Thursday, 26 November 2009

Things I Like Thursday 26th November 2009

Woops! A little bit late this week! It's been a busy one!

-Let's start with a big one shall we - SCOTLAND BEAT AUSTRALIA!!!! Yay! It was the best rugby game I have ever been too - the atmosphere was electric! My heart was in my throat for the last ten minutes of the game, and it certainly felt good walking out of Murrayfield on a high! Oh yeah, and we were on TV! I've had so many people text/message me asking 'were you wearing earmuffs at the rugby?', yeah that was me! (It was cold!!!)

-'Picky' teatimes - You know when you don't want a full on sit down meal? I love grazing on lots of things and tonight was one of those nights. Crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar? Check! Capers? Check! Olives? Check! Seafood sticks? CHECK!!!

-Ordering new cupcake goodies - I cannot wait to get my hands on Gingerbread Man sprinkles, Candy Cane sprinkles and new delivery boxes!!

-Planning on wearing Ruby slippers when I get married (I watched my special edition of the Wizard of Oz again last night - loooooooooove)

-These Chanel inspired bow shoes on (Mind you, my Peep Under My Quilts take a lot of beating)

-Anna Wintour - I finally saw The September Issue this week and she's not nearly as scary as I expected her to be. That lady knows her stuff.

-The phrase 'What's good for you won't pass you by' - here's hoping!

-My mum's friend telling me that love feels like someone 'putting hairy worms down your back' - gross but cute!

-Writing lists. I'm a Pisces but I certainly have some Virgo qualities, listing being one. Ooooh I want a laminater

-Spending time with my mum and dad - ah...that's where I get it from.

-The fact that the Kiwi has started calling himself HighTower.

-Hearing that a friend tried to blow out a candle while brushing his teeth. Priceless.

- This video. Purely for Beekers parts. Love it.

< -The Aristocats - If I was a cat, I'd want to look like Duchess

- When we went shopping this week I started putting away our bags. When I picked up the last, it was heavy so I assumed I'd left the milk in it. But no. I looked inside, and I certainly don't remember buying this -

There is something weird going on with my blog so if things don't look quite right, that explains why!




Thursday, 19 November 2009

Things I Love Thursday 19th November 2009

I've been happy about a lot of things this week - mainly because I'm on HOLIDAY! Woohoo!!!

-Ogling this red KitchenAid in John Lewis - anyone got £389 spare?

-Fresh crusty loaf. If you get close enough to the screen I'm sure you could smell how good this is. We used it to mop up creamy garlic sauce we had with mussels yuuuuummmmmm.
-Long lie ins
-Cosy winter jumpers

-Landmark! I haven't been since I was little, so the Kiwi and I were stoked to stop in by on our way back from Inverness. Unfortunately a lot of the attractions were closed as we're into winter, so we settled for the Treetop Walk and went squirrel hunting.

Eventually we came across three and they were AWESOME. I want a squirrel tail - it would be like having a massive fleecy blanket with you all the time.

-THIS poster at the cinema! Exciting! The Wizard of Oz is one of my all time favourite films, and I can tell already that I'll be crapping myself when the Wicked Witch flies past Dorothy's window cackling during the tornado! (Interesting fact - Jack Haley wasn't meant to play the Tin Man -Buddy Ebsen, who was originally set to play the Tin Man, had a near-fatal reaction from inhaling the aluminum dust in the silver powder they used on his face. They chose a silver paste/paint after that, but the Ebsen was too ill to go back to work, and so Jack Haley was brought in.)
-Making Maltesers Traybake - thank you Debbie and Andy for introducing me to this ridiculously easy and tasty recipe. My love handles thank you even more for it.

- Finally - the cats are LOVING having us home at the mo, and they're completely acting up. So much so that they're knackered and at the moment Mika is lying across my legs upsides down dreaming of catching meeses, with Coco lying under him snoring her head off (seriously this cat has nasal issues).

So here are my pyusses in some of their finest moments -

Although these two were neutered at a young age and have been the only cats in the house their entire lives, they still have maternal and paternal instincts. Hence the Kitten game. Our two would be very protective of any little un's they had. Check out Mika's eye smooch at the end.

Like children, our cats have lots of toys. And also like their human counterparts, it is the simplest toys that keep them happy. Coco's world revolves around her string. This length of elastic came attached to a pair of shoes I bought and she has been inseparable from it for the last year. She fetches it and if she drops it at your feet you MUST play with it. If not, she will paw at you and moan at you until you do. Even in bed, at 7am. Check out that left hook at the end.

I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow for our yearly rugby trip! Yay! We always go for a whole weekend and make an event out of it! Bring on the Ginger Grouses! If you're watching on TV and see two women storming the pitch and chasing the players, that'll be me and my mum!!!


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Day Two in Inverness - Seizing the Castle

After returning from the Highland Wildlife Park, the Kiwi and I set off for our second dinner destination.
This is one seriously lush boutique hotel. We were booked into the restaurant, Chez Roux and I was expecting good things. Albert Roux, the iconic French chef, took over the food and beverage operation at the five-star hotel in Inverness earlier this year, and trained the chefs to produce simple yet stunning food for the 50 seat brasserie.

We settled down for the first drink of the night (me a Margherita, and the Kiwi a Long Island Ice Tea), and started to soak in the trendy yet welcoming surroundings. We were perusing the menu when the Kiwi started flapping his arms and shouting. Sensing this behaviour wasn't exactly apt for a five star restaurant I glared at him. But still he continued, so I followed his gaze, and nearly screamed. The tiny black napkin which my drink had been served with had caught alight thanks to a teeny tea light and was now bursting in a mino bonfire of sorts. We tried our best firefighting skills - the Kiwi flapping a menu in its direction, me blowing -but thankfully the bar manager came to our rescue, with a fresh drink for me. I wished the ground would swallow me up there and then, but thankfully the other two guests in the bar were simply giggling to themselves, as was, believe it or not, the bar manager.
Not too soon, we were then escorted to the dining room, and I almost gasped as they opened the door for us. Our table was nestled into a bay window overlooking all of Inverness, and the room was empty and still. It was stunning. Not to lower the tone, but I felt like Belle being taken into the library in Beauty and The Beast (the Kiwi being the beast, obviously).
The meal we devoured was worth all the hype Chez Roux has received. My Pike Quinelle came in the most delicious sauce I have ever tasted and I would have quite happily have accepted it as my final meal. Thankfully I didn't feel quite so full as teh previous night, my Quail with chestnuts and grapes, and pineapple sorbet just enough, so we drifted back to the hotel 'food drunk.'

On Monday we set off early, as we'd been booked on an 11am cruise around Loch Ness. Though I've visited Loch Ness many times as a child (no, I still haven't seen it), I'd never been on the Loch. Sometimes it takes something like this to make you appreciate the country you live in. Scotland has some of the most stunning scenery in the world, and the crisp November morning provided calm waters and eery grey skies which served as a perfect backdrop to the Loch.

We stopped off at Urquhart Castle for an hour. The castle is now a series of ruins, after the government of William and Mary ordered it be blown up, to save rival clans fighting over the impressive stronghold.

What is left is actually very pretty, perfectly set against the wild Highland countryside. There are many castles in Scotland that are more complete, and some that are larger. But there are few with quite such a turbulent history, and even fewer located in such beautiful surroundings.

I even managed to find my own medieval calling - in the bakehouse.

Just as we were leaving, the atmosphere changed, with the sky darkening and the wind picking up. For a tiny moment I got a feel of what it would have been like trying to protect your castle from rebellious clans and wild Scottish weather and I have to say, it makes me appreciate our little flat all the more.

Our weekend in the Highlands made me remember why I love living in Scotland -it's breathtakingly beautiful and wild.


Day One in Inverness - Monkeys and tigers and polar bears - oh my!

This past weekend, the Kiwi and I spent a couple of nights in Inverness and it was fab.
I was reviewing a hotel and a couple of restaurants for work, and we had a few other things planned in too.

Things didn't start off too well, when we turned up at the hotel and they had no evidence of our booking. Luckily, they had rooms free so we were still able to stay. Then a hotel worker opened a door into my face. Thankfully the room was gorgeous, with a huge comfy bed which made up for everything. I say huge, but the Kiwis legs from the knee down were uncovered for the majority of the weekend as they hung down at the bottom of the bed. I guess that's the problem with being 6ft 5in.

We had one of the best meals I've had in my 24 years in the hotel. The restaurant we dined in was visited by Gordon Ramsay during his Kitchen Nightmares series. Gordon could find no fault with the food, saying the establishment's problem was that it was far too posh and luxurious for the north of Scotland. While I don't agree with that (Scots appreciate their food more than most), I have to say that the 'trying-too-hard' feel of the restaurant did almost take away from the delicious menu.

We devoured 3 courses, and three entrees, all of which were delicious, though slightly pretentious. Whereas a menu should draw you in and leave you salivating, the menu left me rolling my eyes, and trying to decipher just what 'brocolli air', 'textures of banana' and 'quince foam' were.

When we were presented with canapes that looked like a piece of art I was afraid that the adjectives on the pages of the menu would be tastier than the food. Thankfully I was wrong. I savoured salmon in redcurrant jelly, a cube of beetroot jelly with a piping of goats cheese, and duck with apricot and parmesan, and realised what the problem with the restaurant was - it didn't need all of the froufiness and over-stretched English - the food spoke for itself. Yes it was maybe still a little OTT, but the flavours and obvious love in the kitchen sang from the plate and into my palette. I continued to devour Mushroom Tea (!), Hare with the 'quince foam' (which was actually delicious), rack of lamb, chocolate orange mousse with pomegranite sorbet and finally a slate dish with 'textures and temperatures of chocolate, toffee and banana. Needless to say I had to be rolled to my room after all that.

We set off early on Saturday, heading for the Highland Wildlife Park, in Kincraig. I hate to say it, but I wasn't expecting much - humans struggle with the cold of the Highlands, what animals would be willing to do the same?

Boy was I wrong. The park is out of this world, and I can't remember a time when I got so close to the action. We first drove around a large reserve, taking in sights of rare wild horses, yaks and camels (yeuch. I hate camels.) Further round we saw enormous bison, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the beast out of Where the Wild Things Are.

Then we saw these gorgeous red deer. How handsome is the male? I'd strut if I had antlers like that too.

We then parked up and walked around the rest of the centre.

First we came across these snow monkeys. I SO wanted to give one a massive cuddle - how warm does that coat look? They had a baby in their family who was born in April, so they were all acting very protectively, apart from this little guy who was far more interested in picking things off the grass and tasting them. It's scary how similar these monkeys are to us.

Then we came across these Sumatran Tigers. When we first arrived there were three cubs playing with eachother, rolling around and pouncing on eachother. We could see Mummy Tiger keeping an eye on them from up the hill.

But suddenly, out of nowhere came Daddy. Wow. What a brute. His paws were huge and fluffy as he pounded along.

He stopped to take a drink, before wandering off and collapsing in a heap, just the way Coco does.

We continued up the hill, just in time to see one of the cubs pounce on Mummy Tiger - brave little man. Soon they were rolling around, him lying under his mum slapping her face with his fluffy paws. Daddy simply strided up and down watching his brood proudly.

It was amazing to see them so close, and in such a relaxed mood. In so many ways they reminded me in Coco and Mika - their characteristics, traits and actions - I've seen Coco pounce on Mika so many times, but she looks like a gerbil in comparison to these big beasts.

The park's current star is it's polar bear Mercedes, who was recently transferred from Edinburgh Zoo where she's lived for the past 20 years. As a cub she kept wandering down the to small Canadian town she lived by, and the residents had her marked down to be killed. Thankfully the Royal Zoological Society stepped in and now she calls Scotland her home. Unfortunately she kept moving, and my camera battery died so this was as good as my photos got of her.

My final obsession at the park (there were many times when the Kiwi had to physically move me on to the next exhibits) were these beauties.

There were loads of these wild cats, and they had the most amazing purpose built shelter with walkways between the trees. The cats had such a wild expression on their faces and beautiful fluffy tails.

A sign said one of their biggest threats was being bred with domestic cats. We've always said that my mum's cat Kiki is half wildcat because she has the persona of a Doberman in a cute fluffy package, and it seems we may be right.

I cannot recommend the Highland Wildlife Park enough. We had such a wonderful time there, and it was great to spend some time in the Scottish countryside looking at these amazing animals. The work the park does is fantastic and you can sponsor the animals too.

Oh yeah, and although I didn't get a photo of it, there was a stunning wolf, that made me all the more excited about going to see New Moon next week!




Thursday, 12 November 2009

Things I Like Thursday November 12 2009

WHAAAT?! A whole week has whizzed past again? How does this happen!?!?

Oh well, here goes all the things that have put a big daft grin on my face this week -

-Reuniting with old school friends over cupcakes (Hi Natalie!)

-Google's awesome homage to the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. This blog is brought to you by the number 4 and the letter C! And I don't think it's a coincidence that I have the same initials as the Cookie Monster...

-3D - It's rocking my socks at the moment. We went to see A Christmas Carol on Friday and it was AWESOME! It felt like standing in the middle of a snowy street! If I had stuck my tongue out I swear a snowflake would have melted on it! Plus I'm very excited about this.

-The Kiwi cooking me Chicken and Mushroom Risotto this week when I was feeling rotten. His usual culinary quests are limited to something on toast, so this was a big deal. He also gives awesome bear hugs.

-Researching egg-free cake recipes for my friend's boyfriend who is allergic to them (eggs not cakes. God how awful would that be?!?!). It's all coming together Lindsey, a blog is brewing...

-Receiving amazing pics of the Galapagos Islands from the Kiwi's Granny - she's 76 and has a yearly trip from New Zealand to some of the most amazing locations! Last year she went hot air ballooning in Kenya!

-Organising trips to see New Moon (eeeeh so exciting). Made even better by going with friends who have no idea how amazing they are.

-In a similar vein (sorry), how amazing is True Blood? I spent an evening catching up on episodes and now I'm hooked! Especially love how Bill calls Sookie, Sucki, in his Southern drawl!

-Planning for a Come Dine With Me style night with my friends! Yay! We need a bitchy commentator though...

-The Kiwi's new Fush and Chups Friday rule (Kiwi's don't have fish, they have fush)

-The start of the Autumn Tests!!! Mainly because it means Sean Lamont and Chris Cusiter are in the papers more often! We're making our yearly pilgrimage to Edinburgh next weekend to watch Scotland v Australia which I am SO looking forward to! Nothing better than gulping a Ginger Grouse, watching ridiculously hot men play rugby while laughing at my mum screaming maniacally at the opposition!

-Having the ingredients for a Ginger Grouse sent to me at work! Boost!

-Long distance phone calls to New Zealand. So nice to hear from family and friends, and it still makes me giggle that while I'm sitting in my PJ's getting read for bed, they are getting ready for work! The 13 hour time difference is weird!

-Making your own pizza! We do this every now and again because a) we love pizza, and b) I like weird toppings. While the Kiwi layers up ham and cheese and BBQ sauce, I am delicately placing my capers, anchovies and olives on mine! Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum!!! (Pizza is quite often Saturday morning snack in our house too!)

-But most of all....HOLIDAYS!!! YAY! The Kiwi and I are off as of 5pm tomorrow! We're off to Inverness on Saturday for two nights to review a hotel and a couple of restaurants (nom nom nom), and visit the Highland Wildlife Centre. Then next week will be chill out week before Edinburgh next Friday! (Don't worry, the Tonks are being looked after by their favourite visitor, my great aunt who lives next door.)

Hope you're all having a fab week! What's making you smile?



Friday, 6 November 2009

Dear Santa...

At the moment, my work life includes creating Gift Guides for the newspaper, creating lists for her, for him, for teens etc.

What I can't get over is how unappealing and unimaginative I'm finding the kids toys that are out now! Seriously, kids need no imagination or creativity to play with these toys, and that seriously depresses me! What happened to all the cool toys at the back of the Argos catalogue that you'd circle months in advance?

So, instead of my normal Christmas list, I'm going to write my 1992 Christmas list - the things I wanted when I was 7. I'm sure you'll agree, these are waaaaaay cooler than some of the over marketed pants you get today!

1) Always at the top of ANY present wishlist - Sylvanian Families. You have no idea how much I wish I could go back into our loft (my dad put down flooring and made it into a toyroom/den for me) and play for hours with these. If you don't know what Sylvanian Families are (Where were you in the late 80s/early 90s??), they are small woodland creatures, which come in families and have a whole world of their own. I got my first Sylvanian family (The Evergreens) from my Granny and Grandad's friends and it started an obsession. My friend Jacqueline (Hi Jacqueline!) and I would hoard these inch-tall figures, and spend hours creating villages, houses, shops - anything we could think of. We cracked up laughing the day our hedgehog lost his 'hair', and ended up looking like a mole, and even my cat Squeak would come up and watch proceedings from a toy box. The best year was the year Jacqueline and I both got the Sylvanian Families Canal Boat (along with the Otter family, The Vandykes). That boat is still under my bed in my room at my parent's house, and still I get to play with it when my mum's friend's daughter Alix comes to play! (Yay!) Unfortunately even Sylvanian Families have fallen victim to modern times, with non-woodland characters added (penguins?)

2) Goosebumps, Secret Seven, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High and Guinness World Record Books. No Christmas stocking would have been complete without one of the above. Goosebumps were amazing books that both girls and boys read at my school because they were terrifying! Some of my favs were Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, Say Cheese and Die—Again! and The Horror at Camp Jellyjam. I think the best book I ever got for Christmas was a Give Yourself Goosebumps - a standard book where at the bottom of each page you made a decision that decided how the story turned out! AWESOME! And it came with a clip on reading light - BEAT THAT HARRY POTTER!!! *

*Sorry Harry, I love you really

3) A Doll's Head - Sounds creepy, huh? What I mean is a giant dolls head that you could make over! These were ace! You could do their hair ( I think I learned to plait hair on one), 'draw' the weird plasticy make-up on with out getting messy - it was brilliant. In fact, I think my mum bought me one after I raided her make up and got it all over my friend, myself and my bedroom carpet... At least this way, little girls could play with make-up without going to school looking like transvestites or dolled up like Amy Winehouse, aged 10.

4) Playmobil - Clip on hair? Brilliant! This doesn't really count as you can still get Playmobil, but I remember it being a lot more popular when I was small. When I was 6/7 I was in hospital quite a bit with renal reflux (knackered tubes to my bladder and kidneys), and I can vividly remember getting a Playmobil set with a surgeons table, a drip, a theatre light and doctors - it was great! It came with clip on bandages, and I remember thinking hospital didn't look too bad!

5)My Little Pony, Cupcake Dolls (!) and other weird smelling plastic toys - Cupcake dolls are probably the exception to this - they smelt awesome (for the first month anyway). Turn the doll's skirt upwards and she turned into a sweet smelling cake! My Little Pony needs no explanation, although I think they've been modernised too (boo).

6) Popples - Popples were soft, cuddly teddys/marsupials(?) which rolled up into themselves, and formed a ball. Apparently they were made by the same people who designed Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears,and the idea came from rolling up socks. Whatever, they were super cute and could be used as a pillow in the car! I also had a Wuzzle, but my Popple was a favourite.

7) Cabbage Patch Kids - Not sure if these were genuinely popular in the UK, or if Jacqueline and I were just really lucky. These (butt-ugly) dolls came with their own birth certificate, and mine, bought on holiday in Florida was called Dorothy Molly. She was a redhead, and came wearing a bikini and sunglasses and get this - she TANNED! I still don't know how that worked! Dorothy featured in a series of holiday snaps for years! P.S Anyone else find the fact they had a tattoo on their arse weird?)

8) Sindy - I don't care what anyone says, Sindy will always rule over Barbie in my heart. I inherited some of my mum's Sindys (and a Patch doll) as well as some amazing 70s furniture. Over the years I added to my collection - the Dreamhouse (with a poster of Paul), a make-up counter, a Beach Jeep and a remote controlled scooter. Most importantly - I NEVER CUT MY DOLLS' HAIR!!! This was sacrilige in my book!

Also on my list - Teddy Ruxpin (always wanted one), Trolls (I remember having one whose eyes flashed. Very 90s rave), Pogo Balls (pogo sticks, without the stick), He-Man toys and videos of The Gummi Bears, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tailspin, Ducktales and Maid Marian (so good!). Ooh and also, if anyone can get me on Funhouse, Finders Keepers or Art Attack, I'd love you forever.




Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Things I Like Thursday 5/11/09

Sorry I've been a bit quieter this week. I've been in a sugar coma because these are baaaaaaack....

-Every November sees me and my friend Fiona obsessively stalking Starbucks displays for the first hints of the Red Cups. I could live on Gingerbread Lattes. They're my personal source of yummy, spicy central heating until February. (Thankfully I've found that His Majesty's Theatre and Books and Beans also do them all year round. Phew.)

-Mika's futile attempts EVERY morning to try and get me to stay at home with him instead of going and making Go-Kat money. I wish I could animate this (duh how about a video??) to show you just how much he rolls about looking adorable and making little whiny noises.

-Our new sofa! Which the cats promptly took over - don't they look comfy? How is it that two small balls of fluff can take up so much room?? Anyone who's ever tried to share a bed with a cat will know what I mean.

-Getting VERY exciting e-mails about projects I thought had passed by
-Having our heating fixed - it's so nice to wake up and not feel like I'm living in an ice cube tray. Now it feels much more like I'm living in a Pain au Chocolat. Droooooool.

-Rubbing your eyes at the end of the day and not worrying about make up smudge-age. Seriously it's bordering on orgasmic. See also cleaning your ears with a cotton wool bud.
-Interviewing inspirational people. This week I spoke to Jack Webster, a well known journalist and broadcaster who has just had his first play produced aged 78. What a legend.
-Hearing that my good friend and ex-colleague has just finished his first ever commission. He set up his own boat building and repair business last year and seeing his first product hit the waves is a very proud moment.
-Laughing when the Kiwi told me he's attempting Movember again. Seriously, he's still a bit baby faced (which I don't mind), so usually a month's growth equals some suspicious fluff everywhere on his face BUT his upper lip.

-Also hearing the Kiwi try to incorporate Doric (Scottish dialect) into his everyday language. So unnatural and funny. Bless his size 12 cotton socks.

-Watching Coco's Yoda face. Seriously she loves it, and purrs and head butts till you do it again. I told you she was weird.
-Finalising trip plans - very much looking forward to sampling the wares of Chez Roux and Abstract in Inverness.
On a sad note, I was meant to be attending a cooking class this weekend at the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine but my trip has been cancelled. They do a three day cooking course on baking!I was meant to be attending a class on panic-free seasonal entertaining, but the PR girl booking it e-mailed me to say the accommodation had fallen through. Bummer. :(
Hope you're all having an awesome Thursday!