Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Christmas Craft Bundle Giveaway

I love crafting and spend time with my little niece crafting on a regular basis. Over time we have collected lots of crafting stuff and really enjoy using it all. Since its almost Christmas I am giving away a Christmas crafting bundle to one citrusspiceuk reader just in time for Christmas.

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·         Closing date – 13th Dec 2018 12.00 am

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  • This giveaway is open to all readers over 18 who live in the UK.
  • The winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter (which uses and announced on this page.
  • Prize:   Christmas Craft Bundle Giveaway (assorted)
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Sunday, 25 November 2018

Mount Abu ~India Travels

During our Rajasthani travels we decided to get away from the Rajasthani desert heat and took a trip to Mount Abu which is a hill station in western India’s Rajasthan state. 

Mount Abu is situated high up in the Aravalli Range and is surrounded by forest. The hill station is a popular place for people to visit to get away from the heat and enjoy some cooler weather.

The car journey up to the hill station is along windy mountain roads surrounded by mountains and greenery. There is an abundance of monkeys on the road sides ready to pounce on the cars shroud you offer any fruits,especially bananas.

There are many tourist spots to visit in Mount Abu, you can find lakes, picnic areas, temples and hill tops where you can enjoy spectacular views. The top ten tourist spots that are highly recommended to visit are:

Dilwara Temple 
This is a jain temple which was built by Vastupal Tejpal between 11th and 13th century. The temple intricately carved in Marble and you will be totally mesmerised by the amazing architecture. 

Nakki Lake
Nakki Lake is a manmade lake also known as, Nakki Jheel.  The lake is Located in the centre of the hill station, and it is surrounded by   greenery, mountains and strangely shaped rocks.  The lake has picnic acres, boating and is surround with many shops and eateries.

Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary
The Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across a distance of 288 km, the sanctuary crosses numerous mountain highs from 300 m to 1722 m at Gurashikhar which is considered to be the highest peak in the Aravali ranges. The sanctuary is the perfect place for trekking, seeing all kinds of flora and Faunaand igneous rocks with large cavities resulting from the weathering effects of water and wind. 

Guru Shikar
This is the highest peak of the Aravalli Range and lies about 15 kilometres from Mount Abu. The height of the peak is 1722 meters from sea level and if you do get a chance to climb there you will get some breath taking views of the surroundings. At the peak you will also find the Mt. Abu Observatory and a cave temple of Guru Dattatreya which worships Lord Vishnu. 

Shri Ragunath Temple
Shri Raghunath Ji temple is  a 650-year-old temple set on the shores of Nakki Lake, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  The temple has beautiful Mewar architecture and carvings on the walls and ceilings. The temple is calm and serene and many followers of Lord Vishnu come daily to offer prayers.

Sunset Point
Sunset Point is an iconic point that is very famous tourist destination of Mount Abu. Here you can come and watch the beautiful sunset setting in the Aravali Ranges. It can be reached by car and then a short distance walk. 

For those unable to walk there are vendors who offer horse rides and trolley rides. The trolley rides are carts that you sit in and they are pulled uphill by the vendors. This is heartbreaking to watch as it takes a lot of strength, hard work and stamina to carry out this work. Some of the vendors were really old and do this daily for a living.

Around the roads reading up to sunset point there are street vendors selling lovely masala chai, roasted and boiled sweet corn and other street foods.

Arbuda Devi Temple
Arbuda Devi Temple is considered the most sacred pilgrim point of Rajasthan and dedicated to the goddess Durga.It can be come reached by climbing 365 stairs to symbolise each day of the year are cut into the mountain. There is a Dhoodh Baori,a sacred well with milk coloured water near the temple, worshippers believe that the waters is holy.   The temple is constructed out of one huge solid piece of rock and the inner sanctum is reaching by crawling a narrow cave.

Toad Rock
This rock is known as The mascot of Mount Abu. Toad Rock is one of the most frequented point in the itinerary of all visitors. To see the panoramic beauty of the surrounding lake and greenish hilly regions you can climb up the rock and capture the breath-taking scenery.

Mount Abu Bazaars
There are numerous shopping markets in Mount Abu. You can find traditional Rajasthani handicrafts such as Kota sarees, bangles, linen with Sanganeri print, Jaipuri quilts, and products made of marble, sandstone and sandalwood. 

You can also find Rajasthani crafts, paintings, leather goods along with a few Gujarati artworks and local paintings. Costume jewellery, shoes and ethnic clothes stalls line the bazaars.

There are many hotels and guest houses in Mount Abu that offer accommodation in all price ranges. If you want to visit all the above places you will require a minimum of 3 days. We were only in mount Abu for an overnight stay so were only able to visit Nakki, Lake  and the Sunset Point and the bazaars. The destination is perfect for a weekend break if you just want to relax with family and get away from the scorching India heat.

You may like to read about the other places I visited in my India travel series:

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Sunday, 18 November 2018

Simply Hike - My Wish List

Over the last few years the type of holidays we take as a family have changed drastically. With the kids grown up, we like to spend time outdoors, especially walking, skiing, cycling and activity holidays.These type of holidays are great for family bonding and good for the health too.

Weather in the UK is not always predictable so wrapping up well and having the appropriate type of gear, clothing, shoes and equipment that is correct for all weather conditions makes the holiday more enjoyable and safe too. There is nothing worse than going out in fashionable clothing and uncomfortable shoes to ruin a holiday.

If you are planning an outdoor holiday and need ideas for the type of equipment, clothing, shoes and accessories you may need, head over to the simply hike website who have every thing you will require for the whole family. Our plans for next year are a camping trip and a skiing trip so currently I am collating a list of  clothing and equipment we may need.

My top ten items that I would like to add to my shopping list this year from Simply Hike are:

Goldbergh Womens Paige Pant - White

The Womens Paige Pant from Goldbergh has a soft, stretchy fabric and are totally waterproof and comfortable to wear whilst skiing.

Roxy Womens Frost Printed Fleece - Water of Love

This women's fleece jacket is really warm with an inner fleece lining. It coordinates really well with the above ski pants.

Anon Womens WM1 Ski Goggle with Spare Lens - Watercolour Sonar Pink
These lenses have the Zeiss Sonar lenses and have 2 sets of inter changeable lenses. The goggles can also be worn over spectacles making them perfect for all conditions.Wearing eye protection in the snow is very important as the UV is very high during the day.There are many different designs available for men and women in the ski goggles range.

Jack Wolfskin Womens Park Avenue Jacket - Dark Sky 

This jacket offers total protection from the rain, its warm, comfortable and ideal for outdoor wear.

Didriksons Mens Drew Parka - Peat

This men's jacket is completely waterproof and windproof and it is well insulated to keep you warm and dry in all weather conditions.

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry Rucksack - Dark Zinc

This rucksack is totally waterproof . It has padded shoulder straps and a HardWave suspension that shapes to your back making it easier to care a load without getting backache.

Salomon Womens X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Walking Boot - Crown Blue Sunny

These boots are waterproof breathable boot with a strong grip. It has  a shock-absorbent EVA footbed and a cushioning Ortholite® sockliner,  providing comfortable wear in all terrains.

SmartWool Womens Hiking Medium Crew Sock - Dark Cassis

This Smartwool sock gives excellent comfort,support and breathability and are designed to reduce shock and abrasion and cradle your foot.

Stance Mens Spiderman Comic Socks 

These fun and colourful socks have a soft texture, supportive structure and extra comfy cushioning in the toe and heel so that they are comfortable to wear.

Meindl Mens Bhutan MFS Hiking Boot - Dark Brown

The shoes have ventilation and a gor tex layer that ensures the feet stay dry and the inner memory foam inside the boot  keeps the feet warm. 

There are many different ranges and choices of clothing, equipment, shoes and accessories available on the simply hike website for the whole family. Its a one stop shop to get everyone kitted up.

I am really excited to prepare and plan our first camping trip next year. If like me you have everything you need for a hike, you might consider a walking holiday in Austria. I would love to get some tips from all you lovely readers as to what I should add to my list. Please do share your tips in the comments below.

**This post is in collaboration with Simply Hike.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Hand Picked Greece~Cretan Cookery Class in Crete

When I visited Crete, I was very fortunate to be invited to a Cretan cookery class through Hand Picked Greece. Hand Picked Greece is a company that offers various different workshops in Crete. These include cookery classes at their Olive Farm to Olive oil soap making classes, Bee garden experience, Gastronomy experience and also yoga retreats.

My friend Heidi and I spent a really enjoyable afternoon at the Olive Farm in Litsarda Create. The Olive farm is run by Yanis and Valia. The Olive Farm is amazing with an out door kitchen surrounded by gardens full of wonderful herbs, vegetables, olive trees and chickens. Set amongst the hill tops  it boasts amazing views.

On arrival, after enjoying some drinks, we set about on a walking tour around the gardens, exploring them. We were amazed at the quality and quantity of the organic herbs and vegetables that Yanis and Valia had grown.

Lots of fresh produce and olive trees surround the al fresco cookery school. Beautiful and picturesque the cookery school is rustic but very well equipped with an outdoor wood fire oven, a homemade distillery, pantry and a range and a sink.The concrete table in the centre is so beautiful and can accommodate up to 16 people around it for the class.

We learnt how to make stuffed wine leaves Dolmades, Cretan spinach and feta pastries called Tiropi, and Cretan stew called Kleftiko which is lamb and vegetables but it was adapted for me since I am a vegetarian by replacing the meat with mushrooms so it was more like Simbetherio a Cretan vegetable stew, which we enjoyed with homemade bread, tzatziki  and Greek salad dressed with lashing of organic olive oil.

The magnificent feast we cooked with organic produce was simply amazing. We feasted whilst being serenaded by some authentic Cretan Music.

In all the cooking experience was really enjoyable and fun. I would highly recommend it to any one visiting Crete. Yanis and Valia were amazing hosts and I am totally grateful to them both for inviting me to participate in their class and learn so much about Cretan Cuisine. You can book a similar experience on their website Hand Picked Greece.
You can read about Heidis Experience here.

Other posts in my Crete Travelsyou may like:

Botanical Gardens Fournes
Chania and Olea Villas Crete
Greek Feast at Olea Villas Crete

Friday, 6 July 2018

Gardening a new hobby???

I have never been very good at gardening although I love a nice garden and plants. This year we had our drive and patio done as all the paving stones had cracked due to subsidence.We also had decking put in the back garden so that we can lay out our barbecue and garden furniture on it. I would love a nice chair, garden swing or a hammock  from Tropilex so I can have a corner of my own to relax.

Whilst the drive was being done our lawn suffered badly so we also laid a new lawn and tidied up the flower beds. Neither my partner or I have any gardening knowledge so we got some beginners gardening books to brush up on our skills. Having a best mate who also owns an allotment is really useful too as Heidi  who blogs at kitchentalkandtravels is always giving me tips and advice.

Personally I find gardening rather challenging as I really don't have green fingers at all and have a tendency to kill all house plants I have had in the past. I believe this is because I over water, something I need to pay attention to with the garden.

To keep things simple we dug up the flower beds and prepared them for planting. There were lots of rocks so a gardening sieve from Wham came in really handy to sieve all the debris out. Once the soil was dug and sieved we mixed it with some shop bought comport and mixed it into the ground.The flower beds were now ready to plant.

We also filled the cauldron pot, some small plant pots and a plant trough from Wham with the compost for the bedding plants. Wham have a lovely selection of pots, herb planters, troughs and gardening items at a very reasonable prices too. To check out their full range check their website.

We chose a selection of bedding plants for the pots and wall baskets and perennials for some parts of the garden so that they would bloom year on year without having to replace them.

Whilst the perennials take time to settle in and grow, the bedding plants give an instant colour to the garden The added advantage of growing  annual plants is that you can change the colour scheme of the garden with different types of bedding plants seasonally It is also an inexpensive way to brighten up your garden as you can get trays of 12 bedding plants for as little as 3-4 pounds.

The bedding plants also look great in window boxes, hanging baskets and wall planters. They are easy to maintain and I also discovered that once a week watering them with a plant food helps to enhance the colour and bloom.

We also chose some ever greens so that we had lots of foliage in the garden all the year round. I learn't from the gardening books that evergreens can also have coloured leaves that will help to add colour to your garden in the winter.

Gardening is certainly some thing that needs lots of love and care and its hard work too. However  its very satisfying to see the results.

Our next project for the garden is to start off our vegetable patch and herb garden. We are currently preparing the vegetable patch as the soil is full of clay and very hard to grow anything init. In the mean time I have planted some tomatoes and chilli plants in pots.I am really excited as the tomato plants are flowering and hopefully I will have my very own homegrown tomatoes to eat.

I am not sure what we are doing is absolutely correct as its a very amateur attempt, however its a learning curve for us and we are hoping that in time our garden will flourish.
I am also planning to grow some herbs  in an indoor kitchen garden, I will share this in my next post.

**This post is in collaboration with Wham who kindly sent me some pots and tubs.

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Friday, 15 June 2018

The Botanical Gardens in Fournes Crete

On my recent trip to Crete, I had the opportunity to visit the Botanical Gardens at Fournes. I learnt that the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete was reborn from the ashes after a devastating fire spread in October 2004. The wild fire started when an  electricity pole was struck by a storm near the village of Skordalou.The fire burnt for more than 24 hours and destroyed the entire surrounding area burning down Orange groves and over 60,000 olive trees some over 400 years old. The charred olive tree still remains standing sad and forlorn in the gardens as a reminder of that tragic day.

The village was ruined both financially and ecologically and many people lost everything they owned. Farm land was burnt to ashes. Petros Marinakis and his two brothers who also lost much of their farmland decided to rebuild the burnt land and turn it into a Botanical garden that would be open to the public for trekking, education and recreation. It would also create jobs for the villagers who lost their livelihood in the fire.

Work began on the Botanical gardens and with lots of research and careful planning it opened its doors in 2010. Petros and his brothers decided to divide the Botanical Gardens into sections; Tropical, Mediterranean, Wine section and the Lake. 

The gardens have 3 different climate zones; Tropical, Sub tropical and Alpine. Within the different zones you will find fruit trees, spices, herbs, medicinal plants, citrus trees, and tropical plants and Alpine shrubs and trees. Crete has a micro climate and all the different variety of plants grow easily in the gardens.The gardens are tended by local gardeners from nearby villages.

The Botanical Gardens also grow their own vegetables that are used for their Cretan restaurant on site. All the produce is organic and seasonal and the chefs create recipes according to what ingredients are available. 

There is a shop on site that sells honey made from the gardens own bees, together with olive oils and other Cretan products, olives, cook books and delicacies. The Gardens are open from March to November.

To generate extra income the gardens host music festival, put on traditional dance shows and local music shows for the public in their amphitheatre overlooking the beautiful gardens and hill tops. 

They also support the smaller farmers, provide employment for the local people and help to bring tourism to Crete.

During our visit to the gardens, we were lucky to have the opportunity to have a Cretan cookery class by one of their resident chefs Emilios Asllanis. Emilios is very passionate about his cooking and makes recipes he has learnt from his mother and grandmother. How lovely it is to see him carry forward the Cretan cooking he has grown up with.

We made Marathopita a fennel pie, Haroupopitaki a carob pastry filled with a spinach and cheese, which we had for our lunch in The Olive Restaurant together with lots of other delicious Cretan dishes.

The restaurant serves delicious local Cretan Cuisine that is freshly prepared daily using the finest home grown produce. I was totally mesmerised by the pots of stew bubbling on outdoor oven that they have. There can't be a more authentic way to cook than this.

It was a wonderful and most enjoyable experience looking around the gardens which were tranquil, spiritual and offered majestic views. We even spotted a peacock resting amongst the trees.

I would highly recommend a visit to the Botanical gardens if you visit Crete. The tour of the gardens is very educational and interesting. You can even take a rest on the benches just to enjoy and savour the peacefulness and hear the peacocks.

To look around the gardens at a leisurely pace and finish off with lunch I would probably allow at least 5-6 hours. Although for the more adventurous people you can spend an entire day just exploring the gardens. It is highly recommended to wear comfortable shoes as some of the paths are rather steep. A bottle of water and a hat are also handy as the walk back up to the Olive Restaurant is tiring as its all up hill climb on the way back.

I was a guest of the Botanical Gardens and I can say that the visit was truly memorable.

Check the links below more posts about my recent trip to Crete: 

Chania and Olea Villas ~Crete
Greek Feast at Olea Vilas Crete
Hand Picked Greece
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