September 30, 2015

aldeburgh food festival buys

Every year without fail, I make the hour trip to Aldeburgh Food Festival which is by far one of my favourite events. I didn't take photos this time as I took loads for a blog post last year, so instead decided to show you what I bought. All of the brands are local to Norfolk/Suffolk but most can be bought online too. 


Hillfarm Garlic Mayonnaise (£3.59) | This mayo has a mighty powerful garlic twang and is the perfect partner for a plate of chips.

Hodmedod's Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar Fava Beans (£2.29) | Roasted broad beans have become my new favourite healthy snack so I was thrilled to spot this salt and vinegar version. They are even tastier than crisps!

Purely Saucy Scotch Bonnet Chilli Sauce | I put Tabasco on pretty much everything, being the chilli kick craver that I am, but have found myself wanting to try something even hotter which is where this purchase came in. 

Purely Pesto Sundried Tomato | More tasty pesto, enough said. 

Purely Pesto Pea Shoot | I'm completely addicted to regular pesto and have it at least once a week with pasta, but decided to go for a change this time with the pea shoot version. It's much lighter tasting than regular pesto and goes wonderfully with a sprinkle of feta cheese.  

Pump Street Bakery Chocolate Shavings (£10) | At the festival were hot chocolate shots, which tasted beyond incredible to the point I just had to buy this huge jar full of shavings to be able to make the same at home. I'm going to make sure that from now on I always have one of these stocked in my cupboard. 


St Peter's Brewery Grapefruit Beer, Spelt Blonde & Honey Porter (£2.19 each) | Whenever I'm in the mood for a beer or lager, I opt for St Peter's without fail. My favourite is their Grapefruit version which is too good for words, followed by the Honey Porter, a darker beer with a subtle chocolatey/cherry taste, and the Spelt Blonde, an all round great tasting light lager.  

Edward's Cordial Rhubarb & Lavender (£4) | I don't tend to be a lavender fan when it comes to food and drink, but in this cordial it's ever so subtle and just balances the tartness of the rhubarb perfectly. It makes a nice change from Robinsons orange squash! Plus it can be used as an alcohol mixer too. 


September 24, 2015

overcoming a fear of flying

I've been lucky enough throughout my life to have jetted off to different parts of the world from a fairly young age and therefore got used to flying and airports since before I can even remember. That being said, since before last year, I'd had a gap of not going abroad for three years and had the horrible experience of a bad panic attack whilst flying. 

I'd never really experienced flying nerves up until this point so didn't expect to suddenly get them, but on a flight returning from France I felt extremely panicky and spent the whole time trying to talk myself out of thinking the plane was about to drop out of the sky, to which every little sound and bump soon led to a full blown panic attack. It was truly one of the worst experiences of my life, I was shaking pretty badly and had a completely dry throat but felt too scared to even move my arm to drink from a water bottle. The whole thing only lasted a couple of minutes until the flight attendant made me feel much better but for the next bunch of flights I went on I would worry for days in advance about the same thing happening again. 

I have a ridiculously wild imagination whenever anxiety creeps in. Before getting on one plane, a news crew were filming in the airport and all I could imagine was it being used as footage about our doomed flight. I've also convinced myself before that spotting water dripping off the bottom of the plane was fuel leaking and even worried that we were going to crash into another plane midair simply because I could see it. The only real way to not get worked up is to recognise that all of these silly stories are coming from an overactive imagination and just to laugh them off as works of creative genius. 

Since then, I've had quite a crazy year and have been on 10 flights in just 12 months. With each flight, I learnt new tips and tricks to keep anxiety at bay, and although on some I still felt waves of panic, I'm now at a point where I've finally learnt to enjoy flights rather than be terrified of them.   

Always pay a little extra and book a seat next to the window and towards the front of the plane | I had my first ever flight away from the window last year, and truly hated every minute of it. I'm the kind of person who needs to see what is going on and being able to look out of the window is essential for me to feel relaxed. I also find that my favourite place to be is towards the front of the plane, as at the back I feel like I'm being dragged along by the plane and in the middle I feel penned in by people. My little secret, seat number 10a is the place to be.

Have a pamper night the evening before you fly | Nothing calms the nerves quite like a long soak in a hot bubbly bath with a mug of hot chocolate. My weapon of choice to fight anxiety and trouble sleeping is Neroli Oil which I burn just before bed in my Neal's Yard Oil Burner. Trust me when I say it will soon become your best friend. 

Take photos above the clouds | The main reason I do this is to remember back to the flights I've been on and that they all went absolutely fine. It's also a great way to learn to appreciate how beautiful it is to be above the world and to stop relating the experience to fear. 

If you feel a panic attack coming on, tense your muscles as hard as you can for a few seconds at a time | This is by far the best tip for panic attacks that I've ever come across. It works at bringing your mind back to reality rather than drifting off into anxiety. 

Have a big bottle of water handy | A bottle of water is a security blanket for anyone prone to panic attacks. It's so important to keep hydrated while flying, as often feeling dehydrated and lightheaded is where a sense of loss of control and panic can start. 

Divide your time up and use a reward system for each hour that you get through | I've become quite the pro when it comes to playing off anxiety against itself. For every half hour on a short flight or hour on a longer flight that I get through, I have in mind something that I will do so that I'm constantly reminding myself of how quickly the time is going. Usually it will be something like, getting a cup of tea, starting to watch my film, listening to an album and so on. 

Avoid sleeping for short haul flights | I've tried so many times to fall asleep so that the time will go faster on a flight, but always end up waking up half asleep and feeling completely disorientated which is an ideal way to start off a panic attack. Plus, if you want to learn to enjoy flying, you will first have to get used to all of the sights, sounds and feelings of being on a plane, rather than sleeping through them all. 

Take a cosy pashmina with you | Having a cosy airport/travelling outfit is absolutely invaluable and a cashmere scarf that doubles up as a blanket once you're on the plane is honestly one of the best things money can buy. 

Watch a film or listen to an audiobook | I recently read an article which referred to anxiety as a small child trapped inside your brain that is in need of distraction. This is why you will find that the more you allow yourself to get lost in a film or give your attention to anything other than the noises and bumps of a flight, the less chance you have of getting nervous in the first place. 

Make use of the air con | The moment I get sat in my seat on a plane, I make sure that the vents of air con are all open and facing in my direction. The feeling of fresh, cool air does wonders for stress and instantly starts to relax me for the flight ahead. 

See your time on the flight as your escape from the hectic rush of people at the airport | For my last few flights, I began to realise that most of my anxiety with flying is actually associated with the stress of the airport more than actually being on an airplane. A couple of weeks ago, I had the worst experience of being ill at Marrakech airport and standing in line for passport control whilst feeling faint for what seemed like a decade. Once I'd hopped onto the plane, I felt a sense of relief that I'd done all I needed to at the airport and all I had left was to just sit back and relax.

Plan what you are going to do at your destination | On your outbound flight, take some maps and guidebooks with you onto the flight. You can then use the time you have to plan each day and get excited about landing. For on your way home, check the world map on your phone and plan all of the places you want to next visit!

All said and done, it's so important to realise just how common flying anxiety is and that you absolutely will learn to overcome it and to enjoy flights, should you keep taking steps forward. If you feel so overwhelmed by a fear of flying that you just simply cannot get on a plane or endure the experience, consider booking yourself in for a Fearless Fyler course with EasyJet (#notsponsored). I fully believe in the power of the mind and that absolutely any fear can be cured simply with subjecting yourself to it over and over again until you eventually get so bored with it that you learn to let go. Stop labelling yourself as a nervous flyer and start convincing yourself that you are a capable flyer, and soon to be confident flyer. 

September 20, 2015

marrakech, morocco

A couple of weeks ago, I jetted off to Marrakech for my first ever visit to Morocco. I'm what I'd consider to be fairly well travelled but nothing could have prepared me for what the city had in store. We soon labelled Marrakech 'the city of contrasts', it's absolutely crazy in the winding streets yet perfectly calming once you've retreated back to your Riad. Some parts can make you feel as if you blend right into the scenery and others you feel as if you have 'tourist' stamped across your forehead. 

On arrival at Riad Papillion, which I'm going to go into further in my next post, we were greeted with fresh mint tea whilst our luggage was whisked off to our room and I couldn't quite get over how the place felt like a little save haven amongst all of the winding streets. If you are planning a trip to Marrakech, there's simply no way you should consider it without a stay in an authentic Riad. 

We soon plucked up the courage to venture into the souks, and within moments, were enticed into a spice store and talked through every kind of lotion and potion that you could imagine. I'd definitely recommend a trip to a traditional pharmacy, but avoid the musty plastic bags filled with spices that have probably been sat there for god knows how long, and instead invest in argan oil. 

Tips: Don't ever be forced into feeling that buying something is doing a good deed to the seller, stay away from readymade bags of spices or tea, if you want to take a photo of something without buying anything then give a small tip.  

After spending a small fortune on spices, herbs, lotions and tea that most of which we didn't need but felt obliged to buy, we were soon led out back to where we met an eccentric old chap making felt hats. Once again I was suckered into buying an odd looking necklace made from felt balls, and spent double what it was most likely worth, but that's all part of being a tourist on your first day of Marrakech. 

On the second day, we wrapped up in scarves to cover our shoulders and went down to Jeema El Fna. I'm going to be pretty blunt here and say that I found the square to be incredibly intimidating and not at all an enjoyable place for two tourist women. I'd read up all about Marrakech before visiting, so was as prepared as I possibly could be but wasn't expecting the uncomfortable atmosphere that greeted me. 

We stopped for the world famous orange juice, and within seconds a woman came over offering henna, to which we politely declined and then she insisted on giving me a small free design as I was "so beautiful". Within an instant she grabbed my hand, covered it in badly drawn henna and demanded the equivalent of £8 for something I hadn't agreed to. Luckily I managed to get rid of her with spare change and had hand wipes in my bag to get rid of it as soon as she'd scampered off. 

Tips: Claim you are allergic to henna, don't go near the snakes or monkeys (animal cruelty alert), avoid eye contact unless you want to be sold something, be wary of pickpocketing, find the best orange juice stall, be respectful to the culture by covering your shoulders and below your knees. 

You simply cannot leave Marrakech without some form of rug or carpet, be it of the very high end and high priced variety or the more mass market versions. We picked up one to go under our coffee table that has neon coloured detailing for around £30, which after a long time haggling down from £70 was a good deal all round. 

Tips: Check for stains, take out a lighter if they have claimed it to be made of wool, aim for at most 1/2 of the starting price, shop around.

My favourite aspect of Marrakech was just how easy it was to stumble upon wonderful places to eat. On one particular afternoon we were being pestered by a man telling us he would give us directions, that we didn't want or need, so we decided to take a break and hide away for lunch. Four flights of stairs later, and we had a whole terrace to ourselves with views across every rooftop of the city accompanied by one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. There was vegetable tagine, cous cous, fresh bread, fig chutney, courgette pickle, harissa paste, onion marmalade, olive oil and of course a pot of mint tea. 

Tips: Don't obsess over researching places to eat and simply see where the city takes you instead, the fig chutney is beyond words and was one of my greatest discoveries, the arabic word for thank you is "shukran" and is of course the most important thing you can learn before you arrive. 

Jardin Majorelle is a place so incredibly beautiful, serene and inspiring that if all you did was catch a flight to come and see it and return home it would be a trip well made. I am equally as obsessed with cacti as I am with the cobalt colour that surrounded them so it's no surprise that I wandered round in complete awe. 

Tips: The cafe inside the garden has delicious food and beautiful surroundings, arrive early in the morning as you will have it almost to yourself, look out for the frogs and turtles. 

Places to eat: 

Henna Cafe | If you want henna done properly, chill out to good music, meet interesting people and dine on fresh and authentic food then this is the place to be. Plus all profits go back into the local community which all in all makes it my ultimate recommendation for where to eat in Marrakech. 

Le Jardin | We went here in the evening so I didn't manage to get any photos but try and imagine Jardin Majorelle in restaurant form and all hidden behind a tiny wooden door attached to a wall by the souks. I opted for lentils with smoked aubergine and goats cheese which was honestly one of the tastiest dishes that I've ever eaten.   

A few more tips:

If you're sensitive when it comes to animals then don't travel at the time of Eid as it's when sheeps are sacrificed all across the city, leave at least two hours when departing from Marrakech airport, don't ever ask directions from someone in the street as they will charge you for it and last but not least leave the modern world behind and immerse yourself in a city that time seems to have almost forgot.