Europe, Travel, UK

Bristol Zoo Twilights

July 16, 2017

The zoo is a great day out in Bristol but like all things these days can be ridiculously expensive, especially if you’re taking the whole family. Luckily Bristol Zoo open the doors on certain Friday evenings throughout the Summer and for just £5 each, you get to visit all your favourite enclosures, enjoy some live music and visit the newly refurbished restaurant, The Hide.


When I visited a couple of weeks ago with a group of other Bristol bloggers, it was my first visit to Bristol Zoo in years. We were lucky enough to have a quick private tour of the Zoo before the doors were opened to the public. If I’m being honest, I’m not 100% sure if I like zoos. The conservation work that they do is great and goes someway to make up for the slightly sketchy history that many zoos have, but I still find it a bit uncomfortable to see birds restricted to netted areas and to stare at a gorilla behind a pane of glass when they’re so similar to us. Bristol Zoo are doing the best they can and it’s clear that the staff are really passionate about their areas and want the best for all the animals.


That aside, the seals seemed to be having a whale of a time (see what I did there?) and I did let out a little squeal when I saw the red panda. I swear it’s the first time I’ve seen a red panda awake. They’re definitely my spirit animal!


Bristol Zoo is currently home to the Dinomania exhibition. As you walk around the Zoo, you’ll spot these huge interactive dinosaurs nestled between the animal enclosures. They look so impressive and the kids in our group loved them. Watch out for the one that sprays water though…


After our tour, we got to visit the Zoo’s restaurant, The Hide. If you’ve visited Bristol Zoo before, you probably remember a large canteen area with no personality which sold expensive junk food. It’s been completely refurbished and is now beautiful inside. Modern interiors are paired with an updated menu. It’s still a bit pricey but is actually worth the money now. We got to try a few of the sharing boards which included pizza, sausages, tortilla chips and bread and dips. We all agreed that the food was really good and would visit just for lunch if we could.




The next Friday Twilights session is on the 4th August and I might be going again with some work pals. Don’t miss out on visiting the Zoo for just £5!

I was given a complimentary ticket to the zoo but all views are my own!

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – Backwell House, Bristol

June 29, 2017

Just a few miles from the busy city centre of Bristol sits the beautiful Backwell House and I was lucky enough to visit and try out their new menu on a stunning weekday evening a couple of weeks ago.

It’s hard to put in to words just how picturesque Backwell House and surrounding grounds are but if you take a look at the pictures below, you’ll get a pretty good idea.



We were greeted with drinks by the entrance before being given a tour of the House and gardens by Guy, the Managing Director of the Hotel and Restaurant. I would usually summarise the tour in the same post as the restaurant review but that wouldn’t do this place justice so I’m going to write another post at a later date to showcase all the quirky details and the wonderful gardens.


After the tour, we were seated in this huge dining room reserved just for the Bristol bloggers group and we each had a goody bag filled with gifts from Backwell House and local suppliers which was a lovely touch. Before long our Starters were being brought out and I’m the worst for getting food envy so even though my dish looked great, I also wanted to try everyone else’s as well! I started with the Pressed Backwell Pork with New Season Peas, Pancetta and a Tarragon Emulsion (this sounds better if you read it in your best Masterchef voice). The crackling was a bit awkward to eat politely so not a great option for a first date. I ended up picking mine up and just going for the chomp! The rest of the dish was really tasty and set the tone for the rest of the meal.


Next up was the Cornish Cod with a Brixham Crab Bonbon, Crab Bisque, Kohlrabi and Pak Choi. I’m not usually one to pick fish but I thought I’d give it a go and definitely wasn’t disappointed. The whole dish tasted really fresh and no flavours were too overpowering. I was sat next to Rebecca who had the sirloin steak which looked immense so I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures.



Now for dessert I had to choose the strawberry cannelloni just because I was so intrigued. I had no idea what to expect but it was a nice refreshing end to the meal. The cannelloni was served with cute little meringues and some Cheddar Valley strawberries.


The atmosphere of the evening was great, everyone was chatting between courses and hearing stories of Backwell House from the staff. The chef, Ross Hunter, came out to see us afterwards for a little Q&A session and he was so modest! I told him to get on Masterchef: The Professionals! It was good to hear that all the food was sourced locally, including some from the very gardens of the house.

Our hosts for the evening, Guy and Felicity, were ridiculously accommodating and couldn’t do enough to make sure everyone was having a good time. I’ve been to a few blogger evenings now and this was one of the best. You can tell how much Guy loves Backwell House or ‘his baby’ as he calls it and I’m sure every visitor will leave just as happy as I did. Just go!


I received a complimentary meal at Backwell House but all views are my own. 

Lifestyle, My Life

Why Do We Always Ask Ourselves ‘What Next?’

May 22, 2017

Do you ever feel like your life has to follow a certain path just because that’s the way other people think it should be done? I’m talking education, get a good job, meet someone, buy a house, get engaged, get married, have a baby, have another one, keep pushing for that next promotion, retire, grandkids…. Then what?

Life goes quickly enough as it is and I’m sure we could all do without the pressure that we and others put on ourselves to be constantly moving towards the next milestone. So why do we do it?

I know I’m guilty of asking friends and colleagues when they think they’re get engaged, move out etc but I hate it when people ask me. ALL OF THE PRESSURE.

I’m trying to make a conscious effort not to ask these sort of questions because I’ve realised that it really doesn’t matter.

So what if you never get married? So what if you never have any kids or pop out a whole football team’s worth? So what if you rent all your life? IT’S YOUR LIFE.

Forget about what society thinks, people will judge you no matter what you do so you might as well enjoy your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to have goals but your life doesn’t have to follow a particular order. How boring would it be if everyone did the same thing?

There’s no need to compare or feel judged. Just do you and enjoy it.

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – The Square Kitchen, Bristol.

May 20, 2017

Last month I was invited to try out the new Spring menu at The Square Kitchen in Clifton along with a few other local bloggers. I love eating out so I was excited to try somewhere new. Bristol is full of so many hidden gems when it comes to restaurants and for someone who has lived in Bristol their entire life, I feel bad that there are so many places I’ve never visited!


The Square Kitchen is situated in The Berkeley Square Hotel off Queens Square.  It’s a private members club aimed at the creative industry but luckily members of the public can also visit.


It was cocktails on arrival for the bloggers and I was glad to see a good selection of mocktails as I was driving. Cocktails and bloggers meant an awful lot of photos had to be taken before we could drink. Did you even have a cocktail if you didn’t take a picture of it?


Before we sat down to eat, Heather let us have a nosy around her room as she was staying in the hotel for the night. The room was absolutely perfect for a short stay and I’m pretty sure I could actually live there haha! There was a definite Alice in Wonderland theme going on in her room as you can see from the pictures below. They know how to make food and drink look appealing! Also – how cute is the kitchen area?!


After a quick visit to Heather’s room, it was time to sit down to eat. The quirky interior theme continued to the restaurant with beautiful art work and low hanging lights which look good but did nothing for the pictures I took of my food!


We started with ham hock and piccalilli appetisers before our Starters came out. These were completely unexpected so felt like a real treat. I felt like I was a judge on Masterchef as the presentation was so pretty – a definite theme to the whole meal!


I decided to be brave with my choice of Starter and went for the seared scallops with serrano ham chips, a clam salad and caviar. This looked really delicate and came with some lemon spherification which is something I only know about from watching posh chefs on TV! I enjoyed the starter, especially the scallops because they’re such a rare treat.


For my main I chose the herb and parmesan gnocchi which was served with butternut fondant and a parmesan tuille. The gnocchi was beautifully rich and the butternut fondant was so smooth it was almost creamy. I wished there was more of this dish it was so tasty.


I finished with the chocolate bomb which was an event in itself. A filled chocolate sphere is brought to your table and then the waiter pours hot salted caramel sauce over the chocolate causing it to collapse and exposing the filling inside. Mine was filled with peanut butter parfait and a banana mousse. What’s not to love?


The whole menu was reasonably priced for the quality of the food, it’s definitely somewhere you should consider for a nice meal out without a stuffy atmosphere.


Blogging

I Went On A Copywriting Course And This Is What I Learnt

May 18, 2017
copywriting for bloggers

This post is a bit off-piste but I recently attended a copywriting course with work and found it really interesting so thought I would share what I learnt here for any other bloggers/writers.

What is Copywriting?

In basic terms, ‘copy’ is just words. Copywriting is making those words sound good. You can also use copywriting for SEO purposes but it’s much more fun if you’re not trying to cram a load of key words in to your writing.

Good copy should be easy to read. That means it makes sense, flows well and doesn’t contain jargon. The main tip I took away from the day was to write how your reader speaks, don’t be really formal if you don’t need to be. I did learn quite a few tips and tricks to improve my copywriting and I’ve summarised them all below.

 AIDA

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action and is a common marketing technique. It’s a good formula for a piece of writing if you want the reader to do something (i.e. the action) after reading.

Attention – It sounds obvious but you need to grab your reader’s attention in the first place. This can be a catchy headline, a bit of harmless clickbait or something intriguing.

Interest – Great, you’ve got your reader’s attention, now what? Attention spans are at an all time low. How often have you opened a blog post or news story and just skimmed the first few lines before moving on? Pretty much every time? This is why paragraphs in a news story decrease in importance the further you read. After your attention grabbing headline or strapline, it’s time to get the reader interested. Talk about something that your reader cares about. No one cares about you until you’ve proven that you care about them or can do something for them.

Desire – If someone is still reading then they’re starting to buy in to your story. Now is the time to get the reader to start desiring the ‘action’ at the end. Good techniques to use here are storytelling and backing up your claims with evidence. People buy on emotion and numbers sell.

Action – The action is the most wanted response. What do you want your reader to do after reading your writing? Enter a competition? Leave a comment? Or apply for a job? Make it clear what you want the reader to do. This is the ‘call to action’.

 Powerful Language

The most powerful word in writing? You. By speaking directly to your reader and using words such as ‘you’, ‘us’ and ‘we’, the reader is more likely to carry on reading and feel like your writing matters to them. You’ll notice that Politicians use this technique A LOT!

VAK – The three senses, Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic.

Most people have a preference to one of these three senses so it’s best to use all three to make sure you’re appealing to everyone. Examples of each are:

Visual – Can you see yourself…?

Auditory – Do you like the sound of…?

Kinaesthetic – How would it feel to be…?

Towards/Away

Some people move towards a goal, while others move away from a problem. This one works well for job adverts. For example, moving towards a goal could be ‘Looking for the next step in your HR career?’ and moving away from a problem could be ‘Hate commuting to London every day?’.

Rule of 3

Some Psychologist called Gestalt figured out that humans like a list of three. So use bullet points and examples in threes. You’ll notice that I used this technique earlier in the post.

And there you have it! A quick overview of some copywriting basics. Once you know some of these techniques you’ll spot them everywhere. So many adverts use the rule of three that you’ll actually start to find it amusing. Well you will if you’re a word nerd like me.

I hope you find these techniques useful and can put them in to practice. Let me know how you get on! (This an example of a call to action if you didn’t notice…).

copywriting for bloggers

Food, Lifestyle

Beauty & The Beast Afternoon Tea at Old Down Estate

April 29, 2017

Before I start this post, I have a teeny tiny confession to make.

I still haven’t watched the new Beauty & The Beast in the cinema.

I know, I know, I’m such a bad Disney fan. I don’t even have a good excuse, as always, life has been busy and time has just flown by. I promise I’ll see it soon though. Or maybe just wait for the DVD…

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I got to experience a Beauty & The Beast themed afternoon tea with a couple of friends at the beautiful Old Down Estate. Disney and afternoon tea? What could be better!


It was a beautiful afternoon when we visited so the grounds looked wonderful. You can get married at Old Down Estate and if you were lucky with the weather, you’d get some beautiful photos. Inside was just as pretty and we were quickly shown in to a holding area before our table was ready.


The Beauty & The Beast soundtrack was played quietly in the background to get us in the Disney mood (as if we weren’t already!) and before long we were shown to our table.


Each table had a replica enchanted rose and little figurines of characters from the film. The whole room was overly excited and everyone was taking lots of pictures of their tables. Mrs Potts as the milk jug was a firm favourite of mine. I actually ended up with a really milky tea as I was recording myself pouring the milk and trying to get that elusive perfect Boomerang for Instagram!


There were even more pictures as our afternoon tea came out to us. Alongside the usual sandwiches and scones, the macaroons were sitting inside a Chip mug and we had a chocolate cake shaped to look like Cogsworth. Everything looked really pretty and it’s always a shame to eat it.


I’m actually a bit weird and don’t like many desserts so I was happy with the sandwiches and scones but didn’t like many of the other treats – too much coconut and mousse for my liking. If I’m being honest, I’ve had better afternoon teas but the the Beauty & The Beast theme made this a special occasion.


As we were finishing off our food, a lady dressed as Belle came in to the room. Unfortunately there were only a couple of children in our sitting so Belle had to make awkward small talk with a lot of bemused adults. We still had a picture with her though! Belle then started to sing along with the sound track which again would have gone down better if there were more children to join in.

I liked Old Down Estate and I’d definitely like to see a wedding there, just got to bully one of my friends in to choosing it for their venue!

Food, Lifestyle

Restaurant Review – Jamie’s Italian, Bristol

April 3, 2017

Last Friday, the sun was shining and I managed to finish work at 3pm. Stu had had the whole day off so I quickly got changed and then we headed in to Bristol for our meal at Jamie’s Italian on Park Street. I’ve been to this Jamie’s Italian before and one in Bath but not for a few years so I was really looking forward to visiting again.

Jamie's Italian Bristol Super Lunch Menu
We were sat in one of the American Diner style booths next to the window and with the sun coming in, I genuinely felt like I was on holiday. And I think that’s probably one of the best feelings there is. In keeping with the holiday spirit, I ordered a mojito and Stu got a beer.

Jamie's Italian Bristol cocktails
As it was still early, we could order from the Super Lunch menu which is only £13.95 for three courses! We both love food as much as we love a bargain so both went for choices on this menu.  Although it’s a set menu there’s still a decent amount of options. Stu chose the truffle tagliatelle to start and I got the tomato bruschetta knowing full well that I would be trying Stu’s at the first chance possible.

Jamie's Italian Bristol Tomato Bruschetta

Jamie's Italian Bristol Starters
Both starters were delicious. Mine was really fresh and perfect for Spring. Stu’s was a lot richer but really comforting. You can’t beat a simple pasta dish and this was amazing.

For the main event, I went for Gennaro’s Chicken Club (Gennaro is one of the Greedy Italians – great duo!) with spicy fries and Stu had the Italian Steak and Fries. Both portions were a good size and we commented that it’s really good value for a lunch menu. The spicy ‘nduja mayo on my main was a real highlight for me, especially with my fries!

Jamie's Italian Bristol Italian Steak and Fries
Jamie's Italian Bristol Chicken Club
We’re both pretty full by this point but there is always room for dessert in my eyes. With no cheesecake in sight, I was forced to choose the Epic Brownie. And let’s be honest, it was an easy decision because it was truly epic. Just look at it. LOOK AT IT.

Jamie's Italian Bristol Epic Brownie
Whoever came up with the idea of putting popcorn with a brownie needs to be knighted. They are a genius. This was the perfect way to round off the meal and I’m definitely going to try and recreate the epic brownie at home.

A special mention has to go to the staff at Jamie’s Italian in Bristol. They’re all really helpful and can give you lots of information about the dishes. Thank you for making us feel special!

Have you visited a Jamie’s Italian? What did you think?

I was invited by Jamie’s Italian to review the restaurant but all views and brownie loving are entirely by own. 

Travel

Travelling – Being The One Left Behind

March 20, 2017

Travelling is amazing but have you ever thought about how the people you left behind are feeling?

I’ve left home twice for long term travel and although I miss my family and friends back home, it’s hard to truly empathise with them when you’re living in your backpacker bubble. Last month, for the first time, I was the one left at home. I drove my Mum and Stepdad to Heathrow and watched them disappear in to the Departures Lounge. And it was hard. Much harder than I expected.

I wasn’t sure if I would cry but when I hugged my Mum goodbye, the tears were flowing so fast I could barely speak. Don’t get me wrong. I was excited for them to have this experience but I love having my family close to me. I know the world is a small place now but at that moment in the airport, I felt lost.

It’s a mixture of emotions. Jealousy, sadness, happiness. I would give anything to go on a long trip again. I almost think it’s harder when you know what they’re going to experience. I have so many happy memories of my trips and it’s incredible that my Mum and Stepdad are going to create these memories for themselves.

I’ve always suffered from fear of missing out. When I was away I felt sad that I was missing huge milestones in my friends’ lives. Now I’m home, I’m jealous of people who are still living that backpacker life. I want the best of both worlds. Is there such a thing?

Relationships change with distance. Life moves on.

Maybe I’m scared of how this relationship will change. I know things were different with my friends when I came home. Different isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can be weird.

A month after that emotional goodbye in the airport and my life has continued as normal. I’m incredibly envious of the photos of their trip and being facetimed from New Zealand was amazing. I’ve had a couple of moments when I’ve forgotten that my Mum isn’t just a few miles away and then had that sinking feeling that I can’t just pop round and see her. Hopefully Stu and I will be able to see them at some point on their trip but we have nothing booked yet.

I know understand how my family felt when I was away and it’s hard to miss someone yet be filled with happiness that they’re seeing the world. Why can’t we all just travel constantly and meet up in exotic locations?

This has become a bit of a waffle but I hope I’ve managed to articulate my feelings. If you’d like to read about my Mum and Stepdad’s adventures then have a read of their travel blog here.

Blogging, Lifestyle

Blog Posts I’ve Enjoyed Recently #4

March 19, 2017

Slight disclaimer needed with the title of this post today. I’ve been a bit of a lazy blogger and I actually read these blog posts ages ago but I’ve only just got round to writing about them. Sorry!

Sophie Cliff – Body Image & The Wedding Industry – Now, I’m not getting married but I’m sure we can all relate to Sophie’s words about body image. Society can make us feel like we are constantly chasing a dream body. I think we all need to accept that there is no dream body. If we all looked the same then life would be boring. Embrace your quirks and read Sophie’s post if you ever need a bit of a pep talk!

Zoe London – Why Must I Consistently Compare Myself? – An extremely raw and personal post from Zoe. She opens up about  how she compares herself in all aspects of her life. Comparison truly is the thief of joy and something I struggle with as well. You can tell yourself that you don’t care what other people think but deep down, we all do. I’m not sure how to tackle this problem!

My Mum!

My Mum and Stepdad are currently backpacking the way around the world. They started in Singapore and are now exploring New Zealand in campervan. Could they be any cooler? They’ve started a travel blog to document their travels and it’s amazing to read about what they’re up to. I’m incredibly jealous and want to do my gap year all over again!

As always, I hope you enjoy reading these blog posts and please leave me some recommendations in the comments!

Image source here.

Food, Lifestyle

Brunching in Bristol with Cox and Baloney

March 16, 2017

Bristol is into Brunch. We’ve got bottomless brunch, boozy brunch and budget brunch options galore.

Along with a few other Bristol Bloggers, I was recently invited to Cox and Baloney in Stokes Croft to sample their new brunch menu. Obviously I jumped at the chance and had the best Sunday morning ever drinking copious amounts of tea and eating some wonderful food.

Shamefully, I hadn’t heard of Cox and Baloney before but this one visit has cemented itself in my top brunch locations in Bristol. The interior is BEAUTIFUL. The owners must have had so much fun shopping for all the vintage teapots and accessories. They even had a cuckoo clock which actually worked! I fell in love with the gold wall and am pretty tempted to rethink some of my ideas for my house now.

Before I talk about the delicious food that we were served, a special mention has to go to the tea. Cox and Baloney make their own tea bags so they have an amazing selection of brews including a prosecco tea (definitely designed with me in mind!). Each time a tea pot came out we were told how long we should allow it to brew for and given a little sand timer to keep track. It was little touches like this that made the whole experience at Cox and Baloney so special.

Now, THE FOOD.

Whether you’re into your porridge or your pancakes, Cox and Baloney have you covered. Every dish was presented beautifully and tasted just as good as they looked. They even challenged my view on tofu by serving us scrambled tofu on toast. This sounded so weird to me and looked like a slightly more green scrambled eggs when it came out. I was a bit hesitant but pleasantly surprised when I tasted it. It was incredible! Who knew?! The chef wouldn’t tell us how to make it (who can blame her?) so I’ll have to visit again to get my scrambled tofu fix. Now, that’s a sentence I never thought I would write…

My favourite dish was probably the pancakes which come served with seasonal toppings. I love a fluffy pancake and these came close to being as good as Stu’s homemade ones. Obviously the brunch menu also includes crushed avocado and poached egg on toast because what’s the point in having  brunch if you can’t take a video of the perfect runny egg?

I left Cox and Baloney feeling very full of tea and food but had the best morning with some fellow bloggers. If you’re ever in the mood for brunch (and when would you not be?) and in the Bristol area, I definitely recommend checking out Cox and Baloney. I’m sure I’ll be a regular now!