Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A Guide to the West End of Aberdeen

With the current economic climate in Aberdeen, I'm beginning to feel more and more passionate about supporting local businesses. It's something I've strived to do for a long time through this blog, but with my favourite restaurants (Cue BBQ, Adelphi Kitchen) devastatingly closing their doors last week, I'm feeling more determined than ever. A closing business is not only a loss to the people that worked there, but to the whole community. It signals the end of somebody's dream. Somebody who had the balls to go out there and put everything they had into their business - money, heart and soul! It's such a shame to see it happening and I sincerely hope that by choosing to shop, eat and drink local, we can make an impact and keep our economy alive.

One of the best spots for shopping local in the Granite City, in my opinion, is the West End. It's practically a hidden gem, full of some of the city's best coffee shops, unique eatery's and quirky little gift stores.


Eat

I've blogged many a West End café/restaurant in my time, some of the best in the city! No 10, Melt, The Long Dog Café, Foodstory, Malmaison, even Cup have a new West End home! However, there are many little haunts, on Thistle Street and beyond, that I absolutely adore but haven't quite found the time to dedicate an entire post to...


Bagels & Stuff

A New York themed café, specialising in New York's finest delicacy - the bagel! A relaxed and open space, where you can tuck into a whopping choice of eight types of bagels, topped with anything from haggis to hummus! My turkey salad wholemeal bagel was just as tasty as it was healthy! They also do soups, ciabattas, pittas, cake, smoothies, milkshakes... GF options available!

40-42 Thistle Street, Aberdeen


Muchacho

Awesome Mexican street food . Fresh, funky, cool - as authentic as it gets on the streets of Aberdeen! Burritos, tacos, salad, nachos, all the salsa you could ever dream of... Muchacho has it all! Chipotle chicken for the win.

9-11 Rose Street, Aberdeen.

Café Cognito

What happens in Cognito, stays incognito! A small independent coffee shop with a first class ice cream offering. They even cater to your four legged friends with their frozen doggy delights, which my pal Cruz lapped up during a recent catch up with Anastasia. An ideal lunch location, which also sells cards and hosts a tiny nail salon at the back! If you like hiding out with your laptop or a good book, Cognito is the place.

39 St Swithin Street, Aberdeen.


Corner Tree Café

The small but popular eatery is beautifully styled, but then what else would you expect from an interior store's café? They do breakfast, lunches and afternoon tea, but you want to try the waffles! Banana, peanut butter and bacon is surprisingly delicious!

3 Whitehall Road, Aberdeen.

Shop

Chapel Street's Nova offer some of the nicest gifts and kitchenware you'll find in Aberdeen, while fashion lovers should definitely head to Hamish Munro on Thistle Street for this season's most coveted accessories. You'll also find a wee man cave on Thistle Street in the shape of The Men's Emporium! For freshly baked goods, and the best brioche buns I've ever tried, you want The Bread Maker on Rosemount Viaduct. As much as I love food and fashion, it's the gift and homeware offerings that top my West End shopping list.


Andrew Gordon - The Lean Butcher

Andrew Gordon offers some of the highest quality meats around from his Chattan Place butchery, specialising in lean cuts and catering specifically to the fitness community. This guy has found his niche! His range of ginormous chicken burgers are epic, along with the various Piedmontese beef variations on offer. Squat burger, anyone? 

16 Chattan Place, Aberdeen
NB - Andrew Gordon Butcher has now sadly closed it's doors.
*Protein bars & chocolate peanut spread NOT purchased from AG! I wouldn't even recommend the Walden's spread to Donald Trump.


Treehouse Gift Shop

Adjacent to the Corner Tree Café, the Treehouse gift shop sells the most aesthetically pleasing, blog worthy goods around! From stylish kitchens, to beautiful shades of paint and all the bits and bobs you could possibly need to make your house a home. How cool is the Harry Potter display at the store's entrance?!

3 Whitehall Road, Aberdeen.


Curated Stories

Anywhere that sells Moomin memorabilia gets a thumbs up from me! Another aesthetically pleasing store - everything is picture Instagram perfect! Homeware, clothing, jewellery, gifts... A little bird tells me there's a Curated Christmas on the horizon. That's one Santa's Grotto you do not want to miss!

54 Claremont Street, Aberdeen.


Cloudy Blue

Slightly further away on Rosemount, Cloudy Blue is well worth the trek for their range of quirky gifts, pretty stationary, partyware and bits and bobs for around the house. The selection of cards is second to none and feature some of owner Amy's very own designs - I was given a Labyrinth print from my sister, which I plan on having framed!

165 Rosemount Place, Aberdeen.


If you fancy a taste of the West End, head over this Saturday 24th September for the first ever Thistle Street Food Market. Indulge in some locally produced treats at the market and take your pick from my guide for somewhere to stop for lunch or a fly cup! Almondine, Parx Café, Coppa and Shake n S'creams are all on my list to visit soon - honestly, even I can't believe I've never been to Almondine! Anyone for afternoon tea?

Where's your favourite place to eat, drink or shop locally in Aberdeen?

Friday, 16 September 2016

Nemesis Coaching - The Results

I feel a little bit of a fraud as I write this post. Since my wedding, and the end of my free online coaching plan with Nemesis, I have undone all my hard work. The results were not the incredible transformation I had dreamed of at the beginning (all down to my fast cake hands) but it's only now, looking back, that I realise just how good the results actually were. I maintained them for 6 months, with ups and downs along the way, but I didn't really appreciate how much fat I had actually lost, until I put it all back on again.
That's the problem with diets - they always end.


The Results

Over the 6 months of coaching with Lainey and Sharon, through their training and nutrition guidance, I lost almost 7lbs, and 6cm from my waist. I think because the numbers sound small and, like everybody, I take a very critical approach to the way I view my body, I felt like I hadn't really achieved much. I couldn't see the physical changes myself. Actually when I add it up, I lost a total of 32.9cm from my entire body! I will forever be grateful to both coaches for all their guidance, and for never giving up on me. No matter how bad a week I'd had at check in, they always found a positive! 

I am not the model client but these girls know their stuff, educating themselves continually as well as learning through their own experiences, and clients. I'd recommend Nemesis to anyone who is truly determined to reach their goals with the help of a highly knowledgable, and encouraging coach!


Struggling to stay on track

With so much going on in my life, I was seriously stressed and stopped enjoying my workouts. They'd become more of a chore than the endorphin boosting sessions I had previously enjoyed. I deviated from the plan - skipped workouts and ate well outwith my macros - and I beat myself up about it and felt like a failure, but always picked myself up and got back on it. 

Like I said, the problem with diets, is they always have an end. While for the most part of my coaching plan I didn't feel deprived - I was on 1800-2000 calories for the majority of it - I always had that end date of my wedding day in my mind. When I'd be free to eat all the pizza and chocolate biscuits my heart desired! Right enough, I've eaten every single food I'd craved over the last 6 months, and then some! I've regained all the weight I lost and my clothes barely fit.


Sacrifices & Priorities

Towards the end of the plan I was listening to a lot of podcasts on the topic of balance and I began to realise that to get any further with my fat loss and get really lean, I had to make sacrifices. I'd have to sacrifice spontaneous trips to ice cream shops with my sister and indulgent date nights with my husband. I'd have to miss even more restaurant launches and promos, and boozy nights out with the girls - or at least be the "boring" one sipping water. I've come to the conclusion that these just aren't sacrifices that I'm willing to make any more. While I'd love to look like a fitness model with an incredible six pack, it's just not that important to me in comparison with those seemingly normal, every day moments with my loved ones. They are my priority.

Tracking macros does work for fat loss, there's no denying it - I did it! But I can't help but feel that, no matter what anyone says, it's not a lifestyle. It's a great way of getting in shape for something specific, but I'm not going to track every gram of carbs, fat and protein that passes my lips for the rest of my life, am I? At the end of the day, it'll be the good times and good food shared with family and friends that I'll look back on fondly in 50 years time!

So, what now?

So, this is where I am now. Right back at the beginning - 9lbs heavier than I was on my wedding day, squeezing myself into my bigger sized work clothes. I could go back to counting my macros and calories and slogging it out on the treadmill at the end of every weights session, but I don't want to. Yes, I want to get back where I was, but I refuse to diet!

First of all I'm going to take care of the basics - walking 10,000 steps and drinking 2 litres of water daily. I will workout when and how I want to, because I want to. I will not feel guilty for missing a training session and I will try my best to eat well without depriving myself of life's guilty pleasures, or overindulging in them either!

It's going to be a long and bumpy road, but I am on a mission to finally find balance! 

 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Lunch at Forgan's, St Andrews

After a slightly squished but good night's sleep in our Cambo bell tent, and the infamous hairdryer-gate, we finally made it into St Andrews. Bellys rumbling from the mornings events, we had worked up an appetite on our walk around the estate and were ready to demolish some food. By now it was getting closer to lunch time than breakfast and so we gave up on the idea of a full Scottish and patiently waited for Forgan's to open at midday.


The entrance to Forgan's leads you through a leafy corridor lined with the day's fresh produce. It's a cosy, homely welcome and the cavernous hall that you eventually arrive in is almost surprising. At weekends it plays host to ceilidhs, and film nights are not uncommon. Individual bothys are sectioned off around the dining area, ideal for celebrating in style with that little extra privacy - birthdays or graduations would be awesome here! Floor to ceiling shelves lay opposite the bothys, making a great feature wall as well as convenient storage space!


Once seated comfortably (if slightly chilly, with a draft from the kitchen!) it was time to browse the menu. "Stories from beyond the bar" had me intrigued straight away. I love a cocktail story almost as much as a dinner story, and if there's ever a time to replace breakfast with cocktails, your minimoon is it!


A delicious raspberry Edinburgh Fizz was the first thing to pass my lips that day! What can I say, married life is turning me to drink. The drinks menu features an array of locally brewed craft beers, cocktails and "cockt-ales", alongside flights of gin, whiskey, wine or beer - perfect for the indecisive alcoholics among us! The list really is as long as a story book. Well worth the read!


The food offerings were just as plentiful and tantalising - hello, duck shepherds pie! Starters were irresistible to the both of us, despite this being our "breakfast". He opted for the crispy haggis balls with parsnip crisps which came on a bed of mash, smothered in a rich, Ardbeg malt whisky gravy. He followed with a Forgan's beef burger in a pretzel bun with literally ALL the trimmings. Bacon, cheese, onions and haggis. Hungry much? 

A goats cheese and red onion filo parcel was my starter of choice and led perfectly to my very generously sized main of beef bourguignon with flaky pastry, honey roasted root veg and mash. Pastry is my bae!

I love these tags marking visitors to Forgans from around the world!

Needless to say we were suitably stuffed and didn't eat again until much later... at the Night Market if you must know! Where the lovely guys and girls from Forgans were shaking up cocktails and remembered us from earlier in the day! Whether you're after a casual lunch (breakfast), romantic date night, celebratory dinner, Sunday roast or weekend brunch - Forgans has it all!

Find them at 110 Market Street, St Andrews. Book online.

Where's your favourite place to dine in St Andrews?

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

SFN Expo Haul!

I've been delving into the world of YouTube again - this time with my first ever haul video!

Have you ever tried Oatein flapjacks?  The chocolate peanut butter ones are my new guilty pleasure! Have a look at all the fit foodie finds we picked up at this year's SFN Expo!


What's your favourite protein treat?

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Balgove Night Market, St Andrews


Balgove Larder is one of my favourite places to visit near St Andrews. Situated just North of the Home of Golf, the farm shop boasts a hipster's dream of homewares and gifts, it's own butchery, deli counter filled with freshly baked goods and a rainbow of local fruit and veg line the entrance! Shelves are packed with pantry essentials as well as craft beers, whiskeys, gins and good old fashioned Scottish foodie favourites - think shortbread and tablet! Many of them locally made.


A warm and inviting café gives you the chance to sample the goods - a freshly baked bread roll with soup or their very own home reared Balgove beef stew, it doesn't get any more local than this! I recommend a cup of tea and a sweet treat. The scones are lovely and both the fudgey brownies and huge slabs of Millionaire's shortbread are some of the best I have tasted! In the summer, the huge barn outside opens up as a restaurant. From Wednesday to Sunday, Balgove steaks, burgers and sausages are cooked to perfection on the wood fired BBQ and served to casual, communal tables in The Steak Barn.


Once a month however, the Steak Barn is transformed into The Night Market! Each market has a different theme, celebrating the seasons and making the most of Mother Nature's abundant ingredients. We happened to be in the area for the Fire & Meat event in August. Not only did the menu feature an array of meaty dishes, but we were "treated" to a display of traditional butchery skills.
Not for the faint hearted... 

A browse around the market saw us sampling various flavours of jams, chorizo, Eden Mill gins and a Forgan's Old Fashioned - I tried my best but I like my cocktails to taste of something other than whiskey! We picked up some of those awesome Balgove brownies, some goats cheese & caramelised onion puffs, flaky sausage rolls and pork and thyme sausages for our breakfast BBQ. Gordon treated himself to a few bottles from St Andrews Brewing Company - his first taste of their craft beer, but definitely not his last!

I purchased some cocktail creations from Eden Mill's mixology project. The Berry Bramble and Citus Fizz are divine! A must for any sweet toothed cocktail enthusiast.


Of course it wouldn't be Dinner Stories without, well, a dinner story! Mouths watering at the thought of all the meaty goodness on the menu, I refrained from ordering one of everything (despite the advice from staff!) and settled on the pulled lamb, ginger, lime and chilli slider. Juicy and flavoursome! The 1/4lb steak & caramelised, peppered onion ciabatta sandwich was also a winner with hubby!

We shared portions of twice fried chips and salty sweet potato fries and I washed mine down with a cup of Pimms while (dad) dancing to live music by the open fire. Props to the band for their awesome set list - hearing Big Yellow Taxi and The Blower's Daughter made my night! 

If you find yourself in the Kingdom of Fife this summer, make sure you get The Steak Barn experience. The final Night Market of the season will be happening this month with The Rustic Life taking over on the 14th September! Otherwise you'll have to wait for the Christmas market in December to stock up on locally sourced foodie bits and stocking fillers while the kids meet the main man himself...

OMG, SANTA'S COMING! I KNOW HIM!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Wedding Planning... Hen Night at Home!

Around here it seems to be common for brides to have not one, but two hen parties - one away and one at home, for the friends and family members who couldn't make it to Edinburgh/Ibiza/Vegas/wherever your 'maids whisked you off to! I hadn't planned on doing anything after my Edinburgh adventures, but the girls had other ideas. After much deliberation we swapped an intoxicated tea party at a local pub for a DIY version at my house. Literally a "home" henny!


I fired out a quick Facebook invite to my nearest and dearest (and you know, the ones I had to ask... jks!) asking them all to come along and bring some booze and/or food of their choice. Among my family we have a gluten free/vegetarian sister, vegan sister in law and an intolerant to everything cousin! The BYO option meant that we could make sure everybody was well catered for but I was blown away by just how many of my guests went to the effort of baking and bringing food! I've literally never seen so much food in one place.

We had Chinese starters, a key lime pie, Orkney fudge cheesecake, home baked Millie's cookies, vegan meringues, vegan fudge, cupcakes, sausage rolls, sandwiches, veggie fingers, an abundance of crisps and dip and literally every party food you could think of! I made up pitchers of strawberry daiquiris and passed around jugs full of Pimm's, and I can't even tell you how many bottles of Prosecco we made our way through!


My sister and chief bridesmaid Laura took over the décor and surprised me with a theme! I did not expect to walk into a house full of Tiffany blue balloons when I got home from the hairdressers! Laura had pulled out all the stops with the Breakfast at Tiffany's vibes. She had handpainted mine and Gordon's initials, sprinkled silver hearts across my units, hung pom poms from the ceiling, framed quotes from the book and propped some NYC cushions up around the house. A DIY photobooth and props included long black gloves and a Holly Golightly-esque eye mask, all of which went down a storm with the boozy selfie takers!


The girls arrived and the games began! Each guest was handed four pegs, which they had to attach to themselves... any time someone said the word "wedding" or "bride" you had to steal their peg, the winner being the lady with the most pegs by the end of the evening! There was a bit of cheating going on but hey, it's worth it when the prize is vodka right?!

Later in the evening we played a pin the bouquet on the bride game (I imagine this is a far tamer version than most hen parties, haha!) and had a handbag scavenger hunt. Which resulted in the contents of my bedroom being turned upside down... I'm still finding earrings in the strangest places! A wedding predictions game was good fun, with the girls guessing everything from what my dress would be like to what song we'd have our first dance to and who would be first to cry on the big day. Turned out to be my wee brother who cried over breakfast... nobody saw that coming!

(Sorry Joel!)
My favourite and most memorable part of the entire night however, came in the form of a big silver box and a wooden board... I was completely overwhelmed by the kind and thoughtful ladies who generously contributed to my wedding countdown! It's a concept I've never heard of  before but one I'll be sure to remember when my best ladies tie the knot!

Each of my hens who'd spent the weekend with me in Edinburgh had wrapped a small gift to be opened individually - one a day in the last fortnight leading up to the wedding. Every morning I woke up excited to see what was next! A miniature of my wedding day perfume, gift voucher for my shellac, a personalised wooden ring box and a rubber stamp of our wedding date and initials... there are just some of the gifts I was so lucky to recieve! They were all so pretty, handy and meaningful, and I can't thank my girls enough for all the hard work and love that went into this and my second henny!
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