Autumn is my favorite time of year, the darkening nights, cold morning and the coming of winter weather make me soul shine. The act of putting away my summer clothes ( not that we have had much of a summer this year in Northern Ireland!) is a ritual in which I revel in each year. Putting away the dresses and skirts and getting out my coats, hats and winter knitwear for the season ahead always brings a glow to my heart.
Pumpkin spiced hot chocolate
The leaves start to fall, the crispness returns to the air and the celebrations of autumn and winter begin, Halloween to christmas and new year I love it all! The Fireworks and candles, the food and drinks, the family time and that time spent alone, cosy on the sofa with a cup of homemade hot chocolate and a good book
Stew with wheaten bread and butter to warm your heart on a cold autumn day
As the years have gone by I have developed a love of all things autumnal and winter. I have embraced the Hygge way of living and have truly fallen in love with that feeling of home, coziness and just being, that feeling of making time for people, having nights in with friends and family and creating the memories of our beautiful life.
A must read to help understand the Hygge philosophy and how to make it a way of life
Hygge is not a thing I can describe it is a feeling That I get, it is being relaxed, calm and just taking yourself out of the stresses of daily living to enjoy the simple things with my family and also learning to enjoy your own company. I have really loved the feeling of allowing myself to just be. I have read so many things recently about Hygge, things being advertised as Hygge foods and Hygge homewear … But that’s not what it’s all about. Yes having blankets and cushions, candles and foods that give you a sense of calm and that feeling of home are amazing, but the true essence of it is learning to enjoy the simplicity of life, to enjoy the small things and to take that one little moment whether it is charming, special, ordinary or completely extraordinary and holding that feeling in your heart.
That cold autumn day when the world just seems beauiful.. appriciate the small stuff
I read a quote recently that said “What a wonderful thought it is, That some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet” and isn’t it just a wonderful thought.
A little garden of frost ontop of my car, such beauty in nature.
Over the past 4 years I have been working to make my own personal hot chocolate recipe, it is an indulgence I adore in the cold bleak midwinter. It is bliss, a hot chocolate, snuggled up on the sofa watching films with Neil. I have really taken pride in making my own hot chocolate and I love serving it with some cream, marshmallows and little gingerbread men on top … lip smackingly good. I also have a real love of coffee and as winter comes in I love finding new places for a coffee with the ones I love.
Christmas hot chocolate with mashmallows, cream and gingerbread men … such bliss
I always find myself being so much more social at winter, going to more events, shows, nights out and having so much fun with our friend and family. We have a lot of family events in autumn and winter so we always end up doing so many cute and quirky things, like visiting winter markets, whe have lots of shopping days, we go to see more shows (the lyric always puts on an amazing christmas show!) and the expectaions of the wonderful adventures that await us make my heart so completely jolly with the spirit of the season I could burst with happiness.
The colder evenings seem to bring out the beauty in everything
I think is one of the times of year when you just have to get into the spirit and let yourself enjoy the sights sounds and smells, throw on a hat, some ear muffs, your cutest coat and away let the adventures begin. I love nothing better than a cold crisp sunny winters day, it is the type of day when you can wrap up warm and go outside and just see where the day takes you.
Autumn walks with the people you love most in the world
I have developed a little bit of an obsession with jumpers recently and have found so many pretty jumpers both new and vintage to add to my winter collection. I wouldn’t claim in any way to be a fashion blogger but there are some beautiful jumpers out there this year and I cannot wait to add some more of them to my winter collection! Clothes are such a big part of winter and they can make you feel a warmth to the depths of your soul, a happiness and contentment from being cosy in the cold winter days.
My favourite jumper, Betty on the front Barney on the back
So as autumn goes on and we are ever closer to winter I love to think that the passing of time is growth for us all, we embrace the cold and passing of the seasons and the changing of us all, it can only mean that new adventures await us
Well, here we are again that little thing called fertility, Neil and I last week had an appointment with our consultant to get the results of all the poking and prodding we have had over these last few months.
Our fertility issues have been ongoing and really we weren’t 100% sure of what the cause was, I knew I only had one ovary and fallopian tube and that I may have issues with conceiving a baby but as it turns out the problems I had burdened on my shoulders all these months were not just mine, they are ours.
I have been blaming myself for the whole thing, feeling like a disappointment and feeling like I was not a real woman, That I cannot do the one thing we girls should do so naturally. All around me people are having babies two, three and four and here is me nursing my dog and filling my life with candles and pruck I gather from Tkmaxx .
Our endless tests have revealed more than we had anticipated which I guess is the point. My ovary is healthy, however our consultant is now concerned that I have endometriosis and the next 6 months will hold more tests for me. Neil had two samples which were not quite as they should have been, I have endlessly joked that he gets all the fun, he goes in with a little pot does the necessary and that’s that, whereas I am getting bloods, scans and having bits cut out of me… Not quite as much fun
We were told that a normal male sample holds between 15-30 million sperm. Considering the current population of Australia is 24 million that’s pretty amazing! His first sample was 8.8 million, which is the population of london, however it is a lot less than what is considered normal, his second sample was 16 million which could populate northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland twice over ( these statistics are blowing my mind) so yeah I suppose neither of us are all that normal… but that’s part of the adventure guess
Throughout this whole process we have discovered different ways to love one another. As I have said before Neil and I met online and we fell in love very quickly, 5 months in we had moved into our cottage, 12 months in we were engaged and 20 months in we were married. Our romance was a whirlwind and really I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Through the last 2 years baby had been on my mind and Neil has really learned to love the different parts of me, the sad me who cries that I am a failure, the excited me who has a list of baby names on her phone, the annoying me who looks at baby clothes when we go out and tells him the stories of the exciting things I want to do with the baby I hope one day we will have. where as I have discovered his endless an unwavering love and come to appreciate so much more the amazing man I have been so fortunate to marry
In saying all of that I know that it may just not happen for us, we cannot predict the future and we have discussed the possibility that a baby is maybe not something we will ever have. I have been “joking” for over a year now that if we don’t have a baby I will get a micro pig called lord fudgeington, because im a slightly odd human being.
So, the plan seems to be that we have 6 months and then we will return to the hospital and we will be on course for IVF treatment. It honestly wasn’t the way I wanted things to be and I have been slightly saddened that we have to go this way. My thoughts have been so very conflicted in that I am excited at the thought of a little addition to our family yet I am worrying that the IVF will be tough on my body, my emotions and will result in me being very disappointed, having put myself and Neil through hell. However the pain and anguish I feel are all going to be worth it for a baby Patterson… I hope
So, the plan of attack is that I need to lose weight for treatment. Tomorrow starts my first day with a new personal trainer who is going to be whipping my ass into shape for the next 6 months and Neil is under strict instructions not to tempt me with any junk food! I apologise now for any blog or instagram spam of me sweating and complaining about working out!
People always say that things worth having aren’t always easy and this journey isn’t easy but at least I have Neil by my side to show me that Love doesn’t lie in my producing little humans, it lies in the life we have together and the memories we are making on this little adventure we call our life
I’m not generally one for giving fashion advice and to be honest I have made some serious fashion faux pas in my time, however as I have gone on in life I have discovered my own sense of style, my own idea of what suits me and I have truly discovered what makes me happy when it comes to the clothes I wear and that thing we call fashion.
I have a mixed bag of things in my wardrobe from new to vintage, Biba to primark, I have a love of all things fashion. I wear a plus size usually a 16-18, when I was younger I always found it so hard to find clothes to fit me, with a larger bust and short leg I usually ended up with the most plain and boring of outfits, however as time has gone on and a size 16-18 is now more accepted as an average size and the high street has expanded their ranges, so many shops now go up to a size 18 in store and even go up into larger sizes online. At times I find myself needing to go online for a larger size particularly when it comes to shirts due to my bust size.
My beautiful Matthew williamson dress which I had shortened due to it being so long ot did not suit my 5foot 3 inch stature.
I have my own way of dressing and to be honest I have found that I am not one to follow the trends of the high street, I wear what I like and like what I wear. I love feeling comfortable in fashion and dressing up is something I adore, I have been known on occasion to just spend a few hours trying on new outfits and parading about asking Neil’s opinion. I love mixing new and old and seeing what shoes and accessories work with what I am wearing, AS an adult I have discovered a love of dress up
I have a great many vintage items in my wardrobe and they are amongst my favourite pieces in my clothing collection. I look at my clothes not just as clothes but as pieces I love, I look at them and remember where I have worn them, the memories I have of them and the feelings I felt wearing them, I wouldn’t go as far as to refer to my clothes as friends but to me they symbolise beauty, love and happiness. They are little gems that warm my soul. My wedding dress was even pre loved and it, to me, made it so much more special.
I have always had a love of all things old and it started with a love of old books. I have a few old books that I just adore and I really love when I find books with personal messages inside. I have one book that tells the story of Florence Nightingale, inside the cover is a message, the book was given to a girl called Christine on her nursing graduation in 1960 from her Aunt Sheila and Uncle Teddy. Being a nurse myself it is something that I have come to treasure. I love that things as well as people can have a past and a history and I love wondering where they have been before and the stories they hold.
Naturally I then found and interests in other vintage items, mostly clothes. I have a few beautiful dresses and when I wear them I love the way they make me feel. The fact that someone else has worn them and the stories they hold fascinate me, I do often wear the clothes and wonder who wore them, where did they go? What did they do? Did they have the most amazing and life changing experience in the dress? Did they fall in love? I do try to think of the positive because who wants to wear clothes thinking someone wore it before and had the worst night of their life in it!
A little bit of Granny Chic
I have had a few criticisms in my time about the clothes I have, specifically the vintage ones, some of them are a little outlandish but that’s the point, I buy what makes me happy and I wear it with pride and such excitement that I get to add to the story of the clothes. I believe that life can be tough and dull at times so why not enjoy and have fun with what you wear.
My latest autumnal obsession
I have always had a fascination with being a little out there, I don’t ever wear what everyone else wears, I don’t follow the current styles, I don’t read style magazines because as I have said time and time again style is personal and is something that you can’t really get from a magazine or a celebrity. I do have a range of things in my wardrobe and really on a day-to-day basis I wear the usual Jeans, t-shirts, shirts and jumpers but I do like to add in my own little quirks to all my outfits, I wear a lot of brooches, scarves and have a slight obsession with Tatty Devine, because who doesn’t love a bit of perspex?
Obsessed with the front and back!
Shoes are also a major part of my fashion and I have been known to choose my shoes before I choose an outfit, including my wedding shoes! I always think if you have an amazing pair of shoes you can conquer the world.
My wedding shoes were a partcular hit on our wedding day in Belfast City Hall
I have one vintage piece that I could never in a million years part with, I found it in the Rusty Zip in Belfast which is now the red cross vintage retro. It is a shirt dress which is vintage French connection, it really caught my eye when I saw it and I fell so deeply in love with it that I just had to have it. It is amazing and I get endless compliments when I wear it, either I wear it as a dress or as an open shirt with jeans, it really would be one of my favourite pieces in my collection.
I am turned 29 last week and I have realised that over the past 4-5 years I have completely come into my own when it comes to my style. I have a lot of my own ideas when it comes to what looks good on me and I am sure not everyone would agree with what I call fashion but I say Styles, trends, en vogue? … I think it’s better to just do you.
Love Laura x
Trying to be the perfect person is just perfectly impossible, working anywhere from 48 to 60 hours each week I have sometimes found it hard to balance work, home, family, friends, health and everything that comes along with this little thing we call life
A picture can really say whatever you want it to… truth be told we were in the shade and I didn’t need sunglasses but who doesn’t love a good sunglasses shot?
Don’t get me wrong I love my life and all its little imperfections. I used to look at other people and wonder how they had it all so together and wondered why they were just so much better at adulting than I was! I would look at girls on Instagram With their perfect family, home, makeup, food and their wonderful idea of this idyllic life that everyone wished they could live.
This is My favourite view, for no specific reason. It just makes me happy.
A few weeks ago I was told by a beautiful friend of mine that My Instagram makes her happy and that she just wished that Her life was as amazing as mine was, a comment which I was very taken aback by, it got me to thinking about the bigger picture of social media but more specifically Instagram. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I also think that there are a thousand more things that a picture just can’t say. The prime example I used to Neil last week, when I was mulling over this Blog idea was that If I were taking a picture of a cake I have made, I wipe down the surface and get a nice cake stand out, a pretty cup and some nice napkins and snap a picture and it’s perfect to post. Behind the camera however is there me with no makeup on, likely still in my pyjamas, standing beside a sink full of dishes and a pile of ironing in the background that seems to have taken a sudden growth spurt. A picture says so little about the reality of life, it is one frame, in one second and when I have thought about it a picture can really say whatever you want it to.
Waffles… that I had some left over batter for so I made a third one to photograph… Nothing weird about that? right? (Neil didn’t get this one for his lunch the next day!)
I like to use my Instagram primarily as a scrapbook of my life, places I go, people I meet, the things I eat, use, buy and treasure in my life are on there. I have found myself looking at other people with a sense of jealousy thinking how beautiful their life is, their amazing home, the clothes they wear and their perfect makeuped faces each and every single day…. The reality is none of this comes for free, it isn’t easy, or always glamorous and takes time and effort… but it can be so much fun, its satisfying, fulfilling and has given me so many opportunities in life that I never thought possible… Is the social media life really worth the sacrifices? for some maybe not, But for me the time and effort I spend taking pictures and writing about the things I feel passionate about are some of the best moments of my week, putting those words and images out into the world for everyone to see it thrilling and when people connect with you and tell you their personal stories you connect with them on a different level.
When you find inspiration, passion and confidence in the simple act of instagramming.
The time I spend blogging or Instagramming is time for me, I find it is time in which I think outside the box, I can be creative and really be the person I want to be in my own life. I have in the past few years truly discovered how amazing life can be, I have found love in my Husband Neil, I have discovered a love of meditation and a love of the life that I have. I have taken some time to get the balance right between work, life and my online creativity. I will generally Instagram everything we do and I love taking time to look back at the life we share, as I say, it is our online scrap book.
The happiest of wee faces… I think I actually took about 15 photos of myself that day before I got the perfect Instagram, this wasn’t the one I used, but not all pictures have to be perfect to make you smile at the memory
There are sacrifices to it all, that every time we go out we have to stop for photos, I always just say we are enjoying the view (Taking a picture it lasts longer?) sometimes by the time I have finished photographing my dinner it’s a bit cold and I have even been known to making a little extra so I can take a photograph after dinner is finished so I don’t need to worry about it being cold! then I give it to Neil for his lunch the next day… bad wife? Good Instagrammer? Who knows? But life is just a little bit more fun when we stop and take the time to appreciate the things we are doing.
One of those times when Neil was starving but I needed 25 different angles of this to post on Instagram, I love him but he had to wait!
I love being creative, and I like to share my creativity with the world. I do think there is a fine line between those who do it for the love of it and those who do it to make something out of it and I genuinely feel that If you do it because you think you will be rich, famous and get free stuff then you are in it for all the wrong reasons. I have heard of people buying Instagram followers and likes to make themselves more popular and as easy as I’m sure this is, it’s not real. I have a few hundred followers on Instagram that have clicked the follow button because they like what I post and I would rather have 500 organic followers than 5000 followers that I bought for £40.
When the simplest photos get the most likes ( also I cant edit photos so screenshot it is!)
The social media world can be a funny place. I have posted things in the past that no one has liked and then the most random mundane pictures get so many likes, I once posted a picture of a chicken breast and broccoli with some feta cheese and it had 482 likes in about 20 minutes… why ? I have no idea as It wasn’t even the best picture I have ever taken… I guess people like what they like.
I do find that Instagram is a truly amazing group of people, they share stories, they are helpful and putting things out there can bring back some amazing responses and questions, people can be so lovely and helpful when you are just brave enough to put a question or idea out into the world, In saying that there are a fair few trolls out there who seem to think that committing mean and nasty things are appropriate on Instagram. Sometimes it takes a lot to put yourself out there, to tell people how you feel, to express times of sadness as well as joy and I have so much admiration for so many of my Instagram friends. You need to have a thick skin for sure and because Life isn’t always perfect you need to take the rough with the smooth. It’s comforting to know that a picture can be perfect, and if it makes you happy…why not? Some people drive fast cars, others jump out of planes, some watch endless episodes of Game of Thrones, others exercise to make themselves happy in life, but me? … I Instagram.
Neil and I have for the past few years been trying for a baby, it should be the most natural thing in the world, most people find it easy enough, but for us, it has not been so simple.
To go back a few years (12 to be precise) I had my left ovary and fallopian tube removed due to a cyst. It had grown so large on the top of my ovary that it twisted my fallopian tube causing such extreme pain that I was rushed to hospital where spent 11 days. After many tests they finally worked out what was wrong and by that time the only option was surgery to remove them.
Being a young woman at the time it was a hard thing for me to come to terms with. I at the age of 16 lost an ovary and was diagnosed with Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). It took me a long time to come to terms with it all, the surgery, the trauma of the experience, the hormones, how my body had changed, the surgical scars I now live with and the emotion that came along with it all. At the time I had so many questions… what does it mean? Can I still have children? How would I explain it to a future partner ? what is PCOS all about? Why me?
I do consider myself lucky in some ways, as life has gone on I have met the most loving and supportive man who told me that he didn’t love me for my ability to have a baby, he loved me for who I was ( I think it also helped that I make him laugh and I have an amazing rack…) Neil makes me feel truly loved and valued and I am so lucky to have him supporting me.
How could you not love him?
So Fertility has become an issue for us, with people around us having babies left right and centre I started to get those little pangs we women get and that desire in my heart to have a little baby of our own. It may sound silly but I just have this longing inside me to Give Neil a child, to make him a daddy, to see him smile as we take a little one though the adventures of life (i’m crying as I write this but that’s ok, emotions are good right?). I know none of it is easy but I have always seen myself being a mum and when someone tells you that you can’t have something or it is hard to get … you just want it even more!
I have a lot of people tell me things like … you’re jumping the gun with fertility treatment, you’re still young, stop stressing, it will be your turn next, oh that must be awful for you?. The worst one is when people tell you how bad it was when they tried for three months to get pregnant and how hard it was… Try three years!
As much as I understand it isn’t their fault and that my fertility issues aren’t anyone else’s problems, people just have no clue how emotionally draining and upsetting they can be with their comments, all the positivity in the world about it being my turn next won’t make me ovulate, so my frustration continues.
Our first Baby… Miss Riley
When I got my first appointment to go to the hospital the letter said that the appointment was in the “infertility clinic”. How my heart sank, I have been trying to be positive calling it the fertility clinic but when you see the word infertility there in black and white it’s hard to keep the spark of positivity alive, but I try.
My first clinic appointment was a pretty horrific experience if I am honest, off I goes to the hospital, hopeful and excited about the day to finally get moving on the whole process. I gave them a urine sample, had some blood taken, they weighed me, measured me and took all my observations then in I went to the consultant. She was lovely and had lots of questions, for me which I answered as best as I could. Then came the “if you just take your bottom half off and pop up on the bed”… Great.
The internal exam, followed by a smear test, other swabs, an internal ultrasound all went pretty smoothly then I heard the phrase “biopsy of your uterus lining”. Unaware of what to expect I said yeah sure go on ahead!! The pain was intense to say the least, the cold sweat broke out and the faint spell came over me I begun to shake and I really think my body went into shock! It felt like the seven dwarfs were mining diamonds inside my uterus!
Needless to say, I got through that undignified drama of being poked and prodded and only to be told that I needed to lose weight, a fact, that despite what people think, I am aware of! Having PCOS and an underactive thyroid make it difficult to lose weight but I am trying
There are no words to describe how attractive an assless gown makes you feel…
I do try to stay very positive through it all, I joke about it and make light of it all as I feel if I am too serious or over think I will stress myself too much and it will make it all worse, I don’t want to be baby crazy and just be 24/7 thinking about it, I will admit sometimes I get sad, sometimes I cry and sometimes I lose all hope of ever being a mother, we all have moments of weakness, I am just so lucky to have a supportive husband and family helping me through it all.
The whole thing has been a rollercoaster so far and it hasn’t even really begun, all the bloods, scans, samples, ultrasounds, biopsies, appointments, smears, x rays and hospital gowns that flash your ass to the world, they are the beginning and if we ever do get pregnant that will be a whole other adventure!
One thing I keep saying to people is never to take their fertility for granted, never assume things are going to be easy, never underestimate how amazing pregnancy is, but also never underestimate the heartbreak infertility can bring to other people. It is such a sensitive subject and I feel empowered by being able to talk about it, by telling my story of infertility, I hope it can make other people feel a little less afraid to talk about it and to be more open to dealing with issues, seeing their GP or just talking to someone.
Neil and I had the pleasure of taking a Heritage tour of the strand arts centre which is in East Belfast. We had been involved in a fundraising campaign they had run to save their 35mm projector called Beethoven and Following this we were invited along to a Heritage tour of the cinema. The tour was lead By the amazing Alan who has worked at the cinema as a projectonist for over 10 years and I have to say his enthusiasm for the cinema, the history and conservation of the strand was completely infectious
We started off the tour in the lobby of the cinema with a walk down memory lane of the strand. It was first opened in 1935, Alan showed us some wonderful pictures of what the cinema looked like at this point. The cinema now has 4 screens however back then it had only one.
The concession stand in the Strand… sweet and salted??
We learned about the first film that was ever shown in the cinema which was Bright Eyes starring Shirley Temple. Alans passion for the cinema was evident throughout the tour, the way he talked about the films, the building and the history inspiring. The cinema was built by John McBride Neill who was the architect who built the Curzon cinema on the Ormeau road and the Tonic in Bangor county down, the Building was influenced by its proximity to the shipyard Harland and Wolff. The strand itself features curved walls and porthole decorations throughout the building, coupled with its art deco theme the strand is a wonder of architecture
The strand arts Centre
On the tour we were treated to a history of the cinema and the surrounding areas, including lots of personal stories of Alan’s and stories others had shared with him. After the tour of the lobby we headed into screen one. This is a screen we had been in several times before and it is a beautiful room with some beautiful seating and a stage. Alan told us about some of the original features of the room including some of the signage and the clock, he said it no longer works but is absolutely beautiful. The room is the main stands of the original screen and is just such a beautiful room, they have some of the original seats in the room including some couples seats which don’t have an armrest between them.
The carpet in the cinema is just so beautiful, it is red with images of famous stars on it such as Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin, It is quirky and gives such amazing character to the foyer and screens.
The Strand as Is no longer just a cinema it is an arts centre and they take part in so many community events, the Belfast film festival and east side arts festival to name but a few. They also host events, special screenings and have so many amazing events on throughout the year.
Neil and I have been to a few special screenings there, the first one was a screening of The Big Lebowski, however the one that sticks in my memory was the special screening of Mulholland drive we saw earlier this year, when we got to the front of the line we told the man at the counter we had tickets booked, he told us to head on up and the girl had a list of names so off we headed and she showed us into the screen. It was a little odd as there were so many people there, David lynch is a favourite director of Neil’s, however he isn’t exactly the most well-known of directors so we were surprised to see such a full screen. As the moments passed we begun to realise that we were not in the showing for Mulholland drive but in a clairvoyant show …. As it begun we got up and left, slightly embarrassingly as we were in the middle of the full row! We then went into the right screen and it was filled with seven other people, which is more the number we had expected! I told Alan this story on the tour and he laughed and said “you’d think she would have known, being a psychic”
We do genuinely love the Strand and go there as often as we can, each year we always try to see an alternative Christmas film, last year we saw Batman Returns in the strand, As odd as it sounds I love the feeling of East Belfast at Christmas, especially on a cold night when you can cycle or have a walk, the Belmont road, the strand, the C. S Lewis square, it all just has that feeling of Christmas you cannot put into words, I do kind of get the sensation of Narnia when I am there at Christmas however I think that is more my wild imagination coupled with a crazy love of Christmas
The feel of the strand is like no other cinema, it is unique and beautiful. I won’t give away to many spoilers of the tour as it is something I think everyone should do, especially if you have an interest in cinema and the history of the strand. They have so many plans for the future for renovation and change to modernise but keeping the history of the cinema alive. There is nowhere else like it in Northern Ireland and I feel it is something we should all work towards keeping alive.
This post is not in any way sponsored by the Strand arts Center, but is fueled by our love of cinema, its history and future, you can visit their website at www.strandartscenter.com or on their Facebook page to find out about their screenings, what’s on and all about the cinema. You can book heritage tours too and also learn about the plans they have for the future and how you can help the strand live on for generations.
Neil and I are not big on beach holidays, we much prefer a few trips away each year to different cities where we take four or five days to explore what they have to offer. This July we took a trip, along with some very good friends to Budapest In Hungary. It is a place we had never been to before but had heard a lot about, we spent time looking at things to do and researching restaurants and places to explore throughout the city. We set off at 3am on a Monday morning to Dublin and off we flew to Budapest with Ryanair. Sadly we can’t fly from Belfast but the two hour drive is hardly anything to complain about.
We had booked two apartments with booking.com, I find booking.com and other such websites good as you can read the reviews and spend some time over the decision of hotel or apartment. Our apartment’s were on the buda side of the city, When we arrived our driver informed us that the city has two sides, the Buda side which is older, has more hills and is the home of the castle, the fisherman’s Bastion and the fanciest spar shop I have ever seen! The pest side is the more modern side which has lots to offer including the houses of parliament, shopping plazas and the New York cafe, which I will tell you More about later on. Our apartment was called cozy studio at the castle, when I read the trip advisor reviews they were amazing, the apartments had such good ratings, seemed amazingly clean, the owner was described as warm and friendly, the reviews did not disappoint. Monica our host was just wonderful she was so welcoming and greeted us with such enthusiasm, before we travelled she had contacted me to organise transport for us from the airport which was extremely reasonable and was a great help as we would have had to take a bus, a train and a tram to get to and then a 15/20 minute walk to find it!
Our love of selfies from the Fisherman’s Bastian
We had two apartments, one for our friends which had a balcony overlooking the garden, a bathroom and kitchenette. Our room was upstairs and was just fantastic, the room was on three levels, downstairs we had a kitchen, bathroom and living area, upstairs on the mezzanine balcony had our bedroom and then finally we had a third floor roof terrace which had an amazing view over the city. Our room had air-conditioning which was amazing as we arrived into Budapest in 34 degree centigrade heat!
Day one was spent exploring our local surroundings, after settling into our apartments we headed up the hill (and a lot of steps!) To the fisherman’s Bastion, this is on the castle hill on the Buda side of the Danube it is a beautiful neo-gothic style terrace that sits around Matthias church and has such picturesque views of the Danube and city of Budapest, with some lovely photo opportunities too.
Matthias church in the on Castle Hill
Matthias church itself is just stunning, the architecture and style of the building is just so overwhelmingly beautiful. The roof tiles and surrounding are captivating and I found myself standing there just looking around like a complete tourist, but unashamedly so!
Following this we just started to walk, no where specifically and just saw some of the sights the buda side had to offer, beautiful buildings, an amazing view of the mountains, burger king hot dogs for lunch and we then wandered back down towards the Danube through some little streets and stopping off at Anjuna ice pops for an ice lolly. Neil (who was our food guru for the week) had spotted this as a must go place so we sought it out and were so very glad we did. They are a Budapest based brand and are relatively new, opening in 2015. They serve only plant based foods, vegan friendly and healthy alternatives to ice-cream and ice-lollies. We aren’t vegan but who could pass up an ice pop? They have so many flavours all made from natural ingredients I had mango and raspberry and Neil had vanilla and mango as did our friend Zenas and Andrew had beautifully coloured blackberry one, they were All delicious and it is a place we would recommend to anyone going to Budapest. After this we headed back and stopped into the local spar shop which was truly beautiful, it looked from the outside to be more like a theatre or old concert hall! They sold the biggest watermelons I have ever seen and apart form an extremely grumpy server it had everything for a weeks worth of breakfasts all for under £20… Bargain!
The step strugge was real… but so worth the views
Our day concluded with a bit of a late dinner in a small restaurant about 5 minutes walk from our apartments called Ildiko’s kitchen. It was true Hungarian fare, we had some goulash and some beautiful chicken with potato and rice. It was a wonderful way to begin our food adventures in Budapest. After dinner we took an evening stroll along the banks of the Danube. Taking lots of pictures of the parliament building which is a truly iconic site of Budapest, we started our walk from the chain bridge which was our main crossing point for the week it was constantly busy due to the FINA world championships stage being set up for the opening ceremony just beside it. We walked along in the beautifully balmy evening and as we walked further we noticed there was some lightening in the distance, the further we walked the more frequent it became and we even heard some faint rumbles of thunder. As we got near the end of the path we decided to get back to the apartment as it was getting more and more frequent. Our apartment was at the top of a hill and as we reached the bottom it began to pour with rain, it was so heavy and I have never seen raindrops so big, the rain was so delightfully warm and we ran up the hill being soaked through as we went. When we got inside we headed to Balcony in Andrew and Zena’s room to watch the storm, it became louder and louder with fork lightening and huge booms of thunder which lasted well into the early hours of the morning, however we didn’t stay up to watch it all. We headed to bed around midnight absolutely exhausted form our travels and explorations of the day and full of excitement for the days that lay ahead and the plans we had made to fill them.
Neil on our evening walk along the Danube
Day two Day two began with an early wakening at 7.30am and enjoying a beautiful cup of coffee on the roof terrace, after a breakfast of half frozen watermelon, yoghurt and warmed croissants, we set off for a day of sightseeing. We headed towards the chain bridge and across to the Pest side of the city, as we walked we had some beautiful views of the Danube and the buildings along the water side. Once there we headed to saint Stephen’s basilica, a beautiful open square with the Church at the end, the square was filled with tourists taking photographs and beautiful ( yet no so reasonably priced) restaurants and coffee shops surrounding it. We stood for a while taking some photos and listening to the bells on the hour which rang out with the most wonderful tune. We then headed off to our next designation! As I said Neil was our food guru for the week and he had told us about a coffee bar which we just had to visit, off we walked towards Expression Embassy for some iced lattes, on the way we walked past a place called Mr Funk which was selling the most unusual doughnuts and freak jars. We didn’t try the freak jars but decided we deserved a doughnut as we were on holiday! The coffee was beautiful and we’ll worth the wait in the queue and the doughnuts were so worth the calories! I had one high was decorated like a unicorn with almond and cherry flavourings … scrumptious!
Dognuts in Mr Funk… They were amazing!
After this we headed towards the park to enjoy our coffee and doughnuts. We ended up sitting in Szabadsag park which is just behind the holocaust memorial. From there we headed off towards the parliament buildings and along the waterfront. The parliament is a truly iconic image in Budapest and it was just as impressive up close as it was from afar, they have such beautiful gardens and the architecture is just awe inspiring. We sat for a while in the sun and admired the view and just watched the world go by before heading on to our next stop…. The Colombo statue! The Colombo statue was one of the things we all wanted to see, mainly because it’s unusual and a bit quirky. It is on Falk Miksa Street which is named after Colombo actor Peter Falk, naturally we had to visit it! The statue is just at the end of the street and was a real tick on our Budapest bucket list. We visited the statue and obviously got some photographs, to be honest I think we were the only people making a real scene around it however being typically tourist was our thing that day so we didn’t care. I spent a good proton of the day taking selfies with inanimate objects, statues, buildings, flagpoles… Because why not?
The Colombo Statue a must see on our Budapest Bucket List
Anyway, we headed form here towards the West-side shopping centre and on the way we stopped off at a street vendor to try some Gombi, they were odd but beautiful, they have a sweet and savoury version, they are, as far as I can tell, a cottage cheese based dough balls which are fried and served with jams, sauces, pickles and mayonnaise of your choice, we got one of each to try between the four of us. From here we ploughed onto the Westside centre ( and I was singing the score from West side story in my head as we went) the centre was massive and had many of the shops we had at home including a lush which we spent about half an hour on whilst I tried on different face cooling sprays and hand creams and Neil got chatted up by the sales girl.
They have a beautiful shop in Europe called Springfield. It is a men’s and women’s clothes shop which I love, I first came across one in Barcelona and fell in love with it so I always try to get to one when I’m in Europe, while we were here we decided to get some lunch and ended up in pizza hut where we got two individual pizzas and two drinks for around £6 which was pretty good really. After this we headed back towards our hotel walking back towards the Buda side and over the Margaret bridge and onto the tram to head back to the apartment for an hour of rest and a freshen up as the day had been rather hot.
We headed out again around 7pm and went to dinner in a burger bar called lucky seven, again another one of Neil’s finds and it was just delicious and another recommendation for Budapest, such juicy and beautifully cooked burgers. Our final stop for the day was down by the water to pier 11 where we boarded the boat for our evening tour of the Danube at 9.30pm. we sat inside the boat beside the open windows as we set off for our 90 minute tour. It was so much fun and we loved seeing Budapest by night from the water, it is such a majestic city and apart from a few flies it was perfect. You can do many tours on the Danube including a pizza and beer tour and dinner tours. As we had wanted to try so many food places we decided to go for just the late night water tour.
Day three Today started off a little confused due to the tram lines being changed because of works so we ended up walking a while to our destination, we started off with a journey on the cogwheel train up to the children’s railway. We had seen the children’s railway on channel 4’s travel man and thought it was something we had to experience when in Budapest. The railway was run by children, they sell the tickets, stamp them on the train and do most of the running of the train (it is driven by an adult though) the railway took us up the mountain to the chair lift. When we got off the train it was described as a short walk to chair lift but I would have described it more as a moderately long walk due to it being all up hill and in 32 degree heat! Before we got the chair lift down we stopped for some ice cream as a well deserved treat! The chair lift was very reasonably priced and we took it back down the mountain. It surprised me how quiet the chair lift was, we went down which took about 15 minutes and there was just complete silence, we watched the view over Budapest and the view of the trees beneath our feet. It was a truly wonderful site, romantic and complete bliss just outside the busy city.
The Cogwheel Railway which we took to get to the childrens railway station
After this we headed towards the pest side of the Danube to the New York cafe for a late lunch. The new York cafe seems to be very highly rated in Budapest and was a place that we really had wanted to try. An opulent and romantic interior awaited us and we had such a wonderful dining experience. We ordered lunch, I had spaghetti and Neil had a goulash, for desert we shared a hazelnut torte, Neil with a beer and me, a latte. We had such a lovely time there, the food was beautiful, the experience was wonderful, the staff were so pleasant and attentive and I can see why it is such a Budapest icon. The cafe is attached to a hotel which we had a little look inside, it is beautiful and grand however we tend to preference quirky hotels and apartments over opulence in a hotel but I do imagine it is as amazing an experience as anywhere else you could stay in this amazing city. Following our very grand luncheon experience we headed towards Heroes square which is yet another must see of Budapest. The square has two main statues which epitomise the history of Budapest, celebrating its past and historical figures, the square is surrounded by two museums one for modern art and the other for classical art, we didn’t have time to visit them we would definitely give them a look over if we ever return to Budapest. Behind the square we walked over the bridge to Vajdahhunyad castle, it is known as a fairytale castle and is truly a beautiful place to visit, it has a small church, a lake and some exquisite gardens with beautiful sculptures to see. We later learned that the castle was never inhabited and was built to be a tourist attraction, it is based on castles from around Europe. We sat for a while in the grounds enjoying the view of the gardens and the lake. We then headed back on the metro and to our apartment.
Selfie at Heros square with Neil (and one of his many amazing shirts!)
Day four Today was a more energetic day starting off at 10.30 am with a bike tour which lasted most of the day. It was a little cooler today at 29 Degrees so it was slightly easier to partake in physical activity where as the week so far had been in the mid 30s and extremely humid following the thunder and rain. We Met our guide Anna at Deak square, the tour was rather small, she told us she usually has 10-14 people for a tour but we had just 5, our group and a young man from Moscow Uri who was travelling in Europe. We set off to pick up our bikes and then our first stop was Elizabeth square. Elizabeth square is named after Budapest’s queen Elizabeth who gets the nickname Sissi. Anna had explained to us how vital she was in creating the Budapest we know today and how loved she is as a historical figure, she was involved in the politics of Budapest long before women ever showed interests in such thing. In the square there is a statue of Sissi and they have a big Ferris wheel, Anna had told us that is isn’t really something she would recommend as it isn’t high enough to see the beauty of Budapest. We then headed towards the opera house, hero’s square, Vajdahunyad Castle and we saw Budapest a famous Szechenyi Baths. After this we headed to have lunch in the park which was included in the tour we had Goulash, bread and some refreshing lemon water. Budapest is known for its paprika and they have a Paprika chutney they use in their goulash…. I am not the biggest fan of spicy foods and it almost killed me as it was so hot so I am advising caution! It was none the less delicious and we ate every bite. We then headed off again and passed the House of terror, sadly this is a place we didn’t get to visit but we are told it is an amazing exhibition of Budapest’s history through the war and their alliance with Germany and the siege of Budapest. It would definitely be a place to visit if we return. We then went to St Stephens Basilica across the chain bridge and up to Matthias church and fisherman’s bastion , up the hill on a bike…. Needless to say it wasn’t the easiest cycle of my life but it was so worth the view and the feeling of reaching the top was pretty good too! We then went across to Buda castle to see the fountain, and had a look over the Buda hills there, We then headed back down hill which was much more fun than coming up and we passed Gellert Monument, headed back over Elizabeth bridge and back to the bike shop! All in all around 5 hours of cycling and site seeing which was a truly wonderful way to see Budapest. Phew!
Our next stop was another one on our food tour of Budapest, again Neil had done his research and found a very highly rated waffle bar, never to be one to say no to a waffle we headed off to Ahoy for lunch, needless to say it was utterly amazing. They have a quirky menu where you chose your waffle and then pick your toppings, anything from sweets to savoury. I had a buttermilk waffle with Nutella, marshmallows and salted caramel sauce accompanied with a sour cherry home-made lemonade. Shear perfection!
Waffles at Ahoy, complete and uttery delicious and a must visit in Budapest!
Our final stop of the day was one of rest and relaxation at the Hungarian baths, we chose to head to a local one rather than one of the more popular tourist spots and were so glad we did. The baths were on the Buda side about 20 minutes walk from the apartments. We had a lovely evening walk down to get there enjoying the calm, warm evening. The baths were called Kiraly Gyogyfurd and was just in the middle of a row of shops, we headed in not really knowing what to expect. The smell was the first thing to hit us and it was a smell which to be honest took a little getting used to. It was a sulphuric smell and was rather strong at first but dwindled as time went on. They have three pools, a 36 degree pool a 40 degree pool and a 26 degree pool. We started off in the 36 degree which had an amazingly ornate tap which was pouring the beautiful natural mineral rich water into the pool. We sat in there for a while and enjoyed the pool and the conversation was flowing, we then headed off to what we thought was the 40 degree pool but after dipping a foot in I realise it was 26degrees and we swiftly moved to the 40 degree one! After a while Zenas decided to get into the 26 degree pool and I decided to follow her in, it was freezing and yet so refreshing! The locals were coming out of the 70-80 degree heat of the steam room and jumping in which I imagine would have caused me to die of shock! It was lovely once we were in and made my skin and hair super soft and silky for the coming days.
Taking pictures, of Neil taking pictures.
Our final day We decided for our last morning in Budapest to take a walk back up the hill on the Buda side and visit the hospital in the rock. This is a hospital that was built in the 1930s in anticipation for the second world war and is built in caves under Buda castle. To be honest it was a very sombre way to end our trip to Budapest but was really worth the visit. Our guide told us all about the history of the hospital and its use in the second world war and during the siege of Budapest in 1944-1945. The hospital was built to look after 300 people but they say when at its worst they had 600-700 people who had been treated there. Being a nurse myself I could not imagine the conditions of it in such a small cramped environment, the nurses and doctors who worked there were obviously so dedicated to their people and it really touched a nerve with me being down there. It is a time travel through their history of medicine and war. The hospital was later converted into a nuclear shelter and is obviously now a museum to remember those people who both used and worked in the hospital.
Following our tour we headed back for one last food stop and had a beautiful sour cherry strudel in Ruszwurm just beside Buda Castle. We had a completely wonderful time in Budapest the architecture is stunning, the food spectacular and the people are so friendly, I am having holiday withdraws already!
My name is Laura and I have an obsession, with potatoes!
Those who know me best, will know, that to me the potato is the king! Whether they are Boiled, mashed, diced, hashed, roasted, fried, baked or chipped, potatoes are one thing in life my soul could not do without.
As a child potatoes were my food obsession. I had to have them with every meal from soup to lasagna the spuds were always the star of my show. My childhood was spent eating the most simple of potatoes either mash, roasties or chips but in the last few years my curiosity has gotten the better of me and my kitchen experimentation has helped me find new and amazing levels of potato deliciousness, you could call me a potato goddess? …Maybe not
I feel the biggest potato revelation I have made was the purchase of my potato ricer (seriously if you don’t have one, put some shoes on and go right this minute and get one!) As weird as it sounds it is a revelation and has changed my life for the better. I had read a lot of reviews and there are a lot of good ricers out there, I bought a Joseph Joseph one for £20 from Debenhams simply because it was one of the best rated…. And I wanted one that said Joseph Joseph on the top because I am a complete and utter kitchen snob (have so many of their products because they are amazing!)
The first time I used the ricer was to make a simple mash potato and it was UNDOUBTEDLY the best one I have ever made …according to my husband, although I feel he is a little bias. My mashed potato recipe is simple
2 kg of Maris Piper or Russet potatoes
40g (ish) of salted butter
80-90 ml of milk
Salt and pepper to taste
An alternative mash. sour cream, spring onion and mustard. Delicious comfort food
I find that potatoes are a very personal thing to taste so you can add more or less butter or Milk. You should melt the butter and milk together before you add it to the riced potatoes as it stops lumps and means you aren’t adding cold things to the warm mash. I also have quite a few variations depending on the meal and I will add things like whole grain mustard, mature cheddar cheese, chives, spring onions, cabbage, rosemary, thyme, roasted garlic or even a bit of horseradish. A good mashed potato can take you places you never thought you would go. They can be eaten alone, alongside, or on top of any meal. I have also been trying variations of mixing them with different vegetables like carrot to top a cottage pie and puree pea on top of chicken or fish pie! … the potato possibilities are endless!
At the risk of sounding like a broken spud gun ( I know i’m hilarious) I really think potatoes should be with every meal! Yes I know they say everything in moderation and Carbs are the enemy ,but I really feel that food in general is happiness. The experience of cooking, baking, experimenting and trying new things is so warming to the heart and brings a smile to the soul so the act of denying yourself the things you love … is just plain silly. You can eat well and still be healthy.
Made in Northern Ireland and grown just 10 miles from Dibney Cottage.
Chips are a big staple of Northern Irish cuisine, fish and chips is a crowd pleaser and a lot of people I know, myself included, grew up eating chips. Wither oven cooked, microwaved or from the chippy they are a staple of life. So once again as my potato fascination continues I have endovered to make chips my own and create some unusual and delicious recipes.
You will never beat a good chip shop chip whither it is alongside a fish or with gravy, cheese or some sort so special sauce, however I do feel that the perfect potato cooked right at home can rival any take away around and is probably a little bit healthier too. I have heard all the hype about the triple cooked chip but who genuinely has time at home to cook a chip three times? Not me so i have developed a few techniques for making the perfect chip at home.
It has taken me a little while to perfect my own recipe for them but I tried them lots of different ways and this is the one I like best.
I usually get the oven onto its hottest temperature which is 250 degrees on my own. I then start with 1 kg of king Edward potatoes ( you can also use Maris Piper for these). Cut them into the size you desire whether thin or chunky. I usually cut them lengthwise to make the chips long and also usually make them a little on the chunky side, I find this makes them a little fluffier on the inside and crispy on the outside when cooked.
Some Home made chunky chips
I generally use a little olive oil to drizzle over them just enough to cover them as if there is too much they are a bit greasy and the oven will be at its highest temperature so we don’t want any smoke alarm disasters. There is some debate as to whether you blanch them before cooking but i generally don’t. I usually soak them in water for 5-10 minutes to get rid of some of the starch and pat them dry before adding the oil. Top tip I picked up from Mary Berry is to put the chips oil and seasonings into a resealable plastic bag that way you can coat them all in the seasonings and add them to the pan without having to make more washing up for yourself! I also find this handy as you can make them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge before cooking if you are going to be in a rush or have guests over.
As for seasonings I generally just use whatever I have to hand and whatever is going to suit the vibe of the meal, sometimes it’s garlic and rosemary, sweet roasted garlic paste, chilli, Cajun spice, celery salt, oregano or BBQ seasoning. Generally i just go with the mood i’m in at the time I usually preheat the oven and get the chips laid out on the pan so they aren’t overlapping I would cook them for around 25-30 minutes turning them a few times as I go until they are ready.
This is just my own way of doing things and I find it works for me, you get a different chip every time but to be honest I still love a good chippy chip ( usually with cheese ,salt, vinegar and red sauce…. It’s Deliciously wonderful!) … As I say I just do things my own way, I am not a chef or a food scientist, i’m just a girl standing in front of a potato asking it to love her.
Mary Berry tips makes my spud life so much easier to clean!
Most nights I will make potatoes and I love using little potatoes like jersey royals or new potatoes which I usually cut into cubes and roast in the oven in a little oil and spices. They are truly amazing with anything but I recently discovered the most beautiful recipe for them. I was inspired by my new-found fascination of indian spices. Indian cuisine was never food that I had liked before due to a bad and greasy experience many years ago however as I have begun to explore more at home I have learned some delicate spice combinations that are much better than anything I had tried before.
The beauty of the cubes are the fact that they are small and cook in 15-20 minutes which is always handy when i’m in a rush. The spice mix I have concocted is a mix of paprika, cumin, chilli, fennel, mustard powder and some Turmeric once again I am no Jamie oliver so I don’t specifically stick to a recipe I just add what I feel is right and see what happens (if it tastes horrible you don’t have to eat it after all) sometimes it is just nice to experiment. These usually go down very well in our home and I serve them with a spicy chicken or sausages.
Home made cubes with garlic and black pepper. Accompanied with a mayo, tomato sauce dill and lemon dipping sauce. just perfect to warm the soul.
The little potato cubes are usually a staple for us and I use them in lots of different ways adding different spices to them such as chilli, garlic or just plain with some salt and vinegar on them.
Potatoes to me represent more than just food. They are comfort, they are home and fill my soul with warmth. On a cold winter’s day I use potato in soups, traditional Irish Stew, potato rosti, hash browns, and so many other things. I love how versatile they are and how you can make anything from waffles to pasta with them
I travelled in Italy a few years ago and had the most life affirming food experience in Verona. It remains to this day, a city I am completely besotted with. For reasons I feel I cannot put into words Verona made me, me. Whilst there I went for dinner in this little restaurant which was near castle Vecchio. The name of it completely escapes me and my extensive google street view searches have turned up zero, so all I have are my memories to go on. It was the first place I ever ate Gnocchi and is still the best I have ever had. We had the most beautiful dinner there but the Gnocchi with broccoli and a creamy cheese sauce was the one thing I will never fail to remember, it was so comforting, you could feel the love that had gone into it and the way I felt eating it was like no other food experience I have ever had.
At the risk of being overly romantic about the food It made my soul shine, my face smile and it had potatoes! what more could you ask for in a meal? That night in particular was amazing for another reason upon leaving the restaurant I went outside to the most amazingly warm thunderstorm, being from Northern Ireland that isn’t something you get every day, it was like a scene from a film and I realised in that moment standing looking out at this amazing force of nature, that the person I was standing next to, was not the person I wanted to spend my forever with, I realised that life was so much more than what we had, that I could love so much more than I ever thought possible and the positivity I felt going forward that evening was life changing for me, you could say it was the electricity in the air or the romantic atmosphere of Verona that made me see things clearly, but I like to think it was the food, the power of the Potato.
My own take on gnocchi. served with Cod, garlic green beans and a home made green pesto
So apart from potatoes filling my tum, warming my soul and affirming my life as a weird and slightly strange human being they are really a very versatile vegetable. I like to make them a little bit special at times too. One of my favorite dishes to do for a special occasion is potato gratin. The first time I made it in our home was the first time my family and Neil’s family met and I made dinner, a slow cooked beef brisket with green beans carrots and potato gratin. I find it to be a very elegant way of presenting potatoes, it is creamy, cheesy and just with a hint of nutmeg it is just the perfect dish for a special night. Although I do remember that night when I was lifting the gratin out of the oven and spilled some of the cream and milk mixture down in between the glass of my then brand new oven door, but no point crying over spilt cream, it’s all about making memories of how difficult it is to clean between the glass of an oven door!
Potatoes, incase I didn’t go on about them enough, are just great. They represent so much to me, they are nourishment, comfort, love and bring me so many happy memories and inspirations in my kitchen. From Jersey royals to King Edwards, Maris pipers to our very own Comber potatoes I love them all, The day I give up on spuds will be the day I cease to exist.