Step into Spring

Easter is fast approaching and I’m using that as an excuse to treat myself to a beautiful new dress! I want something with a lovely pop of colour that’s suitable for spring and appropriate for visiting family. And let’s face it; it also has to be comfy and forgiving so I don’t feel too bad when I’m settling down to a roast lamb dinner and chocolate eggs :-P. I love these pretty pieces — they’re so feminine and I can easily throw a chunky knit cardigan over them when it turns cool for a look that’s sweet and simple and ideal for a lazy long weekend.

easter-collage

Topshop Scallop Daisy Overlay Dress

Topshop Fit and Flare Crepe Dress

Topshop Panelled Shirt Dress

Mango Combi Dress

Warehouse Printed Pique Dress

Warehouse Geo Skirt Swing Dress

New Look Navy Floral Print Dress

New Look Pink Heart Print Dress

New Look Blue Stripe Belted Dress


Chocolate Berry Granola

As much as I’ve always liked the idea of granola, I’ve only ever bought the occasional bag in the past. I’ve always found it a bit expensive for a packaged product and every variety always contains at least one ingredient that I don’t like. I have a mild allergy to certain nuts as well which made me even more apprehensive about putting it in my shopping basket.

granola-mix

I considered making my own granola a few times but never pursued the idea. However, when I recently came across this excellent guide which explains the basic formula, I had to give it a go. It offers such straightforward advice and tips, you can’t go wrong. You can adjust all the ingredients to suit your own personal taste and you can come up with endless concoctions. Before I had even finished reading the article, I was thinking about what I’d put in my own mix…

granola-prep

It was really fun to think up a tasty combination. I’m so happy with my first attempt and I love everything that has gone in to this granola — the crunchy hazelnuts, the creamy coconut flakes, the sweet maple syrup…I also added dried berries and chocolate raisins for a little touch of indulgence ;-).

fruity-granola

It just tastes so fresh and crunchy and the flavours are fantastic. Served with ice-cold milk or some yogurt, this is perfect for breakfast and it also makes a surprisingly delicious topping for ice-cream. To be honest though, it’s almost impossible to resist eating this simply by the handful!

choc-granola

No exaggeration, I know I’ll be making this again and again and again. Like cupcakes or French toast or sticky chicken, this isn’t a recipe I want to forget. It’s such a substantial dish and it’s so satisfying to see it come together. I could get 15-20 servings out of this recipe. With this batch, I’m keeping half of it at home and bringing the rest to my parents’ place when I visit this weekend. It looks all appealing in a chunky glass jar so it actually makes a nice little gift too! Can you tell I’m completely smitten with the stuff…? :-)

granola-breakfast

This is my adaptation of this formula and it’s so good, you have to try it!

Ingredients:

3 cups of rolled oats
1 cup of hazelnuts
1 cup of coconut flakes
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup of dried berries
1 cup of chocolate raisins

Method:

Measure out the oats, hazelnuts, coconut, salt and cinnamon in to a big bowl.

Pour in the maple syrup and olive oil. Stir well, making sure to coat all the dry ingredients so it becomes one big sticky mixture.

Transfer to a lined dish or baking sheet — I used a brownie pan and it worked really well.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 150 degrees Celsius (300 Fahrenheit) for forty-five minutes, gently stirring it halfway through.

When it has crisped up to a nice golden colour, take the pan out of the oven and set it aside. Allow it to cool for ten to fifteen minutes before folding in the dried berries and chocolate raisins.

Enjoy a warm bowl of your freshly made granola immediately and leave the rest to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container.


Max Factor Facefinity 3 in 1

In need of a new foundation last month, I picked up Max Factor Facefinity All Day Flawless 3 in 1. This isn’t a new product (in fact I think it’s a couple of years old) but I hadn’t tried it before and I was curious. Also it normally retails at €16.99 but it was on offer for €12 that day and I’m not one too miss a special offer!

This isn’t just a foundation; it’s also a primer and concealer — with SPF 20 to boot.  It comes in a sleek classic-looking 30ml bottle with a handy pump. For my naturally lightly tanned skin, I chose the beige shade. When I started to apply it, I initially wondered if the shade was a touch too light for my skin tone but it seemed to settle after a while and look more natural. My skin type is normal and this foundation suited it well. It did a good job minimising my blemishes and it also blended nicely.

max-factor-facefinity

What I particularly like about this product is that it feels light on the skin and has a lovely matte finish. You could wear it during the day and/or for the evening. I wore this for the first time on a night out and, despite the heat in the bar, it lasted really well. I wouldn’t normally wear foundation during the day but I put it on again one morning during the week and it held beautifully ’til I hopped in the shower that evening. To be honest, there’s not much I don’t like about this. It works for me and I can’t ask for more than that!


Herb Butter Hearts

I love the idea of cooking with fresh herbs but really that doesn’t happen too often in my kitchen. I pick up the little pots of thyme or rosemary or whatever every so often but most of the time, I only ever get the chance to use a handful of its leaves before it starts to wither and look all sad. The problem is that I either forget to throw in the herbs when I’m cooking or else the meal doesn’t require them. Sometimes it’s a case of remembering halfway through cooking but not being bothered to rinse and chop them at that stage…lazy but true!

In all seriousness though, I can’t stand waste so I wanted to look for a solution to this little dilemma. After a bit of searching, I found lots of useful hints and tips over here and now I’m able to rescue my herbs, one plant at a time ;-).

herb-butter

Simply prepare your herbs as normal and pop them in to an ice cube tray or silicone mould. A teaspoon of herbs per piece is ideal but that can be adjusted to suit your taste. Top up your tray or mould with melted butter (you can also use oil). I used around 150g of butter to fill a 12 piece mould. When it’s ready, pop the lot in the freezer. As soon as the mixture completely solidifies, you can transfer the individual pieces to a plastic food bag. From there, you can use the pieces, as needed, directly in your cooking. They can be added to soups, stews, casseroles or any hot dish where you might like a little herby infusion.

frozen-herb-butter

I’m so pleased with my new-found trick. It’s incredibly useful to know and not only will it save me from having to throw away fresh herbs in the future; it’s such a quick and easy way to add instant flavour to any meal. This is the smartest shortcut I’ve found in a while! If you have any other tips for preventing waste in the kitchen, be sure to leave a comment and let me know :-).

herb-butter-chicken


Smirnoff Frozen Cocktails

I love a good cocktail — a perfectly-blended uniquely-named drink in a pretty glass that might come with a little umbrella or a fresh piece of fruit. The first time I ever had a cocktail was on a Spanish island with my friends and since then, I’ve always associated these drinks with good times.

smirnoff-frozen-cocktails

Last year I tried frozen cocktails for the first time in the form of the Parrot Bay pouches. I instantly loved their simple sweet iciness and we indulged in them several times throughout the long hot summer. As much as I still like them, I’ve been eager to try new flavours. This week, I saw that Smirnoff were offering something similar so…you know I just had to snap them up!

smirnoff-frozen-cocktail-drinks

Like Parrot Bay, these Smirnoff cocktails come in liquid pouches which you freeze for 8 hours. I’ve found from past experience that you shouldn’t leave these in the freezer for much less or longer than the time specified. When they’re ready, they’ll be firm and solid but give them a gentle squeeze or run them under warm water and they’ll easily yield.

Squeeze the contents of each pouch in to individual glasses. They should be a slushy consistency but if there are any chunks of ice, use a swizzle stick or teaspoon to break them up. I like to have wide straws on the side to drink these as they’re quite thick to start and it could otherwise get a bit messy!

frozen-cocktails

The Smirnoff Frozen Cocktails come in at about €2.49 per 250ml pouch. In my local shops, there are four flavours available and each have a 4.7% alcohol content. They’re all very sweet and refreshing although there are subtle differences in the taste with each flavour.

smirnoff-apple-bite

Apple Bite: light and fresh with the most distinctive fruity aftertaste

smirnoff-lemon-sorbet

Lemon Sorbet: tastes exactly like Smirnoff Ice so ideal for fans of the alcopop.

smirnoff-raspberry-sorbet

Raspberry Sorbet: gorgeous vibrant colour, perfect for a girl’s night in.

smirnoff-mango-sorbet

Mango Sorbet: smooth and exotic taste, great for a tropical themed party!

smirnoff-frozen-drinks

If I had to choose between these or Parrot Bay, I’d choose these. Smirnoff and 7-Up has been my drink of choice for years so because these are vodka based and also because they’re that little bit sweeter than Parrot Bay, I find myself drawn more to these. I can’t say what else exactly goes in to these as none of the pouches actually state the ingredients in English. They’re printed in a few different languages so if you really had to know, you’d have to try Google Translate! Ingredient issues aside, I really like these drinks — they look good, they taste good and I think they’ll be particularly popular if we get a summer as warm as the last one — here’s hoping!


Hot Chocolate Heaven

After a busy afternoon in town today, we stopped at Costa for a little rest and refreshment before heading home. There were a few new items on the menu, most notably the Belgian hot chocolate which — being something of a chocoholic — I just had to try.

There was a little bit of confusion when ordering this as apparently this is available as a shot of pure chocolate but it can also be incorporated in to a proper drink. I went for the latter option which turned out be indulgent in itself — so I can’t imagine how the pure shot must taste!

I wondered what makes this drink different from the regular Costa hot chocolate (which I know and love very much!) and I soon learned that this particular drink simply consists of pure chocolate, a little water and milk. It’s made by pouring creamy “textured” milk over rich and luxurious melted chocolate and finishing off with a sprinkle of Belgian chocolate curls.

costa-belgian-hot-choc

When the cup landed on my table, the drink was a little too hot so if you’re ordering this; make sure not to scald your tongue! Spooning up the foam seems to be the best way to start. Once the foam is gone, be sure to give the rest a good stir and watch the pools of melted chocolate swirl around your cup. The more you drink, the more intense it gets. With the last few drops, it’s just pure luscious chocolate liquid…and it’s pretty delicious. It’s just what you need when you’re in the mood for a decadent hot drink — it really does make a pretty perfect treat.


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