Wednesday, 31 August 2016

SFN Expo 2016


Biggest and best! It's been a big build up to SFN for me ever since I was lucky enough to become an ambassador way back in November. It finally rolled around this weekend and what a weekend it was! Now in it's third year, SFN is growing increasingly bigger and better. It's safe to say that organisers Neil and Jamie have their ears open to feedback and use constructive criticism to their advantage. Last year I wished for actual workout opportunities, more goodies in the goodie bags and a better VIP experience. Tick, tick and tick!

My goodie bag was filled with treats (which I'll share on YouTube soon!) and a sectioned off VIP area provided extra seating, a Costa coffee and a meet and greet area - UK's strongest man and deadlift legend Eddie Hall, everyone's girl crush Michelle Lewin and blogging superstar Clean Eating Alice were just some of the famous faces on the schedule.

with USN's superwoman Kerrie Donaghy and SFN organiser Neil

I started off my Saturday at the newly introduced Les Mills Studio with a very sweaty Body Attack class! Having never done a Les Mills workout before, I had no idea what to expect. I read "attack" and thought martial arts/boxing... I have never been more wrong. After an hour of jumping around, trying and failing miserably to keep up with the dancey, Highland fling style moves, I was done! It's safe to say Body Attack is not my cup of tea but I'll keep an open mind for Pump or Combat next year. That's the beauty of an expo - there's always a chance to try something new!

Once I'd recovered from the trauma of Attack, we took some time to browse the stands and see what else was going on. We saw some of the Scottish Throwdown at the Crossfit arena, caught the odd bit of the Strongman Championships, watched in awe of the bodybuilders competing at the UKBFF SFN Classic, and tucked into a tasty lunch from Gold Standard Nutrition, while watching the Parkour guys practise their backflips! I highly recommend the lime and jalapeno sauce from Gold Standard - it was a treat with our pulled beef and sweet potato mash!


This year the expo had a much larger hall in the SECC and there was an even more diverse range of companies filling the space. I browsed the clothes at Lorna Jane and Mirelle, while Gordon made a beeline for burger samples at Speyside Specialties. We had our fair share of samples across the weekend with Oatein and USN coming top of our list! The cookies & cream Protein Delite bars from USN are a must - they look and taste like a proper chocolate bar, unlike  most dry, tasteless protein alternatives!

Enter my exclusive reader's discount code for 50% off full price USN goodies - CHB50.


A friend of  mine gave me Anna Sward's Protein Pow(d)er Cookbook for Christmas last year. I've made a few recipes from it which have always turned out well, so it was only right that we tried out Anna's workshop! An afternoon spent getting messy, elbow deep in peanut butter - the workshop is one of the most fun and interactive parts of the expo! We rustled up a couple batches of protein truffles - some were delicious, some not so much! They're really easy to make and you can add literally anything. I think we need a little practice to get the flavours and textures just right!

Lastly, Anna taught us how to make her infamous Protein Fluff! The recipe is featured in the book but although it's only 3-4 ingredients, I always thought it sounded far too time consuming to make. Wrong! You blend up some frozen fruit and milk with protein powder, add sweetener and whisk until fluffy. To check your fluff is ready, hold the bowl upside down above your head and pray it doesn't fall out!

Massive thank you to Anna & the team for stocking me up with peanut butter and agave syrup - I'll be making truffles for days!


Like last year, the long and varied list of seminars was a highlight for me. The Sisterhood area was massively improved and played host to a number of talks and events across the weekend - from handstand workshops to HIIT training, jungle workouts and an Axiom posing clinic. All sorts of topics were covered with Beth Trueman and Zoey Wright discussing gut and mental health, inspirational stories from Audrey McIntosh and Clean Eating Alice talking mindset and motivation.

Over on the main stage, Ben Coomber's 25 Reasons You're Not Losing Fat was positive and motivational as usual, and knowledge bombs were dropped left, right and centre when he shared the stage for a Q&A session with experts Jamie Alderton, Scott Baptie, Andy Mckenzie and Phil Graham. I managed to catch Jamie and Scott for a chat beforehand, and was chuffed to meet my future husband favourite podcast hosts in person!


Mindset and balance were a common theme that kept popping up throughout the weekend. Practices more commonly associated with athletes and bodybuilders are filtering into mainstream lifestyles more and more as fitness becomes increasingly popular, thanks to insta fitspo. But guess what - you don't have to go hard or go home! It seems the biggest names in health and fitness are encouraging us to find health and happiness over abs and eating disorders! A change that the industry needs now more than ever, and one that SFN seems to support!


Look out for my SFN haul video on my YouTube channel soon!

SFN Expo has yet again fired me up to continue my fitness "journey". I'm inspired and motivated to push myself and smash my goals in the gym, but also to take a step back. It's time to actually find a balance between my love of food and fear of getting fat, and enjoy fitness as something that brings me sustainable health and happiness!

Roll on SFN 2017!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Exploring St Andrews & the East Neuk

Of all the places in Scotland I've visited over the years, the Kingdom of Fife remains a firm favourite. St Andrews and the East Neuk in particular have so much to offer! Being the place "where Kate met Wills", as well as the home of golf, with over 50 courses in the area, St Andrews is becoming more and more popular with tourists and students alike. Even if golf and Royal romance aren't your thing, there's loads of stuff worth roadtripping for!


Anstruther

The East Neuk is basically a coastal road that takes you through one picturesque fishing village after another. Anstruther is the biggest, and my top pick of them all! I have fond memories of family days out, sharing warm donuts fresh from a van by the harbour! The van wasn't there on our recent visit but there was plenty other fairground attractions. Take a stroll along the pier before tucking into award winning fish and chips from Anstruther Fish Bar. 


Kingsbarns Distillery

Next to my Grandma's old house, there was a derelict farm building. The windows were always smashed, the stone walls were permanently graffiti-ed, a random broken ice cream freezer sat in the middle of the horse mill and there was always empty bottles and other remnants of teenage parties! As kids we used to play in the doocot, climbing on things we probably shouldn't be climbing on, doing my best to avoid the spiders and getting spooked by The Witch* who'd make creepy noises from the other end of the building! (My mother*)

Recently the Witch's House has been transformed into the brand new, up and coming Kingsbarns Distillery - surprisingly the only one in the area! We've been meaning to visit since they opened and finally got to do a tour! It was really surreal to see it looking to nice and updated. Even the roads outside have changed - the wishing well that used to hide in overgrown bushes is now pride of place on the path to the entrance. We took the one hour tour for £10 and learned all about the whiskey making process. As they're so new, their own whiskey won't be ready for a few years, but you do get a taste of their new make spirit and a Wemyss malt at the end of the tour.

Take a short drive from St Andrews and find the distillery just past the village of Kingsbarns, within walking distance from the Cambo Estate. The café and shop are open to the public even if you don't fancy the tour!


Ice Cream - Luvians v Janettas

You absolutely cannot visit St Andrews and not try Irn Bru sorbet at Luvians! I've been obsessed with it pretty much my entire life. All their sorbets are worth the brain freeze to be honest, and the creme brulee ice cream is a winner too. (You want the café, not the bottle shop... although that's worth a look too if you're into fine wines and craft beer!)

While Luvians doesn't look like much from outside and could do with an update, Janettas resembles a cool, pastel coloured fifties style diner. But, in my unpopular opinion, the gelateria is all style and no substance. For a start, I ordered the Snickers and toffee fudge ice cream and got Snickers and chocolate brownie. At least get my order right - I hate chocolate ice cream! (But ate it anyway, just to make sure.) The irn bru offerings here lack flavour and don't even come close to Luvians. They gain a point for toppings though - hello Reese's peanut butter chips!


St Andrews Castle & Cathedral

Just the town itself is so lovely in St Andrews, with its mixture of ancient ruins and pretty cottages. Have this thing with doors? You'll love it here. Over the years, more high street chains have started to pop up on the cobbled streets of the town centre, but it still has its fair share of independents. A number of quirky gift shops and new restaurants have appeared, but I was glad to see the old sweetie shop and Bonkers still on the go!

Gordon and I spent a day exploring the ruins of St Andrews cathedral and wondering round the castle, discovering the history of the town and the wars of Scottish Independence! (Who'd have thought we'd vote no, eh?) The cathedral tower is worth the steep climb for the view from the top! The attractions are mainly outdoors based so ideally you want to pick a sunny day to explore. Save money by buying a ticket for both together!


The Scottish Deer Centre

Another one I remembered from childhood! Over 14 species of deer call the centre their home in Cupar, alongside lynx, a wild cat, red fox and some cheeky otters! They do daily Birds of Prey displays and guided tours and if you visit at the right time you'll see the rangers feed the wolf pack! As we visited on a rainy day, about an hour before closing, we missed all of the above but pretty much had the park to ourselves to wonder around meeting all the different critters. The till was switched off by the time we got there so they actually let us in without paying! We were disappointed that neither the bear or the wolves came out to play, but we can't really complain when we got in for free.

There's a huge gift shop, Edinburgh woollen mill and whiskey store on site as well as the adventure playground, a café and picnic tables. Perfect for a day out with little ones!


Where to Eat

I highly recommend a trip to Forgans, Mitchells, Balgove Larder and The Dolls House - all in St Andrews! I'm sure there are many other must visits but these are just the ones I've tried and tested so far. Look out for Dinner Stories reviews of Forgans and the Balgove Night Market - coming soon!

Have you ever visited the Kingdom of Fife?
Whats your favourite things to do there?

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Cambo Woodland Retreat

When I was young, summer holidays consisted of family trips to Grandma's house. Grandma stayed in a cute little cottage in the middle of nowhere, about 20 minutes outside of St Andrews, on the outskirts of the Cambo Estate near Kingsbarns. Our summers were spent enjoying fish and chips in Anstruther, sharing warm donuts on the pier and eating copious amounts of Irn Bru sorbet that always dripped through the end of the cone before I could finish it. (Even my childhood memories are all food based...)

I've since introduced Gordon to the wonders of Luvians sorbet and we often detour through St Andrews on the way from Edinburgh. Usually we don't have time to do much else on our pitstops and vow to spend a whole weekend exploring more of the Home of Golf. So, as a little wedding present for my new husband, I planned us a surprise roadtrip! Hotels in the area turned out to cost an absolute bomb (£200 per night, no thanks) but then I remembered the Cambo Estate!


Browsing the website for room availability at the Cambo House, I stumbled across the Woodland Retreat. A hidden gem, the campsite is surrounded by trees in the grounds of the Estate. You can sleep in the newly opened CamBoat or cosy up in the Bell Tents. And so we found ourselves, on our third and fourth day as husband and wife, "glamping" in the woods in the Kingdom of Fife. 


The Bell Tents

Two tents sit side by side on a wooden deck in the clearing, romantically lit with fairylights. Inside, our humble abode featured a double bed, coffee table and chairs atop a patterned rug, with extra blankets to warm us up in the evening. Outside we had our own little firepit and dining area. We were greeted with a bottle of wine and a welcoming letter from the owners, inviting us to make ourselves at home. A little booklet told us all the essential information, like where to find our own private bathroom. Our tent was even equipped with power - just enough to charge our phones and chill our drinks in the coolbox. All the essentials!

Unfortunately they were having electrical issues during our visit... which I found out the hard way when the power cut out mid hair drying! This didn't affect our stay in any way though. Extra battery powered lighting was provided in the bathrooms and we used tealights to atmospherically light the tent and kitchen area. I actually think the lack of power and phone service added to the experience. There's nothing like the loss of 3G to make you enjoy a conversation and appreciate each other's company!


The Cambo House & Gardens

The Estate has been owned by the Erskines since the 1670's and is still home to the family today. You can take a trip around the house itself, browse the gift shop or grab a bite to eat in the café. Guests have access to a pool table, foosball and table tennis, and there's even an actual tennis court for any budding Andy Murrays out there! For golfers, the Kingbarns Golf Links is only a stones throw away.


After hairdryer-gate, my only hope was that the hot summer sun would work it's magic and dry my fro. Taking advantage of the weather, we explored the grounds rather than the house itself. The Walled Garden is a must visit with its pathways lined by apple trees and colourful wild flowers. Our peaceful wonder through the woodland eventually lead to the golf course and a picturesque view of the sea.


Events

Cambo Estate plays host to an eclectic array of events, from their Snowdrop festival and outdoor plays to the more unusual Batwalk or wild food foraging days. You can even host your wedding in one of their many venues. Imagine how pretty the pictures would be! The Christmas food and craft fair sounds like my cup of tea, and I hope to experience the Cambolicious craft beer festival later this year!


The Woodland Kitchen

Heading back to the campsite, the kitchen area was probably my favourite part. Surrounded by a ring of fairylights, with a parachute roof, it was the perfect shelter from the unpredictable Scottish weather. There's a wooden table with benches, and tree stumps to huddle around the fire. A tripod sits above it for warming the BBQ, which comes provided, as well as a gas cooker. Gordon was in his element building fires and searching for suitable marshmallow toasting sticks! On our first night we shared prosecco and beers and munched on homemade shortbread leftover from the wedding.

The Balgove Night Market set us up with a few treats for our second evening. We sipped Eden Mill cocktails and beers from St Andrews Brewing Co and watched our marshmallows turn golden brown over the hot flames. You can hire extra cooking equipment when booking and our neighbours from the CamBoat talked of delicious fish curries they'd enjoyed on previous nights. It sounds like they cooked up a storm! We weren't quite so adventurous and our culinary skills stretched as far as barbecuing sausages for breakfast. Balgove's pork and thyme sausages, smothered in Angus and Oink rampant angus hot sauce... breakfast of champions.
Take that, Bear Grylls!


The Cambo Woodland Retreat was the perfect getaway for us newlyweds and an ideal base for exploring St Andrews and the East Neuk. A casual, relaxed escape where we watched the sunset and toasted our marriage beneath a blanket of stars. Even a little power cut and downpour of rain couldn't dampen our spirits!

If glamping isn't your thing, you can stay in the Cambo House itself - more info on their website!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Wedding Planning... Mini-mooning in Aberdeen!

As wonderful as weddings are, they can be a stressful time. We found ourselves completely overwhelmed for a good few days afterwards. All that build up and planning felt chaotic right up until the last minute. We decorated our venue ourselves the day before (with the help of our bridal party) and had our rehearsal in the evening, as well as welcoming family to stay at our home for the weekend. Oh and I had the all important last minute bridal prep - spray tan and nails, of course! The big day comes and it's literally the best day ever, but then the next day comes... and we just don't know what to do with ourselves!


 We checked into the Bauhaus in Aberdeen the evening after the big day. While some couples might like to get dressed up and go out to celebrate, we were all partied out. Our plan was a romantic night in for two - complete with prosecco and Yo! Sushi takeaway!


My only complaint is that our food was cold by the time we'd collected it from Union Square and walked the 5-10 minutes back to our hotel. I guess if you're eating it straight away it'd be fine but if you're waiting on Deliveroo, you'd be lucky to receive it still hot.

 The chicken chirashi was Gordon's favourite - "soy & shichimi marinated grilled chicken with kaiso, pickled cucumber and red onion, pickled ginger, crispy shallots, yuzu furikake and sushi rice".  New to their menu, the poke pots are packed with flavour and would be ideal to grab and go on your lunch break. They also come in tuna, salmon and tofu variations so there's something for everyone.


I've never eaten at Yo! before so we went overboard with our order in an attempt to try as many dishes as possible! I'm open to anything foodwise so was eager to sample some actual sushi... Gordon was not so keen. Luckily for us, there's a chicken and duck sushi box on the menu which went down a treat. The rest of our order was from the Izakaya range, which is a selection of small hot dishes that were right up our street. The portions are ideal for ordering a mixture of plates to share so you can try different flavours and discover something new. We tucked into chicken katsu (not a patch on Wag, sorry Yo!), duck gyoza, okonomiyaki, spicy pepper squid and my personal favourite takoyaki - basically octopus doughballs!


As if that wasn't enough, we had dessert to get through too. I was less keen on the dorayaki. The custard filled pancake sandwich lacked flavour for me and definitely needed the strawberry dipping sauce that it came with! Strawberry cheesecake mocha was an oddly textured, taste sensation.

Good food, a glass or 2 of bubbles and a guest book full of lovely messages and bucket list ideas to read through - it was the perfect, post-wedding cosy night in. 


The following morning, we enjoyed butteries for breakfast at the Bauhaus. Rowie, morning roll, whatever you prefer to call them, it doesn't get any more Aberdonian than this! A trip to one of the many local castles was top of our list of sightseeing plans as we played tourist in our own city. After much deliberation we picked Crathes over Drum and enjoyed a walk in the sunshine round the beautifully kept gardens. The castle itself stands proud among the trees and we wondered around the many rooms, admiring painted ceilings, and discovering it's history and resident ghost the Green Lady. 


In the end our day out turned into something of a hunger led roadtrip and we found ourselves stopping off at the Cow Shed in the Banchory countryside for a bite to eat - burger and chip shop chips for him, and a deliciously gooey brie and cranberry panini for me! Our next stop was Stonehaven for ice cream. The queue at Aunty Betty's put us off though and we decided to save that experience for another day. Perhaps not a school holiday type of day! We enjoyed a stroll round the harbour before heading back into Aberdeen to sip beer infused cocktails in Brewdog before Suicide Squad!


I highly recommend booking somewhere for a night or two after your wedding - even if it is just a "staycation". Escaping to warmer climates for a romantic honeymoon is obviously the dream. The ideal opportunity to relax and recover with your new spouse. We didn't have the time (or money - lets face it, wedding's are expensive!) to do this but we did want to get away for a few days. Just the space and freedom to take it all in and enjoy each other's company away from every day life!

*We were invited to try Yo! Sushi's new takeaway menu in exchange for an honest review.
As always, all views are 100% genuine.

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