- Exploring. We've been going on as many mini road trips as possible before the impending winter weather confines us to doing things indoors in the city. We're currently so obsessed with castles that my Mum has offered to buy us both a National Trust family membership for my birthday. Which excites me way more than it should for my 31st (ok 33rd).
- Instagram Stories. I use it sporadically. I am either obsessed and adding little videos all day, or I don't post anything for ages. But given that I could never really embrace the whole SnapChat thing, I am really enjoying this latest update to Instagram. You can find me @thethingaboutchaos
- Emeralds. The latest Bears Den song. On repeat. All day. Every day. Obsessed.
- Exercise. It's becoming apparent that I am an all or nothing kind of girl. In all areas of my life. If you saw me with a tub of Haagen Daz you would understand. When it comes to fitness I either go hard for 6 months or go home for 6 months (and eat popcorn while watching Netflix in bed). At the moment I am running 5 days a week, doing yoga classes & I've just joined the gym next door to my flat. Right now I'm addicted to the buzz but let's see what I'm saying when the snow comes.
- Cooking with Ava. After months of hard labour, little A is finally sleeping in her own bed. All night, every night. Next parenting hurdle? Trying to get her to be less of a fussy eater. So the two of us have been cooking up a storm together in the kitchen in the hope it might encourage her to try new foods. And we're getting there. Slowly...
- Write, Eat, Read, Repeat. My life right now. Lately I've been feeling like there might be a bit more to life than free booze, late nights & liquid lunches. I've been writing, exercising my ass off, cooking & reading a ton of new books. I recently ordered How to be a Woman, The Casual Vacancy & The Perks of being a Wallflower. And I can't wait to get stuck in before the desire to drink cocktails comes back.
- Going dairy free. I'm going into my third week of dairy free and apart from a couple of days where I broke and ate my body weight in cheese, I am feeling all the better for it. My lattes taste creamier made with cashew milk, I've discovered avocado oil spread (amazing) and I'm pretty sure my ass is thanking me for cutting out the Camembert. The only thing I haven't been able to embrace is vegan cheese. Bleurgh.
- Decadently Pure. Speaking of the dairy free life, I was given a box of these amazing raw chocolates to try and they have to be the best thing that's happened to me in 2016. My god that's tragic.
- Autumn. I know what a cliché it is but I cannot help it. I simply love this time of year. The flat is littered with glowing tea lights as soon as the sun goes down, we're coming home to amazing stew/casserole smells from the slow cooker every evening and I'm snuggling up in cosy throws on the sofa every night. I love the darker nights & autumn will forever be my favourite.
- Being indulged. I never eat food cooked by someone else unless it's in a restaurant or out a take-away box. But last weekend my pal cooked Ava & I dinner and although it felt a little weird (I am so used to cooking now that it's become second nature that I will always do it), it felt kinda nice too. Note to my pals: if you are reading this then this is a massive hint.
Sunday, 25 September 2016
Sunday, 18 September 2016
I knew the shift from nursery to school would be a bit more complicated. I understood that when Ava made the transition to national curriculum there would be more stuff to do, more things I needed to remember, extra effort made to ensure she made the move in the easiest way possible. But in all honesty, I had no idea the utter stress fest that Ava starting school would turn out to be.
It's not like I completely had my shit together anyway. I've never been the crocs and baby led weaning type of mother. I've tried to indulge in various types of arts and crafts in the past but I have zero patience & the resulting mess would frankly bring me out in a rash. I'm the mum who would rather pay a small fortune on petrol, entry fees & nice lunches than be shut in on a rainy afternoon 'making things'. If something needs sewn, it gets chucked in the bin and a suitable replacement promptly purchased. I'm the mum you see scrambling about the Sainsbury's clothes department the night before the nursery Halloween party, desperately trying to source a costume that fits. The mum who buys in the brownies for the school bake sale & who doesn't think twice about pouring herself a gin and tonic while the chicken nuggets are cooking.
But even taking all these facts into account, I still felt like we pretty much had it together. As a single mum, I've become pretty decent at juggling. Juggling I can do. Juggling I was getting pretty bloody good at. Until August.
Managing the new and exciting world of primary school has been a political, economical and social minefield for me but one massive big fun fest for Ava (thankfully). There's knowing where to drop her for breakfast club (we spent 20 minutes one morning trying to find the entrance). Then there's ensuring every single piece of attire she owns is appropriately labelled (I haven't seen the labels in weeks but I think they might be down the back of the fridge). There's making sure she does the right page in her homework jotter and that it goes in the (appropriately labelled) large plastic carrier thing they are assigned for their school books (because god forbid we put that stuff in her actual school bag). Then there's getting the right gym kit. Do primary ones need plimsolls or trainers? Do you see the stress I'm under? Then all of a sudden she wants school dinners. How does that work? Does she need money? Apparently not because they are free up until primary three. How am I meant to know that? Because I got the email. Apparently.
The list goes on...
Then there's the mornings. Mornings used to be a super organised affair in our household & I used to get up half an hour early just so I could make Ava fresh pancakes for breakfast and paint my nails before work. Nowadays the am slot in our flat is like a scene from Saving Private Ryan. We're talking tears, tantrums, various clothes changes and basic chaos just trying to get out of the front door. And don't even get me started on Ava. There's meltdowns because I ironed the wrong pinafore, neighbours banging on the door to inform me my bathroom is leaking & almighty tantrums when I get caught sneaking a bagel into her lunch box instead of the wrap she had requested the night before. Recently we accidentally threw the car keys into the downstairs recycling bin and had to spend twenty minutes trawling through an entire weeks worth of empty plastic bottles and empty soup tins trying to get them back in time to make it to school for 9am. Only the other day I almost caused a 5 car pile up because I was too busy trying to scrub Ava's face with a wet wipe than pay attention to the road. Two weeks into school I got pulled up at the gates for not sending Ava into school in the appropriate type of jacket (should have been waterproof), while Ava proudly announced to her pals and the cluster of yummy mummies who were still gathered at the entrance that 'Mummy drove through a red light just to get me here on time'.
I could go on...
But I have no excuse. Because I only have one kid and she's at her Dad's on a Monday & Tuesday. Meaning I only have three days a week to completely balls up. The beginning of the week leaves me school stress free & able to adult to my hearts content by doing things like finally starting the book I've been saying I was gonna write for the past three years and working on that hot yoga body (both of which are a work in progress).
And so I find myself at home on another Sunday evening, thinking about the school uniforms I could be ironing, emails I should be reading and packed lunch prep I could be planning. And telling myself how this time next year I will be one of those mums you see at the school gates at 8.40am sharp every single morning. The ones with the soya lattes, hot yoga bodies, perfectly painted nails and the children wearing the correct pinafores.
Tuesday, 13 September 2016
- It may not look the most appetising and it sure as hell doesn't sound the most appetising, but I am still making this pasta with smoked salmon & kidney beans all of the time. Ok it's a bit of a weird combo. And the first time I made it I expected it to be awful. But for some reason, it just works - get the recipe here.
- I want to tell you that I have finally finished painting & decorating the flat. But I would be lying. As there's been a tin of radiator paint sitting unmoved in my hallway for the past 3 weeks. Must. Stop. Procrastinating.
- A rare moment of silence while Ava coloured in. Approximately 20 minutes before her and her other pint sized pal wrecked havoc on what was an otherwise tidy flat.
- I was introduced to my very first Herdsman's Lunch on a recent trip to Culross. Soup so thick you could stand your spoon in, delicious home made crusty bread, lashings of salty butter, ripe & juicy fresh tomato, chutney, salad & thick, smoked carvery ham. I would pick this over a Ploughman's any day of the week.
- A recent work lunch at Trattoria Genova where I ate Insalata Caprese (my favourite summer starter), followed by the most delicious pesto gnocchi I have ever tasted. If you live in Paisley or the surrounding area then this place is a must try!
- Summer, however, is no longer with us. And one of my favourite parts of this time of year (apart from all the cosy blankets, slow cooker recipes and scented candles), is the amazing setting skies I get to see from the comfort of my living-room
- New restaurant alert. I haven't had a chance to properly taste the food yet in brand new Al Forno in Glasgow's South Side. I can however confirm that the coffee & cannoli is out of this world.
- As we are talking about food (do I talk about anything else?), I think hotdogs are my new favourite guilty pleasure. Always with onions, always with that weird American bright yellow mustard you see in American style diners. And always all over my white top. I'll never learn.
- I am currently obsessed with any type of abundance bowl. And I am DIY'ing it all over the place. Mixing it up with my favourite grains, my favourite greens, maybe some chargrilled aubergine, always with a massive dollop of hoummous. How can something so healthy taste SO good?
- Gin. With lemon. Because it was all I had and I decided to go old skool. And it turns out I've been so busy hipstering my favourite spirit up with slices of cucumbers and lots of different types of fruit that I forgot how nice a classic G&T with a slice of lemon actually was. So there you go.
- Soup season is upon us! And I am on fire. I mean literally, I don't have enough room in my freezer for all the soup we are making!
- Pizza night. AKA Saturday nights at ours. Accompanied by Haribo, sometimes Maltesars & always whatever culinary treat we've baked that afternoon. All in front of X Factor. It seems Friday's are out and Saturdays are our new favourite night of the week.
- Speaking of whatever culinary creation we've baked that afternoon, Ava and I have been getting pretty good at this baking malarkey. Including these tasty little chocolate and shortbread cups and some rather yummy chocolate chip cookies that we managed to make about three dozen of!
- Celebrating a lot of good news coming all in the one day. I will basically celebrate anything if there is fizz involved.
- I was gutted to have never got the chance to try Bo Kantina before it closed it's doors recently. However I was super excited to see a pop up stall during a visit recently to Loch Lomond Shores. My sister & I split this Korean style burger and it did not disappoint.
- Finally, we bought a light box. And we can't stop playing with it. Even if we do keep falling out over who gets to put the letters in. She's at school now though so she needs to be more mature and give me a shot.
Sunday, 11 September 2016
I'd be lying if I said 2016 had been everything I'd hoped for so far. It actually ended up being quite the opposite. And despite being surrounded by so much greatness, I ended up having one of the worst years of my life. 2016 saw me dealing with a whole host of insecurities & issues that I had been hoping I had put to bed. After being what I can only describe as an abundantly healthy, annoyingly happy & smugly optimistic person for a good number of years, the one thing I feared more than anything in the whole world happened. I forgot who I was.
I don't want to go into huge detail. Only to say that what started with severe insomnia, grew steadily into acute anxiety. Anxiety transcended into a totally unfounded constant state of near panic. Going to work became difficult, leaving the house near impossible. I lost sight of everything that was good around me and my head descended into what can only be described as chaos. Looking back I can see that I just wasn't well. At the time I thought I might be losing my mind.
I was lucky enough to have a strong network of support around me. People who would have walked over hot coals to look after me. Who would never have dreamt of turning their back on me. To all of those people (and you know who you are) - thank you. To the sisters who took time off their work to be there for me, to the ex who found himself sleeping on my sofa most nights so he could be there when Ava woke up & to the friends who texted me late into the night to tell me how proud they were of me. Thank you.
The purpose of this post is not to hark on or cast back on what was a dark few months. It's to tell anyone who might be going through a similar situation to hang on. To trust me when I say it gets better. Because it does. It really, really does. And when it does you start to forget the bad stuff. You suddenly look around you and see all the amazing stuff again. The stuff that was always there. The stuff that never actually left. So I want to talk about what 2016 has taught me so far. And it's taught me a lot.
I've learned to keep being grateful. To always strive to be kind. But to forgive yourself if you're not. It's taught me that happiness is a luxury you can't afford to take for granted. That positivity is key. To forget what you don't have. To focus on what you do. That you become what you think about. That you are what you believe. To exercise. To meditate. To heal your soul and the rest will follow suit. Don't compare yourself to others. This is your story. Most importantly don't be sorry for who you are. Because you are enough. You were always enough.
These days? I feel ridiculously better. I love my job, Ava is happy and thriving in a school environment she was so very ready for (and getting super excited for her 5th birthday party this month). I'm still managing to maintain a brilliantly balanced & healthy relationship with her Dad. I'm cooking again, I'm running again and I'm still surrounded by a bevvie of strong, independent and clever woman who not only remind me constantly what a brilliant job I'm doing but who inspire me to be better every single day.
There's a hundred parts of me I want to change. Both inside and out. But I'm not here to talk about the bad stuff. Not in this particular blog post. Not today. Today I will focus on the good. And push insecurities or niggles I have about myself away. I'm a strong, happy and positive young girl, with a fantastic future in front of her and an arse that still apparently makes men go weak at the knees.
And you know what?
That's more than enough for me.
Monday, 5 September 2016
Now that my painting & decorating stint (hell) is almost over, I have committed myself to blogging again. But I would be lying if I said my heart was really in it. In fact my urge to blog has pretty much taken a massive leave of absence. Still.
I am much more committed, however to going out on lots of runs & cooking up lots of new recipes. Which leads perfectly into my next blog post. Because I have a pile of recipes here I need to tell you about...
I'm kind of not a huge risotto fan. I used to love the stuff. Then I discovered that it's actually a lot easier to cook than people think it is which resulted in me cooking it about twice a week for a year. To the point I just got bloody sick of it. But I spotted this Jimmy Doherty risotto in a magazine and fancied giving it a go because he uses pearl barley instead of risotto rice & I ABSOLUTELY LOVE BARLEY. I don't know why. Is that weird?
To serve 2 people you will need: veg stock, 100gm peas, 125gm asparagus (cut into pieces with woody stems removed), 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 spring onions (finely chopped), 1/2 leek (finely chopped), 1 clove garlic (finely chopped), 175gm pearl barley, 100ml white wine or pale lager, 50gm broad beans (I used frozen), 1tbsp mascarpone, 1/2 small bunch fresh mint (roughly chopped), 40gm finely grated parmesan plus shavings to serve, rocket or pea shoots (to serve), extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Heat oil in a pan & add spring onions, leek & garlic & cook for 3-4 minutes. Add barley and lager (or wine) and cook for 1-2 mins.
- Add 500mls veg stock and cook for 40-50 mins, stirring every so often and adding more stock when required.
- Add the asparagus, broad beans and peas to risotto and cook for a few mins. Remove from heat and stir through the mascarpone, mint & parmesan. Top with the peas/shoots and olive oil. Or truffle oil if you're feeling decadent.
This photo is utterly crap. After dropping my gorgeous shiny iPhone 6 into a basin of soapy water, it ultimately died a death. And no amount of evenings spent in bowls of rice, hours spent on top of a hot radiator or just plain begging, pleading and crying have managed to revive it. As a result I bought a second hand iPhone 5 from a bloke on Gumtree to keep me going until it's time for my upgrade. However said camera on new phone is awful. To the point I think it's worse than the camera I had on my old iPhone 4. How does that work? I would really like to know. Anyway I made this King Prawn & Chickpea Curry from Skinny Scottish Cook & it tasted all kinds of awesome.
What you are looking at is a Moroccan Chicken Salad with Pistachio Crusted Fried Goats Cheese and it was possibly the nicest salad I have ever made. I mean I pretty much inhaled it. And now that I am thinking about it again I might have to make it this week. Twice.
This was one of those situations where I couldn't be bothered to go to the supermarket after work so had resigned myself to making an omelette for dinner. Then I got a bit stressed out and pissed off and we all know the only thing that makes me feel better when I'm stressed out and pissed off is to drink wine, listen to music and cook in my bare feet. So that's exactly what I did. After a good hour of perusing my recipes, I finally managed to find something I could cook that I had all the ingredients for. It ended up being this Summer BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Salad and was the perfect mid-week supper. If I call it supper does that make me middle class? Worth a try.
Let me tell you a little story. I keep going for runs because I absolutely love doing it. Smashing 6k before I've even made it into work of a morning makes me high as a kite. I feel healthier, I get all those buzzy endorphins that you thought people just made up & it just makes me feel all smug and virtuous. The only problem is, as someone who is pretty disciplined during the week when it comes to her healthy eating, it makes my appetite go through the roof. And I do that thing where I 'reward' myself for said runs by having a glass of wine on my usually booze free Monday nights or indulging in a Kit Kat Chunky as I'm an athlete now so it's allowed. After one particular binge/run cycle that went on for quite a few days I made this amazing Vegan Abundance Bowl to try and make up for it.
I don't know what this is. At first I thought it might be my Best Fish Pie Recipe Ever which I blogged about previously, then I realised that it looked nothing like it. I spent frigging ages stalking my own Instagram to see if I could find it and recall what the hell I had actually made. I still don't know. It could be anything. But here's a pretty picture of it anyway.
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Recently I've been struggling. I've lost count of the amount of times I've opened the laptop, tried to think of something to write about, stared blankly at the screen, before giving up & closing the laptop again. I haven't done a single freelance piece since I started my new career in digital marketing. I don't suppose I can call myself a writer anymore...
What I have been doing is cooking. I've been doing a lot of cooking. Ava & I have even been experimenting with the odd bit of baking. I've also been painting and decorating our little flat. Oh, and watching Outlander. I have been watching a lot of Outlander...
I've been running out of ideas of places we could set off to and spend the day that didn't involve booking an overnight stay. I adore a Scottish road trip that involves staying away overnight. But I prefer to leave the little one at home during those particular adventures. Mainly because those ones usually involved sitting up till 3am drinking craft beers with nips of whisky and talking total nonsense into the night...
But I had been reliably informed that Culross was not only close, but pretty. And I am a sucker for a pretty village. So we set off to see. And we weren't even letting the lashing rain or the grey skies put us off. My sister joined us on our journey & there were lots of laughs along the way which included a first time venture over the Kincardine Bridge for all three of us, some seriously loud car karaoke to Justin Timberlake & Ava's own interpretation of Eye Spy. Don't ask because it's too complicated to explain let alone actually play...
Culross was indeed gorgeous. A village it felt like time had forgot. With a tiny population of approximately 400, it's tiny cobbled streets were a labyrinth of exciting little discoveries. The kind of place where you felt yourself actually inhale as you tried to squeeze the car through narrow gaps and winding alleys. So we sensibly dumped the car and decided to investigate on foot while discussing the merits of having the kind of hair that looks purposefully beachy & tousled in the rain (me) to the merits of having such an amazing figure that you rarely have to send anything you order online back (my sister). We're a silver lining kinda bunch, us Young girls...
We discovered beautiful, almost medieval looking houses, occupied today by people who I wonder even realise how lucky they are to live in them. We were extremely grateful that the only pub in the village managed to squeeze us into a table in the corner despite being fully booked. We ate steaming bowls of soup with massive wedges of the softest & doughiest bread I have tasted. Ava's fish and chips tasted as if they had been caught that very morning from the sea only a few metres away...
We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a steam train as it hurtled through the village. Ava even managed to get a toot from the driver, upon which she squealed with delight. We perused the palace gardens, took a tour up the hill to the abbey church and looked out onto the beach. We watched the grey outline of the nearby power station, set against the gloomy backdrop of grey skies and dark, stormy seas.
On the drive home I thought about my long standing desire and need for stability and routine in Ava's life. I thought about how conflicted that often made me feel against my continual desire for adventure. I thought about what a hopeless romantic I was. And about just how in love with Scotland I have recently become.
Tuesday, 26 July 2016
- Atlantic Brasserie. I attended an extremely well thought out & put together bloggers event at Atlantic Brasserie last week & once again the food did not disappoint. We were treated to cocktails (French 75's are forever my favourite), wine & an amazing three course dinner. The scallop & black pudding starter was delicious, the Bouillabaisse one of the nicest I've tasted and the fact that the Creme Brulee is brought to the table flaming obviously blew my tiny mind.
- Ticking off jobs. So I know it's not the wildest evening ever. But last Saturday, while Ava amused herself in front of Toy Story, I sorted through the massive pile of papers I had been saying I would file for months. I also cleaned my make-up brushes and gutted out all the kitchen cupboards. You know that weird, smug, satisfactory feeling you get when you finally tick stuff off your do list? That feeling is like crack to me.
- Getting fit again. I have a small confession to make - I haven't done any exercise this year. Like basically none, despite spending a good part of last year running between 35-40 miles per week. But I miss running. I get this weird sort of nostalgia type pang whenever I drive past my old running route or hear one of my running tracks on the radio. So not only do I start running again soon but I am also starting some gym and group sessions with AG Fitness Training as of next month! Wish me luck!
- Trying new things. Despite being a pretty adventurous eater, I am extremely squeamish at the thought of eating snails. Step in aforementioned blogger event where we were all treated to garlic snails as an entree. I would be lying if I said I loved them. But I did manage to eat two and went home feeling pretty proud of myself.
- Bath time. I may have mentioned once (or a million) times how much Ava and I love our little rituals. Like our standard Friday night movie, take out and Haribo habit. Recently I've also been jumping into the bath along with Ava of an evening. It's the perfect time to hear all about her day, have some bubble wars (she always wins) and there's no nicer feeling than slipping on your PJ's post bath feeling all squeaky clean and smelling of Matey...
- Cooking again. I'm happy to report I am well and truly back in the kitchen again! A recent highlight was the Wild Mushroom Soup I made the other day which is literally the nicest mushroom soup I have ever tasted. I found the recipe online and my freezer is currently full of the stuff. I've also been experimenting with all things Moroccan thanks to finding a little jar of amazing Moroccan tagine paste in the back of the cupboard during my little cleaning frenzy last Saturday!
- Midnight feasts. I don't know about you guys but if I eat my dinner any time before 8pm then you can bet your ass I will be starving come bedtime. As such I have found myself developing a little midnight cereal habit. There's something about standing in the middle of your kitchen at 3am in your pants eating bowls of Rice Krispies while the rest of the world sleeps that just feels so indulgent & fun. I guess I need to get out more.
- Ava growing up. It probably sounds a bit silly to some but when Ava came running through to me the other day to show me how she was now able to put her own hair into a ponytail, it made my heart want to burst with love. I suppose at 4 masterminding the little things that us adults take for granted is a pretty big deal. And seeing how excited it made her, I couldn't have felt prouder.
- Friends & beer (or beer with friends). Real friends are the friends who will happily trail half of Glasgow with you on a seriously wet day just so you can try out that new restaurant on the other side of town that everyone is talking about or find the only pub in Glasgow that has your favourite beer on draft. The restaurant was Horn Please and was closed (gutted). We did however make it to The Scaramouche for a pint of my beloved Eilean-Or. Which made me pretty happy.
- Music. I think I might be the only person left on the planet who still buys CD's. But I can't help it. I love the feel of CD's, I love the sound of CD's and I love the way they look piled into the old wine crate I use as a CD rack. Recent purchases include Bears Den (amazing) and the new Mumford & Son's album. I've made a promise to myself that I will see Mumford live this year. Make sure I keep it!