Debbie Does Devon pt 2… BOOZE AND BEACH

IMG_2402So following on from the last post, after dinner we got ready to see what kind of nightlife Barnstaple had to offer!  We ventured to one of the oldest nightclubs in Barnstaple called Venue, entry was free before midnight (we turned up at 11.55pm) and drinks were an amazing buy one get one free so the girls thinking they ordered 1 jagerbomb and 1 G&T each, actually got two of each, throw in my can of energy drink to keep me awake the entire round of 13 drinks came to a grand total of £21… TAKE THAT LONDON!  This was probably the point I was most depressed about my decision not to drink but downing my vile tasting energy drink I decided to embrace it!

I embraced sober night-clubing by taking lots of pictures and using the dance floor as a kind of work out space, I actually had a lot of fun dancing with my friends and before I knew it, it was 3 am and time to head home!  The club could have been busier and the crowd could have been ‘cooler’ but we still had a great night, the DJ was awesome he played pretty much anything we requested; Bethan got her 90’s Garage, Lindsay her Drum and Bass and Rachel her Ibiza anthems… Venue really did offer something for everyone.

IMG_2394IMG_2413IMG_2412IMG_2395IMG_2396IMG_2397IMG_2393Can you believe it, even though I had a sober night the next morning I still awoke not feeling great, the other girls were all hangover and I was either having sympathy symptoms or the caffeine from the energy drink just didn’t agree with me and made me feel like I was hangover… whatever it was I was not happy and decided a walk in the fresh air will help me and the others feel better.

Our sunday walk was at Saunton Sands, a lovely surfing beach not too far from Barnstaple, we parked up and walked along the beach admiring the freshly painted beach huts and talented wind & kite surfers braving the gales whilst talking about everything and anything until our ears hurt too much from the oncoming wind and we decided to turn back.

The long drive back to London wasn’t so fun, going home never is… but one bonus about going to the beach off-season is the traffic, well lack of traffic ;) before we knew it we were back in the city in time for an early night to start another 9-5 working week.

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Debbie Does Devon pt 1… BIKES AND BOOZE

IMG_2382My friends and I were long due a weekend catch up so we had arranged a weekend get away to the beach… With hindsight maybe October wasn’t the most ideal time to choose for a beach getaway but Rach has a holiday home we could stay in for free and we had no other plans so we all met up after work on Friday for the long drive down to Barnstaple.

Saturday morning was spent at the local market buying fresh ingredients for our dinner followed by a 15-mile round trip cycle along an old railway line from Barnstaple to Instow!  Poor Bethan was a little too small for her bike and had a little accident, which I kindly caught on camera to share with you all below ;)  The bike ride is so easy, very flat and pretty much straight along one cycle path the whole way there and back.

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Arriving at Instow we had intended a bike pub crawl BUT quickly realised we had no lights on the bikes so were limited to an hour in one pub before the sun started to set, we settled for a drink at the Instow Arms, sitting at the front of the bar overlooking the beach (view of which is the header picture of this post) as we drunk, shared a delicious brownie and played a few games of shithead before getting back on the bikes for a 40 minute cycle back to Barnstaple,  we all made a mental note to come back and try some of the great sounding local food the Instow Arms offered if we ever found ourselves back in the area!

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IMG_2385Making it back to Barnstaple in one piece we stopped at the Rolle Quay Inn pub for a pre-dinner darts game of Around The World… I believe I was cheated by the girls not allowing my legitimate throw to the outer bullseye count, they changed the rules that closest to the bullseye win after none of us could land a red bullseye… I was not bitter at all – well done Rach; your shot that broke the board and the other that landed on an entire different wall to the dartboard exemplified your deserving win ;)

Dinner was a knock up of an old favorite Monk fish soft taco recipe Lindsay blogged about years ago, see it here!!!  The same fish monger that supplied the monkfish in the original recipe didn’t have any available so we substituted it with line caught Bass and tiger prawn tails… It still tasted delicious and super healthy.  I failed to mention that whilst the girls had enjoyed a drink or two in the pubs I was completely sober as I have given up alcohol for october!  After diner the sober me joined the tipsy girls to get ready for a night out in Barnstaple, more on that in my next post, I shall leave you now with some food porn of our delicious tasting dinner…

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How do you like your eggs in the morning?

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How about this for an easy breakfast…baked ham & eggs? My personal trainer is trying to get me to eat more protein, especially for breakfast but I love my sleep so I’m finding it extremely difficult to wake up early enough to make breakfast in the week!

But thanks to social media I discovered the easiest cooked breakfast ever… Baked ham and egg cups! To make this, all you need is sliced ham and eggs.

Simply lightly grease a muffin tin or ramekin and line it with slices of ham, crack open the eggs and place in a pre-heated oven at 200 celicius for 15-20 minutes.

15 minutes for me created the perfect runny yoke, but it took me a few days to perfect the timing and as most people’s egg preference is different I recommend keeping a close eye on your first batch to judge when you think it’s ready to take out of the oven!

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I serve my eggs with a portion of baked beans! I’ve perfected it now that I wake up, eggs in the oven, shower and then eat, so easy and not too much sleep is sacrificed #WinWin

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Sunday Funday!

IMG_2093I named this past Sunday, “Sunday Funday” as my darling niece, Rhiannon and her mum / my older sister came to hang out with me and McD in London.  Given they actually don’t live too far from the big city themselves I decided to plan a day full of fun activities, just because I love spoiling my beautiful niece!

The day started with an 11am appointment at the Pottery Cafe in Battersea, I blogged about pottery painting before when I did it on the Isle of Wight and always thought it would be a fun place to take Rhiannon.  We arrived as soon as the pottery cafe opened and selected our pottery to paint: Rhiannon went with a skull money box for her bedroom and Helen a large bowl for our mum to use when she visits her.  I went for a vase, my rationale being as I painted the vase McD will have to keep it full with beautiful flowers?  McD decided upon a small milk/sauce/gravy jug… I wonder if his rationale was the same as mine?

IMG_2081IMG_2082IMG_2102It was a fun 2 hours, I have to wait a week to see the final results as the pottery needs to be kilned but it was a great start to our Sunday Funday.  The activity is a little pricey… the whole session for all four of us came to just over £100, but was well worth it for an entertaining treat!

Next I had planned a visit to Haché, I wanted to show Rhiannon my favourite London Burger Restaurant!  Before our burgers & smoothies came McD and Rhiannon bonded over their shared love of making fun of me, thankfully this stopped as soon as the food was served!

IMG_2087IMG_2095IMG_2110After almost suffocating Rhiannon with my kisses (I don’t see enough of her so when I do I can’t help but be OTT with the affection!) we took the tube up to Waterloo and walked over to South Bank where we took a stroll and enjoyed the sights before my final activity of the day.

IMG_2094IMG_2108Given it’s October and nearly Halloween I had booked us all to go around The London Dungeons, Rhiannon was in her absolute element bantering with all the actors.  The whole experience lasts just over 90 minutes, you are taken on a journey through the grim horror stories of London; scary interactions with Plague Doctors, Jack The Ripper and Sweeney Todd are broken up with a couple of amusing rides.

I wouldn’t really recommend visiting the Dungeons as an adult, both McD and I were not overly impressed BUT Rhiannon absolutely loved it so if you have any 9 year olds needing to be entertained this Halloween I think this could be your answer, make sure you buy your tickets online for the best prices and guaranteed entry at the time you desire.

After the Dungeons we said our goodbyes and returned home… as cliché as it sounds it was so nice to spend quality time with my niece and sister, and of course for them to get to know McD better, I wonder if this little interaction swayed McD to consider spending Christmas with my family this year?! ;)

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The Ginstitute… Getting the mother ruined!

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So after the stress from the meeting of the parents, McD organised an amazing birthday treat for his mum in Notting Hill.  He had arranged for us to all go to The Ginsitute to learn about Gin and blend our very own London Dry Gin!  Located on the famous Portobello Road, upstairs, above The Portobello Star Pub, we arrived promptly for the 7pm evening session McD had booked the three of us on to.

To be honest the reception could have been better, the pub was quite busy and when we asked one of the staff behind the bar where to go they just told us to wait a while, so with that we explored the quaint bar (which didn’t take long given it’s quite small) and then just perched at a free table.  Probably sensing our thirst and bewilderment we were treated to a complimentary Gin & Tonic (drink #1) to enjoy whilst we wait, and as soon as we finished we were told we could make our way upstairs to the Ginstitute.

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For the first part of the session McD, his mum and myself along with 7 other Ginstitute attendees were taken to a small room styled to mimic a Gin Palace which was full of antique Gin memorabilia.  As soon as we entered we were offered a Tom Collins (drink #2) each and all took a seat and enjoyed our drink whilst being told about the history of Gin.  The talk was very informative and we shown a lot of interesting Gin related artifacts which I won’t spoil/bore you all with now.

I did however sneak a photo of an original cocktail book they hold with the earliest recorded Martini Cocktail Recipe in it as well as a photo of their collection of original Pimms No.1,2,3,4&6 bottles.  During the talk we were offered another Gin & Tonic (drink #3) and then once the talk was over ANOTHER Gin & Tonic (drink #4) to take upstairs whilst we move on to the second part of the event and create our own London Dry Gin.

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After learning a lot about the history of Gin we made our way further upstairs to a room to learn about how they distill and flavour gin and what botanicals are used to specifically make London Dry Gin.  Again I don’t want to bore you with too much of the science and complexities of Gin, you can learn this for yourself if you ever attend the Ginstitute.  But once we were taught the science of blending the botanicals we were let loose to create our very own Gin.

This is when “Debbie Does Gin” was created; a London dry gin including the botanicals of Juniper Berries, coriander Seed, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Caco, Orange Peel, Cardamom and liquorice.  The beauty of The Ginstitute is that my recipe is held on file with them forever so if I or you ever want to order a bottle of it you just have to fill in their web order form with the bottle number of the creation, it’s 5658 if you were wondering ;)

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A minor criticism was that after you create your Gin recipe you have to wait around for it to be created and labeled before you and the other attendees go back down to the Gin Palace room for a final Martini Cocktail (drink #5) and say your goodbyes.  I would suggest serving the martini whilst we wait for our gin’s to be bottled one at a time as this would have made the wait a little more enjoyable ;)

The cost of Ginstitute is £100 per a person, and although at first it may appear costly, I actually believe it to be pretty good value given you are entertained most of the evening, receive 5 gin cocktails and take home a 70cl bottle of your very own recipe of London Dry Gin as well as a 70cl bottle of The Ginstitute’s very own Portobello Road Gin; summing all that together £100 seems a very fair price for the evening!  Both McD and his mum thoroughly enjoyed themselves too, I would definitely recommend this to all Gin loving Londoners / London tourists, just make sure you don’t attend with an empty stomach ;)

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Happy Birthday Mummy McD

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A few weeks ago McD’s mum came to stay and play in London with us all for a week, it was super exciting as we got the added bonus of having her beautiful miniature Labradoodle, Carmy to come and stay with us too :) Mummy McD was celebrating a birthday so her two boys planned to spoil her rotten all week, which luckily meant a little of this spoiling rubbed off on to me and Josie (Oh, whilst I’m on the subject of Josie, you really should check out her blog too she’s way funnier and a far better writer than me!)

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The week started off with the dreaded “meet the parents”, yes approximately 22 months after McD and I met, we thought it was time for Mummy McD to meet Daddy & Mummy Walpole, I am kicking myself I didn’t get a group shot of the meeting but a cheeky snap of McD, Mummy McD & Me sitting at the dinner table is below!  Oh in case you are wondering the meeting went very well, my dad managed to not go too political with his conversations and both parties seemed to get on :)

IMG_1800.JPG The rest of the week was made up of long walks with Carmy, lunches and dinners out around London and a couple of birthday surprises, McD’s surprised her with a fantastic gin themed present (more about that in my next post) and Jules & Josie (I’ll be abbreviating them to J&J in the future) arranged a little visit to the West End to watch a fabulous play called 39 Steps, I really recommend it, fabulous acting and direction!IMG_1796.JPG

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Mummy McD’s actual birthday was on the Sunday and the weather surprisingly looked good so we planned a nice relaxing sunday out on the terrace, we had a lovely sunday roast leg of lamb with a difference, the difference being it wasn’t roasted instead it was de-boned, butterflied and barbecued so we could enjoy it al fresco!  For dessert we all enjoyed delicious cupcakes made by Josie.

After lunch Mummy McD whipped out a bag of conkers she had collected from some of her walks, so we had a little conker competition, followed by some table tennis action… the time seemed to fly by and before we knew it the day was over.  The autumn breeze picked up enough for us to retire inside and we chilled on the sofa to watch a little X Factor and Downtown Abbey before we all went exhausted to bed.IMG_1793

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IMG_1801.JPGI’ll end this post with my favourite shot of the week our beautiful birthday selfie which even Carmy managed to get into!!!!  Happy Birthday Mummy McD, I hope you had as much fun as McD & I did, can’t wait to top the birthday celebrations next year ;)

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Adventurous Advents….

IMG_1784I know it’s only just October what am I writing a blog post about christmas and advent calendars now for BUT you have the lovely people at Selfridges to thank for this ;)  I recently received a press release from Selfridges telling me about their fabulous new beauty advent calendar which was released for sale yesterday, last year’s was a sell out and if I hadn’t planned to be out of the country for almost three weeks of December I would certainly be investing in one, but don’t let my disappointment stop you… I had a little google search and I want to share my findings with you for not only this amazing advent calendar but some other unusual ones you could turn to instead of the standard chocolate advent…

Selfridges Enchanted Spells… £85

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Containing 24 luxurious miniature products from premium brands such as Lancome, YSL, Kiehl’s, Victor & Rolfe, etc – just imagine how much better about yourself this will make you feel instead of opening a door to a piece of chocolate every day!

Coincidence I think not considering the press release was sent out to every newspaper, magazine and blogger my friend on Facebook shared this Cosmopolitan link of other beauty advent calendars available this year, with brands such as Liberty, Body Shop and Benefit launching their 2014 advent calendar too there is enough choice to cater most tastes and budgets!

Yankee candles… £24.99

IMG_1776If beauty isn’t your thing how about candles and smelling nice?  I found this gem of an advent calendar over at http://www.lovearoma.co.uk,  with different scented tea lights behind each door you can keep your home smelling festive and fresh up untill christmas morning when you can fill the house with the smell of your Turkey!  The candles are fabulously festively named too, which scented candle could be behind door number 1… maybe Icicles, Freshly Cut Christmas Garland, Snowflake Cookie or Cranberry Ice?

Master of Malt… Alcohol Tasting Advent Calendar £99.95-£279.95

IMG_1780I am so annoyed McD & I are away most of December as the Master of Malt’s Whiskey Advent Calendar at £149 .95 would have been the perfect gift for McD, he is a massive whiskey fan and having the opportunity to taste so many whiskeys is so up his street… this is definitely going on the ‘to buy’ list for next year!

If whiskey isn’t your thing they have alternatives too, I have ear-marked their gin version for myself, aptly named The Ginvent, which retails at £114.95.   If your poison isn’t Gin or Whiskey how about Rum, Cognac, Tequila or vodka?

Bunting Advent Calendar with all the sweets… £19.90

IMG_1774Obviously there had to be some form of edible option in this list and I absolutely love this offering by Cocoapod sold on http://www.NotOnTheHighStreet.Com; you’ll receive a box of retro sweets and 24 paper bags, numbered stickers, cord and pegs to create your own bunting… I love this idea because once the bunting starts to get eaten you can reuse the pegs and cord to hang up your christmas cards… keeping your room all festive and cheery!

Lego Calendar… £15

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Finally, I saw this and I couldn’t miss it off the list, my nephew like so many other people loves Lego but did you know they do advent calendars too?  This City Advent calendar contains lots of Lego accessories to christmasify (is that even a word?!) any Lego construction.  But if Lego isn’t your thing Asda also offer any Barbie loving kids a Barbie Advent Calendar for £17.97 containing a fabulous selection of accessories for your Barbie.

So there you go that’s my top 5 unusual christmas advents, chocolate calendars are so last year, I am definitely going the non chocolate advent route  for the future.  FYI if you are wondering at the time of writing this post christmas was exactly 88 days away, more accurate time of how far christmas is when you read this post can be found here, MERRY CHRISTMAS! xXx

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Debbie Does… Kelesa

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I recently had the pleasure of attending a friend’s birthday celebration feast at Kalesa in Battersea, London.  Located on Lavender hill it’s perfectly placed to many as their local Filipino restaurant, you can’t miss the brightly coloured fun frontage of the restaurant from the street, once inside you are welcomed by a whole host of interesting art and artifacts from the Philippines.  Because my friend Charina had hired the entire restaurant for her birthday we were greeted by the longest table ever, so after a few drinks to toast the birthday girl we all sat down to enjoy our Filipino birthday feast.

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I was fortunately seated in the middle of the table so excellent location to pig out (mind the pun) we were treated to a traditional Filipino banquet consisting of rice, noodles, a whole roasted pig, marinated chicken, vegetables and ending with a choice of traditional Filipino desserts.  The food was non stop, and amazing value for money too!

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Given the sheer numbers of us seated all at once the service could not be faulted, very friendly staff and competent chefs preparing authentic great tasting Filipino food.  I realise my review is a little biased given we didn’t really experience the restaurant in a normal scenario but I definitely plan to come back here with McD for date night, but what I can say for sure is this little taste of The Philippines in SW london has certainly got me excited to experience the real thing this December.

Happy Birthday Charina xXx

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The SACO Kitchen Challenge

IMG_1390I was recently asked by SACO  if I would like to enter their SACO Kitchen Challenge competition.  For those who don’t know SACO, they are a serviced apartment provider offering serviced apartments for daily, weekly or monthly rent in over 40 countries world-wide offering a business or tourist a competitive alternative to a hotel room.

The challenge was to come up with a 2 course dinner menu costing no more than £20 total using only the equipment found in a SACO kitchen; how much better is that than a hotel room, a fully equipped kitchen to hand instead of a crappy kettle and small mini bar fridge?!  Below was the kitchen inventory list I was instructed I could work from:IMG_1387

So last Thursday McD and I stayed in for our date night and cooked our competition entry, Pea, Bacon & mint risotto followed by a Fresh Mint Brownie.  Resisting the urge to pop to Marks & Spencer or somewhere similar for their dine in for 2 £10 offers I popped to one of my nearest supermarkets, Waitrose and purchased the following:

1x Onion (14p)

Frozen Peas (£1.47)

Pack of Bacon (£2.99)

Risotto Rice (£1.23)

Chicken Stock (£1)

Pack of Fresh Mint (82p)

Salted Butter 250g (£1.10)

Parmesan Cheese (£1.59)

Caster Sugar (99p)

Plain Flour (60p)

Baking Powder (93p)

Cocoa Powder (£2.20)

6 eggs (£1)

White Wine Vinegar (£1.15)

Baking Paper (£2.25)

My total spend came to £19.46 and although my brief was to feed two, there was enough food purchased to comfortably feed 4 or even possibly 6 people!  I will not put the recipes into this post directly as nice to have them referenced in separate posts so please follow the links below for the two recipes I created:

Pea, Ham & Mint Risotto

Fresh Mint Chocolate Brownie

McD loved both the dishes, and claimed this meal definitely made it in to his top 10 home cooked meals of all time, obviously it is true, food is the way to a man’s heart ;)

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Pea, Ham & Mint Risotto

IMG_1379So my main meal for the SACO kitchen challenge is a Pea, Ham & Mint Rissoto, it is not the most amazing dish to look at and take photos of but I promise it is satisfyingly full of flavour and ridiculously easy to make.  The ingredients needed are:

A mug of risotto rice

A mug of frozen peas

packet of bacon cut up in to chunks

1 onion – chopped up

500ml of chicken stock

Parmesan cheese to season

Knob of butter to fry bacon and onion

bunch of fresh mint

Eggs & White wine vinegar (optional)

IMG_1377The method is incredibly easy, start by frying the bacon in a little of the butter, once cooked drain the fat from the frying pan and set the aside the bacon on a plate for later.

Next add a little more butter to the pan and fry the onions for a few minutes on a high heat, then pour the cup of risotto rice in to the frying pan and fry the onions and rice together for two minutes, ensuring you keep stirring the rice with a wooden spoon.

Add back the bacon and slowly add 1/4 of the chicken stock, with the temperature still on high keep stirring the rice so it doesn’t stick to the pan and wait for the stock to be absorbed into the rice, once absorbed and not much liquid is left in the pan repeat and another 1/4 of the chicken stock and stir until that is almost fully absorbed, then repeat for a third time.

Once the third quarter of chicken stock has been absorbed you can add the mug of peas along with the remaining 1/4 of chicken stock to the frying pan and continue stirring.

IMG_1378Risotto may be easy to make BUT it does require a lot of attention, you need to stir it continuously so it doesn’t stick to the pan and the rice absorbs as much flavour as possible, after all the chicken stock has been added pour in 500ml of boiled water and continue stirring the risotto on high heat.

Continue the stirring for 10-20 minutes, once most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice tastes cooked the risotto is done.  Turn down the heat and stir in a generous portion of parmesan cheese and your finely chopped fresh mint, simply add as much or little as your taste requires.

IMG_1375-0A great way to serve the risotto is with a poached egg on top, so with the two spare eggs I had left over from my brownie recipe I poached two eggs in a small pan.  Once the eggs were poached I plated up the risotto and served immediately!  IMG_1380

Delicious, the egg was a great addition, try this recipe I promise you will not be disappointed, it may not look much visually, but I promise it tasted sublime!  A few more pictures that just don’t do it enough justice for you:IMG_1384

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