Food & Seasonal, Out & About

Festivities

Yesterday, I visited my second-home city of Edinburgh AKA ‘The Capital’ to divulge deep into the seasonal festivities of Christmas markets and shopping, topped off with a glass of mulled wine (or two).

So pretty.

My favourite hotspot and a must-see: The Dome

Happy Festivities!

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Food & Seasonal

5 steps to get you into the Christmas spirit

So it is officially the 1st of December and the first door of my advent calendar has been opened! But if today, and unlike me you are not feeling Christmasy enough, then why not try out these 5 easy steps to get yourself into that Christmas spirit…

1. Dance & Decorate

It’s time to dig out all of your Christmas decorations (if you haven’t already done so) and prepare to add a bit of sparkle to your home. It is a tradition of mine to put my decorations up whilst listening to some good old Christmas anthems. My favourite albums are ‘Michael Buble Christmas’ or ‘Now that’s what I call Christmas’ for all the oldies but goodies.

2. Roast some chestnuts

You may have noticed by now that the supermarkets are stocking up on bags of these little gems.  Or why not go one step further and go chestnut hunting yourself? Remember not to pick the chestnuts from the tree as they are only ripe after they have fallen (and be careful of their prickly outer shell).

It is always fun to roast your chestnuts over an open fire. Always prick or slice the chestnut first to prevent it from exploding with the heat – this happened to me once when I had cooked them in the oven and forgot to prick them, let’s just say it left my kitchen in quite a mess!

For those of you who would prefer to pop them in the oven, do so at around 200C for approx. 15-20 mins. Let them cool before digging in as it can be quite tricky peeling off the outer shiny brown shell. Eat on their own or with your selected dip – I love mine with Nutella!

chestnuts

3. Make a pot of home-made mulled wine

Wash down those roasted chestnuts with a glass of cosy mulled wine. I always think home-made tastes better! Follow this simple recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 grated nutmeg
  • 2 sliced oranges
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 100g of brown sugar

Method:

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a saucepan and simmer gently for 6-8 minutes, without boiling.
  2. To serve, pour the mulled wine into heat-proof glasses. Simples!

mulledwine

4. The smell of Christmas

By now your home should be smelling of cinnamon and nuts – not christmasy enough? Then why not try throwing orange peel on the fire, or lemon peel in your oven once it’s turned off to get the fragrance flowing? Another idea would be to add a sprinkle of herbs and spices to your tea lights holders or invest in some Christmas fragrance oil. My favourite is ‘Winter fragrance’ from The White Company – a spicy warm scent that blends notes of sweet cinnamon and clove with a dash of fresh orange.

5. Get creative

Now that the mood has been set, it may make you feel a bit less apprehensive about wrapping that lump of presents you have hidden under the bed. Again, I think wrapping is always easier with a bit of Christmas music on in the background and a glass of mulled wine at hand. Your wrapped Christmas presents should act as part of your decorative feature and therefore time and effort should be put into making the presents look less like a wrapped up fish supper and more like a beautiful hidden treasure too pretty to open!

Rather than trying to wrap awkward-shaped gifts, collect some empty shoe boxes to give your presents a box-like appearance; making your life much easier in the wrapping department! Invest in some pretty ribbon and trimmings for you gifts and a home-made Christmas tag to top it all off.

tag

Now relax and enjoy… it’s only 24 days until Christmas!

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Style

Freshly Baked Clothing

I first met Lesley Buchanan, the founder of Freshly Baked Clothing when we worked together in the clothing store Next in Edinburgh. Working part-time and in my final year at university, it was coming close to my graduation ball and I started to think about a dress for the special occasion.

I spotted a photograph on-line (below, left) of a beautiful dress designed by Monique Lhullier, and I just loved the colour and the movement in the dress. I knew straight away that because I had this in mind, I wouldn’t be able to find one similar in the shops and would need to look at getting it personally made. This was when I recalled Lesley mentioning her clothing business she runs from home and I therefore decided to ask her for some help.

After a long discussion, a few fittings and some material shopping, Lesley produced the perfect one-off dress for me in plenty of time for my ball.

It has been over a year now since I graduated and (sadly) left Edinburgh. Recently, I decided to get back in touch with Lesley to find out how her business is doing and what it is that inspires her designs.

Hello Lesley! It has been a while since we last spoke. As you know I was very pleased with my ball gown, and I am now intrigued to find out how your business is coming along. For those that are only being introduced to Freshly Baked, can you describe the brand in a few sentences for me?

Hello, I’m glad you liked it! Well I suppose my sales pitch for the clothing line would be; Freshly Baked is clothing for your true self. Quirky, cool and individual. Cast of the mundane and embrace the unique. Freshly Baked doesn’t shy away from colour, print or style. Be proud to be yourself.

Straight to the point then! When was it that you decided to go it alone? 

I started Freshly Baked in 2005, just as I was leaving VV Rouleaux and starting work as a Computer Pattern Cutter/Grader at Alexandra Workwear. I take great pride in the fact that I don’t just design the garments but also create them and the patterns too. This is a lot of work but it is also one of the reasons that my garments all have ‘Made In Scotland’ labels inside of them.

A lot of work indeed. What was it that inspired you to start-up a clothing brand?

At college I had gained both my NC and HND in Clothing Technology and Manufacture and went to work for VV Rouleaux, a ribbons and trimmings emporium. At this point I also started working on my own designs and I was lucky to have one of my designs featured in The Herald magazine. Since my work was being noticed, I thought that this was a good time to start-up on my own and fulfil my dream. Having previously worked for a supermarket on the hot food counter, I was always intrigued by the bakery section and the ‘Freshly Baked’ motto. An idea suddenly hit me; if cakes and bread can be ‘freshly baked’ then why not clothing?

That is an interesting concept. Who would you say is your typical target customer?

The people who I like to see wearing my designs are those who aren’t afraid to be themselves and like to express themselves through their clothing and fashion choices. Truthfully, I don’t have a specific age bracket for my designs, as long as you feel comfortable and confident wearing my designs then I’m happy.

Who or what is your main source of inspiration for your designs?

I would say that my main source of inspiration is anything, anyone and everything. I can be inspired by a swatch of wallpaper, a blood-red sunset, or a passing image in a magazine or newspaper. Inspiration can strike me at any time and any place. I am also greatly inspired by vintage couture, the 30’s through to the 50’s, and especially Edith Head, the much awarded and revered Hollywood costume designer. I especially adore her work on Hitchcock films such as The Birds with Tippi Hedren, Rear Window with the wonderful Grace Kelly and Marnie, also one of Hedren’s films. Recently I’ve been inspired by romance novel covers and romantic heroines. Cue a lot of damsels in distress, swooning maidens, heaving bosoms and full sweeping skirts!

Grace Kelly in Rear Window

Grace Kelly in Rear Window

Costume Designer, Edith Head

Costume Designer, Edith Head

 

If you could pick a celebrity to endorse your clothing, who would it be and why? 

I would love to see Kat Dennings from Thor and Two Broke Girls in my designs. She has a fabulous figure, all lush curves and a confidence and natural beauty that sets her apart from other girls her age. I also love Jessica Szohr from Gossip Girl as she is absolutely stunning and has a beautiful figure. Jennifer Lawrence is also another pick, as well as Olivia Wilde and Chloe Grace Moretz. All gorgeous girls that I feel embody the Freshly Baked way of life and are full of confidence, joy and individuality. In my designs I aim to promote a healthy, happy body image. Size is not the issue, it’s about how confident you feel and what you feel you can achieve in them.

Well said! These girls most definitely do not lack in beauty! Where do you see Freshly Baked in 5 years time?

In five years time I would love to see my clothing line on the catwalk at any one of the prestigious fashion weeks: London, New York, Paris or Milan. I would like to have an established, well-known and respected label that I would love to see featured in a main publication such as Elle, Cosmopolitan or Vogue. Fame is not important for me but respect and being known as a credible and influential designer is what matters to me. Having a successful and well run business is my main goal.

Aim high – that’s my advice! What advice would you give to someone else hoping to start-up on their own?

I would advise anyone starting up their own business not to give up. You will definitely have days, maybe even weeks or months where you feel that you aren’t getting anywhere, that nothing seems to be working or going right for you, but trust me if you stick at it then you WILL succeed. I’m still going for it after 8 years of trying and I refuse to give up. I know that if I stick at it and work really hard then I will get where I want to be.

Focus on what you want and go for it but never forget to breathe and take some time for yourself. Also, never be afraid to ask for help. Your family and friends will be more than willing to help you should you ever need it. Take enjoyment from the little things that happen, have pride in any and all successes that you will have and take some time to really enjoy what you are doing. As the saying goes, the only person holding you back from success is yourself. So reach for the stars and never look back.

Do you have any other projects on-going at the moment?

I have started work on my second label, Hope Clothing named after my Great Grandmother Hope, and after hope itself. Hope is very different from Freshly Baked, as it is my evening and bridal wear label. Hope has very clean lines, simple styles and the fabrics are more of a feature here. Luscious silks and taffetas, and various colours ranging from the softest pink to the darkest midnight blue. Hope is about having hope and not giving up, revelling in your dreams and aspirations and enjoying life and love.

I decided to add a second label to my line as I felt that I was trying to do too much in one label. While Freshly Baked is mostly day wear with the occasional evening dress, Hope is mainly special occasion and bridal. The target market for Hope is very much the same as Freshly Baked but obviously this is more aimed at special occasions such as weddings, proms and graduations balls as you know yourself!

I also have plans to add a menswear collection to the line within the next year or so too. I am going to invest in a new sewing machine which will enable me to start working properly with jersey and T-shirts garments. I am hopeful that my designs will be accepted within the fashion industry and that people will find them interesting, enjoyable and most importantly, wearable.  There wouldn’t be much point in designing and making garments if no-one wanted to wear them!

Interested in Lesley’s designs? Then get in touch at:

Freshly Bakedlesley

E: freshlybakedclothing@yahoo.co.uk

T: 07791 478 660

Follow @FBakedclothing on Twitter

Hope Clothing

E: hope_clothing@yahoo.co.uk

T: 07791 478 660

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Out & About

Country Living Christmas Fair

It’s an annual tradition of mine to attend the Country Living Christmas Fair at the SECC in Glasgow. Each year I divulge into the Christmas spirit by checking out all of the beautiful decorations and gifts that are on offer, amongst the numerous and creatively thought-out stands. Here were some of my favourites:

Cari & Co.

This stand was full of quirky fashion and home accessories from scarves, cuffs, bolsters and cushions. Cari & Co is an award-winning Aberdeen-based company, where all items are made in Scotland with fine quality fabrics. Workshops are also available for those wishing to improve their craft and dressmaking skills.

Get in touch:

W: http://www.cariandco.com

E: cari@cariandco.com

T: 07729 508 007

Kathleen McAuliffe

Award winning Irish designer, Kathleen McAuliffe has a unique hats and accessories shop in Dingle, Ireland. Her stand was full of beautiful, vintage-style designs – as you can see I had a favourite!

Get in touch:

W: http://www.kathleenmcauliffe.com

E: info@kathleenmcauliffe.com

T: 0669 150 644

Visit Kathleen on Facebook

Horny Beasts

Horny Beasts is a home accessories and soft furnishings company based in the West of Scotland. They specialise in contemporary mounted antler decorations which I just love! If you are stag crazy at the moment (like me) then it is definitely worth taking a look.

Get in touch:

W: http://www.hornybeasts.co.uk

E: info@hornybeasts.co.uk

T: 07779 661474

Bears by Sue Quinn

Sue presented her adorable ‘Hedgehog Corner’ within her stand, full of delightful little hand-made hedgehog characters, complete with various costumes and accessories. Sue uses top quality fabrics such as mohair, alpaca, silk and wool for her hedgehogs and bears, and also carries out a repair service for any damaged teddies.

Get in touch:

W: http://www.bearsbysuequinn.co.uk

E: sue@bearsbysuequinn.co.uk

T: 0141 887 9916

Alphabet Photography

Alphabet Photography is an on-line Canadian company who search for un-staged objects that resemble letters of the English alphabet, creating individual words and a unique piece of art for everyone.

Get in touch:

W: http://www.alphabetphotography.co.uk

E: michael@alphabetphotography.co.uk

T: 07877 413506

Visit Alphabet Photography on Facebook and Twitter.

Leah Halliday

This colourful stand was full of quirky handmade gifts and vintage homewares. Based in the South West of Scotland, Leah finds her inspiration from fabrics, vintage bits and pieces, nostalgic images, ribbons and trims, and many of her gifts are one-off pieces, limited editions or made to order.

Get in touch:

W: http://www.leahhalliday.co.uk

E: hello@leahhalliday.co.uk

T: 07762 138 713

Visit Leah on Facebook and Twitter.

Amanda Mercer

Amanda Mercer

One of my favourite stands at the exhibition, Amanda creates ceramic and porcelain gifts inspired by memories and nostalgia. A graduate in BA Hons Contemporary Applied Arts, Amanda incorporates anything from vintage buttons, scraps of lace, black and white photographs to stamps and letters within her designs, creating unique and beautiful girly gifts.

Get in touch:

W: http://www.amanda-mercer.co.uk

E: info@amanda-mercer.co.uk

T: 07963 781 125

Visit Amanda on Facebook

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Out & About

The Enchanted Castle

The Enchanted Castle is definitely enchanting and worth a visit. Crathes Castle, near Banchory was transformed last night into a magical wonderland, surrounded by atmospheric colours and a stunning sound show, placing you in a dream-like world.

Amongst the weirdly wonderful landscape was the castles’ very own ghost – the Green Lady, as well as a flame-thrower and tour guides dressed up in what I would call, creepy couture.

The show is only on until the end of this month so snap up your tickets quick!

For more information on the Enchanted Castle and to purchase tickets CLICK HERE

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Food & Seasonal

Texas-style omelette

Fancy something quick, easy and healthy too? You can never go wrong with an omelette; where ingredients is vast and flavours are experimental. This particular recipe is with thanks to my partner Stefan. He likes to experiment when cooking and decided to spice up our omelettes by adding some Texas BBQ seasoning. I can truly say – but hesitant to admit – that it was the most tasty omelette I have tried in a while (but shh we won’t tell him that!)

Here is how it is done…

Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 5 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs
  • A knob of butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pepper
  • 4 slices of pastrami
  • A handful of grated cheese
  • 1 tbps of Texas BBQ seasoning (you can experiment with spices here)
  • A sprinkle of salt & pepper

Method:

1. Whisk 6 large eggs in a container and add the Texas BBQ seasoning and salt & pepper.

2. Chop finely the onions, peppers and slice the pastrami into small pieces. Add the ingredients to the egg mixture and mix together.

3. Melt the butter in a pan (on medium heat) and slowly add half of the mixture to make the first omelette. As it begins to thicken, add a sprinkle of cheese and fold the omelette in half, cooking for a further 1-2 minutes (flip over for even cooking).

4. Repeat step 3 for the second omelette.

5. Get stuck in! Simples.

omelette

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Out & About

Spiritual Reading

sky

I had my first ever spiritual reading at the weekend, which beforehand I had been very apprehensive about for obvious reasons. At first I did ponder on the thought of this lady being some sort of con artist, where after half an hour I would leave feeling unsatisfied and £35 down. On the other hand, I was nervous for what she was perhaps about to tell me, as I do believe in angels and ghosts after all.

As I walked into the hotel where she currently rents an office, I felt a flutter of butterflies in my stomach – I really didn’t know what to expect.  A fairly small, middle-aged woman with short hair and a surprisingly fashionable dress sense approached me, “My youngest sensed you would be slim with fair hair. It’s a shame you don’t have your leather jacket on!”

Speechless for a brief moment, I smiled and eventually asked, “How does she know I have a leather jacket?”

Apparently, two of her four children also have ‘the gift’, and from that I also found out she has two dogs and lives in the suburbs. I of course tried not to give anything away about myself, as the key to this experience is obviously not to provide these people with clues to feed from. I therefore grasped this experience with a cynical approach in order to prevent myself from getting carried away with the hype of it all.

There are various types of spiritual readings you can go for. Palm reading is one, a clairvoyant who tells you your future is another, but in this case, the ‘reader’ uses angels as their information source. She told me this is called ‘Reiki with angels’ – in other words, using the work of angels to receive guidance and assistance from the angelic realm. Set around her room were also crystal stones, I suppose used to set the mood, as well as what looked like packs of tarot cards.

The first spooky insight she hit me with was that she knew the colour of my dogs eyes (he is an Australia Blue Merle Collie and so has wolf-like eyes) and that he was scared of water as a pup. I took this with a pinch of salt as I have a picture of my dog as my Facebook cover page, and although my page is private, this picture is still visible to see. OK, I thought, let’s see what else you’ve got up your sleeve!

“She’s very proud of you you know, your guardian angel is here, your Great Grandma.” This slightly knocked me off my cynical perch, as my mother often tells me that my Great Grandma is my guardian angel. Nobody would have known that. “There are also two other grandparents in the room.” Ha! Got you! “All my grandparents are alive” I said. But without hesitance she told me, “No, these are from your partner’s mother’s side of the family. They say they are proud of the path that their grandson is on. He is very work-orientated and should expect a positive career change in March next year.”

Hmm this is good I thought, I actually have some information I can use as a measurement, and so I note this down on a spare bit paper. Let’s see if this career change actually happens. She advises me to write everything she says down in case I am unsure of something and can refer back later. Throughout the allotted half an hour she told me the following:

  • I will get a house within the next 12 to 14 months but be engaged beforehand (yay!).
  • My little brother will be in the police force.
  • I’m a daddy’s girl and that it is his birthday in the next 6 weeks (which it is!).
  • She could hear the sound of kids from my partner’s mother’s house (she backs onto a playground) and said that she really needs to go to the dentist (random I thought, but nevertheless I shall pass the message on).
  • She knew that I was recently in Dyce (which I told her ‘yes for an interview’) and she said I would have a new job by mid December.
  • She asked who ‘J’ in my family was and I automatically said my mum ‘Jacqueline’ (but really it could have also been my granddad, brother or uncle). She told me to take a leaf out of my mother’s book as she doesn’t like to disappoint people but will always do what is best for her. She also told me my gut instinct is very strong and that I should follow it.
  • I am also going to visit Australia in 2 years time for a 2-3 week holiday – sounds good to me!

Well I guess it’s just a waiting game now to see if any of this is true. However, it was this last insight that gave me chills. As the half hour approached its end, she asked me if I could pass a message on to my partner’s mother from her parents. This I have decided to keep private. All I can say is that once the half hour was up, I did end up leaving her ‘room of angels’ feeling satisfied and slightly on a high, excited to tell my partner and family about my reading. Although a lot of her ramblings were about my partners side of the family, I got a good feeling from her and knew that both my partner and his mother would appreciate what she had to say.

Verdict – I recommend visiting one for yourself. Be careful though, as although most are advised only tell you good things, my friends mother refused to tell her about her reading due to something which obviously spooked her. My advice is that you only see someone who has personally been recommended to you by a friend. Even if most of the information turns out to be meaningless, I still left the room with a good feeling and the belief that my Great Grandma may have been in that same room with me.

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