Thursday, 24 August 2017

5 Things To Do In Birmingham!

With the bank holiday fast approaching we wanted to round up a few recent trips we have taken in and around Birmingham that may be of interest if you are in the area, or planning a trip here.

If you plan to stay centre here are a couple of things to do.....

1. Back to Backs
Turns out even some locals don't what this is but TripAdvisor rates it highly on the to-do list and so do we. The Back to Backs are houses that were built to deal with a housing crisis back in the 1800's. The example you visit is 5 minute walk from the train station. From the outside you will a traditional sweet shop and what looks like an oldish building. It is here that you start the tour.

Initially the building was one large house but as demand for houses grew the houses was converted into a back to back, simply put the house was split down the middle horizontally. So the front part of the house overlooking the road was 1 room wide and three stories high, with a stair case leading from floor to floor. On the backside was a separate house. This one overlooked a courtyard with toilets and washing amenities. The layout was exactly the same, 1 room wide and three stories high.

If you like history it's a must do as these are the last preserved houses of their kind. Each house has been decorated to showcase how the house would have looked in a certain era.

It turns out that one shop keeper, who moved in when the houses were abandoned and refused to move when demolition orders came in, saved the entire set up. Had he moved out the area would now be flats. However by luck a history researcher visited the area and discovered the set up, when the shop owner left the national trust took ownership and set to work restoring it to it's former glory.

Go for the history, go for the stories, go for the work out - seriously climbing three flights of very steep steps is not easy!

2. Canal House
Once you have worked up an appetite head over to the Mailbox (10 minutes in the other direction of the station). If you can make it past all the other eateries (including Bistro Pierre - which is worth a visit itself) you are heading down to the canal boats and over the bridge to the recently opened Canal House. 

With a great location overlooking the canal boats moored in the area this place is worth a visit for food or a drink. The seating options range from bench sets on the canal side, to pub seating indoors, to restaurant seating upstairs in the dining room. The entire place is finished to a high standard and the decor transports you.

In tribute to James Brindley - a famous canal engineer and 18th century icon- sections are designed as rooms so it's like stepping into his residence. And the chandeliers alone are worth seeing!

Go for the relaxed atmosphere, go to experience somewhere different, go for the eclectic and interesting cocktail menu and don't leave until you've tried the cookie dough - seriously so good! We didn't get to try any other menu items but i'm sure we'll be back!

3. Miss Macaroon
If you prefer a sweet treat to keep you going them Miss Macaroon is worse a visit. As the name suggests the speciality here is macaroons - delicious macaroons in a wide variety of flavours including peach and green tea, champagne (a personal fav), passion fruit and mango (also a fav), blueberry and white chocolate - okay so you get the idea. Amazing and unique flavours alongside more traditional ones.

If macaroons alone are not enough then you could always get a glass of prosecco -and even better, know that you are helping young people learn a trade (the story is here).

Sometimes the best thing to do in Birmingham is escape to the countryside. I know that's not the first thing you think of when you think of the urban sprawling city but seriously you should. I mean the Cotswold's are a short drive away or if you just want to stretch your legs and admire some stunning scenery then take to the hills, less that 10 miles from the centre.

4. Clent Hills:
10 miles south west of the centre this national trust area is by Stourbridge, Halesowen and the quaint village of Clent. All have a selection of pubs and if you drive the right way you may come across a gorgeous French pub called the French Hen- complete with French road signs!

Clent Hills offer a great variety of walks. You can park in the national trust car park for a small fee or risk the road parking if you come at a quieter time. You have two ways into the area, first is through a steep incline called the horses mane. From the moment you step in you walk a through tree covered pathway straight out of a fairy tale. It's not until you reach the top that you are greeted with the panoramic view.

The other option is a gentle incline, slightly longer, but the destination is the same. The national trust has laid a gravel path making this a better option in the rain.

However you get to the top of the hill you will know when you have arrived - there are 4 stones to greet you. The topography map allows you to figure out where you are in relation to Wales, The Cotswold's, Birmingham (although you spot that by the buildings) and the Malvern's. You will also spot castle ruins deep in the woodland, a manor house, an outdoor play zone, horse riding tracks and if you go at the right time of year carpets of blue bells.

There is also a history to discover as this area has been a popular place to visit for the past 200 years.

And if that wasn't enough it's dog friendly too. Bisbee loved it! The cafe even has dog bowls for the thirsty pups. Further details can be found here.

5. Waseley Hills Country Park:
We discovered Waseley Hills earlier this year and have been back numerous times since. Voted the number 1 park for dog walks this place is well worth a visit. Roughly 10 miles from the centre of Birmingham the park differs from Clent Hills by providing marked, easy to follow walks. Covering 150 acres you may come across grazing cattle as well as the stunning views. Bisbee some how walked straight past a cow without seeing it and the cow didn't react!

Parking is a reasonable £1.70 for day and there are toilets and a cafe by the car park and playground.

We love the rabbit walk, taking around 2 hours - although we stop for a picnic while taking in the view. The walk takes you through fields, down through a woodland area that is beautiful when bluebells are out, back up a hill and across more fields before turning back towards the car park. The sense of space and freedom is wonderful.

For other suggestions including Cadbury's World, the Birmingham Library and the Bull Ring
Check out:

Whatever you do - enjoy!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Australia's Same-Sex Marriage Vote - 5 Things You Need To Know!

It's August 22nd 2017 and as of today equal marriage is not a thing in Australia.

It's kinda shocking that the country that hosts the amazing Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is still so behind the times.

Laura is half Australian, our best friend Kate is Australian and we lived in Australia for a year so we know a fair bit about Oz culture. We know that Sydney is by the far the most progressive city in the country but that all of the main cities are not openly homophobic. We know that many Australian's have views we would deem a little out of touch but we also know that the overwhelming majority of Aussie's are amazing, open-minded individuals who see the country's stand on Same-Sex marriage as an embarrassment.

I mean if we are being honest Australia's political leaders have been a conveyor belt of idiots since we lived there in 2010. I mean they are no Trump but seriously this guy got the Prime Minister vote!
So sorry to share something so disgusting

So anyway here are the 5 key things you need to know about the vote:

  1. The postal vote requires you to enrol before August the 24th! Click here to enrol (if you're in Oz). You will need evidence of your identity with a drivers licence or Australian passport number. You must be an Australian citizen, over 18 and have lived at your address for over a month. Forms will be sent out after the 12th of September and MUST be posted back by October 27th to ensure they arrived to be counted. Results will be released on November 15th.
  2. The vote has NO binding, meaning that parliament do not have to act on the results. If anything this is a move by the current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball to save his neck as the coalition government he oversees is divided on the issue.
  3. The vote may not take place! Two challenges have been raised to the high court by the 'Australian Marriage Equality senator Janet Rice' and the 'Public Interest Advocacy Centre.' The cases will be heard on the 5th and 6th of September. The main argument is that  the government doesn't have the right to spend AU$122 million on a ballot not approved by parliament.
  4. If parliament were to vote on Equal Marriage now, the consensus is that the majority would vote to legalise same-sex marriage. The hope is that enough people will enter the postal vote that the actual feelings of the country will be represented, forcing a parliament vote. Below are screenshots from a video on that shows where the country is on their view of Same-Sex marriage.

5. LGBT individuals are not 100% behind the postal vote. That's not as shocking as you might think. For a start this postal vote, at it's very core, is asking Australians to vote on whether certain people can get married. Imagine (if you are married) asking your social group if they approved of you getting married. The idea is awful! Secondly by allowing a public vote you are inviting the homophones and bigots to have their say. Of course they are ready with their banners and hatred to protest the marriage is '1 man and 1 women' rhetoric that is so old. Thirdly LGBT campaigners believe the vote is open to fraud and as it isn't controlled by parliament. 
I was first aware of the feelings of LGBT individuals when I read this post on Gaybymama: here but the longer the process goes on the more posts I see on the subject. This video shares further examples:

As the world watches on I hope the vote does echo the fact that the majority of the country support Same-Sex marriage. I know for a fact that our friends, straight and gay, living in Australia will be voting. Making their voice heard and hoping that Australia becomes the 9th country, on the UN's most developed country list (of 11 countries), to announce Same-Sex marriage is legal. 

We loved our third (illegal) wedding in Australia and we hope everyone is given the chance to celebrate love in the same way. Even if this vote holds no legal status, if an overwhelming percentage is for Same-Sex marriage it can only highlight the need for parliament to vote and make this civil right an equal right for all. Love is love.

Details are here: Our third wedding and video can be seen on YouTube here.

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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

What You Need To Know About Bristol Balloon Fiesta!

First of all what is Bristol Balloon Fiesta? Put simply it is Europe's largest annual gathering of hot air balloons held at Ashton Court, Bristol in August each year. Teams from the UK and abroad bring their balloons and take part in a number of activities over 4 days.

This activities include:
6pm Mass balloon lift
9pm: Night glow and fireworks

6am: Mass balloon lift
8am: Model balloon competition
6pm: Mass balloon lift off

6am: Mass balloon lift off
8am: Model balloon competition
12pm - 5.30pm arena entertainment open including stalls, rides and displays
6pm: Mass balloon lift off
9pm: Night glow and fireworks

6am: Mass balloon lift off
8am: Model balloon competition
12pm - 5.30pm arena entertainment open including stalls, rides and displays
6pm: Mass balloon lift off

And here's the thing it's all free. Well entering the arena and watching the balloons ascend or glow is. If you want food or drink or a go on a ride you have to pay.

The car parking is also chargeable. We paid £16 for advanced parking that was a 15 minute walk to the area. As there was 4 of us and a dog that didn't seem bad value. Especially as we filled the car with picnic delights and could drop the basket and leftovers back to the car once we were finished.

We went for the Sunday and arrived at 1pm. The entertainment we witnessed included a guy with a flying machine:

A wing walker doing acrobatics:

And an aerobatic aeroplane display that was a little hard to see with the bright sunshine.

We got to enjoy the entertainment laid out on a picnic mat with beautiful surrounding countryside. What better way to spend a Sunday. The fact that it's dog friendly just made it extra great.

It was only 1 hour 45 from Birmingham too.

Turns out we could have enjoyed a balloon ride if we had wanted to - some of the balloons offer the opportunity (here). Although on this occasion we were happy with our feet on the ground.

The only thing I'm sad we missed was the night glow and fireworks. I'm sure it would have been an amazing sight. Here's a pic our friends (@adventuresoftwogirlsinlove) took:

We thoroughly enjoyed the two hours or so spent watching the balloons come into the arena, get inflated and take off. Each one with a different design, different colours or different sizes. By sheer luck our picnic spot was right under where the balloons floated over and headed off to the distance.

A handy £2 guide purchased on the day gave us the info on what balloons were there as well as a schedule for the day. The only challenge was getting it from Bisbee:

Our favs included a Beefeater called Bus followed by a jail break minion to celebrate the release of Despicable Me 3:

We also loved the rainbow balloons as they looked so pretty:

And the Longleat Lion who we caught up with when we spotted him sailing over the M5.

The fiesta was first held in 1979 and is known to attract 100,000 people over the 4 days. Located just by Clifton Suspension Bridge the sheer number of people leads to the bridge being closed at peak times. (We somehow managed to cross it - paying £1, explore Clifton, and then pay £1 to get back across - great view over the Avon though).

If you are in the area and don't want to head to the arena you can always find a spot nearby and watch as the balloons sail over - it is a sight we got to enjoy as we headed back home up the M5.

So if you get the opportunity we recommend you checking out this wonderful's a great idea!

Light bulb......great idea....get it :)

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

6 Reasons You Should Visit Naked Dough - The Review

Let us start by sharing the fact that we LOVE cookie dough. Ever since Laura introduced the deliciousness I have never been the same - and neither have birthdays. In fact for the past 3 years I have asked to forgo a birthday cake and instead have cookie dough.

So imagine our joy when we heard Naked Dough was open on our last trip to London.

The concept is simple:

Now your probably thinking the same thing I did when I first tried cookie dough - is it safe to eat?! Surely there is raw egg in it! The answer is YES it is absolutely safe to eat as it doesn't contain raw eggs. Woohoo!!! Onward.....

Now the cookie dough Laura normally makes is a standard chocolate chip one, for a getaway with friends last year we actually turned up with a tub of this delicious cookie dough and scoffed the lot - quickly. That's a side note but still, a happy memory.

The Naked Dough store has gone one better though - they do flavoured cookie dough! So here are the 6 reasons you should visit Naked Dough:

Like ice cream parlous you can choose a cone (£3.60), tub (£3.60) or milkshake (£4.00). You can also get a cold glass of milk for £1.80 - I mean you know cookies and milk (yum). We opted for a tub of Unicorn food. It was SO good.

Although I would have happily had a scoop of most of the flavours. 

Yum, yum, yum

The dough managed to last us the entire train ride back to Brum so was well worth the £3.60. 

So where can you find this delightful place? Well it is right by Old Street station:

(Conveniently 5 mins to my work as Google Maps like to remind me) It is open 11am - 8pm every day except Sundays. And you can take it away without it becoming a complete mess.

So there you have it - dreams do come true - you really can buy cookie dough and stuff your face with all the deliciousness without having to turn your kitchen into a mess. I fear we may become regular visitors to Naked Dough. If you are heading to London we suggest you pay a visit too.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Laura's Strawberry + Rhubarb Pie Recipe!

My Mum and Dad are staying with us for six weeks, before they set off traveling Europe again, and I've set about making as many memories and making up for as many occasions as possible while they are here.

We've been to Bistro Pierre to celebrate Sarah's birthday, we have been to the Cotswolds to see the lavender, and we have plans to go back to Bistro Pierre for a six course menu for Dad's birthday next month.

For Fathers Day, Dad was in the USA, so last weekend I made him his favourite pie as a belated gift.

Strawberry and rhubarb pie is absolutely delicious - sweet but with a hint of tang, soft and warming - I'd recommend it in strawberry season of course, but even in the winter I believe this pie would hit the spot! Best served with a pot of my Mum's homemade custard, of course.


Strawberry + Rhubarb Pie
Makes: 1 x 9 inch pie

1 nine inch pie tin
2 pints of strawberries
1 pound of rhubarb
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of plain flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 shortcrust pie crust (I used a premade one that rolled out, and cut the extra to make the lattice on top)
1 egg white for brushing the top of the pie
1 teaspoon of granulated sugar for garnish

1. Chop the strawberries into quarters, and the rhubarb into thin pieces, about 1cm thick. I peeled off the rhubarb skin that came off as I chopped in case it affected the texture of the end result, but if you don't want to, I don't believe it will make a difference.
2. Mix the strawberries and rhubarb with the cup of sugar and then the plain flour. Leave for 30 minutes.
3. While you are waiting, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C, and prepare the pie crust in the pie tin, and cut the remaining dough into strips (I managed 9). You do not need to prebake the pie crust.
4. Add the vanilla extract and cinnamon to the strawberry mixture, and put it into the pie crust.
5. Create the lattice on top of the pie, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
6. Bake for 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.
7. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving. Eat with custard or ice cream, either way it's magnificent!


Dad loved this pie so much he has requested that I make one more before he goes travelling in September. I'm happy to oblige!

Happy baking!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Brighton Pride 2017 The Highlights!

Brighton Pride was awesome.

As the busy work week starts to make the weekend seem like a while ago we wanted to share our weekend highlights and explain why we love Brighton Pride so much!

1) Being hosted by the Florida Keys and Key West at the Pride 2017 Festival at Preston Park. We met the KBC PR team at the VIP entrance, received our wristbands and were whisked inside for an unforgettable experience. On arrival we passed by Moroccan style tents filled with comfy chairs to sit and relax in and at the end of the area was a food stand servicing delicious Mediterranean style food. The easy access to Preston Park's main area was an added benefit, rather than pushing through the crowds we could stroll in and out as we pleased. We were over the moon.

It wasn't until we were fed and watered (much needed after a stroll up from the Parade) that we even noticed the Grandstand seating that we were able to watch the acts perform from.

Having the opportunity to find out about the Florida Keys and Key West was also great. I for one didn't know that the area has 10 state parks, including a Coral Reef! Here's some other interesting facts we found out about the subtropical islands:

  • It's super LGBT+ friendly and over a quarter of the residents identify as gay or lesbian
  • The island chains motto is 'One Human Family' recognition that everyone is created equal
  • The average temperature is 25.5 degrees C
  • There is pretty much no bad time to visit although April was the suggested 'best time'
  • The New Years Eve celebration include a drag queen being lowered in a bright red shoe
  • If you are road tripping to the area you will cross 42 bridges
  • The area has stunning sunrises and sunsets
  • It's only 90 miles from Cuba
  • It's famous for snorkelling, fishing, weddings, arts and culture, food and drink 
  • The area do something called Voluntourism; you can dedicate part of your holiday to volunteering with reef restoration, beach clear ups, helping local wildlife etc
  • If you are looking for a beautiful holiday destination, with pretty much guaranteed sunshine and plenty to do then this place should be on your to-do list!

It's fair to say that the Florida Keys team made us feel very welcome, hopefully one day we'll be able to check out the place ourselves - it's certainly on the to do list!

2) The Vibe. I know that sounds cliche but from the moment you arrive in Brighton and see the rainbow flags flying we relax. The entire city, from the smallest of cafes to the biggest of stores embraces Pride. The atmosphere is one of celebration and unity, expect random hugs, people talking to you like you've been friends forever, to be pulled in on random photos and to embrace and accept every type of person. The mixing pot is as real as it can get in Brighton but especially on Pride weekend.

3) The Parade. Like every good Pride the parade is worth watching. The music, the vibrancy, the costumes, we love it all. From the moment the first float appears to the last person walking off we are filled with a sense of Pride. The importance of seeing people just like us will never get boring. The standout of this parade was the services - Ambulance, Police and Fire. With their vehicles in rainbow colours and the teams dancing behind we felt incredible grateful for their service but also their presence - equality in all jobs is so important!

4) Being so close to the beach. Pride can be intense. The crowds are massive, the areas in and around the city centre can be packed and if it's hot - as it was - moving around can be tiring. We took the Pride bus down to the beach to have a bit of respite. You can't say that about many Prides! Once we hit the beach and saw the sea everything calmed down. With the warm sun setting it was a moment to reflect and relax together. We then met up with friends and listened to music while eating fish and chips and watching the occasional naked person attempt a sobering dip in the sea!

5) The Preston Park Experience, as we had managed to secure VIP tickets for our friends Charlotte and Hannah to join us the day was a great girly hang out. We also had Bella from Diva magazine join us as we toured everything the park had to offer. As well as seeing Years and Years and Louisa Johnson perform we visited stands to check out what they were doing for Pride. WKD were there making cocktails, National Trust were there, Barefoot wine were giving out wine and very cool sunglasses, Diva were giving away free mags and there were a whole host of weird and wonderful things to see including a 'feel wood feel good' stand where you got to touch a tree! Then there was the dance tents - Diva World, Men & Bears and the Urban tent, oh and our fav the Cabaret tent.

Exploring the park was great, getting back to the VIP tent was greater - especially when pushing through all the port-a-loo queues! (Thanks again to KBC PR!)

Sad that it's all over for another year but bring on Manchester Pride at the end of August!