zoodles

photo 5I first stumbled upon Zoodles on Nom Nom Paleo, and then started to see them all across the web… they’re super trendy I suppose! You may be wondering what zoodles are, with such a silly name and all. They’re simply zucchini strands, cut into spirals using a handy dandy machine you can buy on Amazon.

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All you do is cut off the ends of the zucchini, place it in the machine horizontally, and then start cranking the handle. Spirals galore will start pouring out, it’s actually quite fun.

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To make it a meal I made a quick cheats meat sauce (ground meat + store-bought pasta sauce) and sauteed the zoodles in a little olive oil to soften slightly.

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That’s it! Just serve with some grated cheese on top and you’ll be good to go.

bento box lunches

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I will always love my mason jar salads, but sometimes you just have to shake things up — behold the bento box, the perfect container to bring your lunch (plus snacks!) to work each day, and have a little fun while you’re at it.

Check out my article on The Daily Muse for 3 sample bento boxes, plus loads more ideas on what to pack!

ireland & london

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better late than never!

here’s a photo-heavy recap of our trip to Ireland and London last October…

(yes, almost 7 months ago… I’ve been bad about posting)

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my aunt & uncle were amazing – they drove us everywhere and were the ultimate tour guides!

(that’s Ballywalter above)DSC_0509

coming in to Portaferry, a small fishing town in Northern Ireland

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Portaferry town

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we then took the ferry over to Strangford, and then headed to Killyleagh

the castle there is the oldest inhabited castle in the country

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we stopped in for a quick coffee at Picnic, my uncle’s favorite coffeeshop

and then headed home as we had dinner plans with the whole fam!IMG_8950

Nana and IIMG_8958

getting to hold baby Oscar for the first time!

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the next day we headed off to Donegal

where my uncle and aunt took us on an amazing drving tour of the northwest coast.

this is the beach at Rosebeg – so gorgeousDSC_0591DSC_0598DSC_0612

we stopped in Dunfanaghy for lunchDSC_0625

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past Doe Castle, one of my favorite castles growing upDSC_0648

a river my dad used to fly fish on

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our old house in DonegalDSC_0671

the horseshoe above the door is still there, as well as the roses growing around it!IMG_9025

the Atlantic Drive IMG_9044

the (blurry) view from Castle Murray, one of our best meals! DSC_0696DSC_0707

down to the beach in Killybegs with my cousin NicholasDSC_0726DSC_0734IMG_9060

On our way back to Belfast we stopped at Donegal CastleDSC_0780DSC_0843

D and my uncleDSC_0789DSC_0787

in the fireplace, why not?DSC_0866DSC_0874

we also stopped by Enniskillen Castle

you have to see as many castles as possible when in Ireland – they’re amazing!DSC_0878

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on our final day in Belfast we decided to do a historical walking tourIMG_9496

this mural was in a small hidden parking lotIMG_9500

lots of Belfast history depicted if you look closely IMG_9490IMG_9501IMG_9489IMG_9487IMG_9486IMG_9475

this was some King’s chair (typical, I forget who)

he must have been tiny – it was a pretty small chair!

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they installed the spire at St. Anne’s Cathedral in 2007… the Spire of HopeIMG_9527

after working up an appetite on our walk

we headed to the Bar + Grill at James Street South for lunch

I had been years ago to their sister restaurant

and the bar & grill came highly recommended by my cousin, AnnaIMG_9515

I wasn’t the only Belfast blonde at the table, hardy har harIMG_9516IMG_9528

a delicious parsnip soup, with a proper soup spoon

(why are these so hard to find in the US!?) IMG_9535IMG_9468

then off to City Hall for another tour

my dad used to work right here on the squareIMG_9537

loved the stairs inside

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we went into the Belfast City Council chambersIMG_9192 IMG_9229

and then we stopped in at an old family friend’s jewelry store to say hi!

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that night we headed over to Majella & Keith’s for an amazing dinner

so fun catching up with everyone!

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the next day we were off to Daryl & Anna’s for a couple of days

stopping first at the “Fort” of MoiraIMG_9249

Anna welcomed us with bubbly & a homemade Guinness cake that was to.die.for

and to think, she made this from scratch while carrying around a newborn!IMG_9271

we headed off to McCartney’s for a late lunch

best wifi password ever! IMG_9254IMG_9280

and then did a mini pub crawl so the boys could watch the football game

isn’t Oscar the cutest!?IMG_9282

thankfully they won!DSC_0892

so great to catch up with Anna, wish we lived closerIMG_9285

later that night we headed over to Pretty Mary’s for the trivia nightDSC_0909

forget about the triva, it was Oscar who stole the show!IMG_9298

he loved staying up to the wee hours partying with the localsDSC_0920

the next day we headed to Hillsborough for lunch and a walk to the castleIMG_9313IMG_9331

still one of my favorite places – we spent so much time here as kidsIMG_9333DSC_0931

thankfully we saved some bread from lunchDSC_0927

these guys were hungry! photo 1

then off to Marks & Spencers for some yummies for dinnerphoto 2

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and the world’s fullest glasses of bubbly at their wine bar!IMG_9337

miss you petal! IMG_9594

 one last Oscar snuggle before heading down to DublinIMG_9342

and lots of Tayto crisps to bring home to MJ from the train station

I thought you couldn’t find them in Southern Ireland,

but then of course they had gazillions at the airport – typical!

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I really love traveling by train, it’s so funIMG_9357

especially when you can order tea and toast
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we grabbed lunch at Clarendon, one of my old favs

it was okay, not as good as I remembered

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followed by a walk through Trinity to go see the Book of KellsDSC_0984

the Book of Kells was great to see,

but I much prefered the Long Hall that you walk through afterDSC_0992

so old! so many books!

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we loved, loved, loved staying at The Merrion!

such attention was made to all the small details – we felt like we were staying in someone’s home

well, a fancy home where they serve nibbles in solid silver serving trays

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we headed to The Winding Stair for dinner that night

definitely one of our favorite meals in Ireland

a great find by my mum – it’s a small restaurant nestled above a bookstore, just along the river

all locally sourced, Irish ingredients – simply amazing! DSC_1008

the one big touristy thing we did in Dublin was the Guinness Factory IMG_9426

what was less touristy was the Connoisseur Experience

you get taken into a private bar and they go through a bunch of different variatals of Guinness

plus, they teach you how to properly pour the “black stuff” – that’s mine above!
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after getting caught in a rain shower we dove for cover at Avoca Cafe

if you’re in Dublin you simply must go here

it’s fab
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later that night we headed to an old favorite haunt that my cousin introduced me to

Dunne & Crescenzi, a little Italian jointIMG_9444

I know, it sounds strange to go to Italian in Ireland, but it’s seriously good

the bruschetta is a must order, it’s out of this world yum

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later that night we stopped by The Shelbourne 

it’s a bit sad bc it’s owned by the Marriott now,

but there’s a little room off the main lobby

where they have all these letters from guests from long ago

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the next morning we headed off to London

but first, a spot of tea!

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we stayed at Duke’s Hotel in Mayfair, London

nestled down a little alleyway

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their bar is quite famous

frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming,

it is said to be the inspiration for the classic line, ‘shaken, not stirred’

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that night we headed to The Admiral Codrington for dinner

I had heard they had a delicious burger, and it did not disappoint

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nothing on their menu did actually!

the macaroni and cheese was incredible
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and the bangers and mash were out of this world

if you want a pub-y type spot with a good atmosphere, The Cod is your spot

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the next day we did a little exploring

I loved the location of our hotel

right by all these incredible stores like LibertyIMG_9609

the entire top floor was dedicated to Christmas!

London does department stores sooo much better than the USIMG_9602

Fortnum & Mason was also just around the corner

at the top of every hour the clock started chiming and two little men appeared!

According to their website“1964 saw a new landmark added to the front of the store – the famous Fortnum’s clock, with bells from the same foundry as Big Ben. Every fifteen minutes a selection of airs is played on eighteen bells, and once an hour Messrs F&M themselves appear to check that standards are being upkept.”

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so, it just so happened that while we were there the 49ers were playing at Wembley Stadium 

of course we had to buy tickets so we could go check it out – pretty awesome!

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especially when the guy sitting behind us explained how big of an honor it is to play there

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we attempted to go to The Punch Bowl that night for dinner,

but everything closes early on Sunday

so after walking around for over an hour in the pouring rain,

we settled on to-go sandwiches and crisps in our hotel room

very glam, I know, but it was still fun!

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thank god for these signs – we probably would have been run over otherwise!IMG_9733

we also liked how their green men looked quite sprightly!IMG_9752

Green Park, just across the way from Buckingham Palace

and only a hop, skip and a jump away from our hotel!IMG_9760

sadly no Prince George sightings though

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loved all the Christmas excitement that was brewing

in October, nonetheless

I guess this is what happens when you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving
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we didn’t go in as it was packed to the brim with kiddos,

but I was quite nostalgic walking by Hamleys

my dad used to pick me up a stuffed toy here every time he’d go on a business trip in London

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there were all these weather reports about rain and tornados and other crazy weather

but we woke up to blue skies and puffy cloudsIMG_9701

so we decided to do the toursity thing

and hopped on one of those big red buses to toot around town

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our first guide was brilliant

“I only speak two languages, English and rubbish.

Today I’m speaking my second language.”

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on one of our stops we noticed a Byron Burger which I read about on The Londoner IMG_9686

a perfect spot to pop into if you’re craving a burger and don’t want anywhere too fancy

(btw, I essentially used her blog as my travel guide for all things culinary -

if you’re going to London, it’s definitely worth a read)

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sight seeing is exahausting though,

so we popped into the Fifth Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols for a little pick me up
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and then wandered around Harrods a bit

sadly I did not leave with a Steiff bear, though I was particularly attached to this one

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they were in the process of getting all decked out for Christmas!

1383179_10102547775439403_1689041797_nthat night we made it back to The Punch Bowl

it dates back to 1750, and is the 2nd oldest public house in Mayfair

loved the space!
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on our final day we decided to skip the bus and walk around a bit more
DSC_1153through Green Park again

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and over to see the Queen at Buckingham PalaceDSC_1156

does anyone else think about the ending of  The BFG when looking at Buckingham?

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of course we had to do a little bit of shopping as well

so we headed to Marks & Spencers for a few odds and ends

IMG_9770and look at the cool cab that drove us back!

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and then a wee bit more at Sainsburys

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after our shopping excursion we popped into one of the Marks & Spencers to-go spots,

picked up a couple sandwiches and headed to Green Park for an impromptu picnic

I had to grab a fondant fancy for dessert, it was another childhood favorite!
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later that night we met up with my two cousins at The Grazing Goat

love the name!

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so wonderful seeing you guys – it had been ages!IMG_9784

and then for our final dinner we headed to Tom’s Kitchen in ChelseaIMG_9802

I think this was my favorite meal in LondonIMG_9801

their white onion soup with gruyere crostini was insane

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we upgraded ourselves to Virgin America Upper Class on the way back, and it was SO worth it

they send a driver to pick you up at your hotel

and then whisk you through security so you’re in the lounge in less than 10 minutes

and they have a lovely breakfast menu (with bacon and sausage butties!)

not to mention the hair salon, and all sorts of other fun things

IMG_9812well cheers! it was a fantastic trip

thanks for hanging in till the end, I know this was a loooong post! :)