A Blogger's Day in Dublin

On 1st October, I was lucky enough to be invited to the Linwoods event in Dublin, hosted by Rozanna Purcell, with food demos from Madeleine Shaw and Susan Jane White, and with a food photography course from Jo Murphy.  I was more than happy to make the journey from Belfast to Dublin to meet some of my favourite bloggers and sample some of the Linwoods products.

 Linwoods Invitation

Linwoods Invitation

The journey from Belfast to Dublin is only 2 hours and the best way to travel it is with someone who you can have a good chat with along the way!  I unfortunately don’t have the luxury of a chatty travel companion, because as soon as an engine is switched on my fiancé drifts into a deep sleep!  So instead, I looked out the window and watched the sunrise, whilst listening to the heavy breathing (if I said snoring, he would kill me) of my future husband.

 Choose a travel companion who can stay awake

Choose a travel companion who can stay awake

It was an extremely grey and rainy day in Dublin, much to the dismay of my suede Isabel Marant boots and suede Burberry bag.  So I hopped my way to Medley café, where the event was being held, dodging every puddle along the way.

 Medley, Dublin

Medley, Dublin

Arriving fashionably late, I was greeted by the lovely Linwoods team and escorted to the seats where the stunning (I mean STUNNING) Roz Purcell was waiting to kick off the event.  She was the perfect MC for the event.  She has an infectious personality, a fantastic knowledge of nutrition, perfect wit and could start a conversation with a door knob.  After listening to her for about 5 minutes, it was oh-so-clear why she had previously been crowned Miss Universe.

Sprinkle Awesome

The first food demo was from Susan Jane, who has been blogging about healthy eating for over ten years, so I knew that we were in good hands!  Susan Jane is a larger-than-life character who is brilliant fun to watch laugh and joke her way around the kitchen.  You might know her from radio interviews where there is plenty of talk about her “ghee”.  In fact, the night before the event, my friend sent me a clip of her talking about ghee (the smell, the taste, etc.) thinking it was hilarious and not realising that I was going to see her in action the next morning!

Susan Jane demoed two of her recipes – Chocolate Seed Soldiers and Bliss Balls.  Both were raw treats that were super quick to make, which made them automatically appealing.  You could make these quicker than you could get into the car, drive to a shop and buy a packet of gluten free Jaffa cakes (OK, this is me trying to convince myself to stop buying bloody Jaffa cakes).  The Chocolate Seed Soldiers were mind-blowingly good and tasted like a delicious tray bake, instead of a raw and nutritious treat!

Next up was a photography session from Jo Murphy.  Jo is something else – her photography skills make my photos look like I’ve created them on an Etchasketch, in comparison!  Jo has done the photography for some fantastic cookbooks, including, Roz Purcell’s ‘Natural Born Feeder’, Susan Jane White’s ‘The Virtuous Tart’ and ‘The Extra Virgin’ and a fantastic gluten free cookbook by Gearoid Lynch called ‘My Gluten Free Kitchen’.  Keep an eye on my Instagram page because I’ll be doing a giveaway for ‘My Gluten Free Kitchen’ very soon!  Jo’s advice was brilliant and I hope to put it to use soon!

 Jo showed us how to take this incredible shot!

Jo showed us how to take this incredible shot!

Finally, Madeleine Shaw was up to do her food demonstration.  Madeleine has always been a favourite blogger of mine, ever since I started Gluten Free Fi so I was really excited to hear her talk and watch her cook.  She made her famous Blondie Brownies and a Gluten Free Bread made from quinoa.  If you follow Madeleine, you’ll know how knowledgeable she is about nutrition and health.  It’s clear why her “Get the Glow” slogan suits her so well – she well and truly has the glow in beautiful radiant skin.

After the demo, we were offered lunch of Madeleine’s pumpkin soup made up by the chefs in Medley.  Everyone stood around chatting and enjoyed their soup and Madeleine and I went and sat down in a quiet space so that I could quiz her on some nutritional courses that she had done and that I was considering doing.  It was so brilliant to be able to chat with someone who shared my passion and had a long-term view of business goals.

 Madeleine and I

Madeleine and I

Scooping up some gorgeous Linwoods products, I skipped out of Medley grinning ear to ear after having the fantastic talk with Madeleine and the weather had changed to suit my mood, because the sun had now made an appearance and it was a beautiful afternoon.  We walked through the streets of Dublin and made a shortcut through St Stephen’s Green, where the ducks and pigeons were making the most of the good day.

We walked towards The Dean hotel to have a drink in their rooftop bar, Sophie’s.  Along this road, there are some of the most beautiful doors in Dublin, so if you are one of the “I have this thing with doors” hashtaggers on Instagram, make your way here for a photo shoot.  My very own #InstagramHusband was delighted that I decided to stop on a doorstep for a not-so-candid candid photo shoot.  A lovely little elderly woman walked in front of the camera mid-shoot, but she gave me a compliment so I let her away with it and continued to smile at the ground, waiting for my fiancé to ‘get the shot’.

Sophie’s is a gorgeous bar with windows surrounding the outside that offer beautiful views over the city.   We chose to enjoy the sunshine by sitting outside on the roof terrace beside a group of Russian girlfriends who were celebrating one of their birthdays.  I nearly missed the beautiful views of the city because I was so busy peering at this group of girls, inconspicuously from behind my Raybans.  Honestly, the grey mink coats, champagne and designer heels were merely a guise – these ladies were louder than a rugby club!  

The sunny day had put us in the mood for sunny food.  So we made our way back to the hustle and bustle of the city centre and walked to The Port House tapas restaurant for a late lunch.  

The Port House is perfect for gluten free food.  Their menu is very allergen friendly and if something isn’t gluten free, they will make it gluten free (they have GF bread!).  We order for four, for two, and tucked into a beautiful Spanish feast.  My favourite dishes were the chorizo in red wine and the prawn pil pil (washed down with a mojito, of course!).

After an incredibly early start, I was more than happy to finish our gorgeous day in Dublin with a full belly and happy heart (eating makes me happy).  We left the restaurant and started the journey back to our lovely little city.  Arriving in Belfast, there was nothing better than putting on PJs, pouring a glass of prosecco and going straight onto Instagram to search the Linwoods #SprinkleAwesome hashtag to check out everyone’s snaps from the day.

Thank you so much to Linwoods for inviting me to such a well organised event.  Also, a huge thank you to Roz Purcell, Susan Jane White, Madeleine Shaw and Jo Murphy for making the event what it was!  You’re all fab! x

Get Glowing Skin from the Inside Out

When it comes to skin, I am a great believer in “you are what you eat”.  If my skin is acting up, I know that it will be down to eating the wrong foods or not drinking enough water.  Your skin really is a true reflection of your internal health and if you don’t eat right, it will show!  If you strive for clear, healthy, glowing skin, you need to know that miracle creams and serums won’t cut it alone – you have to eat well and treat your skin well (that means no alcohol-filled products!).  As the skin is last in line to receive nutrients from food, you need to maximise your diet with the right food in order for your skin to reap the rewards.  Here are some of my top tips for nourishing your skin…

Eat Organic

The best approach to following a healthy diet to improve your skin is to eat foods that you can grow, hunt or gather.  Avoid any processed foods which tend to be high in sugar, salt and preservatives and focus on eating highly nutritious, organic foods like fruit, veg, nuts, oily fish and grass-fed meat.  A lovely way to start is by growing your own veg in your garden or herbs in window boxes.

Anti-ageing Greens

Eating plants (mostly raw and mostly green) is an easy way to hydrate every cell in your body – and that keeps your skin plump and moist.  If you combine this with lifestyle changes like swapping sun worshiping for an organic fake tan, more sleep and exercise, your skin will begin to glow.  As a superfood supplement, try Chlorella.  Containing a high concentration of chlorophyll, Chlorella reverses any fine lines and sagging in your skin (not only on your face, on your boobs too - yay!). 

 Green, leafy organic veggies

Green, leafy organic veggies

Nourish with Fat

I love to pack my diet full of healthy Omega-3 and good fats.   I almost always eat a full avocado every day, I use extra virgin olive oil to top salads and fish and use coconut oil for cooking, removing my make-up every night, oil pulling and as a hair mask!

 Poached egg on a bed of avocado - full of good fats!

Poached egg on a bed of avocado - full of good fats!

Fake it like the Celebs

As part of my skincare ritual, I rely on wearing an SPF every day (even in the winter) and avoid being exposed to too much sun, especially on my face.  As a result, I am not the bronzed goddess that I would like to be, so I rely on self-tanning products to give me the gorgeous glow that I long for.  With a celeb following from the likes of Gigi Hidad, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sofia Vergara, I was delighted to get the chance to try Vita Liberata’s non-toxic and organic tanning range.  Their pHenomenal 2-3 Week Tan is the world’s longest lasting tan (up to 4 times longer than regular tans) and really does pass the test.  Not only is it paraben-free, alcohol-free and perfume-free, but it also has anti-ageing properties (!) – So as you tan, your skin is basically getting younger!  If you’re used to getting complaints from your bedtime pal about smelling like a hamster eating biscuits every time you fake tan, then this is the cherry-on-top…it doesn’t smell!

Wearing pHenomenal 2-3 week gradual tan by Vita Liberata

Be Smooth

If you want an easy way of squeezing a load of superfoods into your daily routine, a healthy smoothie is a great place to start!  There is no better way to kickstart your day than an antioxidant-rich, energising and skin-loving smoothie.  Packed with berries, oats and nut milk, this breakfast smoothie will make you feel fuller for longer and will work on giving your skin a fresh and youthful glow – you can’t really ask for much more!

 Wearing Body Blur by  Vita Liberata

Wearing Body Blur by Vita Liberata

Get-Up-and-Glow Berry Smoothie Bowl

1 ripe banana (high in Potassium which moisturises dehydrated skin)

1 cup almond milk (rich in vitamin K for glowing skin)

1 cup strawberries (prevent wrinkles forming on the skin)

1 cup blueberries (The ultimate super food.  They are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which are great for anti-ageing and heart health)

1 tbsp desiccated coconut (for a healthy flavour)

3 tbsp pure oats (great for an energy boost)

 Get-Up-and-Glow Smoothie Bowl

Get-Up-and-Glow Smoothie Bowl

Add all ingredients to your Nutribullet (or blender of choice) and blend until smooth and thick.  Add to a bowl and serve with your favourite healthy toppings.

Toppings suggestions: Chia seeds (packed with fiber, Omega-3 fats and protein), fruit, nuts & seeds, Matcha and Nasturtiums (edible flowers).

Beautiful skin starts from within!

Our Proposal Story

If you follow me on social media, then you might already know that in March, 2016 (spoiler alert) I agreed to marry my gorgeous boyfriend of seven years!  I was so overwhelmed by the wave of love from everyone's wishes and I don't even know where to begin to thank you all.  A common question was, "How did he propose?" and I thought I would share the answer...

How we met...

In July 2008, I was on a night out with my girlfriends playing what is known as ‘pub golf’.  Dressed in traditional ‘golf gear’, Argyle over-the-knee socks and short skirts, we set out to complete our ‘golf course’ of nine local bars, carrying our toy golf clubs on our backs.

In the eighth bar, I was walking past Andy and his friends and he stepped out in front of me.  His friends told me that he was a pro golfer and that I had to stop and talk to him.  Of course, I assumed that this was an elaborate chat up line, but it wasn’t, he IS a pro golfer!

His smile was infectious and I spent the night chatting to him about our favourite things and at the end of the night (after many failed and cheesy chat up lines), we kissed and I gave him my number.  Andy contacted me pretty much immediately and asked me on a date, but I made it clear to him that I wasn’t interested in dating anyone.

For the remainder of the summer, I travelled around the west coast of America.  Towards the end of my trip I was driving down Sunset Boulevard in LA and got a text from him asking me again to go on a date.  I hadn’t realised how persistent golfers are!  Andy pursued me with a true sportsman dedication and I liked his commitment to the cause.

When I arrived home, I gave up the fight and agreed to go on a date with him.  From that moment on, neither of us looked back. 

 

How he asked...

For my 30th birthday present, Andy took me on a trip to Iceland.  On our first day, we spent the afternoon in the blue lagoon. 

After watching the sunset, we got into our car and travelled to Hotel Ion in Nesjavellir.  It is a luxury, eco-friendly hotel perched on stilts at the foot of Mount Hengil in the stunning wilderness of southwest Iceland, which makes it perfect for stargazing and a great spot for the Northern Lights!

Upon arriving to the hotel, I understood the hype surrounding it.  The scenery demanded attention and the minimalist design in the Nordic themed hotel was stunning in contrast. After an incredible meal in Ion’s Silfra Restaurant, we were too full for dessert and opted to have a drink in the glass-walled Northern Lights bar.  Snuggled up under a wool blanket, we looked out at the vast, other-worldly landscape and were delighted when the aurora peaked out from behind the mountain and our very own light show began.

After our drink I was tired and suggested that we should go back to our suite.  Andy insisted that we should go for a walk in the snow because experiencing the Northern Lights would be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.  I couldn’t really argue with him, so went back to the room and swapped my heels for snow boots and off we went.

We walked through the snow covered lava fields, under the dancing green lights in the sky.  When I said I was cold, Andy said we could warm up by standing beside the lights under the stilts holding up the hotel.  Walking over to the lights was beautiful – the hotel had lit hundreds of candles in the glass-fronted lava spa and the candlelight was bouncing off the 12metre lava pool.  

Cuddled up against one of the stilts, Andy pulled out a little pile of Polaroids from his parka.  He had travelled around taking photos of all the places that have been significant in our relationship and written under each photo, “Where we first kissed…”, “Where we had our first date…”, etc.  We chatted through the memories behind each photo and at this stage I had no idea what was coming and thought that it was just part of a romantic birthday present. 

When he produced the ring box from his pocket and dropped to one knee, I was silent for the first time in my life.  I was in complete shock!  When I was stood there, mouth open and was yet to answer his question of, “Will you marry me?” he laughed and said my favourite line of, “Well Fiona, what do you say?  Can I be your real life Instagram husband?” (This is after years of torturing Andy to take photos of me and allowing our meals to go cold while I ‘got the right photo!’ for Instagram). 

And of course, in the most stunning setting I could have wished for, I threw my arms around him and said YES!