National Homeless Persons Remembrance Day

Thursday 21st December 2017 is the first day of Winter in the UK and it marks #NationalHomelessPersonsRemembranceDay but I wanted to post this a little earlier than that to hopefully give enough time to raise awareness in the hope of adding more smiles to more faces this Christmas.

Homelessness is a heart breaking reality 4 seasons a year but there's something about Christmas and winter time that make those emotions even stronger. I don't know if it's because I always appreciate family time more at this time of year and it's a time where I reflect and appreciate how lucky I am or if it's because it's so so cold outdoors and I find myself moaning about the weather even when I'm home with a full tummy, cosy pyjamas and access to central heating. I honestly wish I had a magic wand and could provide food, warmth and comfort to those really in need but sadly I can't.

I can help though, maybe I can only help a handful of people in a very small way but it's a start. Even just to know they have been thought of is often enough for someone who is in an unfortunate situation, it doesn't have to be a big grand gesture but imagine the difference we could make if everyone united together and done one small act of kindness, even a one that doesn't cost any money. Sometimes a simple acknowledgment can mean the world to someone, maybe that person hasn't been acknowledged for weeks or even months, a simple smile and a hello can go a long way and comfort someone so much.
I know there's mixed views of the homeless situations and statistics but recent studies show that 1 in everyone 200 people in the UK are homeless. That is heart breaking. We are one of the richest countries in the world, why have we got people sleeping on the street in 2017? I'm not totally naïve and I know some people choose the lives they live and often put themselves in these situations but others don't. Sometimes life is just cruel, we aren't here to judge. Everyone makes mistakes, some more than others but that's just life. Judging people won't help them and it won't make you feel any better either.

I didn't want to donate money to a charity as if I'm honest I always wonder where it goes and if my contributions actually make a difference. I wanted to do something in my local community to make a difference.

It didn't cost me much, in fact it didn't cost me anything as most things wouldn't be used and would have just ended up in the bin.

I decided to fill a shopping bag with some essentials including non perishable food, hygiene items and when I was Christmas shopping for family I pickled up a few extra presents and included them too as it saddens me that some children will wake up on Christmas morning and have nothing to open. No family sitting round a table enjoying a delicious meal, no new toys to play with, no funny Christmas jumpers or unlimited amount of sweets. Some don't even have family. My friends and family are spoilt rotten so having a few presents less to them will go unnoticed, that's a very sad fact but I hope my small contributions can bring joy to someone this Christmas.

If you have anything in your cupboards please think about donating a few items to your local church/shelter or food bank and help to ease the struggle some people  have to face this winter.

Things that are welcomed from homeless charities and organisations are:
Tinned items (beans, spaghetti, curry, soup, hot dogs, ravioli, passata, tomatoes, potatoes, veg and fruit, preferably ring pull)
Dried food such as rice, pasta and cuppa soup packets
Snacks, biscuits and crisps
Long life milk and cream.
Cereal and snack bars
Gloves, hats, socks, sleeping bags, leg warmers, long johns and scarves
Shower gels/body washes and shampoo
Roll on deodorant
Toothpaste and toothbrushes
Sanitary items
Juice/bottled water/teabags/coffee/hot chocolate/Bovril

TrusselTrust are one of the largest food bank organisations in the UK and between April-September 2017 they handed out 586,907 3 day emergency food parcels, this is a 13% increase on the previous years figures. 208,342 of these parcels went to children. More up to date figures show from April-October 2017, 586,907 parcels have been hounded out and they expect this to worryingly increase during the festive/winter periods. This is just one organisation, there are hundreds of food banks across the country, these figures are sickening so please, even you only have a few tins or a bag of pasta that you won't use or if you're fortunate enough to spend a few extra quid on your next shop, please keep the less unfortunate in mind, even if it means skipping a bottle of wine one night just to make sure someone else has a hot meal, it's so worth it.

"In a world where you can be anything, be kind"

A Trip To Bruge

I haven't travelled abroad since I was 2 years old, I'm nearly 25! My other half absolutely loves jumping on a plane and getting off but I'm always the one who volunteers to stay at home and sends him on holiday with his family/friends. I'm so nervous and travelling. The thought of getting on a plane makes me feel sick but I know I'm missing out on so much. There's a big beautiful world to see and so much more than the north east of England has to offer.

I'm setting myself some goals and I'm determined to get on an aeroplane by the end of 2018.

I've been teasing myself by doing some research and one of the places I really want to visit is Bruges.

It looks like such an amazing place with so much to see and do and an extra bonus is the flight from Newcastle Airport is only 1 hour 15 minutes. My partner has always wanted to visit Bruges too, he's never stopped talking about Belgium beer! He recently discovered a website called BeerHawk, they stock beer from all around the world and deliver it to your door. He's a huge man of German beer and visits Dusseldorf quite often. We always have a fridge full of Bitbirger, Duvel and La Chouffe.

I know 100% my partner would love to do The Beer Experience at The Beer Museum. You learn about the history of the beer, different types of beer and how they're made/brewed. They also have a tasting area which I think will be a firm favourite of his.

There's so much I'd want to see and do in Bruges, I've fallen in love with everything I've seen so far.

I really want to visit the Choco-Story. It's a museum owned by a father and son. They also own Belcolade, a company that produces high-quality and luxury Belgium chocolates. You can take a tour around the museum and learn about chocolate and also watch it being made. There's also a gift shop on site so I could buy a few little treats to bring back home.

Markt ( The Square Market) is also something I would thoroughly enjoy. My partner visited Dusseldorf last month and went to the Christmas market, I was so jealous! There's also some restaurants nearby with amazing reviews.

Bruges has the cutest little gift shops, I think I'd spend more on presents than I would actually being on holiday, those gorgeous chocolate shops look too good to resist.

There's lots of other things I'd love to do too but I think chocolate and beers is the way to win us over! If you visited Bruges, please share your experience with me and any tips of specific places to visit or avoid would be greatly appreciated.

National Brownie Day

I can't believe this is a thing. Why have I missed out on celebrating this day for 24 years?

December 8th is the day brownie lovers across the nation celebrate these glorious delights.

Brownies originated in the United States at the end of the 19th century. If you don't know what a brownie is then you're missing out. It's a cross between a cake and a biscuit, there are so many yummy flavours to choose from and they're such a popular dessert/snack.

My personal favourite brownie is chocolate fudge so I thought I'd share this recipe with you all and maybe you can celebrate #NationalBrownieDay too and enjoy a little treat (or the full tray in my case). This is not my recipe, I found this online a while ago and have tried and tested it multiple times.

You can also buy boxes of mix which are pretty fool proof but be warned, they're never as delicious as homemade.

You will need:
145g unsalted butter
250g granulated sugar
80g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large eggs
65g all purpose flour

Pre heat your oven to 325 degrees F making sure there's a rack placed in the middle of the oven. Prepare an 8 inch square baking tray by lining it with grease proof/parchment paper.

Add enough water to a medium saucepan so that it is 1 to 2 inches deep. Heat the water until it's barely simmering. Combine the butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a medium heat sage bowl. Rest the bowl over the simmering water making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.

Stir the mixture occasionally until the butter has melted and the mixture is quite warm. Don't worry if it looks gritty or a little lumpy, it will become smooth once you add the other ingredients.

Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside for 2 to 4 minutes until the mixture is warm and not hot.

Stir in the vanilla extract with a spoon or spatula then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

When the batter looks thick, shiny and well combined, add the flour and stir until there's no looks. You want a smooth mixture so feel free to beat it with your spoon to get rid of any air bubbles or lumps. Your batter should be quite thick by this point.

At this stage your batter is ready, you can add extra ingredients to your mixture like extra chocolate, honeycomb or anything else you want to include. If not, it's still delicious this way but a festive favourite of mine is adding small pieces of broken up Terry's Chocolate Orange, thank me later.

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tray and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until you prod it with a fork and it comes out almost clean, we want to keep the centre of the brownie a little moist and sticky, be careful not to overbake or will end up very dry. It should be springy to the touch.

Remove when baked and set aside until completely cooled before transferring from the baking tray. At this stage you can place the tray into the freezer for the brownie to freeze up so you get a cleaner cut, if like me you can't get wait then go ahead and cut your brownie as desired. I usually get 16 servings from this recipe but it's personal preference.