When you are first diagnosed with coeliac disease, the supermarket can become a daunting place. Smaller supermarkets might not have a gluten free section at all, leaving you to desperately hunt through different foods, checking each label in hope that you’ll eventually strike lucky and find something gluten free!
Larger supermarkets will of course have a wider selection of gluten free find and the convenience of being able to shop online. However, my biggest frustration is doing an online shop for some of my favourite gluten free products, only for gluten-containing products being delivered as substitute!
In steps the perfect solution – SoulBia. Delivering throughout the UK, Northern Ireland and Ireland, SoulBia is a little online treasure that caters for all diets, but specialises in gorgeous soul food that is specifically for people with dietary requirements, such as gluten free, dairy free and vegan. The website is so easy to shop, because you can choose your diet category. I chose “gluten free” and spent the rest of the evening exploring the HUGE range of gluten free products. So many brands that I have never even heard of, amongst lots of other smaller brands that I know and love, such as, The Foods of Athenry.
Save 15% off your SoulBia online purchase with the code: GlutenFreeFi
SoulBia’s cupboard & fresh foods arrive brilliantly packaged, including chilled packs to keep the food cool!
The delightful thing is that they stock so many local and artisan producers, so when you shop on SoulBia, you still get the feeling that you are supporting local. I was mostly interested in hunting for snacks, treats and products that you can’t normally find as a gluten free option. I thought I would share some of the products I ordered to try, so you can pop some of my favourites into your basket!
My SoulBia delivery - snacks galore all available under one roof!
The SoulBia range includes chilled, ambient and unique products that are hard to come by. To name a few, I chose products from Vego, Sarah Rawbites, Coyo, Lemonaid, Gluten Free Patisserie, The Foods of Athenry and Fiid. One product that of course stood out to me, was this gluten free Baked Donut Mix by Isabel’s. Gluten free doughnuts are the holy grail of gluten free products, because they are the hardest to find! So imagine these fresh out of the oven, rolled in sugar and enjoyed one after another with a big cup of tea! Bliss! Vegans, these are good for you too!
When you’re looking for a quick lunch option, it’s difficult to find something you can just ‘grab’ that is gluten free. Fiid have gorgeous range of prepackaged nourishing bowls that are gluten free, dairy free and vegan. I was drawn towards the Smoky Mexican Black Bean Chilli because not only is it 3 of your 5 a day, but also because Mexican food is my favourite!
You can get 15% off your SoulBia purchase with the exclusive discount code: GlutenFreeFi
Sarah’s Rawbites are handmade in Dublin and are gluten free, dairy free and vegan! Her range is designed to curb sugar cravings and give the body a natural burst of energy throughout the day. If you’re like me and work off a high metabolism, these make for the most perfect handbag snack for any mid afternoon slumps while you’re on-the-go! My favourites was the Raw Salted Caramel Slice and Raw Raspberry Caramel Slice.
SoulBia offers FREE delivery on orders over £40 and a FREE gift over £60!
Being Irish, Soda bread (or Soda Farl) is a household favourite and something I haven’t had in over five years! So of course The Gluten Free Patisserie’s Soda Farl Mix was straight into my basket. The owner of the company isn’t actually gluten free, which means she can taste test gluten free products against gluten-containing products to get the taste as close to the real thing as possible! I am going to save this for a weekend treat and enjoy it with a full Irish (a big breakfast fry)!
Save 15% off your SoulBia online purchase with the code: GlutenFreeFi
Hands down the best gluten free baguettes I have ever tried, are these Schnitzer Gluten Free Baguettes! As soon as I opened my SoulBia delivery, this was the first product out of the box that I was desperate to try. Popped into the oven for 10 minutes, they come out tasting like they have been freshly baked. These are a firm 10/10 and unlike anything you are going to be able to find in your local supermarket. Buy at least two packs, because you will LOVE them!
Ooh-La-La Tea biscuits are advertised as the perfect accompaniment to a warming cup of tea. The Coconut Cookies are just that - as I type this blog post, I am sipping on tea and munching on the cookies. Be warned, it is extremely difficult to stop at two or three cookies, because these are STUNNING! They are vegan, but have such a gorgeous buttery taste.
It is so nice to be able to order cupboard staples as well as fresh food from SoulBia. I eat yoghurt every day as part of my breakfast (with fruit) or as a mid morning snack. So I ordered Co Yo’s Coconut Milk Yoghurt Alternative to try as a cow’s milk alternative. It has a refreshingly smooth taste of coconut and combines this with live cultures to produce a dairy-free and vegan luxurious yoghurt... truly heaven in a mouthful! Probiotic, no added sugar, vegan, dairy free and gluten free!
SoulBia’s huge range allows you as the customer to get everything you need in one place! It saves you from having to buy from multiple supermarkets, which means no extra car journeys and allowing you a hassle free way to shop. I will no doubt continue to shop regularly on SoulBia to stock up on gluten free baguettes, handbag snacks and cupboard essentials! The product range is constantly growing, so hopefully there is even more to look at every time you shop!
Save 15% off your SoulBia online purchase with the code: GlutenFreeFi
This post was part of a paid collaboration with SoulBia, but as always, all images, opinions and words are my own!
Every single year, I promise myself that this is the year I will shop in advance, with the presents smugly wrapped and under the tree weeks before Christmas. When in fact, I have chosen to write a blog post about Christmas gifts instead of actually buying them! If you are a procrastinator, you are in good company and you will find speedy delivery options with each of these gorgeous pressie ideas! Phew!
Happy shopping people!
These lovely items would make a beautiful addition to any home. Especially those H&M cushions. How do I smuggle leopard cushion covers into our living room without him noticing?
Cookbook Stand, John Lewis, £10
Cheers object, John Lewis, £9
Le Creuset Teapot, John Lewis, £29.40
Breakfast in Bed Tray, The White Company, £65
My Doormat, Amazon, £17.99
Pineapple Bottle Opener, Liberty London, £18
Pink Himalayan Rock Salt & Grater, Harvey Nichols, £24.95
Paper Plant bag, £7.20, The House Outfit
Salt & Pepper Shakers, Trouva, £22
Sonos PLAY:1 Speaker, John Lewis, £139
Leopard cushion cover, H&M, £12.99
Sass & Boho Candle, £23
Together Forever A3 Print, £21, The House Outfit
Gold Tray, Zara Home, £29.99
Gifts for Her
Here are a few of my favourite things. Most of these I own, those that I don’t can be considered a hint!
Textured Faux Shearling Coat, Zara, £89.99
Red Hairband, Stradivarius, £7.99
Wireless Headphones, Urbanears, £89.99
Loulou Heart Frame Sunglasses, Saint Laurent, £275
Burberry Scarf, Net-a-Porter, £350
Gucci Horsebit Belt, Net-a-Porter, £315
Diptyque Candle, Space NK, £30-£53
OLYMPUS PEN E-PL8 Camera, Currys, £449
Gate mini textured-leather shoulder bag, Loewe, £850
Watermelon Pjs, ASOS, £28
Gifts for Him
These are some things that I have previously bought Andy (or similar). The aftershave is the one he wore on our wedding day and it is ahhhmazing! The Amazon Echo (or even Echo dot) acts as great company for him when I am out of the house - Alexa is chatty! If the man in your life is into sports, he will swear by Under Armour clothing. Andy lives in it, so you can’t go wrong!
Brooks England Backpack, Mr Porter, £190
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones, John Lewis, £289
Picture the scene. With over 25 years of experience on the golf course, my husband approaches the tee. Below him the wild waves are crashing against the Scottish cliffs and the wind is howling, but nothing puts him off. His ball takes flight and he nails the shot. His competitor is up next. My camera in my left hand, my golf club in the right. I am ready to take my shot. One click of the camera and I’ve got it – the beautiful coast of Portpatrick is captured perfectly. Andy reminds me that we are here to play golf, to put the camera down and it is my turn to play against him. The challenge? Andy is a PGA professional golfer.
Soon, I will try to recreate this swing with more power and more distance…
A few weeks ago, Andy and I made the very short drive from Belfast to Larne to get the ferry over to Cairnryan, Scotland. We have done the journey before and knew that the best option was to book into the Club Lounge so that we would also get priority boarding. We checked in, got our boarding passes and made it to the top of our lane. You can upgrade to enjoy the comfort of the Club Lounge from £12 per person and enjoy the priority boarding, and read the complimentary magazines while sipping on a glass of complimentary wine! Now you understand why we thought it was the best option….
Top tip: it is recommended to get there an hour before departure, as check in closes 30mins before (that way, you can grab a quick coffee in the terminal).
First onto the ferry, means that you can choose the best seat in the house! We chose a lovely table with a big window looking out to sea - the perfect view to enjoy the crossing!
Technically, not a window seat. Technically, very window seat-sized!
The ferry journey only takes two hours, so you need to make the most of the onboard services as soon as you are settled. As always, I was a little bit hungry and decided to order something off the Club Lounge menu. Luckily, one of the perks of the Club Lounge is that there is a friendly steward there ready to take you order and mine was so helpful in speaking to the kitchen to check what would be gluten free. I ordered a simple salad and Andy poured me another cup of tea from the self-service drinks bars. He ordered a sausage bap and moved onto his third coffee of the morning (I am a talker in the morning, he isn’t. The caffeine kick is needed!).
After our morning snack (which is different to breakfast or lunch…call it ‘a snack’ and it means you can squeeze another meal in without judgement), we decided to brave the upper deck. It was a gorgeous morning and a little wind wasn’t going to put me off a bit of sea air!
My pet hate in airports is mind-numbingly watching the bag carousel going around and around while waiting on my suitcase. In contrast, there is no baggage limit when travelling with P&O Ferries, so you can load up your car with as many bags as you like! This time, not only did I delightfully over pack, but we brought our golf clubs too!
No sooner than we set sail, were we arriving at the shores of Scotland! It is not long after we seen the ferry pulling into the Cairnryan port, than we were driving off the ferry (at the front of the queue) ready to embark on our golfing road trip. What better place for it, Scotland is the birthplace of golf!
We made our way to the first stop of our trip, Wigtownshire County Golf Club. Only a 15 minute drive from the harbour, Wigtownshire is a true links course and is great for beginners because it is nice and flat (easier to see where your ball might be hiding).
We received a warm welcome from the ladies at the club who had just finished a competition, had some gluten free toasties and left the clubhouse to pick up our wheels…
All the gear, no idea…
As a total beginner, I found the easiest way to learn was to watch Andy and then try to copy exactly what he was doing.
The stunning beach views made the afternoon all the more enjoyable. Although, our round was possibly longer than normal as I wanted to take a couple of photos, or fifty.
Despite being fiercely competitive, I decided to let Andy give me a few tips along the way. He was able to use his V1 Coaching System (an app that he uses on his phone) to show me where I was going wrong and where I could make improvements. He showed me how to improve my posture and spine angle. The spine angle is the axis of the golf swing, so if it is off, your rotation will be off. By fixing my spine angle I was able to get more rotation and more speed into my swing. This in turn, would help me to win our game. Maybe.
Corrected spine angle
As I grew in confidence, onlookers stopped in their tracks to watch my swing…
The pressure was on.
This is only the second game of golf I had ever played. The first was in Belfast and I took so long and made so many mistakes, that Andy had to repeatedly wave players through to let them go ahead of us. It was an entirely frustrating experience and really put me off playing again. I was so thrilled to be back on the course and actually have a really enjoyable game. This was the point that I realised I had been bitten by the golf bug and absolutely loved it!
Andy leading his double life of Instagram husband and professional golfer
A few lost balls later (sorry Andy), we were ready to drive off the course. We played nine holes plus an extra three because I was really enjoying the game and didn’t want to stop at nine, but was too tired to make it to 18.
Thrilled after completing 12 holes!
We jumped in our car and headed in the direction of beautiful Portpatrick, where we would stay for the evening and play a round of golf the following morning. Portpatrick is the most gorgeous seaside town, with little pastel-coloured houses, a dramatic cliff backdrop and the friendliest locals. Now a peaceful holiday resort, Portpatrick boasts a number of bars and restaurants to choose from.
There is plenty of self-catering options in Portpatrick, as well as small hotels and B&Bs. We opted to stay within the grounds of Portpatrick Dunskey Golf Club in their self catering apartment. It is in a great location - right on the golf course and only a five minute walk from the town centre. Dunskey call it their ‘20th Hole’, which is ideal as you can roll into bed from the ‘19th hole’ (the bar), which is opposite the apartment. It sleeps 4 people in two twin bedrooms, has a kitchen, bathroom, a living/dining room, free WIFI and Freeview TV. The prices are extremely reasonable and you can book by clicking here.
After a long day playing golf, we were well and truly ready for dinner! We quickly dropped off our bags in the apartment, got ready and made our way down the hill to the centre of Portpatrick. We walked along the waterfront, with fairy lights lining the harbour wall. We had dinner booked in Campbell’s Restaurant, which was lucky because it was a full house! Campbell’s is the most gorgeous little restaurant right on the harbour. It has possibly the best menu you could ever wish for when you are hungry. I opted for the mussels in white wine and garlic cream for starters, their version of ‘Surf and Turf’ (fillet steak and lobster thermidor) for main and creme brûlée for dessert. This is a restaurant that I would definitely look forward to visiting again!
After we were suitably stuffed, we went back to our apartment and were tucked up in bed for 10pm. Not quite the rock and roll Saturday night we had planned in Scotland, but who knew a round of golf could be quite so exhausting! Plus, we had an early start on Dunskey golf course in the morning!
I was woken up by the sound of rain. Not just normal rain. Window crashing, wind howling, kind of rain. Andy wasn’t phased by it at all and began to get ready as if it were a glorious day outside. As I brushed highlighter onto my cheeks, I began to wonder if there was actually any point at all in putting on makeup. At the first hole, I got my answer and regretted even bothering to brush my hair.
Andy’s pink hands show just how cold it was!
Portpatrick Dunskey is a great test of golf! The beautiful greens were contrasted by the long, wispy links rough. This was definitely a challenging course for me to play, but the wind stealing my ball repeatedly played a huge factor in that. I definitely didn’t play as well as the day before, but I had just as much fun, despite not being able to feel my fingers! What totally blew me away (pun intended) were the amount of golfers out playing the course. Just like the Irish, the Scottish were not going to let the weather ruin a good game of golf!
Are there any habits of 'successful' bloggers that we should actually be following? Well, I have been observing the blogging bubble for a while now and I'm offering you some top tips on how to blog your way to the top. Buckle in babes...
Calling yourself a blogger
Don’t get caught up worrying about domain names, building websites and writing content. That nonsense is a thing of the past and far too much work. Simply sign up to Instagram, add a picture of your morning coffee, one of the flowers you bought yourself in Tesco and one of you laughing while looking left. TA DA – you are now ready to call yourself a blogger!
Sitting in front of a blank screen
This is what blogging is ALL about. You have only ‘made it’ once freebies start coming through your letterbox. The important thing is to make sure to share that you have received mail, or no one else will know. To do this, you need to video ‘unboxings’ and hashtag #bloggermail. This will remind people that you are not a BLAGGER, but in fact, a professional and trendy blogger.
Don’t pay for a thing
Want something for free? Easy. Simply tag the brand in your Instagram stories saying that you have run out of a particular product or would like to try a product and voila, they might just send it your way. And don’t worry, because you’ve sounded BREEZY AF no one will notice that you are trying to blag because blogging hasn’t worked.
New post on the grid
So you’ve just posted a new picture on your grid, but the likes aren’t coming in thick and fast like you’d hoped for. Well silly, that’s because you haven’t told your followers that you have just posted a new photo on your Instagram grid. How to do this? Screengrab the pic you’ve just posted, add it to your Instagram stories, scribble over it (you NEED to keep your followers in suspense) and tell them that, “There’s a new post on the grid!” Now wait and watch as the thousands of likes and comments come rolling in. The extra effort is worth it.
If you post a new pic and one person asks you a question about it, i.e. “What colour is your lipstick?” Make sure to take to Instagram stories and mention that you have had LOADS of questions about the colour of your lipstick. Heck, even if no one asks you a question, just say it anyway! That way you sound popular! (Side note – don’t forget to tag the brand, or you won’t get it for free!) #bloggermail
It’s all about the numbers
The more followers you have, the more free shiz you get. So if people aren’t following you there are a few things you can do. Firstly, start commenting on random people’s pictures with something like “Nice profile!” Secondly, you need to be going on a likeathon every day – like as many photos as possible. Finally, get the credit card out, because it’s time to pay for adverts!
What are organic followers? Who the f#@k cares when you can buy them all from Brazil! It’s a number game baby – more followers = more blogger mail.
Booked a holiday? Great…now time to keep it a secret for the next six months. To be portrayed as the ultimate jetsetter, you only show people that you’re travelling when you arrive at the airport (just get a shot of your passport, suitcase and feet). Even at this stage, it is VITAL that you don’t tell anyone where you are going. The next shot is from the airplane window. The final pic is the big reveal – get the best angle from your hotel pool, cocktail in hand and Sandra the holiday rep well out of shot.
Need new clothes for OOTD posts, but also need to buy food every month? No problem. Just order clothes online, wear them for a photo shoot and then return them. I recently ordered a dress that had a black ribbon looped all the way from the neckline to the leg slit, so that when I initially tried it on, it showed diagonally across the dress. These sneaky ribbons are a fashion blogger’s kryptonite. Avoid at all costs, because if you remove them, hunni you are paying for the dress!
Sometimes I pretend to be a fashion blogger for funnies
You are building a following, but that following needs to be engaged AF or you will be lost in the dreaded Instagram algorithm. Now it’s time to create a cult. What better way to do this than make a plonker of yourself and then ask your followers to do the same. For example, post a video of you dancing in the rain, hashtag it #drizzledance, and ask people to tag you in their drizzle dances. Watch as people all over the nation ruin their blowdrys, in hope that you will share their videos in hope that they receive followers in return.
Nothing to declare
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) states that by law, bloggers have to declare whether a social media or blog post is a paid advert or promotion (#ad, #sp, #spon, #sponsored) or an affiliate link (#aff, #afflink). The best way to approach this is to ignore it completely, or if you want to stick to the rules you can always add the teeniest, tiniest #ad to your Instagram stories, making them barely visible to the human eye. Best to hide it in the bottom corner too!
Whatever you do, do NOT give people the impression that you have a full-time job. Your aim here is to look like a socialite, so that your followers can aspire to have a life like yours. The last thing people want to see is your 3pm meeting with Alan from accounts. During your working day, try to upload old photos of you having a great time. Perhaps with a laptop, a gorgeous view and a simple #todaysoffice
As always, I write from a light-hearted (and sarcastic) place. Sometimes I like my own photos, which is probably as bad as all of the above and worse than laughing at your own jokes (which I also do). This blog post isn't targeted at any blogger in particular and I am not pointing fingers, I just wanted to highlight that being genuine is worth so much more than being another blogger-bot. I follow accounts that I love, but I hate to see blogs following the same pattern as everyone else. 100 genuine followers is worth SO much more than 10,000 purchased ghost followers. Buying followers is shallow and it doesn't make you #instafamous.
In the famous words of the gram...you do you, hun!
When we planned our trip from Larne to Cairnryan, we opted to get the early ferry so that we could watch the sunrise as we sailed across the North Channel towards Scotland. At 2am my husband, Andy, packed up the car with all of my ‘essentials’…my extremely large suitcase, picnic basket, picnic blanket, bags of snacks, ‘emergency coats’ and a pillow for car naps (strictly for the passenger only). In fact the only thing I didn’t pack was my dog, Bruiser, but I discovered afterwards that pets are allowed to travel for free with P&O on the Irish Sea crossing, so Bruiser can come next time! The best thing about travelling by ferry is that you can bring anything that you want in the car with no weight restrictions. This is ideal for someone like me. I am that person you see in the airport on their knees, unpacking their bulging suitcase into their hand luggage!
We hopped into the car and made the short journey to the ferry terminal in Larne. From Belfast, it took us only 30minutes to drive, which was a lovely surprise! We joined the check-in queue, ready to board the ferry. When the gates opened, we got to make the exciting drive from our lane, up the ramp, onto the ferry. As soon as we parked our car, we were allowed to get out and make our way on-board.
We did a quick tour of the ferry to get to know where everything was and then made our way to the club lounge, where we purchased access for only £14 (you can get this for £12 if you book ahead online!). The club lounge is a lovely way to enjoy the journey. It has really comfortable chairs, a complimentary glass of wine, soft or hot drink, which is served to you by one of the stewards (who will also take food orders from the club lounge menu), complimentary snacks, complimentary newspapers and magazines, and views of the deck and ocean.
We were able to see from the club lounge when we were getting close to Scotland, so as soon as we saw that we were approaching land, we made a beeline for the deck to watch the sunrise dance off the Scottish shores.
Our journey was very short and it felt like we were no sooner driving onto the ferry in Larne, than driving off the ferry in Scotland! If you’re like me, the first thing you’ll think of when you drive off the ramp is, “Where can we eat?” I found a gem of a café, called Fig and Olive. It is a gorgeous little spot in the town on Stranraer, which is only a five minute drive from P&O dock in Cairnyryan. The café caters brilliantly for anyone following a speciality diet – gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etc – and their menu is absolutely gorgeous!
When we finally couldn’t eat any more, we made our way back to the car ready to start our road trip around the Dumfries and Galloway area. This area of Scotland is absolutely stunning, especially when the sun is shining – the whole area seems to come to life! Here are my top 5 favourite places that we visited:
1. Castle Kennedy Gardens
One of Scotland’s finest gardens, and possibly the most beautiful gardens I have visited. Castle Kennedy Gardens is set in 75 acres and includes the ruins of a lovely castle, walls of flowers, bird hides, a two acre lily pond, lakes and lots of wildlife. The vast flower walls of rhododendrons and azaleas look like they have come straight from someone’s Pinterest board – they are breathtakingly beautiful and my phone is now full of photos of amazing flowers in full bloom! It is difficult to describe just how special Castle Kennedy Gardens is. It is enormous, but very well structured and you are given a map at the entrance. So although you get the gorgeous feeling of getting lost amongst the flowers, you will always find your way back onto a path!
2. Knockinaam Lodge
Originally built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, Knockinaam is in a very secluded location on the South-West tip of Scotland. There is a lot of history surrounding Knockinaam Lodge. In World War II, this was the site that Sir Winston Churchill and Eisenhower used as their secret meeting location, so secret, that it is hard for a Sat Nav to find (luckily, it is well sign posted!). This is one luxury hotel that I definitely want to return to for a weekend. Gorgeous interiors, a whiskey bar, fine dining and it’s own private beach and uninterrupted views of Northern Ireland (which shows just how quick the P&O ferry journey is!). We enjoyed a private afternoon tea in the lounge. They catered brilliantly for my gluten free diet. Make sure to book in advance!
Gluten free afternoon tea in Knockinaam Lodge
3. Southerness Lighthouse
Take the walk along the beautiful beach of Southerness to one of the oldest lighthouses in Scotland. Southerness is a popular camping destination and is home to a large caravan, so it is perfect for anyone travelling to Scotland in a campervan. The beach has lots of rock pools to explore, so would be a great stop for anyone with children!
4. Galloway Forest Park
As the largest forest park in the UK, Galloway Forest Park is home to 300 square miles of amazing scenery, lots of lovely wildlife and things to do. On the drive to the park, we stumbled across Galloway’s red deer herd at the Red Deer range (near Creebridge). It was beautiful to see the deer basking in the heat and making the most of the Scottish sun.
A short drive away, I was even more excited to find the Wild Goat Park. A herd of beautifully rare, long-haired goats were lined up along the fence while friendly visitors fed them fruit and carrots. I made a dash to the car to see what snacks I had in my handbag and came back with two bananas. I was delighted that they seemed to love bananas and ate them right out of my hand (including the skin!). A local man said that the goats have roamed the area since the 1970s!
Located at the edge of the park, is the Scottish Dark Sky Obervatory – it has two large telescopes that are perfect for observing the night sky. Unfortunately, we were there at the wrong time of the year so missed out on this, but the venue hosts regular stargazing events throughout the year. Andy is a really keen astronomer, so this is something we will definitely be back to see!
We made the drive to Newton Stewart and stopped at Kirroughtree, which is home to lots of red squirrels. Unfortunately, we could hear them but couldn’t see them – they were very well camouflaged! We parked up the car and rented some bikes! There are a number of different cycling routes around the area ranging from beginners to advanced. There are also lots of gorgeous picnic spots in the area, so it’s a great spot for couples and families!
The Kirroughtree Visitor Centre has a coffee shop that serves fantastic coffee and the most delicious gluten free avocado and courgette cake. It was the perfect fuel to tackle the hills on the bikes!
A pretty little town of pastel-coloured houses set along the beautiful harbour. To me, Portpatrick is the perfect seaside holiday location and has everything that you would need for a peaceful getaway. Bars and restaurants overlooking the sea, a small clean beach, and a nearby hotel set on the dramatic cliffs that act as a backdrop for the town (perfect for a walking holiday!). Portpatrick is a great base for travelling around the Dumfries and Galloway area, because it is only a short drive to all of these areas.
On the final day of our trip, we popped into the bustling town for lunch and got chatting to a group of incredibly friendly locals. I could have listened to them talking all day because the Scottish accent is hands down my favourite accent! They suggested that we come back again for the Portpatrick Festival (the first weekend in September) because the atmosphere and music are both excellent! If this is something you would like to experience too, click here to book your ferry.
Climbing the rocks in Portpatriek Harbour
Driving along the stunning coastline of Dumfries, with gentle rolling hills and wild flowers lining the roadside, it is clear to see why so many people make the trip from Larne to Cairnryan. The views are breathtakingly beautiful, the food is fantastic and the people are lovely. As soon as you drive off the ferry, the options on where to go next are endless. The best thing about out trip was the unexpected, like stumbling across a wild goat farm! It is things like this that turn a simple weekend getaway into an adventure to remember!
Waiting to board the ferry and soaking up the last of the Scottish rays
Enjoying the sunset from the deck
Disclaimer - This blog post is a paid collaboration with P&O Ferries. All images, words and opinions are my own. Photographer: my very own Instagram husband.
I start my day with peanut butter and jam on toast, washed down with a big cup of tea. Every. Single. Morning. It’s a bad habit that I have slipped into - I know it is too much sugar, but the laziness of an easy breakfast has firmly taken over. It is this reason along with a few other cheeky habits, that this week, I am taking part in Free’ist’s ‘Sugar Swap Week’ from 28th May to 3rd June 2018. Free’ist are aiming to make people think more about their sugar intake and follow a low sugar diet for one week. Hopefully after one week, we will all become more mindful about the sugar we are consuming in our diet and understand the nutritional and health benefits that can come from a low-sugar diet.
Free’ist have been working alongside 121 nutritionist, Gillian Killiner, to come up with a brilliant sugar swap meal plan and some delicious recipes – just to make your sugar swap week that little bit easier! If you haven’t downloaded your free copy already, click here to get it! It offers some great inspo for easy and smart ways to ‘swap’ sugary food and drink items for a wide range of sugar free and no added sugar alternatives.
I am on day three of Sugar Swap Week and have done really well so far! The key to keeping on track is preparation. I used Free’ist’s shopping list (the last page in the planner) and made an online order for all of my favourite healthy foods. I made sure to choose fresh foods, that would contain only natural sugar, i.e. fruit and veg. Remember that sugar in fruit is different the refined sugar found in processed foods. This sugar is often masked by different names – look out for anything ending in ‘ose’ or ‘syrup’ – these are the things to avoid! Also note that ‘organic sugar’ is still sugar!
My fridge is fully stocked with healthy food!
Once my fridge was stocked and organised, and I knew what foods to avoid, I was ready to begin the Sugar Swap Week! The good thing about starting to eat low-sugar at this time of year, is the beautiful fresh food is all in season and so tasty. Meals can be thrown together quickly - like meat on the barbecue with salad! Snacking is easy, because Free’ist have so many different low-sugar options from popcorn, to chocolate, to gummy treats! The caramel popcorn and orange chocolate are such a good combo!
If you have a real sweet tooth and going cold turkey is too much, swapping to Free’ist products is ideal for you. You get to eat a healthy, balanced diet while still allowing yourself the odd treat. On Monday night I was craving something sweet and I made a cup of tea, had a couple of squares of the Free’ist Mint Chocolate (it’s my fav!) and felt totally content after it.
Last night after my healthy dinner, I really fancied a little treat in the sunshine, so I whipped up Free’ist’s recipe for Chocolate Avocado Sundae to take outside to enjoy. Also, it says it serves 4 and because there are only two of us, I knew there would be leftovers for tonight’s dessert! This recipe is seriously gorgeous. This is going to be something I make over and over again. I guarantee no-one will have a clue that there are avocados in the recipe (find the gluten free recipe at the bottom of this page).
This week is all about trying to change habits. I mentioned earlier that I eat peanut butter and jam on toast every morning. This week, on Monday I swapped my usual breakfast for gluten free oats, topped with banana, peanut butter and cinnamon. On Tuesday, I had gluten free wholeseed toast, topped with mashed avocado and poached eggs. Both were just as quick to make (a poached egg takes the same length of time to make as toast does) and were far more delicious and nutritious. So going forward, I will definitely be swapping my high-sugar breakfast for a healthier alternative.
Monday's Sugar Swap Breakfast
I'm only on day three and already Sugar Swap Week has made me question some of my previous eating habits. So once it ends, will I continue to eat sugar free? I don't plan on totally eliminating sugar from my diet, but nor do I plan to devour a big, sugary gluten free cake! Instead, I would like to find a healthy balance. I plan to keep sugary items as occasional treats, rather than part of my daily diet. So to describe my diet going forward, I would call it 'sugar-concious' - I think that will be the best outcome of my Sugar Swap Week!
I can't wait to hear how you all get on with your Sugar Swap Weeks!
INGREDIENTS • flesh of 2 ripe avocados • 150g (two bars) Free’ist dark chocolate • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk of choice • 1 ripe banana (the darker the banana, the sweeter it will be) • 1 tbsp almond butter • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract • 2 tbsp coconut cream (or the cream from the top of a can of coconut milk, you can remove this after putting the can in the fridge for 30mins as it rises to the surface and solidifies) • 1/2 tsp salt • Handful of Free’ist caramel popcorn to top
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Melt the chocolate by placing broken chocolate pieces into a small bowl and putting the bowl into a saucepan of water over a medium heat. The hot water should heat the bowl and melt the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is a liquid consistency. Remove from the heat. 2. Put all the ingredients including the melted chocolate (but not the popcorn) in a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth. 3. Chill the mixture for at least two hours. 4. When you’re ready to serve, in four serving bowls or glasses make a layer of popcorn pieces for the base of your sundae. On top, spoon the avocado mousse mixture. Alternatively, you can put the mousse into a sandwich bag and chop off the corner, then squeeze it out so you get a neat spiral effect. 5. Top with popcorn and you’re good to go! For extra indulgence you could also drizzle some more melted Free’ist chocolate on top and add Free'ist marshmallows…
Disclaimer: This blog post was written as a paid collaboration with Free'ist. All images, words and opinions are my own.
For a city as small as Belfast, the amount of great gluten-free-friendly restaurants is pleasantly surprising! The food scene is always growing, with new restaurants opening on a weekly basis. Last week, I took to the heart of the city (BT1) to explore a number of different places that are great for gluten free food. Here are a few of my favourites:
Tucked in behind my fashion mothership (Zara), City Picnic is in an ideal location for anyone looking for some lunchtime shopping fuel. Using only homegrown, local produce, this little gem prides itself as serving 'The Best Burgers in Belfast'. With one of their owners being coeliac, City Picnic is a pretty unique diner because everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) on their menu can be made gluten free! Think of everything that is normally off limits if you're gluten free - burgers, chicken wings, 'messed up fries', hot dogs, wraps, nachos and chicken strips - and then think how challenging it is not to order four lunches at one time. Further to that, you can wash all of this down with a gluten free beer, prosecco or cocktail! I have no doubt that City Picnic will become an absolute favourite for any of you popping into the city centre!
My best friends used to live in Melbourne and would send me photos of themselves eating bowls of Pho in the local restaurants. I had never had it and became absolutely obsessed with trying to hunt down a gluten free bowl of Pho in Belfast, which turned out to be an impossible task. That is, until Yugo opened right in the heart of Belfast serving up a delight of Asian-fusion! It has now been open for over a year and I visited for the first time last week for lunch. It is in Donegall Square West (the righthand side of the City Hall), so it's in a great location for shopping pit stops or for dinner before a night out in Belfast!
Yugo has a lovely open kitchen which is framed by hanging plants and low hanging wicker lights - the decor is gorgeous! Much to the despair of the person I am dining with, there is nothing I love more than watching a chef at work while I wait for my food (...my eyes focused only on the chef doesn't make for great conversation)! I ordered the Beef Pho (of course), the Panang Curry, Sushi and Asian Greens Salad. This is honestly some of the best, fresh food that I have tried locally. Every single dish was packed with flavour, I felt like I was experiencing something new with every bite! Further to that, the staff were brilliant. I love dining in restaurants which make me feel completely welcomed and at ease about being coeliac. They couldn't have done more for me and made sure to tell me that the dishes were gluten free when they were serving them. That saves you the bother of having to check because they look too good to be gluten free. Yugo has raced it's way onto my favourite restaurants list, I can't wait to go back!
When you're planning a date night but you don't know what you want to eat, or planning a group dinner and need to accommodate lots of different diets, Home restaurant is the perfect option for you in Belfast. Suitable for Coeliacs? Tick! Vegan Options? Tick! A 'skinny' menu for gym bunnies? Tick! Home is situated on Wellington Place, about a thirty second walk from the city hall. I told the restaurant at the time of booking that I was coeliac and when the manger led us to our table, I was pleasantly surprised to find two gluten free menus already on the table - the standard gluten free menu and the 'skinny' gluten free menu. After tossing the skinny menu to one side, I had the difficult task of choosing what to eat. There are SO many gluten free options. Everything from a burger, to salmon, to sweet potato curry and more. For starter, it was an easy choice, the salt and pepper prawns. Even now, I always find anything in a batter, tempura or breaded a total treat. The prawns were perfectly cooked and the lemon tartare on the side was the perfect accompaniment to take a little heat off the prawns.
One thing that stood out to me for main was the steak because of two things in the description - firstly, they use Peter Hannan's (of Hannan Meats) which is pretty much the best quality meat you will find in NI, and secondly, it came with parmesan and truffle fries and they are my favs! The Cafe de Paris butter was a really nice change from being offered garlic butter and melted wonderfully over the perfectly cooked, butter-like steak. I could write a whole blog post on the truffle and parmesan fries, but I won't, I will just say that they are incredible and the best I have had. You need to go at once and order some!
My ideal night is one that is powered by guacamole and margaritas...in excess. La Taqueria takes the crown for my favourite date night restaurant in Belfast. Friendly staff serve up authentic Mexican food in a relaxed, candle lit and intimate setting. It is tucked away in Castle Street up a flight of stairs (the left hand side of Primark), which is great because the calories burned walking up the stairs, leaves room for extra tacos! Yes, the tacos are gluten free, along with about 80% of their menu! The staff are so helpful with going through the menu to show all of the gluten free dishes and chat through the ingredients and which tacos are their favourites. I'm always happy to choose their suggestions!
Don't expect standard 'chicken' or 'beef' tacos. Their traditional soft shell tacos (made from corn) are filled with the most gorgeous ingredients. My favs are the 'chorizo rojo' (ground pork seasoned with chipotle ancho chilli and spices, which is shown in front of Andy below), the salsa prawns and normally one of their specials, like pulled pork with pineapple. The tacos are served on wooden sharing boards, I call them 'sharing boards' so that Andy has to share with me, feel free to eat all 3 yourself. I order a huge bowl of guacamole and frijoles refries (black bean mash with fresh cheese) on the side so that our table looks like a Mexican fiesta. You don't get this close to Mexico every day and once you visit La Taqueria, you're going to be a regular!
Taylor & Clay, Bullit Hotel
This is a hotel restaurant like no other. Housed in the trendy Bullit Hotel, Taylor and Clay is a fantastic choice for brunch, lunch or dinner. At the heart of the restaurant sits a huge Asador grill and the enticing smells from the grill drift all around the restaurant, meaning your mouth begins to water as soon as you're being shown to your table. To kick off lunch, I ordered an apple gin with elderflower tonic, which was recommended to me by the friendly hostess (also a coeliac). Andy and I both ordered the famous wagyu beef burgers (gluten free for me) and I went with the coeliac friendly choice of the black rice and feta salad side. The burgers are served with a tangy bois boudran sauce...now I don't know what this is, but all I can tell you is that it is bloody fantastic! The burger crumbled at every bite, the meat was dark and the flavours from the grill were fantastic. The burger was huge and I was enjoying it so much that I barely got to touch my salad before the complete and utter fullness set in. The black wild rice along with the tang from the feta and the sweetness and smokiness from the grilled sweetcorn were an incredible combination and the amount I ate was enough to leave me with very happy memories! Again, most definitely another restaurant for your visit list!
When you finish your meal, a lovely way to make your day a little bit lovelier is to take the lift up to the roof and visit Bullit's roof top bar, Babel. Babel has a panoramic view of Belfast and on a sunny day, it is the spot to be! The cocktails are unique and gorgeous, my favourite being 'The Babel'. Outside, they have a lovely little roof garden, surrounded by plants and twinkle lights!
'The Babel' cocktail, from Babel
Thank you so much to Belfast one for planning a gorgeous day. This post was sponsored by Belfast One, but we all know how much I love eating so all views are most definitely my own!
If you would like to plan your own day of eating in Belfast, click here to see a complete guide of what our gorgeous city has to offer you!