and cream

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Exercise?  My 50 minute step DVD

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January 5th

Just an Actimel for breakfast today, followed by coffee and a warm banana and chocolate muffin, straight from the oven! For lunch, I had a slice of the Cheeseboard Quiche with salad and another serving of stew for dinner.

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Treat? Another muffin!

Exercise? A short 2km run…it started raining!

January 6th

First day back at work and the return of my challenge to make interesting lunches! I started the day with an Actimel, yogurt, granola and fresh pomegranate seeds (and managed to get the juice everywhere!) For lunch, I finished off the last slice of my Cheeseboard Quiche with some salad and then had half a pizza with extra artichokes on top for dinner.

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Treat? Two mini chocolates with a cuppa.

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Exercise? My Pilates class – I thought it would be a gentle one but my teacher had other ideas!

January 7th

Our anniversary! I knew we would be going out for dinner that night so I tried to be really good all day. I am a creature of habit when I find something I like and breakfast today was once again an Actimel, yogurt and granola. For lunch, I had a bowl of hot tomato and basil soup then had the most wonderful steak dinner with my beau. We didn’t hold back and had a sharing platter, steak with two potato-based side dishes and an espresso chocolate mousse for dessert. I was so full waddling walking back to the car!

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Treat? Our dinner!

Exercise? Not today, although I was on my feet all day at work.

So there is a week in food pictures! I would say it is a pretty standard representation of what we eat but there is one thing missing that would usually pop up on there every couple of days…BOOZE!

Ian and I are trying to do ‘Dry January’ and I hadn’t found it too tough until we were in the restaurant last night and I started craving a G&T and a glass of red! I don’t drink too much but I do want to see this challenge through.

Although I am doing this to get a bit fitter and healthier, I couldn’t resist jumping on the scales to see if giving up the booze and cutting back a bit had made any difference to my weight. I was pleased to have lost 2.4lbs this week and I really don’t feel like I have made any major sacrifices or missed out on anything too much. Also, knowing I was going to photograph everything I ate made me think again when I was tempted to have another cake or piece of chocolate so I think I will continue to review my diet this way.

Are you trying to be good and eat better this January? x

Hello December!

So the best month of the year is finally here! I feel like I have been so busy recently that it has kind of crept up on me but the Christmas decorations are down from the loft so I feel that things are going to get very festive around here soon…

Ian and I have had a pretty awesome weekend with friends. We jumped on the train to London on Friday evening after work, enjoyed a sneaky cocktail, a quick manicure and Ian caught 20 winks!

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We made our way to see my friend Cat where she greeted us with the most delicious ham, leek and potato pie, a bottle of red and white and a lemon tarte…perfect hostess!

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The next morning, we wrapped up warm and headed to Spitalfields Market, where we met more friends and indulged in cupcakes from Lola’s (my peanut butter one was lovely!), some ales and shopping.

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Afterwards, we had a late lunch at Meat Mission (review coming soon) which was incredible. I think if I lived in London and had access to such amazing burger places I would be the size of a house!

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We spent the rest of the afternoon in a local pub catching up and reminiscing about our days at university before ordering some puddings to finish our night.

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We got home this afternoon, both pretty shattered, but our living room has been dusted, polished, hoovered and mopped ready to put the tree up whilst watching Elf and drinking mulled wine…if that doesn’t get me in the mood for Christmas then nothing will!

Finally, I wanted to share this year’s advent calendar…

Beauty advent calendars made an appearance last year and seem to have grown in popularity this year. I mentioned to my lovely husband that I fancied one and was over the moon when he came back with this one from Boots a few days later!

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This was around £30 but has over £65 worth of products hidden inside by a variety of brands. I have done my best not to read the back of the box or look at any spoilers online so I get a true surprise every morning.

I will post a picture on Instagram of my advent goodies each day and will probably do a little round of products every few days.

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I opened Day 1 earlier and was gifted with a Soap and Glory moisturising body wash. I love this brand so I hope the rest of the box is as good!

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Recipe – Lemon Drizzle Muffins

Happy Sunday! It feels like it is well and truly November now – it is cold, windy and a little drizzly. I forced myself to get up and out of bed before the rain started to go on a run but I have plans to experiment with a new cookie recipe and we also have a new ice cream maker so I feel I may undo all of my hard work later today!

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Talking of being a little naughty, these muffins are so easy to make and taste delicious. I love a chunky slice of lemon drizzle cake and these moist and zingy little muffins are just as good and slightly easier to share out in the staff room or at a bake sale.

Ingredients

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250g of butter or margarine, at room temperature

250g of caster sugar

3 eggs

250g of self-raising flour

The juice and zest of 3 lemons

150g of granulated sugar

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 140°C, Gas Mark 3
  • Line your muffin tray with paper or silicone cupcake caseslemon3
  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter and caster sugar
  • Add the eggs, flour, zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1lemon2
  • Pour the batter into the cupcake cases and bake for around 30 minutes until golden brown and cooked throughoutlemon4
  • Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the lemon drizzle by combining the granulated sugar, the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 2lemon8
  • To ensure the lemon drizzle flavour really gets into the muffins, I like to make some pinpricks with a toothpick
  • Pour the drizzle over the top and leave to drylemon7
  • Best served in bed with tea and Netflix!

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