- Starting a gin collection. Given my penchant for a good G&T (coupled with the fact that the Scottish gin industry is currently booming), I decided that 2017 would be the year I started my own gin collection. I started with the basics above and have since added a bottle of Eden Mill Chilli & Ginger and a bottle of Ophir. This is turning out to be a pretty expensive little New Years Resolution though ;)
- Luxuries. Ironically 2017 is also the year I swore I would cut back on little luxuries. Which means no more fresh flowers in the flat or monthly manicures. Truthfully I am struggling with both and I may or may not have some gorgeous fresh tulips on the fireplace and a Shellac appointment booked later this week. P.S. Gin is a staple not a luxury.
- Sherlock. I am loving the latest series of this detective drama and am switching myself off to the boring Twitter haters claiming it's gone downhill. I thought the first two episodes of the new series were some of the best yet!
- London. I'm getting pretty excited for my annual jaunt down to the Big Smoke later this week where I will spend 4 days drinking cocktails, stuffing my face and generally giving London all my money. I also can't wait to see my good mate Clare and hear about everything she's been up to!
- Insta Stories. It's safe to say I have completely embraced Instagram Stories with full aplomb and wee Ava is turning into quite the little Insta star! You can watch our life updates by following me right here.
- My best pal. Speaking of Ava, our little mother daughter relationship seems to be going from strength to strength these days and I cannot begin to describe how happy that makes me. I'm not sure if it's because she is simply older (and we've gotten over the toddler bit that I really just wasn't any good at), but we are become the tightest little team of two and her penchant for preferring her Dad may finally be waning. YESSSS.
- Truffle everything. I know some people turn their noses up at Truffle Oil but in all honesty, I wouldn't be without a bottle and love pouring the stuff over the likes of pasta dishes and scrambled eggs. I recently picked up some quite frankly amazing truffle salami from Whole Foods over Christmas and it was so good I have been back twice for more. Just truffle everything for me thanks.
- The Village Bakery Try Rye. After years of searching, I have finally found the most amazing rye bread that is not only filling and substantial when sliced (I can't stand those thin rectangular shaped slices you buy pre-packed), but tastes delicious to boot. I've been enjoying it mainly on a Sunday morning topped with salted avocado, some cherry tomatoes and a softly poached egg.
- The holidays. Despite the fact that I spent the break between Christmas & New Year 2015 (while Ava was at her Dads) frequenting many a cocktail bar in the city centre, this year's break was a much quieter affair and I felt all the better for it. I ate too much chocolate, climbed a couple of hills and binge watched on Netflix. And it was bliss.
- Scottish history. I'm pretty sure it was Simon Pegg who said that 'being a geek is simply just being honest about how much you enjoy something', and I couldn't agree with him more. Right now I am indulging my obsession in all things Scottish by reading up on Scottish clans and the Jacobite rebellion and I am loving these personal little history lessons. Even if I am boring everyone else to tears.
Sunday, 15 January 2017
Wednesday, 11 January 2017
The other day I dropped Ava at the school gates at 8.55am. While the other mothers robotically kissed, routinely hurried and casually cajoled their offspring through the school gates in a manner they had obviously become accustomed to, Ava and I were sort of having a moment. In the 6 months since she'd started primary this was the first time I 'd been able to drop her straight into school. I was pretty emotional over something so many other parents take for granted. And Ava seemed delighted at this new change in events. Smiling from ear to ear, making me walk all the way round the school to the back entrance and then proudly insisting I hang about till the bell. This week I will be able to do the same & not only that, but I will be able to pick her up from the school gates when school gets out.
Flexi-time. It was a friend of mine who originally brought Mother Pukka to my attention. The inspiring blogger who is trying to end the draconian and impractical assumption that 9-5pm working hours are the only option to the single parent and is heroically doing so through a combination of hashtags, organised London flash dances and a massive amount of online support. At the time her plight really caught my attention. Mainly because Ava was about to start school. And while I loved the fact I had finally made the longed for transition from shift work to a 9-5, I was worried about how it was going to fit in with Ava's new school hours.
In the end I settled for a combination of breakfast clubs and after school clubs. These are fantastic and inexpensive facilities but they just didn't work for us. Ava hated breakfast club with a passion because none of the other children in her class attended and although I tried not to think about it, I secretly knew she was left to sit in a corner on her own, nibbling her toast in solitude. While she didn't hate her after school club, she was passionately jealous of the other kids who got to run straight into their waiting parent's arms come quarter past 3. And I get it. Most days Ava was 'working' a longer day than me. By being dropped off at 8am and picked up around 6pm, she was averaging a 2 hour longer day than I was in the office.
I worked myself into a tizzy when I decided to ask for flexi-time. I spent hours scribbling out new hours, calculating the best way to cram the same amount of working time into the week. I read, re-read and re-worded the email to my bosses countless times. Desperate to get my point across clearly. That the happier I was as a person, the more they would get out of me work wise. I wanted to ensure they understood that I WANTED to be there 40 hours a week. But that as a single parent, I couldn't do the best possible job for them without a more positive work/home balance. It turned out I was worrying in vain. After proposing a meeting with my line manager and two directors, I was relieved to receive an email 20 minutes after sending my own telling me that would be fine and that it would be arranged in due course. Which it was.
I was lucky. I work for modern, forward thinking and progressive businessmen who despite having no children of their own, empathise and understand the difficulties that can so often arise with being a working parent. Bosses who understand that to extract the best productivity and quality of work from their employees, they need to have a level of duty, care and empathy towards them. The result is that while I still work the exact same amount of hours as I did before, I am able to see Ava into school and pick her up at the gates. I work longer hours on a Monday and Tuesday (when Ava is at her Dads) and go in a wee bit earlier on a Wednesday. And hey presto. I get to spend more quality time with Ava, she gets the parent time she was so obviously missing and we are both much happier individuals because of it.
The point of this post is to urge any parent out there currently juggling a 9-5pm along with extra childcare (and a shit load of guilt) to look into flexi-time. Since 2014 everyone has the right to request flexi-time from their employers so long as they state their case in a reasonable manner. And dependant on the nature of your job, your employer has to give you a bloody good reason to say no. So look into it. You may have options you never even knew you had.
Tuesday, 3 January 2017
On the 1st of January 2016, I posted a photo on Instagram with the caption 'The best is yet to come'. Woody Allen once said, 'if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans'. And laugh god did. So at approximately three minutes past midnight on January 1st 2017, I was safely in bed sleeping. This year I had decided not to tempt fate. But the next morning I did think about how far I had actually come. I was finally free of a dark, controlling and toxic relationship that had enveloped me for the best part of 18 months. I had officially been working in an industry I fought to break into for just over one year. I was doing a job I love. And it was looking more and more likely that 2017 would be the year I was finally able to offer Ava the financial stability I had been working so hard for.
2016 will not be remembered as one of my favourite years. I struggled. Yet despite this, I never stopped writing. In truth I probably couldn't stop writing, even if I wanted to.
In January, I discussed my thoughts on getting older. Despite a testing year that I vainly worry has taken it's toll on my looks, as the glint returns to my eye and my self-belief slowly edges back, I'm starting to understand just how much of your looks are defined by the way you feel inside. In February, I took a trip to the Isle of Skye. While I did fall slightly in love with this beautiful island, I don't feel like I really got the best of it. Which is why I am currently planning a return trip with a good friend this summer. In March I wrote very little other than a recipes post and a quick re-cap on what I had been up to. I wasn't feeling myself and although I didn't know it at the time, I was about to embark on a difficult period of extreme insomnia, acute anxiety, panic attacks & a dark period of depression. In April (and in typical Dawn fashion), the narcissist in me felt adamant that the outside work would have no idea of the internal struggles I was currently facing. And despite being severely unwell, I wrote about my feelings on confidence. The irony of that post is still not lost on me. In May, after a much needed two week trip to Cyprus to see my Mum, I wrote one of my favourite posts to date. I wrote a letter to myself about how important it is to be yourself as much as possible. I still feel I invest way too much time caring about what other people think of me and it's something I plan on working on in 2017. In June, I explained how to be a successful single mother. This post got a lot of love which I was extremely grateful for. Being a single parent is tough, but I truly believe that most of us are doing a much better job than we think we are. Then in July, I discussed how much I hate my constant need for control and how much I was trying to let go of it. During what seems to have become a real year for road trips and adventures, I wrote about our explorations of the beautiful village of Culross, my constant need to always escape the city and how that was forever conflicting with my desire to create a stable, steady home environment for Ava. September saw me finally face my fears and talk about what a dark year 2016 had become. The truth is that I still wasn't better when I wrote that. The truth is that I'm still probably not 100% better as I write this. But the stronger I become and the more I return to my feisty, positive and not to be fucked with self, the more inclined I feel to write about and to share my thoughts on these experiences. In October, I discussed how good it felt to be lost in the right direction. This phrase probably encapsulates me perfectly and feeds the little tortured artist persona in me I so often love to indulge. Despite a few awkward Tinder dates and some short lived misadventures, I wasn't even close to being ready to think about a relationship until around the beginning of November, when I wrote about being single and how much I had always appreciated having time on my own. This was the month that I also wrote about being caught between who I am and who I want to be and I was really grateful for all the positive feedback I received on social media after writing this. Sometimes my rambles seem as incoherent and nonsensical published as they do in my head, so it feels really special to me when someone reads something and identifies with it, particularly women. Finally, in December, I was back to venting my parenting frustrations, this time talking about the huge amount of guilt that comes along with having a kid.
I haven't made the usual resolutions this year. I don't plan on cutting down Ava's iPad time, consuming less wine or only submitting to the sweetie jar at weekends. Because we are in such a brilliant place right now that I refuse to take a second of that for granted. I'm not perfect. But I don't want to be. Because we're happy.
Instead I plan to stop trying to be the person I constantly think others want me to be. I plan on trusting my gut instinct, understanding warning signs and upon seeing red flags, learning to walk away from them. I intend on focussing more on the good people in my life. To spend much less time exhausting myself trying to see everyone and make plans with anyone. I don't need to be out and about all the time. I intend to spend more quality time with a fewer quantity of people. Keeping hold of the good ones. Saying goodbye to the ones who don't matter. I have lots of fun trips away booked, some exciting appointments which will hopefully allow me to invest in Ava & I's future & given my new found love of hill walking, a few Munros I plan to tackle!
2017, I have absolutely no idea what you have in store for me.
But I have no doubt it's going to be interesting.
Sunday, 18 December 2016
- A few weeks ago I did something pretty unusual for me. I climbed Ben Arthur. And it's given me a serious taste for hiking. In fact, I'm so excited for dusting off those walking boots that I'm Google imaging the Bidean nam Bian every second day and excitedly making plans to tackle my first Munro with Felicity up in Skye next year. Roll on spring!
- I am all about the retro sweets right now. And when I say 'all about' what I mean is stuffing endless drumstick lollies in my gob in front of the telly when Ava's at her Dads. I'll diet in January.
- Gin garnished with lemon & fresh rosemary, long soak in a hot bubble bath using Philosophy's Snow Angel, my favourite charcoal face mask & a Shearer Candle's Amber & Rose burning on the windowsill. Heaven.
- Gorgeous shot of Loch Long on a grey and moody morning before Kirsty & I made our way back to Glasgow after a night spent in Arrochar. I have a London trip planned for January & then my mum home for two weeks in February which means I won't get my next Scottish road trip fix until March (when I head up to the Isles of Glencoe hotel in Ballachulish). I'm already going silently mad being stuck in the city so fingers crossed I can wait that long...
- Superfood, super tired, super let's just see what's in the fridge and then shove it all on a plate salad made the other night because I decided that you can turn any salad into a 'winter' salad if you add roasted butternut squash. Fact.
- I've been catching up with Sarah lots recently and she was kind enough to get the fire burning for our little night in with the kids the other week. So cosy! I have all the house envy...
- Amazing hog roast during a recent visit to Eden Mill Farm to check out their Christmas Fayre with the kids.
- And the aforementioned hog, served in a toasted brioche with lashings of sweet apple sauce. That lunch totally hit the spot.
- Celebrating St Andrews Day with a spicy haggis baked potato (with a mountain of garlicky spinach hidden underneath) and a nip of Bruichladdich. Which I enjoyed in the bath. Obviously.
- Trying to get those kids to pose when they are just not interested might be the most impossible task of the day. I was still pretty soppy watching Ava and her wee pal doing their gymnastics display a couple of Saturday's ago. Looks like all that forward roll practising she does around the flat may finally be paying off ;)
- Trying to get all the good fats in before the gout inducing indulgence of Christmas. Which is pretty pointless when you spend the hour after you've eaten your healthy dinner stuffing your face with drumstick lollies...
- New Eden Mill Gin cocktails, which taste amazing! I massively recommend you get some in for Christmas.
- One of the coolest castles I've ever visited, even if it did entail a very muddy & non-signposted 20 minute walk with a whining 5 year old. Kilchurn Castle isn't the easiest to find, but it is unbelievably worth it.
- Another open fire, this time enjoyed during a recent stay with friends at the Lochnell Arms Hotel. We first stayed here a couple of months ago with my mum and we liked it so much we decided to go back up for the Oban Winter Festival.
- Steak pie & chunky chips. Pub grub at it's finest. I will finally cook that Sunday roast I've been banging on about for the past 6 weeks...
- Beautiful shot taken of Loch Awe on the way home from Oban. I'm not sure if I need Lochs Anonymous, Castles Anonymous or just simply Scotland Anonymous, but someone needs to stage an intervention for this obsessive nature of mine ;)
- Ready for the office Christmas party, which was held at SWG3 & ended up getting messy. Very, very messy...
- Drinking beers in the Dog House before a wander round the Christmas markets. This bar always make me feel Christmassy, probably because I went there with pals a lot last year when Ava stayed with her Dad after Christmas.
- I enjoyed two very festive nights in over the weekend with friends coming over on both Friday & Saturday night to join Ava and I for mince pies, pigs in blankets and lots of party food. Not sure if it was all the Stilton or the fact my entire living room is currently littered with fairy lights, but it got me feeling very ready for Christmas
- Strapatsada enjoyed for brunch this morning (Greek style scrambled eggs with grated tomato, oregano & feta). I'm now off to get ready for a Wagamama dinner then a trip to The Hydro to see all my favourite bands perform for a Clyde One gig & I'm properly excited!
I've made a promise to myself to blog more over the festive period but we shall see if that actually happens. If not then I hope every single one of you has a majorly great Christmas! And if you haven't been good for Santa, then I hope you have a very good explanation ;)
Merry Christmas everyone.
Monday, 12 December 2016
- Decorating the tree. Ok, so this is an obvious one. Everyone loves decorating the tree. But my girl really loves it. And she takes the job very seriously. As you can probably tell from that photo up there.
- Blossoms. Who I am listening to as I type this blog post. I finally got round to buying this album as I am going to see them live on Sunday, and I am so glad I did because it is one of the best albums I have bought in years & I can't stop listening to it. If one album could encapsulate the exact kind of music that I love, then this would be it.
- Traditions. I still love all of Ava & I's little weekend traditions and hope we can continue to do them until she's too cool to hang about with me anymore. Highlights include cooking together on a Saturday night and regularly finding ourselves in the restaurant along the road at 5pm on a Friday grazing on poppadoms and learning about each other's day.
- Note taking. I have so many things to write about and so many ideas for blog posts that I regularly scrawl random shorthand scribbles into my notebooks. The result is I go back and I often have no idea what I'm talking about. My most recent conundrum are the words 'Juliane - soulmate', which I scrawled into the notebook I carry around in my handbook. Despite a fair bit of Googling, I still have no idea what I mean. Answers on a postcard!
- Edenmill Farm Shop. Or more notably, their absolutely bloody amazing tasting steak pies, one of which I had for dinner after I picked it up on a recent visit. So tasty!
- Bubble Baths. All night. Every night. I know it's no good for the environment but I can't help it. There's just nothing I would rather do at this time of year than soak in a hot bath with a face mask on and my favourite candle burning. Girly? Me?
- Tokyo Beer. Yesterday I went for beers in Doghouse in the Merchant City and while there the bartender offered us a taste of their Tokyo beer, which was basically the weirdest 'beer' I've ever tasted. Slightly sweet and of quite a thick consistency, it was like a cross between beer & sake. And coming in at 16.5%, you can understand why they only sell it in 1/3 of a pint. Not sure if it was a 'love', but if was definitely interesting!
- Shetland. I've been curling up on the sofa after Ava goes to bed and re-watching this amazing series from scratch because one) I think Dougie Henshall is a class act & two) I'm a sucker for a moody, dark crime drama set in the rugged, Scottish wilderness.
- Christmas Markets. I finally got to wander round the Christmas Markets at George Square and it certainly got me in the festive spirit. Although it did take everything in me to resist indulging in some of the amazing smelling Churros & Nutella pancakes they had on offer. I also managed to resist a cup of the interesting sounding Mulled Buckfast they had on offer. I was definitely intrigued though!
- Breakfast. I still can't bring myself to eat it every day (I am so not a morning eater), but I have been cooking up loads of yummy breakfasts on a Sunday with Ava over the past few weeks. Highlights include a delicious sourdough, avocado, feta & eggs concoction and an amazing Mexican breakfast plate which I will be blogging the recipe for very soon!
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
I guess I could admit that before I had Ava I was selfish. A good selfish. But selfish nonetheless. I didn't have a great deal of responsibilities. I was able to take off wherever I wanted when it pleased me. I was able to sack in a responsible career because life was too short for wasted opportunities. I was able to walk away from situations and men whenever I felt the need. Then I had this kid. And bam. Along with it came a tonne of responsibility. I could no longer just wander out the country when life wasn't going my way. I couldn't just throw away a successful career because I envisioned more glamorous prospects for myself. I had rent to pay. And more than one mouth to feed. It was all so very, very different.
What else comes with the endless responsibilities of having a kid? Guilt. A lot of guilt. Guilt at the colic induced wailing during those first few newborn weeks. Guilt that you can't make it better. That you can't ease their pain. Guilt as they get older and you leave them in their room alone with only a night light, despite their pleas of being 'scared'. Guilt because you remember being that little and feeling that scared of the shadows too. Guilt when you watch them whimpering after a painful fall. Guilt because you only took your eye off them for two seconds. Guilt that you don't see them as much as you want to. Or spend every weekend together crafting. When they don't eat, you feel the painful hunger pangs also. When they tell you that yesterday they sat through breakfast club alone because none of the other children wanted to talk to them you take on that internal struggle too. Guilt because you rely on after school care when their friends are going straight home at quarter past three. Guilt because you never get to drop them at the school gates. And guilt because the truth is that you really, really want to.
Right now I'm struggling with the work guilt. Guilt because I never get to wave her into school. Guilt because over the last week or so, I've been the last parent to pick her up from the after school club. Guilt because when this happens it takes her at least an hour to start talking to me again. Guilt because she hates arriving for school an hour earlier than it actually starts. And guilt because it's my fault she's doing that. But mostly guilt because I don't just need to work 40 hours a week. I want to.
So I find myself appeasing my guilt with bribery. Promises of extra chocolate at the weekend. Extra toys if she can do just another week for me. I find myself making promises I know I can't keep. Scribbling notes and working out my working hours like sums. Trying to find a balance. I hope that when Ava's older she realises I tried. That even when I was narky, stressed out or tired, that really, everything I did was completely for her. And I'm going to try extra hard to stop giving myself a hard time and to just let go of the guilt.
I'm going to try extra hard to be the mother that I strongly suspect she already thinks I am.
Monday, 5 December 2016
I used to love Edinburgh. I lived out my uni years near the city centre, frequented many a pub, restaurant, student dive, theatre & dodgy nightclub during my time there and it holds some very dear memories. In fact, for the first two years I lived in Glasgow, I was desperate to move back. Despite the fact that taxis, parking & a round of drinks can easily cost double in the east as they do in the west. I missed the amazing Christmas Markets, the fantastic public transport (despite having no underground) and the fact you were never more than an upwards glance to one of the grandest looking castles in Scotland.
I absolutely love seafood. Not only is it easy to cook and good for you, it's also tasty as hell and I am never happier than when ripping off the shells of giant langoustines in the pub or sipping from a glass of something fizzy while gorging on a plate of icy oysters drenched in Tobasco at some oyster bar.
So when I got invited to review a seafood restaurant, at Christmas time, in Edinburgh. It didn't take long for me to say yes. Put it like that.
The icing of the cake was that by inviting along my very good pal Paula, I was able to spend a whole day catching up with one of my favourite people (we also scheduled in a visit to the EICC Foodies Festival as we figured that we may as well make a day of it). So fresh faced and empty bellied, we boarded the train at Glasgow Queen Street ready for what turned out to be one of the best meals I have eaten in ages.
We started with some crusty bread, sea salty butter, a bowl of delicious olives and what can only be described as probably the best table service I have witnessed in ages. In my typically suspicious fashion, I carefully watched the service every other diner in the room was receiving (cause no waiter wants some annoying food blogger with stations above herself going hard at him online), but every diner received the same level of high care, attention, help with the menu & basically just brilliant service. So massive thumbs up there.
Another massive thumbs up goes to those olives. While they didn't quite top the amazingness (it's my blog, I will make up words if I like), of the creamy Italian Nocilera olives I adore with all my heart, their Spanish counterparts were equally delicious. I believe they were Gordal and you can be damn sure I will be buying more soon. My bread was dunked in some premium Extra Virgin & thanks to Paula I can confirm that their signature paprika smoked butter was also fantastic.
Paula went for the smoked salmon to start which I obviously tasted cause it's my bloody review and it was a very, very good starter. None of your cheap supermarket salmon slapped on a plate with a slice of hovis and a token wedge of lemon. Nope, this was home cured, served with pink grapefruit & an avocado puree and what a combination. One that I will definitely be stealing this Christmas.
As I like to get my hands dirty (not literally, I'm no good with manual labour), I got stuck into some massive and delicious King Prawns, served shell on, seared on a hot grill and with a bowl of absolute heaven. The accompanying black garlic alioli was simply amazing and seriously tested the usually pretty good willpower of this dairy avoiding gal. I might have dipped my prawns in it a bit more than I originally intended to but if you tasted it yourself you would understand my conflict.
As a main we both went for the seabass, which they very kindly served with skinny fries for myself even though it was meant to come with creamy mash like Paula's. But after wildly explaining to the friendly waiter that I needed skinny fries in my life before the mundanity of Monday reappeared the following day, he kindly complied. I can tell he just got it.
Both our fillets were cooked perfectly, and the skin was that lovely, crispy way that I can never seem to get right myself. The seabass was served with a Salsa Vierge that complimented the other elements of the dish perfectly. Seasoned exactly right and perfectly balanced to taste, I am genuinely sorry if I sound super gushy here, but I can't help it - it was just genuinely one of the nicest meals I've eaten in ages.
All the above was washed down with a very pleasant bottle of house white and although I managed to avoid the temptation of dessert, I did have a cheeky bite (or two) of Paula's chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and can confirm it was completely on par with the rest of the meal.
All in all this was just really good food. Served in a very relaxing environment. By staff who exhibited a very high standard of service. And I shall be returning again soon.
I was invited as a guest of Cadiz. You can read more about my disclosure policy here.