25 August 2017

Cool Things you can do in Switzerland

I'm on holiday, woo! 

And in the weeks before my holiday, I remember having many a discussion with family, friends and workmates, who - with a simple look at the rain we seem to have had all month - questioned my choice of booking our family holiday to the Scottish Highlands, as opposed to Spain, Corfu, Turkey or any of the other sunnier destinations they were all flying off to! 

Now, sadly coming to the end of our holiday, I regret nothing! We've had a wonderful time in Scotland and I'm looking forward to getting back and reminding those folks at home with renewed vigour - there's more than one kind of holiday! 

With that in mind, along with my apparent predilection for beautiful scenery over sunshine and my desire to enjoy the last couple of days of my trip, let me pass you on to my guest poster who can tell you some of the best reasons to visit Switzerland - I'm already convinced! 

Cool Things You Can Do In Switzerland

Travelling, they say, is the best way to broaden one’s perspective. It does not just allow you to see tourist attractions or taste local food, but it also enables you to meet other people and talk to them. Indeed, travelling is the best way to immerse yourself in a different culture and truly live in other people’s shows. However, true travelling is being a globetrotter rather than a tourist, and the best way to start is in Europe. The continent is home to a rich and vibrant history, one that is wholly preserved in their cities. And there is nothing like seeing the old world mix with new world luxuries -- it gives the place texture and personality.

Europe is a vast continent though, not to mention, countries are extremely close to each other. So while it is the perfect first chapter in your travels, the next question would be which country you should start with.  For that, the answer is simple Switzerland. Yes, a Switzerland vacation is an ideal prelude to your European tour because it has everything - medieval landmarks, mountains, good food, and some of the happiest people in the world.

Shopping and food tour around the city
Let us start off with something simple, and activity you probably already love doing: shopping. Especially if you plan on exploring the whole of Switzerland, it would be best to get shopping out of the way first, each time you are visiting a new town or city. When you stop by Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, you would see chic boutiques, high-end brands, and local labels that highlight their exclusive Swiss fashion trends. You can start by browsing through all of the shops and see which items will catch your attention. But do not just limit yourselves to clothes, accessories, and house fixtures, consider buying chocolates and cheese in Switzerland -- both of which are Swiss specialties. One of their most famous cheese dishes is melting Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois, and mixing in garlic, cherry brandy, and white wine. They also serve raclette dishes that will surely get you stuffed with cheese for the whole week.

If you can, try to rent a car so that you will not have any problems roaming around the city with hands full of shopping bags and a stomach full of cheese and chocolates.

Hiking and skiing activities in mountainous towns
If that view of the Alps and the other purple or snowcapped mountains are to go by, you would know that Switzerland is home to some of the best ski slopes and hike trails. Outdoor, nature-based activities are a norm in Switzerland, if you are the adventurous type, you would surely enjoy yourself here. Make your way to Zermatt where you can find 200 miles of slopes to ski and 400 kilometres of trails to trek. There is also a cable car that ascends to heights of up to 3,883 metres high and gives you a view of 63 mountain peaks that can be seen jutting at Zermatt.

As a tip, when you go hiking up those trails, bring a walking stick with you as a precaution. No matter how often you hike, there may be unexpected events during your trek, especially when it is the Winter time. Wear sturdy hiking boots and protective gear to help prevent the onslaught of cold wind when you reach a high peak and injuries such as a twisted ankle.

Cruising on the lakes
Switzerland is not just surrounded by mountains, you can also find beautiful lakes too. Riding a boat at any of the lakes when you visit a town is the perfect way to relax and unwind. If you want to take a break from all those adrenaline-pumping activities, the shopping, and even the eating -- you can always make your way to the docks. Ride a small cruise ship or rent a boat so you can row on your own and be alone with your thoughts for a while.

You can visit Interlaken, a town sandwiched between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. You can also cruise by Lake Geneva and see the Chateau de Chillon, or experience riding a paddle steamer at Lake Luzern. You can even cross the border to Italy when you ride through Lake Lugano.

Learning different languages
During your tour of Switzerland, you will notice that the locals speak very different languages. There is German in the northern and central parts of the country, Italian in the south, Romansh in the east, and French in the west -- those are also national languages, too, so you cannot really pinpoint one language that everyone widely speaks. If you know some of the basic of these languages, then consider your Switzerland vacation as one of the ways in which you can improve on any of those languages.

By learning any of these languages at any of the cities in the Swiss regions, you will fully understand the effect of lenient borders within the European countries. Because they are so close share borders with each other, they are able to introduce their cultures with one another. As a globetrotter, this is one of the things you will appreciate about not being too severe with visitors and accepting new ideas from neighbouring countries.

Visit remote villages
Switzerland is also known for its quaint villages, remote enough that you will not be bothered by city noise. Some people think “remote, quaint villages” connote a backwards place where people still churn their own butter. But this just means that they are a small village that does not have all the modern luxuries a city has like boutique shops. Yes, you can only find the more practical luxuries and nature -- what more can you ask for?

Simply make your way to Arosa -- a place where rolling hills and a lush green is a welcome sight. There are a range of activities like skiing and hiking which you can enjoy during your stay here. Additionally, Arosa has some of the best spas and cafe that you will not want to miss.

Switzerland is the quintessential European country -- filled with natural beauty, exciting activities, and delectable dishes to try. So start your journey here and enjoy a different kind of travel experience.

17 August 2017

A Back to School Giveaway

When I was little, the six week holidays seemed to stretch out endlessly.

As an adult, the holidays so far have fled by in a whirl of noise and mess, leaving me just two weeks to get organised for the start of term - there's uniforms to be bought and labelled, lunchboxes and bookbags to be decided on, PE kits to locate - and I know the longer I leave it the harder it will all be as stock levels dwindle because all the organised parents got in there first.

But hope is not lost for all us last-minute types, as Haliborange have put together a fantastic back to school kit for me to giveaway! This awesome prize bundle contains Mr Men/Little Miss lunchboxes, water bottle and stationary, as well as a supply of kid-focused Multivitamins (chewy and sweet but containing more nutrients than my daughter is likely to get on her diet of Macaroni Cheese).

Even if you are one of the organised parents, unless you have just as organised children, this is still bound to come in handy - I've never gone more than a couple of weeks into the start of term before one of the shiny new items we've picked up had gone missing; you can always consider this a pack of 'spares' for when the inevitable happens!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! (Both with the giveaway and with getting everyone ready for school on time!)

21 July 2017

A New Menu at Turtle Bay, Leeds

I've been a big fan of Turtle Bay since it landed in Yorkshire, nearly a couple of years ago now - and it's been great to see the brand grow in popularity in that time.

Between visits to a couple of its Northern branches I've familiarised myself with the menu and established some firm favourites - so I was very excited to hear that they'd refreshed their menu with a whole host of new dishes and drinks for me to fall in love with! 

I was thrilled to be invited along to the Leeds restaurant to check out some of the new options.

I know the food at Turtle Bay is good,.. really good even. But one of my favourite things about visiting is actually the amazing rum cocktails! I was keen to try the Roots Culture, one of the new cocktail offerings made with Uncle Wray overproof rum, strawberry liqueur, raspberry, lime and lemonade. Absolutely delicious and, like all good cocktails, a little too easy to drink!

Turtle Bay do have a nice range of 'softails' too which I (as the usual designated driver) really appreciate - there's nothing more depressing than drinking boring coke while everyone else is on tasty and colourful concoctions!

Choosing a starter was tricky - so many delicious sounding options! I did try to convince KC to get one too so I could try a bit but I couldn't tempt him. As it was all up to me, I settled on the Stuffed Pepper Roti - trini oven baked roti stuffed with cheese, carrots, spiced potatoes and onions, and served with scotch bonnet & herb mayo...

Mmm these were good! Hot though, I'd been eyeing up the impressive array of table sauces but didnt dare add any of these in the end!

As a vegan, KC can occasionally be a difficult chap to take out for dinner, but Turtle Bay has always offered some really tasty and interesting vegan options and these have been expanded again with some new additions to the menu. He liked the look of the Spinach, Aubergine and Sweet Potato curry. This fragrant spiced dish came served with fluffy steamed rice and got two thumbs up from my gentleman guest! I didn't try any but it sure did smell good!

I couldn't resist the pull of spicy chicken, and opted for the Two-Way Chicken Burger. Another new dish, this consisted of a spicy panko-crumbed chicken fillet, topped with pulled jerk chicken, crispy gem lettuce, fresh pineapple chow and herb mayo in a sweet bun.

 Now, I am undoubtedly one of those people that will tell you pineapple on pizza is the devils work. The very idea of it is so hideous that it's almost enough to put me off pizza altogher. So I was a little wary of my pineapple filled chicken burger, but it was actually amazing! 

I knew the chicken would be good (and it was!) but I wasn't quite prepared for the juicy taste sensation of the pineapple - it added such an unusual edge to an otherwise relatively sedate menu choice.

It's still awful on pizza though!

The spicy fries are probably worth a mention too, I could have eaten these aaaallllll day long!

Anyone that knows me knows that I'm all about the desserts, and Turtle Bay have never let me down in this area - their BBQ pinapple with coconut ice cream is one of my favourite things that I've ever eaten, and the upside down rum cake is pretty special too. On this occasion, though, I looked to the newly offered Passion Pie - an exotic twist on a classic lemon meringue pie.

The meringue topping was so light and squidgy I just wanted to keep prodding it (I didn't) and it was delicious to eat on its own - though of course much better combined with the zesty passionfruit curd and sweet sauce. It was huge too, and took me longer to finish than the rest of the meal put together - I managed it all though!

I know some restaurants concentrate on putting out amazing food, other places have an impressive drinks list to lure in customers, and some simply offer a really cool, relaxed place to hang out - but when (like me!) you dont get to go out that often you need a place that does all that in one, and Turtle Bay ticks all the boxes for us!

20 July 2017

Am I too old for festivals?

For weeks now, months even, I've seen loads of bright eyed youngsters getting giddy about their upcoming festivals this summer. And I've been happy for them, excited,.. even a little jealous, but from the safe distance of knowing that the festival life is not for me these days, that I've outgrown it.

And then I realised why - it's been twenty years since my first festival. I took my little brother to V97. He got sunburnt. I was stung by a wasp (twice!), we danced like idiots to the Prodigy, we got lost on the way home - it was awesome, and it was the start of a long love affair with festivals.

Photo from Hannah at planestrainsandmeltdowns.com
Some of my other favourite stupid festival memories include:

Taking a full box of Rice Krispie Squares to Leeds one year so I didn't have to spend any money on food. I haven't been able to eat one since. 

Agreeing to meet my bother at a particular spot at the end of the end of the night to I could make sure we got on the right coach home. I waited so long that by the time I figured out he wasn't coming, the coach had gone without me. I ended up sleeping on the reception floor of Milton Keynes police station. My brother, of course, got straight on the coach and fell asleep, only realising I wasn't there when the coach pulled up back in Bradford.

Photo from Hannah at planestrainsandmeltdowns.com
Heading to Leeds on the morning before the festival started, pitching my tent, hanging out for the day - then getting the train back home to see my favourite band who were playing half a mile away from my house! I did make it back bright and early the next morning though! 

Bumping into a good friend early on in the day, and trying to convince him to come and see The Get Up Kids with me. He'd never heard of them, and I wandered off to my own to watch. 17 years later we live together and they're his favourite band.

Photo by Hannah at planestrainsandmeltdowns.com
Then there's the knowledge that I was always invariably grumpy as sin on the last day as the culminative effects of not sleeping for several nights got the better of me, the fact I could buy a full weekend ticket (including camping!) for around £70,.... and the more recent sad realisation that I seem to have no photographs from these wonderful occasions (so big thanks to Hannah and Vicki for letting me us theirs!)

Photo by Vicki at tippytupps.com

Maybe it's the need to capture some of my festival memories on camera that has me itching to go back to a festival now, maybe it's just nostalgia. It might be the many upgrades to the festival-going experience that has me excited (fancy pre-set up tents and food that you actually want to eat rather than have to for survival? Yes please!)

Mainly though it's learning about the huge variety of type of festival available. I used to think festivals were all for drunk teenagers, and that suited me because I was a drunk teenager. Now that I'm an adult with a family it's great to discover so many festivals are designed for adults with families! I took Travelodge's Family Festival Personality Quiz for inspiration, and it suggested that as a 'gang of nature lovers', Latitude Festival or Yorkshire's Deer Shed Festival would suit us perfectly!

We've left it a bit late this year but now I know festival-going is not something I have to leave behind me, we definitely want to include it in our plans for next summer (if only so the kids are having their first festival experience where I can keep an eye on them!)

* I was incentivised to write this post, but I genuiney have done some daft stuff at festivals! 

22 May 2017

A Blooming Great Tea Party

You may not know this about me, but I'm a big fan of tea and cake (OK, so you MAY know that about me!) 

Coming up next month is the Marie Curie Blooming Great Tea Party, which is exactly the kind of fundraising event I can totally get behind! 

Hosting your own tea party can be a great way of raising some cash for charity, and getting together with your nearest and dearest to appreciate the finer things in life (like cake). The Blooming Great Tea Party takes place over the 23rd-25th June, and if you are interested in hosting your own party - at home, work, or anywhere else - you can get a free fundraising pack from Marie Curie here!

There's loads of advice and recipes on the website too but the good thing about a tea party is it can be relatively simple to put together some thing spectacular. The individual elements are all quite straight forward - you need tea (lots of it!), daintly little sandwiches with a variety of fillings, a good selection of cakes,... and possbily the most important (and potentially controversial) aspect - the noble scone. 

The scone is the source of many arguements - plain or fruit? served warm or cold? And each of these could take up posts and posts worth of discussion but today I thought I'd tackle one of the biggest scone-related debates - do you top little baked nuggests of goodness with JAM first or CREAM first? (based on the incontestable truth that for a scone to really count, it has to be served with both)

Now, I know my opinion (which may be illustrated by my various sconed photos) but in the spirit of fairness I thought I'd throw it open to debate and see what others thought. Here are my findings.....


I was gong to keep you in suspense to the end, but I might as well let you know the inevitable truth now - the Jam First crew had a resounding victory, with 50% more people thinking this was the right way round to do it. And just like that, my faith in humanity was restored! Here are some of the reasons I was given

Faye Jones from Glossytots knows it's the right thing to do because 'the jam slides off the cream otherwise!' Similarly, Emma (emmareed.net) thinks 'its a mess trying to put jam on top of cream' and Lyra (thisiswhereiblog.com) knows that 'it just looks prettier that way!'

Applying the cream before jam is traditionally the favoured approach in Devon but this is no excuse for getting it wrong, as both Devon Mum Emma and and Devon Mama Hayley put their jam on first too. I particurlarly likes Hayley's passionate response - "Jam first. I just don't understand how you could do it the other way round?! Do you spread the cream like butter and then jam over it?! It makes no sense! Everyone knows the joy is a nice thick layer of jam and then a HUMONGOUS dollop of cream on top!' Girl knows her stuff! 

Donna at Bobsys Mum makes another excellent point - 'that way means you get more cream!' - always a bonus! Emma, Louise and Kirsty are also firmly in the Jam first camp. 


The Cream First side does have it's supporters though! Suzanne from And Another Ten Things suggests you should 'Use the cream like a second butter and then spoon the jam on obvs', and Aarti at Honestly Wonderful likes to 'put loads and loads of cream with a little teeny weeny dollop of jam on top'. 

Natalie, who blogs at Diary of an Unexpectant Mother, has hers like this - 'A thick spread of cream then a spoonful of jam on top. And try not to get it on your nose. And it has to be proepr clotted cream' I do agree with her there at least!

Tracey seems to think that it's 'Definitely cream first - the jam slides off if you do it the other way!, and for Emma it's 'ALWAYS cream first!'


And then there are the others. The ones that don't like to play by society's rules. The rebels like Kristine's husband who eats them dry. The mavericks like Becky who will only have cream because 'Jam spoils it', the nonconformists like Claire, Lucy and Helena who avoid the cream.And then there are the Jade's and the Nadine's of the world that will jam one side, cream the other and then stick both halves together.


I think, if anything has been proved here, it's that the preparation of a scone is a very personal thing. My advice? If you put together your own tea party -I'd just provide jam and cream by the bucketload and let your guests apply to their own liking (yes, even if they're doing it wrong!) 

That way any scone based argueemnts can focus on the number one issue - - how do you pronounce it?!