Monday, 29 December 2014

P'S 2014 HIGHLIGHTS . . .

Paris, April 2014

As we come to the end of another year, it's always time to reflect on the best and worst bits of the previous twelve months. Personally, I prefer not to focus on the bad. Luckily there wasn't a massive amount for me, personally. A bit of work stress, yes. Struggling with my weight, check. Losing a friend through no fault of my own as far as I'm concerned, indeed. (That one, especially, still irks and hurts massively but what can you do!) Scotland not becoming independent, gutted. :-( There has obviously been a lot of bad stuff happening in the world, and close to home there was the bus lorry tragedy in Glasgow just a week ago - having something so tragic and horrible happen in your adopted hometown is just heartbreaking, and makes you realise just how easily something precious can be lost.

But nice stuff happened too. For example, last week I won a pretty large sum of money in work. Not a life-changing amount by any means, but enough to treat myself to a couple of nice things (have yet to decide on what), sign myself up for some online personal training and pay it forward a bit by buying six of those meals for the homeless that Itison and Social Bite teamed up to offer.

Throughout the year, I got to visit some really nice places too. There were places in Scotland, obviously, which I feel so lucky to have finally got to visit, places I've always wanted to go and places I had never even heard of before. I've covered some of these places in my Scotland the Beautiful series, which I hope you will check out, if you haven't already. It's amazing some of the little gems my modest country has been hiding! My favourite so far has been the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall and Loch Skeen, near Moffat in Dumfrieshire... once I eventually made it up the hill!


Then in April I got to go back to Paris for the first time in nearly 20 years, as my boyfriend took part in the Paris marathon. Going back and doing the tourist thing as an adult was pretty immense and I loved every minute of it. Well, apart from nearly killing myself climbing the stairs in the Arc de Triomphe (view of the street from that vantage point in the picture above!) !




Corfu the following month was also utterly amazing - relaxing and sunny and beautiful. Just what I needed. I loved the hotel too - unfortunately we probably won't go back there as planned due to it being "done up" a bit and therefore hiking up its prices. I have my eyes on a hotel a few resorts over with six waterflumes though for next year so it's all good... ;-)







In late June, we headed to Blackpool for a long weekend, another place I haven't been in years.Okay, so the Blackpool Tower isn't quite as grand as the Eiffel Tower but it was still great fun. And, since I hate heights with a passion, was a bit less scary. Apart from the glass floor, that is! Our hotel was lovely (there will be a post on my favourite British - mainly Scottish - hotels coming up at some point soon and this hotel will be most definitely featuring) and I ate the biggest toad in the hole that I believe ever existed (well I could only manage half), and we went to the Pleasure Beach, we played so many arcade games, did a Pier pub crawl, found the local Wetherspoons (well, you have to!) and played Crazy Golf. The only thing we didn't manage which was on my list was making a sandcastle, but on the sunday when the weather was amazing, the tide was in for most of the day. Typical!!!

Obviously this is not real... I would have been having a panic attack by that point!
Pier pub crawl!
Posing in front of the Blackpool tower... as you can see it's not quite as glam as the Eiffel Tower... but less scary!
The glass floor was not my friend!


View from the tower!
Biggest toad in the hole I've ever seen, courtesy of our hotel!
Next up was my birthday weekend in Torremolinos (I must stress here that my bank balance has not been thanking me this year after all these holidays!) which was a great time. Despite being early October we got great weather the whole way through and I got to continue my tradition of recent years of spending my birthday in the sunshine on a beach!











There were a couple of other trips, a night in Dundee, a weekend in Aberdeen for me and the man's one year anniversary in October . . . and then a week in Tenerife with the sister in early November. (Note to self, going on a bikini-type holiday with a gym bunny is NOT good for the self esteem. But still was a great laugh and my first experience of going all-inclusive)


Me and the sis being silly!


Posing by the beach...




I've had great days and nights out, there's been many lunches, dinners and too many cheeseboards to count (both going out and staying in.) I've became the regular little cook and spend ages poring over Instagram for recipe ideas and then cooking up a storm for me and the man (I get my own back by making him do the dishes afterwards.) And I've been blown away by the support from my friends around the various things that have put a pall on my otherwise really nice year. Okay, so I lost one friend... but I think the behaviour of my other friends should remind me just of why that loss shouldn''t really impact my life that much.

2014, all in all, has been a great year. I'm hoping 2015 can surpass this - we're already planning a return to Paris in April, another trip to Corfu and (hopefully) trips to Northern Ireland and London. We've also already got a weekend in Anstruther booked in January (I used some of my winnings for that) and an overnight in Loch Lomond in the not-too-distant future. And hopefully this online personal training thing will help me get my body confidence back.

Here's to 2015 everyone!!!

What were you high points of 2014? Anything in particular you're looking forward to this year?

Saturday, 20 December 2014

THE GIFT OF GIVING: NEW EDITION!!!

A few years ago, dumbfounded by some of the gifts I spotted online while shopping, I made a post about some of these finds, which later spurned a sequel. Six years on,  I have decided to revisit this post idea this year, so let's see what gift ideas are astonishing me this time around . . .

Period panties
 
 





Do you really want a pair of these? Apparently, they are a good alternative to granny pants and save you having to explain to the man that you're on the blob. (If you're anything like me, it's obvious I'm ABOUT to be on said blob when I have cried uncontrollably about not being able to open a can of tuna for three days beforehand, and the pants are therefore unnecessary.) The only good thing I can see about these is that they're so colourful they'll probably cover up any "leaks" you might have... (TMI I know.)

Hand Sanitiser


I don't really want to dwell on this one but let's just leave it at this: I would be a wee bit hurt if someone gave me any hand sanitiser as a gift, but THIS one would leave me with levels of off-the-chart rage.

Blood Bath Shower Gel


Instead of feeling clean, let's see how it feels to be Janet Leigh in "Psycho". Good plan . . .

Horse's Head Squirrel Feeder


This is going to help us humiliate squirrels apparently. While I suppose it is pretty funny to see a squirrels body peeking out from underneath a horse's head, do you really want a horse's head in your garden? Personally I'd rather just not bother and let the squirrels just get on with things.

Sock Sandals



Personally I think these should be called "sandal socks" - regardless, I find them about as offensive as ACTUAL sandals over socks.

Giant stress boob


I'm sure most people have their biggest stress moments in the workplace... I'm sure it would be SO appropriate for me to, during a stress-out, say "Hold on, let me get my boob out" and start squeezing. Yep. That would definitely help. :-/

Poo Pen


Why would I want to use a pen that looks like a giant jobby? It not only looks disgusting, I think I'd actually find it difficult to write with.

Tinkle and Turd Salt and Pepper Shaker


And speaking of poo... wouldn't these put you off your dinner? That being said, it's probably a good way to cut down on your salt intake?


Don't worry... if any of these gifts actually INTRIGUE you, I've provided links to them all. I'd be interested to know if you buy any... or if you've noticed any other strange gift ideas which you feel would be best avoided!









Wednesday, 17 December 2014

WHY I COULDN'T BE ON "THE APPRENTICE" . . .

"The Apprentice" is a programme I have always sort of avoided. I couldn't really tell you why this is. But this year, thanks to the boyfriend, I've ended up watching quite a bit of it. And the one thing I have always thought, both before I watched it and now I HAVE watched it, is that I just couldn't be in it. 
  • I'm not good at talking in front of people. How could I possibly do a pitch? Or put forward an argument in the boardroom over why I shouldn't be "fired"???  I can barely do a work presentation without tripping over every second word. I'd be made absolute mincemeat of in this programme.
  • Arguing. Confrontation. I HATE it. If one of my team-mates was trying to belittle me, I'd struggle to stick up for myself. Especially in front of Big Al! Which brings me on to...
  • The sucking up to Al. I understand they respect his business acumen and how he's a self-made man and all that crap. But all this "Please Lord Sugar, I'm just like you" bleating does my head in. I may be a nervous speaker, and lack a bit of spine sometimes when faced when more dominating backbones, but I'm not a sycophant.
  • That being said, the dude terrifies me. And that's just watching him on the TV!
  • I hate being put on the spot. This ties in with the not being a natural public speaker thing. If I know my stuff I can just about fudge it. If not, I'll fall to pieces and look like a moron.
  • I cry. A lot. And I hate doing that in front of people. Especially in front of a TV audience.
  • I'm not good at telling people what to do. I would be The Worst Project Manager Ever. (TM)
  • Even if I had a business idea that I thought I'd want Al's support in, I don't think I could bring myself to put myself through this programme to have a chance at it.
Good thing I don't HAVE a business idea I want financial backing for, I guess. Because I've probably just blown my chances of being on this show... :-/

Could YOU be on The Apprentice???

Friday, 12 December 2014

P'S TOP PICKS: EATING IN GLASGOW . . .

I love food. I don't mind cooking it, but even more so I like it when someone else cooks for me and waits on me hand and foot. So I'm quite lucky that Glasgow has quite a massive choice when it comes to eating out!

I have to admit that I'm a bit of a creature of habit though and once I find a place I like, I do frequent it quite a lot. So I thought I'd share a couple of my favourites with you lucky people!

FANNY TROLLOPES
What a name eh? Love the name or hate it, don't let it put you off visiting this little gem! In the Finnieston area of town, this is a handy-ish place for an after work dinner for me, and is also very handy for the plethora of pubs in the area so you can keep the night going after dinner (Finnieston is a FAB place for a pub crawl - trust me, I've tried it before). Friendly staff, fresh Scottish fayre and reasonable prices - what more can you ask for???

ROASTIT BUBBLY JOCKS
This is my local, sitting a five minute walk from my flat in Partick. Easily accessible by train for those coming in from elsewhere, I love Roastits. I first went by accident - after the night where we received the unjustifiably rude treatment in McPhabb's...  It's not for everyone though - a good friend of mine has not good memories of it. She's vegetarian so if you don't like meat/fish it may not be for you. Once again, lovely fresh locally sourced food, entertaining service from the deadpan waiter and don't even get me started on the crispy bacon and black pudding salad starter . . . oh my god! I recently had a hilarious couples night in there with Dawniepopsies, so I'm sure she will vouch for it too!

CAFE SOURCE
Another traditional Scottish venue but I'm not going to apologise . . .I love local food, okay? Situated underneath St Andrews on the Square in the Saltmarket area of the city, this is a place I haven't been in a while, but only because it's a bit of a walk from the west end! I love the haggis fritters to start and the sausage, rumbledethumps and onion rings are bloody brilliant. Okay... I'm about to start salivating. I MUST make a trip back there very soon! I haven't taken the boyfriend there yet, so I even have a good excuse . . .

DRIFTWOOD
Driftwood is one of my favourite cheap & cheerful haunts in town - although to be fair it's on the very edge of Charing Cross so isn't quite in the centre. That being said, it's handy for the joys of Sauchiehall St, like the O2 ABC (me and the boyf popped in there for dinner before our most recent Clean Bandit gig), or the King's Theatre. We've recently been embracing a deal we got through a popular restaurant booking website, which gives you three courses and a glass of wine from a limited (but delicious) Mexican/American menu for a mere 12 pounds! The mozzarella sticks are always a winner with me, I have tried both the fajitas and burger as a main, both lovely, and the warm caramel shortcake with cream to finish... yum! I've also had the chilli cheese fries on a random couple-of-drinks-after-work night in there and they hit the spot perfectly. Friendly service and the drinks are reasonably priced too. Definitely a winner in my eyes.

BALBIR'S
Back to the west end and Balbir's is probably my favourite Indian restaurant in town. It's definitely not the cheapest, granted, but their tandoori salmon starter makes it all worth it (and makes me want the recipe.).I've never had a bad meal in here. It's also handy for the many pubs in Byres Road if you want to make the night last a bit longer.

LA VITA
The most central restaurant on my list, La Vita is an Italian restaurant located on the edge of George Square. Friendly, efficient service (although the last time we were there I asked for a wine list and the waitress, after looking confused, finally returned with a wi-fi code for me. Which caused US to then be confused...) and a wide range of food available - you're not limited to just pasta and pizza, although both are awesome! The last time I was there I had the pan roasted chicken thighs in a red pepper cream sauce, accompanied by pesto mash. Amazing! Although the pasta and pizzas are just as good, don't get me wrong - I just sometimes prefer to go for something I am unlikely to be able to make myself at home!

So there you go! To be fair, I could probably give you far more but I've narrowed it down to six . . . I hope if you're in the area at any point you might consider them. Let me know if you do! ;-)

What's YOUR favourite restaurant, Glasgow or otherwise?

Sunday, 30 November 2014

SCOTLAND THE BEAUTIFUL . . . CAERLAVEROCK CASTLE!


As you probably already know, me and the boyf like to get out and about in Scotland. So when himself heard that many of Historic Scotland's attractions were going to have limited free tickets available this weekend due to St Andrew's day, we decided to try and visit a few.

Although I had never heard of it, I spotted Caerlaverock Castle on the online map with available tickets and snapped up a pair for us. We ended up getting a bit carried away and getting tickets for another two attractions too - it was a bit like Groupon for castles really, except without having to pay anything at all!

Caerlaverock Castle was my favourite though. I wish my pictures could have did it justice, but the pesky sun kept getting in my way, and my phone kept deciding to switch itself off.


Located close to Dumfries and close to the Scottish-English border, Caerlaverock Castle has been subjected to many sieges throughout its history, and has lain abandoned since the 17th century. Obviously, not all of the castle is still there, but the part that remains was pretty cool to explore.




Pretending to shoot the cannon outside the entrance to the castle


A view of another part of the castle, from inside the castle


There was even a moat!


 
 
Obviously we got in for free, but its normally only £5.50 for an adult, and I actually do think it would be worth the fee if you wanted to visit! There's lots of little nooks and crannies to wander around, a little walk you can do to the site of the original version of the castle behind, and a wee exhibit and video you can watch about the castle's history. Although we were there a bit later on in the day and there weren't many visitors at this point, there were a couple of kids having a great time inside the castle playing hide and seek, so it's good for the youngsters as well. (Just make sure they don't fall in the moat!)
 
For more information, you can visit Historic Scotland's website here.
 
What's your favourite old building?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

FACEBOOK VS TWITTER . . .

Social networking sites are cool, aren't they?

Well I think so anyway. I know there are people out there who don't really get social media. My entire direct family, for example. (Although I recently realised my dad is on facebook, much to my surprise.) It took me about six months back in 2007/2008 to talk my sister into getting a Bebo page . . . I had to help her set it up but I think about two weeks later everyone had moved onto Facebook as the social media site du jour so she immediately lost interest.

It was a very sad moment for me as I thought I was so close to getting her properly into social media. I was like the opposite of a proud parent. Anyway . . .

I guess when you blog you're even more likely to get into the world of Facebook and tweeting because there's a bit of self-promotion involved in all of these things. But I know that's not the only reason why people like them. I probably spend a lot of time on both Facebook and Twitter and I can see the good and the bad in both. I think a lot of people on twitter like to rag on Facebook a bit - and I can certainly see why. Facebook probably isn't as cool. There isn't as much wit on there as there is on Twitter.

But I suppose that's why I sometimes prefer Facebook.

For one thing, if I have something to say that I think may make people laugh, I'll pop onto twitter, flex my finger muscles over my tweetcaster app, and then draw a blank. I am meant to somehow transform and more than likely truncate my hilarious pithy thoughts into 140 characters? How is this possible? I mean, I could spread it out over more than one tweet - and I often do - but somehow this seems to soften the point or decrease the humour.

On Facebook there isn't this same character limit . . . I can make my hilarious anecdote as long as I want! I can accompany it with a photo . . . also without compromising the number of characters. Hell, I can add an entire ALBUM of photos to go along with it if I want. I mean, it probably will take away from the value of my oh-so-cleverly worded statement, but it's an option!

Also . . . people seem to find me funnier on facebook. I'm not sure why. But on the occasion I've posted the same thing on both twitter and facebook, I've got a much better reaction on facebook. I don't seem to have that same appeal on twitter!

I also like Facebook for storing photographs - it basically is my version of an attic filled with old pictures and photo albums. Except much more easily accessible, and with far less spiders and other potential creepy-crawlies and rodents. (Apart from the odd creepy guy hitting on me, that is... Ba boom TISH.)

But for every plus, there's a negative to balance it out and there are just as many things that annoy me about Facebook. I HATE HATE HATE the game invites. They are probably the bane of my life. In fact, as I have typed this post, I received several game invites through on my phone. It's a shame because I usually love invites . . . but not in that area of Facebook. I have no interest in playing Magic Town or Candy Crush or PissoffpleaseVille. And I don't like getting a notification on my phone and getting all excited (it makes me feel popular) only discover it's one of these turds. Not cool.

I also feel like I can post more frequently on twitter if I want. On Facebook I tend to limit my status updates and posts, and sometimes don't post anything for days. I used to be worse, and post every single thing that came into my head. Until a girl I know through my sister mentioned she'd had to hide my posts because I was "always on there". With twitter, I feel I'm among like-minded people who also like to post every thought they have ever had on occasion!

Sometimes I can't be bothered with either of them, mind you. And lately my love of Instagram has taken over from them both - I even played a #FirstWorldInstagramProblem hashtag game, mainly with myself, on Twitter back at the start of the month. If you didn't see it on twitter or (gasp!) don't follow me,  maybe I'll share it on here sometime. Somehow, at the moment, it's more fun to post pictures of every item of food I'm putting in my mouth than every thought that's in my head. I'm sure it will all balance out eventually once the novelty of that wears off though!

Do you ever wonder if any social media site will come along to eclipse Facebook or Twitter? I can't see it - of course, sometimes I'm so caught up in my own little social media whirl that there might already be one there and I just haven't noticed it! Obviously the aforementioned Instagram is up there too, but it has its own little niche different to what Facebook and twitter have to offer.

Maybe the three could join and form some sort of Supersupersocialmediasite???

I really hope not though.

What's your favourite social media site?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

YOU'RE ME . . . ONLY HALF A MINUTE EARLIER!!!

Okay, so I'm totally paraphrasing the title from a Friends quote . . . you know the one? Where Monica and Chandler are on honeymoon but keep getting usurped for all the perks of BEING on honeymoon by the same couple just in front of them all the time?



I feel like that a lot. Not in terms of a coupley way. Just that someone always seems to get to something right before I get there. Like basically the second I show an interest in something, someone else spots that interest and tries to jump right in there first.

Nothing interesting, nothing scandalous. I'm talking the banal stuff in life here, but that's what probably makes it all the more annoying!

For example, say I need a cash machine. I can see that one empty cash machine in the vicinity, winking away at me like a mirage in the middle of a dessert as I walk towards it. No one in front of it, no queue . . . until I'm approximately 5 paces away when some absolute BASTARD just materialises in front of it. And more than likely still has to pull their purse/wallet from the depths of their bag, before they proceed to pull out all five of their cards to check their balance on each and every one. When my transaction would have taken me a mere thirty seconds . . . suddenly a five minute wait is tacked on to the start of it.

The queue in Partick station . . . where they inexplicably only ever open one window for train tickets and don't have a machine you can use as an alternative. You can guarantee if you are in a rush for the train, the one person who materialises in front of you will be the person who is trying to buy the all-around-the-UK ticket and trying to pay for it in one and two pence coins. While wearing mittens.

The empty bar that suddenly becomes busy the second you reach it when you're gagging for a drink. The only other person in the shop who beats you to the only shelf in Superdrug where you could find relief for your dodgy stomach. Then proceeds to just stand there while you writhe in agony behind them, cursing them for life.

Worst of all, the person who walked into the chip shop two paces in front of you... who then gets the last available chips so you have to wait extra time for the next lot to be cooked. (Although the one advantage there is at least you get the freshly made ones, I suppose.)

This can't be just the story of MY life surely???

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

SCOTLAND THE BEAUTIFUL: BALMEDIE BEACH

A couple of weeks ago, me and the boyf headed up to Aberdeen to celebrate our one year anniversary together (I know, can you believe it??? Me having a one year anniversary!!!). One of the places we decided to go was Balmedie Beach, which is a couple of miles north of the city. I'd been recommended to go there by a couple of different people, and it was unseasonably warm for Scotland in mid/late October, so while we were hardly going to be sunbathing, it was still not too cold to have a wander about.

And it was really lovely!


 







For further information visit here.
 
 
 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

PACKED LUNCH IDEAS . . . FOR WHEN YOU'RE SICK OF SANDWICHES . . .

Mackerel with "faux potato" cauliflower salad, and individual crustless quiches...
I don't know about anyone else, but I have a real problem when it comes to finding easy and healthy ideas for lunch in work. It's fairly straight forward if you just want to buy your lunch every day and waste money, or you have a microwave in work . . . but what if you don't have the funds to splurge every day, or want to know exactly what is in your meal, or - this definitely applies in my case - there are only three microwaves in your work and trying to heat up a healthy meal involves random guesswork of when there will be a queue on any one day? What do you do then?

Well, I'm going to try and help you out here with some ideas in case you are in the same boat...

  • A Mugshot. This is one of the easiest "convenience foods" you can get. All you need is a packet, a mug and a kettle. Or in my case, I usually replace the mug with a plastic container and just get a cup of hot water out of the drinks machine. (like I said, I'm lazy.) Most Mugshots have less than 300 calories or, if you're doing Slimming World, some of them are considered "syn-free". Results all around! And they're cheap too. I recommend the Tomato and Herb or the Roast Chicken varieties.
  • If you have issues with waiting for the microwave like myself, you could invest in a thermos and make yourself some soup in the morning. I got a flask for the low price of £3.50 in Asda, and after heating up the soup before work, it is still warm at lunchtime. I will have this with a wholemeal pita bread in order to fill me up completely. This has been a revelation for me as I can have soup five days a week and just varying the flavour I choose makes it different. Now I just need to start MAKING the soup myself and I'm golden... (update: I HAVE now started making my own soup and turns out I'm pretty good at it!)
  • Chicken and ham roll-ups with Laughing Cow or Philadelphia as a filling. Low carb and delicious. I usually will have this with some pickled onions (I am currently obsessed with pickled onions) and a chopped up hard boiled egg.
  • Pate/soft cheese and melba toast. I LOVE melba toast and it's pretty low calorie.
  • Tuna fishcakes. Easy to make and delicious, and you can eat them cold no problem.
  • Sweet potato hash/veg cakes - Grate up sweet potato and courgette (I use a julienne peeler) along with whatever other veg you want, fry it up, then add an egg and form into patties and fry these). I ate these cold along with a home-made yogurt and coriander dip.
  • Salad. I know, I know... salads are boring. But they don't have to be. I usually grab a packet of spicy chicken from M&S (the sweet and smoky chicken or Mexican chicken is amazing) and mix it up with chopped up cherry tomatoes, avocado, peppers and some fromage frais. You could make up a bean salad (I like butter beans and tuna mixed up with onions) or my very favourite (and very simple) is low fat mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil. Yum!
  • Cold curry sauce with chicken. You wouldn't think this would be nice cold but it honestly is. I use the Harcombe Diet butternut squash curry recipe for the sauce.
  • Mackerel with cauliflower "faux" potato salad. ASDA do an amaaazzzing chilli and garlic smoked mackerel which can do me a couple of days lunch. I've included the faux potato salad recipe below.
  • Crustless quiche. So easy to make...  Recipe also below! (Don't say I'm not good to you...)
"Faux potato" salad
*****CAULIFLOWER "FAUX" POTATO SALAD RECIPE*****
Ingredients:
One small cauliflower
Fat Free Fromage Frais
Extra Light Mayo
Spring Onions
Red Onion
Method:
Chop up cauliflower into small chunks, microwave for five minutes and let cool. Take half of the cauliflower and blend with two tablespoons of fromage frais and one tablespoon of mayo. Add blended mixture back in with the rest of the cauliflower and mix, adding chopped red onion and spring onions. Refrigerate until required.





Crustless quiches, step by step...
*****CRUSTLESS QUICHE RECIPE*****
Ingredients:
2 eggs
Low fat cottage cheese
Ham (not compulsory but delicious)
Whatever vegetables you fancy (I tend to use mushrooms, onions, peppers, kale)
Low fat grated cheese
Method:
Put ham on the bottom of six silicone cupcake cases, mix eggs together with two tablespoonfuls of cottage cheese, add veg, pour mixture on top of ham. Sprinkle with a little grated cheese, then cook in the office for about 30 mins at 200 degrees.

Chicken, mozzarella and tomato salad, ham, and pickled onions, with a side of fruit...

I hope these suggestions help someone, and if you have any other ideas for good packed lunches, please feel free to comment - you might give me or someone else further inspiration! :-)