A Look Back At Our Summer Visit to Portstewart Strand & Details of Their Free Half-Term Scavenger Hunt!

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A week into school and summer already feels like months ago, but in July we were jumping down the sand dunes on the North Coast at one of the National Trust’s beach properties, Portstewart Strand

 

We stay in Portstewart for a week every summer in a house there, quite close to the beach. The beach is free to walk down on to, so you can park on any of the surrounding streets and carry your beach supplies down with you, or you can pay £6.50 to drive your car down on to the sand and along as far as you want in front of the dunes to find a space to make your own. 

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 The beach is really popular for surfers,  and there’s always lots going on. The sand dunes are another great attraction, especially for kids who love to explore and jump down the slopes.

 

 

Even though the summer has ended, the beach is still great for autumn walks, and during half term there will be a whole week of free scavenger hunts, more details on the National Trust website here. 

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Candy Floss Flavour Grapes & Other Snazzy School Compliant Break Ideas From M&S, That Will Put You In Your Kids’ Good Books

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Remember in the 1980s when school break was a bag of Wotzits? Not the fancy organic, rolled oat, oven toasted baked ones of 2018, I mean the good, intense corn-snack 1987 ones, doused in pure E numbers. Nuclear orange, almost glowing. You’d be bouncing round the playground.

Well, maybe not, maybe that’s the haze of time and nostalgia, maybe E numbers weren’t that bad, but they are all gone now, and Jamie Oliver chased off the last remaining chicken nuggets, chocolate biscuits, crisps like he’s St. Patrick chasing the snakes out of Ireland.

I’m in danger of turning into a lecture on my thoughts on the Nanny State, so instead, shall we turn to the positive? 

 

I first tried the Candy Floss grapes when I was down in Dublin with the M&S Team at the beginning at the summer. You know me, I am a sucker for a novelty, especially when it comes to food, so one food that is supposed to taste like another is right up my street.

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The unusual grape is a result of crossing thousands of varieties until the perfect flavour of fruit is found. I’m sure you are sceptical and like me think, yeah I’m sure it tastes sugary, but not exactly like Candy Floss. BUT IT TASTES EXACTLY LIKE CANDY FLOSS.  

The grapes are grown in Spain and right now, in September, they are in season, so even if you aren’t picking them up for packed lunch boxes or breaks, they are worth a try. 

Punnets are pricy at £3 each, BUT, you will want to buy two because, M&S also have other unusual varieties of grape in store, also from Spanish climes.  

I picked up the Tutti Frutti variety, but there’s also Mango Flavoured grapes, Strawberry Flavoured grapes, and Muscat Flavoured grapes. The 2 for £4 offer also extends over other fruit in the department, so you don’t have to choose two grape punnets, but it’s hard to resist trying the exotic flavours. (Just a note, the Bangor Bloomfield Store didn’t have Strawberry grapes today, I’m not sure if they are out of season now, but I’ve seen them the past few weeks so it may just be my Store was sold out today). 

Candy Floss or Strawberry flavour grapes will go down really well for a break time snack, it’s like something Willy Wonka himself could have invented if Jamie Oliver started sugar-taxing his factory too heavily. (You can tell Jamie Oliver is the villain of this piece, can’t you)

Also in the fruit and veg department I found this very handy apple snack pack (above) for £1.50 Why handy? Well how many times do you empty a lunch box and there’s 3/4 of an apple in there? These apples are a better size for a child to eat, plus they won’t take up a whole lunch box. £1.50 for a week’s supply of apples is decent too.  

Not every kid loves them, but they are school compliant - raisin  £1.50 for 10 boxes. My son loved them when he was little but grew out of them. I think that happens with a lot of kids!

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My son’s school prefers if you don’t send in crisps, but popcorn is a good alternative. It’s lighter and healthier, lower in fat and often lower in calories, although that’s really only something us adults should be worrying about.

 

M&S do several different multipacks of popcorn. All have six bags for £2. The one I picked up has 2 bags each of Sweet, Salt, and Sweet & Salty mix. 

 

Remember when buying things like popcorn to check for nut allergy content, as sometimes fancy popcorn can have pecan or peanut if the variety has chocolate added.

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Pancakes are super break filler-uppers if you have a child who either doesn’t eat much before school, so ends up hungry around 10am, or if your kid is just a big eater anyway, going through a growth spurt and is starving all the time! 

 

They are something you don’t automatically think of for break, but my son’s school always suggest it on the healthy break note at the start of term and remind me, so I’m stealing their idea totally. Plain pancakes can be a bit of a bore, so why not make break a bit more interesting for them by sending them a fancy M&S one?  

 

There are Blueberry Pancakes, Raisin and Syrup Pancakes, Mandarin Orange Pancakes and Belgian Chocolate Pancakes. All packes are £2 or under.  

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Lastly, these Breakfast Biscuits come in packs of 6 with 2 biscuits in each for £2. Although they are suited to before school, I thought they would also be great for popping in a school bag for break for an older child say maybe from P5 and up, definitely for secondary school kids, for keeping their energy and brain power up through the morning. 

Check out all the current Marks and Spencer In Store Food Offers here. 

M&S’s ‘Tastes of The British Isles’ Range Even Includes a Swanky Upgrade for Paddington Bear’s Marmalade Sandwiches!

 Rib Rack £6

Rib Rack £6

It may be a little drizzly today, but there are still two weeks left of the summer, which means we can still fit in a couple more bbqs, right? Or at least some indoor ones, using some of the great British-sourced produce from M&S

I called in store at their Bangor Bloomfield branch today to pick up some treats from the ‘Tastes of the British Isles’ range, sourced from farms across Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and stretching throughout the whole Food Hall. 

What first caught my eye was this tasty little rib rack that would suit friend of Marks & Spencer, Paddington Bear! He loves his marmalade sandwiches, and this is a marmalade glazed pork rib rack. Even Paddington can upgrade his dinner by shopping in Marks and Sparks!

There are lots of great deals on their meats right now too (check out all the offers here)  including 2 for £5 on selected sausages, and 3 for £10 mix and match across fish and meats. Selected beef joints are down from £15 to £10, ideal for Sunday dinner.

 Cheese Melt £3 : Coleslaw £1.50 

Cheese Melt £3 : Coleslaw £1.50 

Keeping in the chilled meats section I spied the rainbow of sausages! I’ll be taking this spread of food to Sunday lunch to share with my family so there will be something for everyone.

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I’m a sucker for a novelty, so chose the Red Leicester & Smokehouse Ketchup Cheese Melt to try on the burgers.

 

The Skinny Slaw (above) I’ve tried before and it’s so good. Coleslaw is something I do avoid when I’m being healthy because it’s got so much mayo on it (says the person who just bought a slab of cheese) but this coleslaw is just as good and is so fresh and sweet. It looks pretty on a plate too. 

 £1 a pack

£1 a pack

 

 

M&S Cornish Cruncher cheese is one of my favourite cheeses, so these baps will be Super I’m sure. I’ll have to make sure I get one of the yellow ones on Sunday when we try them. I’ll be sharing my verdict on my Instagram.

 Blackcurrant Eclair £2.50

Blackcurrant Eclair £2.50

The ‘Tastes of the British Isles’ desserts are classics and very hard to choose from. There are Bakewell tarts, Crumbles, Eton Mess, Rhubarb and Custard, and much more. I picked a few to try and as you can see they are even beautiful to look at, never mind to taste.

I feel like I should be putting on and afternoon tea like one of the posh hotels with a tea set and a layered tray with all my pastries , they are that pretty.

 Fresh Strawberry Tart £3.60

Fresh Strawberry Tart £3.60

 Sticky Toffee Mini Cake £2

Sticky Toffee Mini Cake £2

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Smix sneaked in a British Classic- a very chocolatey Fudge Cake. We actually buy this cake often, he loves it. It only costs £2.80 and you won’t find a more moist cake without making one yourself.

Long time readers will know I have a ‘thing’ for the scent of violet, and the taste of rose, so although the Lemon Rose Presse isn’t strictly Taste of British Isles, it is Summery, and I had to give it a whirl, it is GORGEOUS.

 

 Presse £2.20 : Jam £1.80 : Brittle £3.20

Presse £2.20 : Jam £1.80 : Brittle £3.20

Rhubarb, Raspberry & Rose Jam, one thing I love about M&S is that they make products that you can’t get in other supermarkets. I am the type of shopper that will always try the new flavour over the old favourite. In other words if I go into a shop to buy a bag of crisps and there’s a new flavour, I’m always going to buy that rather than the same old one. 

That’s why my Instagram is always flooded with weird and wonderful food products I’ve found in random little shops, or hauls from Euro  or Asian Supermarkets.

So I love that Marks and Spencer are always trying unusual products like Sea Salt and Vinegar Caramels this summer, like Beetroot and Apple Coleslaw Skinny Slaw. They currently have grapes that taste like a Candy Floss, Mango, and Strawberries on sale in the Bloomfield Bangor Store.

 Cheesecake £1.80 : Milkshake £1.30

Cheesecake £1.80 : Milkshake £1.30

Lastly, the ‘Tastes of the British Isles’ range reaches the takeaway section too, with sandwiches and rolls to choose from, as well as desserts. My favourite though is the Applewood Smoked Ginger Beer Gammon with Tangy Mustard Dip- how do M&S make everything sound so darn tasty even in the description?!

Their sausage rolls are pretty stellar too, I discovered that by accident one Christmas time when I got hooked.

So, I’ll keep you updated over on Instagram on Sunday on the feast including the Paddington-esque Marmalade ribs! Follow me on over!

 Sausage Roll £2 : Gammon £2.50

Sausage Roll £2 : Gammon £2.50

#MakeMineAMauds Ice Cream, Celebrating Five Gold Stars At This Year’s Great Taste Awards

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Everyone from Northern Ireland knows it’s summer when they’ve had their first Pooh Bear’s Delight, Maud’s Ice Cream ‘poke’ of the year. The famous vanilla and honeycomb chunk flavour ice cream is one of Carrickfergus-based Maud’s best sellers, and one of the flavours to receive a gold star at this year’s Great Taste Awards, along side their newer Sea-Salted Caramel offering which also received a gold star.

 

 

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Another of their gourmet flavours placed at the highest level with the top accolade of three gold stars, the absolutely delicious Salted Almond ice cream. I can verify to the deliciousness as Maud’s kindly dropped by with the award winning flavours for us to try this afternoon.  

I hadn’t tried the Salted Almond before, and all I can say is it’s very, very moreish! I tried it with a little toffee sauce and the sweetness really set off the salt flavour. The ice creams are made with fresh, whole milk and cream from the North Coast of Ireland, with ingredients sourced locally.

If you get a chance to try it at a Maud’s Cafe or stockist (you can check locations here) I would highly recommend it. 

You can find Maud’s on Twitter & Instagram @MaudsIcecreams  

IKEA Bring Back Iconic Products From The 50s, 70s & 80s -For a Limited Time Only

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IKEA’s latest limited-edition collection embraces some of its most classic products including the LÖVBACKEN side table, which was their very first flat-pack product, way back in the 1950’s.

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The collection will have three launch moments - August, October and December - each of which will re-introduce iconic IKEA products in the style and design of certain decades and bring fan-favourites bang up to date.

 


Other new products this month include the GAGNET armchair – the handmade product which was launched in 1958 when IKEA’s first store opened in Almhult, Sweden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The famous POÄNG chair and KLIPPAN sofa also get a makeover in August, with new covers and accessories, a ‘hack’ for the classics.

In October, the ‘70s and ‘80s design trends return with the RÅANE armchair, which launched in 1983 and challenged the traditional design of the armchair with its mesh material finish. The KLIPPAN will get new covers in vivacious red, yellow and blue to match the rest of the launch’s style.

The final stage of the “Re-imagined Classics” collection launches in December with the minimalist ‘90s and ‘00s, mixing untreated, blonde Scandinavian woods with graphic patterns.

I have the retro side table myself in my lounge and it’s so stylish, I just love it. It’s a total classic. I’m looking forward to seeing the collection in Ikea Belfast over the coming months and maybe picking up a few of the pieces.

Vintage Rocks Unveils The Cactus Cottage Hair Parlour in South Belfast

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When Clare Afshar started Vintage Rocks Hair Salon in 2009 in a little Avenue in South Belfast, she hoped, but she never dreamed of the success that would come her way as the business grew in size and prestige over the years. Word of mouth ‘marketing’ would swell her customer base month by month, as tales would be spun about the little, retro hair parlour near Forestside, creating the most stunning coloured barnets in Belfast, and bohemian curls to die for. (click any photo for a closer look)

Clare took on more stylists, trainees, and even an in-house makeup artist in the later years, as business kept booming. Clare and her team are known for beautiful, intricate wedding hair, weaving in fruit and flowers. They are kept busy all year long with weddings, and Clare loves making someone’s special day flow easily.

But as the books grew bigger, Clare felt that part of what made Vintage Rocks unique, was being lost- she wanted to scale things towards a private salon. 

Private salons are very common in bigger cities like London, L.A. and New York, and Clare can keep her client list and work to an appointment only schedule in the brand new salon she has had made especially for the relaunch. 

Introducing, The Cactus Cottage Hair Parlour. 

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Vintage Rocks was Belfast’s first vintage hair salon, and Clare will still specialise in those styles, along with coloured hair and curls. She uses beautiful products which are all cruelty free. 

All appointments are one-to-one, and whether Clare is working with someone who is young or old, she just loves making them feel wonderful when they leave the salon, and happy with their style.

Being a private salon allows a more ‘distilled’, exclusive Vintage Rocks experience, which is more true to the origins of the parlour and what Clare envisioned from the beginning, and what she wants going forward for the salon and her clients.

There’s a reason Vintage Rocks boomed in popularity so greatly, and why Clare is in such great demand. Personally, I have been going to Vintage Rocks since it opened in 2009, and I drive from Bangor, which is a good 90 minute round trip to get my hair done- but it’s worth it, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else; and of course I will be following Clare to the Cactus Cottage.

Find Vintage Rocks on Facebook. 

Vintage Rocks on Instagram

Phone 07565753900

click any photo of the salon below to enlarge

 

Karen Mabon’s New Scarf Collection Is Ultra Iconic - Partying Sausage Dogs

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My favourite accessory designer is back with her new collection, with party sausage dogs, owls, and under-sea adventures adding to the family of silk scarf prints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time Karen Mabon adds glorious swimwear to her brand, and I love it.

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The purist in me loves Karen’s scarves the most though, and I adore to the core the ‘Fashion Scarf’ covered in dolled up fashion victims like me. I totally spy a leopard print coat and a stripy skirt.

 

 

It comes in two colours.

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My other favourite from the new collection, probably my actual top favourite to be honest, is Shelf Life because it appeals to the collector in me. You’ve got your little teapot and leopard and sideboard and I just love it to bits.

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Okay! Go visit Karen Mabon today, you get free UK shipping, the new collection is live, new scarves, swimwear, there’s cushions too, there will be umbrellas soon too (if you keep up to date with Instagram stories you get sneak peeks!)

 

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Snazzy Picnic Week Lunch- Thanks, DELI-LITES!

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The sunny weather has returned, just in time for Picnic Week! Northern Ireland’s own delicious sandwich, sub and salad range DELI-LITES popped by with a little picnic for me. 

Their newest food-to-go range includes dairy free, vegan and gluten free options, as well as superfood bespoké bowls, filling subs, and traditional much loved sandwiches. 

You can find DELI-LITES in Sainsburys, convenience stores and coffee shops across Northern Ireland.