Saturday, 18 June 2016

Wedding Planning... Edinburgh Hen Weekend!

Oh, Edinburgh... what can I say? My favourite city in Scotland. A beautifully scenic city full of character, history, culture and many, many memories. The first city Gordon and I visited for a weekend break together (Valentine's 2010), where I tried out Aqua Spinning and competed in my second ever obstacle race (Men's Health Survival of the Fittest), the place I bought my beautiful Valentino's and now, the city where I enjoyed the best weekend with my hens!


The party started early as we caught the train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon and had ourselves a boozy little nineties train disco. The weather was unbelievable - we couldn't of picked a better weekend for it if we'd tried. After arriving at Waverley station and dropping our bags off at the Travelodge across the road, we headed to George Street on the hunt for a decent beer garden! Obviously everyone had the same idea and our search was unsuccessful. In the end we nipped into a nearby Sainsburys for a little prosecco picnic and sprawled in the sunshine in St Andrews Square, which became a bit of a theme for the weekend!

In the evening the girls had made plans for us all and we started off at Can You Escape? where we were separated into two teams to race against each other, solving puzzles and clues that would lead us to the key to our escape! Neither team completed the challenge but we had a good laugh trying. I'm still amazed how our host managed to keep a straight face using our hen party codenames - I'll leave those to your imagination!
Afterwards we headed to Gusto on George Street to fill our bellies! I'm not a big lover of Italians but this one surpassed my expectations. The restaurant is beautifully decorated, with atmospheric lighting and grand chandeliers. I devoured the smoked duck bruschetta followed by a spicy chicken and pepperoni pizza on a perfectly crispy base. While the others opted for another cocktail to finish, Mum and I couldn't resist dessert. I'm not even sorry, it was worth it - nutella and mascarpone calzone, people!

 Our final stop of the night was Copper Blossom - the prettiest bar I've ever had the pleasure of drinking in. It had been a long and tiring day of travelling so our Saturday night was quite chilled and we relaxed on the gorgeous rattan sofas, with cocktails in hand until our beds were calling us.


I was up bright and early and stretched it out with Mum and Laura at  Lululemon's free Hair of the Downward Dog yoga class, where I managed my first ever crow pose! Brunch was booked at Hamilton's in Stockbridge - which turned out to be a much shorter walking distance than I'd thought. Both mum and I enjoyed the banana hotcakes with bacon (plus haggis for Mum!), while Laura swapped poached eggs for sliced avocado to go with her kale, zucchini and avocado fritters with walnut dukkah. Our attention was quickly snatched by the nearby Stockbridge market and we strolled in the sunshine, browsing the food and craft stalls and making friends with the odd dog or two... 

Sunday mornings don't get better than this. 

Our afternoon was equally special. We rounded up a small group of hens and headed to Harvey Nichols where the Chocolate Lounge had our names all over it! The perfectly white circular bar is a chocolate lover's dream, with it's conveyor belt of tempting goodies circling around like a little cupcake carousel. Feeling flush, we treated ourselves to a bottle of champagne and I panic ordered my salted caramel ice cream basket with prosecco and rose petal marshmallows! Luckily my mama taught me to share, and I sampled the chocolate fondue and petit fours too. If you're ever in Edinburgh, the HN Choc Lounge is an absolute must. We had the most perfect afternoon of chocolate and champagne. I think I even went as far as to tell the staff it was the best experience of my life!

More sunbathing was in order and we cooled down outside in St Andrews Square with some tasty bellini ice pops. Like I said, this was pretty much our meeting point the whole weekend! My other hens arrived later on the Sunday afternoon, just in time for a cheeky cocktail in the bar at Harvey Nics before we changed for the evening's shenanigans...

My bridesmaids had booked us a private area at the Three Sisters down in the cowgate area. We had a bite to eat and then got to shake up our own cocktails!. Karaoke was also on the agenda but by that point they'd already made us our own playlist of all our old favourites songs and we decided we were loud enough without the mics! We moved on to a few nearby bars afterwards via a ridiculously hilarious rickshaw ride which took us on a little accidental detour and had me laughing uncontrollably! The bars were total dives but it really didn't matter - we danced to live music and joined in on games with a random group of travelers. At one point my stomach hurt so much from laughing that I thought I might actually be sick - if that's not a sign of a good night I don't know what is!


While the others nursed their hangovers on Monday morning, a few of us slipped on our trainers and headed out for a pre-breakfast walk up Calton Hill. I've only ever been up Calton Hill as part of a race and hadn't really figured out where it was in relation to the other landmarks of the city. Turns out it was only a ten minute walk from our hotel! The hill is home to a number of monuments and offers some spectacular views of the city's skyline, from Arthur's Seat to the iconic Edinburgh Castle.

Our third and final day was over in a flash. I had the most fun times with my favourite girls and can't thank them enough for coming along and making it the memorable weekend that it was. My bridesmaids did me proud and even adhered to my "no blow up willies!" rule... thanks ladies! Here's hoping married life doesn't mean the end to girly weekends!

Friday, 10 June 2016

3 Wheys to Use USN Protein

When it comes to hitting macros, protein is probably the most difficult of the three targets to meet and requires some forward planning (read my post on macro tracking here) - there's only so many slices of turkey bacon one girl can consume in a day. That's where protein powder comes in, but if you're anything like me, you'll go through it faster than you can say "pay day". Caramel popcorn flavour Pure Protein GF-1 is one of the best I've tasted but it is a little on the pricey side.*

Enter USN's new Dynamic Whey protein - it's part of their Essentials range, designed to make premium quality nutrition available at a more affordable price. The resealable foil packaging is similar to other protein brands I've used in the past and probably pays a large part in reducing the cost, along with the simplistic USN branding. As for the product itself, I find the chocolate flavour to be much sweeter (ideal for curbing sugar cravings) with a slightly grainier texture than other powders.

Traditionally, protein powders are consumed in shake form with milk or water, for a quick and convenient way to refuel after a workout. I'm here to show you that that's not the only, or even the best whey (sorry not sorry) to use it! There's so many different ways you can incorporate protein powder into your diet. Search the internet and you'll find dozens of recipes including some epic brownies and cupcakes, but these are my three favourite easy protein recipes...

Caramel Popcorn Protein Pancakes

1 scoop USN GF-1 Caramel Popcorn flavour
1 medium banana
2 eggs

Add all the ingredients to a blender and mix until smooth, pour into a heated frying pan and let it cook til you start to see bubbles on top. Flip your pancake until the other side cooks et voila! A super soft, fluffy pancake full of flavour and delicious with almond butter spread on top. Even better with a chocolate protein bar melted in the middle!

Chocolate Almond Butter Proats

40g porridge oats
20g almond butter
1 scoop USN Essentials Dynamic Whey (chocolate flavour)
Toppings of your choice!

My favourite pre-workout breakfast! Mix the porridge oats with just enough cold water to cover them and pop in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't overflow. Stir in the almond butter and then slowly fold (don't stir!) the chocolate Dynamic Whey in. I've found that if you stir the powder in it goes lumpy - folding it gives a much smoother texture! Then you can add literally anything you like - bananas, berries and Reese's peanut butter cups are just a few of my favourite toppings!

Banana & Caramel Popcorn Protein Smoothie

1 scoop USN GF-1 Caramel Popcorn flavour
200ml almond milk
1 large banana

Blend it up! It doesn't get simpler than this. Adding a banana to your shake gives you a carb hit along with the protein which is ideal for post-workout snacking. Your muscles use up glycogen stores as fuel for exercise so high GI carbs will replenish this quickly while the protein provides essential amino acids to build and repair the damaged muscle tissue. Add a spoon of peanut butter if you want to get those fats in too!

*The lovely folk at USN have given me an exclusive discount code for Dinner Stories readers so you can try out these recipes yourself - enter CHB50 at checkout for 50% off full price protein and supplements!

USN kindly sent me the chocolate flavour Dynamic Whey Protein in exchange for an honest review. As always all opinions are my own and 100% genuine.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Wedding Planning... 2 months to go!

As you're reading this I'll be on my hen weekend in Scotland's capital! My bridesmaids have planned the whole thing and tried to keep everything top secret. I'd promise to blog about it but... maybe what happens in Edinburgh, stays in Edinburgh?!

This month we have...

Ordered my wedding band from Tiffany!
It arrived in less than a week and my hands were literally shaking as I unwrapped the little blue box to try it on! We also collected Gordon's band from Rox :)

Had our pre wedding photo shoot.
I got all worked up about the fact I hadn't booked hair or make-up but I soon forgot all about it. Our photographer is extremely talented and so professional that I relaxed into it pretty easily and love how natural the photos came out!

Had a bridesmaid and a best man hospitalised!
Not together! Hopefully the cast will be off before the wedding ;)

Met with the florist.
I never knew I'd get so excited about flowers.

Started making our seating plan.
The board anyway. We can't do much more until all the RSVP's are in. Deadline day is today - eek!

Handed in our marriage notice forms.

Sorted the kilt situation.
Not what I had in mind but better than Gordon's first choice!

Started looking for readings for the ceremony.
It's so hard to find something personal but not soppy! The ones I do like have probably been heard at a thousand weddings already - I'd like something unique.

Hunted all round Aberdeen for wedding shoes.
Haven't fallen in love with anything so I came home empty handed. I'll look while in Edinburgh so keep your fingers crossed for me finding "the ones"! Oh, actually I came home with a little treat from Chanel - my wedding day lipstick!

Booked hair trials.
Which reminds me, I still need to find some sort of accessory for my hair...

With only two months until the big day, I think life is going to be mad for the forseeable future! My Dad is home now and I'm really hoping he'll take charge - he's much more organised than I am, and better at getting sh*t done!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

VLOG: Progress & A Day of Food

A quick look at my fat loss progress and a little food diary from last Thursday! Recipes included in the description below :)

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