M&S Spirit of Summer BBQ

How amazing has the weather been in Northern Ireland the last few days? 6 days in a row and due to last another 3 or 4!

Of course, it can only mean one thing…a BBQ!

I was very lucky to receive a package from Marks & Spencer on Friday containing products from its new Spirit of Summer range.

The range is described as “an adventure to explore the flavours of the Med” and is a mix of:

  • cold picnic items such as chorizo and chickpea tortilla, or calamari with seasoned rice
  • meats for the grill/BBQ including Pork Rib rack, and lamb grill steaks
  • drinks such as Blood Orange wheat beer or Olive Vodka
  • dressings and sauces including Sicilian Lemon and Basil vinaigrette, and Truffle Pesto
  • ready-to-cook meals which include Linguine with scallops, pancetta and peas or Paprika Beef Bake
  • food on the move such as Ham and Italian Smoked Cheese Piadina or Butternut Squash tabbouleh
  • bakery goods including Orange and almond cupcake, and Morello cherry and pistachio tart
  • snacks and treats such as Harissa sweet potato handcooked crisps or Prosecco Jellies
  • and desserts including Honey and Ricotta cheesecake or Greek Peach Roulade

Salivating yet?!

Included in my Spirit of Summer pack was all the goodies I needed to make a fantastic BBQ picnic and I couldn’t wait to get tucked in.

So on Saturday we fired up the BBQ and indulged in:

  • Tomato and feta chicken sliders
  • Chicken Souvlaki kebabs
  • Smoky spiced new potatoes with garlic aioli
  • Mixed slider grill (chorizo style pork sliders and Moroccan spiced lamb sliders)
  • Skinny Pork Sausages (a new part of the M&S low fat/’skinny’ range of meat products)

The BBQ was amazing- particularly the Tomato and feta chicken sliders! They tasted so good! The Chorizo pork sliders were also battling it out for my favourite product! Check out the pictures below.

The Spirit of Summer range is showcasing at this year’s Balmoral Show (10th-13th May) which I am going to, so I’ll be sure to pick up a few more of the products to try out if that taster pack was anything to go by!

M&S Spirit of Summer taster pack

Barry tending to the BBQ

BBQ on the go

Finished product- totally delicious!

BBQ a success- enjoying the sunshine!

Niamh’s first BBQ!



Cushendun Big Arts Festival

We love spending every weekend in Cushendun so we were really looking forward to attending our first Cushendun Big Arts Festival.

The festival, which is now in its fifth year, is a four-day event with the likes of music, drama, talks, exhibitions, poetry, story-telling and comedy.

With Barry being off work for May Day we were able to get along to every day of the festival and celebrate the culture of the village and the wider Causeway Coast and Glens.

One of the highlights for me was the guided walking tour of Cushendun, exploring the heritage of the five ‘Big Houses’, including Glenmona House (now owned by the National Trust and indeed, the hub of the weekend’s festivities.) As someone who is new to Cushendun in the past year, it was great to learn more about the beautiful area!

Barry’s highlight was the two-day foraging course he attended. On Saturday and Sunday he learnt how to identify, forage and cook wild foods, including wild garlic, pig nuts and meadowsweet. He said it was an fascinating course and in fact, he’s already been out foraging on his own since!

The other events we attended were “A Belfast Story”, a play by Sharon Dickson about a girl growing up in the Blitz (which was very similar to my granny’s own personal experience!); the pop-up tea rooms at Glenmona House; the Naturally North Coast and Glens Artisan Market (with handcrafted goods, foods and local produce); the family fun day at Glenmona which included archery and a puppet show; and the art exhibition in the Old Church which showcased photographs by young local children.

The Old Church was of real interest to me as the Cushendun Building Preservation Trust is currently working to restore the church to make it into a permanent community, heritage and arts space.

I really enjoyed the whole Festival and it was great to see so many people enjoying themselves on what turned into a great sunny weekend!

All set for the guided walking tour

One of the five ‘big houses’, Glenmona House

Walking Tour- Cushendun Caves

Walking Tour- Johann the goat

Foraging course- Barry watching intently

Foraging for pig nuts

Old Church

A Belfast Story

Artisan Market


Glenarm Castle Tea Rooms

I often past Glenarm on my way back from Cushendun to Belfast along the Coast Road but had never been to its famous landmark, Glenarm Castle.

That was until last week when I was invited along to visit the property to try out their newly renovated Tea Rooms and take a sneak peak at the Walled Garden ahead of their annual May Day weekend Tulip Festival.

Now in its 11th year, the Festival is well-known on the horticultural scene, as well as being a family fun day with music, childrens’ entertainment and a range of local crafts.

Upon arriving, we were very lucky to get into the Castle which is only open to the public for guided tours on certain dates throughout the year.

There, we were welcomed by none other than Lady Dunluce, the wife of Randal, Viscount Dunluce, son of the 14th Earl of Antrim. We then made our way to the Walled Garden and the tulip display was beautiful! Such colour!

It was then time for dinner in the new Tea Rooms. 2017 has seen the Tea Room extended and revamped and offers guests the likes of a cosy lunch or afternoon tea.

We sampled the Glenarm Beef burgers, pulled pork burgers, arancini and more. Check out the food below! Thanks to Lady Dunluce for having us!

Lady Dunluce welcomes us to Glenarm Castle


Launch of La Taverna at Fratelli

Italian restaurant Fratelli opened in Great Victoria Street in 2015 and has grown from strength to strength.

Two weeks ago saw the launch of an elegant new wine bar on the premises, La Taverna, situated in the transformed upstairs area!

As well as stocking a huge selection of wine, La Taverna will also be offering tapas-style sharing plates known as Cicchetti. These include Piadina (filled flatbreads) and Cicchetti Fritti (a Fried Calamari dish).

The big draw for me is the balcony where guests can watch the world go by under the awning with outdoor heating! We sat out there for ages!

At the launch we sampled the wine and sharing plates on offer and were even treated to performances from fire-breathers and an Opera singer!

La Taverna is fresh and sophisticated, offering a real treat for wine enthusiasts, and I think it will work very well in Belfast!


Reflexology by Joanne

For a few years now I have been fascinated by reflexology, a treatment based on the principle that points on the feet correspond to areas throughout the body.

For example, one small part of the sole of the foot could reveal tension in the shoulder or the lower back. In turn, reflexologists work on, and massage, that part of the foot to restore imbalances.

I’ve had reflexology done a number of times and always feel very relaxed after the treatment. In fact, it is said to relieve stress as well as improve your mood and your sleep.

I was invited to avail of a session by Joanne, owner of “Reflexology by Joanne”. She is based in Randalstown but provides a mobile service so you can have the treatment in the comfort of your own home!

Joanne came to my mum’s house on Thursday night and I was able to enjoy the reflexology while mum looked after Niamh. For over half an hour, she worked on both feet, paying particular attention to where the areas of tension were showing up.

After the session, Joanne was able to tell me that I had built up tension in my head and neck. I was amazed by this as I suffer from tension headaches and am very prone to knots in the neck and shoulder areas.

The treatment was extremely relaxing and I do feel that it helped me sleep well that night! (albeit, between night feeds!)

I loved that the session took place in my mum’s house and found that this would be perfect for individuals or small groups, such as hen parties. Joanne also provides reflexology sessions for social and charity events, as well as wellbeing services for businesses.

For more, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ReflexologybyJoanne or Twitter @ReflexologyNI



Breakfast with Rory Best!

This week I attended a special breakfast – an audience with Ireland and Ulster rugby star, Rory Best, no less!

The breakfast, which took place at the House of Sport in Belfast, was hosted by Irish organic yogurt company Glenisk which is the official yogurt supplier to the IRFU.

Over 160 rugby supporters got the chance to meet ambassador Rory Best, as well as take part in a question and answer session with the sporting legend.

Breakfast, as you can imagine, was a great mix of healthy dishes such as Glenisk Greek style Blueberry, yogurt and oat pancakes, and scrambled free range eggs made using Glenisk organic cream.

It was brilliant to see so many young faces who were in awe at meeting their hero! Thanks to Glenisk for the invite and the lovely morning!

Things are about to get Wilde at the MAC

The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde’s most famous farce, is set to take to the MAC stage in Belfast this month.

Regarded as one of his finest works, this humorous take on Victorian high society is arguably one of the Irish playwright’s most enduring comedies, with some of the funniest and well-known lines of any of Wilde’s plays.

A new co-production by Bruiser Theatre Company and the MAC, showing exclusively at the MAC this spring, The Importance of Being Earnest will open for a three-week run until 15 April 2017.

The recurring themes of marriage, courtship and mundane social obligations ring as true today in this punchy retelling of the classic as when Wilde first put pen to paper.

Boasting some of the funniest lines in the English language, this is Earnest for a 2017 audience interpreted by an all-male cast.

Starring Joseph Derrington as protagonist Algernon Moncrieff and Joseph O’Malley as Jack Worthing, who become entangled in a hilarious plot, forcing each to maintain their fictitious personae ‘Earnest’ to win the hearts of two endearing ‘women’.

Simon Magill, Creative Director at the MAC, said: “The MAC is an organisation that champions new, innovative artistic experiences for audiences and artists alike. We’re delighted to present Wilde’s classic in Bruiser Theatre Company’s vibrant theatrical style.  The Importance of Being Earnest will be a guaranteed night of entertaining fun for those familiar with and new to Oscar Wilde.”

Lisa May, Director, Bruiser Theatre Company said: “Our adaption of The Importance of Being Earnest is a real treat for lovers of classic Wilde, but also for theatre-goers looking for an all-out comedy night at theatre. In our version, we stay true to Wilde’s original words and characters, but deliver in the unique Bruiser style.

“We’ve been working hard to tackle Wilde’s comic masterpiece – bringing to the fore timeless themes of relationships and identity, still as relevant to audiences today as ever.”

Tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest are now on-sale at themaclive.com.

L to R - Joseph Derrington, Joseph O'Malley, Samuel Townsend, Chris Robi...Richard Croxford (Miss Prism)BACK - Chris Robinson, Richard Croxford, Samuel Townsend, Ross Anderson ...