- Winter Prep. I've been stockpiling the cosiest of knit jumpers and bulk buying toastie PJ sets & fluffy slippers for Ava. I've also been digging out all my oldest and tastiest slow cooker recipes and stocking up on tons of scented candles and new hot water bottles. Winter - we're ready for ya.
- Bagging my first Munro. And speaking of 'prepping', I might be getting a teensy bit nervous at the prospect of climbing my first Munro very soon. I've arranged to tackle Ben Arthur with my gorgeous pal Kirsty soon and while I'm excited, I'm getting a wee bit nervous as well. I swore I wouldn't let this year end without doing something massively out of my comfort zone and this seemed like the ideal thing. Wish me luck!
- Running in the rain. Given I don't really know many other runners, I have no idea if it's weird or not but I can't get enough of running in the rain. I don't understand these people who prefer to run in the sun or who go out there wrapped up in various layers. I'm a bare skin, see my breath in the air, the colder the better type runner. So there.
- Manis & Mocktails. Ava & I had a bit of a girls day last Sunday along with my Mum and sister. We did a long lunch, lots of shopping, got our nails done and then treated our pint sized pal to a Mocktail. It was the best afternoon and I love how utterly girly she has become!
- Soup Season. I think it might have been a whole two or three blog posts since I mentioned making soup. I need little excuse to make soup. I am basically a soup making machine. Recent highlights include a delicious Autumnal type butternut squash affair and an amazing detox beetroot and veg soup that ended up tasting a lot better than it sounded.
- Veggie Options. I'm still making a real effort when I eat out to choose fish and veggie options over meatier alternatives and it's amazing how many more nutrients you can cram into your diet this way. I'm choosing things like veggie wraps instead of chicken ones and opting for vegetarian hotel fry ups instead of my usual bacon and sausage. If only I could stop stuffing my face with endless bowls of crisps and massive glasses of wine then perhaps I might start to feel the benefit of it...
- The Mothership being back. However all the restaurant food, take away dinners, bowls of crisps and glasses of wine are the consequence of my mum visiting for two weeks. During which time we pretty much indulge in all of the aforementioned every single day. I would be lying if I said I wasn't starting to feel the effects of such continuous & gluttonous indulgences but I only have her back for a couple more days so I intend to make the most of it. Pass the cheese & onion.
- The Missing. I was glued to series one of this amazing BBC drama and was suspicious that any following seasons would never live up to the first. However after one episode I am hooked! I foresee a fair bit of binge watching in bed coming up.
- Our Lego Castle. After about of year of begging, we finally made a return trip to Ava's favourite castle last weekend. If you've been then you will understand the nickname. Suffice to say I was as useless at spotting the tiny Lego people they had hidden in each room this time as I was the last time. But it's the taking part that counts anyway so whatevs.
- Road trips. This weekend three generations of Youngs took a wee road trip up to Oban for a few days. We not only had an amazing time but we got lots of great snaps, spent far too much money in gift shops and I got to indulge my obsession by ticking another castle off my list!
Saturday, 22 October 2016
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
For as long as I can remember I've been a bit of a fantasist. I grew up in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and I can still remember playing with my friends around the endless fields, streams & barns that surrounded us. The games we used to imagine, the made up mythical situations we'd get ourselves into. Like the imaginary witches we'd flee from the steep hill behind my house or the fairies we were so convinced we had spotted next to the burn behind the stables.
As I grew up that fantasist side of me never left. While everyone else was sitting in uni lectures thinking about their next drink or what they were wearing to the student union that night, I would be tapping my pen impatiently, imagining where I might be in ten years time. Lost in some romantic creation I had decided upon in my head, like drinking wine & writing poetry in the South of France or backpacking along the Inca Trail. To this day I'm still a ridiculous romantic with a wild imagination. I don't want to believe that movie style love doesn't exist or that there isn't some fatalistic & spiritual plan set out for every single one of us.
I believe what I choose to believe because that is who I am & it is who I want to be.
My constant need to explore this beautiful country and to escape this (sometimes) depressing city doesn't worry me. The romantic idealisms I associate with these trips act like an anti-depressant. They keep me happy, they feed my wild, romantic notions and I imagine they will still be keeping me young at heart when I am late into my sixties.
Whatever I may appear - be it over-dramatic, self-indulgent or a pathetic hippie with her head in the clouds, my life is a perpetual battle against a continuous need to run & a constant urge to escape. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
I feed off a constant need for adventure. And so I keep chasing the next sanctuary, the next loch, the next B&B, the next road trip and the next night away. I long for vast expanses of water, I escape into 5 mile runs, and I lose myself in endless episodes of Outlander or chapters of Iain Banks novels.
I escape into my fantasies of growing old on some random Scottish island. I escape into the books, the poems, the endless castle exploring and the old Scottish folk songs.
But no matter how much I escape there is no question of where or with who my heart belongs. Which is in this thriving & multi-cultural city that I have grown to adore. With a baby girl who grows quicker and faster by the day and who most definitely needs her desire for siblings met before I retire away.
So in the meantime I shall continue on my one woman quest to see as much of Scotland as I can. To explore every single nook and cranny in order to find the pivotal place I shall choose to end up. But make no mistake - when that day eventually comes you will find me up north somewhere. Growing old on an island, breathing in the rural & wild Scottish mountainous air every single morning. Cooking, writing & excitedly planning the grandchildren's next visit.
And I can't wait.
Tuesday, 11 October 2016
- There is something about making a real proper curry from scratch that I find so cathartic. Don't get me wrong, it's a total pain in the ass, takes forever and I usually end up with at least one new cooker burn by the time it's ready to eat but it's worth it all the same.
- Saturday adventures with Ava. This time we headed to Kelburn Country Park where we checked out the 'cartoon castle' as Ava called it, ate ice cream & explored the coolest secret forest I have ever seen. Might have enjoyed that bit more than Ava.
- Because I'm off dairy now (have I mentioned I'm off dairy - I'm not sure I've mentioned that I'm off dairy), I felt the need to eat as much of my favourite cheese before I went cold turkey. This amazing pasta with burrata recipe was super tasty and I highly recommend you make it!
- Uh-mazing gourmet hotdog at the Loch Lomond Food Festival. Enjoyed with a delicious pint of Isle of Skye beer. Which upon purchasing I insisted upon making the people serving it discuss all my favourite Skye landmarks with me for at least half an hour.
- Heading out for evening runs with a buzzing brain after long days spent in the office only to return with a clear head and a rush of endorphins. Running is most definitely my chicken soup for the soul.
- I'm still not over how good these Decadently Pure raw chocolates actually taste and am pretty much dropping massive hints to anyone who will listen about how much I want more for my birthday.
- Every evening post gym class you will pretty much be sure to find me curled up on the sofa, my cosy new throw slung over my legs, a glass of spicy red wine on the coffee table and catching up on episodes of Cold Feet or Poldark. God I love this time of year.
- And speaking of autumn, I discovered this gorgeous autumnal coloured nail polish hiding behind my dressing table the other day. No idea how long it's been there (or if it was even me who bought it) but I have been adorning my fingernails with it ever since.
- Another castle visit. This time to Doune. Where we soaked up the very last few rays of Scottish sun and explored every nook & cranny. I think I might need to go to Castles Anonymous. Is that a thing?
- Yummy nachos and some spicy chilli con carne cooked by my friend and enjoyed with a nice big 'thank goodness it's Friday' glass of wine while our girls played together.
- Delicious chickpea and roast veg salad from Tapa Bakehouse just off Duke Street in Glasgow. Enjoyed with some proper cloudy lemonade and rounded off with a sneaky bite or two of Ava's chocolate brownie.
- Friday afternoon post school shopping. Where we may have got distracted and stopped off for some ice cream. But ya know, Friday.
- After spending way too much money on post workout smoothies recently, the lovely Charlene gifted me her old Breville Actiblend. I am now annoying every single person I know for their favourite smoothie and green juice recipes and freezing portions of fruit like there's going to be an apocalypse.
- Cool neon sign in the Giffnock branch of BRGR. If you are a restaurant and you have a cool neon sign on the wall - you can be damn sure I'm taking a picture of it.
- Have we talked about how much I love Dumpling Monkey? It is so cheap and the food tastes so, so good. If you haven't checked it out then I insist you do immediately. Followed by a portion of soft shell crab from Ka Ka Lok. I'm starting to think that going to yoga classes in the west end might be counter productive to going to the actual yoga.
- Sunday morning fry ups in our house are now a thing. As are fish & chip Friday's. Because food is life.
- Sunday afternoon Caipirinha drinking with the gorgeous Felicity. I don't see that girl's face nearly enough and so thoroughly enjoyed our little afternoon together eating Greek food and discussing all the things.
- New underwear treats while my lovely pal watched the girls to let me go shopping for an hour. Who says underwear and steak should only be purchased whilst in a relationship?
- A recent smorgasbord of tapas style Cypriot dishes at the recently opened Halloumi in Glasgow.
- And after an entire three months of sleeping in her own bed all night, this cheeky wee monkey snuck into my bed at silly o clock in the morning the other night. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it.
Saturday, 8 October 2016
My life is currently a medley of cooking too much, eating too much & exercising too much. To make up for the eating too much. I am also physically & mentally preparing myself for the fact my mother touches down on UK soil this month. Which means two whole weeks of eating out pretty much every single evening, drinking Prosecco pretty much every single night and taking a wee girls road trip up to Oban for a few days.
|Moroccan-Style Skillet Chicken with Olives & Almonds|
I went on a bit of a Moroccan cooking spree a couple of months back. A cupboard clear out resulted in a packet of Ras-el-hanout, a tiny jar of Harissa & some Morrocan style curry paste. This delicious looking Moroccan Style Chicken dish ended up tasting as good as it looked and you can find the recipe right here.
|Moroccan Chicken Skewers with Minted Goats Cheese Yogurt|
Still experimenting with all things Moroccan I made these quite frankly amazing kebabs a few weeks back. The goats cheese yogurt is delicious. This recipe (and all these recipes) were created pre me giving up dairy. God I miss dairy. Anyway you can find the recipe right here.
|Tagliatelle with raw Peas, Pecorino & Mint|
I love pasta. And after a lifetime of avoiding the carb laden, tummy bloating stuff I am cooking it more than ever. I got this recipe from a cookery magazine and it was too good not to share. This should serve 2.
100 gm raw podded peas, 40 gm unsalted butter, juice of 1/4 lemon, 80 gm finely grated pecorino, 10 shredded mint leaves, 200 gm dried tagliatelle
- Cook pasta according to pack instructions
- Coarsely pulse the raw peas with a food processor or mash with a potato masher.
- Put the peas, butter and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Transfer the cooked pasta to the pan with a ladleful of the cooking water. Turn the had to high and stir for 30 seconds then take off the heat.
- Sprinkle the pecorino over the pasta while its still in the pan and let the residual heat melt the cheese. Do not stir until the cheese has melted then fold the cheese through the pasta, add the mint and season before serving.
|Salmon & Pesto Rice Bake|
Since I seemed to have turned into one of those women who literally never has any free time on her hands any more (see this blog for details) I am very much embracing the quick, easy 'bake' style dinners that us mums have become so famous for. I've even cooking a tuna pasta bake for dinner one night next week. I don't even know who I am either. But this salmon and rice bake was quick, easy, delicious and perfect for making on a week night.
|Vegan Quinoa & Black Bean Tacos|
Want to know about single girl problems? I'll tell you about single girl problems. Single girl problems is the fact that every single pack of flaming soft tortillas you buy in the supermarket has about 12 upwards in a packet. Meaning if I decide to cook tacos one night on my own then I am pretty much eating the damn things for a week. Anyway I wouldn't hugely recommend these if you are a massive carnivore. But if you are a bit like me and you love a fad then these vegan, dairy free, vegetarian, super healthy soft tacos are just the ticket.
|Chicken & Egg Donburi|
I love this recipe and I cook it all the time. It's the perfect thing to make after you've sweated your arse off for an hour and a half in a hot yoga class and it's 10pm and you just want to eat but you can't really be bothered getting out of your yoga pants. Recipe as follows, for one:
one chicken breast, 1/2 small onion, 2 spring onions. 100ml chicken stock, 1 tbsp sake, 1 dessert spoon sugar, 1tbsp mirin. 1 tbsp soy sauce
- Put sliced onion, stock, sake, sugar, mirin & soy sauce in a small pan and boil. Add chicken & simmer until cooked through.
- Pour beaten egg around and over chicken then cover. Simmer while shaking the pan. Cook the eggs to the desired firmness.
- Serve over rice and sprinkled with shredded spring onion.
Wednesday, 5 October 2016
I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. I'm either at it every chance I get or I do nothing at all. I love the buzz I get when I work out. Running is my jam and is probably the exercise I enjoy the most. I love the solitude of pounding the pavements on my own with only my iPhone and my favourite songs for company. 7am is fast becoming my favourite time to head out. At this time of year the light is eerily beautiful and there aren't too many cars out or people on the street.
I love the buzz I get when I finish a long run. It's that buzz that keeps bringing me back to exercise. And it's that buzz that drew me to A G Fitness Training in Glasgow. When Andy got in touch asking if I fancied trying out their gym I was very tempted. I hadn't done any exercise in months and despite a heap of stress earlier in the year causing my weight to drop to under 8 stone, a fortnight in Cyprus & a jaw that hadn't stopped moving since I returned meant that I had steadily crept back up to just over 9. Not huge but a little on the uncomfortable side for my rather petite 5,3" frame.
But more than that, I just missed it. I would drive past my old running route and immediately get this desire to get my butt back on the pavements and knock out a few miles. One of my old running songs would come on the radio and that pang of nostalgia would appear. I missed the buzz. I missed the rush. I missed the sweat.
I decided to take up Andy's offer and combine my re-discovered passion for running with some of his weekly classes at the gym. I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little daunted at the prospect. From what I had seen Andy's gym was all very much weights focussed and boot campy. For a very girly and cardio obsessed girl like myself I was worried it would be scary. What I got was a pleasant surprise. It's an unintimidating and friendly environment and the laid back and fun atmosphere of the place was probably the nicest I have ever encountered in a gym. No scary looking meat heads hogging the weights and throwing threatening looks around or size zero girls with perfect make up pretending to work out whilst just checking themselves out in the mirror and texting their latest conquest. Just a bunch of nice people trying to keep themselves fit while still having a laugh. And the scary gym equipment I had worried would make it more like a Tough Mudder challenge ended up being kinda fun...
I genuinely loved this gym and the only reason I didn't stick with it was the distance from my flat. Trying to juggle work, blogging, Ava, etc while travelling to the other city of the city for a work out got a bit much. However I would highly recommend these guys and have been doing so regularly. Thanks to them I decided to join the gym next door to me and have been attending their classes regularly. After weeks of what can only be described as torture, I'm even a Spin convert. I may even go as far as to say it's my favourite class. Don't worry, I hate myself enough for the both of us...
Attempts to 'get fit' in the past have never lasted longer than about 6 months. And they were always for superficial reasons. I once ran like a demon for three months between visits to LA because I pathetically knew what sort of 'ideal' I would be forced to fit into when I got there. And also because there was someone over there who was enthusiastically waiting to see me naked. I threw myself into running, personal training and gym sessions for a good part of last year. This time because I'd got to that stage in a relationship where cosy dinners in, take away pizzas in bed & meals on the town had left my jeans feeling a little too tight. But again I wasn't really doing it for me. I was doing it because there was someone else who quite liked to see me naked.
This time? This time I'm doing this shit for myself.
This time it's not about vanity. For the first time in my life I'm exercising for my health & well being. I'm discovering how medicinal regular exercise is. It's keeping my head straight, my heart happy and my mind worry free. Ironically I'm starting to see results on the outside that I have never experienced before. My legs feel more toned, my butt tighter & my tummy harder to the touch. Maybe it's because I'm doing classes for the first time. Maybe it's because I'm watching my diet more than I used to and not 'rewarding' myself as much. Truthfully? I don't really care. Because I'm exercising to be happy.
And thankfully I seem to be hitting the ground running.
Sunday, 25 September 2016
- 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, 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.