Sunday, 11 November 2018

48 Hours in Iceland - A Travellers Guide

Hi Readers!

We have finally been off on our travels again, after what feels like an age. First world problems, I know. It's actually only been five a months since our last big trip and I've honestly got nothing to moan about. This year we've been to the Dominican, Florida, Vegas and done some UK breaks too.

I'm fortunate that my job has a great leave policy so I'm a big fan of disappearing off as soon as the dates go in the calendar.

Our Iceland trip came about by chance. We had booked flights to Canada on a flight promo with airline that's now bust. The Airbnb was booked and paid for, so pulling out wasn't an option. Cue making the best of the situation, taking the call to re-book with Icelandair and throwing in a forty eight hour stopover in Iceland to our trip.

Here's why it's brilliant folks, it costs you no more to stopover, than it would with a regular short layover. Well played Icelandair. You had us hooked on that alone.
Arriving in Iceland! 
The whole thing was super efficient, from leaving Glasgow airport with an quick boarding process, being away on time and being through at the other side in 15 minutes. Half an hour after landing we were in our rental car, headed for our apartment.

We chose to stay at the superb Blue Mountain Apartments, 20 mins from Reykjavik. Granted, you'd probably need a hire car to stay there, but it was a great base for us. For around £100 a night we had a good sized studio apartment, with kitchen, shower, big bed and a corner couch. It meant we had space to chill, which was nicer than a hotel room, and cheaper.

We were in and out, headed to Reykjavik in "Pît the Polo" - so named after our old car, Pete, who was deported to England last year.

We managed to get into town for around 5pm, when it was still light, found free parking no problem near City Hall and headed to pick up our City Cards, kindly provided by Visit Reykjavik. We were given forty eight hour cards, which usually cost £34 per person and provide free entry to numerous attractions, free bus travel around the city and free entry to a number of the thermal pools around the city too. You could even take a free ferry trip, however, we struggled to find the time to do this.


city card reykjavik


We picked these up from the City Hall, which is really easy to get to.

These were a brilliant resource to help us plan, the map was super useful with the attractions all marked up so we could easily see what was nearby.


First 12 Hours


We walked around the city, went to see the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, which is a work of art. We made it to Braud and Co for a cookie. I have lusted over these guys on Instagram for so long and the cookies were good!

braud & co reykjavik

The Sun Voyager sculpture and the waterfront was next. It was getting dark, so we went back to the city centre, walked around some of the boutique stores and stopped off for an obligatory hot dog at the Hot Dog Stand.

the sun voyager reykjavik


Hours 12-24

We left the apartment at 7am (early for us as we are night owls!) and jumped in the car for the 2 hour drive to Skógafoss. Thankfully, we got there before the crowds and could take some amazing photos of the falls. We hiked up the 527 steps to the top, for the view around and were so lucky to have a beautiful clear day.


Back in the car, off we went to The Black Beach. It's beautiful, unspoiled and rugged and I would definitely suggest it makes it onto your to do list.

black beach iceland what claire did


black beach iceland what claire did


We then drove another 2 hours to go to The Geysir in Haukadalur Valley.. a word of warning, it's a big tourist spot, so prepare for hoards of people. We were probably there for less than half an hour, so think carefully before you decide to drive to it. It is amazing to watch it go off though... for the 11 secs of footage you'll see on my Instagram.

What was almost better than this, was the 1h 40 mins drive back to Reykjavik through the national park. Beautiful, autumnal and driving through the valley with the snow peaked mountains around us was spectacular.

Not ones to mess around, we were back to the city and using those handy city cards for a trip to the Maritime Museum, which was really interesting and also interactive. From there, it was a trip to the Museum of Photography which might not seem an obvious choice, but the exhibition was beautiful. It's also located on the top floor of the library, in case you struggle to find it... Our city cards gave us free entry to both of these.

maritime museum reykjavik


Hours 24-48

By now, we were growing tired and hungry, the wind was biting and we decided to call it a night, heading to the warmth of Reykjavik Fish at the harbour for a delicious fish and chip dinner.

Our apartment provided a cosy haven after a day in the outdoors and we enjoyed some local beers, and Gin&Grape catching up with a day's worth of editing.

After our second night it was up and away for a trip to The Blue Lagoon. Now, it is expensive and was our "splurge" during our stay. Heck, it's also really touristy. But all that aside, was it worth it? Absolutely.

the blue lagoon iceland


We chose the "comfort" package, which included a towel, free drink and mud mask. We spent just over 2 hours in the Lagoon, which felt enough. Even though we went on a Saturday, it didn't feel packed. We were able to find several spots around the Lagoon to chill out. Don't forget to try out the face masks and cover your hair in conditioner before you get in, to keep it super soft.

The drink included was a welcome treat and as it was a morning trip, I went for a smoothie made with berries and Skyr.

We did have a quick look at lunch in the restaurant but felt at £42 for two courses, it was a bit steep. Instead, we jumped back in the car and headed back to the airport to return our rental car and check in for our flight to Canada. Our airport lunch was less glamorous, but at half the price, it did the job pre-flight.

It was a flying visit to Iceland, but we managed to cram in so much. I'm planning an "Iceland on a budget" feature soon, so keep an eye out for that!



Disclaimer: our city passes were provided complimentary by Visit Reykjavik.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Top 10 Glasgow Lunch Spots


Readers, after a load of DIY and a few pieces of sponsored content recently, I felt it was time to get back to my routes and pop up a foodie post.  My round up posts have been well received recently, so today I’m doing a top 10 places to eat for lunch in Glasgow.

I’m fortunate enough to work in the city, and I love trying out new places. I’ve tried to pick places from across the city centre and into the Southside too (hey, it’s my neighbourhood).  

Glasgow has so many food joints, that a food blogger like me has to try as many as she can!

Bun Life at Strata – Queen Street, Glasgow City
Bao buns, buns and more buns.  Great value, filling and plenty for meat eaters and veggies. Top tip… the prawn one is amazing.

bun life strata what claire did


Bar Soba – Merchant City, Glasgow City
Another Asian hotspot, that does a meal and a drink for £7 at lunchtime. Some great sides too including dirty katsu fries.

bar soba merchant city glasgow what claire did

 Temaki – Hope Street, Glasgow City
I’m really going for the Asian theme here… small sit in space, or take away, their dumpling and katsu combo is a winner.

temaki glasgow what claire did

 Babs – West Nile Street, Glasgow City
My dad loves this place. Honestly. Mediterranean food, kebabs and the type of place you can take your 60 year old pops. He loves the lamb koftas.

babs glasgow what claire did

Max’s Bar & Grill – Queen Street, Glasgow City
Poutine of the week… every week. I honestly don’t need to say much more. Big bar grub menu and iPads to order on.

maxs bar glasgow what claire did


Halloumi – Hope Street, Glasgow City
Small plate greek food, that does 3 plates for less than £10 at lunchtime.  Not a limited menu either and some good veggie options on the list.

halloumi glasgow what claire did


Oaka Supercity – George Street, Glasgow City
Back on the Asian grub again.  Try their dim sum selection if you want a bit of everything. Hot, steaming and ready in 5 minutes. Benches for you to sit on whilst you get stuck in and you’ll get a filling lunch for £5.50.

halloumi glasgow what claire did


Fylkir of Copenhagen – Newlands Road, Glasgow Southside
Our local Danish café… it might be tiny, but it packs a punch. Good coffee and Danish open sandwiches are the order of the day. Good for hangovers… and getting your hygge on.

fylkir of copenhagen glasgow what claire did


Phillies of Shawlands – Kilmarnock Road, Glasgow Southside
New menu just launched, but I like to go old school and get fired into their pizza.  They can also make a slightly smaller pizza at lunchtime. Means you’ve room for a bowl of fries alongside it.

phillies shawlands glasgow what claire did


Babylon Café – Clyde Place, Glasgow Southside (just!)
It’s over the River, so I count it as a southside joint.  It’s a local, neighbourhood hidden gem… the type of place people have gone to for years. Totally unpretentious and the food is amazing. Trust me on this one. Lebanese, Persian and Middle Eastern classics are served with love. 

babvylon cafe glasgow what claire did


Sunday, 30 September 2018

Upcycling a Chest of Drawers with Door Furniture Direct


Readers, hello! I’ve failed miserably in blogging my way through September, sorry about that! It’s been a busy month, with a couple of weddings, catching up with friends and spending the rest of my time doing some upcycling.

As you’ve possibly seen over on my stories on Instagram, I’ve recently collaborated with
Door Furniture Direct, on an upcycling project and thanks to them, they really helped me finish my upcycle on this old chest of drawers.  

Ikea malm upcycle unit in grey what claire did

We bought the unit 5 years ago, when we bought our first place and as it’s always lived in the spare room, we never really gave it a second thought. The spare room has always been a bit unloved, but we’ve recently done a whole makeover – painting this chest of drawers, the wardrobe and doing the walls and soft furnishing, but that’s another post that’s coming soon.

door furniture direct rose copper knobs 32mm

Today I’m chatting just about the Malm unit upcycling, which features these amazing rose copper knobs from Door Furniture Direct.  I was allowed to pick anything I wanted, up to the value of £30, so managed to get 6 of these for my project. The unit was painted in Anthracite grey furniture paint by Rustoleum and then varnished with a matt varnish to protect it. 

ikea malm upcycle in grey with copper handles what claire did


As most of you will know, the Malm units don’t have pre-drilled handle holes because of the top opening, so I had my first drilling experience (no jokes at the back please) trying to measure, find the right drill size and then drill 6 holes, in equal positioning, across the 3 drawers.   The drawer knobs were really easy to fit and came with screws etc, so all I had to do was drill through, push the screw through from the back and then tighten the knob on the front of it. 

ikea malm upcycle in grey with copper handles what claire did


If you are considering your own upcycling project, if I can manage to drill and add drawer pulls, then anyone can do it.  My painting tips from my bathroom upcycle still apply – use a shellac based primer (one coat) before you start, 2 coats of paint and at least 2 coats of varnish to make sure it doesn’t chip or damage.

And when it’s becoming really important to think about what we throw out and what we keep, could now be your chance to show some love to some old furniture and make improvements? And for those of you who are interested... this is where I started... 



Disclaimer – I was gifted the rose copper oval cup knobs from Door Furniture Direct in exchange for a post on my blog. Any opinions expressed are my own.


Sunday, 23 September 2018

Microwave Cooking… It’s Not The Enemy!


Readers, a slightly different post for me tonight, as I wanted to chat about that thing that sits in the corner of our kitchen, has several settings and a digital clock on it.  It beeps after a few minutes… yep, it’s the microwave.

Microwaves get a bit of a bad press, but to coincide with the launch of Panasonic’s new range of Combi Microwave Ovens, I’m sharing 5 reasons why microwaves aren’t the devil’s cooking equipment.

Great tool on the Panasonic website - providing specs and dimensions, to help you plan your kitchen space!
Image Credit: Panasonic

1. It’s a time saver

Tight on time?  The microwave can be your friend.  I’m not a massive advocate for ready meals, but the microwave (or combi oven if you’re fancy) allows a meal in minutes solution, when you’re late in from work, dashing between appointments etc. Leading me to…

2. It’s all about what you cook in there

Thing is, you genuinely don’t need to fire frozen microwave meals in there.  Honestly.  I’m a huge fan of re-heated leftovers in the microwave. Or my other favourite is the baked potato trick.  Stick it in for 8-10 minutes depending on size and then finish off in the oven for a 5-10 minutes for the crispy skin effect.  It’s a lot quicker than putting a raw potato in an oven. Trust me.

 

3. Batch cooking and freezing

If you’re like me and love cooking, but are often time pressed, Sunday is a great day to lock yourself in the kitchen and cook away.  Tupperware becomes your best mate and you can cook up, batch up and freeze your home made creations, ready for reheating.

4. The power of de-frost

And to number 3 – my point above – once you’ve made all these cracking batch dishes, you’ll be able to hit the defrost function and speedily defrost those leftovers. Word of warning though – don’t do it with raw meat that’s frozen. Do the whole “leave in fridge for 24 hours” thing with that.
The defrost function is great for bread and rolls to… or if you’re in a hurry for your ice cream, 20 secs on defrost will get the spoon in the tub quicker.  Just saying.

5. The microwave mug cake

And the holy grail of PMT induced cooking… cake in a hurry. I’ve got an old recipe on my blog (apologies about the photos – it was a hurried post) that shows you how to make a cake in a mug, in the microwave.  Get it bookmarked, one day you’ll thank me for this speedy sugary treat.




Disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Panasonic. Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake Bars


Readers

Remember when this blog used to be about baking… all the baking? As most of you know, I rebranded earlier this year, to focus more on travel, lifestyle and dining out, but when I can, I still try to do the odd recipe post. 

In Florida I did a trip to Walmart to buy up all the rainbow sprinkles because the ones in the UK are so much less jazzy. The American version may well have some seriously strong colouring but, for creating amazing cakes, they are so much better.  The colour doesn’t bleed during baking either. I wish I'd bought more, so if anyone is headed to Walmart... can you sort me out?

So today’s weekend bake is super simple, but looks great and can be made into cake bars great for parties or office Friday treats. And as a Glasgow food blogger, I'm always trying to put new food content on my blog! 
rainbow cake bars what claire did


There’s so much nostalgia around these bars… does anyone remember having them in school (usually square shaped) and the highlight of school lunches?  These are a bit more modern – snack bar format, rather than full on pudding but still a big nod to my youth!

Happy Baking guys and if you give this a go, let me know!

Rainbow Cake Bars

Ingredients (makes 10 bars)

150g self raising flour
30g plain flour
150g caster sugar
150g butter
3 medium eggs
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp rainbow sprinkles (add last)

Icing

200g icing sugar
Warm water to mix – add slowly
Few drops blue gel colouring
1.5 tsps rainbow sprinkles

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180c (fan).
  2. Grease a silicone 8in x 8in baking pan.
  3. Sieve both flours, add caster sugar, eggs and chopped butter to a large mixing bowl.  Whisk with an electric mixer to mix to a cake batter.  Add a little milk to loosen the batter and mix some more.  This is the all in one method… total time saver!
    all in one batter what claire did
  4. Add a tablespoon of rainbow sprinkles to the batter and gently fold in, don’t overmix.
    add in sprinkles what claire did
  5. Add the cake batter to the pan, spread evenly and bake for around 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the mix comes out clean.
    rainbow cake batter what claire did

  6. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
    rainbow cake what claire did


Icing

  1. Don’t start until cool!
  2. Add around 200g icing sugar to a bowl and slowly add in warm water, until a thick paste has formed.  Add a few drops of gel icing to the mix and combine.
  3. Spread the icing paste over the top of the cake and allow to set for a few moments.  Then, sprinkle more rainbow sprinkles over the top and allow to set before slicing.
    icing rainbow cake what claire did
  4. Top tip – for clean looking bars, take a sharp knife and slice off each edge, for a neater finish, before slicing into 10 rectangular bars.
    rainbow cake bars what claire did

Storage- Keep in an airtight container for a few days (if they last that long!)