My Little Duke

Our Best Coffee Hangs ( Portadown + Misc )

Coffee Hangs, Motherhood, TravelSteph DukeComment

Finally, our last instalment in the Coffee Hang Series! This one's a bit more random (location-wise.) You'll find some incredible local (I use this term very loosely!!) coffee hangs, including my absolute favourite ... let's get going!

NEWRY AREA

1. Finegan & Son, Newry - @fineganandson

From my first visit here, I was hooked. The vibe is relaxed and chilled. The staff are friendly and welcoming. The coffee is spot on and the doughnuts are UNREAL. Finegan & Son is the one place I keep coming back to, time and time again. I've gone solo, with my mum, my husband, my family and had a mummy/daughter date with Phoebe. I'm back again this Saturday for doughnuts and hangs with @motherbeastie! I simply cannot recommend this place highly enough. It's the kind of place, with the kind of people who keep your favourite doughnut for you so you don't miss out! Thanks guys!

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2. Strandfield, Dundalk - @strandfield 

My mum and I visited Strandfield for the first time this Autumn. I literally can't wait to go back. This beauty is a Cafe / Florist / Grocer all in one. It's super handy off the motorway and a must visit if you're ever in that area. The coffee was delicious and our sweet treats were divine. My coconut macaroon was incredible. I've been well informed too that the food is excellent (it's a vegan menu) and I'm sure to be back to try some first hand. 

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MOIRA

3. The Fat Gherkin (affectionately known as 'The Gherk'), Moira - @thefatgherkin 

I have such a soft spot for this cosy nook on main street Moira. Always made to feel so welcome and looked after, especially when I've visited solo. They have the most delicious menu and their breakfast is superb. They also happen to have created my favourite sweet treat of all time - the 'everything bun.' This dreamy concoction includes mars bar, cranberry, coconut, fudge, marshmallow, biscuit and more! Simply perfect with a wee sneaky flat white! 

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Portadown

4. Ground, The Pumphouse - @groundespressopumphouse 

I've always loved the old Pumphouse at the bottom of town. It just oozes history and charm and I'd kind of hoped that I'd turn it into a coffee hang myself one day! Never mind. Now that Ground has moved in, I couldn't love it any more. It's quaint, the custard tarts are unbelievable and the view is beautiful. The fact that I've been able to stop after a cycle for a flat white to go is pretty much perfection. With fast wifi and a great loyalty card scheme, what's not to love?! 

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5. Bob + Berts, Portadown - @bobandbertscoffee 

We have been really spoiled in Portadown with the opening of both Ground and B + B in the same week! Bob and Berts has been the meeting place of choice recently for some local insta-mums and it's a class spot. Big and spacious - perfect for all the buggies and babies! The menu is huge, with something for everyone, including gluten-free options. The staff I've met so far have been wonderful, really accommodating and helpful. They have been super generous too, treating us to a free coffee for our meet-up just today! Thank you so much again. There's a real community atmosphere, brightening up the main street, bringing a real buzz back to town. If you want a festive coffee hang over the next few weeks, this one hits the spot. 

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Gorgeous mamas and littles @the_tales_of_us + @mindfulnessmumma

Gorgeous mamas and littles @the_tales_of_us + @mindfulnessmumma

They sure enjoyed their visit :)

They sure enjoyed their visit :)

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And that's all my lovelies. I really hope you enjoyed our little coffee hang tour of sorts! I'm so loving all the festive combinations out there at the moment, lots of cinnamon and gingerbread feels!

Here's to the weekend and some Christmassy coffee hangs!

Steph xox

Empathy and Love

Faith, MotherhoodSteph Duke1 Comment

My heart is bursting after my last blog post. Your response totally blew me away ... I'm completely overwhelmed by your love, encouragement and bravery in reaching out and sharing your stories. And, I'm calling for MORE. More connections, more vulnerability, more community. You have no idea how your moment of bravery or word of testimony could impact someone else. Someone who might just need to hear what you have to say, or how you battled through a dark period in your life. Something you might feel is insignificant or even 'silly' could be the one thing that changes the course of someone else's thought patterns or path. Don't play yourself down, don't compare what you have to say to someone else. Just say it. Say it in the way only you can say it.  Even if it's just for one reader - surely that's reason good enough? 

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So much of what you have shared with me over the last week has resonated deep within my soul and spirit. That sense of belonging that we all crave. A mutual feeling of the importance of connecting with like-minded people. And, the hope that there is so, so much more to come. More light shining in darkness. More love to give.

This morning I read a post that made my heart ache and my spirit grieve. Erin of @motherbeastie has a way with words that just gets me ... every ... single ... time. The reason that I feel every word is because it's honest truth. Words written from a life lived and experiences that have shaped her whole being. There's no frills, no fluff, just a raw and naked vulnerability that is penetrating through darkness. It's shining a big, bright light onto emotions that we so often try to bury deep down inside us, and certainly never want to open up about to others. Yet, an important part of any emotional healing process is to communicate. I'm learning more and more about the importance of communicating. I truly believe that there is a community here who want to engage in a dialogue that's open, honest and vulnerable. Conversations that are tough, that stir up emotions that need to be brought to the surface, so that a process of healing can begin. 

Gorgeous, brave Erin @motherbeastie 

Gorgeous, brave Erin @motherbeastie 

Amidst the talk, I often find myself questioning how I can help. It's one thing to read a post, leave a comment or send a message. But, more and more, I'm fighting the urge to go a step further ... to grab a cuppa and have a face on conversation, to give a hug or get on my knees to pray. I know there are some of you who feel the same. That stirring of your spirit of compassion and empathy, to reach out in love and kindness. I feel it too. So why fight it? How can we find ways to be love and light across these social media platforms? Is it a cuppa and chat, a handwritten letter in the post, a surprise package delivered to a door? I'm feeling incredibly challenged in this season to not just talk, but to act. To try and demonstrate the empathy that I feel for others, through practical love, in any way that I can. There are so many of you doing it too. A community spirit is rising! 

And, it is ok, not to be ok. Behind the instagram squares, no-one knows what real life looks like for some. The social media world can make our own darkness feel more isolating and suffocating. Please, please, please reach out if it's becoming unbearable, there is always someone who can empathise with you. Someone with a similar experience, who has felt similar pain/grief/anxiety. Don't let your darkness become so heavy that it engulfs you completely. There is someone to help or even just to listen. 

If you are ok, if you're in a good place right now ... can I challenge you to stop and think about someone you might know who could use a little love or light in their life? Society encourages us to become self-obsessed, out for what we can get for ourselves ... I can't bear it anymore! There is so much hurt, fear and pain out there, that could be eased a little by one, small and simple act of love. 

Print by sweet Megan @growingracelettering

Print by sweet Megan @growingracelettering

Aside from reaching out through social media or meeting someone for a chat (which is completely out of my comfort zone btw!) here are 2 little ways I'm trying to show a little love and light over the coming weeks:

1. The beautiful Catherine @mycopperfox is running a Christmas Cup Exchange through IG and it's not too late to join (registration closes on 29th November!) It involves the simple act of connecting with someone new through IG and blessing them by buying them a cup. Such a brilliantly easy and inexpensive way to show a little love this Christmastime. 

2.  If you are local to Portadown, why not pop down to @the_yard_portadown? Not solely because it's like my second home these days, or for Heather's delicious treats, or even to buy some of the girls' gorgeous gifts ... but, to pick a luggage tag off their Community Christmas Tree. The tags on the tree represent some local people who Helping Hands have been working with over the last few months. You pick a tag, buy a small gift, tie the tag back on the present and pop it back under the tree. There are lots of different ages to choose from (boys, girls, men and women.) A friend had a wonderful idea to take her daughter in and pick a tag for a little girl of the same age. Part of their Christmas activities is then to learn about the importance of giving, and then to go and pick a gift, wrap it and put it back under the tree. Amazing. 

If you choose to bless others, you too will be blessed. It doesn't have to cost you anything, a simple text or phone-call is all it takes to show you care. 

"The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." - Proverbs 11

Bless you this week,

Steph xox

A Community Spirit

Faith, MotherhoodSteph Duke6 Comments

This blog post wasn't planned. Even as I type, I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this. All I do know for certain is that there is something in the air right now, and I'm pretty sure I know who's responsible! 

As many of you know, I'm in a season of change at the moment. It began with a time of questioning, followed by a time of waiting, and now, a time to step up to the mark. These past few months have been a blur of emotions, a real rollercoaster ride, twisting and turning me in every direction, pulling me higher and taking me deeper than I ever wanted to go. It is something I've been journaling through, and will take you on that journey at some stage, but today, there is a spirit moving that I want you to catch hold of. It’s a spirit that is very timely for me.

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There is a little community on Instagram that is growing. A community that is rising. A community that is searching for more. It's a hugely inspiring community that seeks to find the 'better.' It's pushing people higher and making people stronger. Instagram - don't get me wrong, can be a very divisive and dangerous place at times, but, there is a new spirit moving ... a positive spirit. One that's bringing people together, forging friendships and connections that otherwise, might never have been made. And, I LOVE IT. More recently, I have made connections, both online and face to face, that would never be, but for Instagram. Yet, it's not Instagram that is really responsible, it's God who I see, moving and weaving our stories together. It's a big jigsaw puzzle and all the little pieces are clicking and connecting into place, especially in this season. 

There is both a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose in these connections, both spiritual and physical. I am actually a bit overwhelmed by the support and friendship that I've found on Instagram, and feel that it's now moving to another level. For a long time Instagram felt a bit superficial to me, but now, it's moving from just posting aesthetics to people investing in each other. People getting alongside each other, riding the journey together. Less online. More face on support. Instagram is being used as a tool to equip, empower and encourage each other. COME ON! 

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However, I'm burdened by the weight of expectation that Instagram 'sets' on it's users. The secret to success seems to heavily ride on the amount of followers we have or the engagement we receive. Too many of us are constantly comparing, constantly craning our necks to see how someone else is doing it better, being more creative, wearing nicer clothes ... blah, blah, blah. Why do we do it to ourselves? Instagram is the perfect place to do it too. Pretty pictures of a perfected life. Not. It's just NOT. It's a CURATED life, a grid that's been carefully primed and preened to look and feel a certain way. To live up to 'expectations' of Instagram worthiness. I could go on and I'm not going to. You know the score. Where are you finding your worth? In likes, comments, engagement, followers, how many people read your blog or reply to your stories? My prayer for you is that you find your value and worth in the one who longs for real, meaningful relationship and connection with you. The one who created you in His own image. You are His prized possession and special treasure. Did you know that? It is only recently I've started living into that promise and finding my worth only in Him. It has given me freedom, hope and purpose. He will do that for you, too. (If you let Him.)

For such a long time I avoided social connections as I constantly compared myself to others, always thinking others had it better or looked better than me. I never wanted to go to things or meet people if I'd had a bad day on the scales, roots that needed coloured or the right clothes to wear. And if I did make it out, I'd spend my time belittling myself and being jealous of who I was with. This. Is. Nuts. How did I live my life like this?! Why am I telling you about it? Well, in my current season, learning where my identity truly belongs, is helping to shape me into someone who looks at others, not to compare, but to bless. In seeking to bless and invest in others, my focus is outward, not inward. That is key. Any time I spend thinking about myself, is with God, and his promises over my life. Oh how I’d love for you to get to know what He thinks about you, how much He loves you, if you don’t know already, as everything else pales into insignificance. Now, I have time to fully invest in relationships: no distractions, no jealousy, no comparison. Just wholehearted and meaningful connection. We are created for community. Don't let jealousy ruin you or belittle others. I've shared a few posts on Instagram recently, using some of my little vases from home. I'll pop some photos below if you missed them. We are individuals for a reason. All uniquely gifted in different ways for different purposes. Don’t miss out on your unique purpose because you’re too busy looking at someone else.

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In conclusion, I guess what I’m trying to say is a thank you to all you lovelies who I’m journeying with at the moment. Thank you for investing time in me, for supporting me and encouraging me in this season. I’m also acknowledging God’s hand over my life right now and the people he’s connecting me to. If you’re feeling a move of a community spirit, please get in touch! I’d love to connect with you. Lastly, if you are feeling like you’d love to plug in, be brave and drop me a line, I’ll point you exactly where you need to go to find your true belonging. More importantly, I’d just love to have a cuppa with you.

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It’s time to show up and be counted, no more hiding in shame because we feel unworthy. Be brave and have courage to go all in, regardless of the outcome. Put your trust in God, his outcomes are always better than the ones we make up for ourselves.

Be Brave print by beautiful @ali_marriott_

Be Brave print by beautiful @ali_marriott_

All my love for you and have a great rest of the week,

Steph xox

 

Signature Banana Loaf

Food, BakesSteph DukeComment

Banana Bread is my staple. It's my 'go to' bake. My work colleagues have eaten way too much of the stuff as I always have black bananas in the house! 

The recipe is super, super simple and belongs to the queen herself, Mary Berry. 

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Ingredients

100g Softened Butter
175g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs (my eggs are usually just medium size!)
2 Ripe Bananas (mashed)
225g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
2 tbsp. Milk

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C / Gas 4.
2. Lightly grease a 2lb loaf tin, then line the base and sides with baking parchment. (I use a rubber loaf mould, lined with a loaf case.)
3. Measure all ingredients into a mixing bowl (I sift in the flour, sugar and baking powder) and beat (I use the lowest setting on the hand whisk) for about 2 minutes, until well blended
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface
5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 1 hour (I add 5-10 extra minutes for my loaf), until well risen and golden brown.  A fine skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean if the loaf is ready.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

The loaf is delicious warm out of the oven or simply on it's own once cooled. You can add a frosting for the top if you like, but we especially love our banana loaf grilled and topped with yoghurt, honey and fruit or nuts!

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Now that Winter is well and truly on the way, our comfort food favourite will definitely be a chocolate chip loaf. We tried this today for the first time and were really pleased with the result - especially warm from the oven! We just popped in some chocolate chips after the first minute of beating.

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Hope you enjoy this wee loaf recipe as much as we do here at My Little Duke HQ!

All my love,

Steph xox