Visiting Dry & Fly Dublin

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Since I've moved to Dublin, I've found it incredibly difficult to fit in enough 'me time.' 

Work can sometimes lead to long hours and early starts and I've found that fitting in everything else around it can be tricky at the best of times. Exercise and healthy eating I can do (at a stretch) but more often than not I tend to leave the house / gym with my hair barely brushed and thrown back into whatever style I can manage in 5 mins or less.

Then last week I heard about the new Dry & Fly Dublin opening up on Wicklow Street and was invited to come along and see what it was like.

And I loved it.



My appointment was at 7am and I received the warmest welcome from the moment that I walked in. I was offered teas, coffees, prosecco (was 7am too early? This is the kinda thing that I debated as I reluctantly chose the tea) and the staff filled me in on all the lovely options I could choose for my blow dry. I opted for waves because I'm useless at creating that look myself and god knows my hair doesn't need to get any flatter than it already is.

Curly it was.


As you can see from the photo up top, Danielle (my incredible hairdresser that morning) did a phenomenal job. I posted that photo up on Instagram fairly soon after my appointment and received more texts and messages before lunch than I usually get in 24 hours. It was crazy. Everyone thought I'd gotten a whole new hair style. I didn't, I just gave my hair some TLC for once!


And I really need to do it more often. It was such a fantastic way to start my morning and put me in a great mood all day. I felt like I had my own little pamper session over and done with before 8am and I walked into work feeling like a complete powerhouse. Can I have it all? No, but I can take 40 mins or so and give myself great hair in the morning and I think I can live with that.

If anyone wants to check out the salon, their website is linked here.

The Lookbook Blowdry that I got usually costs €28, but they've limited numbers in their Blow Dry Club allowing ladies to get one blow dry a week every month for €80.

Aside from hair, the salon also does nails, make up and combo packages of the above so it's definitely worth checking out if you've an occasion coming up but no time to prepare or even if (like me!) you just decide that you need a little mid-week treat.

Any questions, feel free to drop me a message! As usual, my email is linked above.
Alternatively just go straight to the source and ask the lovely people over at Dry & Fly!

Sorcha x

Quito Tips and Travel Advice

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We've loved our time travelling around Ecuador and although we didn't visit the Galapagas, we don't regret it in the slightest.

If you're backpacking on a budget, there's a million other things to keep you entertained, and I'm using this post to share a few of my thoughts on touring the country!

First stop for us was Quito.

Quito is a city built in a volcanic crater and, beautiful as it is, this means a lot of hills. So prepare for steps and uphill struggles everywhere. The upside to this is that the view points are stunning; and we can vouch that the Telephonica cable cart up to the top of the city is a must do. It's about $10 and well worth the view of the city. Same goes for climbing the bell tower at the Basicalla - about $3 and a load of steps, but absolutely phenomenal.

We decided to skip most museums and galleries given our short time frame for our stay in the city, but another must do is visiting the Middle of the World museum. We went there basically wanting the photo opp standing on both sides of the equator, but the tour guide had us doing all kinds of experiments and gravity games that made the trip one of the most entertaining from our time in Quito. Again, it cost about $10 per person for the trip, but I felt it was reasonable.

We also spent about a day taking a taxi tour of the city which worked out at $25 per person and basically meant that we had a personal chauffeur for the day. It was super handy for getting to see all the sights in one go and ended up far better value overall than a hop on hop off tour.

One of the biggest attractions for us while we stayed in Quito was the hot springs of Papallacta. We'd read up on how luxurious the spa was and felt that for $100 each, it was a treat worth indulging in. But we never did make it to the Papallacta spa we set out for. Neither myself nor my boyfriend speak a word of Spanish, so we were relying entirely on charades and directions from the local tourist office to get us there. It would've worked too, except for the one not so obvious glitch - there's three different springs that people visit in Papallacta. We had three different sets of directions. To cut a long story short, we ended up lost on a highway after getting the wrong stop and ultimately ended up landing in hot springs used by locals, with not a single tourist bar us in sight. We actually ended up having a great time and between transport (buses and taxis) and the entrance fee, we paid about $10 each, not the $100 expected. In hindsight, I'd say you should book the trip in advance with a tour company, but if you're really strapped for cash and don't want to miss out, the local hot springs are still relaxing and surrounded by equally breathtaking views.

Another attraction we wanted to do but didn't have time was Cotapaxi, a dormant volcano on the outskirts of Quito. Unless you're an experienced trekker and have come equipped for a harsh climb, you'll probably just want to do the lagoon and visitor centre tour. We heard from a few of our fellow travellers that it's a great tour and not too dear.

In terms of accommodation, we stayed in Jumbo Lodgings followed by Colonial House Hostel followed by Hotel Eugenia. The first two cost us about $24 for a double room with breakfast per night. I can't speak highly enough of the staff we met in each place and the beds, showers, WiFi, etc were all fine. I'd picked accommodations based on their ratings on Hostelworld.com and TripAdvisor, so I knew we were getting the best available. That said, we found that both lacked a real backpacker presence and were a bit on the quiet side, but I've been told most hostels in Quito are similar at this time of year.

Hotel Eugenia however was perhaps one of the nicest hotels in the city. We moved completely away from Old Town and used this as our base for New Town. We only stayed there one night and felt incredibly underdressed landing in to the reception in our hiking boots and trekking shorts! This hotel costs about $70 a night, but the breakfast, staff, facilities and rooms are second to none in Quito. It's a perfect base for clubbing and seeing New Town and a quick walk from restaurants, parks and all kinds of supermarkets.

In terms of tips, all I can really say is ask your hotel/hotel staff for help organising local tours, you'll get bargain adventures that you'd otherwise spend a bomb for. Second, taxis are dirt cheap, so if you can't figure out how to get back via buses  ( we found them a tad confusing) just hop in one of the many, many yellow taxis. It cost us about $3 to go half across the city. Finally, pack a load of suncream and don't expect the weather forecast to be in any way accurate. I was predicting non stop rain and packed a load of rain gear. I didn't use it once and ended up almost getting quite burnt from a day of rambling the city.

It's such a gorgeous city with so much to do, so I'd recommend taking at least three days and seeing as much of it as you can. It's worth it!

Sorcha x

From the Andes to the Amazon - Beginning our Travels

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It's been a week since we first landed here in Ecuador. Just a week. And in that very brief space of time, we've gotten ourselves lost on a misty Ecuadorian highway in the middle of the Andes, we've showered in waterfalls, turned cocoa beans into chocolate and used he jungle lagoons as our own little amazonian paradise. Although it's still early days, it seems that Ecuador is everything we expected it to be and more.

That said, it's taken us a while to adjust to the cold showers and occasionally crossing paths with tarantulas, but overall, there's been no real glitches to report. I've even managed to largely avoid the mozzie bites and sun burn, though everyone had commented on how very painfully white I am. Luck of the Irish indeed.

At this point we've toured Quito, Papallacta and spent a few nights in the jungle. We've met up with our tour company, G Adventures, and found ourselves in luck with the incredible people we're getting to tour with. Mainly from Australia, Germany and the UK, our tour buddies are every bit as crazy as we'd hoped. Everyone seems to be coming from different adventures and I can't help but envy the free spirits among us who have been travelling for months on end.

I guess everyone has to start somewhere though! Hearing all the stories from their travels has absolutely reaffirmed my plan to see as much of the world as possible, and I've decided to aim for a new adventure every year or two. There's just far too much to see and far too little time (or funds sadly!)

As I write this, we're currently on a bus to Banõs - the adrenaline junkies' playground. I'm absolutely game for whitewater rafting, but there's a lot of talk about paragliding and zip lining and really, I'm tempted by all of it. After several days of sweaty trekking and no electricity, the thoughts of being back in a city are very welcomed!

Oh and yes - the jungle was a phenomenal experience. The amazonian people thrive on their connection to Patcha Mama (don't judge my spelling, Spanish is entirely new to me) aka mother earth. They spoke to us about the power of the jungle and the closeness that they've developed over generations with all that lives there. They strongly believe in spirits, magics and energy that protects them, and their knowledge of the environment they lived in is incredible.

Part of me understood the attraction of the jungle once I saw the breathtaking lagoons and looked up at a night sky so clear and untainted with city lights that you could see stars and the milky way stretch for miles. I mean, it might be a nice life, there in their own little world far from offices and 9-5 routines. As far as I'm concerned, it's just a nice break from reality. Nonetheless, I'm determined to make the most of it.

Sorcha x

Glamping in Casa de Laila - Paradise in the Spanish Countryside

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A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I took ourselves off to Spain for a post-exams break. It had been one of the biggest motivations getting me through the FE1s and it didn't disappoint in the least! We spent part of our trip staying in a gorgeous little B&B in Torremolinos, and the second half of the holiday we ventured into the Spanish countryside to go glamping at Casa de Laila. I'll leave our stay in Torremolinos for another post, but for now - my review of Casa de Laila!

Breakfast in the mornings! 
Casa de Laila was idyllic. I can't speak highly enough of the glampsite nor of how welcoming Benjamin and Ann Marie were to us when we landed! They were so lovely and couldn't do enough to ensure that we enjoyed our stay. We spent our days lounging by their beautiful pool and playing with their gorgeous dog. It was bliss.

As for our tent, it was beautifully decorated and we had our own two person hammock shaded underneath the avocado tree outside to relax in when we wanted to escape the heat of the midday sun. We also were surrounded by orange trees and had freshly squeezed orange juice every day of our stay there! Calling it bliss is an understatement. It genuinely was our own little time out in paradise!

While there we tried out yoga, we explored the local town, we met some other incredibly friendly couples and we had the most phenomenal sunset dinner made by Benjamin and Ann Marie. The meal was vegetarian but even my meat-eating boyfriend adored it! They also made a vegan version for me which I really appreciated, matcha-tea sorbet included. Delicious.


Conor realised that the yoga hall was excellent for
napping in the shade!

I honestly can't recommend staying at Casa de Laila enough. We left feeling incredibly relaxed and even though neither of us had dabbled much in yoga before, we've been converted. The only thing I would say is to make sure to get a taxi or drive to Casa de Laila. All the local taxi drivers know the site and taxis cost about €5-6 from the town. We made the mistake of walking with our suitcases from the town and even though it was only 1 kilometre, it was entirely uphill. We were wrecked when we finally landed and had to jump almost immediately into the pool to cool down! But that was the only slight hiccup in an otherwise perfect holiday. 

Conor (my boyfriend) now says that he'll happily tag along to more glamping holidays and I'm already planning the next adventure. It looks like we're heading to South America after the next set of FE1s... all I need to do is survive round two of them. 

Fingers crossed!

Sorcha x

Simple Dairy-free Coconut Yoghurt

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I'm well used to making vegan alternatives to dairy products (rice milkalmond butter, etc) but surprisingly enough, this is the first time I've attempted to make my own yoghurt!

The base for this recipe literally has three ingredients. Coconut milk, agave nectar syrup and 2 probiotic capsules. Don't worry about finding the probiotic capsules - all health food shops will have a wide selection to choose from. I picked the cheapest, unflavoured capsules of acidophilus.



 The reason I'm putting up this recipe now is so that later when I experiment with turning this into Froyo and adding various flavourings, I can just refer back to this little post.

Plus the yoghurt is absolutely delicious by itself and deserves to be recognised for a simple creamy alternative to the many commercial brands out there! Trust me, this holds its own against any yoghurt, dairy-free or otherwise.

INGREDIENTS

One can of coconut milk = one jar of coconut yoghurt. Add more to the recipe if needs be!

1 400ml tin of coconut milk
2 probiotic capsules
1.5 teaspoons of agave nectar (can also use honey if non-vegan)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (can also use vanilla pods if you have them!)

METHOD

Sterilise the jar that you intend on using before beginning to make the yoghurt. This is important in order to allow the probiotic bacteria to work!

1.Open the tin of coconut milk and spoon out the creamy coconut layer into a bowl, leaving the coconut water behind.

2. Whisk the creamy coconut milk until it has a thicker and creamier texture. An electric whisk is handy for this.

3. Once the coconut milk has thickened, break open two of the probiotic capsules and stir their powdery content into the coconut milk.

4. Add the agave syrup and the vanilla to the mixture.

5. Place the mixture in the (now cooled down) sterilised jar and cover with a lid. Leave for 24hrs in a nice warm place such as the hot press.

6. Once 24hrs has passed, take the yoghurt out of the hot press. It's not unusual for there to be a separation of the ingredients in the jar - there will probably be an oil-like base separated from the creamy yoghurt above. Just give the yoghurt a stir!

7. Place in the fridge for several hours (I'd recommend eight) so that it can cool and thicken further.

Ideally leave overnight and just serve with some granola or fruit for breakfast in the morning!


Note: I know it seems strange leaving yoghurt in a warm place when usually we keep them in the fridge at home, but this is an important step in the process to allow the milk to get its creamy yoghurty texture. If you've ever made pizza from scratch, you'll know what happens when you place the pizza dough in a warm place - the yeast will do its job and make the base expand! This is the same for coconut yoghurt... kind of. It needs warmth to work. You'll see what I mean afterwards, just trust me.

Sorcha x

Vegan Meringues

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The photo is a little blurry and I didn't have an icing bag to hand,
but here's my vegan meringues with fruit and chocolate fondant!

This post has been a long time coming.

There are many excellent vegan substitutes out there for most desserts, like ice cream, cheesecakefudge and other cakes and bakes.

But recently, probably due to the lovely summer weather, I've had a massive craving for strawberries and meringues. Until now most of my egg substitutes have involved bananas and other fruits, but then I discovered the wonders of aquafaba.

What is aquafaba I hear you ask?

In short, it's the liquid that comes from draining a can of chickpeas. I know what you're thinking. I thought the same. But bare with me. It works perfectly. I was highly sceptical at first, but the meringues tasted identical to the normal egg and caster sugar versions I used to make before I turned vegan.

I mean, I'm excited guys. I've absolutely no idea how it works, but it does. This opens a whole world of desserts to try out! I'm thinking pavlova. I'm thinking baked alaska. I'm thinking eton mess.

Summer 2016 may just be my most sugar-filled to date. And I won't regret a thing. In the words of the great Oscar Wilde, everything in moderation, even moderation.

INGREDIENTS

The liquid from 1 drained standard can of chickpeas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 
220 grams caster sugar 

METHOD

This recipe follows most other meringue recipes - the only difference is that instead of whipping up egg whites, you're whipping up the above mix of ingredients and gradually adding in the caster sugar. It's a very simple method, the only challenge is making sure the meringues don''t burn!

Preheat the oven to about 150°C (this varies oven to oven, so just keep an eye on the meringues as they bake!) and line a tin with grease-proof paper. 

1. Add the chickpea liquid (aquafaba) to a mixing bowl with the vanilla extract and cream of tartar. Mix together.

2. Gradually add in the caster sugar, beating all the time. I find that an electric mixer is the handiest option for this! 

3. When the mixture has formed stiff peaks (as in the photo above) it's ready to be piped! If you're unsure what a stiff peaked mixture looks like, try turn the bowl to the side or, if you dare, upside down. The mixture should be too stiff to move. If it does move, you know it needs a little bit longer.

4. Using a piping bag or even just a spoon like I did, pipe the mixture in even sizes across the lined tin. Leave sufficient space between the meringues as they will expand in the oven and you really don't want to have to break them apart once they're fully cooked!

5. Depending on the heat of the oven, the meringues should take about an hour and a half. I watched mine like a hawk and found that it took 1hr 35 mins to be properly cooked through. 

6. Transfer the meringues to a wire rack to cool.

If you decide not to eat all the meringues in one go (good luck!) then place them in an airtight container and leave out. They should last a few days technically, but in reality if you're like my family, they'll be gone in 24hrs.

 The plus side of not using eggs is that if you make a complete mess of the meringues and are left with a more gooey centre, it's not the end of the world - you will definitely not get any food poisoning and you'll really just have a perfect mix for Eton Mess!

I ate my meringues with strawberries, blueberries and a chocolate fondant. It was every bit as good as it sounds.

Enjoy!

Sorcha x

Sun's Out and Summer's a Callin'

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Excellent news - I passed my exams!

Having reached the halfway point of the FE1 mountain, I decided to spend the past fortnight or so trying to relax and get over the trauma of study before it starts all over again in July for round 2. And til then, not one more word of FE1s or study will be mentioned in this blog. 

Meanwhile, I've been busy working on travel plans and saving up for globetrotting. I'm still working away on a few recipes (there's a salted caramel and chocolate tart on its way, I promise) and enjoying the early signs of summer.

The weather has been excellent for a few days now - I've managed to fit in plenty of sun time and used the opportunity to flaunt my new summer wardrobe bought for our glamping trip to Spain in a few weeks! It also brings out the nicest summer salad opportunities, and today's was a berry, bean and hummus loaded concoction. I loved it. Once I perfect it, that'll end up being a recipe I put up here too, but for now a quick snap will have to do!

Goji berries, spinach, beans, pumpkin/ sunflower seeds and hummus. Yum.
Recently I also made my first trip to Kilkenny. I'd never really thought about visiting the place until my beautiful cousin Fiona invited me down for her hen party there. And my review? I will definitely be heading back. Hen party aside (which was an excellent weekend spent catching up with family) the city is gorgeous. It's incredibly quaint and beautiful to walk around. The people, the cafes, the castle and the pubs... it was if the entire place went out of their way to ensure we had a phenomenal time visiting. They couldn't have done enough to make us feel welcome in the area and I can't stop telling people about how good a weekend we had. 

The theme was Rose of Tralee by the way, so that's why we're all wearing sashes and red dresses in the photos below!




My next post due will almost certainly be another recipe. With work and study and the likes, they've become my small highlights of the week! That and trying out new cafes and boutiques, so expect reviews to feature some time soon.

In other news, I've been invited to a make up masterclass next week by the lovely ladies over at Benefit. I've already spoken about what a fan I am of their make up before (read here!) so I'm looking forward to picking up some tips from them.

In the mean time, I'll continue soaking up the sunshine.

Sorcha x