Detour | Lavender Fields at Castle Farm

lavender fields

lavender fields

Having seen a gazillion beautiful Instagram photos of lavender fields over the past year, I was super excited yesterday when I finally made it to one myself!

Whizzing out to Kent with my friend Cath on a slightly gloomy Wednesday afternoon, we manoeuvred the car past tractors and other vehicles on a tiny country lane, before pulling into the carpark at Castle Farm and booking into the final lavender fields tour of the day.

The tour costs £6 and lasts around 1.5 hours. In that time you’re taken on a walk around the farm, to see where the lavender is manufactured into oils and other things, and following a talk you’re let loose in a lavender field to take photos.

To be honest, I have never been the best listener when it comes to learning!  I’m one of those daydreaming types, so I’m definitely not here to fill you in on all the lavender facts I learnt.  I was too busy gazing out at the lavender fields wondering where was the best spot for photos. #instagramproblems

lavender fields

As it happens, we kinda messed up.  The tour guide let everyone into the fields after his talk, and we thought we could return later on to snap some pictures without tourists showing up in the background.  It turns out that was not the case, and by that stage we literally had two minutes to take a few shots.   So we took just a few, but on the bright side, I’ll be much more prepared next year when I plan to return!

There are a few different lavender fields outside of London, if you jump on Google you’ll find them!  They will be harvested within the next couple of weeks, so if you’re planning a trip, make it snappy, and jump around in the fields with your camera as soon as you get the chance.

Annmaree x

lavender fields

Eat | Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings

Bourne and Hollingsworth

Bourne and Hollingsworth

Happy Friday everyone!  By the time this post publishes, I’ll already be in France.  I am not looking forward to my alarm going off at 4am but that’s the price I’m willing to pay for four days in the French countryside with friends.

I hope you all have fun plans for the weekend too!  And if you’re still figuring out exactly what those plans are, then let me give you a foodie suggestion.  Brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth in Farringdon.

Last weekend I took my friend Cath to brunch at Bourne and Hollingsworth for her birthday.  We are both gluten intolerant so it actually works very well when we both dine out together.  And the good news is, B&H have sooooo many options for us GF lot.  Including pancakes.  Or ‘drop scones’ as they like to call them.  Oh my word, they were sooo good, topped with bacon and a side of maple syrup, Cath ordered some avocado to go with hers, and I ordered eggs.  Crispy on the edges, super fluffy in the middle, we were both in gluten free pancake heaven.

Everything on the brunch menu sounds delicious, and I can confirm their cocktails are also worth ordering!  The interior is gorgeous, light and bright, with hanging plants everywhere, it’s a really beautiful space to spend a weekend eating good food with friends.

Annmaree x

My 5 Favourite Instagram Accounts

5 favourite instagram accounts

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with photography.  As a child, I could spend hours looking through the boxes of family photos my parents have stored in the hallway cupboard.  In fact, every time I go home to New Zealand, I pull those boxes out and flick through all the visual memories.

As a young teenager I would set up little fashion photo shoots in our living room, working out the perfect outfit for each shot, carefully framing the photo and then running onto my ‘set’ before my basic functioning camera would flash and capture the moment.  I’ve enrolled in distant learning photography courses, attended blogger photo workshops and taught myself what does and doesn’t work through taking photos for myself and for social media clients.

It probably comes as no surprise then, that my absolute favourite app ever is most definitely Instagram.  I’m well and truly addicted.  Instagram is the ultimate visual platform, a place that offers everything from inspiration and ideas to escapism.  I can spend hours quite a lengthy amount of time getting lost in the images of a traveller’s account, taking inspiration from a fashion blogger or looking for home decor items.

I constantly stumble across new Instagram account’s that inspire me to travel, cook, exercise, or discover a new home interior or fashion brand.  I thought I’d share 5 of my current favourite Instagrammer’s to give you guys some Insta inspiration and discover some beautifully presented accounts…

@alabasterfox
A lifestyle blogger based in Wroclaw with stunning home decor images.

@polabur
Described as a travel blogger, Amsterdam based Polabur also features incredible food, fashion and flat lay shots.

@_foodstories_
Two Berlin based woman, one a foodstylist, the other a photographer with the most unreal foodie images, I just want to make everything they photograph.

@newdarlings
An Arizona based husband & wife, sharing the most beautiful photos of their style, travels, and home.

@emelinaah
A very funny Australian traveller, with gorgeous photos from her global travels.

Detour | Sailing Away in the Greek Islands

sailing greek islands

When a friend messages and asks ‘Hey are you free to go sailing in the Greek Islands in a couple of weeks?’ you first think, really?  Like seriously?  Then you check your diary, spend a moment to consider that perhaps you should be a responsible adult, save your pennies, and all that.  And then you go online and book your flight.  

Well that’s what I did anyway.  I was sat on the sofa here in London one evening, watching something gripping and highly intellectual *coughKeepingUpWithTheKardashianscough, when my Facebook made a pinging sound.  My friend Mel asked ‘Hey do you want to go sailing in the Greek Islands in two weeks time?’.  There was an available cabin on the very luxurious 56ft yacht Velos, owned by Anko Yachting.

Back in 2008, myself, Mel and a group of friends exclusively hired Anko Yachting’s 50ft yacht Alexandros.  We sailed around the Ionian islands, whilst owners and life partners Thanos and Alicja, took care of the sailing and cooking for us.  I have taken many trips in my 38 years, and that week spent on the yacht in the Greek Islands still remains one of the most memorable and special vacations I’ve had.

It therefore comes as no surprise that when Mel asked me if I might be interested in going with her, I most definitely was.  It was a chance to indulge in a week of luxury, and experience the pure relaxation that staying aboard one of Anko Yachting’s boats provides.

After flying into Athens, I met Mel at the marina, and we located the yachts.  Velos and Alexandros were setting sail together that afternoon, both with their own agenda each day, based on the guests requests and preferences, but always pulling into the same harbour in the evening so we could all enjoy dinner (And cocktails. And gelato) together.

On this trip we were sailing around the Saronic Islands, which includes the well known vehicle-free island of Hydra.  A typical day onboard the yacht would go as follows.  Wake up in our private room at whatever time we pleased.  Saunter out in our pj’s to the galley where we’d be greeted with fresh pots of coffee to get the day started, alongside fruit platters, home made jams, bread and pastries, Greek yoghurt (of course!) and other delicious options.  After lazing around aboard the yacht or taking a morning stroll around the harbour, we’d all pull on swimwear and wait to sail towards a secluded bay, so we could take a dip in the crystal clear ocean, or pop on a mask and snorkel to discover all the fish below.

Lunch would be served around 1 pm.  This part of the day becomes a highlight of every single guests trip.  Alicja just happens to be one of the most talented cooks I’ve ever met.  She whips up a meal so delicious and so mind blowing, that it’s tempting to book repeat holidays onboard JUST for her food.  She caters to all requirements.  On our boat there was myself with gluten intolerance, Mel with dairy intolerance and a vegetarian.  But nothing was a problem, and no one missed out.  We’d sit at the back of the yacht each day, sharing the platters of food, whilst wine was free flowing, dessert always followed, and often digestif’s and cocktails became part of the daily ritual too.  Once lunch was finished, some of us would take an afternoon nap (guilty), others would sunbathe at the front of the yacht, or read their book.

By late afternoon/early evening we’d arrive at a new destination for the evening, where we’d all spruce ourselves up, perhaps have another cocktail or two, or take a stroll around the town, before all meeting up to enjoy an evening together at a local restaurant, with good food and lots of laughter.

 

There are four double sized guest rooms aboard the yacht, each with luggage space and private bathrooms.  The yachts are big, which means there’s plenty of space for ‘me’ time as well as socialising with the other guests onboard.

Speaking of guests, unless you’ve hired out the yacht exclusively, everyone aboard will start out as strangers.  By the end of the first day, you’ll likely know more or less the life story of each and every person onboard. There’s something about spending time in such close proximity to others that gives you the tendency to share and discover more about each other than perhaps someone you’ve known for years.  Mel and I were the youngest onboard, and we had an absolute blast with our fellow guests.

By no means do you need to be a keen sailor to spend a week aboard one of the yachts.  If you’re curious about sailing and want to give it a go, Thanos will guide and help you.  If like me, you want to sit there and chat to guests, followed by sunbathing on the deck, that’s perfectly okay too.  If you’ve not sailed on a yacht before and you’re not sure what to expect, the Anko Yachting fleet are the best place to start.  The waters are calm, so no stormy seas, and you’ll always be in sight of land.

 

The good news is there’s still availability for this season too.  So if you fancy the idea of amazing food, great company, sailing, swimming and sightseeing, do yourself a favour and book yourself on one of the boats.  You’re guaranteed a trip of a life time.

Bon Voyage! x

Making Lifelong Friends When Travelling

Lifelong friends when travelling

Lifelong friends when travelling

I hadn’t seen Alexandria for nine years.  We met in 2008, in Amalfi, Italy.  Alex was visiting from USA with her mum, I was travelling Italy on my own.   Tourists and travellers always congregated in the piazza on those hot evenings, and it was there, at a bar, that we first spoke.  

A few days later, we swapped Facebook details, and Alex went back to USA with her mum.  Since 2008, despite only meeting in person a handful of times on that trip to Italy, we have remained in contact.  We both have a deep love for travel, and a mutual obsession with the Amalfi Coast.

Alex and her husband travel A LOT, and despite visiting Europe multiple times each year, they’d not yet made it to London.  Until May this year.  We made plans for Sunday lunch, and met in a pub in North London, almost nine long years after our first meeting.

We had the best time over lunch, sharing travel and life stories and talking about Amalfi in a way that I could only do with someone who knows it as personally as me. We laughed so much and made plans to meet for a mid-week dinner before they left London.

In my experience the absolute best part of travelling has been the lifelong friends I’ve made.  I’ve been to towns, villages and cities all over the planet, but the most memorable part of every trip has been the people I’ve crossed paths with.

making lifelong friends when travelling

For some reason these friendships with fellow travellers are more instant than others.  In 2009 I stopped off in Miami on my way back from visiting friends in Colombia.  I booked a bed in a shared hostel room on South Beach, and a couple of days after arriving, a couple walked into my room, and we introduced ourselves.  Five minutes into our conversation, we discovered we were both planning to head to Orlando and stay in the same hotel.  I was planning on taking the bus.  That evening I went out for dinner with my new room mates Jane and Pat, and the next day I was sitting in the back seat of their rental car, bonding over our shared love of IHOP pancakes, as we sang along to songs on the radio, en route to Orlando. We visited Disneyworld the very next day together and fast forward one year later, we all went back to USA, visiting L.A and Vegas.  That was 2010.  I’m seeing Jane, Pat and their son Harris next Sunday for lunch.  I adore the friendship I have with them, and the travel memories we created.

Making lifelong friends when travelling is something I’m so grateful for.  I have friends in Japan, South America, Australia and Germany, to name a few places.   I look forward to more adventures around the globe, and meeting more Jane and Pat’s and Alexandria’s on my journey.

You can read Alexandria’s blog here.  She’s also a writer and you’ll want to purchase one of her fabulous novels!

Eat | Gluten Free in Paris

Gluten free in Paris

Gluten free in Paris

When I booked my trip to Paris, the very first thing I did was the same thing I do when I book any other vacation.  I Googled ‘Gluten Free in Paris’.   It makes life so much easier for me if I have a few gf food spots on my list, so I’m not wandering around aimlessly looking for something to eat.  I’m also not one of those people that just views food as fuel.  No.  I want really delicious food, and with Paris being so famous for their patisseries, I was hopeful that someone, somewhere would be baking some gluten free treats that I could indulge in.

I wasn’t disappointed.  It turns out there are quite a few French pastry chefs that suffer from coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, which really isn’t so fun for them, but it means they’ve dedicated themselves to learning the art of gluten free baking, so that their creations taste as good as the gluten filled stuff.

If you’re walking the streets of Paris feeling sorry for yourself that everyone else is indulging in Canelé’s whilst you’re munching on something much less interesting, this list will save you from misery.  I promise even your gluten eating friends will be shocked at just how a-maz-ing these gluten free spots are…

Chambelland

Chambelland was the first stop on my ‘Gluten free in Paris’ tour, with my gluten eating friend Rachael from Made From Scratch.  Chambelland make everything from scratch, they even have their own gf flour mill.  What they manage to produce and sell in their bakery is the stuff dreams are made of.  We popped in for lunch, and it was agonising trying to narrow down our options.  We ordered an olive focaccia (one of the few things I miss dearly now gluten isn’t a part of my life), orange-chocolate sweet bread – described as a mix of bread, brioche and pastry, which turned out to be something that could only be described as heavenly.  We added a couple of cookies to our order too, and they were the melt in your mouth kind that make you want to order ten more immediately.  Chambelland was most definitely my favourite gluten free spot in Paris.  Do not miss this.

NoGlu

Opened in 2012, Noglu Restaurant now has three locations in Paris and one in New York.  Their daily changing menus also offer vegetarian and lactose free meals.  We popped in for dinner and I ordered the burger, which hand on heart was one of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating!  The bun didn’t have a hint of that usual gluten free dryness, it tasted like the real deal.  Rachael ordered the fish and risotto dish, and for someone who can eat gluten she was impressed with her meal too.  We skipped dessert having already stuffed ourselves silly earlier in the day with sweet treats, but the baked goods on display looked heavenly.  A really great spot for a fantastic gf meal.

Helmut Newcake

Opened in 2011, Helmut Newcake was the first pastry shop in Paris to offer 100% gluten free baked goods.  Alongside the option of the most delicate looking desserts, think lemon meringue pie, pretty fruit tarts and dainty eclairs, Helmut Newcake also offer brunch and lunch.  We visited for a late afternoon sweet treat where I finally got to indulge in a very French treat, a canelé.  It was perfection!  I also bought a loaf of chocolate-orange brioche which I admittedly nibbled the corner off before packing it in my bag, bringing it back to London and turning it into French toast.  A lovely little cafe with the most divine gf treats.

Happy Gluten Free Eating in Paris!  And not that you need any more reasons to head to Paris, but just in case, here’s a short video I put together of some Parisian highlights…

Detour | A Trip to Paris

Paris

Paris

 

 

paris

My New Years resolution for 2017 is ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.  Yep, that famous saying we’ve all heard.  I’ve been determined to do justice to my goal, by worrying less, and just saying ‘yes’ to more opportunities.

Back in March, a friend of mine (only the super amazing Rachael from Made From Scratch!!) text me one day as I was walking the streets of Parsons Green in London. A dozen texts back and forward later, Rachael mentioned I should book a trip and go and see her in her current home, Paris.  I promised I’d look at flights, and felt a flutter of excitement.  Sitting on my sofa that evening, I looked at flight costs on Skyscanner and trawled through available Airbnb’s.  I felt a knot of worry, and thoughts along the lines of ‘maybe I shouldn’t go’, ‘I shouldn’t be spending this money’, and so on and so forth.  That anxious feeling that’s as familiar to me as breathing.

 

Paris

 

Paris

And then I booked my flight.  And my Airbnb (it was this one in Montmartre btw, if you’re looking for a gorgeous place to stay).  I text Rachael and I told her I was coming to see her in Paris the following week.  Yes, that quickly.  I just did it, I felt the fear and did it anyway.  And boy am I glad I did.

I booked to stay in Paris for two nights.  Rachael met me at the station near my accommodation, and we went for lunch at a cute little Parisian bistro whilst I waited for my apartment to be ready.  We wandered the city together that day, talking and sharing stories, stopping off at a rooftop bar in a hotel, just in time for sunset with a view of the Eiffel Tower.  We ate Vietnamese for dinner and I walked home past The Moulin Rouge.

Paris

 


Paris

The very next day we met in Montmartre for coffee, and ambled through French streets towards a gluten free cafe, where we ate the most amazing bread and cakes.  The day was perfect, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Following a stop at some lovely stores, we bought popsicles and ate them on a park bench whilst gazing at Notre Dame Cathedral.  When our legs had rested, we continued on towards one of the department stores that has the most amazing view of Paris.  We of course took a million photos, and then decided dinner was a good idea and finished the evening with gluten free burgers, and an Uber home.

On my final day, I dropped my bag at Rachael’s apartment and we walked through parks and pretty streets, stopping for a bite to eat before, and then climbing the stairs of the Arc de Triomphe, followed by one final photo session in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Collecting my bag and jumping on the train to the airport I was so happy I’d felt that fear, and gone to Paris anyway.  I wouldn’t have three days of lovely memories if I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have eaten the most delicious gluten free burger I’ve ever tasted, or laughed and chatted with Rachael if I’d chosen to stay put in London.

I’m off to the Greek Islands in the morning.  A friend invited me.  I felt the fear.  I worried about money and work and everything in between.  And then I booked my flight.  I’m doing it anyway.

And when I’m back I promise to share some of those gluten free cafes I found in Paris, they  are too good to keep them a secret!

Until then x

Paris

 

 

Paris

Detour | My New Zealand Video

Piha New Zealand

 

I finally finished editing my New Zealand Video of our recent trip, okay not that recent trip in February!  Video editing takes for-ev-er!  But it’s done now, and I’m pleased to be able to share some NZ memories of my vacation back home with you.

Enjoy! x

Eat | The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies


gluten free chocolate chip cookies recipe

The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

I understand that’s a rather brave heading I’ve gone with, but I am so confident you’ll agree if you whip up a batch.  This is hands down the best gluten free chocolate chip cookies recipe, in fact I’d go as far as saying it’s the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, gluten free or not!

They are the kind that are so soft they fall apart in your hand and melt in your mouth.  My favourite kind!  If you’re more of a crunchy cookie person, they can be baked for a minute or two longer.

I’d had a craving for an ice cream sandwich, so I decided to bake my first ever batch of gluten free chocolate chip cookies and scoop mint chocolate chip ice cream in between them.  I waited by the oven with anticipation to see if my cookies would turn out a success or a dud, and pulling them out of the oven, I managed to restrain myself for just a couple more minutes, until I lifted a cookie off the baking tray and pulled it apart to inspect.  The chocolate chunks were gooey and the dough had that ‘only just baked’ softness, that in my eyes makes the perfect cookie.

gluten free chocolate chip cookies recipe

I took a bite, and I felt my eyes widen.  These cookies were insane!  I called to The Boy Next Door to get in the kitchen and try one.  His eyes also widened and it was agreed between us, these were the best cookies we’d eaten.  A bold claim I know.  But all the more reason for you to bake a batch and let me know what you think!

I use the same gluten free flour blend recipe for all my gluten free baking, which you can follow here.

Now get going and bake those cookies! x


Eat | The Best Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Approx 20 cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 280g gluten free flour
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum (leave it out if your flour blend already contains it)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 55g cream cheese
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 170g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 eggs yolks, at room temperature
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g chocolate chips (I used 1 bag of Cadbury Chocolate buttons, broken into pieces)
Instructions
  1. Mix the gluten free flour, xanthan gum and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, place the cream cheese, melted butter and both brown and caster sugar. Mix together with a hand mixer or food processor on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and egg yolks and mix until well combined.
  4. Pour in the flour mixture, beating on low or by hand until combined.
  5. Add the chocolate chips and fold into the cookie mix by hand.
  6. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for approximately 4 hours (or you can cheat like I did, and throw it in the freezer until the mix hardens, around 30-45 mins).
  7. Preheat oven to 190c.
  8. Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for around 15 minutes to make it easier to scoop.
  9. Line baking trays with baking paper and scoop cookie dough into small mounds, placing on the tray with space between each cookie as they do spread.
  10. Bake the cookies for 11-15 minutes, when they edges are starting to brown.
  11. The cookies will look under baked, but they continue cooking as they cool.
  12. If you like gooey cookies, remove from the baking tray onto a cool plate after a few minutes. If you like crunchier cookies, leave them on the baking tray to cool.

Eat | Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe

Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe

I seem to have had quite a few conversations about my gluten free flour blend recipe recently, with more and more people I know becoming interested in removing gluten from their diet.  Whilst I didn’t remove gluten from my diet by choice, instead it was a case of having to after being so ill for so long, I do know that gluten free foods are less harsh on everyone’s digestive system.

If you are looking at dabbling in some gluten free baking, do not buy a gluten free flour off the supermarket shelves and expect to produce perfectly risen cakes and cookies from your oven.  Trust me, I tried.  It doesn’t work.  After many failed attempts, I started using the gluten free flour blend recipe below, and since then I’ve successfully baked everything from Christmas cake, to waffles, to chocolate chip cookies.

It’s my go-to when baking gluten free goodies, and although there is an initial cost and time factor, with the various ingredients that need to be purchased and then blended together, I promise you it is worth every penny spent!

Happy gluten free baking x

Eat | Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipe
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 255g white rice flour
  • 113g brown rice flour
  • 85g potato flour
  • 85g millet flour
  • 1 tbsp xantham gum
  • 1 tbsp dried milk powder
Instructions
  1. Weigh each ingredient and add to a large bowl.
  2. Stir the ingredients until well combined.
  3. Store in an airtight container.