Posted in cross stitch

Cincinnati Union Terminal

I finished this piece before Christmas and packed it in my bag to take to Cincinnati to photograph in situ. I failed to do that because I was too busy having a great time. SORREEEEEE.

I’m considering making this available as a cross stitch chart. When I say considering, I mean it’s been in my brain for months and I’ve done fuck all about it yet. Plus ca change.

Posted in Travel

Round-Up

A short and sweet round up of our trip – it feels like it lasted for months, in the very best way. We ate so many great things, so many awesome things, sweated A LOT, spent too much money, drove over a thousand miles across Kentucky, went to a drive-thru ATM more than once just for the lolz, and best of all, spent the most time we could with that pair of goofballs. All the heart eyes forever. Next trip cannot come soon enough.

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Posted in Indie Design, Travel

Fleas

If there is one thing America knows how to do right, it’s a flea market. I’ve been to a couple in my time, but this time I made it to not one, not two, but THREE. My cousin Anne loves antiqueing, and we both have a ruthless policy of strategising our approach to both looking and purchasing, with me being the haggler, so we make a good team.

This trip, we made it up to Springfield for their twice-yearly outdoor extravaganza at the county fairgrounds. I think the cannibal hotdog was my favourite spot. SO many pieces of industrial furniture I could have brought home, and most of it so cheap – next time, I should book a container ship.

The other type of flea market is the City Flea, Cincinnati’s premier independent designer/maker monthly event. It’s held in Washington Park in the Over The Rhine district, which is full of cool art, shops, restaurants and stuff.  I’ve been a couple of times and I think it must have been the first one we went to that I first saw the work of James Billiter, the smiley guy pictured above.I finally got to meet him this time properly and as well as being super-talented at the artwork game, he’s super nice and also a bit of a sneak, as he and Lee cooked up between them to send me an absolutely beautiful piece of art for Christmas – look how excited I was to open it!

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Can’t wait to get that framed and on the wall. Hooray for fleas.

Posted in Travel

#BEDM 10. Wishlist

The theme today is wishlist and when I think of things that I wish I could do, they are invariably related to travel. There are so many places I wish I could visit, and if I stop to think about it too much, I get a little panicked that I’ll never fit it all in (realistically, I will never fit it all in, but let’s not dwell on that).

Part of the problem with fitting it in is that some of the places I’ve already been to, I really want to go back to, so it’s a fine balancing act of exploring the new and revisiting the familiar. I should never have started my San Francisco Pinterest board, let’s face it.

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Of course, the one place I do keep returning to is Cincinnati, Ohio. My cousin and her husband are there and are just the best company and so generous to host us so often. We always have a great time, we tend to save all our shopping up until we’re there, so the time always passes in a whirlwind of shopping, eating, drinking and general merriment.

Even though we’ve visited loads of times now, there is still so much we haven’t done yet. Cincinnati is situated in such a handy location that it’s within easy striking distance of loads of places – we’ve taken the Megabus to Chicago, driven to Nashville, Cleveland, Louisville, stopped off in New York on our way home, not to mention taking in a large part of the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky – Lee’s a big bourbon fan and collector.

I decided to use this post to update my wishlist for our next trip:

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This donut tour of Cincinnati looks awesome, although it’s a crime that Busken’s is not on the list. I’ve never tasted a donut quite like a Busken’s – so light and airy and delicious. SO GOOD.

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Yeah, another food post but check out some of the things on this list – I’ve not even done half of them yet. I’ve never been to Tom + Chee, but check this donut sandwich – my arteries are clogging just looking at it.

front roomThe American Sign Museum has been on my to-see list for a few years now, but we’ve never gotten round to it. Definitely has to be done next time!

This little @rookwoodpottery owl flew into our new home today, a gift from my beautiful cousins in #cincinnati. A little piece of our second home, here with us in Scotland. Such a lovely piece, so finely crafted. Love it ❤️

A visit to the Rookwood Pottery factory, where this little guy is from. I’ve seen lots of it in the wild, but I’d love to see behind the scenes.

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To be honest, most of the things I want to do are food-based. What can I say, I’m a trougher. I’ve never been to Montgomery Inn, a Cincinnati institution. Lee has, and never tires of telling me how much I’ve missed out! Definitely going next time.

The Florence water tower is my favourite thing to see when I’m there (though it’s technically in Kentucky).

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There’s loads more stuff on the list, of course. Check out my Cincinnati Pinterest board for more stuff. Cincinnati is such a dynamic city – always new businesses, shops, restaurants, bars etc opening to try out. I heartily recommend it!

Posted in Living

#BEDM 1. Intro

Blog Every Day in May badge

I did the Blog Every Day In May challenge last time around (or was it two times ago? I can’t remember) and quite enjoyed it, so I signed up again this year. Of course, I’ve had a pretty busy week since I decided to do so, so haven’t gotten round to even starting it until now. So I’m blogging retrospectively every day in May for a bit.

The first set topic is to introduce yourself, so for anyone who hasn’t been reading this for years, firstly, you’ve really missed out (ho ho, not) and secondly, here’s some fascinating facts you might not know about me already.

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1. My day job is in television – it sounds exciting but it’s really not anything than a relentless endurance test of the soul, mind and body. I work in Access Services which is providing subtitles, audio description and sign language translation for most of the UK’s broadcasting companies (everything except ITV and Channel 5, basically). I used to be a live and pre-recorded subtitler but I’m now a duty manager, planning who does what and then making sure it all happens. It’s all the stress of live television but none of the glamour.It’s long hours, stressful at times but you do get to watch a lot of telly. Sometimes, I remember that we’re providing a magical service to some people who would be lost without it and that makes me happy. I’m really great in a crisis though, as a result of my job. It’s the one thing I can blow my own trumpet about without cringing – bring me a problem and I can think of 5 ways to creatively tackle it quickly. It’s why I think I am pretty awesome at my job.

2. I’ve been running my own business for over 10 years. Some aspects of it I really like, some I don’t. Some days, I have an overwhelming urge to pack it all in and never think of it again and others I want to drop everything and immerse myself in it. Lately, I’ve been enjoying not worrying much about it and taking time to create things for myself or friends. It’s made me remember that it can be fun and relaxing to cross stitch!

3. After vowing never to buy another house, I recently did. Other things I’ve vowed never to do include: get married (11 years this year), sell on Etsy again (considering a return for the VATMOSS headache for my patterns), go in a hot air balloon (so far, so good).

4. My brother lives in Siberia. I was hoping that he’d blog/instagram more when he moved there, but so far, all he’s done is talk about the weather and ask us to post him gravy granules. It’s not as cold as you’d think it is there but it is apparently a lot harder to make a stew than you’d guess.

5. My husband and my dog are both Welsh. I’m outnumbered by Welsh males in our house. We sort of rescued our dog, Max. He was taken in by a 93 year-old lady in the Lake District after his original owners had to give him up the day they were moving house. He’s a big Labrador, and quite active, so he soon proved too much for even a sprightly almost-centenarian. We were starting to think about getting a puppy when my friend Sarah suggested that we drive down and meet Max. We agreed, on the understanding that we were not taking him home with us that day. A few hours later, we were driving back with him in the back because he was just adorable. He’s really a massive part of the family and I can’t imagine life without him. I’m forever grateful to Sarah’s parents living next door to the old lady who took him in.

6. I really like giving things to people, gifts, unwanted possessions, etc. I am always the one who brings cakes into work. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I am forever giving things away. I just like making people happy in small ways.The joy of gift-giving is something I’ll never tire of. I like helping people find great gifts for people that are really well-suited to them.

7. I really like driving. I only passed my test a few years ago, later in life, and since then, I’ve become quite a confident driver. However, the past month or so, I’ve had a string of incidents where I’ve been completely abiding by the rules of the road and other drivers (all male, all white BMW/Audi/van drivers) have cut me up and then verbally abused me rather rigorously, which has knocked my confidence a bit. I’ve started driving different routes to work to mix it up a bit, but it’s really stuck with me and I hope my stupid brain lets me forget it soon or it will be sad that I’ve let them fuck my mojo up.

8. I do all my best thinking in water. I can spend hours in the bath, or in a pool, and a lot of my best ideas have come from wallowing in water. I’d love to swim more but I don’t often get the time. I’m a Pisces, of course.

9. I’d love to live in America one day. My family in Cincinnati really want us to go out there, too, but we’ve been unable to secure jobs/visas so far. I firmly believe that it will happen one day though. Until then, we’ll just make do with frequent trips there. Next time, I might even pluck up the courage to try driving on the wrong side of the road.

10. I really like horses. I enjoy a trip to the baseball. I love the beach. I’m addicted to Coca Cola. I lived in Thailand for a bit a few years back. I have an irrational hatred of lollipop ladies. I could happily eat soup for breakfast and toast for dinner. I’m a bit addicted to Netflix, too.I don’t eat fish or seafood of any kind because ewww, it’s been in the sea and I’ve peed in there. I just want everyone to get along and have a quiet life, really.

FIN.

Posted in Giving, Travel

Shit Happened

Some more stuff I enjoyed, Stateside:

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Pottering around my cousins’ beautiful home and admiring their many trinkets, antiques and pieces of art, including this tiny scrimshaw box and this vintage tin from the factory my uncle managed back in the day.

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Walking into Anthropologie and realising the whole shop was 20% off and managing not to lose my shit.

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Enjoying several amaretto sours made by Jim, my cousin’s husband – he mixes a mean cocktail.

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Watching telly, feasting on choc-ices.

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Having dinner at Brio one night, which was all lit up outside like Christmas (it was quite cold, too).

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Seeing a real-life possum in the wild (ie on the patio) and being grossed out – these are some  much more photogenic squirrels. The one without the tail is called Stumpy and is the butt (ho ho) of many in-jokes.

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Carol singing in Fountain Square – again, SO super-Christmassy.

 

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Gimpsing New Riff Distillery and having a pang of missing Lee, who on our last trip, booked a bottle of bourbon from their first distillation – we have to go back in 4 years to collect it.

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This pleasing display in Target.

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Awesome sunset on the way home from somewhere. So vivid.

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Enjoying an evening of culture at Pendleton Arts Center to see their Final Friday studio tour – we saw a lot of mediocre art, but also some cool stuff. These self-portraits were very  much, to me, in the former camp. Pendleton also wins the award for most 80s logo ever.

 

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Going to Cheesecake Factory and not being able to eat any cheesecake because we had lunch beforehand – forgot about their mahoosive portion sizes.

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Eating at hot-ticket restaurant Nada and enjoying some awesome barbacoa tacos, guac and chips for brunch before hitting up the City Flea Small Mall – a truly excellently curated and well set up craft fair at the 21C Hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

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Sneaking in some Dojo gelato at City Flea – so tasty.

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Coveting this full size sleeping bag suit that you can climb into and be the cosiest ever in – built-in snack pockets and a hood all for $130. Was v tempting…

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Hanging out with a whip-smart, funny, beautiful teenager who was just a delight – I wish I’d been so smart at that age! We had a lovely time at brunch and shopping together with our respective mothers and Anne.

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Getting a glimpse of the old Keebler factory that my uncle managed – he invented the plastic tray in some biscuit packets there, you know. You’ve him to thank for your biscuits not being broken.


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Eating the best doughnuts (and cronuts!) ever – Buskens, you must start shipping to Scotland NOW.

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Walking down and then back up these very confusing stairs at the 21C Hotel.


16012217795_535659afd5_zSeeing Paul Blart Mall Cop in the flesh.

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Enjoying drinks by the outdoor fireplace.

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Going bourbon shopping for Lee and having to keep my mum off the merchandise.

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And generally, just enjoying the festive season with my American family.

Now, one final piece of giveaway business to take care of – and to prove it really is random, The Crafty Lass, your name came out the hat (ie random.org) again, so the crochet books will be winging their way to you, too! Yay.

I think I’ve already identified another couple of giveaways to come, once I start giving things away, I find it very hard to stop.

 

Posted in Travel

Giving Thanks

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So, Thanksgiving. What a uniquely American experience that was. I arrived in America a few days beforehand and all anyone could talk about, family, friends, strangers in shops was – “what will you be eating?”. Not what are you doing for Thanksgiving – oh, no, “give me a full rundown of menu items so we can compare notes”. This is very much my kind of holiday.

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Everyone in Cincinnati at least has a wide and varied range of turkey and/or pumpkin-related decorative items for the occasion – I am not sure when they go up, but I can tell you that at the stroke of midnight on Thanksgiving Thursday, a team of silent elves apparently appears to spirit them away to the basement and replace them will full-on Christmas decoration. My cousin’s house was very tastefully decorated with little turkeys and autumnal accents around her spacious pad, like a Martha Stewart spread, I was most envious.

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I really did not expect KISS to feature in my Thanksgiving, but as I sat in a very comfortable armchair between eating bouts, watching the Macy’s Parade, there they were, in all their facepainted glory, Gene Simmons getting his tongue out in a very sleety New York especially. The parade seems to consist of a bunch of giant blimps in various shapes and sizes, 85,000 marching bands and a whole bunch of people I have never heard of looking cold in a variety of coats, most likely available at Macy’s. I mostly loved the adverts, American adverts are so much more entertaining than ours.

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And then – dinner. The big event. It was truly delicious, though some items are a little questionable – e.g. sweet potato and marshmallow casserole. Pretty delectable on its own, but oddly out of place with a turkey dinner. See also: pickled watermelon rind and croissants. Crazy Yanks.

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My cousins though made it such a special and memorable day for us. After we’d stuffed ourselves silly, it was time for the National Dog Show from Philadelphia and a few cocktails. Most civilised.

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I’m very thankful for my American family – both my great uncle Sam on the left there (he of the biscuit factory managing) who is sadly no longer with us, and my cousins, Anne and Jim who so graciously host us when we visit and are really the best fun. I’m so lucky to have them.

On a different note, the stationEry giveaway winner, picked at random, is…Claire from Claireabelle Makes! Whoop-la! Please email me your address to [mrspiquante at gmail dot com] and I’ll get that off to you.

Posted in Giving, Travel

Eat It

It’s no secret that quite a lot of my time spent in America is spent eating. It truly is the land of plenty – so much to choose from, but only 3 meals a day to fit it into. Creativity is required to fit everything in. Before we go over, usually Anne, my cousin, will ask us for a list of “must-eats”, so she can plan a loose schedule to take in as many of the spots on our wishlist as possible. Anne, like me, is a professional planner, we love a list, and we love to tick things off it!

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Skyline Chili is one of the must-do things in Cincinnati. The city is famous for its chili, but it’s not chili as you know it. It’s spiced with cinnamon, cloves and other strange things to give it a slightly sweet but definitely savoury taste. Some critics have described it as “quintessentially American”, others have called it “the worst regional American food” there is, but it’s a definite must-experience when you’re dining in Cincinnati. Traditionally for our family, it’s a lunchtime thing – we’ll meet Anne from work and have Skyline at the restaurant next to her office, and also it’s an on-the-way-to-the-airport snack to fortify you for a transatlantic flight.

 

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ihop, or International House Of Pancakes to give it its Sunday name, is another place frequently on our list. Who knew there were so many breakfast options? I particularly like breakfast in America as they are a) so accommodating with substitutions, no eggs, etc b) are quite happy for you to order a bunch of sides c) their bacon is just the best and d) you can have as many drinks refills as you like and then they’ll give you another drink in a cup to go at no extra charge.

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Mulled cider for breakfast? Aye, go on then. Start your day off with a festive swing. I usually have these chicken florentine crepes and they are just amazing, though not all that to look at.

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New to me this time – Frisch’s Big Boy:

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The tartare sauce is the thing here – it’s mighty tasty. A bit like Big Mac sauce but way better. Their onion rings were a solid 7/10.

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And of course, no trip to the States is complete without at least one visit to Five Guys, the best burgers there are. Their first Scottish location opened in Glasgow last week though, so now it may drop off the list, as we’ll be able to go whenever we like – yay! Not yet though, as apparently the queues are horrendous. I think it’s worth waiting for, they’re really delicious, good quality, well-cooked and I just like their ethos.

I’m probably not finished talking about food yet, but for now, I’ll leave it there. The Crafty Lass, you’re the winner of the Christmas giveaway!

Posted in Living

Tidy

home

 

We had a house inspection the other day, so the house was tidy and clean for a few hours. Max was packed off to my dad’s for the night to give the illusion of calm. It was quite strange having a sofa without a big dog sprawled on it and no dog-hair dust bunnies roaming the floors. Doesn’t it look tranquil?

We got that stag’s head just before Christmas from M&S. It’s a cardboard pop up one and I think it looks pretty at home up there above the fire. We’ve also put up a bunch of artwork we’ve been meaning to for a while, including the Hatch Show Print one to the left of the fire which you can’t quite make out. It makes everything feel a bit more homely.

We finally completed the last bit of admin which sees us free from the housing debacle of 2013, so a weight has been lifted, finally and fully off our shoulders. We did what any sane person would do to celebrate – booked a holiday on the proceeds. Cincinnati here we come!

Posted in Travel

Senate

I’m breaking the rules of BEDM again today, as I couldn’t think of what to write about the topic, so instead, following on from yesterday’s post, I am going to tell you about the best meal we had in Cincinnati last month.

Usually when we go to Cincinnati, we stay with my cousin and her husband at their beautiful home in the suburbs. We did that again this trip, but on our last night, we stayed in downtown Cincinnati as they had to go to Chicago for my cousin’s book launch party (bad timing on our part, we should have went, too!). We picked the Garfield Suites Hotel to stay at, which is a pretty central location – downtown Cincinnati is fairly small, so everything was within easy walking distance. We were just a couple of blocks away from the main Fountain Square in one direction and the hip and upcoming Over The Rhine district in the other.

Because we knew we were going to have an evening downtown, we’d done some research on potential dinner destinations and I had pretty much set my heart on going to Senate.

Billing themselves as pushers of beer, wine and gourmet street food, I was determined to go, even though I was recovering from a pretty harsh vomiting bug. With a menu like this, I’m sure you’d drag yourself out of bed and waddle a few blocks, too.

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The menu actually has changed since we were there and possibly since this photo from their website – check the recent one here.

I wish I could have done the menu more justice, but I had pretty much no appetite but really wanted to experience the food, as I’d been thinking about it since we booked our flights, weeks before.  Lee got a crazy cocktail which looked awesome – I wanted to try one but could barely keep water down, let alone alcohol, so I stuck to soft drinks and water.

To begin, we shared the pot stickers which were, quite simply, one of the best things I have EVER tasted.

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They are off the menu now, so I can’t describe them in detail, but suffice to say they were crispy but soft inside, and the sauces – oh, man, the sauces. Perfection. I could easily have eaten just a plate of those and I’d pay good money to have some of them right now!

Next, I had another item which has fallen off the menu – possibly seasonality means some of the ingredients aren’t available locally? I am not sure, but it was AWESOME.

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Oh, I wish I had been feeling better and could have eaten all of this, but I really struggled to get through even half of it – not because it was horrible – far from it. It was a pork rillette type of affair, in crunchy breadcrumbs with an apple chutney on a perfectly crafted bun. So tasty. Lee had the Croque Madame hot dog which came served on a little wooden board and he said was equally delicious.  I was clearly too busy swooning over mine, as I don’t have a photo of it.

To accompany our dishes, we had a special – bacon fat fries. My mouth is watering thinking about them again…

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I think I just wept a little there, remembering how good they were. Our other side dish was lobster mac and cheese:

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I don’t even like fish, in fact, I hate it. But this – DIVINE.

We had to wait around 30 minutes for a table, on a busy Friday night, but it was well worth it. Some of the people coming in behind us were being told up to 2 hours wait, so we were lucky! We got seats at the bar and I really liked sitting up there and watching the bar staff at work. They were all really nice and attentive, refilling our drinks and generally being awesome. They seemed genuinely worried that I hadn’t enjoyed my meal as I’d left so much of it, so I had to explain that I was just a bit ill and that I wished I could eat more!

We skipped dessert, much to my dismay – I just wasn’t up to being upright any longer and had to go back to the hotel. But I’ll be back for those pretzel beignets one day, you mark my words!

Check out these other bloggers’ experiences – with great photos – here and here. That second link makes me sad for missing those beignets.

In the unlikely event that you’re in Cincinnati any time soon, you MUST eat at Senate!

I’m blogging every day in May as part of BEDM. Find out more here.

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Posted in Living

Food Glorious Food

We were in America last month, visiting family, shopping, touring around Tennessee and generally having a whale of a time. I always love the food in America, the land where anything can be deep fried and served in a bun (and I say that in admiration, as a Scottish person).

We ate so many amazing things and if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll probably have been licking your screen for the whole time we were away, as I posted loads of food porn photos.

Here’s a selection of our eats from our trip:

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Mmm, breakfast burrito from the hotel on the day we left – so good.

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Massive big ice cream sundae from Graeters in Cincinnati – an ice cream institution! It’s a must-have on every trip. This had cookie dough and some other gooey delights in it.

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Corned beef sandwich and potato pancake at Izzy’s, Cincinnati. A Man V Food restaurant! But we didn’t take the challenge.

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Skyline chili with just a little bit of cheese! Cincinnati chili goes back to the 1940s and is a special recipe with cinnamon and other stuff in it that’s unusual. It’s served over spaghetti with a massive handful of cheese on top for a 3-way. Add onions and/or beans for a 4- or 5-way. I like the 4-way with onions, easy on the cheese.

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Oh, Cheesecake Factory, I love you but my thighs do not. Cookie dough cheesecake – OH YEAH.

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Breakfast at the Loveless Cafe, Nashville. Oh, MY. The biscuits (scones to you and I) are like little clouds, I think I ate about 87 of them. And that thing in the pot is hash brown casserole. I’m drooling. I think I need to come back and write about Loveless a bit more at some point.

5guys

Basically, if you haven’t had a Five Guys burger, you lose at life. They are, quite simply, the best burgers, ever.

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Aww, MAN. The barbecue we had in Pigeon Forge, TN will go down in Brown family history. LEGENDARY. Also we stayed in a Christmas-themed hotel there and ate ice cream in the hot tub by the Christmas tree, but that’s a story for another day. As is the tale of our best meal in Cincinnati. Now I have to go find breakfast. Pronto.

I’m blogging every day in May as part of BEDM. Find out more here.

Blog Every Day in May badge