Belfast Chef Stephen Taylor-Winter Makes The Finals of M&S UK Wide Burger Competition


Belfast-based chef, Stephen Taylor-Winter, and Chef in Residence for Gaggenau Ireland, has been selected by M&S as one of eight finalists in a UK wide burger competition.

This summer the retailer has launched its ‘Best Ever Burger’ and, to put it to the test, challenged top chefs across the country to create the ultimate burger topping recipe for their hometown, showcasing the very best regional flavours and produce.


M&S’s Best Ever Burger features a mouth-watering combination of short rib, chuck steak and bone marrow for ultimate succulence, providing the base for Stephen’s creation. Taking inspiration from Belfast, Stephen’s recipe includes Young Buck Blue Cheese, which is the first raw milk cheese to be produced in the region, celeriac watercress and Northern Ireland’s infamous Hannan Guanciale, all topped with a punchy dressing of Dijon mustard, Horseradish sauce and Lakeshore Wholegrain mustard.

Stephen said: “Northern Ireland has amazing local produce and it’s been brilliant to put an Irish spin on M&S’s Best EverBurger. From Hannan’s Guanciale made in Ulster, to Young Buck Blue Cheese, I wanted this recipe to celebrate the breadth of produce in Northern Ireland, bringing together flavours for a knockout burger dish. I’m proud of our culinary heritage in the region and it’s been great to take part in a national challenge which has given this a fun and seasonal platform.”

Stephen was classically trained in France at Le Cordon Bleu and has worked in prestigious restaurants around the world. He has worked for all three Michelin star restaurants in Northern Ireland and has cooked for senior members of the Royal family. I wonder if the Queen enjoys a burger on the BBQ?

Marc Jacobs Twinkle Eau So Fresh Perfume Smells Like Parma Violets Sweets


My search is over. I have literally blogged about this for almost a decade. I have hunted the Internet for a perfume that smells like Parma Violets and finally there is one that smells EXACTLY like them.

The newest Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau So Fresh 75ml size is only £36.99 at The Perfume Shop  right now which is a massive saving. 

I happened to stop to test out their sample while passing their store this morning and couldn’t believe my search was finally over. 

A Trip to Dublin- M&S Summer Food Launch - Adventurous Eating Ahead! #MandSSummer


On Thursday I took a little trip to Dublin for the evening thanks to Marks & Spencer Ireland, who invited me to taste test some of the Summer 2018 Food Hall range which will be appearing in stores very soon.

Whilst it’s backwards it begin with dessert, the most ‘kitsch’ and unusual products I spotted were from those ranges, so let me share those first. 

The Ice Cream Toffees (below) are simply delicious, very sweet and very moreish.


The Sea Salt & Vinegar Caramels had to be the biggest ‘must try’ of the whole evening for me. I’d describe them as being like a salted caramel with a little bit of a kick. There’s definitely not a sour vinegar taste to them. Definitely one of those products I love M&S for, because I love trying new tastes and combinations and get so fed up of the same old pairings so anything crazy like this I always have to try out.


Ditto these, Milk Chocolate Truffles infused with Oak Matured Vintage Cider, but they get even more cool points by being packaged in miniature wooden barrels. These are perfect presents for cider connoisseurs, they are just terribly cute.  


Lots more from the Sweet Treats stand, the gourmet mallows are divine by the way, if you see them in store they are worth a try.


Onwards to The Grill. M&S have launched a great range of affordable meat with offers across many selections of cuts.

On the night we had choices of beef, steaks, vegetarian sausages (the sweet potato is my top choice from 2017 btw), and their ever popular burgers.   


Their picnic ranges are sublime with plenty of veggie options including the little Beetroot & Mint, and Carrot & Pumpkin Seed Veggie Bites you see at the front below.

Of course the Deli Coleslaw and Potato Salads are the stuff of legends, but if you haven’t heard they also do other low calorie options like Beetroot & Pink Apple Slaw.


We also has some lovely cocktails to try, but the kitsch option I have to show you is the Penny Cocktail which had a delicious British Strawberry Cream Soda mixer in it. 

Of course the mixer is a non-alcoholic lemonade, so watch out for that one in store for summer BBQ parties. 


I can’t wait to see everything start to arrive in my local M&S, there are so many tasty treats to pick up! The BBQ Grill items for this summer especially are going to be delicious. The beef was so tender it was as if it had been slow cooked for 48 hours. 

I’m hungry all over again! 


SeedCell - A Quirky Little Garden Project For Your Family, The Future of Growing Your Seeds

I’ve always grown veg each year starting since Smix brought home the traditional planted bean from nursery and it gave me the window-sill gardening bug, which is ironic as I also have the knack of killing house plants. I can keep vegetables alive for the span of spring to harvest, but give me a house plant and it’s dead within the span of a year.

Anyway, the past two years I’ve had those snazzy little greenhouses you buy in B&M Bargains that you build a bit like the kids’ play tents from the 1980s’ from plastic rods, with a big tarpaulin over the top. I was scuppered last July when we were away on our Portstewart week and there was a stormy night and when we came home my greenhouse had blown over and all my veg for that year had been ruined. The greenhouse had been destroyed.

This year, I was Googling to see who had the same greenhouse for the best price and was giddy (I’m easily pleased) to find Home Bargains had a WALK IN one for only £19.99 (it was online but it isn’t now, but they do still have them in my local store. I also bought two of these smaller ones.) 


On May Day my Dad came round and helped me construct it and it was actually quite a good size. You can stand up fully inside it, and it’s sturdy. My dad put some brackets on the decking to secure it, and some screws on the bricks to make sure it wouldn’t move around or blow over like the smaller one did last year.  


Anyway, on to my review. I had lots of regular seeds planted, but SeedCell contacted me about their very cool product, a biodegradable seed packaging that snaps off and simply pushes down into the soil. 

There are lots of variety of seeds to choose from and they sent me many to plant. I got some herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, all in the easy to plant triangular pods.  


How you use them-  Soaking a pot of compost or patch of soil in water, the individual cells - once snapped free -can be pushed down into the earth. The curved topside of the seed pod remains above ground allowing rainwater to runoff, preventing the seed from getting soggy and also providing a more visible marker for the location of emerging seedlings.  Once planted, the seed pod absorbs and retains the moisture it needs, feeding the water directly to the seeds inside using patented water absorbing technology. The pod protects the seeds as they begin to germinate in a safe microclimate, before breaking down naturally and leaving zero waste. * In my photographs the seed pods aren’t fully pushed down, they should be pushed in further but I wanted to show you what they looked like.


What I loved was that you didn’t get your hands muddy, pushing the pod in you didn’t have to touch the soil at all, so if you wanted to do some planting with your kids, this could be a very mess-free way of doing so. 


Also because you can buy the SeedCells in single pods, rather than how you usually buy packs of seeds, if you live in an apartment in the city and you are pushed for space and maybe only want to plant one pot of chives or coriander or a sunflower, you don’t have to buy a pack of 100 seeds, you can just buy a single SeedCell. There is no waste. 






I also love their box of mixed seeds too, it’s also a good idea for those who want to grow a ‘salad’ and don’t want to buy three or four packs of seeds and have lots of left over seeds unused. They’ve been really clever and thought of what people really want from a product. 

I really love this product range and look forward to seeing what comes next from them. You can buy their products from their website, or Amazon, find them in DIY stores and Garden Centres. Their Instagram is @grow_seedcell Twitter @grow_seedcell Facebook SeedCell Youtube SeedCell Videos 


Mad Men Furniture in Game of Thrones Locations? Surprisingly, It Looks Fabulous - Betty’s Lounge Homewares

 Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle

Betty’s Lounge Homewares is a vintage furniture specialist, where they curate the finest mid-century pieces from all over the globe, bringing them to Northern Ireland for collectors to purchase, but also for movie and television productions locally.

Their Instagram feed is an absolute beauty, packed with swoon-worthy furniture, kitsch adventures (their recent trip to L.A. looks a lot of fun), and pieces that they have chosen to add to their collection that you can purchase yourself.

Betty’s Lounge is pretty exclusive, viewing is by appointment, but the good news is they also have pop up shops at the start of each month, which you can find out about on their Facebook page. These can be in various locations in Ireland both North and South, so if there’s something you see amongst their separate Instagram Feed of Current Betty’s Lounge Stock, and you fall in love with it, you could ask them to bring it along to a pop up near you. Otherwise they ship all over U.K. and Ireland.

 The Dark Hedges

The Dark Hedges

It was their show-stopping photos of beautiful Eames Lounge Chairs in some of Northern Ireland’s most stunning locations from their main Instagram feed that caught my eye though. They even took a classic chair to The Dark Hedges, one of the actual locations from Game of Thrones.

Admittedly I am a freak with an Eames Chair tattoo, but I think these photos are something I would even put on my wall, especially in lieu of being able to afford one of the actual chairs myself, as yet! A tattoo and one of Betty’s beautiful photographs is as close as I can get right now! 

(All photography copyright Betty’s Lounge) 

 Titanic Attraction

Titanic Attraction


Day Trip To Glasgow £12 Shopping, Museums & More With Stena Line- We Give It a Whirl!


Yesterday we took a Glasgow day trip on the Stena Line ferry from the Belfast port to Cairnryan. It’s a service that runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for £12 per person, or Saturday for £15 per person. 

It includes travel by ferry across to Scotland and return travel by coach from the port to Glasgow, with aprox. four and a bit hours to spend in the city shopping, visiting museums, or doing whatever you want to do with your time.

There is a hop on hop off Glasgow city bus tour you can take similar to London, or our own here in Belfast if you want a tour of the city’s which takes just under an hour and a half.

Here are some details of the Day Trip and our day yesterday if you want to know more about the offer for families who might be thinking about going over the spring or summer ahead. 


Your online details are here

You leave on the regular Stena Line Superfast sailing from the Belfast Port, with latest check in at 7am. You can park you car easily in their large car park right outside the terminal. Check in is very easy. You won’t need your passport or anything, but it will be handy for adults to have some form of photo ID with them I expect, although we weren’t asked for anything, just our booking reference. 

When you board the ship has many lounges and you can find somewhere where you family is comfortable to sit during the sailing, which is around two hours fifteen minutes. You can move around between lounges as much as you want during the sailing.  

There are different styles of lounges and bars, with two decks, seven and eight, where you can relax. 


The pod lounge is great for kids and teenagers to hang out and play. There’s also a small cinema with a film showing during the sailing. 


The Taste restaurant is serving breakfast during the Scotland bound sailing, and an evening meal on the sailing back. They also have free refills of coffee and tea for hot drinks purchased. There are family meal deals offered.


The Guest Services Desk had this very handy map I picked up that we ended up using the whole trip to find our way around the city. I would highly recommend getting your hands on it if you pass by the desk.


The crossing was very relaxing. Don’t forget there are also spa treatments available on the top deck, ask at guest services about manicure and pedicure services! Also more about the brand new Hygge Lounge at the end of this post. 


We arrived at the Scottish port shortly after 10am, and our coach was waiting outside the terminal. It was drizzly, but the drive down the coast was still quite beautiful, it’s a lot like our north coast for the first twenty miles or so before you head in-land.


We arrived into Glasgow city centre at 12.15pm and the rain had stopped. The coach drops you at Buchanan Bus Station which is at one end of the shopping mile, so you can just head in one direction to get to everything so it’s very handy.


We were very hungry, so we headed to find some food first, and lucky came across a Yo Sushi straight away, so were very happy. 

Glasgow is a lot like Belfast in that everyone is very happy to help you with directions. We must have asked people directions at least six times, and everyone helped us!  

After we ate we argued over what to do. I wanted to do the bus tour, but Smix didn’t want to. We agreed on the Museum of Modern Art, then shopping. I was heartbroken that the Duke of Wellington was sans cone! Even the merchandise inside the museum had the cone on his head!


For families The Riverside Museum, a fascinating collection of trams, locomotives, cars and bikes with hands on interactive fun. And it’s free to visit. You can also climb aboard the The Tall Ship Glenlee berthed alongside, while across on the other side of the River, sits the titanium clad futuristic structure that is the Glasgow Science Centre – a must visit family attraction with 3 floors of interactive hands-on fun.

The St Enoch Centre is a great place to head with the Disney Store and Hamleys or head to Buchanan Galleries for Scotland’s only Lego Store and The Entertainer toy shop.


The Style Mile has a lot of luxury shopping, it reminded me of Dublin’s Grafton Street. Fashionistas will not be disappointed.  


I was so excited to find Krispy Kreme. I bought a box of three to bring home. When we got back on the coach half the coach had dozen boxes! When will they just open stores here?


We ended our shopping marathon at Buchanan Galleries which has a huge John Lewis, and it’s right beside the bus station so we knew we would make it back to the coach for the 4.20pm curfew. It’s a perfect amount of time to have a spin around a new city and have some fun. We had a lovely afternoon. 


The Cairnryan to Belfast sailing left the port at 7.30pm and we were booked into the brand new Hygge Lounge, which opened this week. It’s £5 per person and offers reclined luxury seating in a private lounge. Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a Scandinavian concept which conveys a therapeutic sense of cosiness, comfort and well-being.


The Lounge is super comfy, quiet, and very luxurious. I would definitely pay the extra £10 per crossing for Smix and myself for the lounge for a number of reasons. There was a little bit of sway on the return journey, and I get travel sickness very easily, but being able to lie back made it go away instantly.

You get a lovely cosy blanket, and Smix had fallen asleep on the early morning journey out, so that would have been perfect if we had have been in there on the way out.


I would say it probably best that it’s not for younger children however. Smix is now ten and I told him he had to be quiet, and he wasn’t allowed to go in and out of the door of the lounge often. It is a place for people to rest and for some people to nap on the crossing, so if you do have kids who are little, it probably isn’t the best place to book. There are private cabins on the top deck you can book for £35 per crossing that might work out better for you with a bed then you get a whole room to yourself.

The Hygge also has a charging station for your gadgets, and a reading light, plus big TVs (which are on silent with subtitles) showing 24 hour news. After a long day it really was like a little lounge like heaven. 

We arrived back in Belfast at 9.45pm

Both of us had a great time. I would recommend the Glasgow Day Trip to any family, couple, shopping buddies, adventurer alike! 

Tayto Team Up With Nissan to Open New Driving School Attraction As Theme Park Opens For 2018 - Let Your Kids Get Their Licence This Spring / Summer!

Tayto Park and Nissan have joined forces to open Ireland’s first ever driving school for kids. The Nissan Driving School at Tayto Park gives kids the chance to learn the rules of the road and to test their driving skills on a purpose built, road marked traffic course before leaving with their own driving licence which you can choose to buy if you wish at the end of your experience.


The new 1,000m2 track at Tayto Park in Ashbourne, Co. Meath opened to the public on Saturday 24th March. The easy drive track gives young drivers a real experience of what it is like to take to the road.

All drivers arriving at the Nissan Driving School at Tayto Park will enjoy a short video demonstration at the new attraction’s Learning Theatre, where they will learn the rules of the road before negotiating the traffic course. Young drivers who complete the course and prove to their parents that they have what it takes to make the move from the back seat to the front seat can pick up their driving licence.

Speaking at the launch, Founder of Tayto Park, Raymond Coyle said: “Here at Tayto Park we’re always looking for innovative and creative ways to enhance the experience for families at our theme park and zoo. The Nissan Driving School at Tayto Park will be the first of its kind in Ireland of which I’m sure will be very popular among our younger visitors this season. I’m delighted to welcome Nissan to Tayto Park as this marks a milestone as the first sponsored attraction at the park’.

We visited the park last Easter, and I posted a very comprehensive blog post with hints and tips about visiting the park then, if you want to refer back to that. We really enjoyed our visit and would highly recommend the trip down for fellow Northern Irish families. 


M&S Easter Eggs 2018, A Chocolate Camper Van, A My Little Pony & The Biggest Bunny You’ve Ever Seen, Plus Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Eggs!




Marks and Spencer always have the most fun Easter eggs, and 2018 see Trolls, My Little Ponies, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Campervan shaped eggs on the shelves.

What I’m most pleased about finding however, is a Dark Chocolate Dairy Free Easter Egg, priced at £7. It comes in blue or pink wrapping, and I picked one up for my brother who is Dairy Free and who was going to have to miss out again on another fun part of a holiday. Thanks M&S for making this egg!

The fun eggs are splendid though, for my nephew who loves cars I’ve chosen the campervan, it’s so cool.  It’s also £7.


There are plenty of children’s eggs to choose from and the giant Percy egg is only £5 right now on offer, with selfie sunglasses too!




There are various sizes of chocolate bunny as shown left, but check out the whopping 32.5cm cm tall Bennet Bunny below right, which you can buy online with free delivery within the U.K. What a treat to arrive on your doorstep!







 Burrowing Bunny egg and Dippy Egg

Burrowing Bunny egg and Dippy Egg

Planning an Easter egg hunt? This giant jar of eggs is £20. 


Beautiful coloured eggs for adults, and mini chocolate quail eggs. I do adore you, M&S !