Wednesday, 23 November 2016

VISITED: Batsford Arboretum, Moreton-in-Marsh

I love not being too far away from the Cotswolds. If we've had a lie in or just a really lazy day but decide in the middle of the afternoon we want to go out somewhere, the Cotswolds is just round the corner and a very short drive.

This is pretty much what happened a couple of weeks ago. H had been to have his hair cut, I'd stayed at home to make the breakfast of dreams and then we decided we wanted to go somewhere. 

I was adamant I wanted to go somewhere to see the Autumnal colours and get some fresh air so turned to google to see where people were saying the best seasonal colours were in the Cotswolds. I was aiming for a National Trust place as we are both members but when Batsford Arboretum popped up a few times, we decided that was the one. We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Moreton-in-Marsh.

Batsford is a beautiful place to visit. At 56 acres, there's a lot to see an the views of Evenlode Valley are lovely. As well as the grounds, filled with a vast array of botanical loveliness, there is a visitors centre with a terrace cafe, the garden shop and a couple of shop, including a shabby chic furniture and trinkets hut.

We had a really lovely walk. And it really is amazing what a little bit of a fresh air can do for you. Luckily we managed an hour and a bit walking dodging the rain but had to seek shelter towards the end of our walk. Bonus thing from the day - we spotted 5 different sausage dogs and it confirmed I need to adopt one ASAP...and also, a donkey...

Arboretum opening; open daily from 9am-5pm. 10-5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays.
The Arboretum is the only bit you have to pay for. 
£7.95 for adults, £6.95 concessions,  £3.50 for children aged 4-15 and £19.95 for a family of 4 (two adults, two children)

Free entry to cafe, garden shop and plant centre.

Postcode: GL56 9AD

Monday, 21 November 2016

DRANK AT: Turtle Bay Rum Cocktail Masterclass, Leamington Spa

When an email from the lovely Maya popped in my inbox inviting me to a Rum Cocktail Masterclass at Turtle Bay, my eyes lit up.

It had been a very long time since I'd been to Turtle Bay and also a very long time since I'd been to any kind of cocktail-related event.

For those of you that don't know, let me tell you a little about Turtle Bay...

Turtle Bay is probably the closest you'll get to a Caribbean atmosphere (minus the sun, sea, sad and warmth) without actually going. The Caribbean lifestyle is all about being relaxed but lively (they make it work!), being soulful and all about rich, colourful flavours when it comes to their food. Turtle Bay's mission is to capture that soulful vibe in their restaurants and I really think they achieve that.

As you enter, in front of you is the beach shack style bar, the kitchen to the back which is completely open with grills at the front so you can watch the chefs work their magic and lots of seating in a veranda style to continue that relaxed atmosphere. The walls are covered in murals, reclaimed materials - repurposed shipping containers, oil drum lampshades and reclaimed wood.

The Leamington Spa restaurant and bar is a particular favourite of mine as, whether you're there simply for drinks (they have 2 for 1 cocktails for the majority of the time they're open!!), a delicious meal or for a bit of both (because 2 for 1 cocktails and tasty food are not to be turned down!), there's something for everyone.

Naturally, when it comes to the cocktail list, rum is at the heart of the menu and so is Bob Marley. The signature rum of Turtle Bay is Blackwell Rum, created by founder of Island Records Chris Blackwell -who basically launched Bob Marley's career (amongst other things, of course!) The Blackwell Rum is a favourite of many, with its dark hue and spicy kick. BUT, there are over 40 different types of rum at Turtle Bay and I would recommend branching out and trying a few different ones. You've got no excuse really when happy hour runs from 11.30am-7pm then starts again at 10pm!!

Anyway, now you've got a bit of background...onto the masterclass.

The class was hosted by the wonderful Adam. And I mean wonderful; he is perfect for the job - knowledgable, enthusiastic and a fantastic representative of what Turtle Bay is all about!

We were talked through the rums - the Blackwell, Santa Teresa, and the one that's in a number of the cocktails (I didn't catch the name!)

The Blackwell almost reminded me of the taste of brandy - I think because it was quite strong but I'd definitely say, in a drink, I found it much more enjoyable.

The Santa Tereza is a Venezuelan rum and definitely my favourite. It has an orangey taste to it and is more like a liqueur than the sharp taste of the Blackwell. I could even go as far as saying I'd drink the Santa Tereza straight with an ice cube as well as in a drink.

The other rum, which I annoyingly didn't catch the name of is the rum that goes in the Ting Ray, the Rude Boy and the Reggae Rum Punch Cocktails (which are one of the strongest on the menu!) This rum is over 50% and is called an overproof rum which means nothing is added to it. 

We got to try each of these whilst being told about them and did the whole 'smell it first', describe it, 'hold in your mouth for a minute to get a sense of the flavours' etc. So it was the real deal. Adam kindly explained to us the kinds of flavours we should be tasting. 

From here, we moved back over to the bar area where we could watch Adam make them and also have a go ourselves. The cocktails that were made were the Watermelon Rum Cocktail (which was really refreshing and one of my favourites!), the Reggae Rum Punch (a strong cocktail but a signature!), the Marley Mojito, Pina Colada (cue 'do you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain...', the Mai Tai (my favourite!) and a couple of others.

I didn't have a go at making them this time as I was pretty useless the last time I'd done it *cringes*. But it was such a great atmosphere and the group there was so lovely that everybody was watching and cheering them on.
After the cocktail making had come to an end, they provided a few sharing platters for the group to end the evening.

I really enjoyed my time at the Rum Cocktail Masterclass at Turtle Bay. The Leamington Spa staff are so friendly and Adam was a wonderful host. I definitely would recommend making your way through the cocktail menu - even the ones I liked a little less were still super tasty!

If you're in the mood for a cocktail, wanting to find somewhere a little different to go on a first date or  if you're in a couple and wanting somewhere to go on 'date night' be honest, I could find any example to encourage you to go. I definitely think this would even make a fantastic work Christmas party venue if you aren't ready for a million roast dinners throughout December.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - at Turtle Bay, there really is something for everybody.

Thanks for having me!

** I was invited by Siobhan Hanley PR to this event for free but all views and love of cocktails are my own **

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

LIFE: 5 End of Year Goals

I used to do Monthly Goals on Unorganised Chaos and it was actually way more beneficial than I realised. Having those small aims each month was really motivating and it is something I'm tempted to start doing again for 2017.

As it's something I've not had for a while, I figured jotting down a few goals to see me through to the end of 2016 would be a good thing to encourage me to feel a little more motivated and perkier in general.


Go back to the gym for spinning and yoga at least two or three times per week. I always feel a little bit glum this time of year. The grey weather and lack of light isn't the best for moods and motivation so I need a positive, energised attitude to my days.

Visit at least four more National Trust places I haven't been to before.I became a National Trust member in Spring and I genuinely love being a member. The gardens, houses, castles - all of it - it's all really lovely. As we are now in Autumn, the colours are beautiful and I can only imagine how picturesque some of the National Trust sites are looking at the moment.

Relax. Time away from work, emails, the internet...
After having a severe migraine towards the end of October, the doctor recommended that I really need to find time for myself - whether it's an evening, an afternoon, a whole day - to just relax. I have put a lot of pressure on myself this year and have come to realise that without taking a bit of a breather sometimes the pressure can get the better of you. So, with this in mind, I'm going to make sure I have at least two evenings each week or one afternoon at the weekends just having some time to unwind - away from the internet, work related stuff and just sit reading a book with candles on or snuggled up under a blanket watching a good film.

Have a night away somewhere with H before Christmas
With life, friends, family, life drama, work, tiredness etc we sometimes don't get enough time to have a break together. We haven't had a weekend away or a night away together completely on our own to explore somewhere new since going to Harrogate in April for my birthday. So we really want to get in the Christmas spirit and go to somewhere really Autumnal/Wintery with a Christmas Market to drink mulled wine or mulled cider, have a little wander and just enjoy some quality time. We are pretty set on either Bath (not too far away) or Edinburgh (over double the distance away) so we've just got to decide how far of a drive we'd like,

Start thinking about the things I'd like to achieve next year
And I also want to write down the good things that have happened this year. I'm not one of these people that do (or like) the whole 'new year, new me' thing. I just think that you can't really just completely write a whole year off and ignore a crappy year. That said, there's always some good to be found in a crappy year as well - hence the whole wanting to note the good things from 2016.I think that it's nice to have an idea of some things you'd like to achieve - whether they're travelling to a new place, trying a new sport, working on a personality trait etc.

I am so happy we're now in Autumn and the Christmas build up is about to begin.
Opens fires, mulled wine filled weekends, Christmas markets, wrapping up warm to brave the chilly weather. It's the most wonderful time of the year!


Friday, 4 November 2016

LIFE: A Brief Catch Up

The summer is always a busy time for me as from June until the end of September I'm travelling with work at least once a month. August in particular is always crazy with two shows and a bank holiday then the biggest footwear tradeshow at the start of September.

So, what's gone on since my last post right at the beginning of July?

I've moved house (twice). I helped my dad move out of our family home. This was a massive task - clearing 25+ years of belongings out of the house, sprucing it up for the new buyers, getting stuff into storage. It was just the two of us doing this job with a little help my H and my Grandad.

I also moved out of my Northampton house. Not quite as big of a job as dad's move but still, I'd acquired a lot of stuff during my time in that house. I also had a trip to Dusseldorf in between the two moves so stress levels were fairly high that week.

I've also moved into my new house. I moved in about a week before I was due to fly to Copenhagen for work. A whole weekend later and it was liveable but, even now, there are still have a few bits and pieces to get but I'm happy and it feels like a home. It's just a shame all the travelling for work has meant very limited time here until recently.

Over the summer, as I mentioned, I went to Dusseldorf and Copenhagen as well as Las Vegas and Milan. I managed to have a few extra days in Vegas and did the Grand Canyon by helicopter - something I've wanted to do for years.

Fast forward to the end of September and H and went on a long weekend in St Ives with our friends. The weather was appalling for 2 and a half of the 4 days but we had the best time. I'll do a full blog post on that soon - including foodie spots.

Where October went is a mystery. A complete mystery. But I had a trip up to Manchester to see some friends, a few nice dinners, a trip to Liverpool for a night out and then a bit stinkin' migraine for over a week which left me bed bound until the weekend of Halloween.

We're now in November and the build up to Christmas is beginning, I guess. I really did think I would feel a bit funny about Christmas this year but my Dad and I have got lovely plans and I'm really, really excited. I'm actually going to get the kind of Christmas I've always wanted - friends, family, mulled wine, pub visits - all of it in my beautiful cottage with my real Christmas tree and my twinkly fairy lights and our personalised stockings over the fireplace. It all sounds rather picturesque doesn't it?

I'm so happy we're now entering Autumn. I can't wait for the beautiful colours, mulled wine season (pretty much 90% of my excitement for Autumn is for this reason), nice candles, open fires, crisp weekend walks...I'm even excited for Halloween and pumpkin carving.

I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things with blogging again as I've been a bit AWOL on and off this year. It's not been the easiest of years for me and I think I had a bit of a delayed reaction to it.

I am super excited for Bonfire Night goings on this weekend. And copious amounts of mulled wine, of course.