Thursday, 30 October 2014

A checklist of 10 BEST places for tea & cake in Brighton

If someone asked you "what are you FOR?" what would you reply? I usually shrug off viral hashtags and turn my nose up at meaningless press releases as they come in thick and fast to my inbox, but this one made me sit up, stop and think.

If someone asked you "what are you FOR?" what would you reply?

We want to challenge the status quo. High five optimism. Empower us all to do something different where we live, and strive to live a life with more 'wow' and inspiration.

To inject some 'everyday creativity' and discover #WhatAreYouFOR, bloggers across the UK have been asked to put together a wee guide to inspire their readers to do something different in their cities. This, I love.

In true Fifi style, no trip to Brighton is complete without filling your belly with tea & cake, so I've brought together a list of 10 of the yummiest places to go do just that. If you're on a fleeting visit, make it your mission to pop to one of these cafés. If you live here, make it your checklist in the coming weeks.

So in no specific order, here are my faves. Get out there and go work, meet or read a book somewhere different...


1) METRODECO

This 1930's little tea palace makes a charming stop off following a trip to the beach or Brighton wheel. It's a skip and a hop away from the centre of Brighton in Kemptown, offering some of the finest handcrafted loose tea blends in Brighton. Pay a visit, it's like stepping back into the 1930s for an hour or so.

2) KEMPTOWN TRADING POST

Sticking with the kemptown theme here, this little café is a hot spot with all the locals. It's a greasy spoon/ quaint coffee shop/ antiques store hybrid and the staff there are the friendliest people. They knock up a mighty brew and one moreish millionaire shortbread.



3) MOCK TURTLE

Tucked away in the windy backstreets near Pool Valley, the Mock Turtle café is another eccentric, vintage stop off away from the hoards of shoppers in Brighton. This place is a hidden gem, boasting some of the most delicious scones (and donuts... *drools*) to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.

4) BLUEBIRD TEA CO.

With a self-confessed addiction to camomile tea, you can imagine how giddy I was a while back being handed the reigns to brew my own tea at Bluebird Tea Co. nestled in the heart of the North Laines. This place has the serious WOW factor if you're a tea connoisseur. If you find yourself wandering around the laines with the sun on your skin, pull up a deck chair outside their shop and grab yourself a matcha smoothie. You won't regret.


  
5) MARMALADE

Okay, okay it's another Kemptown gem, and this time a little more out of the way. But this place has the quirkiest interior and they sure make a God damn good sausage roll. If you're into your rustic decoration like I do, this place is worth popping into just for the home ideas. Plonk yourself down, paper in hand and grab yourself a cuppa. Best way to spend a Sunday.

6) SMALL BATCH

With a whole plethora of branches across Brighton (including one a few blocks from my house in Hove) this local coffee chain again have made some very inspiring interior choices. Is it just me who visits cafés for home ideas as well as a hearty brew? If you spot a small batch on your travels, hop in. All of their delicious brews are fairtrade and fantastic.

7) MARWOODS

A bit of a film buff are you? Marwoods is the place for you. The whole café upstairs and down is decked out along the theme of Withnail & I (hence the name). I've been to Marwoods often, sometimes with friends, sometimes on work meetings and it really is the perfect place for ANY affair, packed with charm and character... and blinding good victoria sponge, too. 


8) FARM

This place is one of the teeniest cafés in Brighton, but packed with rustic personality and lovely people. They do a cracking good bacon sarnie, THE place to make a beeline for on a hungover Sunday. Go as early as you can mind, a lovely place like this gets packed out by midday!

9) EMPORIUM

I've only visited this place twice. But already have wild plans in my head to pop down for lunch on my todd soon. Emporium lives and breathes good cake and a shabby chic atmosphere. It's right beside my work and sits there tempting me to go grab hot chocolate and chill out with my laptop everyday. *sighs* I love this place. It's not talked about nearly enough.

10) KENSINGTON'S

I know I said this was in no specific order, but I might just have saved the best until last. Kensington's has so many good memories for me. First dates, after school chats, saying goodbye to friends embarking on their travels... it's hands down my favourite café in Brighton. I love their wooden booths, their sunny balcony overlooking the North Laines bunting and festoon lighting, and their undefeated, delish fried eggs on toast. Bring me back!

Find out more about the city-loving smart and share your city inspirations with #WhatAreYouFOR. Here's the link: http://bit.ly/ZTnM5l



Tuesday, 28 October 2014

7 ways I've made my life better this month



1. Set up a pension

Okay so it hasn't officially been set up yet, but all the necessary steps have been made to start putting aside a chunk of cash so I live more comfortably once I come of age. I read an article about a year ago in the Guardian saying people in their early 20s (or younger) must start putting aside at least £30 a month for their retirement, or risk financially struggling.

It stayed with me ever since, and now that I've been lucky enough to have a salary rise, I've decided to invest that little bit extra into the future.

2. Planned my finances for the next 3 months down to the button

New boots, new converse, mortgage payments, replacing the guttering costs, (not in priority order, ha) there's an endless mental list I've had of things that need paying out which left me constantly worried about where the money will come from and when will I start digging into my overdraft.

Last week I sat down, created a Trello board of my earnings, mapped out exactly what I need to pay for and set budgets for the week. I can now rest easy and forget about money, knowing how much I have and how much I'm allowed to spend on what.

3. Arranged a damp survey... FINALLY

Not sure I've mentioned this previously, if you follow me on twitter you might have heard me ranting about it. As with a LOT of older properties in Brighton & Hove, we have had our fair share of damp issues, that sadly we have to fix and foot the bill for (the only moments where I wish I was renting!)

The problem has gone round in circles a bit. If you've ever suffered with condensation & damp problems in your homes, you'll understand how frustrating the 'trial and error' approach is. It constantly feels like there's no solution. So Neil & I have taken the plunge and booked in a damp survey to start fixing the problems.

Fingers crossed it'll be money well spent!



4. Mapped out blog events, posts and ideas with Trello

Hey look, it's behind the scenes of Fifi McGee. I know it doesn't appear like I'm this organised when you visit this page, but if you're a blogger too you'll know how much effort goes into every post. In a bid to keep track of campaigns I've been asked to work on, events that are upcoming and the constant stream of ideas (and no time to execute them!) I have, I've created a trello board to have everything in one place.

If you don't know what Trello is, you haven't lived.

5. Changed my shower head

You'll perhaps see more of this when I do a house tour (won't be for a while yet, but it will happen). 

Every morning I have a shower I begin my day miserable. Our old shower head had no force to it, the water felt more like it was being deployed from a faulty watering can from pound stretcher. Not the most optimistic start to every day.

Thank GOD for Methven. After researching their ranges, I found that if I changed my shower head to involve a more immersive 'spray' as long as the pressure of our water was fine, it should improve the shower experience to dodge the watering can feel.

I've currently got the Kaha Satinjet shower head and my life (and mornings!) have been revolutionised.

6. I've come up with a savings plan

There's 3 holidays coming up this year. A girls holiday. Where my tight-knit group of girls picked a name out of a hat to plan a surprise getaway with a budget. None of us are allowed to know where we're going until we get to the airport, woop woop. A family holiday. That'll give us the opportunity to 'tour' Germany (something I've wanted to do since I studied German in A-level). And a couples holiday. We're thinking Santorini or somewhere similar to lap up sun and eat damn good food.

Again, cue the trello board. I've worked out a budget for each, how long I've got until we have to book and divided the two to equal a monthly saving for each. Adulthood is fun.

7. Gave up milk & sugar in my tea

Black tea is so much fresher (and healthier). Try it.

What goals have you reached this last month?


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Carving a pumpkin: tips from a serious amateur

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween

1. Remember pumpkins are heavy.

You can't carry a large pumpkin and your weekly food shop all in one go, no matter how strong you think you are. Pumpkins aren't light little fellas. Order a cab, he'll be totally worth it :)

2. Spend as long as you like choosing your pumpkin

Who gives a crap if there's 10 people fighting for a look in at the pumpkin section in Tesco. It takes time to choose the perfect pumpkin for you. Think about where you want to position his face. Is the pumpkin evenly rounded? Is there a smooth, flat skin on at least one half of the fruit? Does he stand up okay when placed on a flat surface? All totally valid questions to ask yourself when making the purchase of a lifetime. Choose wisely and don't feel pressured by rushed shoppers.

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween


3. Get the right tools for the job

For the general cutting I used a steak knife (wa-wa-waaaaaa *sad trombone sound*) obviously an epic fail. If you've got the cash to splash buy a pumpkin carver. Also grab one of OXO's Good grips 2 piece fruit scoop sets. They have a sharp edge which eases the pressure needed to hollow it out. I couldn't have done it without mine. You also wanna make sure you have a sharpie, to mark out where you're cutting, and a bowl to collect all the gunk & flesh.

4. Start from the top of his head

Carve a 10cm diameter hole around the stem to dig out his innards. Watch out, the edge of the hole can get really tough, and sharp. If you have delicate hands like me and want to seriously impress any onlookers, grab a pair of gloves, any gloves. Protect those mitts from getting all red and sore when your repeatedly spooning.

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween


5. When hollowing him out, dig out as much flesh as your arm strength can cope with

If you take any tip from this amateur article, let it be this. Don't be lazy when it comes to hollowing out your pumpkin. If you think you've taken off enough of the flesh inside, take more off. The thinner you make him, the easier his face will be to carve and the more intricate you can be with the design. Of course, don't go making it too thin or you run the risk of him imploding :(

6. Google 'cute pumpkin designs'

The best part of the process. Yeah, yeah, halloween's supposed to be scary. But if you want to carve a pumpkin cat, you go right ahead and do that. I chose to carve a smiley vamp. Yay.

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween

7. Draw out his face onto A4 first

Once you peel yourself away from that google image search, (no, you'll never be as good at pumpkin carving as this so man up) draw out your simple design onto A4 first to use as a template. Those carvers who try to cut out a face without ANY guidance in place, you're brave, very brave.

8. Use photo mounting adhesive to position his face

I wouldn't go buying this especially, but if you have any lying around, or double sided sticky tape lurking in cupboards left unused, use it to stick the template face on to the pumpkin ready for cutting.

9. Make a silly gif of him taking shape

A total MUST.

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween


10. Give your pumpkin a name

And hey presto, you're done! Meet Gary.

Tips for carving a pumpkin at halloween

Send me your pumpkin pictures on twitter! I'm @fifimcgeee

P.s thanks to Neil W Shaw Photography, for taking snaps and "supervising"

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The autumn parka, inspired by my Rosie

Brighton beach: Parka style


An impromptu post today. I haven't done many of these recently. They're usually too rambly and unplanned with heavy 'text to photo' ratio. But when I read other blogs I actually enjoy reading the 'rambling' posts more, so here's my take at one. Hope you've got a cuppa on the go.

Autumn is officially here, there's wet leaves as far as the eye can see, the paths are getting frosty, ankle boots are out and the chunky layers that hid at the back of wardrobes finally see daylight again. Best time of year! I've been waiting all summer for this.

After reading my main girl Rosie's newest post on her blog (Everything's Rosie) today, I was stunned. She's posted one of her first outfit posts on her (mainly beauty related) blog, and she looks amazing. Of course, her effortless chic style, girly tartan scarf and new cosy parka got me and lots of her readers excited for the cold times ahead that I thought I'd share my parka too. Rosie, I see your parka and I raise you mine, haha. Who knows, maybe we could start a "The Autumn Parka" chain of posts? If you have one, share yours too!

My parka is old now. That pic up there was from 2012 (if you're reading this Neil, can you BELIEVE how long ago this was?! Feels like yesterday) It's still my pride and joy as it was back then and in brilliant condition. It's all fur lined in the inside and the hood and is the perfect coat for those chilly mornings. Best £100 I ever spent in Topshop all those years ago ;)

I'm off for a weekend in York tomorrow, and I've heard t'north is always FREEZING so I'll be packing this bad boy and tell you all about my travels when I'm home next week.

Have a great weekend folks :)

Oh, and go follow Rosie!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

If you're on a diet, look away now | Lindt Lime Chocolate Brownies


Delicious Lindt Lime Chocolate brownie recipe ››

Two days prior to me flying over to Ireland for bridesmaid duties for my fabulous sister's wedding, and I was in the kitchen baking up a storm, scoffing down Lindt's new Dark Lime Intense chocolate like as if I was a size 6 and told to put on weight. I wish

I always seem to catch the baking bug whenever I'm trying to eat healthily, so managed to stop at my third brownie and brought the rest in for the lads at work. They seemed to like them. 

I LOVE baking brownies. If there was any recipe that could be considered my 'speciality' without being laughable, it's this. I followed my old faithful Dark Chocolate & Raspberry recipe only replaced the raspberries for a citrus kick. I ground and smashed the Lindt chocolate into tiny pieces and added it into the mixture before baking, and it was moreish. 

Next time you bake brownies, pick up a few squares of this to spice up the flavour. Next time I'll be using Lindt's delectable Cherry Intense. Now imagine the taste of Cherry brownies and salivate!

Delicious Lindt Lime Chocolate brownie recipe ››


Delicious Lindt Lime Chocolate brownie recipe ››

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Interior Bargains #8: The perfect Herringbone blanket


Grey/White Herringbone throw £10, Primark

Hallelujah. It's a miracle. I've knabbed myself a herringbone blanket that looks the part and didn't cost the best part of £90 like all the others I want online.

Not sure if you know of Bronte throws? Non? Well I've had my eye on their soft, pastel grey blankets since forever. There's something very traditional and 'farmer-chic' about them that I've fallen head over heels for. 

Whilst I save up for a much better quality, thick Bronte version to call my own and keep me warm on wintery nights, I picked up this rather bargainous stand-in for only a tenner. It certainly looks the part, although there's about as much heat in it as a cat in an igloo. 

I love the delicate grey print, the white tassels and the way it effortlessly tosses over the new love of my life (Chesterfield sofa) giving it a wintery feel. Shame it's very thin, but in this case, I don't mind channelling style over substance. 

What do you think? The blanket comes in lilac and green too (at least if I remember correctly).... Let me at 'em!



Ps, just in case you didn't know, I'm trialling a little thing in October. Every day at about 9am (well, whenever I can muster up the energy) I'll be sharing a DAILY HOUSEPIRATION link/image on my facebook page to get inspired. If you fancy cheering up your newsfeed with some home love, give my page a like and get daily snippets of home ideas :), go ahead.

Like Fifi McGee on Facebook

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Tea & Cake at... Stanmer House (and other 'knobby russet' affairs)


How lucky are we that the weather's looking better than it did in August?! At least, that was the case for my visit to Stanmer House a few weekends ago, and also for my sister's wedding a few days ago (photos to come!)

Of course, before I left the house to embark upon a short drive out Falmer way, I wrapped up in a scarf and two layers, anticipating (and looking forward to!) an autumnal breeze. Stepped outside and it was hotter than the Med, a concrete jungle. Typical.

Since Neil & I got the car, it's any excuse to drive out to the country. A few weekends gone, we took an impromptu trip to the fabulous Stanmer House, about a 15 min drive from where we are, initially wanting some tea and cake, but ended up getting a bit more than we bargained for...






lols, had to include it

As we excitedly pulled in to the lane leading up to stanmer village we saw a big fete-like sign, 'Apple Day this way!'. Yep, typically, the morning we chose to go for a quiet stroll and cuppa tea ended up timed perfectly with one of Stanmer's biggest events of the year. A congregation of families, stalls, ciders, organic produce in all its finery. We weren't displeased by the crowds. There was a lot of hilarity to be had. 

We started off in the orchard. Took some shots of as many inuendo apple tree names we clapped eyes on and rolled forth to the bulk of the action. There were morris dancers, songs, table tennis-athons, apple pressing, you name it. Twas like a day at The Shire :)





Stanmer house itself is a stunner both outside and in. I had a whale of a time walking round the old country 'period living' styled rooms - if you're ever looking for interior inspiration, just hit up a café or wedding venues like Stanmer House and you'll be sure to return with some enviable furniture ideas and a longing for a grand open fire. It made me so excited for Christmas, as hot as it were.



Sunglasses, Primark
Scarf, Primark
Dress, Zara
Clutch c/o Kaliko
Boots, Topshop





We suitably stocked up on scones and mdtea, and had to rush back home for a long awaited delivery of our new chesterfield sofa. I went from one stately home, to trying to create my own in the space of two hours :) it was a really lovely way to spend a Sunday morning though, although I still wished for that crispness in the air. I looked bloody ridiculous wrapped up all cosy with sunglasses on. 





Have you visited Stanmer House before? Were you in awe as I was? I'm constantly on the lookout for villages, tea shops and country walks to write about so if you're from Sussex and know somewhere close by, drop me a line :)
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