Europe trip – Part Two – Dublin

On our recent trip to Europe, we went to Dublin after our week in London and Guildford.  You can read all about Week One over here.

DAY ONE – Dublin

Monday

We flew from London to Dublin on a Monday afternoon, leaving from London City airport.  Our flight was delayed so it was a boring afternoon sitting at the boarding gate, waiting for the plane to be “fixed”! Eventually, though, we were on our way.

Once landed in Dublin (it was nice and sunny), we caught the “Aircoach” bus to our friends’ house, near University College Dublin (UCD) in Blackrock. This bus was easy to catch from the airport and gave us a bit of a tour through the city.

Our time in Dublin was spent staying with friends who we’ve known for many many years. This time was so precious and I couldn’t believe we were actually there, at their house, in their kitchen, playing with their children. They were so hospitable and gave us such a wonderful time. We felt so blessed to be with them.

Upon arrival, we enjoyed a beautiful home-cooked meal and relaxed and chatted until late.

DAY TWO – Dublin

Tuesday

We were treated at “home” to a delicous breakfast of pancakes with fruit this morning – wow!

In order to purchase tickets for the local bus system, we went to the local shop and got all sorted out. We needed what is called a “Leap Card”. We used our newly purchased Leap Cards to ride the bus into Dublin, where we walked around, exploring the city.

Lunch was at the Marks & Spencer rooftop cafe which was really good.  We met some new friends here!

Dublin seagull

After lunch, we purchased “Hop on hop off” bus tickets and spent most of the afternoon staying on the bus listening to the driver’s commentary (he was a funny man!). This is actually a really good way to see the city (especially when the weather isn’t great).

In the evening we enjoyed another delicious dinner back at “home”, before venturing out to a couple of local pubs.

First stop was Gleesons.  This place was nice, quite fancy and posh.  We enjoyed a drink here before moving on to the next one.

Next stop was The Old Punchbowl.  If you ever get the chance – visit this place!  This was an old, traditional pub where there was an older crowd of regulars. They brought their musical instruments along and burst into traditional Irish song.  The atmosphere was amazing.  They guy who played the little piano accordian was 94 years old and he was playing that thing like a charm. It was a great night!

DAY THREE – Dublin

Wednesday

This morning’s breakfast at “home” was smoked salmon, mashed avocado and cream cheese on yummy bread – we love it here!

Today the weather was cold and rainy but we went back into the city and had lunch at St Stephens shopping centre.

Dublin

Then it was on to investigate Trinity College and the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a very old,  beautifully decorated book containing the four gospels of the Bible in Latin. Some of the pages were projected on the walls with written explanations to go with them.

From here, it leads in to the Old Library, where the oldest and largest collection of books in Ireland are kept.  The oldest harp in Ireland is also kept here.  This place is beautiful.  You must visit this place.

The Old Library, Dublin

After this, we went to the Little Museum of Dublin.  Our lady tour guide here was very entertaining.  She basically showed us through two rooms which contained pictures, paintings and letters from all stages of Irish history. Very educational. There is also a room downstairs devoted to Irish music, in particular U2.

We went for a walk to Temple Bar then, to a cafe called “Queen of Tarts” – another place that should be high on your list! Here we enjoyed an incredible afternoon tea of lemon meringue pies and berry and apple crumbles.  The cakes in their glass cabinet are all so impressive and tempting, it’s so hard to choose.

Queen of Tarts, Dublin

Dinner tonight was at Tribeca, a local restaurant with beautiful food.  Check it out here.

DAY FOUR – Dublin

Thursday

We started our day with a delicious breakfast at a local cafe called Rocketfoods – check it out here. This place is small but very popular with the locals. I had the porridge which came with honey, blueberries and cream to pour on – yum! Perfect on a cold day. (Note to self: must try to recreate this at home.)

Once all fueled up, we drove out to the Brú na Bóinne visitor’s centre and toured both Newgrange and Knowth.  Here there are huge Irish passage tombs – earthern mounds which are covered in lush green grass. They are said to be older than the pyramids (dating back to 3200BC) and with quite mysterious histories! These tours were fascinating (you travel out to each place on a bus from the visitor’s centre).  If you go to Dublin, try to get out to this place! The countryside on the way is also a highlight. Sheep farms and narrow roads make this quite the adventure!

Knowth, Ireland

Tonight we went out for dinner to an Italian pizza place called Basil.  The food here was really good and we even managed to squeeze in dessert pizzas too (nutella, raspberries, whipped cream….). They were crazy-good!

DAY FIVE – Dublin

Friday

The alarm went off at 6am this morning and we quickly downed a piece of toast and a coffee before taking a taxi to the airport.  Our time in Dublin was over and it was time to say goodbye to our friends. Our Irish adventure was fantastic and we will never forget it. Thank you to our friends for making it so special!

Leaving Dublin

Where to next?  It’s time to get excited for Paris!  Tune in next time to hear all about it!

Trina xx

 

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Europe trip – Part One – London

Our little family of four went on a four week trip to Europe in September this year. This trip has been a dream of ours for years and it was such a privilege and thrill to experience the reality of this dream. Our girls are 13 and 15 years old and were an ideal age for this kind of holiday.

The girls were able to physically handle their own luggage (came in handy when trying to board trains in a hurry), they were able to walk all day long without needing to be carried 😊, they had genuine interest in the historical aspects of where we went and were prepared to take the time to learn and appreciate everywhere we visited. They were a pleasure to take!

So, over the next month or so, I will take you through our trip week by week and outline what we did, where we went and let you know any tips or tricks we discovered along the way.  This was my first time leaving Australia, ever, so it was a huge deal for me!

We were gone for four weeks exactly.  We visited London, Dublin, Paris and Rome. Today I will tell you all about our London leg!

Our flight from Australia was very long but it went smoothly.  Read about how I coped with the long haul flight over here.

LONDON – DAY ONE

Sunday

Today we landed in Heathrow – London and took the train to our apartment in Hyde Park, booked through Air BnB. We had pre-purchased Oyster cards which made our Tube travel on arrival very stress free. Our local Tube stops were Bayswaer and Queensway which are on differnt lines.  This was very handy! We stayed int the ground floor level of this apartment building. It was very comfortable and was a good home for us in London.

Hyde Park apartment

LONDON – DAY TWO

Monday

Took the Tube to Westminster and walked along Westminster Bridge to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye. Then we walked to Westminster Abbey where we did a self-guided tour.  This was worth doing!  Loved it.

After a quick lunch of pre-packed sandwiches across the road from the Abbey, we walked along Whitehall where we stumbled upon Downing Street with it’s heavily guarded and gated entrance. Then we came across the changing of the guard of the Household Cavalry.  This was an unexpected surprise!

The Queens Cavalry, London

We continued walking on to Trafalgar Square and then onto Picadilly Circus (which was covered in scaffolding! 😕).

Then it was on to the British Museum.  The British Museum is free entry so we just took our time in the ancient Egytian section, vowing to return another day. The British Museum is a must-see if you are visiting London! Just walk in whenever you are in the area. There is always something amazing to see there.

British Museum

Took the Tube back to our place. Lots of walking today but you really get to know the city well by pounding it’s pavements.

DAY TWO – LONDON

Tuesday

This morning we visited the Tower of London, once again opting for a self-guided audio tour (they are the way to go!). Here we were able to see the Crown Jewels which was quite mind-boggling (no photos allowed). Definitely worth doing. This tour took all morning.

Tower of London

We were starving by the end of the morning, so we walked across Tower Bridge and continued along the edge of the Thames to Southwark, where we bought a yummy lunch at the Borough Market.  This place was buzzing with all sorts of street food, buskers and local produce.

From here it was a short walk to Tate Modern Art Gallery. Managed to spot a Monet and Picasso painting here, but it was just a quick look. We were ready for a lie down by this stage in the day!

DAY THREE – LONDON

Wednesday

Today was our tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace!!  I was so excited about this and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip for me.  When the Queen is away for the summer in Balmoral, 10 weeks of every year, the Palace’s State Rooms are open to the public (no photos allowed).  We pre-booked this tour online and I would recommend doing that.  You risk missing out otherwise. It was such a privilege to have access to the Palace and it’s grounds. If you are in London at the right time of year, definitely do it!

Buckingham Palace

We left the Palace (reluctantly) after stopping for a coffee on the Queen’s back verandah, and walked to St Jame’s Park.  Here we saw squirrels and went crazy over them. SO cute!

Squirrel in St James Park, London

This afternoon was shopping on Oxford Street time!  We bought quite a few things here, but were very conscious that we still had over three weeks left of our trip and our suitcases were already full!  It is amazing what you can squeeze in when you really want to though. The store Lush was high on the agenda.

Lush, Oxford Street, London

DAY FOUR – LONDON

Thursday

Today we thought we’d try our luck at Kensington Palace.  We had tried to pre-book this from home but all the sessions were booked out.  We turned up just before it opened and got in!  I was thrilled about this because I really wanted to see the special exhibition dedicated to Princess Diana – Her Fashion Story (being her 20 year anniversary this year).  This was fantastic.  We also saw the Queen’s State Apartments, the King’s State Apartments and a section from Queen Victoria’s time.  It is steeped in history, but doesn’t have the grandeur of Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms. It is unique in its own way.

Kensington Palace

Had our sandwiches in the front yard of Kensington Palace, then Tubed it to Tottenham Court Road.  We walked along Charing Cross Road and browsed in some old book shops. (And yes, the basement was worth a look!)

Bookshop, Charing Cross, London

Then we returned to the British Museum and spent time in the Greek section as well as the ancient Iran section and the Europe section. Could have spent all week in this place!  So much to see.

DAY FIVE – LONDON

Friday

Our time in the city of London is coming to an end today.  Before leaving though, we walked to Portobello Road Market. This is a fascinating place! Apparently Fridays and Saturdays are the best days to go (lucky for us!). Here we ate Nutella donuts the size of our heads (2 for £2, a good deal!).

Portobello Road market, London

After this we Tubed it to Waterloo Station and caught a country train south to Guildford. Very good friends of ours who lived near us in Australia for a few years now live in Guildford. We were going to spend the weekend with them in their town. A taste of real life in the UK! I had been really looking forward to this leg of our trip.

The fun started straight away with a few drinks at their local pub! I tried Pimms – mmmmm! Even the sky is pretty!

Guildford sky

 

DAY SIX – GUILDFORD

Saturday

Spent the day with our friends shopping and walking around, exploring their gorgeous town.  It is so pretty here.

High Street, Guildford, UK

DAY SEVEN – GUILDFORD

Sunday

Today our friends drove us to the nearby village of Shere.  This village is so quaint and typically English.  It actually features in a couple of movies (“The Holiday” and “Bridget Jone’s Diary”). We loved exploring here. There are some great places to poke around in and found a nice place for lunch.

Shere, UK

Back in Guildford later in the day we visited a different pub, The Weyside.  As the name suggest, it is right on the Wey River.  It is a very pretty pub and the Pimms here tastes pretty good too!

DAY EIGHT – GUILDFORD

Monday

Time to leave Guildford today.  Spending time with our friends here was so special and it was sad to leave.

We took the train back into London, to Waterloo Station. I love the inside of this place. Just had to show you!

Waterloo Station, UK

From here we took the train to London City Airport, ready to fly to Dublin!!

Flying London to Dublin

You’ll hear all about our Dublin adventures next time!!

I have just given you a brief outline of the places we visited (and tried to show you the highlights without boring you with too many photos), just to give you an idea of the things you can do around London and what we enjoyed. I would come back here in a heartbeat.

Just so you know, we booked our accommodation through Air BnB and found it to be excellent. We had researched the locations of each place very well and had specific things we were looking for (such as wifi, washing machine, separate beds for the girls, etc). Every place we stayed in was very well equipped and was a nice temporary home base. We would book like this again.

Trina xx

 

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Coconut milk icy-poles

At our house we love coconut milk icy-poles (they taste like “Smooze” icy-poles). They taste delicious and are good for you! They are also cheap to make compared to the bought version (and you know what’s in them).

I have been  making them for the last couple of summers and this year I have just made my first batch of the season – the freezer is stocked and ready! These “Smooze” -ish coconut milk icy-poles hit the spot straight after school and work on a hot day.  They are just what we feel like. I have made heaps this year because they never last long around here!

The thing I love about this “recipe” (it’s not really a recipe…..) is how simple it is and how veratile it is.

Here are the ingredients:

  • coconut milk (I use tinned)
  • fresh or frozen fruit of choice (eg, fresh banana, fresh strawberry, pineapple, fresh/frozen mango, fresh/frozen berry)

All you do is put the ingredients in a blender, then pour into icy-pole molds and put in the freezer for at least 4 hours (or overnight). The ratio of fruit to coconut milk is really up to you.  For example, I made a batch yesterday with 400ml coconut milk and one large banana. And I would use a generous handful of frozen berries for every 400ml of coconut milk.

You can add dessicated coconut if you like your icy-poles with texture and extra coconut-iness.

Choc/coconut is also an option if you add cocoa (instead of fruit), but I would add some sweetener such as honey or sugar to taste if you do this.

I don’t add sugar to my fruit coconut milk icy-poles because we don’t like them to be overly sweet, but if you would prefer to add sugar or honey then go for it. Just make sure you whizz it up well in the blender to dissolve it into the mixture.

Here is our raspberry version.

Coconut milk icy-poles

Let me know how you go with these.  I know you’re going to love them. What flavours did you make?

Trina xx

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Rainbow cake

 

My Rainbow Cake recipe is quick and easy and feeds a crowd.  The texture of this cake is so moist and smooth.  I usually make this recipe as a plain butter cake (see my Pear Butter Cake recipe), but this weekend called for a crowd-pleaser. We had some friends over for a BBQ lunch on Sunday and we were expecting a good number of kids, so something bright and colourful was in order.

Usually when I make a Rainbow Cake I colour 1/3 of the mixture pink, 1/3 brown with cocoa, and leave the remaining 1/3 plain.  This time though, I decided it needed some blue. So I divided the mixture into four equal parts and added blue food colouring to one portion, keeping the rest as I usually do.  I think it turned out very rainbowy!

Here is what the mixture looked like in the pan before baking. Don’t swirl too much.

Uncooked Rainbow Cake

And here it is after being in the oven for around 30min. Let stand 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Freshly baked Rainbow Cake

Once cool. Time to ice and decorate! This is my favourite part!

Pink icing on cake

Rainbow Cake iced and decorated

And here it is!

Rainbow Cake

 

Don’t forget to do the dishes…..(tip: pour the plain mixture portion into the baking pan and keep some back in the bowl to colour. This will save you a bowl to wash!)

Rainbow Cake dishes

If you would like to make this cake at your house, here’s the recipe:

Rainbow cake

Rainbow cake

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3 cups Self Raising flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Pink food colouring
  • Blue food colouring
  • 2 Tbs cocoa

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Grease and line a swiss roll tin.
  3. Place butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high until the butter melts. Stir to combine.
  4. Cool to room temperature. Add vanilla.
  5. In a bowl, combine eggs, caster sugar and sifted flour.
  6. Add the milk mixture.
  7. Beat with stand mixer on low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes until smooth.
  8. Divide mixture into four equal parts.
  9. Colour one portion of mixture pink, one blue, one brown with cocoa (I add 1 Tbs of water to this portion), and leave one portion plain.
  10. Pour portions of mixture into tin and swirl gently with a knife or wooden spoon (don't go crazy or the colours will mix up and change colour to "disgusting").
  11. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
  12. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning on to a cooling rack.
  13. When cool, ice and decorate as desired.
http://trinamichellehouse.com/rainbow-cake/

This Rainbow Cake cuts nice and cleanly which maximises the colourful effect of the cake. It is beautiful and moist. You could change the colours to whatever you like. Make your own special rainbow! Let me know how this cake is received at your next party or BBQ.

You will keep this recipe handy once you give it a try. I do!

Trina xx

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Long haul flight survival


We have just enjoyed a four week family holiday to Europe. It was the very first time I had been out of Australia, so it was quite the adventure for me! I did a lot of research into how to survive a long haul flight before we left.  As a consequence, I packed a backpack with all sorts of things! Some were very useful, while other things I didn’t use at all.

Now that we are home, I would like to share with you what I would take with me next time – and avoid over-packing!

All of the things I will suggest to you were in my backpack, but so were lots of other things!  Things I didn’t use but carried around with me for four weeks. Next time my bag for the plane will be much lighter.

When I say “long haul flight”, I mean long haul!  If you are Australian or have ever travelled to Australia you will know what I mean.  Australia is a very long way away from the USA and Europe.

We left Melbourne, Australia at 10pm one Friday night.  We endured a 14 hour flight to Abu Dhabi where we had a 2 hour stopover.  We reboarded the plane for another 8 hour flight to London, UK. It was 24 hours of travel.

You don’t have much room on the plane (in economy class!). I put my backpack by my feet so that I could easily access all my things.  This worked well even though it reduced my leg room.

Long haul flight hand luggage

Here is a checklist of the things I used in my hand luggage:

  • sunglasses
  • make-up removal wipes
  • good facial moisturiser (can also use as hand cream)
  • lip gloss
  • toothbrush, toothpaste + dental floss
  • deoderant
  • tissues
  • compact hairbrush or comb
  • hair tie
  • hand sanitiser
  • disinfectant wipes (I like to wipe down the table tray + arm rests)
  • pen
  • beanie
  • large warm scarf (doubles as a blanket)
  • mints
  • water bottle (you can get this filled up on the plane)

Hot Tip

I use the beanie for when I am sleeping.  I find that it blocks out light and sound and keeps me warm.  Add ear plugs if you want to. Sleeping with my beanie is better than an eye mask because it goes all the way around my head and I pull it down over my eyes (I’m not there to look good!).  Don’t knock it til you try it!

Hand luggage

Optional: novel or Kindle or other reading material.  I took a book but found that I couldn’t be bothered reading on the overnight flights. The inflight movies, music and tv shows were enough for me.

Also: I packed a spare set of underwear, leggings and a t-shirt just in case of lost luggage or spills on the plane.  These items I just rolled up and placed them at the bottom of my backpack.  It’s a “just in case” strategy that is a good idea if you have the room.

I hope this helps you on your next long haul flight!

Trina xx

 

 

 

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