Thursday, 29 December 2016

My top 5 travel experiences of 2016


Twenty sixteen was our year for travel.
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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Salted caramel chocolate clusters


More edible gifts, folks!

These are especially easy as they use those festive ingredients and treats you may have in your cupboards at this time of year. I'm watching This Morning as I type this and I hear echos of TV chef in this post... apologies.

They involve minimal preparation; a bit of melting and prodding (technical term) but are fairly straightforward. Oh and they taste amazing. Your challenge: not to eat your entire yield of clusters before Christmas itself.

For the salted caramel
50g unsalted butter
100g dark brown sugar
30ml double cream
Maldon sea salt flakes

Also...
Pecans
Dark chocolate
I've not given quantities, as it depends how many you want to make. The ingredients will make a bowl of salted caramel sauce; you will need three or four pecans per cluster.

In a small pan melt the butter, sugar and cream together. You will want to bring it to a gentle bubble for about five minutes. Take off the heat, and stir in a generous pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes. Leave to cool slightly whilst you toast the pecans.

Throw the pecans in to a frying pan and toast on a medium-low heat for a few minutes, until you can smell the nutty aroma. Be careful as they can burn quite easily! Take off the heat, and place on a sheet of greaseproof paper in small clusters. I used 3-4 pecans per cluster.

Using a teaspoon, pour over the salted caramel. Ensure each of the pecans is covered, to ensure they 'glue' together. Leave to cool and set at room temperature for at least a few hours, if not overnight.

Melt chocolate gently in a bain marie or a bowl over boiling water.

You should temper your chocolate for that professional, shiny look, but who has time for that in the lead up to Christmas? I mean if you fancy it, Google the how to!

Using a teaspoon, pour over the clusters. Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on top and leave to set for an hour or so. Et voila!

They can be sticky, so if gifting be sure to pop in some greaseproof paper before wrapping.

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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Chocolate Orange Cinnamon Rolls


Cinnamon rolls are one of my favourite things to bake; they're simple yet tick all the boxes for flavour, comfort and sweet tooth satisfaction.
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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Festive peppermint creams two ways


I'm all for edible gifts.
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Friday, 9 December 2016

Chiang Rai to Laos via a Mekong slow boat cruise


Many backpackers will make the journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai (see my post here on what to do there) with the intention of travelling on to Laos. There are a handful or so different routes and transport methods to choose from, but the most attractive for us was arriving in Luang Prabang by boat.
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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Pulled pork bánh mì


In Vietnam, I completely fell in love with the cuisine.
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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Taking a sabbatical - the adult gap year


I often see people saying that travelling once you're 'older' is impossible.
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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Thailand: how to extend your visa


Getting to Thailand is easy; flights to Bangkok seem to keep getting cheaper and cheaper, and us Brits are lucky enough to get a free thirty day visa on arrival (correct November 2016).
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Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls


Years ago, there used to be a Cinnabon in our local shopping centre. This started my love affair with cinnamon rolls. 
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Monday, 21 November 2016

Thailand: 36 hours in Chiang Rai


Chiang Rai was more of a stop-off for us.
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Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Botanist, Farnham


The Botanist, where Cafe Rouge once sat, is fast becoming the hub of Farnham's restaurant-meets-bar scene.
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Thursday, 10 November 2016

IKEA Tarva Hack


I've been really excited to share this post with you, as I am well chuffed with how it turned out!
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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Thailand: four days on Railay


Railay beach - despite being on mainland Thailand (in Krabi, along from Ao Nang), it is accessible only by boat.
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Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Cock Inn, Headley


Another day. another excellent Surrey pub.
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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Travelling: let's talk money


For most, travelling comes down to money.
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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Swan Inn, Chiddingfold


Living in Farnham, we are spoilt with excellent pubs and restaurants within walking distance - or a short drive, in the case of The Swan Inn.
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Friday, 21 October 2016

Living Danishly


I don't usually read non-fiction.
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Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Thailand: Chiang Mai - more eats


Of course, one post about Chiang Mai eats is never enough.
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Thursday, 13 October 2016

How to beat the post-travelling blues


It's October; my namesake. 

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Monday, 10 October 2016

Bookworm - the travelling edition


Before I went travelling I would use my blog as an online reading log of sorts; sharing my book reviews with you was a way of keeping track of what I'd read and hopefully encouraging some dialog around reading and recommendations. 
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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Thailand: our Flight of the Gibbon adventure


When we were in Thailand, we celebrated Rich's twenty-eighth birthday. And when I asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate, he quickly responded with... zip lining.
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Friday, 30 September 2016

Your 5 at The Oracle, Reading


Living in Farnham, I'm pretty spoilt for good shopping destinations nearby.
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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Thailand: avoiding the seedy side of Phuket


Phuket is one of those destinations in Thailand we were a little apprehensive about visiting.
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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Travel: finding the right hotel


I've mentioned this before; when we travelled SE Asia for six months we had backpacks, but we weren't backpacking as such. 
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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Thailand: Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay


Yes, it really is this beautiful. 
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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Thailand: our day at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary


Our weeks spent in Chiang Mai were undoubtedly some of my favourite weeks of our entire six month trip.
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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Two Many Cooks, Dorking


A couple of weekends ago I was in Brighton celebrating a good friend's hen do; drinking too much prosecco, eating ice cream on the pier and making new friends.
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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Thailand: a week on Koh Lanta


One of the bigger islands on the west coast of Thailand and sandwiched between Koh Phi Phi and the mainland, Koh Lanta was one of my favourite islands we visited during our time in SE Asia.
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Friday, 26 August 2016

Day trip: Swanage and Corfe Castle


Day tripping in the UK
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Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Thailand: Chiang Mai - eats


To me Chiang Mai has it all; old Thai charm, culture and history as well as a modern scene with great cafes, bars and restaurants.
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Monday, 15 August 2016

Returning home


At the risk of sounding clichéd; doesn't time fly!
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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Thailand: a fortnight in Chiang Mai


Visit Chiang Mai and prepare to fall in love with its traditional Thai nature with a modern twist.
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Sunday, 8 May 2016

Thailand: a chilled week in Pai


It's true what they say; you visit Pai and you fall in love. We completely did.
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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Thai eats: my favourite authentic Thai dishes

After spending the best part of seven weeks in Thailand, I think I've tried a lot of what Thai cuisine has to offer.
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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Malaysia: why you should visit Penang


Penang, where do I start?
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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Staying in Penang: 23 Love Lane


After two short weeks in Palawan (in the Philippines, see previous posts) we flew to Penang, Malaysia. I will do a full post on Penang itself, but I wanted to take the time to show you the accommodation we stayed in during our time here. 

We booked 23 Love Lane before we left the UK, admittedly after a few vinos one Friday evening. As you can probably see from the pictures 23 Love Lane is a beautiful boutique hotel, and therefore was priced slightly over our nightly budget. I've already mentioned that we're not slumming it on our travels; we saved a decent amount of money over the course of a year to be able to spend 40GBP (I can't find a pound sign on this Thai keyboard...!) a night. 23 Love Lane came in at around 60GBP a night - luxury, but totally worth it. We stayed four nights here, and loved every second of it.

23 Love Lane is billed as a Heritage Boutique Hotel, nestled right in the heart of Georgetown. It boasts ten gorgeously restored rooms, all representing a different era from the 1800s onwards. From the minute we walked in, we were in love... stunning architecture, a mix of mid-century styled furniture and scores of beautiful little touches that make this Heritage Hotel so much better than anything we've seen elsewhere. It really typifies Penang; eclectic and authentic.

What really made this stay for us was not just the large, perfectly styled room, or bathroom with complementary Korres products, or even the upper floor Anglo Indian Bungalow reading room where we could relax after a busy day exploring. It was all the little extras we didn't even know were part of the package. Breakfast was delicious - breads, jams, fruit, filter coffee... and then a whole menu of dishes made to order, which we indulged in. And each afternoon when we came back to the room to freshen up, the plate of nibbles waiting for us in the lobby that really hit the spot. After I ordered an iced coffee one afternoon when reading my book and writing my diary, and they remembered this and each day brought me another. When they placed fresh flowers on our bed and turned on the lamps in our room when night fell, so we had a cosy space to come home to. And it really did feel like home! All of these touches were included in the room cost, and as 'travellers', this really felt like luxury. 

It really was four nights in heaven!

Next time, more on Penang itself. The internet cafe here in Pai is so painfully slow and testing my patience... so until next time, toodles!

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Monday, 28 March 2016

The Philippines: Palawan, part two


Welcome to my second post on our travels around the Philippines.
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Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Philippines: Palawan, part one


The Philippines initially wasn't on our radar.
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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Arriving in SE Asia


Sawadee ka! Greetings from Thailand, long lost friends.
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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

bookworm #43 and #44


That's right, a bumper edition!

I've managed to find plenty of time to read this Christmas holiday - in coffee shops, at home, at other people's house, at the doctor's surgery... it's been a real literary break! To me, taking time out to sit down, phone away and distraction-free, and throw yourself into a book is complete bliss. If there happens to be good coffee or cosy pyjamas involved then even better.

So over the past two weeks I've managed to read two books. Quite a feat for me; I'm a slow reader and usually struggle to find the time to read without falling asleep after a paragraph!

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. 

This modern classic, published in 2003, has been in my reading pile for months. It tells the story of Sheba and Barbara - both teachers in a London comprehensive school. The novel is narrated by Barbara, in fact it is her diary account of the scandal surrounding Sheba's relationship with a fifteen year old pupil. Yes, Sheba, an art teacher in her early forties begins an illicit affair with one of her pupils, despite being married and having children of her own... oh and it being hugely legally and morally wrong! Barbara doesn't find out for some time and when she does is horrified - but has a weird fascination and admiration for Sheba, perhaps explaining why she doesn't tell the school.

This book is excellent; incredibly well written, engaging and pacey. I found the whole topic fascinating and actually really difficult to read, as a teacher myself. Barbara's obsession with Sheba is captivating and Heller manages to make her appear really quite unhinged - it's creepy. I thought the fact that Sheba, a female teacher, seduced a male pupil an interesting topic. Had it been the other way round - a male teacher having an affair with a female pupil - I think the book would have read very differently. Double standards maybe? Something interesting to think about, anyway!

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt.

Little Girl Gone is Alexandra Burt's first novel - given the title you may have guessed this was another in the series from Gillian Flynn. No such luck! Estelle Paradise (what a choice of name) has no memory of how she is in her current state; in hospital after being in an apparent car accident. Oh, and missing an ear. She soon understands that her daughter (Mia) is missing, and she is suspect number one. It becomes apparent that when Estelle discovered her baby is missing, she failed to report it to the police - hence her becoming their chief suspect of kidnap... or murder.

This book was an odd one, and I actually found it really difficult to follow! It's unclear whether or not Estelle is mentally stable - which I know is the point of the book - but when Estelle is finding out the details of Mia's disappearance I just couldn't keep up. Is her account reliable? Is she lying? Or can't she remember? This was, I assume, to help paint the picture of her mental state, but it just didn't work for me. The ending is Hollywood movie ridiculous, but satisfying that the 'what happened' became clear.

It reminded me of other memory loss stories; Before I Go To Sleep (SJ Watson), Remember Me (Sophie Kinsella), Still Alice (Lisa Genova)... and the like. An okay read, but overly long in my opinion and difficult to follow.
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