Book Review :: Yes Please by Amy Poehler


Before I started this book, Amy Poehler was just Regina's Mum in Mean Girls and Lesley Knope in Parks and Recreation. I'd seen her book recommended on several lists and was mid Parks and Recreation binge, so decided to see what the fuss was about. Now I love her.

Not even a quarter of the way through the book I was already recommending it to friends. I laughed out loud several times, admired her honesty and at times felt myself being inspired by her words of wisdom. I really wasn't expecting a book by Amy Poehler to be filled with advice and more of a 'self-help' style book than the comedic autobiography I expected, but I suppose I should have anticipated that considering it was on so many 'Quarter Life Crisis' reading lists.

One of my favourite comments was "You can't be everything, so find out what you're best at and have that as your currency". I find it hard at times being a very average but very competitive person and should probably live by this a bit more. I just need to find out what I'm best at first!

After reading the reviews on Goodreads, it appears not everyone loved Amy's book as much as I did and it's very much a Marmite read. Although the audiobook does seem to be a good shout. Take a trip to the library and loan out this book, if you're in your twenties, a fan of Amy and just want an easy read, I'd say you'll like it.

P.S. If anyone knows how she makes her fringe stay so perfect, please do let me know. 

Explore :: Banff, Canada





Our next stop in Canada was Banff. I didn't want to leave Toronto, but oh it was worth it to see Banff. It's now in joint first place as my favourite place in the world, alongside Yosemite.

It started off with a lot of drama, which could only be calmed by Tim Horton. As I've said before, that man is always there when you need him. After a slight change of plan, we were on board a bus and heading to our hostel in Banff. We arrived to definitely the nicest, most lively and helpful hostel we stayed in during our trip. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone going to Banff. We were exhausted, so unfortunately couldn't witness the karaoke we could hear from the cellar and went straight to bed ready for adventures in the morning.

Banff was everything I expected Canada to be. We'd arrived in the dark, so when we stepped out the door the next morning we were taken aback by the sheer scale of the mountains around us and just how beautiful it was. I spent the whole time unable to believe that it was real.

We got our free bus pass and went to the top of the Banff Gondola. It was blooming freezing at the top and were most definitely not prepared for this. After taking a rather large amount of photos, it was time to go back down the mountain to visit the Upper Hot Springs. A few hours in the hot springs, followed by a massage in the spa was just what we needed and felt perfectly refreshed, ready to walk back down into the village. We had a 4 course fondue meal, which included wild boar and venison and melted Toblerone for dessert. Why oh why have I never thought to melt Toblerone before?!

After walking off our four course meal whilst browsing the shops, it was time to head back up to the hostel to collect our bags and catch our bus to Lake Louise.

Explore :: Toronto


I loved Toronto. The city atmosphere with an ability to walk 5 minutes down the street to the harbour and island area, definitely won me over. There's so many things to see and do, from the obvious such as the CN tower, to the less obvious like the Hockey Hall of Fame, Steam Whistle Brewery and China Town.










Not to mention, Toronto introduced me to the new man in my life, Tim, who I have to say is perfect. He's always there when I need him, sweet, efficient and basically just everything I want in a man. It's long distance, but I'm sure we can make it work.


On our penultimate day, after a bit of hassle, we managed to get to Niagara Falls. The area itself really wasn't what I was expecting. It was like Blackpool mixed with Vegas - casinos, tacky gift shops and American chain restaurants. Nevertheless, it was still a great sight to see. If I every go back again, I think I'd like to book onto one of the tour buses, so I get the chance to see Niagara-on-the-Lake and explore the vineyards too.






I was sad to say goodbye to Toronto, so was very glad to have Banff and Disneyland ahead of me on my adventure. If it wasn't for this, I don't think I'd have left. I'm already planning a trip back there as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I shall eagerly await these photos...

Bake Along with Bake Off :: Orange and Cranberry Quick Bread



I've fallen behind. It was inevitable, but I didn't think I'd be behind on week three! My excuse being that I moved flat, started a new job (with normal, sociable 9-5 hours, woohoo!) and had a mini trip to the Isle of Wight. That doesn't make much time for baking. Therefore, a quick bread was just what I needed this week. I loved the sound of Prison Paul's Cranberry and Orange Soda Bread, so I hunted down the recipe and whipped this up one evening after work. A nice welcome to Autumn just around the corner.

The recipe can be found on BBC Food.

Recipe

400g Plain Flour
1tsp salt
2tsp baking power
50g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
100g cranberries
1 1/2 unwaxed oranges (zest)
1 large egg
175ml buttermilk

1. Preheat the over to 200C/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with parchment.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Using your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the cranberries and orange zest.

3. Mix the egg and buttermilk together and stir into the dry mix. Use your hands to bring the dough together, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.

4. Place the dough on the prepared baking tray and cut a cross into the top. Bake for 35mins until golden brown.

Bake Along with Bake Off : Cherry, Almond and White Chocolate Biscotti





Week 2 of Bake Off is biscuit week! I didn't really fancy making a biscuit box or arlettes. I'd never heard of arlettes before this weeks show and after a Google search, none of the internet seemed to have either. I've just done another search and there's now a whole tonne of recipes - the power of Bake Off!

I'm going off tangent. Biscotti seemed most favourable for eating during this weeks episode. The best part about this recipe is you can eat the end pieces for 'quality control purposes' before they're ready to serve. Anyway, here's my recipe for Cherry, Almond and White Chocolate Biscotti.

Recipe - Biscotti

115g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
275g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
100g dried cherries
100g chopped almonds
100g white chocolate, well chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs.

2. Add in the dry ingredients (flour and baking powder) until a soft dough is formed. Add in the cherries, almonds and 75g of the chocolate and mix until evenly combined.

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and place onto a lined baking sheet. Flour your hands and form them into nice rectangular shapes.

4. Bake for around 25mins until just firm and golden. Remove from the oven an allow to cool for 10 minutes. Don't forget to leave the oven on, you'll be needing it again!

5. Slice the baked dough carefully. Gently lay the slices on the baking sheets and cook for a further 10 mins.

6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. As the biscotti are still fragile, make sure you leave them on the tray until they have firmed up. Once cool, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle or dip the biscotti for decoration, whatever your preference!

Trek America :: Tips and Tricks


I'm going to assume that if you're reading this you've either already booked or are thinking of booking a trek with Trek America. If you're in the already booked category, be prepared to have one of the best times of your life. If you're still pondering over the thought and have resorted to Google to see what other people think, open a new tab right now and book it.

I've had a few questions recently about Trek America, my experiences and what you should pack ready for your trip. I spontaneously booked my trip in the last few weeks of my 3 months working at Walt Disney World, so definitely felt unprepared and overpacked for my Trek. Every trek is different, but here's what I'd recommend from my experience on the Western BLT trip:

1. Pack comfy shoes - As the name suggests, there's quite a few opportunities to do some hiking during your trek. Although they aren't too strenuous, trainers would be the most practical option. Don't forget to pack some shoes for exploring the cities, beach days and nights out too.

2. Pack for each location - Make sure you check out the weather forecast for each place you're visiting before you leave. I got a massive shock at how cold San Francisco was when I arrived and you could do with a jacket for the early mornings in places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite too. Don't get a swimming costume either!

3. Pack light - I had so much stuff with me after living in Florida and oh how I wish I didn't have 3 months worth of packing with me. The lighter you can pack the better. For starters, you're in a mini van, so if you want enough leg room try to keep any hand luggage as small as possible. Ideally just a bag that can carry a camera, phone, snacks and water.

4. Water bottle - Take a reusable one with you if possible. Trek America is all about good RT (responsible travel). If not, buy a big bottle at one of your supermarket stops and refill it when possible. You don't want to get dehydrated on your hikes or feel thirsty when you're driving through the desert on van appreciation days.

5. Take a camera- You'll regret it if you don't! You're going to see some amazing sights, meet amazing people and you're going to want to annoy as many people as possible with the photos of your trip when you get home.

6. Update your iPod/Phone for music - A good playlist is essential for your time in the van. There's going to be some very early mornings and long journeys, so some good songs make these more bearable. There's still songs I can't listen to without feeling I'm back in the van. Going to Vegas? It's pretty much essential you recreate this scene, so make sure you download Kanye.

7. Take two towels - This isn't a completely necessity, but 2 towels may be a good idea. One for showers, one for recreational stuff like beach trips and river swimming.

8. Spending money - I'd recommend getting a travel card such as a Fair FX. Don't forget some cash too for tips and gambling in Vegas. Trek recommend about $50 per day of your Trek to cover food, tips and other items. Don't forget to account for any extra activities you might want to take part in whilst you're there. 

9. Sleep - Get as much sleep as you can on the plane over as you're not going to get much of it over the next week or so. Most of my sleeping was done in the van from place to place, so if you can't fall asleep at the drop of a hat like I can, it might be worth packing a eye mask, ear plugs, neck rest etc.

10. Ditch the technology - Don't bother taking your laptop/iPad etc. You're going to be having way too much fun to care about having those with you, so save the weight and space. 

A few other questions I always get asked:

What are Van Appreciation Days? - The affectionate name given to those days where you're in the van for 4 hours+ travelling from place to place. They're not as bad as you'd think, so don't let this put you off. They're a great chance to get to know your fellow trekkers, catch up on sleep, sing along to your amazing playlist, play games or in our case complete some pictures in our colouring books. These days are normally broken up by your trek leader stopping at petrol stations and points of interest along the route so you can stretch your legs and grab some snacks.

How does food work? - Every trek seems to do this a bit differently. In our group, most of us put about $20 a day into a kitty. We used this to buy breakfast and lunch for each day of our trip. This gave us more than enough food and also some alcohol. Evening meals we paid for ourselves, either as a big group sharing pizza's in Yosemite, eating at the hotel or finding nice restaurants in Vegas.

What is accommodation like? - Much better than we all expected! I did a 'BLT' tour, which stands for Budget Lodging Tour. From 'budget lodging' I expected cheap, basic motel style hotels and hostels, yet on the most part they were actually really nice hotels. The only 'motel' style accommodation was in the Grand Canyon and the only hostel was in Yosemite. Aside from the Yosemite hostel where we were all in the same room, you got paired with one other person on your Trek to share your hotel room with. Here's the hotels we stayed at during our Trek:
San Francisco: The Good Hotel
Yosemite: Yosemite Bug
Las Vegas: Bally's (I know a lot of Trekkers stay at the Golden Nugget)
Grand Canyon: Red Feather Lodge
Laughlin: Harrah's
Los Angeles: Hacienda Hotel

I'm afraid I can't comment on camping experiences on Trek as mine had no camping involved, but there's plenty of info on what you need to take on these treks online if you need it.

Should I travel alone? - 100%! Don't let the fact you'd be travelling alone put you off. Our trek was half solo travellers, half people travelling with a friend or partner. It's an ideal way of going travelling solo, with the safety and company of other people.

If you want more information on your specific trek, Trek America have also put together some Trek specific tips here.

I hope this helped with your upcoming trip, you're going to have an amazing time. If there's any other questions you need answered, just leave me a message below and I'll do my best to help!