Portugal 2014: the NIGHTS

Evenings in Portugal are my favourite things of all. I love coming off the beach, easing the inevitable sunburn with a cool shower and lots of aftersun, and getting all dressed up for dinner before a few snacks (peanut crisps, anyone?!) and a pre-dinner drink. This time, our house was up on the golf course and the walk down to the Praca (centre of the resort) made for some pretty ridiculous sunset views.

IMG_2556

IMG_2563

IMG_2460

IMG_2372

IMG_2564

The praca itself is always buzzy, with 8 or so restaurants specialising in various worldly cuisines (told you it wasn’t a place for Portuguese authenticity!) and dinner is always washed down with a mojito or two and copious amounts of wine. Casal Garcia is a Portugese vinho verde that is cheap as chips in supermarkets (and slightly less so in restaurants – but still cheap!) and the most delicious, drinkable wine I’ve come across.

IMG_2468

IMG_2538

Something of a first-night tradition of ours is Sandbanks, which is a bit more Portuguese: gorgeous seafood with even more gorgeous sea views.

IMG_2373

IMG_2377

And of course it’s not a trip to Portugal without a visit to Julia’s Beach Bar, a walk along the beach to some of the best views ever.

IMG_2423

IMG_2427

IMG_2439

IMG_2434

It was only when I got home and looked at my pictures that I realised quite how many prawns I’d consumed (seriously, pretty much everyday) but without doubt these were my absolute favourite – and, in fact, was easily my favourite meal of the holiday and possibly ever: Spiaddini di Gamberoni at La Terrazza. I never, ever order pasta at restaurants but broke the trend for a night and it was the best life decision I could possibly have made. The whole thing was PERFECT.

IMG_2540

IMG_2537

Cocktails are another key part to any Portuguese holiday of mine. This year I found a couple of new faves, including this cucumber-y gin concoction and the most delicious frozen strawberry margaritas of all time. A few of those = the perfect way to end, begin, or enjoy any holiday evening!

IMG_2516

IMG_2524

IMG_2360

As I flew home I was treated to the most spectacular sunset yet, which I only thought to capture as the sun disappeared below the clouds. It was very fitting for the end of what will probably be my last “family” holiday in the sense I’ve known it this far and certainly my last trip to VDL for a while…happy memories always!

IMG_2582

Student Cooking With Currys: Homemade Burgers & Wedges

Okay, so I know I said I would only be giving my uni tips about my course, but if there’s one thing I think I did well at uni, it’s eating. When Shaun from Joe’s Bloggers got in touch with their latest collaboration with Curry’s – a very special student cookbook – I couldn’t resist adding my two cents. I then struggled a bit to find a recipe that wasn’t a carbon copy of a Jamie Oliver special – until I remembered BURGERS!

Homemade burgers used to be an old fallback favourite of ours back in 3rd year. They’re something that sounds really impressive but is actually easy, and you can mix and match what you serve them with to jazz them up a bit. Rolls and salad is an easy choice, or oven chips if you’re so inclined, but I like making sweet potato wedges to go with them so I’ve included a little mini recipe for those, too.

Ingredients

  • Mince (The amount of burgers you want and how many people you’re feeding will obviously determine how much mince but I would say one 500g pack easily makes 4 biggish burgers. If you’re cooking just for yourself, maybe use half the pack for a couple of burgers and the other half for meatballs, chilli, or something else freezable!)
  • 1 egg (If you’re not using the whole pack, ideally you probably want about half an egg but that’s not really practical, so just up the breadcrumbs!)
  • A good handful of breadcrumbs OR 3 Jacob’s crackers (OR supermarket equivalent!)
  • A squirt of BBQ sauce and/or a teaspoon of English mustard

Method

  • If you’re using crackers, pop them into a ziploc back and bash them up with a rolling pin or wooden spoon (therapeutic if essays are getting you down)
  • Break up the mince a bit and put it into a large mixing bowl
  • Crack in the egg, and add your bread/cracker crumbs and your BBQ sauce and/or mustard
  • Now for the messy part…get your hands stuck in there and mix it all up
  • When it all begins to stick together, divide the mixture into burger-shaped rounds and whack them under the grill or on the George Foreman for 10 minutes or so (at about 180 degrees). Keep on eye on them though because cooking times will differ depending on how big your burgers are!

IMG_2593

IMG_2594

IMG_2595

IMG_2596

I usually use lean beef mince, but turkey mince would probably work really well too and probably be a little bit healthier! You can play around with toppings, too. I don’t personally eat cheese but that’s an obvious one, or others that I like include roasted red peppers (out of a jar), slices of avocado, crispy bacon, or just simply copious amounts of BBQ sauce and some nice crispy lettuce.

As I said, I also like serving these (and pretty much anything else) with sweet potato wedges, which are really easy to make and really tasty.

Ingredients

  • Sweet potato (1 for each person)
  • Sprinkling of Salt
  • A drizzle of Olive Oil
  • Paprika (if you want – or any other spice)

Method

  • Just give your potatoes a bit of a scrub and chop off any knobbly bits, then cut them into rough wedge shapes
  • Whack them on a baking tray, keeping them fairly separate if possible, and drizzle over olive oil, some salt, and your spice of choice
  • Give it all a shake about
  • Get them in the oven! It obviously depends how thinly you’ve cut your wedges, but they usually take about 20 – 25 minutes at 180 degrees (in my experience)

IMG_2585

IMG_2586

IMG_2587

IMG_2589

And now for the easiest part of all: serve up, and enjoy!

If you’re a student or a soon-to-be student, keep your eyes out for the Curry’s Student Cookbook: I’ve seen quite a few entries floating around the blogosphere and they all look fab so there is sure to be a whole lot of inspiration in there!

Portugal 2014: the DAYS

So holiday season is officially wrapping up and autumn is on our doorstep. I’ve just returned from the most gorgeous 12 days in Portugal and I’ve got over my post-holiday blues long enough to share some (read: an absurd amount of) pictures with you all!

I’ve mentioned this before, but VDL is probably not the kind of place you go if you want a slice of authentic Portuguese culture. However, it is the kind of place you go if you want guaranteed sunshine, a whole lot of relaxation, and men who bring champagne sangria to your sunlounger. This year, as we have done almost every year since I was 15, we headed out there, and this time we had quite the crew in tow.

It was a holiday devoted to absolute relaxation, so most of our time was spent on the beach or on the roof terrace (which was complete with a gorgeous little plunge pool).

IMG_2400

IMG_2408

IMG_2415

IMG_2447

IMG_2449

IMG_2455

IMG_2533

10473065_10152330734869646_1152904535366497229_o

IMG_2421

Midway through the week, we headed out to Vilamoura for a dolphin cruise. We started out, though, with breakfast on the marina.

 

IMG_2479

IMG_2482

IMG_2491

Unfortunately, we saw precisely zero dolphins! It was such a shame as we’ve done dolphin safaris a million times before and always seen loads, but naturally when we had such a crowd of family and friends in tow, there were none to be found. We did get a good couple of hours out on the ocean though and a little trip through some of the caves that line the coast.

IMG_2502

IMG_2500

IMG_2510

IMG_2506

10376908_10154566278870508_8692713249433316385_n

Long lazy days on the beach were followed by pre-dinner green beers and cocktails, and those by sunset walks down to dinner and (more) cocktails – but given that I’ve already crammed this post full to bursting, those tales will have to wait for another post!

What To Expect From An English Degree

I don’t think I need to tell anyone that A Level results day was last week. I honestly remember my own results day like it was about three months ago, but no, apparently it was four years since I received a 7:30 text telling me I’d got in and the best three years I could possibly have asked for began.

It’s a really exciting time and posts with fresher tips are all over the internet right now, with good reason. I was very tempted to do my own, but given that I’m hopelessly old now anyway and probably totally out of touch, I thought I’d do something a bit different and focus my tips for uni on my subject. I figure the blogosphere is likely filled with people about to start, already midway through, or considering English degrees, but it’s a subject that can be difficult to describe (let alone justify), so here are my tips as to what you can expect if you’re on your way to your English BA!

(Disclaimer: I did my English BA at Exeter. All unis obviously have very different course set ups so this is just from my experience, but hopefully it’ll give you at least an idea of what you might experience!)

  • You will become very familiar with the following words: problematic, binary oppositions, legitimises, social construct, deconstruct…amongst others.
  • Some part of first year will be spent grappling with overly complicated literary theory that will actually prove so so useful by 3rd year (and that’s not even that complex once you get through the mile-long sentences and super long words!)
  • Your tutors will be (for the most part) lovely, laidback, socially awkward and technologically inept, in approximately equal parts
  • You’ll probably still get given cake and/or chocolate at the end of term because English staff know about priorities
  • It sounds unlikely but you actually can focus your degree on exactly what you want and what you’re interested in. I studied precisely one Shakespeare play during my entire 4 years and 2 degrees but some of my best friends did entire modules in him. Meanwhile, I was studying American Novels written since 2000 (the best module I ever took)
  • You’ll find yourself identifying sexism, colonialism, any other kind of ism, in every TV show you ever watch – including the adverts. You will also start identifying everything you ever come across as a “social construct.” I am not even joking.
  • Your non-English friends will think you never do any work and will bemoan your lack of exams until you feel guilty for doing English. Don’t feel guilty – own it. Not your fault you picked the best degree!
  • When you tell people outside of uni what you do, they WILL assume you’re going to be a teacher. Just smile.
  • You will become an expert in reading about 4 pages of a book in order to surmise its general premise
  • You will also become an expert in coming up with one useful comment to blurt out in a seminar, before sitting back, satisfied that your work is done, for the rest of the session.
  • You get to do what, for most people, is essentially a hobby (reading), for three years of your life. That’s it! That’s all you have to do! (And as an aside, you will probably wonder every day how exactly you’re getting away with this one…just go with it.)

Any fellow English students/grads have anything to offer? I think it’s fair to say I absolutely loved my English degree (MA…not so much, but that’s another story) and I am also very happy to report that doing English doesn’t seem to have hindered any of my friends in their job hunt. So if you’re thinking about it, don’t let the lack of obvious career choices put you off (and if you have any other questions, feel free to tweet/email me!)

The Reading List: BLOGS

As summer has approached and I’ve had a (bit) more time on my hands, I’ve been making a real effort to get out there and discover some new blogs – and not only that, but to leave a little bit of love behind. I use bloglovin to read all my blogs and although it is great, it is sometimes a pain to comment using it (especially on my phone) and it’s really easy to forget about commenting altogether and click through to the next post without even thinking. So I figured the next best thing is to share some of my favourite blogs, starting with some new favourites and then some old.

The New

Fizzy Lemon Life

Hannah has very recently set off on her year abroad in the States so naturally I am already an avid follower of her blog. She has a really great down to earth, honest style and I for one can’t wait to see what she gets up to in Ohio this coming year!

Good Girl Gone Brum

I’m a huge fan of a student blog and Emily’s is great. She has some really interesting and unusual student-y features, like her new “Spend or Save” feature where she compares a normal/high street product (like Muller Corners – genius!) with its budget (think Aldi) counterpart. She is also super lovely in general.

Fashion Fumblings

I don’t read many fashion blogs but I love Louisa’s. She’s also just graduated and just started a PR job, and her recent post “Things Most 20 Something Girls Think (I Think)” is BANG ON. She is also absurdly gorgeous and seems like so much fun!

The Old

Life Outside London

To put it briefly, Michelle is GREAT. You know everybody talks about finding your blogging “voice”? Well Michelle has got one of the funniest voices I’ve read in a long time and I always cheer a little bit when I see her pop up on my bloglovin (which luckily for us, is super often!)

Rachel Phipps

I think Rachel’s blog might actually be one of my very favourite blogs ever. She has the most amazing life and opportunities but also seems so lovely and down to earth. Plus she also lived in the US for a year so I totally relate to all the things she misses about living there!

The Cup and Saucer

I actually met Alice at an event way back in October (or something like that) and have loved her blog ever since. Since I’ve been reading she’s moved from Plymouth (I think – somewhere in Devon) to Cardiff and very recently to London so she is one busy girl but she always makes time for the important things (tea, cake, blogging, etc) and I just find her blog so nice and comforting!

So there’s just a little list – I read loads and loads and I love them all but please check my links page if you’re after some more. And please do let me know what’s on your own blog reading list – I’m always always looking for new ones to read and I’m all about sharing the bloggy love!

Housewarming

I’m very sorry to keep banging on about the same weekend, but it occurred to me that I haven’t even mentioned the actual reason I was in London the other week: the housewarming of two of my very best friends. They recently made the big move into a very swanky little flat in North London and so obviously this called for a gathering of all our favourite people to warm the place.

What started off as a very civilised, chips-and-dip and g-and-t kinda evening…

IMG_2274

…turned into the kind of evening where this is the best quality, most civilised, family-friendly picture of the lot:

IMG_2291

And so safe to say, the less said about that the better. But it was a FABULOUS night and after waking up with the hangover to prove it and a very strange array of people in the room, the two girls and I eventually decided to brave the great outdoors and hit the Alma Street Fair.

This was a good decision: we didn’t know how big the street fair would be but it was busy and buzzy and there was loads going on.

IMG_2311

IMG_2307

All of our favourite touches were these signs, which were up everywhere with no apparent explanation. I photographed as many as I could but there were so many! If anyone’s seen them before, PLEASE give me a shout cause I’d love to know who’s behind them (and if I can buy them for myself!)

IMG_2303

IMG_2304

 

IMG_2308

It was super hot and we were still feeling a litttttle bit fragile, so we treated ourselves to two different hog roast buns to share between Emily and myself. I forget where the ciabatta one was from, but the one taking pride of place in this picture was from Squid and Pig and it was divine: soft brioche, sweet apple puree, delicious pork and the perfect amount of crunchy crackling. PLUS the guys at the stall were super friendly. My mouth is watering just remembering it!

IMG_2313

We also treated ourselves to these cool ice cream/lolly things that were made of pure fruit/natural ingredients. It was too hot and melty to photograph them but here’s the bike they were served from. The girls had coconut which looked incredible, and I had mango which was also delicious, with chunks of mango inside it – although as I mentioned, I did accidentally drip it on my brand new white shoes…

IMG_2310

Before long the heat got the better of us and we had to retire to a nearby park and then return to the flat, but I’m so glad we ventured out on that hangover Sunday and it definitely made me super jealous of the girls’ supercool new area. Consider the flat officially warmed!

 

Degustabox: July

I’ve read loads about Degustaboxes and I’m sure you all have too, if your bloggy reading list is anything like mine. I always like reading what people get in them, I wasn’t about to pay for one for the purpose of my blog. However, when I got home to find that my mum already has a subscription, I figured I might as well add my thoughts on this month’s offerings!

For those that don’t know, Degustabox is basically the Birchbox/Glossybox/etc etc of the food world. I won’t go as far to call it “foodie” stuff as most of it is actually pretty common supermarket brands, so actually it works as a good way to try out things you can find easily but might not have picked up otherwise. From what my mum tells me, they’re a bit up and down in terms of what you get, but I think they’re only about £10 so they’re always good value. Our box arrived last week and we had a lot of fun opening it (Christmas in July anyone) – here’s what we got:

IMG_2314

IMG_2316

Portlebay Popcorn

I went through a huge popcorn phase just before I left Exeter and actually once bought the bacon & maple syrup in Waitrose. I wasn’t actually sure I liked it very much but it was definitely addictive and I made my way through the huge bag without too much trouble so it’s obviously got something going for it. We ate the sweet & salty pretty much as soon as it arrived though and that was delicious, and I’m fairly sure I’ve had the chilli & lime before and enjoyed it, so a thumbs up from me overall.

IMG_2324

Hornsby’s Blueberry Cider

This was a timely offering given how much I liked Matthew’s Hornsby’s when we went to Missoula. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m very excited to do so – I love blueberry things as a rule so hopefully this is as yummy as the original!

IMG_2322

Zeo Drinks

I keep seeing these in shops and I don’t really understand what they are. I don’t really drink anything other than water (and alcohol, obvs) so I definitely wouldn’t buy them, but I’ll certainly give them a go if someone else in the fam opens one!

IMG_2317

Green & Black’s Lemon Dark Chocolate

This was probably the one I was most excited to try as I’m a huge fan of G&B chocolate. I’m a bit back-and-forward on lemon flavoured things – I think I have to be in the right mood for it so I was really interested to see what this was like. When I first tried it I was a little bit thrown – I think it almost tastes herby alongside the lemon, which was a bit of a surprise. But after considering it for a while (and having several more squares) I concluded that I actually do like it. It’s so smooth and creamy, like all G&B chocolate, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for their other adventurous flavours!

IMG_2318

Maggi Sachets

In other Degustabox reviews I’ve seen a few people saying how 6 of these seemed a bit much and I kind of agree. However, we did get three different flavours in these: piri piri chicken tray bake x2, a cheesy chicken thing that I will be staying away from, and a beef & ale stew pack. I’ve used the herby chicken wrap things in this same range before (where you just wrap the papyrus paper around the chicken and fry it) and they worked really well so I’m keen to see how these work out. They’re always useful to have in the cupboard anyway so I wasn’t too disappointed in their inclusion!

IMG_2320

Dr Oetker Toppings – Eton Mess & Violet Crystals

I’m always excited to see sparkly things to put on cakes! These have been put in the baking cupboard for now but I’m sure they’ll get used – I’m excited to figure out a few recipes to use them with when I get back from Portugal, so keep your eyes peeled because I’m sure they’ll pop up on the blog!

I definitely don’t have the ££ to justify a Degustabox for myself right now but I do think they’re a great idea and I know in my family of 5, pretty much everything gets eaten by someone or other. They’re a fun way to experiment, and it’s nice to know that you can pick up everything in each box fairly easily in your average supermarket. What do you guys think – have you ever tried a food subscription box? How’d you think they stack up to beauty boxes??

(PS! I’m currently sunning myself in Portugal and have been a super organised blogger for once and left a few posts scheduled to tide me over until I get back. I have got wifi so I’ll hopefully be able to keep track of all your comments and so on but I’ll catch up properly when I get back!)