Thursday, 26 July 2012

Learn something

Does everyone get sidetracked when they've done an online search for something?! I was looking at the BBC news site, to see if there was anything interesting on there that related to my work - and any pressing celeb gossip I should know about obviously. I ended up reading about a new scheme to deliver free higher education for all - not related to my job at all, but I thought it was really interesting.

Big fancy American universities such as Princeton and Stanford (we've all seen the hoodies!) host courses on Coursera, and the University of Edinburgh has just become their first UK partner. The website lets anyone sign up for free and get access to online courses delivered by academics at these universities. They're not degree level, although you do get a certificate, and there's quite a random assortment just now. But I think the idea is a great one.

Education shouldn't be about how much money you have or your parents have. It should be about wanting to learn and achieve something for yourself. I don't agree with the government strategy of encouraging everyone to go to uni straight from school; some people aren't suited for it or are not interested in it. But I do think that opening up access to learning for those that want it is so important.

Quite tempted to sign up for something...

Monday, 23 July 2012

This weekend...

We realised that sometimes the more you do in a weekend the longer it feels, which is never a bad thing. On Friday we made Smitten Kitchen's homemade pizzas for our friends who've just announced they're expecting a baby. They went down well, even if my oven did slightly burn the back corner!

Then on Saturday, after being bitten by the seaside bug, we headed off to Rothesay for a day trip. Unfortunately the promised sun never really materialised and we didn't like Rothesay as much as Millport but it was still nice to get away. Rothesay has a bit of a run down feeling and is much more of a working town than a tourist place. There was a small museum that showed how it used to look, it used to be a tourist mecca and people would come for 2 weeks! Despite it not living up to former glories we still had a nice look around the castle (and a nosey at the wedding that had just taken place), a walk along the seafront, some chips and an ice cream. A Saturday well spent.

We met up with a couple of friends for a 'quick drink' when we got back, that turned into several drinks, an Indian and a last one for the road!

On Sunday we stayed in, tackled Friday night's dishes, had another friend over for tea and biscotti and watched Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Overall a lovely, sociable weekend with lots of eating and drinking.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


This weekend we went to the seaside! I love being by the sea. I grew up on the coast and it always feels like home when I go back, regardless of where we are.

Millport is a wee town on the island of Great Cumbrae, less than a 10 minute ferry ride from Largs on the Ayrshire coast. We had the perfect British seaside weekend. And it was sunny!

Hired bikes and cycled the 10 mile route around the island, played crazy golf, ate ice creams, went onto the beach and clambered about on the rocks, sat in a beer garden, walked up to the tiny cathedral, got a wee bit sunburnt. Perfect.

Monday, 16 July 2012


So, not content with my baking success of last week I decided to make another tray bake for going away this weekend. I had a vague Malteser cake recipe in my head but got home to realise that I'd mistaken white chocolate for milk and that the only Digestives I had were chocolate ones. Not one to be beaten by chocolate, and with the mantra 'mixing chocolate and buttter, how wrong can it go??' ringing in my ears, I forged ahead anyway.

Turns out melting white chocolate and butter together can go a bit wrong, luckily I rescued it with a bit of help from the hubby. And what was meant to be a Malteser tray bake turned into a tray bake/fudge hybrid that tasted so good and was so addictive!

300g white chocolate
125g butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
200g (ish) Maltesers
200g (ish) milk chocolate digestives

Melt the butter, syrup and white chocolate together in a pan. Mine split and looked like it had curdled. I took it off the heat and beat it for about 10 minutes until it came together again. It still looked a bit dodgy but worked out fine in the end.

Mix in the Maltesers and the crushed up chocolate digestives. My husband crushed these and was a bit over-enthusiastic with the rolling pin. A lot of them were very crumbled but I think this actually helped the texture so I would recommend a mixture of very crushed and chunks of biscuit.

Spread the mixture out in a foil-lined tin. I use an Ikea glass oven dish. Sprinkle edible stars on top even though it looks a bit ugly (hubby likened it to stovies!) Surely edible stars make everything look good??

Chill in the fridge until set then cut up into small pieces. Devour over a weekend.

Friday, 13 July 2012


On Wednesday I baked for the first time in ages. I say baked but it was more like melting and mixing. I like tray bakes though and they're are pretty hard to mess up. As long as you like all the stuff you're chucking into the molten chocolate, butter and syrup mixture then chances are you'll like the finished product.

I had 2 recipes in mind, one I'd made before (and also devoured at Kate's party) and one I hadn't, both from the queen of food porn, Nigella. I went with the new one, Nigella's Sweet and Salty Bars from her book Kitchen.

It doesn't look that pretty but it tasted amazing! I love the combination of sweet and salty, very moreish and so easy.

  • 100g dark chocolate (original recipe says 200g but I prefer a milkier chocolate taste)
  • 200g milk chocolate (original recipe says 100g)
  • 125g butter
  • 3 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g salted peanuts (original recipe says 250g but I didn't have enough)
  • 4 x 40g Crunchie bars
  • Glittery edible stars
  1. Line a tin with foil. Break chocolate into pieces, add to a saucapan with the butter and syrup. Melt on a low heat and stir until melted.
  2. Tip the peanuts into a bowl, and crush the Crunchie bars. I hit mine with a rolling pin and may have made them a bit more like Crunchie dust!
  3. Take the melted chocolate mixture off the heat and stir in the peanuts and crushed Crunchie bars, then tip straight into the cake tin or foil tray. Smooth the top of the mixture as much as you can.
  4. Sprinkle glittery stars on top. Optional but it makes them look prettier!
  5. Put into the fridge for about 4 hours and, once set, cut into slices. I actually cut mine up after about 2 hours when it was still a bit soft.
  6. Don't try to eat one piece of this, it's addictive!
The Nigella website says the UK version of the recipe isn't online buy they link to the US version of the recipe (weights in cups) here.

What have you got planned for this weekend? I'm off to Millport with my cousin but will try to fit in a run or two to work off this cake!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


I made it there and back! I have never experienced such a wet and muddy festival but I had such a good time with all the choir people. It was really nice to go away and spend some time together as most of the time we're singing and don't really get a chance to chat.

We got on a bus on Saturday morning then had to walk for miles with our stuff in the pouring rain to get our Performer wristbands, aka wondrous tickets to secret campsites, flushing toilets and roast dinners. We camped in a very civilised perfomers area campsite with an actual toilet block with showers and a hairdryer. It may as well have been the Ritz compared to the actual campsite.

I saw very few bands and spend a disproportionate amount of time in the hospitality bar, where it was dry and warm(ish).

On Sunday we had the big performance. We were singing in the Kaleidoscope Tent which was sponsored by Creative Scotland. It had a strange line up of ceilidh bands, string quartets, break-dancing, singer-songwriters and us!

The tent itself was pretty huge so we all needed to get psyched up. After a campsite rehearsal in the morning we went to get our free meal tickets and had the best roast beef Sunday lunch ever, totally set us all up for the afternoon. We then went backstage and had a warm up before going on. The crowd was pretty small but I think we won them over. We sang really well and everyone was buzzing afterwards!

Later that evening the bus collected us again and we had a massive sing along all the way home. It was so much fun! But I'll never be able to go back to a festival as a civilian again :)

Thursday, 5 July 2012


Today I contemplated running at lunchtime. I didn't do it but I did think about it, that's a step in the right direction :).

My main problem with lunchtime exercise is my tendency to sweat profusely on my face and go bright red. It's not a good look. But I think I'll start doing it on days where I don't have meetings. Or I might run after work then it's only my husband who has to see my bright red face all the way home. He's so lucky!

I was considering it because I want to start running again. I'm not very good and I've never run any sort of race at all, I'm not very competitive so they don't really interest me. But running is something I can visibly see myself improving at when I stick at it (and getting much worse at when I don't bother) and seeing my own improvement really motivates me. I'm neither fast nor able to go on for long distances, but I can go further than a few weeks ago which is all I can really hope for!

I did read a few tips which have helped me a bit by making me think about how I run.

Don't clench your fists - imagine you're holding something fragile like a crisp! Obviously I'd rather be eating crisps than holding imaginary ones but that sort of defeats the purpose of running doesn't it?

Try not to bob your head. If people saw you from behind a fence (creepy people watching you from behind a fence?) they shouldn't be able to tell if you're walking or running, aside from the beetroot face obviously.

Breathe in and out through your mouth. This one does contradict what some sources say but I think even being aware of your breathing when running is helpful.

Keep going! Three times a week is what I'm aiming for, otherwise I don't progress very well.

Anything obvious I'm missing?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

My favourite new purchase

There are some shops I haven't set foot in in years. I'm not a fan of trawling through rails of 'unusual garments' to reach the normal stuff appropriate for someone who's not a stick thin hipster. See here and here for further examples.

Recently I saw 2 different people wearing a top, decided I had to find it and had a couple of hours delay at Gatwick. What's a girl to do? Obviously scour the websites of all the womens' clothes shops you can think of until you find it.

River Island was pretty far down my list. I don't even know when I last went in there. However, I take it all back because it was the source of my current favourite t-shirt. For a bargain £10.

I've only worn it with jeans but I think tucked in to a skirt I could get away with it for work. Hubby says I look like a French flag. Not impressed.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Tonight I'm going tent shopping in preparation for the weekend. My top priority for a tent is that it's waterproof. I anticipate that, along with rain, my weekend will contain mud, alcohol in plastic cups, noodles and burgers. I'm going to T in the Park. I am 30, I'm too old for T in the Park. But this time is different, this time I'm a performer!

I am part of a choir and we're singing at the festival on Sunday evening. We're a cool choir though, just so we're clear on that. We do covers of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, They Might Be Giants and Corona (remember them?) and we like mash ups. I only went along to keep my friend company but I've loved it since the first week. There's nothing like a couple of hours of singing every week to cheer you up!

Along with all that mud and rain, we get free travel, tickets and access to the fancy performers area. I am hoping that performers area = nicer toilets. If it does I'll be happy. If it doesn't I might throw some sort of diva strop. I'm a performer don't you know?!

Monday, 2 July 2012


I was in London this weekend combining a Saturday work event with some time catching up with friends. When I visit London I always try to visit Wahaca and Uniqlo. There are just no Scottish substitutes for these two!
I’m hoping that Uniqlo will open a branch a bit further north in the future, however my bank balance might not agree. After my work event I walked up to one of their Oxford Street branches for a browse. 3 visits to the changing rooms later I finally settled on a print vest, part of the Orla Keily for Uniqlo range. A bargain at £14.90! I love the print and it has a nice loose fit. The only downside is that it prompted me to visit Orla Kiely’s own website. Gorgeous but not quite so bargain priced! My favourites are the pleated skirts and this sleeveless blue dress. I would love these in my work wardrobe.

On Sunday I met some friends for lunch. If you haven’t been to Wahaca before, then you should definitely go next time you visit London. It’s a Mexican restaurant that’s very different to your average Mexican fare. You can go for a main course – the salads come served in a huge tortilla bowl – or choose a selection of small sharing plates. I usually go for the small plates option so I don’t have to make a decision on just one dish. Luckily whenever I’ve been there are other people willing to share! Everything tastes very fresh, full of flavour and authentic. They’ve also just brought out a cookbook which I’m very tempted to purchase so I can try to replicate Wahaca in my own kitchen.

Along with their 6 normal branches and a mobile kitchen, they’ve just opened a new pop-up branch on the Southbank made from recycled shipping containers. It looks amazing and will be used as a development kitchen for new recipes. I definitely want to visit this one next time I’m in London!
I also managed to fit in a spot of ArtBox spotting...
What kept you busy this weekend?