Last month was my lovely fiancé’s 30th birthday and I made it my mission to ensure he had the most memorable weekend of his life. Eight months prior to his birthday I was already planning what we’d be doing. I knew I wanted to whisk him away somewhere but choosing a destination was surprisingly difficult. S had never been on a long-haul flight or out of Europe, excluding our trip to Morocco, so I figured we’d change this.
We’ve talked about going to a few places in south-east Asia for our honeymoon, meaning it kind of wrote off that part of the world. We also needed jabs if we went to Vietnam (one of the potential places we could have gone), and that would have spoilt the surprise. I almost booked Canada until I realised it was the worst month to go, before snow season when everything’s closed and the mountains are covered in sludgey ice, eek! I was also wanted to chat with Sam about the best places to visit and do a road trip, which I can’t really plan on my own.
I found out that November is the best time to visit Tokyo, the temperature would be comfortable and the leaves would be turning red as we moved into Autumn. I found a reasonable deal for flights and accommodation on Expedia, so I emailed Sam’s boss and booked him some time off, so we’d have over 10 days to go Tokyo (including travel time!). I didn’t tell S we were going away until the day before, and I didn’t tell him where we were going until after we’d gone through security, and we were about to board our flight!
S researches everything he does, especially when it comes to travel. I knew he’d be dying to find out things to do in Tokyo, so I compiled a list of things for us to do in a neat little illustration and I gave him an anontatedLonely Planet travel guide for Tokyo 2018. Luckily, we had Wi-Fi on our 18-hour flight, too. He was just glad that I insisted he should bring all his camera equipment!
I figured I’d share my research with my readers, in case you’re considering a trip to Tokyo. We managed to tick off the majority of the things on our ‘to do’ list, which I’m pretty happy with! I’ve starred my top experiences. We’ve managed to upload a few pictures but I’ll keep updating my Instagram with images over the next couple of months. Christmas kind of threw a spanner into the works!
It goes with out saying, it was an amazing trip and worth every penny. Everybody thinks I’ve completely spoilt S and he’s got a tall order in making it up to me. But earlier this year he literaily proposed on top of a fucking mountain (Aiguille du Midi) overlooking the French, German and Italian Alps. In my eyes, he’s already truely out done himself, and a trip to Tokyo is no match.
1. Eat Nakamise street food!
2. Buy an Ema and leave it on the temple grounds
3. Eat REAL Kobe beef – Yummy! ⭐️
4. Try a white Japanese strawberry
5. Watch cute girls wrestling with cyborgs at the Robot Restaurant
We did it!! 🦃🎄😩💞 We successfully hosted Christmas dinner, and it was actually alright if I do say so myself! Earlier this year we gave our lounge a little makeover with comfy armchairs and a log burner. With this in mind, we invited the family over to celebrate the festive holiday in our newly decorated lounge.
Everybody coming over to our house comes with the responsibility of entertaining and cooking for the entire family but I saw this as an exciting challenge. Amazingly, my grandparents accepted the invitation to join my immediate family and fiancé for food, so the pressure was on to create a tasty 3-course lunch.
I’m in no rush to take our Christmas decorations down but I’ll be glad to have some space back in our lounge 😂
Everybody told me it would be really difficult to host Christmas dinner but I figured with a bit of preparation, it wouldn’t be too hard. Other than the last minute scramble to get everything from the hob to the dining table (which was made a little easier, thanks to my awesome fiancé), it was a breeze!
Here’s the low-down of our Christmas dinner, and how you can do it too if you decide to host Christmas next year.
Choosing a starter for 7 guests proved a little difficult. Seafood was too expensive (some places were charging £200 for a platter, ouch!), soup dishes didn’t seem creative enough, and I wanted to avoid meat since we have plenty of that for the main. After much deliberation, I settled on ahomemade cranberry and brie puff tart with pistachio and honey. The perfect festive sharing starter, easy to make and incredibly tasty – what’s not to love? 💜
Just preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C) mark 5. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Unroll a 320 g sheet of ready rolled puff pastry on to the lined tray.
Use a knife to score a 1.5cm (⅔in) border around the edge of the pastry (do not cut all the way through). Brush border with some beaten egg before cooking in the oven for 15min.
Remove the tray from oven and, with the back of a spoon, gently press down the pastry inside the border.
In a small bowl, mix 175 g (6oz) of cranberry sauce with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar.
Spread this mix on pastry inside the border. Lay brie slices on top, spaced apart.
Scatter over thyme leaves and some freshly ground black pepper.
Cook tart for a further 10min in the oven or until brie is temptingly melted and pastry is golden.
Transfer to a board, scatter over pistachios and drizzle with some honey before serving warm.
Tip: We prepared and chilled the tart on Christmas Eve and cooked it on Christmas day to save some time.
If you’ve ever hosted Christmas, you’ll know there is so much to do (probably why my dad was happy to have a year off from making Christmas dinner!). I decided to get a little helping hand, from the lovely M&S! We ordered a British Oakham turkey with pork, chestnut, maple bacon & thyme stuffing, and it was the best decision I ever made. I couldn’t imagine doing Christmas any other way, after how easy ordering from M&S was.
It was so easy! As directed, we brushed a little oil over the bird and sprinkled salt and pepper over the bird. We also added some herbs and squeeze a little lemon over the top (thanks for the tip Mary Berry) before popping it into the oven. No mucking around with removing giblets and stuffing.
The turkey took 3 hours and 41 minutes to cook at 180°C and we left it to rest for an hour, which gave us plenty of time to prepare the rest of our sides and to warm the starter. We garnished our turkey with thyme, rosemary and basil before serving with M&S The Collection ‘Posh’ turkey gravy, which complimented the bird perfectly.
We also had a range of tasty goodies on the table such as parsnips and chantenay carrots with a honey, mustard and maple glaze, goose fat roast potatoes, creamy cauliflower cheese, four root seasoned vegetable mash, braised red cabbage with Jersey butter. Personally, my favourite side was outdoor-bred pigs in blankets, pork and chestnut stuffing wreath. I’m pretty sure that everybody’s Christmas favourites are pigs in blankets though.
Luckily my parents saved the day by bringing over Yorkshire puddings and Brussel sprouts because I accidentally forgot to order them. Well, I didn’t forget the horrible green fart-bombs but apparently, you have to have them at Christmas for some reason. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to forget the Yorkshire puddings though, my bad!
We washed it down with the Bees Knees sparkling 0% alcohol white wine, gifted from my Mother-in-Law, once we couldn’t eat any more turkey. We ended up stripping the bird a couple days later and we had 1-kilo of meat for leftovers, oops! At least nobody went hungry spending Christmas at ours… hahaha!
For dessert, we had 9 months matured luxury Christmas pudding but everybody was too full to even contemplate eating it. We also had mince pies with whipped or clotted cream but we’re still making our way through them. The boxes of chocolates on the coffee tables also took a bit of a beating during the festive period.
I found a couple of seconds to snap a selfie before the table got covered in gravy, as people tuck into the starter
Don’t forget that people eat with their eyes. Food needs to look appealing, and it’s important not to miss the details when it comes to the presentation of your Christmas dinner. We usually only have a table big enough for four people in our dining area, so we stuck a garden table on the end. We covered both pieces of furniture with grey and white reindeer material, which only cost a few pounds from Tragos, and it made such a difference.
Knowing the table would be full of food, we didn’t opt for any table decorations, despite wanting to make use of our crystal decanters and candelabras! We did, however, lay out some party poppers and some silver and white reindeer crackers from Debenhams that matched the tablecloth.
Christmas was the perfect occasion to whip out our gorgeousViners 18/10 cutlery set from the Nala range (presented in gift box a classic black box with velvet). It made such a difference to the vibe of our lunch, handing out high-quality, heavy cutlery to our guests, rather than a mismatch of cheap knives and forks from the supermarket.
I fell in love with the Nala range when I saw the luxurious gold ombre effect blend from elegant matt handles out to a bright mirror polish. I’ve always been apprehensive about ordering gold cutlery in case they become worn over time, but the Vinersfinish is highly resistant to corrosion, rust and tarnishing with a 50-year guarantee.
You can get your mitts on the gorgeous Nala set for £140 RRP. Viners have generously offered me an exclusive code for my readers to receive 10% off the whole Viners website. Just create an account and put in SS10OFF at the checkout. The unique code can only be used one time and will be valid from 25.12 to 07.01
After Christmas, I always get the urge to book a holiday. Yesterday we booked exclusive use of a gorgeous castle farmhouse cottage in Somersetfor New Years weekend, and just as I was booking it I started thinking “where else can we go later this year!?”. We’ve recently come back from London, Paris and Tokyo (more on that shortly!), so we’re thinking something a little bit more relaxing and far warmer this time. Don’t you ever feel like you need a holiday after you come back from a holiday when you go away for a bit of adventure?!
There are a few places on the cards such as Croatia, Greece and Egypt but we’ll probably wait a few months until it heats up. In the meantime, we need some mini-breaks to satisfy our itchy feet. Valentine’s day is on the horizon, and a short getaway is perfect for indulging in some romance *hint to the boyfriend that may be reading this* and treating each other to attention that all too easily escape a busy working week.
For those who aren’t keen on grand gestures or who would rather stay closer to home, like us, there are plenty of spots in the UK that are just as romantic as Italy. In fact, an alternative to cliché romantic locations can be far more appreciated. It shows consideration, creativity and most of all, that you’re not taking tips from the movies. One place in particular that offers true romanticism and escape is the swoon-worthy Lake District.
Surrounded by picturesque lakes, dramatic fells and gorgeous greenery, the Lake District is the perfect spot to whisk away a loved one for some TLC. If you idealise a quiet haven for just the two of you, there are secluded spots that enable you to turn off technology, enjoy each other’s company and absorb the striking views. However, for those who prefer a little more of a cosmopolitan touch, there are small towns and villages that boast shops, bars and renowned restaurants to suit fine dining connoisseurs and bargain hunters alike.
The Forest Side, Michelin Star Restaurant in the Lake District
When it comes to food, the Lake District is a particular hotspot for fine dining experiences, with numerous Michelin star restaurants to hand and Michelin recommended eateries in almost every town. For those who want to experience the true drama of the Lakes, you can venture to the Michelin recommended restaurant The Samling. Here, you can taste sophisticated, environmentally inspired dishes that are theatrically presented before a striking backdrop of Lake Windermere.
In close proximity to here, you can head to the famed Holbeck Ghyll for considered, local dishes and a divine tasting menu, or you can head to The Forest side in Grasmere for a sophisticated interpretation of local produce.
The Lake district is fast becoming notorious for its quality restaurants, introducing head chefs from all over the country. If you ever managed to watch Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan’s “The Trip”, you’ll understand the sudden appeal for the Lake District and high-end eating. Not all food is catered to the higher end and higher budget, however, and there are plenty of characterful small restaurants in the area.
When it comes to creating a romantic atmosphere, sometimes these can be much more effective, creating a sense of intimacy and warmth. Be sure to look out for hotels with restaurants too, as these tend to boast some of the best views in the area. The Inn On The Lake in Ullswater boasts a lake-side position and is secluded by forests and hills for a wonderfully romantic meal. With a sophisticated menu and a bar next door, you can easily spend a whole evening and top it off with a stroll around the grounds.
Spending Valentine’s Day in the Lake District can be a great way to enjoy new experiences together and make the most of the outdoors. Without having to pay a penny, you can enjoy hikes or gentle strolls, suitable for all levels of fitness. An entire day can be spent rambling the countryside, exploring the fells and forests of Borrowdale, Derwentwater or Penrith. You can even fit a hike into a day or two spent at the shopping hub of Keswick, with an adventurous hike up Castle Crag or Cat Bells.
To really amp up the romantic atmosphere of your trip, you can also hire a boat at Ullswater or Derwentwater and enjoy a romantic row over the gorgeous lakes. Perhaps you’ll take a leaf out of famed Lake District poet William Wordsworth’s book and recite a little poetry of your own.
Landscape and dining aside, there is an abundance of romantic activities that you could do whilst staying in the Lake District. The romance of the area has seen an influx of artists and poets take root here, in turn creating a plethora of small galleries and shops. In Keswick, the stunning, traditional cinema called the Alhambra makes a delightful alternative to large commercial cinemas, or you can browse bookstores and quaint shops in every picturesque village.
Whether you want to indulge your senses or just stay cooped up inside with your loved one, a trip to the Lake District is the perfect way to enjoy each other’s company this Valentine’s Day.