Monday, 23 December 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. I completed my Japanese course this week! And I got a certificate! It was harder than I thought it would be, for every rule there's an exception, but at least I know some basics now!

2. After my visit to Drum Castle, I made a wreath from the bits and bobs I bought. I quite impressed myself!

3. I bought this sweet little rabbit night light. I had seen them online but when I saw this one for only £2 I decided to treat myself.

4. It's Panda's first Christmas so I filled a tiny Santa sack with some treats that he's never had before so it should be a nice surprise!

5. I never saw The Grey at the cinema which is a shame because it was a really good film. And a bit festive, with the snow and that!

6. Mum's macaroni is the bomb! I ask for it every time I'm round (much to her annoyance)!

7. The big release at the cinema this week was Anchorman 2. I love Anchorman and although I didn't think this was as good (could it ever be?), it was great to have the newsteam back!

8. I bought this reindeer cupcake to eat at the cinema and the reindeer is a ring! Double whammy!

9. It's a bit of a tradition for me to pick out my festive viewing from the Radio Times. There's loads of great movies on this year and of course Doctor Who and Sherlock will be unmissable! My Sky+ will strain with good tv!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. Have you tasted these Turkish Delight Thins from Morrisons? Well don't. You'll be left with an empty box and the sickly feeling that you never should have started!

2. I went to see Disney's Frozen at the start of the week and I LOVED it! I love all Disney animated movies, but this one is right up there! Go see (if you haven't already)!

3. I've been feeling out of sorts all week so I decided a bath was in order.  I used to hate baths but lately I've been enjoying a good soak! This Santa sack bubble bar from Lush was in a gift set I bought last year but it smelt awesome and turned my bath the colour of Irn-Bru!

4. It's not Christmas til you've seen Elf, ammaright?

5. Still feeling pretty run down mid-week I did something I rarely do - I had an evening of nothing. No plans, no interruptions, nothing but me time. I came home from work, put the electric blanket on, got into my cosiest jammies and had a wonderfully snuggly evening in bed. I watched This Is 40 and Anna Karenina before falling asleep at a very reasonable time!

6. Our Trekathon continued this week with two of my favourites so far, but especially Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. It was so funny!

7. I had a great day out at HollyFest, a Christmas market held within a local castle. It was something different and I got lots of ideas for making my own wreath.

8. Whilst Allan was at band practice I sneaked off to watch The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug. Of course it was awesome and I want to be an elf when I grow up! I can't wait for the final part of the trilogy.

9. You may find it hard to believe, but this is actually Panda! Long gone are his flowing locks, we gave Panda a serious haircut! He's half the guinea pig he used to be (in size and weight I'd imagine!) but he was totally unfazed by it all. Allan and him are developing a seriously cute bromance and Panda just lets him do anything!

How has your week been?

Saturday, 14 December 2013

HollyFest At Drum Castle

My friend Lorna and I took a visit to Drum Castle today for HollyFest, a Christmas market held within this beautiful National Trust For Scotland property.

We nipped into the garden centre first of all for a bit of Christmas shopping and caught some unexpected carol singing!

From the outside the castle looked almost normal...

...but inside it was filled with festive displays and craft tables!

There was also a table to write down your Christmas wish...

...then you had to hang it on the tree so it could come true! The Christmas Fairy also tapped us on the nose with her magic wand to make extra sure!

There were lots of beautiful wreaths and garlands for sale, all of which were made using greenery from the estate.

But they also sold lots of bits for making one yourself so I'm going to attempt it using some of the berries from my garden, holly from Mums and these things I bought:

It's only open for one more day, so if you're planning on going head there between 11am and 4pm tomorrow.

There's also a Twelve Days Of Christmas walk, windows decorated by local schools to make the castle look like an advent calendar, Santa's workshop for the kids and some delicious "sleigh-friendly" mulled wine and mince pies!

The Christmas Tag

I saw this over on Sarah's Little World and decided to tag myself!

What time of year do you start your Christmas shopping?
Usually I wait til the end of November start or start of December.  When I get paid I blast the majority of it online then get the other bits and bobs when I hit the shops.

Do you have any festive recipes for food or drink you limit solely to the Christmas season to share?
I haven't really been cooking much the last few years, but I definitely have foods which I eat during the festive season that I don't usually. I love brussel sprouts, Quorn roast with veggie gravy and mince pies (especially warmed with cream).  On the drink side it's usually mulled cider or Schloer that's reserved especially for Christmas.

Tell me how Christmas goes down in your home
Usually we wake up and congregate in the living room to watch everyone delve into their Santa sacks before getting dressed up to either visit family or receive guests. We chat over bucks fizz, then there's tea and mince pies before swapping presents. We show each other our gifts and tidy all the paper away before a long lunch filled with food, party hats and laughter. The afternoon is spent watching tv, reading books, investigating presents, playing games and/or sleeping off the big meal. We have more tea mid-afternoon, this time with Christmas cake. Our evening meal comes in the form of a buffet and shortly after we all head home to fall into a food coma!

This will be the first year that none of us live with Mum and Dad so it's a bit sad, although we're all getting together at my brother and his girlfriend's home to spend my niece's first Christmas together!

Do you have any Christmas traditions?
All of the above really!

Do you have a favourite festive coffee?
Coffee is way too grown-up for my taste buds, but I love festive hot chocolates especially the black forest one from Costa.

Do you have a favourite Christmas song?
I love hearing all the Christmas songs everywhere you go, but All I Want For Christmas Is You by Mariah Carey is always a winner!
What do you do on Christmas Eve?
We don't do anything out of the ordinary, hopefully by that point it's an evening to relax or finish off anything that needs done for the big day, then it's off to bed for Santa coming!

What's your Christmas wrapping strategy? Do you have a strategy?
I wrap like a child. As long as it's in there, fully covered and bound by sellotape, I'm happy! I buy nice paper, I may use fancy tape or stick a bow on, but that's about it!

What's your dream gift this year?
To be honest I haven't really thought about it! We write Christmas lists and share them around which makes shopping so much easier, but I like the little surprise gifts I wasn't expecting! This is my first Christmas with Allan, so I'm excited to see what he's got me!

Describe your Christmas tree. How tall? Real or artificial? How is it decorated?
I have a 6 foot artificial tree and again like a child, I just chuck everything on there! I have no scheme although I do try to space things out reasonably well, but it's all the colours of the rainbow with a pretty fairy on top.

Do you decorate just the tree or other areas of your house e.g. windows, bannisters?
I have decorations on the mantelpiece and chimney breast, Christmas candles or reed diffusers in every room, a light up thing in the window and I'm hoping to make my own wreath.

What do you wear to Christmas parties and what do you wear on Christmas day?
My work party is pretty low key so it's usually a jeans and nice top affair. For Christmas Day we go a bit smarter, usually in a dress or something glitzy, but the shoes soon get swapped for Christmas slippers, ties removed, belts loosened and hair is flattened by party hats!

Feel free to tag yourself and leave me a link below, I'd love to hear about your Christmas!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Bird Food: Citrus And Honey Microwave Sponge

Without much of a kitchen to speak of blogging about cooking is not easy. It's something I've wanted to do for ages but I've been waiting for my ideal kitchen and it's taking too long!

On my fourth date with Allan I figured I'd go all out and make a three course meal using my limited resources of a fridge, a microwave and very little in the way of cutlery (I only realised once I'd started that I had no sharp knife)!

My menu of Caprese, Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese and dessert actually went down a treat, especially this sponge, so I made it again this week. It's so easy and cheap and tasty, I'll definitely be making it lots more!

Citrus And Honey Microwave Sponge - BBC Food

1 lemon, zest peeled and flesh finely sliced
1 orange, zest peeled and flesh finely sliced
110g/4oz caster sugar
110g/4oz self-raising flour
125g/4½oz soft butter, plus extra to grease
1 free-range egg
2 tbsp honey, plus 1 tbsp extra

1. Place the orange and lemon zests, sugar, flour, butter, egg and honey into a food processor and blend until a smooth sponge batter is formed (I just did this by hand, it might be fluffier with a machine).

2. Grease a small oven proof bowl with butter and brush with the extra honey. Line the bowl with the orange and lemon slices (remember to pick the seeds out first).

3. Pour the sponge batter into the lined bowl and cover with cling film.

4. Place the bowl in a microwave and cook on full power for five minutes, or until the sponge is cooked through (check this by sticking a knife or cocktail stick into the centre and if it comes out clean you're good to go).

The trick is not to make it in a tub that's too deep or else it'll mangle when you flip it out (speaking from experience)! I tried making individual sized ones in smaller tubs too and they only took about 60-90 seconds. I think if you added some custard you'd be winning too!

So there you go, my first recipe based post! Let me know if you try it and what you think, or if you have any tips!

Monday, 9 December 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. I had to take my car to the garage this week (nothing to serious thankfully!) and I got to have a leisurely stroll somewhere new! I love taking time to look around properly and find things I never knew existed.

2. Panda's little adventures make me laugh! Here he is, beside the Santa sacks, investigating the tree and attempting to eat it! This is his first Christmas and he seems to have taken a shine to this hiding place!

3. I made this jigsaw last week and there was ONE PIECE MISSING! Grrrr! I looked around the floor, between the cushions, under the sofa but couldn't find it. How relieved was I to find the missing jigsaw piece in the kitchen of all places?! It's so satisfying to be able to put the last piece in!

4. I'm totally hooked on Devious Maids and I know loads of you are too! So scandalous and funny with a good main storyline but lots of great subplots!

5. I went hill walking again! I know! It's becoming a bit of a habit! This weekend Allan and I went to Glen Clova and it was snowy but beautiful.

6. We had the loveliest weekend away staying at the Glen Clova Hotel in a great room...

7. ...eating until we were fit to burst next to the fire in their cosy walker's bar! Seriously, I had to be pushed up the stairs! (Full details of this mini-adventure to follow!).

8. On the way back home we stopped at Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre. I was wary to start with because I thought it'd be a bit boring, but it was actually great fun! Wait until you see the photos from this!

9. Reluctant to return to normality just yet we watched Total Recall. I'd seen the remake but you can't beat the original for the eye-popping faces!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Christmas With Whimsy

Christmas is always the busiest time of year at my vintage shop and it's my favourite too!

I usually wrap my orders in brown recycled paper. I like the idea of my customers opening their purchase as if it's a gift for them, and maybe it is! And even if it's a gift for someone else, they will get to unveil it first. I love receiving parcels of any kind, and even if I know what's in them it's still exciting!

At Christmas I like to mix it up a bit. I swap the plain paper for some Christmas wrapping and I swap the little handwritten note I attach for one of the Christmas cards I designed. It's only a small change, but hopefully it's more exciting for people to open!

I'm also in the process of moving the last of my boxes into my new house and I've found lots of ace things which I'd forgotten I had!

Do you remember these? You fill them with water and try to get the floating things into the main big thing (I'm explaining this well aren't I?!) using the button which blasts air inside. I bought these for the shop in the summer and was so excited to find them boxed!

I bought these books purely based on the covers, something about them lured me in.

Did anyone have this as a child? I did! I would imagine that mine was quite badly abused (as most of our toys were) but I love the pictures and the simplicity of the game.

The animations on these greetings cards are right up my street! The little dudes with their big hair and tiny faces are so 70s and the messages are really sweet!

I discovered a few more annuals and books which I'd boxed up. There are a few there which are still to be listed but I think they make great Christmas presents! If you've spotted something you fancy which I haven't listed yet just let me know! Otherwise take a look in my shop for some more gift ideas!

I feel all nostalgic after looking through those!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. The Trekathon continued with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, which I thought was way better than the first one! Khan is proper trouble, and he has a good look, I like those qualities in a baddie!

2. It was payday this week so I hit the town to made a big dent in the Christmas shopping. I love seeing all the cool stuff in shops and the lights and the music and the bags full to the brim, just not so much the carrying of the aforementioned bags and the almost passing out with the weight of it all, but hey, it's only once a year!

3. Panda met Santa and told him how good he'd been and what he'd like. I wonder what Santa will bring him?

4. I'm severely into Christmas, Allan not so much. On Sunday I met him at the door wearing my new Christmas t-shirt and a sparkly Santa hat, and he did well not to throttle me with the lights as I bombarded him with my enthusiasm.

5. I love decorating the Christmas tree (except for those pesky lights)! I just chuck everything on, I don't care too much about the aesthetics of it, as long as it's bright and colourful that'll do me! I buy one new decoration each year and this time it was a little felt gingerbread man.

6. We also put a garland on the fireplace alongside my poinsettia and the Cinnamon Stick Yankee Candle I bought which smells amazing!

7. After all that hard work we sat down with mince pies and warm Rekorderlig Winter Cider. Mmmmmm!

8. And Christmas wouldn't be complete without an advent calendar! I bought this Lego advent where there's something to build behind each door...

9. ...and Allan treated me to this yummy Thorntons advent with a different chocolate every day! :)

Monday, 25 November 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. We had our first day of snow this week! I love snow, although I prefer it on days where I don't have to go to work! It was so pretty in the sun with the autumn leaves.

2. The cold weather gave me an excuse to buy new slippers. I have a bit of an odd obsession with slippers, and I wouldn't dare to count how many pairs I have, but I couldn't resist these little fluffy, sparkly, granny looking ones!

3. I know some of you love Doctor Who and this week has been great for us fans. An Adventure In Space And Time was brilliant, really interesting and moving.

4. I've finally finished my Bondathon with Die Another Day. OK, so I didn't quite do them in order, but I can now get cracking with the books, which are in a totally different order anyway! Where one "athon" ends...

5. ...another begins! Allan is a Star Trek fan and he was very happy when I said I wanted to watch them all. We're just doing movies to start with and our Trekathon began this week with Star Trek:The Motion Picture.

6. I picked these beautiful roses from my garden before the cold gets them. Can't believe they're still blossoming in November!

7. Back to Doctor Who, how AMAZING was The Day Of The Doctor?! I went to see it in 3D at the cinema and the atmosphere was great! Loads of people made an effort to dress up and the place was buzzing with excitement. I was speechless afterwards!

8. I was pretty much the same after The Hunger Games: Catching Fire! Another brilliant movie and I can't wait for the next two. I'll have to dig out my copy of Mockingjay cos it's too long to wait!

9. Have you tried Dairy Milk with Daim? It's my new favourite! I know it all sticks in your teeth, but it's totally worth it!

Monday, 18 November 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1. Philomena is a great film! So well written and acted and Steve Coogan plays such a likeable character alongside the brilliant Judi Dench. (It also makes me very angry about how people treat each other).

2. It's getting cold outside so I love wearing secretly exciting socks under by boring work clothes!

3. I also love hot porridge in front of the fire to keep me cosy!

4. I bought this card for my cousin's birthday as it made me laugh out loud in Tesco!

5. It's the first time I've ventured into town and seen the shops' pretty Christmas lights.

6. I know there's been mixed opinions, but I really liked Gravity. It's something different and put my bad days to shame!

7. I love being a girlfriend again! It's still early days, but it's all good! This is Allan, handsome devil and all round lovely guy (and I'm not just saying that because he'll read this)!

8. He even convinced me to go for a 12.5km walk round Loch Muick! It took hours but I barely noticed, it was so beautiful.

9. My kitchen isn't finished yet, but I managed to make a three course meal using only the microwave! And for microwave cooking it was pretty damn good!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Blogger's Summer Swap

Back in July the lovely Rhiannon of The Sparkly Panda invited bloggers to take part in a swap. I love this kind of thing so I passed on my details and excitedly awaited my parcel. In the meantime I took my £5 and busily went shopping for a blogger in Italy!

I was getting anxious about my delivery when Dixx from I Meow Life sent me an e-mail explaining that my parcel would be a little late. I had no idea who had me in the swap until then so it was even more exciting knowing it was coming all the way from Romania!

My parcel arrived last week and the sheer number of stamps amazed me!

I was like a kid at Christmas! I opened my parcel very slowly and laid all the lovely wrapped mini-parcels neatly on my desk.

What could they be?! I unwrapped all the little treats one by one and here's what Dixx had sent me:

A pretty floral coaster, some candles, a bath fizz, a bracelet, some stationery and a chocolate bar!

Where to begin?! I started by sniffing the gel pens (as you do!) which are fruit scented and I opened up the pad and found a lovely message from Dixx. I love all the teapots!

I tried on the bracelet and it fits perfectly. I love the colours too, they're so pretty!

Next thing to go was of course the chocolate bar! It had truffle inside and a nice rum kick, which was a good start to my Sunday!

I poured myself a nice big bath and dropped in the fizz then lit the Summery Apple tealight. My bathroom smelt amazing!

After a nice long soak in the tub, I relaxed in front of the telly with a cup of tea on my new coaster and the Cozy Vanilla candle burning in my living room. I love candles, you know?!

I want to say a big thank you to Dixx for my wonderful parcel and to Rhiannon for arranging all this along with Ella of Hello Ella, it was great fun!

Monday, 11 November 2013

♥ This Week's Loves ♥

1.  Who doesn't love new pyjamas? Crazy people, that's who! I love my new festive jammies from Primark!

2. My friends were over from Belfast this week so we went out for tea and I took them to one of my favourite local bars, The Tippling House. The cocktails there are delicious! Not just good, DELICIOUS!

3. I struggled at first, but I'm so glad I stuck with Girls. It's hard to describe but it's like you know these girls, because you're seeing more ordinary aspects of their lives maybe?

4. Super healthy lunches for me this week, but I totally love steamed veg and rice. It's so tasty and healthy and brightly coloured!

5. I can't believe that I haven't been to the cinema this week! The only film I've seen is Anchorman but it is a brilliant movie!

6. My Etsy shop is open again! I had a short break in October but I'm back in business from today selling vintage books, jigsaws and gifts, most of which people would love to receive for...say...a big fun present-giving time of year. Just sayin'.

7. Big Bang Theory is back on UK tellyboxes and I love it! OK it's been on for a couple of weeks but I'm all caught up now and glad to have it back!

8. I have been trying to get these green tartan curtains for ages and managed to lay my hands on them this week. They're from Next and they're a bit more expensive than I'd usually pay but I just knew they'd be great in my living room.

9. I have to say how much I love @LBloggersChat on Twitter. Every Sunday 7-8pm UK time, loads of lovely lifestyle bloggers get together to discuss the topic of the day. This week's subject was Christmas and it made me so excited! It's a great way to meet other bloggers and chat to friends in a really relaxed atmosphere (although trying to keep up with the timeline is frantic)!

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Maira Gall