Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DW Sports | Hiking in my Active Wear

I really hope you've seen the active wear video or this title is wasted!

I don't know about you, but I find most of my local sports shops only stock a small selection of women's active wear. While menswear and even kids ranges dominate the store, there's usually just a sad little token corner of ladies wear, next to the footwear department. This isn't the case at DW Sports

In Aberdeen it's the best place, in my opinion, to shop for gym gear. They have a huge selection from the top brands in the industry - Nike, Adidas (including Stella McCartney), Reebok, Puma, Under Armour etc. When DW asked if I'd like to review some active wear from their website I jumped at the chance! I can confirm their online offering is just as impressive as in store.

After scouring through the pages I eventually decided to order these stylish marble print Adidas leggings. The cropped length is ideal for training now we're getting into the warmer months. Full length leggings are just too warm and I'm not brave enough to squat in short shorts!

These babies have officially passed the squat proof test! (We all squat and lunge in front of the mirror when we buy new leggings, right?) So far I've worn them at a Metapower HIIT class, training legs in the gym and now for hiking up Bennachie.

The supportive high waist band is flattering and ideal for lifting weights as the stretchy material moves with you. Not only are the mesh panels stylish, they help keep you cool along with the climalite sweat wicking fabric - perfect for hiking on a hot summers day! I love the marble print but appreciate the better coverage from the plain design at the back.

I wore them with a classic Nike running vest (an old favourite, also from DW) and my brand new Nike Air Max's. The flyknit "sock" design of these trainers is unusual but surprisingly comfortable when worn with a longer sock underneath.

I'm usually a Nike girl so I wasn't sure about my sizing with Adidas, but I was safe in the knowledge that my order could easily be returned or exchanged in store. Luckily the medium fit just fine!

This hiking thing is thirsty work! The dogs couldn't wait to find a cool spot to hide in half way up the hill.

Whatever activities you get up to - be it weight lifting, hiking, yoga, running, or even just having coffee with your friends in your active wear! - you're bound to find what you need at DW Sports.

*I was gifted these leggings by DW Sports in exchange for an honest review. As usual all thoughts are my own and 100% genuine.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Drink Aberdeen | Wild Booze Walk

What could possibly be better than spending a Wednesday afternoon in the park, soaking up the sun (and booze) with a bunch of local bartenders and an expert forager? That's exactly what happened this week when I was invited along to Drink Aberdeen's Wild Booze Walk.

Drink Aberdeen is a week long celebration of all things booze in the Granite City. Organised by 10 Dollar Shake's Adrian Gomes, the line-up included gin dinners at both Rye & Soda and Moonfish Cafe, a rum and chocolate tasting at Cocoa Ooze, a pop up Drygate bar at Melt, a Tiki takeover at 99 and so much more!

I was kindly invited along on the second foraging walk of the day in Seaton Park with Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods, and Fabiano of Reyka Vodka. Mark is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to plants and had us munching away on ice plants like hungry little bunnies.

Admittedly I wasn't keen on the leaves - beech trees, lime trees, whatever kind of tree it comes from, they all just taste like salad leaves to me. I don't like salad! The rowan tree on the other hand, has little flower buds that taste just like almonds, but I'd still much rather catch those little yellow bramble hybrid berries all day.

It wasn't all plucking leaves off trees though. Mark had brought along an array of syrups, shrubs, tinctures and infusions that showed just how well you can make use of what you find in your own backyard! I was surprised by the taste of many of the plants he showed us.

We were introduced to sweet cicily, which reminded me of Sambuca with it's aniseed flavour. The plant belongs to the carrot family which includes other well known herbs like dill and coriander, as well as the dangerously poisonous hemlock plant. Sweet cicily looks very similar to hemlock so it's a good idea to know how to spot the difference before you go foraging the wrong thing! Look out for the aniseed scent and white spots that look like bird crap (but aren't!) and you've got sweet cicily.

Some say weeds, Mark says tonic. Smash dandelions and mix with water and sweetener to create your own dandelion tonic water and serve with a decent gin - like this one, or maybe even this!

A few of our bartender friends were in need of a hangover cure and Mark found just the thing. Meadowsweet contains the same compound used in aspirin and is apparently a great cure if you dehydrate and smoke it! Look out for the creamy, yellow candyfloss flowers. Luckily Mark had come prepared and we sampled his homemade meadowsweet syrup, as well as one made from Japanese knotweed.

Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant, and UK law classes it as a controlled waste. In other words, if you take some you have to dispose of it in a way that it won't grow roots and take over the place you left it! The best way to do this is to burn, or eat it! Mark recommends getting your hands on the asparagus-like shoots while they're young and pulping them to a sour juice.

Of all the concoctions we tasted along the way, the wild sour was my favourite. Made with sea buckthorn juice, sweetener and bitters! Even better than the sour though, was the cake.

Common hogweed is known to taste like ginger and I can confirm this hogweed flavoured cake was divine! If only there'd been less of us on the walk I could have eaten the whole lot. Another use for this plant is to simply eat it as a vegetable - the young shoots are apparently delicious fried in butter. Avoid the older shoots and again make sure you know how to identify the plant. You don't want to confuse it for the toxic giant hogweed!

While lots of Mark's tales were aimed towards those in the drinks industry, I still found it informative and fun with great company! He showed us so many different flowers, pods, leaves, shoots and roots that I couldn't possibly remember each plant and all it's uses. I at least remember the important stuff: buttercups are toxic, the roots of wood avens taste like cloves (yuck!) and foraging rule number one - never, ever eat a yew tree!

To finish off our ramble round the park, we were treated to another drink or two. Reyka vodka ambassador Fabiano had been enthusiastically stuffing greenery into a bottle throughout our forage which was then blended with Reyka to create our "taste of the walk" cocktail.

Mark was also prepared with his expertly crafted "Copse Reviver No. Tree"! A cleverly named take on the classic cocktail, combining clarified Japanese Knotweed juice with sweet cicily infused Reyka, a homemade vermouth (which got the seal of approval from our award winning bartenders!) and triple wormwood triple sec. The perfect way to celebrate Drink Aberdeen. Slainte!

*I was invited along to the Wild Booze Walk as a guest of 10 Dollar Shake. As usual, all views are my own and 100% genuine.

Friday, 19 May 2017

A to Z Dating... G is for Go Ape!

G is for Go Ape!
Ghost Tour - Gig - Gin tasting - Glamping - Go karting - Golf

Our alphabet dating so far has seen us enjoy afternoon tea and beer festivals and daytrips around the local area playing tourist in our own country. For G we thought it was time to live life adventurously and Go Ape!

Go Ape is a treetop adventure company with bases up and down the UK. There are 2 locations in Scotland - our nearest one being at Crathes castle. We last vsited this Aberdeenshire landmark just a few days after our wedding and I was more than happy to return! Situated near Banchory, the Go Ape tribe have made good use of the woodland in the castle grounds.

After being fitted into our harnesses we were given a quick run down of how to work the clips and taught the number one rule - always stay attached! Each of us got to practice using them before starting the course but our guide made the mistake of using me as an example! Flashbacks of tough mudder's King of the Swingers obstacle suddenly filled me with fear and it took what felt like an embarrassingly long time too coax me onto the sample zip wire. It was like a foot off the ground! I developed a little tactic of sitting into my harness rather than jumping off the platform which saw me round the rest of the course.

The course is divided into 5 sections, each with it's own challenges. From tarzan swings, to stepping stones and skateboard zip lines. We were left to our own devices to enjoy the experience at our own pace. Theres always a crew member on hand should you get into any difficulties and each harness has a litte whistle to blow incase you need to grab their attention. All the staff were super nice which helped me feel more relaxed along the course!

My arms eventually stopped shaking after the initial shock of the height wore off and my confidence grew, along with my adrenaline levels! Gordon on the other hand, as a scaffolder with rope access tickets, sailed through the course like it was all in a days work. He took all the difficult routes while I chickened out and took the easy option at every chance.

I loved Go Ape and I'd definitely go back to tackle the parts I missed but I have to admit I was glad when it ended - purely for the fact I was back on solid ground and could breathe again! You can go back to your favourite parts and have another go if you like but once was enough for me. Plus our bellies had started to rumble after two hours of monkeying around.

We headed into Banchory afterwards for a bite to eat at the beautiful Birdhouse cafe. A cosy eatery with a gorgeous hanging centerpiece. Our eyes were bigger than our bellies and we over ordered with Meme's mango chicken open sandwich for me, "pleased to meat you" for him and a huge bowl of warming broccoli, cauliflower and cheese soup each.

The portion sizes were more than generous, with salad and tortilla chips on the side. So much so that I took half of mine home for later! Maybe they could just do a little teacup of soup to go with sandwiches for greedy b*tches like me in future. The cakes looked an absolute treat - there were gluten free and even vegan options - but we just didn't have room!

All fueled up we then headed off to nearby Scolty Hill for a short but steep walk to the top. The views up here were amazing with it being such a sunny day. We climbed the steps of the tower and spotted the various iconic hills of the area including Clachnaben, Mount Keen and Lochnagar to the west! 

Go Ape at Crathes castle was one of my favourite alphabet dates so far! If you fancy giving it a go you can find your nearest one here. Have a look at my video below to see what you're in for, and make sure you get out and explore the area while you're at it. Crathes castle is a brilliant location as you're not only surrounded by breathtaking Scottish countryside, but you can spend some time in the castle, its gardens and even the tearooms as well! 

Huge thanks to Big Partnership and the Go Ape tribe for inviting us along to Crathes!

*Our treetop adventure was complimentary in exchange for review. As always all views are my own and 100% genuine.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Spanish Stories: 5 Things to do on the Costa Blanca

When we think of the Spanish costas, we picture sandy beaches, perfect blue seas and lazy days lounging by a pool, cocktail in hand. While all of these sounds fab, it's not all boozy Brits on beaches. There is so much more to Spain and I'm hoping this post will inspire you to discover it, with 5 things to do on the Costa Blanca!

This article contains affiliate links. This means that I will earn a small commission from any booking/sale made through the link, at no extra cost to you.

Shop at the local markets

The Costa Blanca is a popular holiday destination for us Brits, and has a big expat community too. I love that about the area - you'll find people from Germany, Sweden and the UK wherever you go - but one of the best ways to meet the locals and sample the Spanish way of life, is to head to your nearest market!

I've spoken about this before but the sheer variety and size of fresh produce on offer is unrivalled. I love stocking up on juicy strawberries, huge peppers and delicious oranges - perfect for sangria! You'll usually find rotisserie chicken, all the chorizo and cured meats, huge chunks of cheese, the most amazing selection of pastries and cake and of course - olives! So many flavours and varieties of olives, sun dried tomatoes and pickled onions. My favourite thing to do is grab a toothpick and work my way along the samples - wasabi olives definitely stood out!

Many stall holders will hand out tasters and freebies, and it's all cheap as chips. Fresher and cheaper than any supermarket. It's not all food either - you'll find books, scarves, clothes, jewellery and all sorts of souvenirs. Also, it's the perfect place to practise your Spanish and talk to the locals! We love the Wednesday morning market in San Miguel de Salinas, and Playa Flamenca on a Saturday. This is a pretty extensive list of Costa Blanca markets but ask at your hotel or a local cafĂ© for the days and times of your nearest one!

Visit Rio Safari, Elche

Less than an hour from Benidorm and only 30 mins from Torrevieja, you'll find Rio Safari, Elche. It's more of a zoo than a safari in my opinion, but the enclosures are all open air and you can spend the day learning about all sorts of animals, jump on the safari train and even take a dip in the pool in the summer months.

You'll find everything from kangaroos to tigers to goats! My personal favourite was the playful chimpanzees. There's an entire reptile zone, a bird area, farm animal petting zoo and sea lion shows (which we chose to miss) but the most interactive experience for us was visiting the giraffes. They were more than happy to come say hello and suss out if we had any food for them!

I'm not going to lie, the entry fee is pretty expensive in my opinion but you could spend a whole day here, especially with kids. As well as the pool you'll find cafes, picnic areas with kid's play parks, trampolines and a go kart track so there really is something for everyone.

Eat Tapas

While the safari is more of a typical tourist attraction, tapas takes us back to traditional Spain. It's one of the best ways to sample local cuisine, but not all tapas is created equally! At one particular chain we ended up with five plates of bland, beige food. You could argue it's down to bad ordering, but we found that some places just don't offer the variety and flavours you'd expect from traditional Spanish tapas. Perhaps they're catering more towards typical tourist tastebuds?

Anyway, this wasn't the case at The Hen's Teeth in Villamartin Plaza - the best tapas experience we've had on the Costa Blanca yet. Our waiter, Tony, was fab and made such an impression that Gordon actually sad "I'm going to miss Tony" as we left! Holiday bromance right there.

Here we tried a beef and red wine stew, meatballs in a tomato sauce, patatas bravas, garlic and chilli king prawns, a more English styled black pudding dish with egg and peppers, and my personal favourite - the chicken with chorizo and olives! Not to mention the fresh bread with lashings of aioli and then there's the cocktail list.

I enjoyed a Pornstar Martini, with cava rather than prosecco, and he sipped on a glass of vino tinto. In hindsight, the red wine would have accompanied the food much better than my choice!

If you've ordered right you shouldn't have space for dessert after tapas, but you know me by now, my inner fat girl can't resist! A mojito cheesecake, full of zesty lime and mint flavours, was a bit too gelatine-ish for me as opposed to the light, creamy texture I'd expected. Gordon enjoyed his tiramisu!

My top tips? Ask for recommendations and order a variety of flavours, colours and textures. Explore the meat, fish and veg dishes, and most importantly share! You could even do a tapas tour - a kind of bar crawl where you sample one or two dishes from a few different restaurants!

Take a Day Trip

On our first trip to the east of Spain, we visited Cartagena and the ancient Roman theatre. More recently, we took a drive into Alicante city and hiked up to Santa Barbara Castle. I can't recommend it enough. Hire a car, jump on a bus or take a boat tour - just get out there and see more of the country. Explore different cities and learn about their history and culture.

Valencia is next on my list, but eventually I'd like to go further afield and visit beautiful Ronda!

See the Pink Salt Lakes

Head south of Alicante and you'll discover the pink salt lakes. Torrevieja is the home of two breath taking lakes - one pink, and one green. The deep pink hues come from the algae that thrive in the salt water environment. Aside from being a beautiful nature spot, and a great photo opportunity, the salt water is famously good for your skin and many people will bathe in the lake! You can also visit the town's Sea and Salt Museum to learn more about the lagoons.

I'd love to hear your suggestions of things to do on the Costa Blanca - is there anything I've missed?

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