Lifestyle: Exploring Surrey

I’ve lived in Surrey since last July but confess I haven’t seen much of the county. Completely reliant on public transport I’ve found my options quite limited, and the temptation of both Brighton and London has been hard to resist.

 photo 2015-05-25 12.37.08_zpsammplf88.jpgI’ve visited some lovely towns during my time here. I’ve eaten plenty of street food in Reigate, loved Guildford and had a yummy fish finger sandwich in Dorking. But above all I’ve fallen in love with the countryside. Glimpses from trains have shown rolling hills, shady woods, little streams. I know without doubt I’d love to consider settling down here in the future.

 photo 2015-05-25 12.41.23_zpsexvdeayy.jpg photo 2015-05-25 12.41.11_zpsxqjjo5ke.jpg photo 2015-05-25 12.51.26_zpsd16wyxic.jpgBank Holiday Monday saw my parents drive down to pack up my winter wardrobe see me so I persuaded them we needed to explore. We headed over to Box Hill, an area made famous by the cycling a few years back. It’s still extremely popular with cyclists, hence driving up was a little difficult – but worth it. Stunning views, a lovely visitors centre. We would have loved to spend longer up there, perhaps taking a proper walk.

But grumbling tummies had to be dealt with!

After missing the turnings for most of the pubs we had researched and almost driving into the US Open Golf qualifiers (quite literally…) we stumbled upon The Blue Anchor. Making the most of sitting outside we quickly ordered…and were thoroughly impressed.

 photo 2015-05-25 13.40.21_zpsqrkv2zhs.jpg photo 2015-05-25 13.40.32_zpsxxmjiox9.jpgI couldn’t resist the lure of the burger – minus the gherkin (who eats these?!) and tomato. Coming with lashings of mustard mayo and a good helping of actually melted cheese, it was one of the most delicious burgers I’ve had. It wasn’t cooked pink, in fact it was a little chewy, but the flavours were spot on. Bonus points for melting the cheese onto the burger so it crisped slightly. SO GOOD.

 photo 2015-05-25 13.40.14_zpsjzkudl8f.jpgMy sister went for the prawn and crab linguine, and would have loved it had it not been for the rather strange addition of sweet chilli sauce. Instead she feasted on the chips. Obviously homemade, already perfectly seasoned, crisp. Everything you want a chip to be!

My parents went for the beer battered cod, and the ham and eggs – both of which received no complaints. I’m convinced my burger was the star of the show though.

 photo 2015-05-25 13.40.08_zpshmwtiq0m.jpgWe finished the day with a quick wander around Reigate before piling all my stuff into the car. I genuinely don’t know how I’ve ammassed so much stuff. Kind of dreading moving back to university in September as adding notes to this is going to get embarrassing…

 photo 6560ba7d-aaad-437e-a085-aa21713d47cf_zpsjxf9iqbd.jpgA lovely day, beautiful weather, fabulous company, exploring one of my favourite parts of the country. If only all Mondays were like this!

How have you been spending your weekends lately? Do you love to get out and about in your local area?

Lifestyle: Lunch at the Black Horse, Market Bosworth

I grew up very close to Market Bosworth, childhood weekends spent wandering round the Battlefield were plentiful. Though I far preferred the country park on the other side of Market Bosworth. A proper wooden playground, a circular walk with plenty to see, fields to play football on. Bliss. Apart from when you have a dog that stampedes through people’s picnics stealing food…

I headed back to the lovely village of Market Bosworth last weekend, back to a pub that brings back some lovely (if slightly painful) memories. The Black Horse is one of the nicer pubs in an area which is if I’m honest lacking in decent food. The restaurant itself is lovely, all shabby chic and little rooms, a maximum of about 15 people in each area. Be warned though, there’s some very low beams and ceilings!

 photo 2015-03-15 14.26.15_zpsoqjga0lr.jpg photo 2015-03-15 14.26.25_zpsf1xtscog.jpgI had what has to be one of the best starters I’ve ever eaten. A Mushroom and Stilton bruschetta served with a Pesto, this was really substantial. Mushrooms cooked to absolute perfection, juicy and nutty, just a teeny bite from the stilton. The pesto wasn’t as flavourful as it looked, but everything complemented everything. Just delicious. And I didn’t have to share – W hates mushrooms, mum hates cheese. The others had a Chicken Liver Parfait which was raved over, apparently exceptionally smooth. Clean plates all round.

 photo 2015-03-15 14.27.17_zpssfbezqrd.jpgI was a teensy bit disappointed with the choice for the mains – last time I ate the menu was far more exciting and adventurous, here we were limited to the standard Sunday roasts. My lamb was okay – tender, tasty, I enjoyed it. I was just hoping for something a little more. Bowls of veg were some of the better ones I’ve had, everything perfectly cooked.

 photo 2015-03-15 15.26.40_zps29ti3mc0.jpg photo 2015-03-15 15.26.28_zpsjkn8sp5o.jpgPuddings came, and the menu picked up again. I’m not usually a pudding person, but I could have happily eaten four or five things here. After much deliberating I went for a Cappuccino Panna Cotta, with Bailey’s ice-cream, with the agreement that I could try some of mum’s (White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake) and Will’s (Milk Chocolate & Peanut Butter Torte). I have to say I think I picked a winner – the panna cotta was absolutely delicious. I personally wouldn’t have paired it with ice-cream. Both were yummy, but I’d have liked some crunch! W’s tart was very rich, very chocolatey, and perhaps lacking in Peanut Butter.

 photo 2015-03-15 15.26.52_zpso4htvp7b.jpgA quick wander around the village, we retreated back so I could lie down and recover. The biggest meal I’d eaten since January, and it definitely showed! No more three courses for me…

Have you been out for a meal lately?

Lifestyle: A Foodie Day in Brighton

I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times on here, but I LOVE Brighton. The atmosphere, the unique shops, the vintage-y house bits and the FOOD. In December I had THE most delicious sandwich, but when me and Libby had a girls day out a few weeks ago when went one step further to damaging my diet. Actually, two steps…

 photo b785ba77-40c4-4066-a26c-c7e8440adb4e_zpszfx0enic.jpg photo 70f42ff4-0781-43a5-a4fc-62746e43b5d7_zpsvjr1x18z.jpgLunch was the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and my first experience of the chain. I have to say I much prefer Bryon, but it was pretty yummy. The burger was a touch dry, improved with the addition of gooey American cheese and plenty of mustard, and for shoestring fries they were rather moreish. My drink was fab and great value, I highly recommend the elderflower fizz. But burger-wise, Byron blows this place out of the water. And now I’m craving a burger…

 photo 8b381d07-5f4a-4e2c-a5f0-d9725b52e740_zpsl08uastb.jpgCome the end of the afternoon we were starting to crave cake, and stumbled across the cutest little teashop. Catwalk Cakes do amazingly themed wedding cakes, but also tasty afternoon tea-style snacks. They also have a good range of gluten-free and vegan choices too. We shared a huge pot of tea, and ordered a gigantic slice of cake each.

 photo 474fca55-5227-4580-8877-a7e3d623ff13_zpsngoet8iz.jpgLibby had the rainbow cake – and multicoloured it certainly was! This was probably the best rainbow cake I’ve tried as despite all the colouring it wasn’t heavy or dry. It was extremely sweet though!

 photo 2015-02-07 18.20.46_zpsnqdsfkbr.jpgI plumped for the Vegan Blueberry Cake, and am desperate to know what they put in their icing – it was so buttery and creamy! The blueberries gave it a lovely tang, they were sharp and fruity, and the whole thing was pleasantly moist. I’m not always a cake person, but if all cakes were like this I’d be converted!

High on sugar we stumbled back to the train station. I might have only lost 2 pounds in weight that week (and many more from my purse in Boots that day…) but it was worth it!

Are you a fan of an afternoon cake? Where’s your favourite spot?

Lifestyle: A Lazy Weekend

At the beginning of the month it worked out that, between boyfriend visits, I had a whole two weekends to myself. Considering the last weekend I had to myself was in mid-November it was absolute bliss to completely relax. I love that despite being in a long distance relationship me and W can still see plenty of each other (we’re making the most of it until September!), but it was so lovely to have time to myself. Time where I’m not stressing about work, getting dinner etc, time just to sit and do as I pleased.

 photo 2015-01-04 15.30.47_zpsvezsh3fa.jpg photo 47e5802c-e5ba-4d87-bc53-318aa387807e_zpslrr7dulz.jpgI took some time to sit and read cookbooks. Not make anything from them, just read them. It might seem strange to some, but it’s a pastime I’ve always loved. Both of these books are from GBBO contestants, and both are favourites on my shelf. Simple recipes, amazing photographs, and a chatty style. I also made time to sit and reflect on the last few days in my One Line A Day journal. I’ve been loving doing this, and having time to myself meant I could read back on the previous weeks. It’s clear I’m becoming more positive whilst using it!

 photo 2015-02-22 15.31.06_zpshptin7na.jpgAnd of course, no relaxing read would be complete without cookies*. These are made with fair-trade products, but whatever they are made from they are damn delicious! My favourite were the stem ginger, perfect with a hot chocolate.

 photo 2015-02-07 09.26.33_zpsaiad9gki.jpgA pamper session was also on the cards, including one of my favourite new products. The B Glycolic Acid Peel Cleanser is more of a mask treatment, and it sloughs away dead skin to reveal a wonderful glow. I find it makes my skin a little sensitive, so it’s reserved for once a week only, but it’s definitely made a drastic improvement on how my foundation applies.

 photo 2015-01-24 11.59.31_zpsici62gs8.jpgI also went on a little browse round the shops, proving to be a fatal mistake. I discovered Topshop now make bras in my size, and pretty ones at that. I could have bought the whole range…it’s been a long time since I’ve felt so enamoured with my underwear drawer!

And that’s my relaxing weekend, though it maybe didn’t leave me as relaxed as this guy was clearly feeling…
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How do you make sure your weekends are relaxing? What are you up to this weekend?

Lifestyle: An Ice-Cream Date

I love ice-cream, and I love date nights. Something that combines the two is pretty much my idea of perfection. Back when we were still at sixth form, me and W would quite often head out for a cheapy meal after I finished work on a Saturday. We’d always decline desert, and instead head to the cinema. Or, specifically, to the Ben & Jerry’s counter. Something about ice cream just finishes a night off perfectly, and there’s nothing more romantic than arguing over flavour combination and fighting over the last spoonful…! Whilst we were away in Oxford we discovered my dream place, and I’m gutted I didn’t know about it that first night. One trip just wasn’t enough…

 photo 2015-01-31 21.13.20_zpsxkqbhiwd.jpgG&D’s is justttt outsite the city centre, and is open 8am until…midnight. Yep, midnight! I so wish there were more places like this, relaxed, no alcohol, and open late. Perfect for chatting away, working on that bit of coursework or just relaxing. I’d be in there all the time if there was one local to me! They sell a huge variety of ice-creams (and also bagels and pizzas too, which smelt yummy!) and ice-cream related deserts, and all at pretty reasonable prices.

 photo 2015-01-31 21.13.00_zps4fk5wjdz.jpg photo 2015-01-31 21.12.35_zpsz2akpp5f.jpgI went for a couple of scoops of their chocolate ice cream (their Reese’s Pieces had just sold out) with Peanut M&Ms and hot fudge sauce. A hugely generous portion, the sauce was rich and smooth. But the ice cream! It was delicious. Chocolate but light, full flavoured but not sickly. Honestly one of the best I’ve had (and I kept a notebook scoring chocolate ice cream between the ages of 7 and 10!).

 photo 2015-01-31 21.28.46_zpsopvcga8z.jpgWill enjoyed a Cookie Monster Sandwich – two cookies of his choice (one chocolate, one Daim bar) surrounding a scoop of icecream. He agrees about the quality of the chocolate! And for one of the first times I saw a dessert defeat him…with half a cookie to go. We had already gorged on Byron that night though!

If you fancy what is in my mind the perfect at-home date, Hungry House are currently running a promotion whereby any takeaway order placed on hungryhouse of £15 or more will bag you a free movie or TV show from CinemaNow. Yummy food and free entertainment, what’s not to love?!

What was the last date you went on? Anndddd…what’s the best ice cream you’ve ever had?

Lifestyle: A Weekend in Oxford

Having an income this year (I’m currently on full-time placement) has resulted in hugely itchy feet. I’m desperate for some European trips away, but with W a good few hours away trying to organise that has proved a logistical nightmare. Instead we’ve settled on a few UK city breaks – resulting in last weekend being spent in Oxford.

 photo 2015-02-01 15.56.39_zpsmujqiktb.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.19.12_zpsudpr1ro0.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.17.37_zpso8j0koj9.jpgA teeny city really, Oxford is so picturesque. It seems a lot more peaceful than Cambridge (we visited for a day last year), although most of the colleges were closed to visitors. We stayed at the Newton Guest House, which was perfectly located, and great value for the price. Just a few improvements and it could be a gorgeous boutique hotel – breakfast needs work, and the old fusty-smelling wardrobes need to go! But for a good £30 less per night than anywhere else I’m not going to complain…

 photo 2015-02-01 14.15.02_zpsnas3n78b.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.14.43_zpssjvntjdh.jpg photo 2015-01-31 18.24.41_zpspqkzfijn.jpgWe spent most of the weekend just enjoying each other’s company; this first time we’ve managed to be properly just the two of us since June last year. We played tourist, warming ourselves up in museums and photographing the pretty buildings. A few lovely date nights too – so night to put on glamorous make up and heels (so I can see over his shoulder!).

 photo 2015-01-31 14.02.54_zpsz3yqv3wk.jpg photo 2015-01-31 14.02.39_zpsqqwke0z2.jpg photo 2015-01-31 13.55.52_zpsritpth5y.jpg photo 2015-01-31 13.55.21_zpsufq1qjrj.jpg photo 2015-01-31 13.53.40_zpsawnzceva.jpgThe Natural History museum is well worth a visit. It’s small, but we spent a good couple of hours in there. It’s amazing how many exhibits they have crammed in there – a good amount of dinosaurs and animals, plenty of rocks and even a live bee hive. Gorgeous building too.

 photo 2015-02-01 13.27.07_zpsf15oioj9.jpg photo 2015-02-01 13.26.47_zpstyme5fff.jpgWe also enjoyed the Ashmolean, though I have to say I much prefer places like the Natural History. It’s a matter of personal taste though!

 photo 2015-02-01 15.34.41_zps6bbgq3yv.jpg photo 2015-02-01 14.19.26_zpsk8fwuhae.jpg photo 2015-02-01 15.45.57_zpsqlogvdma.jpgWe also had a romantic if freezing walk along the river – I was definitely glad of the oversized scarf! We made a quick retreat when it started to snow, stretching out a pot of tea in a cafe as long as we could to stay warm!

I’d definitely recommend Oxford for a city break if you’re looking for something slow-paced and relaxing, but with plenty to see. From pricing up other options it’s also excellent value – far cheaper to get to and stay than York or Bath (my other wish-list cities at the moment).

Oh, and happy V-day people! No matter what your relationship status, today is the day to wear pretty underwear, eat chocolate and love yourself and those around you!

Have you been on a UK city break recently? Where would you recommend we visit next?

Lifestyle: Country Pubs and Roaring Fires

I love a good pub. And by that I mean a proper old-building, serves-real-ale-or-cider country pub. ‘Spoons is all very well and good on a night out, but it isn’t a pub.

 photo 2015-01-10 14.14.13_zpsoastcfc7.jpg photo 2015-01-10 14.05.29_zpsdeoa4s6j.jpgI like to cosy up, preferably by a real fire, and enjoy my drink of choice. I like to nibble on some proper pub-grub that’s not just reheated (frozen oven chips = acceptable). I like staff who genuinely enjoy their job. And I don’t like it to be crowded or noisy.

 photo 2015-01-10 15.06.53_zpsokfqtt5u.jpgA few weeks ago brought a ice-cold sunny Saturday on a boyfriend-visiting weekend. I instructed him to wear sensible shoes and we caught the train to lovely Reigate, walked by all the shops and out of town. Into the countryside, across the heath and there, hidden away, is the delightful Skimmington Castle. I went a few months ago (more here), and I’m so pleased it is actually in walking distance!

 photo 2015-01-10 14.05.02_zpsrkbeljij.jpgWe managed to squeeze onto the last available table (it’s a tiny place, and gets booked up), right in front of the fire they kindly stoked up for us. One look at the drinks and we both ordered warm cider. It’s actually ‘just’ Rekorderlig’s winter cider, fine by us as we both enjoy it! But it is served properly warm with slices of orange. Delicious.

 photo 2015-01-10 14.16.41_zpsgiqmzrqa.jpg photo 2015-01-10 14.14.48_zpskpypmqmu.jpg photo 2015-01-10 14.16.49_zpsihxnisuu.jpgOrdering from the Bar Menu (the restaurant menu looks amazing – fancy and fairly priced) I went for a Ham & Mustard baguette. I love this combination, even more so when the ham is like this. So, so good. W had the sausage baguette which was much enjoyed, and we shared a side of crispy, salty and very moreish oven chips. I discovered dipping in mustard then scooping up coleslaw is awesome. I have no shame in admitting this! Food was very well priced, especially for the area, with the bill including drinks coming in just under £20.

 photo 2015-01-10 15.16.42_zpsgrtvpsyh.jpg photo 2015-01-10 14.05.15_zpsjjyfwovt.jpgWhen we eventually stumbled back out into the cold we realised we’d spent a good two hours relaxing, chatting, and generally just enjoying each other’s company. Now that’s what a pub is all about!

Are you a fan of days like this? What have you got planned for this weekend? 

Lifestyle: Art of the Brick & Childhood Favourites

 photo IMG_0628_zpsaece4675.jpg photo IMG_0629_zpsfd33573e.jpgI was quite a deprived child; LEGO wasn’t something I had, wasn’t something I played with. That’s changed since my relationship began at 16 – my boy loves LEGO, he’s studying engineering and I’m pretty sure LEGO inspired this! I arranged for myself and a group of friends to buy him the campervan for his 18th, and there’s probably a list of kits he’d love longer than my MAC wishlist…Going to this exhibition was a no-brainer, so on a rainy wet and grey November Saturday that’s exactly what we did!

 photo IMG_0627_zpsaeaac86a.jpg photo IMG_0632_zpsb0ebff4c.jpgI wasn’t planning on posting about this; it was just a casual couple’s day out but I was so taken with the exhibition I just had to share – especially now it’s been extended until April. I can’t stress how enjoyable it was, I’m not an arty person but loved this! Word of warning though. It isn’t a particularly child-friendly event, no matter how it has been marketed. It’s art predominately, the fact that it is all made out of LEGO is really quite irrelevant.

 photo IMG_0634_zpsb0887626.jpg photo IMG_0636_zpsaf2b1dba.jpgThis also got me thinking, reminiscing about childhood toys. I was definitely a mixed up child – I liked nothing more than climbing trees and running around with my dog, but when I did sit still I was either reading (I was fond of Jacqueline Wilson, followed by Rosie Rushton once a little older – strange as she’s very close to W’s family!) or playing with dolls. I had the full collection of Annabel’s and Baby Born’s. I loved Barbie’s too. Not Bratz, not anything too fancy, but old fashioned Barbie’s. I collected stuffed dogs – I had 57 of them, and they all had names. I can probably remember where they all came from too! But my most loved toy of all? I had Bear, a Baloo from the Disney store that now has no resemblance to Baloo at all. He has ‘lost’ his claws, got holds in his nose, the blacks of his eyes are scratched white, and his fur is no-where near as fluffy as it was. I know because I bought a “vintage” baloo from Ebay last summer and it turned out to be the same one. Just in far more pristine condition than bear! LEGO might be cool, but it’s not quite got the sentimental factor that a bear has!

What was your favourite childhood toy? Have you been to see Art of the Brick?

Lifestyle: Tea & Cake at Beckworth Emporium

Or rather, hot chocolate and cake…

 photo cca63e43-51cc-429b-a5fd-cd1a150c39bd_zps797b6b1b.jpgTrying to make the post of our weekends together is getting a little more difficult for myself and boyfriend. He’s entering a busy period at university, lots of project deadlines, lots of group meetings, and I’m undergoing a relatively large project at work. If we know we’ve got a busy weekend, we’ll agree to go out for just a few hours with no distractions. The time means we focus on each other rather than anything else (an important thing in a long distance relationship!), and generally pack those hours with fun and (usually) yummy food.

 photo 2014-11-08170536_zpsca28f49e.jpgLast time I saw him we decided to head into the countryside (along with our good friend Howard) for a little afternoon snack at a local ‘garden centre.’ Beckworth Emporium is so much more than a typical garden centre, with a pretty cool farm shop, lots of gifts, the usual plants, and an impressive eating area. I’m desperate to go for afternoon tea one day, but they look huge. I struggled with the relatively small one I had earlier in the year, so I reckon this would defeat me!

 photo 2014-11-08170436_zps7dead638.jpgI ordered their Ultimate Hot Chocolate with Cream and Marshmallows, alongside their Chocolate & Salted Caramel cake. It might have been chocolate overload, and I might have been on a sugar high for the next few hours, but I have no regrets. Their hot chocolates is one of the best around. Not too rich, but chocolatey and none of the powdery nonsense in the bottom of the cup. The cake was pretty special too. Moist, rich, with a sweet icing just offset enough by the saltiness of the caramel. A huge and generous slice too, you certainly get your monies worth at Beckworth!

 photo 2014-11-08170502_zpsc394d724.jpgThe boys had tea and scones. I’m not really a scone person, but they had no complaints. There was the usual debate over whether to jam them cream, or cream then jam – any advice on this?!

 photo 2014-11-08170747_zpsdfe810c4.jpgI’m hoping to head back to Beckworth Emporium closer to Christmas – they have an ice rink, with incredibly pricing skating lessons. I’ve always loved ice skating, but have next to no confidence, so I’m thinking of going for a lesson or two in the hope of stopping me from holding onto the side. Ice skating followed by hot chocolate, sounds good to me!
 photo 2014-11-08170736_zps9e8a1a45.jpgNow a cheeky request- I’d love it if you could vote for me in the 2015 UK Blog Awards. I’m lucky enough be in the Food, Young Bloggers (not too sure where this entry is) and Lifestyle categories! And if you vote for me I’ll post out cake… 😉

Where’s your favourite place to go for ‘tea’ and cake? 

Lifestyle: Autumn Walk

I don’t think there’s anything better to do than head out for a countryside walk. Fresh air, exercise and time with some of my favourite people (and dog!) – I can’t honestly think of anything I’d rather do. My family came to visit a few weeks ago (bringing winter clothes – my coat is still unworn, though it will be firmly glued on when I head up to Edinburgh next week!) so I took the opportunity to explore Surrey a little. I’ve lived here since July, but not driving means I’ve seen very little. So the first chance I got, I went exploring and took my camera along with me.

 photo 8d2bceb9-5ad0-4b4d-8ce9-893aac71a1c5_zpsaa14fe7d.jpg photo 76ee5c17-8ba9-486e-ad80-3988a44f27f4_zps601be003.jpgWe headed over to Reigate first, a lovely little village with a ridiculous amount of both restaurants and banks. A lovely bagel shop too – I thoroughly enjoy their New Yorker, a mix of mayonnaise, mustard, pastrami and cheese. Unbelievably good. Moving out of Reigate we parked by the golf course and walked around the area there. It’s a mix of forest and field, criss-crossed with footpaths and bridleways. You have to dodge golf balls, but its a lovely place, very quiet.

There’s also a hidden gem. The Skimmington Castle (photograph from their site – camera ran out of battery!) is hidden down a pretty tiny lane. Its actually quite a large pub, extremely popular, and serve damn good sandwiches. Their ham and mustard was wonderful, although huge. Sunday lunches looked pretty amazing too.

 photo 7c473de1-1e53-465f-826d-7967faddefac_zpsb5be1793.jpgThe pub is also very dog friendly, even serving doggy biscuits. Someone was pleased!

 photo f2ff963a-5d7d-4bf1-81ec-7bc3093f20d6_zps3244c171.jpg photo d2cc6570-bcbb-433d-ab7a-451a99d20aa7_zps283098d4.jpgI’m feeling a little lonely this weekend, it being one of the only weekends I’ve spent completely on my own here. I’ve made plans to do plenty of baking and cooking – I have 5kg of carrots to dispose of, so carrot cake and carrot soup is on the menu! I’m going to go for a run, I’m going to work on a project for the office. But I can’t help feeling that the weekends are so much better when I get out and about. I’m definitely looking forward to adventures with W next weekend!
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What are you up to this weekend? Have you voted in the UK 2015 Blog Awards yet? Any recommended carrot recipes?!