Friday, 29 April 2016

MADE: White Fish with Peppered Mushrooms, Courgettes and Broad Beans

My favourite thing about newspapers at the weekend is the food section of the weekend magazine.You can guarantee there's always at least one recipe that tickles my fancy.

Back at the beginning of March, the Yorkshire Post magazine was jam packed full of delicious recipes by Dale Pinnock (aka the Medicinal Chef). I gave one a whirl (and plan to try at least another three) and wanted to share it with you here.

It's relatively simple, not particularly time consuming and won't break the bank.

All you need to serve two is:
1 cod fillet each (or white fish of your choice)
8 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 sprig fresh rosemary
2 tbsp soft cream cheese - I used Philli Light
1 large courgette
Knob of butter or low fat spread
200g broad beans (rinse and drain if tinned)
EV olive oil, for greasing and cooking
Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Lets get started...

1. Preheat your oven to 180 fan assisted/200 non-fan assisted. Oil a baking tray and place your cod fillets on there. Bake for around 20 minutes.

2. While the fish is baking, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan on a low to medium heat. Add your sliced mushrooms and place your rosemary sprigs on top. Add a pinch of salt and sauté. 

3. When the mushrooms start to release liquid, allow to simmer for 8 minutes. After this time, ditch the rosemary sprigs and stir in the soft cream cheese. Add a generous amount of black pepper and stir.

4. Grab another frying pan and melt a knob of butter on a medium heat. Add a little olive oil. Add the courgettes and broad beans to the pan and reduce the heat. Sauté until the courgette is soft. Season with a little salt and pepper.

5. Once your fish is done, it's time to dish up. Place the courgette and broad bean mix to the centre of your plate, fish on top and creamy mushrooms at the summit of your pile.

Such a simple but tasty dish. One I will 100% be trying again!


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

MADE: Meat-Free Pesto Courgetti

Courgetti has been missing from my life for the majority of winter but now spring has shown it's face, it feels like the perfect mid-week meal to whip up.

I love my spiraliser and keep promising myself I'll try the other blades and use different vegetables as I've stuck with courgettes since having it.

You really can throw whatever you want in with it but here's my favourite courgette-related recipe.

All you need to serve two is:
2 courgettes, spiralised
8 button mushrooms, quartered
10 plum or cherry tomatoes, left whole
2 tsp basil pesto - you can make your own or buy some (I like Lidl's)
1/2 lemon, juice only
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to season
A sprinkle of chilli flakes

Let's get started...

1. Heat a drizzle of oil and a splash of water in a small saucepan. Add you quartered mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Pop the pan lid on and steam for 3 or 4 minutes. Make sure you stir so they don't stick to the bottom.

2. Mix your spiralised courgettes with the pesto and lemon juice in a medium sized saucepan. Add a tbsp water. Pop the pan on the hob on a medium heat. Once the lid starts steming, reduce the heat and allow to soften. Stir to make sure they don't stick to the bottom.

3. Once your mushrooms and tomatoes are steamed, add them to the courgetti and mix together. Mix in the pepper, salt and chilli flakes.

4. Once your courgetti has softened, transfer the contents of the pan to a bowl or plate. Add extra black pepper and chilli flakes if you like.

Another easy dish to whip up in less than 20 minutes. The taste is great and it's perfect for mid-week or a lighter meal at the weekend.

Do you have any favourite courgetti recipes?


Monday, 25 April 2016

VISITING: Foodies Festival 2016

Last year the Foodies Festival got in touch with me to tell me alllll about their big event. Unfortunately it got to the weekend and I was really ill so couldn't attend.

Imagine my delight when they got back in touch to see if I wanted to get involved with the 2016! Hoooorah!

Foodies Festival is the UK's biggest celebration of food and drink and it's returning this Summer!

I'm heading over to the Birmingham event at Cannon Hill Park, 3rd - 5th June for a day of eating, learning and *hopefully* enjoying the sunshine.

There's ALL SORTS to see, do and, most importantly, eat on the day!

Check this lot out...

Cook - Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre
This year's festival sees Birmingham's culinary elite and Bake-Off winner Nadiya Hussain cooking live in the Aga Rangemaster Chefs Theatre, showcasing their culinary skills, sharing insight into 2016’s food trends and answering questions from the audience. Chefs taking part include (more TBC): 

- Nadiya Hussain - Great British Bake Off Winner 2015
- Aktar Islam - Lasan Group & Great British Menu
- Richard Turner - Turners (Michelin starred)
- Brad Carter - Carters (Michelin starred)
- Nathan Eades - Simpsons (Michelin starred)
- Ryan Swift - The Edgebaston
- Tony Rodd - MasterChef Finalist 2015
- Andy Waters - Waters Restaurant
- Ben Tennent - Opus Restaurant 
- Katy Beskow - Little Miss Meat Free
- James Wong - Chung Ying
- Nigel Brown - Celebrity Chef
- Dhruv Baker - MasterChef Winner 2010
- Jackie Kearney - The Hungry Gecko and MasterChef Finalist 2011

Discover – Feel Good and Superfoods (the bit I'm SUPER excited about!!!)
Visitors can enjoy a new 'Feel Good Foods' theme at Foodies Festival this summer, with healthy living chefs and food writers joining the line-up to cook with superfoods including kefir, lucuma, freekeh, kelp and banana flour, and sirt rich foods such as blueberries, kale, celery, buckwheat, turmeric, chilli and red onion. 

Festival-goers can also discover the advantages of eating ‘Feel Good Foods’ such as cheese (a source of phenylethylamie - the love drug) and dark chocolate and seaweed (both sources of serotonin - the happy drug) as experts promote their nutritional and emotional benefits with energy, happiness and calm boosting recipes available to take home.

Cake, Bake & Tasting Theatre and Vintage Tea Room
Bake-Off winner Nadiya joins baking extraordinaire Charlotte White and master chocolatier Fiona Sciolti on the Cake & Bake stage, working their baking wizardry to inspire visitors to reach for their whips and spatulas at home and create show-stopping cakes and delicious summer bakes. A neighbouring Chocolate, Cake and Bake Village sells freshly baked breads, sponges, tarts, jellies and trifles to enjoy with a bubble tea or fresh juice. 

Afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the beautifully decorated Vintage Tea Room, where teas, handmade cakes and scones with clotted cream and jam are served on china from a tea trolley by vintage styled tea ladies and gentlemen, and vintage music for ambience.

Feast – Street Food Avenue
With flavours from all corners of the world available on the Street Food Avenue, hunger will be banished and taste buds tingled with the huge array of cuisines on offer. Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Argentinian, Turkish, Indian, Korean, Mexican, French and African are just some of the flavours to feast on this summer.

There’s a special focus on Brazilian street food this year to celebrate the Olympic host’s cuisine, including traditional Brazilian BBQ and Rio’s favourite dish Feijoada made from black beans, salted pork, trimmings, smoked sausage and jerk beef, which is cooked in a traditional clay pot. Brazil’s national cocktail Caipirinha, a mix of lime, sugar and Cachaça (made from sugarcane juice with an ABV of 48%), and Brazilian coffees will be available.
Shop – Artisan Producers Market
A glittering array of Great Taste Award winners are available to shop and sample from this year, each being hailed as a producer of ‘Exquisite, Outstanding and Simply Delicious’ food and drink – a fantastic opportunity for visitors to meet artisan producers from the local area and across the country, learn their story and stock up on award winning produce. With over 120 stalls to peruse at each festival, selling everything from Seaweed Seasoning to Champagne Infused Fudge, visitors will be spoilt for choice for what to eat at the festival and take home to enjoy. 

Sip at the Drinks Theatre
Expert mixologists and sommeliers, including Neil Phillips and Charles Metcalfe, host champagne and wine masterclasses, and beer connoisseur and writer Melissa Cole is on-hand with craft beer tutorials. 

Visitors can test their taste buds with blindfolded whisky challenges, where they will have to taste and smell to try and identify ingredients and country of origin. These classes are also a great opportunity for novices to learn about whisky and its history.
Into the Jungle (this definitely scares me!!!)
Festival goers can munch their way into the depths of the jungle this summer with a trip to the Vietnamese Street Food stand, where those with a taste for the exotic can indulge in insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, mealworms, beetles, scorpions, locus and ants. These tasty critters will also be sold in powder and flour form – a high source of protein - to bake, season and cook with. For those brave enough, there’s a daily Bush Tucker Trial on the Challenge Stage, where visitors compete against one another by eating jungle insects, from small ants to large juicy grubs, with the contestant eating the biggest and the most being crowned champion. 

Children's Cookery School
The Olympic theme continues into the Childrens Cookery School, where little foodies can decorate their very own gold medal with coloured icing, glitter and edible ribbon.  Pizza and cupcake making classes also allow kids to explore their taste buds and learn basic cookery skills to practice at home.

Chilli-Eating Challenge
The famous Chilli-Eating Challenge continues in 2016, inviting fans of spice to beat an eye-watering 16 million scoville record set by Shahina Waseem last year. Participants start at the low end of the chilli spectrum by eating bell peppers, but things quickly get a lot hotter with Habanero, Scotch and Carolina Reaper (world's hottest chilli) chillies being added to the menu. Those still standing are then inflicted to pure chilli extract, increasing in strength, until a winner is crowned.

Live Music and Pop-Up Bars
After a day of feasting and fun, visitors can relax and soak in the atmosphere with live music from the Entertainment Stage and a glass of bubbly or refreshing cocktail from the Giant Pimm's Teapot or double-decker BarBus.

I mean, you've got to admit - this sounds like a bloomin' good event! I'm really, really excited to get over there and check it out.

Want to go along too? I've got a pair of free tickets to giveaway for the Birmingham dates - you can attend any of the three days, up to you! To get involved I want you to tell me on Twitter (@Natasha_uc) which of the above you're most looking forward to and to RT my ticket giveaway tweet. The winner will be picked at random on May 3rd 2016 at 10am.


PSSST. I've also got this 2 for 1 deal for my readers too...


*Foodies Festival approached me to help promote their event and offered me free tickets in order to be one of their at-event bloggers. Genuine excitement about this event is alllll mine*

Friday, 22 April 2016

MADE: My Go-To Chicken Curry

I love a good curry. And I'm a bit of a curry snob. I ain't about that bought jar of curry life. It's just not something I do when it is SO easy to just make your own.

You don't just have to use chicken in this - you can use quorn (which I do regularly), tofu, prawns...whatever floats your boat.

This recipe is great as a quick mid-week meal or as an alternative to Indian takeaway at the weekend!

All you need to serve 2 is:
2-3 chicken breasts (depending on size), diced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp GF plain flour mixed with 2 tsp water (to form a paste to thicken the curry)
1 onion (red or white), sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
A bit of chopped/diced veg - courgette, aubergine, sweetcorn (optional)
1 spring onion, sliced (to garnish)

Serve with:
Rice and a garlic naan

Let's get started...

1. Heat a little EV olive oil on a low-medium heat in a frying pan. Add your cumin seeds, turmeric, garam masala, crushed garlic and chill powder. Stir with the oil so that nothing burns to the pan. Only needs a couple of minutes before going on to the next step.

2. Add a little extra EV olive oil amd your sliced onions. Fry for a minute or two before turning the heat down a little lower. Make sure the onions soften and don't brown too much.

3. When the onions have softened, add the diced chicken breast. Cook for 8-10 minutes (or until chicken is cooked right through) and stir often. Cut a piece of chicken in half to test, if necessary. If you're adding any veg, add it now.

4. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and allow to reduce. Once stirred and reduced, add the tomato puree. Keep stirring every now and again.

5. Add the plain flour paste. It's important you mix the flour and water before putting it in the pan to avoid lumpy bits of flour in your curry.

6. Stir in the natural yoghurt. The colour should be perfecto now!

7. Allow to simmer on a low heat for 10-20 minutes. Cook your rice during this time.

8. Dish it up with a little bit of chopped spring onion thrown on. Serve with your rice and naan.

This is genuinely my favourite curry recipe and I would never sway towards a shop bought recipe. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy the occasional Indian takeaway or curry out at the weekend though. Next curry to make from scratch: korma!

Do you have a favourite curry?


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

MADE: Slow Cooked Barbecue Pulled Pork Burgers

Pulled pork makes me feel good. I can even go as far as saying it makes me reidiculous happy.

It's really good. It's possibly my favourite food ever (which I say a lot but, seriously, it's too good)

Contray to the opinion of friends, pulled pork is SO easy to make at home. It's equally as tasty as anything you can get in a restaurant. Especially when it's been slowcooked for 8 hours in homemade barbecue sauce.

It's actually not overly expensive to make either and I love making my own barbecue sauce to go with it.

All you need to serve 6 people:
For the pork:
2kg pork shoulder
200ml water
Barbecue sauce

For the barbecue sauce:
250g tomato ketchup
1 small onion, diced
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp Worchester sauce
1/2 tsp mustard powder
4 tbsp soft brown sugar
A dash or two of tabasco
2 garlic cloves, crushed

To serve:
A brioche bun each
Sweet potato fries (for 4 people, use 4 large or 6 medium potatoes, slice in wedges/fries with the skin on but clean first, boil for 5, pop in the oven on 180 for around 35-40 mins - coat the fries in olive oil, salt and pepper and some paprika, if you fancy)
Any sauces you fancy

Let's get started...

1. Flick your slow cooker on high and allow to heat up whilst you're making you barbecue sauce. Grab a saucepan and fry the diced onions and crushed garlic on a low heat. Once they've softened but not browned too much, stir in the tomato ketchup, apple cider vinegar, Worchester sauce and tabasco. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Allow to simmer for 4 or 5 minutes.

2. Pour the 200ml of water into the slowcooker. Add the pork shoulder and spread on about 1/2 of the barbecue sauce. Pop the lid on and leave on low for 8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

3. When you're almost ready to dish up the pork, prepare your accompanying sides. Don't forget the sweet potato fries will take 35-40 minutes in a fan assisted oven.

4. When you pork is done, take it out of the slow cooker and shred it into a bowl using two forks. Pour in the rest of the barbecue sauce and mix together.

Waiting hours for this goodness may seem frustrating but it is WELL worth it. My favourite toppings are gherkins and a few caramelised onions with some sweet potato fries and salad on the side.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

MADE: Overnight Chia Seed and Oats

As part of my attempt at being a morning person once more, I'm making sure I'm prepared the night before work. That's right, breakfast AND lunch all ready to grab and go in the mornings.

Now the weather's getting a bit better it's thankfully helping me steer clear of carby breakfasts. OBVIOUSLY I am still having my bacon and egg extravaganzas at the weekends BUT during the week it's all about chia seeds and oats. Super simple, takes literally 2 minutes...bang it in the fridge and it's ready for the following morning.

Chia seeds are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, fiber and protein so their tiny, insignificant appearance is definitely deceiving. Everybody knows oats are good for you - full of vitamins and minerals. Both add to a really tasty, filling breakfast.

All you need for one serving:
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup porridge oats
1 1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp raisins - I like Lidl's mixed bags
A few blueberries
Half a banana
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Basically all you need to do is bang the chia seeds, oats, almond milk, raisins and cinnamon in a Tupperware. Stir it all well.

2. In the morning, cut up your banana and add your blueberries. Mix it together if you wish.

Yes...that's it. It's SO easy. I know this isn't by any means a new or inventive recipe - everybody and his dog's doing it if you glance over at Instagram. But it's easy, I like it. And it means I don't have to get up any earlier to sort my breakfast out to take to work.

Also, mix up those toppings. I added a few blackberries and raspberries one more and it was deeeelicious!

What are your favourite breakfasts? Do you have any super quick and super easy recipes like this?


Friday, 15 April 2016

MADE: Sweet Potato Hash Browns with Poached Eggs and Spinach

You know when you throw something together, thinking it will be a bit average and then it turns out to be one of the tastiest quick meals you've ever made? That's the case with these babies.

I couldn't decide what to make for dinner. Admittedly I'd had a couple of gins in the garden as my housemate came home a little giddy about the sunshine. I couldn't be arsed to walk to the shop, so I grabbed what was in the cupboards.

At the moment I'm attempting to be healthy 80% of the time (and failing 90% of the time) because y'know, summer's on its way and I don't want to resemble a beached whale when I actually have to put on swimwear. I figured sweet potatoes, poached eggs and steamed spinach fit the bill of 'healthy' and breakfast/brunch for dinner is the best thing ever. My absolute favourite thing!

All you need to serve two people:
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1/2 cup gluten free flour (normal also fine)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1/2 small onion, diced - red or white fine
- EV olive oil or coconut oil, to fry

Serve with:
1 or 2 poached eggs each
300g wilted spinach (between two)
2 or 3 rashers of grilled smoked bacon each (if you're a meat eater)

Let's get started...

1. Peel the potatoes and wash under the tap. Once clean, use a grater to grate all of the potato into a large bowl. Make sure you squeeze out any excess water.

2. Mix in the diced onion, crushed garlic cloves, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup of flour and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Give it a good stir so everything is well mixed.

3. Grab a handful of the sweet potato mix and shape into a circular patty shape. With the amount of mixture you have for two people, it should make three hash browns each.

4. Add your oil (coconut or EVOO) to a frying pan on a medium heat. I would recommend using a tablespoon of olive oil initially then adding another one a few minutes after you've added your hash browns.

5. Allow it to heat for a moment before adding your hash browns. After a minute, turn down the heat. Allow 3-4 minutes on each side.

6. Whilst your hash browns are cooking, grill (I use my George Foreman) your bacon. When the bacon is almost done, heat your water in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil and add your eggs. I usually cook mine for 3-4 minutes so the yolks are still runny. Each to their own with this one, cook how you like.

7. Heat a teaspoon of water in a small saucepan and add your spinach. Mix in a little salt and pepper and pop the lid on. Allow to wilt for 3-5 minutes.

8. Now dish everything up - sweet potato hash browns stacked, bacon next, spinach on top and your poached egg(s) resting on top. Add a bit of sriracha or ketchup if you fancy!

Such an easy dish, really tasty and filling but also healthy. I mean, it ticks all of the boxes really. You've whipped up a nutritious meal in around 15 minutes.


Thursday, 14 April 2016

LET'S TALK: Being a Morning Person

I used to be a morning person, years ago when I spent my life down at the stables. I'd
head over there, have my lesson, stay out until dark mucking out the stables. Weekends, if not at the stables, were spent in the countryside or doing something outdoorsy.

As I went to uni, my routine shifted. Late nights, early afternoons...

Now, I'm terrible. Getting me out of bed is like poking an angry bear. It's hard enough when it's winter and it's so cold and dark but when spring shows it's face, I seem to get worse. You see, I love laying in bed in the mornings when the sun is shining. It makes me happy. It brightens my mood straight away to be completely comfy whilst it's sunny.

Mornings are being a mad rush to shower, get ready, grab the breakfast/lunch I've prepared out of the fridge and make the 13 mile drive to work. So I need to start being a bit more proactive. I used to love going to the gym before work. It used to kickstart my day and keep me going throughout (once I'd got over the initial 3pm slump) but the thought of doing a spin class or work out before 9am now sends a shiver down my spine. You know why? Because I'm got lazy. I've got comfortable in my laziness.

Let a little light in...
I have pretty thin curtains so the minute it gets a little bit light, it's shining into my room. If you've got thick curtains, leave a tiny gap in them. Gradual daylight helps you wake up so much more naturally and peacefully that flicking a light on.

Sleep in an eyemask...
May so like it's contradicting my point about gradual daylight waking you but I sleep so much better with an eye mask on. 9 times out of 10 I've pulled it off during the night so the daylight wakes me anyway. Sleeping in one of these just leaves me feeling more rested in the mornings.

Give yourself at least one hour before trying to sleep with no TV/phone/computer...
Studies have shown that the light from our electrical products prevent us from sleeping as soundly. The light from the products depresses the levels of melatonin, which disrupts the circadian rhythm and affects.

Have a night time routine...
If you're having an hour+ free from screens, read a book or magazine before bed. Meditate, relax to some music, have a bath. Do something that helps you relax without staring at a screen. Have a cup of peppermint or camomile tea. Cleanse and tone your skin. Having a night time routine and sleeping in a clean, tidy room will allow you to relax and get your body ready to sleep.

Get enough sleep...
I know people claim they can 'get by' on 5 hours sleep but your body really does need 7-9 hours to do its thang so you feel good in the morning. Your body needs time to repair and to rest.

Avoid the snooze button...
The longer your press snooze, the harder it will be. BELIEVE ME!

Try to get up at the same time everyday...
I know this isn't always possible and when you've been getting up at 7am all week the last thing you want to do is get up before 10am at the weekend but the closest you can get up to your normal time, the better. Your body will know when it needs to wake up and get in a natural rhythm rather than being forced awake during the week by your alarm.

Get active when you wake...
I'm not necessarily talking a 5k run, unless that's your thing, but a little bit of something when you get out of bed. Whether it's a sun salutation, a few stretches, a 20 minute jog. Exercise realises endorphins and perks up your mood.

Do you have any tips that help you in the mornings?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

TRAVEL: Places I Want to Visit in the UK

I'll be completely honest with you here, I've not really travelled a great deal around this little island I've called home for almost 25 years. As a child, my parents and I always holidayed abroad. Seriously, even since I was born. I'd been to most of the Caribbean islands by the age of 6. I'm grateful for ALL of that, like you wouldn't believe. I've travelled to some places that people haven't even heard of, but as I'm getting a little bit older, I want to see more of the UK. I got a National Trust card the other day and it's kinda made me want to branch out and see what's out there that's close to home! After all, we're all surrounded by some beautiful towns and cities and, for the most part, travelling to these places isn't going to break the bank. Some of these may be places I've been once before and some may be places I've never seen but always been intrigued about.

This is kind of a cheat as I've now been twice BUT I've not seen anywhere near as much as I'd like to. The feel I've got from it so far is that of Sheffield but bigger and a bit quirkier. I love a place that's full on independents.

I've wanted to visit Scotland for a long time. I had my first trip up to Lochgilphead in October for a couple of days for a wedding and it was beautiful. Unfortunately, because it was for a wedding, I didn't see anything more than the two hour drive from Glasgow and the Estate where the wedding was held. Edinburgh looks beautiful and, from what I've seen and heard, is full of quirky little cafes, restaurants and shops.

Another place I've always wanted to go. I can remember when I was at school and I'd hear all these stories about holidays during the summer holidays in Cornwall. I've always wanted to go and see what all of the fuss is about.

Again, similarly to Cornwall, a place people always used to bang on about when I was younger. And to be honest, I just like being near the sea so I feel like North Norfolk would be a good place to visit.

Another cheat as I've been once before but I loved the atmosphere and it's definitely a place that needs some more exploring. I can't wait for some great weather so I can get myself down there.

The Cotswolds
It just sounds wonderfully quaint, doesn't it? I'd love to go to the Cotswolds, rent a beautiful cottage for the weekend, spend some time lapping up the great outdoors, wander down to the village pubs and just enjoy a weekend of pottering.

Somerset Yurts
Glamping is RIGHT up my street. Like I the idea of camping but with the necessities of life available to you.

Mersea Island
I've seen a few snaps here and there of the beach huts and it looks beautiful. I don't really know anything much about the place other that it's in Essex, by the sea and it looks pretty.

I'm sure there are many more but these are at the top of my list right now...I just want to be by the sea or outside enjoying the Spring sunshine in these places.

Where have you always wanted to go in the UK that you've never had chance to get to?


Tuesday, 5 April 2016

VISITED: Snowshill Manor and Gardens, The Cotswolds


After being struck down towards the end of last week with a (horrendous) 3 day flu bug, I had my first big day out post-illness. Admittedly I was still feeling a little groggy and drugged up from prescribed medication but it was a beautiful Sunday and we couldn't stay in the house all day.

H is always banging on about being a National Trust member and how many nice places there are to visit near us. I've been to National Trust sites over the years but can now officially say I'm a fully fledged member; something I'm practically excited about now the weather is beginning to get better. Is that a sign of age that I'm excited about Manor Houses and gardens?

Living not too far from the Cotswolds, we devoured a plate of bacon and French toast before leaving on the short car journey. H's favourite National Trust place is Snowshill Manor near Broadway. The drive itself was absolutely beautiful - sun shining, music on and a bottle of Lucozade (flu lifesaver!)

Snowshill Manor is filled with an incredibly quirky array of possessions collected by Charles Wade throughout his lifetime - think tiny toys, Samurai suits, bicycles, instruments...all sorts. From what I understand, it still remains in the same layout Mr Wade created, things have just been restored slightly. You'll soon realise, Mr Wade didn't actually live in this house - where would he even find room to?!

My favourite part, however, was not the inside of the house but the exterior and the gardens surrounding. We sat on a bench amongst the daffodils looking out over the fields with the sun's a great place for some peace and quiet. Amongst the gardens is Mr Wade's home - slightly cluttered (unsurprising after seen his collection displayed throughout the main house) and modest.

It really is a lovely place to visit. The collection itself is slightly unusual but displays Mr Wade's love of design, the quirky and the colourful.

From here we went on to Stowe for a drink and a wander; another lovely place if you have time to visit.