My Little Duke

Our Best Coffee Hangs ( Belfast Edit )

Coffee Hangs, Food, TravelSteph DukeComment

There are countless options for a sweet coffee hang in Belfast these days. We're just going to share our four faves at the moment!  To find out more, be sure to check out @belfastcoffeemap. This class fold out map gives you the inside scoop on the buzzing Belfast coffee scene and more places to try.  

Pie + Drip Sunday @ Established, Belfast, coupled with BCM

Pie + Drip Sunday @ Established, Belfast, coupled with BCM

1. The Pocket - @thepocketcoffee

Nestled in amongst the red brick terraces opposite Queen's University, The Pocket is a nook worth checking out - especially on a Friday when the donuts are rolled out! Excuse the pun!! Grab a perch at the window and watch the world go by while enjoying their awesome menu and coffee. It's a tight squeeze when it's busy ... but, that's why I love it so much! 

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Literally no words for this waffle...

Literally no words for this waffle...

The Pocket is a great spot for refuelling before or after checking out Queen's University, Botanic Gardens, The Palm House and The Ulster Museum (all of which are FREE to visit!) Hurrah!

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2. Guilt Trip - @guilttripcoffee

This new coffee and donut joint is one of the coolest coffee hangs we've had. Awesome coffee and cracking donuts - although, be warned, they usually sell out fast so best not to visit late afternoon if you're after a donut!

Guilt Trip isn't in central Belfast, but it's definitely worth the trip to go and see what the fuss is all about! Their branding is super sweet and they've even got their own merch, if that's your jam.

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3. Established - @establishedcoffee

Next up is Established, a true gem! If you are ever milling around Cathedral Quarter, get yourself over to Established ... pronto. Even better, if you're in the area around 3pm on a Sunday, be sure to stop by here for their weekly 'Pie + Drip' combos - incredible. (see first image)

You will never be disappointed with a visit here. Check out their IG here to whet your appetite for their signature pancakes and waffle creations.

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Last Christmas when I had super long hair! 

Last Christmas when I had super long hair! 

4. General Merchants - @generalmerchants

Our final Belfast Coffee Edit goes to our most recent coffee hang. On Thursday we visited General Merchants ( the one on the Newtonards Rd ) and I was super impressed. The decor is so lush! Plus, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I tasted their custard bun ... oh heck yeah! Well worth a visit if you're in the area or well worth it for a solo trip. The selection on the menu is superb and one of the best Cortado coffees I've had yet. 

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So, there you have it. There is simply no excuse not to enjoy good coffee in Belfast these days. Seriously. No excuses! Get yourself a copy of a @belfastcoffeemap and get out there and drink some exceptional coffee. If you're out and about Belfast this week and you snap your coffee hang using #MLDcoffeehang, you could be in with a chance of winning your very own Belfast Coffee Map! Our favourite picture will be chosen next Sunday 22nd October, so get sharing!

 

Still looking forward to checking out:

1. Haptik - @wearehaptik

2. 5a - @5acafe

3. Root & Branch - @rootandbranchcoffee

 

Have an awesome week guys, wherever you drink your coffee!

S xo

The Cat + The Crumble

Motherhood, FoodSteph DukeComment

This post was sketched out in the early hours of Sunday morning. It was well after midnight and I'd had one of those days. EUGH. You know those kind of days. They creep up on you and catch you off guard. They can really knock you off your feet too, if you let them. Days when you just can't seem to shift a negative spirit off your soul. Days when you feel like you can't even get off the sofa. 

Saturday had actually started really well. A slow and sweet morning breakfast with Phoebe, followed by a pre-scheduled Webinar on creative branding. The webinar session was really excellent; incredibly inspirational and motivating. While I watched, I was treated with some takeout coffee and custard buns (my absolute fave!) by daddy and daughter. Phoebe declaring, "Look, I got you coffee mummy!" So, where did it all go wrong?

I had just spent nearly two hours in the morning listening to, and getting enthused by, a pair of creative visionaries, catching some of their vision - raising up daringly intentional individuals, passionate about pursuing their creative callings and stepping out into artistic freedom. Wow. How often, when something positive happens, something negative quickly swoops in to throw doubt, confusion and fear into the mix. Within the hour I was already hit with doubt.

Did God really say?

How could I ever do...?

What would I even know?

Very quickly I began to turn into a Saturday sloth. Phoebe took her afternoon nap while I threw myself on the sofa. I was already wallowing in self-pity mode after listening to the questions of doubt and letting them take hold in my mind. I didn't eat lunch and a 'h-angry' Steph is never a good Steph to be around. I dozed on and off for the next few hours and, not surprisingly, woke up in no better form. Phoebe didn't take as long a sleep as usual, so she wasn't in the greatest form either. Poor Matt. 

There was definitely a bit of cabin fever going on by the time we got to tea-time. Those of you with small children understand. Cabin fever is never good. We all needed to get out and get a good dose of Autumn air. The closest we got was Matt heading out for Chinese while I gave myself a good talking to, resolving to enjoy tea and be productive in the evening. This productivity was going to take the form of baking. Phoebe and I have baked before so I knew patience was a must! Baking with a toddler can be ... em ... interesting! I had hoped to get out in the afternoon to get Phoebe an apron but sloth-mode prevented that from happening. Again, my mind was being fed by negative thoughts before even starting to bake. Plus, Matt was hovering around the kitchen this time and it was probably best he wasn't there!

Phoebe and I started to bake a pear crumble and everything began to fall apart. Nothing was going right. I was using a new online recipe and I didn't have a baldy clue what I was doing. Always helpful when baking with a 2 year old.

Not.

The screen on my phone kept turning off and my stupid thumb recognition never works, so I had to keep typing in my passcode every few minutes. Again, always helpful when trying to do this with fingers covered in butter and sugar.

Not. 

You can see exactly where this was going. I was frustrated. And was getting an increasingly irate toddler who couldn't understand why she wasn't allowed to squeeze the mixture into her hands. I am no expert baker, but I'm fairly certain that we were supposed to be making a 'light breadcrumb-type' texture for the crumble topping. Instead, we were making something more resembling sticky, lumpy, dough. Poor Phoebe. She was having a great time up until that point. Getting to rub the mixture through her hands and squeezing it through her fingers. Flipping brilliant for a 2 year old. But, the more she squeezed the ingredients together, the more frustrated I became. What ensued can be best described as some sort of weird comedy sketch where the mother continuously tells the child what not to do and the child does it all the more. The mother gets redder in the face with every squeeze while the husband watches on in amusement. It got to the stage where Phoebe was now clenching the mixture between her fists and simply refusing to let go. My precious hopes of beautiful crumble topping were cruelly crumbling away, along with my patience and sanity. Matt offered some rather ... helpful ... advice. Girls, you know the kind I'm talking about here. Needless to say, my response was less than helpful back. 

I demanded that I be left alone, immediately. As you can imagine, Phoebe was less than impressed with this decision and as the wailing faded into the living-room, I was soon left with only my bowl of banjaxed crumble topping and my feelings of guilt and anger for company. Now, the whole family was cross, and that was totally on me. As I continued to seethe in my self-made irritation, things could only continue to go in one direction. The boiling hot 'syrup' concoction of water and sugar ended up all over the kitchen bench after I dropped the wooden spoon into the saucepan. And, as the syrup hit cooler air, it began to harden almost instantly, everywhere it touched. Great. Really improved my mood.

Not. 

Long story short. I also forgot to put the brown sugar in the crumble topping mixture. The sugar mixture didn't mix properly in the saucepan, leaving hardened sugar that had to be scooped out when the pears went in. I also had to bash the crumble topping with the rolling pin to try and make it actually look like crumble topping! 

So where does the cat fit into this scenario? 

After a lengthy discussion with Matt about whether or not to put the cooled 'crumble' (I'll use that term loosely) into the fridge. He seemed to think it wouldn't need to. I wasn't convinced. We left it on the bench, covered in tea-towel. A few hours later I went into the kitchen to put the pets to bed, only to discover a continuation of the crumble catastrophe. The tea-towel was pushed into the crumble pie and the mixture was oozing through the towel, in the perfect shape of the crumble culprit ... the cat. 

You get it. My reaction was ... well ... less than mature! I went to bed, absolutely drowning in self-pity and shame. I was livid at my choosing to let negativity ruin what should have been a nice, family Saturday. It was all on me.

That is not good enough.

Too often I let the voice of negativity control me. It is never helpful. It never ends well. As I lay in bed that night, I heard the soft whisper of the Lord ... stop stressing. All that ... stuff. Give it to Him. We never need to carry round self-doubt, guilt or shame. Surrender it all and feel the freedom when that weight is lifted from your shoulders. A negative spirit sucks the life out of your soul. Swap it for joy, peace, love and life ... or if all else fails, just trust your gut ... put the flipping crumble in the fridge! At least that way, the cat can't get it!

The 'crumble'

The 'crumble'

The cat 

The cat 

Autumnal Argory Adventures

Motherhood, TravelSteph DukeComment
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The Argory has to be one of my most favourite places. This National Trust property has always held a special place in my heart as when my husband and I got married, we rented the little gate-lodge at the entrance.

young + in love - ha!

young + in love - ha!

It was a very 'other-worldly' experience, especially for me as I'd grown up living in a town and well... The Argory is pretty remote! What an experience though - we survived that crazy winter of 2010 and the BIG SNOW even with the single glazed windows! 

our little home 

our little home 

We only rented the cottage for about a year but made wonderful memories in our first year of marriage together. Now, 7 years later, I still love the place ... especially at Autumn time. I've spent 7 years perfecting the art of 'conker collecting' - getting to know the best tree spots and times of the month to visit. Now, with Phoebe, it is simply pure magic. What a joy to watch her little eyes light up as she finds 'onkers' big and 'onkers' small; little treasures to bring home and cherish. 

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Phoebe proud as punch with her @tillyandcub basket, full to the brim with 'onkers'!

Phoebe proud as punch with her @tillyandcub basket, full to the brim with 'onkers'!

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The grounds of this National Trust property are simply stunning. The atmospheric 1820s gentry house stands in full glory at the top of the hill, overlooking the Blackwater river and Limetree walk. 

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Bunny hat by @sosatsuma

Bunny hat by @sosatsuma

Magical Limetree walk 

Magical Limetree walk 

Sep 16'

Sep 16'

Sep 17'

Sep 17'

There are lots of fascinating trails to follow and explore in the 320 acre estate. Blackberry picking is another favourite of ours and we are in the right month for it! Grab some brown bags, head to the visitor centre for a map and go hunting! The river walk is always particularly good for spotting the best blackberries.

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In the courtyard of the house you will find the quaint and quirky Blackwater Bookshop - there are oodles of second hand books to browse and buy, or just take a quiet moment to yourself in a little book nook or read with the kids. 

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If books aren't your thing then why not enjoy a cuppa and cake in the little courtyard tearoom. This cosy cafe has been recently renovated and is such a warm and welcoming space for visitors to relax in and recharge their batteries after strolling the grounds. There are always delicious homemade cakes and scones on the go, along with lunch options and great little snack boxes for the littles. Everything is made on site and recipes from the National Trust Cookbook are used along with seasonal favourites.

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Also in the courtyard you will find the Gift Shop. A place you will almost certainly find something to take home, either as a treat for yourself or gift for someone special. Their new range of woven rugs and throws are the perfect option as we head into those chillier months! 

(Pic from National Trust Website)

(Pic from National Trust Website)

For the little ones there is a playground with a zip-line and climbing frame for bigger kids. 

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There is always something to see and do at The Argory, from a simple stroll to activities with the kids, there is something to suit everyone.

What's on at the Argory?

+ This Saturday, October 7th, Cool FM are visiting the estate. There will be games and live entertainment, along with a BBQ, arts and crafts and a treasure trail.

+ During half term, as always, you can follow the Halloween trail around the estate, carve out a pumpkin and try ghoulish treats in the cafe.

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So what are you waiting for? Visit The Argory and make some magic!

Steph x

Please note: Opening times vary seasonally - see here for more details and pricing info.

Our Best Coffee Hangs ( West of Ireland Edit )

Coffee Hangs, TravelSteph DukeComment

It's International Coffee Day!

No better excuse for you to visit one of the growing number of coffee shops on our little island. 

Coffee tour of summer 2016

Coffee tour of summer 2016

Last summer, my husband and I discovered our passion for the 'coffee hang'. There are so many amazing coffee shops here in Northern & Southern Ireland. Places with a cool vibe and awesome coffee. I am no coffee expert, I'm actually more of a tea drinker at home! But, I am partial to a skinny flat white or cortado coffee when out and about. So much so, apparently, that our friends like to joke with us about where all our money goes ... 

I have far too many 'coffee moment' pictures, so when Ali of @ali_marriott mentioned about blogging some of my favourite coffee shops, 'International Coffee Day' seemed to be the right time to do so. So here goes. I'll share my faves and those I'm still dying to try.

There are way too many to share in just one blog post so they will be split into location (West of Ireland, The North Coast, Belfast etc) and shared during the month of October. I hereby declare October as 'Coffee Month'. Get out there and grab a sweet 'coffee moment' with someone special. Here are 2 beauties if you are ever fortunate enough to visit the West Country. It's just beautiful and holds a special place in my heart. 

 

1. Shells Seaside Bakery & Cafe, Co. Sligo - @shellscafe

Set on the West Coast of Ireland, at the infamous surfers paradise 'Strandhill Beach', is my most favourite coffee hang, Shells. Always hustlin' and bustlin' - the vibe is most definitely 'surfer cool', and nothing quite beats sitting outside with the fresh sea breeze in your hair! Famous for serving up the 'Best Flat Whites in Ireland' I have to wholeheartedly agree. Unreal. 

This coffee hang is so much more than good coffee, food and fresh air. For me, it's actually good for the soul. Soul food and surf. What more can you want? 

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The best flat white in Ireland. FACT.

The best flat white in Ireland. FACT.

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Shells also have the most delicious menu available. We've eaten both breakfast and lunch several times here, and have never been disappointed.

 

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Shells provide cosy blankets to keep away those chilly sea breezes - perfect for stealing snuggles!

Shells provide cosy blankets to keep away those chilly sea breezes - perfect for stealing snuggles!

The 'Little Shop' @ Shells stocks a stunning array of delights including: @linesandcurrent, @creightonschocolaterie, LAGOM by Linnea Dunne, prints by @garyreddin and much much more. Go check it out. 

The 'Little Shop' @ Shells stocks a stunning array of delights including: @linesandcurrent, @creightonschocolaterie, LAGOM by Linnea Dunne, prints by @garyreddin and much much more. Go check it out. 

 

 

2. Pudding Row, Easky - @puddingrowsligo

Approximately 40 minutes west of Sligo is the quaint and historic village of Easky. Before summer 2017 I had never heard of the place but the wonderful power of IG led me to the hidden gem that is Pudding Row. Our friends from @ursaminorbakehouse (don't worry, you will hear all about them in the 'North Coast' post) visited here on their summer travels and I knew instantly that we had to make the trip. And ... Wow. Blown away. Lots of locally sourced food, fresh home-baked bread and delicious treats! The coffee is also superb. There is such a homely and friendly atmosphere here. We could have stayed all day. 

Main St, Easky village

Main St, Easky village

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View of Easky Castle

View of Easky Castle

The Historic Easky Castle can be seen from Pudding Row and is worth visiting. If it hadn't been for Phoebe we would never have found the 'secret tunnel' and staircase that led right to the top of the castle! Incredible views and you can just feel the history of the place as you make your way up and round what's left of the castle. 

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So there you have it. Two splendid coffee hangs in the West of Ireland. If you do get a visit in, be sure to IG it and let us know how you get on. Use the hashtag #MLDcoffeehang so we can see your experiences! 

Bro-in-law @ianvennard selfie @ Strandhill

Bro-in-law @ianvennard selfie @ Strandhill

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There are a few more places I've yet to visit in and around these parts:

 

1. @driftwoodsligo

2. @sweetbeatsligo

3. @coffeewerkandpress - Galway!

 

Wherever and whenever, enjoy your coffee moment!

xo