Wednesday, 1 July 2015

#249. Review: The Blackbird, Edinburgh

Now you know me, I love my food. So I was delighted to be invited along to The Blackbird on Leven Street, Edinburgh, a few weeks ago to sample their new summer food and drink menu. I had been to The Blackbird once before with Gillian and Laura for some #Burgerlovingbabes time, but was excited to go back and see how things have changed.

The bar was really busy when we first went in, which surprised us for 6.30pm on a Tuesday night. Every table was full and there were lots of people standing having drinks at the bar too. The Blackbird is beautifully decorated with bare Edison bulbs, stone walls, lots of mirrors and vintage guild frames and has a really cool, but comfy and cozy vibe. 

We were shown to our table and left to peruse the menus. The drinks menu is extensive, with lots of cocktails split into different categories, plus the new selection of seven summer cocktails. There was just so much to choose from and everything sounded amazing, which made things reeeeee-ally difficult, but who's complaining? The Blackbird is also in the same family as Treacle, so I was expecting big and tasty things from the cocktails. We both eventually went with cocktails from the recent seasonal menu which all had amazing names! Robin chose the Neo Tiki Punch, with mango, pineapple and rum and I decided on The Girl with the Dragon Yuzu with gin, lemon and dragon fruit cordial. Both arrived with fun striped straws which I love and Robin's had an extra little cocktail umbrella, which I quickly put behind his ear obvs. Robin's cocktail tasted like holiday in a glass, all pineapple and tiki loveliness and conjoured images of beaches and sea and the smell of sun tan lotion...get me on a plane now. My cocktail was so refreshing but with a fruity kick that it was hard to stop drinking it quickly.

Everything on the food menu also sounded amazing, from fish and chips to steak pie, so mouthwatering delicious that again, we had a hard time choosing. For starter I couldn't see past the haloumi, as I love it and it's always a treat, so we decided to share that with some breaded chicken. The haloumi came toasted with sumac, giving a nice lemony contrast of crispy to soft, accompanied with balsamic vinegar and some raspberries - a tasty combination of sweet and tangy. The crispy breaded chicken was also lovely and came with a tequilla, sour cream and lime dip, which was SO good! I love sour cream, so could have just sat and ate that straight from the pot.

For main meal, I went between a few different things before settling on the vegetarian burger, with feta, puy lentil and bean. I really shouldn't have kidded myself, I always go for the burger! They are just so dam tasty and this one was no exception. I love a broiche bun, the sweetness of the bun always works well with the savoury burger and I enjoyed the lovely creamy manchego cheese. I couldn't really taste the feta but the burger was still delicious. I also swapped the twice cooked chips for my favourites...sweet potato fries, which were just the right mix of crispy and soft. YUM!

Robin decided to try the crispy gressingham duck at the recommendation of the waitress. Robin is not a fan of beetroot and taking this on board the chef gave Robin a choice of quinoa instead, which he was so happy with. This change was made without a fuss and so we were very impressed at The Blackbird's flexibility with dietary requirements. There was also a note on the menu highlighting that gluten free alternatives for each meal could be provided, again which we were impressed with. Robin's meal was just delicious and the duck was cooked perfectly and was still lovely and tender, complimented by the crispy coating. The quinoa was mixed with a tasty blend of big chunks of roasted butternut squash, mandarin, lemon thyme and peanuts and was extremely flavorful.

Both meals were just delicious and we were so impressed with our choices.

Overall Robin and I had a great time at The Blackbird and we would be keen to go back for dinner another night, or brunch at the weekend. The atmosphere was just so warm, cozy and welcoming and I could see myself sitting for hours with pals over a few drinks, especially given how tasty the cocktails we had were. It would be good to go back and work our way through the whole list! The Blackbird also do live music nights on a Sunday, so it would be the perfect and chilled way to end the weekend, and have a beer garden which I am sure will be packed over the summer when the sun comes back out. The staff were really friendly and helpful too, even with our random no beetroot requests and the food really was delicious. Check it out, Edinburgh peeps!

You can keep up with all the The Blackbird's goss on Twitter.

Have you been to The Blackbird or it's sister bars before? 

**Disclaimer - I was invited to The Blacbirds in return for a review. Whilst our meal was complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and the post above reflects my true and honest opinion of my experience.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

#248. June '15 travel wishlist

There are so many places in the world I would really love to visit. I just want to pack my bags and go and explore the world, so I thought I would start doing monthly roundups of my travel wishlists, with somewhere worldwide, somewhere in Europe and somewhere closer to home every time to help my wanderlust. So here goes...

1. Cuba
Cuba looks and sounds like such an amazing place - The food, the culture, the stepping back in time to the 50s. I think it would be an amazing place to explore and be so fun to drive a Cadillac! I have a thing about cadillacs and when I was younger that was always my ambition, to own one with a complete front seat - very Grease! I would like to experience the electric atmosphere, music and the fun loving nature of the people too. I love the idea of being able to dance the night away in a little salsa club, drinking rum and mojitos and then walking on gorgeous white sandy beaches the next day, exploring the old colonial buildings and taking the Hershey train out of the city.

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2. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon was not somewhere high up my bucket list of places to visit, but a few friends have been recently and say it is a stunning and beautiful city for a weekend break, so now I really want to go. The old town looks so interesting with its windy little cobbled streets, with beautiful views over the sea and using the old trams to explore the city would be a lot of fun.

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3. Mull and Iona, Scotland
Mull and Iona have great nostalgic memories for me, as my Dad used to take me and my wee brother with him sometimes during the summer holidays when he had work trips. I remember the beauty of the islands but I would really like to go back and explore now I am older. I like the idea of long walks, ending up in a little pub for drinks and food after a day enjoying the gorgeous scenery, visiting the brightly painted Tobermoray and getting the ferry across to Iona to wander around the historic abbey. 

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Aaaa my list is giving me itchy travelling feet already. Have you been to any of the places on my wishlist? If so, share your tips. Where in the world would be on your travel wishlist?

Thursday, 25 June 2015

#247. Our wedding

On 2nd May, my best pal and I got married which was one of the most exciting, overwhelming and amazing days of my whole life. Seriously, all the feels, like every single one. I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat the whole day. We had the BEST time and it was so wonderful having all our favourite people together in the same room celebrating with us - when are you ever going to have that again? It sounds so cheesy but I have never felt love like it, so much from everyone that was there. It hit like a brick wall from the moment I walked into the ceremony room and completely surrounded Robin and I the whole day. Everyone was there for us, to see us happy which was an incredible feeling. It went by in such a happy blur though as I had expected, as so many people had warned us that would be the case, but it went faster than we could ever have imagined and we tried to savour every moment.

I've posted some sneaky peaks on Instagram already, but now we have our official official photos back and couldn't be more excited. So I wanted to share some bits of our day with you.

First up, all these beautiful pictures were taken by our amazing photographers Mirrorbox, a company based in Edinburgh /Glasgow. Check them oot. Photography was something that was really important to us in the planning of the wedding and we are so happy with all the pictures we received, over 700 of them. We have started to look through them properly to choose some for an album, which is going to be really difficult as there are just so many lovely ones. Sequoia and Neil were not only ridiculously lovely, but really captured the fun and spirit of the day and how happy we were, as well as some great candid shots of guests having a good time and all the little details that made our wedding special. So many of the guests commented on how great the photographers well, they just seemed to blend into the background and you forgot they were there and so the photos are natural and really unobtrusive. I have tried to take cameo photos of friends before, but they always see me coming a mile off, so it really is quite a skill. 

We got married in Moorpark House, Kilbirnie in Aryshire, a lovely old house which we had for two whole days on the Friday and Saturday. It was like a big house party, very relaxed and allowed all the wedding party to be in the one place, so we could play fun games and have dinner on the Friday night and made everything flow smoothly on the Saturday. It was so special to have full run of the house and turn the wedding into a weekend. The venue is just beautiful, with lovely grounds, but is a real blank canvas as well so we popped up a lot of our own decorations, to make everything that bit more personal.

The outfits
I was and am still completely in love with my dress. It's at my Mum and Dad's at the moment, otherwise I would be happily prancing around the house in it at all jokes. It is just so beautiful with it's spotty lace, pearl buttons, full skirt and huge bow. I felt so comfortable in it and it fitted and flattered in all the right places and everyone commented on how perfect it was for me. I felt beautiful, which is something I never feel really. The best bit was how much the dress flared out when I spun around - that is always what I look for, the swish factor - so was really fun to dance in.

I had tried on quite a few dresses before I found House of Mooshki, and was getting a bit disheartened as I hadn't really been able to find fun shorter styles and felt like I was being too picky and would never find this mythical 'one'. So was delighted to discover Ribbons and Lace on the Glasgow Wedding Collective. For those of you wedding planning, GWC is a wonderful collection of handpicked wedding suppliers, who are a little different to the norm (I actually found our photographers and florist on there too! Their supplier list is just so inspiring). Ribbons and Lace are the premier Scottish stockist of House of Mooshki so they have a large selection of beautiful shorter style dresses and I was in love from the moment I walked in the door. Laura, who owns Ribbons and Lace is the nicest person ever and made me feel so comfortable, encouraging me to try on styles I might not otherwise have picked out and being so supportive of my choices. An appointment at Ribbons and Lace was just now it should be, a cup of tea, some chat, completely relaxed and very friendly.

My beautiful shoes were kindly gifted to me by Rainbow Club. They were most comfortable shoes for dancing and I kept them on most of the night, only having to kick them off in the wee hours. I really liked the vintage dancing shoe design of the Flossie and loved that I could customise them making Li originals. Rainbow Club sell colour packs enabling you to dye their shoes to work with any outfit, so I was able to add the lovely lilacy/blue colour, which worked well with the silver glittery sparkle of the heel and tbar and counted as one of my something blues too. I knew I didn't want traditional white shoes (much to my mums amusement) so this was the perfect option for me. 

My gorgeous bridesmaids wore wonderful green/grey dresses from Needle and Thread. The dresses had a fun tulle ballerina style skirt and fitted waist, so each of them looked amazing. Apparently they felt like green fairies! I can definitely recommend a bit of high street browsing for dresses, if you don't fancy traditional styles and are working on a budget. ASOS have a great selection, although a lot of nice dresses at the moment are white - who would wear white to a wedding?!?

Our BEAUTIFUL flowers were by the wonderful Lisa at Sparrow and Rose. I had a good idea of what I wanted look wise in terms of flowers - simple and colourful - but didn't have a huge budget to spend them on. After a couple of great phone chats, Lisa sent a few moodboards though and luckily we were completely on the same page and she was able to adjust plans according to our budget, which was so helpful. When my bouquet and flower crown arrived on the morning of the wedding, they were exactly as I had imagined and I loved the colors, natural style and mix of all the different flowers - hello peonies! They were just perfect - both were just so blooming pretty! There is just something so lovely about wearing a flower crown too. It reminds me of summer and festivals and relaxing and fun, which is what we wanted our wedding to be - a veil was a bit too traditional for me. My bridesmaids had posies of lavender and babies breath which smelt amazing! The flowers for the tables in the reception were also mismatched, with lots of different types of wild flowers, in homemade jars with twine and were stunning - I popped down to have a look when they had arrived and almost ran smack bang into Robin! Luckily, a quick thinking Bridesmaid got him out the way so I could sneek back upstairs.

Our cake
Our amazingly delicious cake was made by one of my uber talented bridesmaids, Stacey. She is a wizz in the kitchen and makes the tastiest sweet treats, so wanted to make the cake as our wedding gift. So generous of her! The cake had three tiers of carrot, lemon and sticky toffee pudding sponge which was the best combination, covered with a mixture of berries. YUM! The cake went down a complete storm too, as it all got eaten basically on the day of the wedding (which my pre honeymoon body probably thanked me cake baby!).

Venue decorations
I was a bit of a pinterest fiend in the run up to the wedding (as I'm sure a lot of brides are), although most of my wedding boards are hidden as I was a bit embarrassed on the number of pins...I think I have a problem. Anyways, I am a fan of all things natural, vintage inspired and homemade craft, so we decided to make a lot of the decorations ourselves which I loved. We had wooden tree rounds (from the old tree that fell down in my garden. My Dad had a field day with his new chainsaw...boys and their toys!), jars for the flowers (which a lovely bunch of friends and I decorated one afternoon with cocktails - thanks girlies), burlap table runners, pinecones and mismatched photo frames with the table names on them (our favourite albums). We also had twine hearts, burlap bunting, fairylights, quotes in photoframes and small trees in various places too, which just looked lovely. 

On the tables we gave sunflower or sweetpea seeds as favours with little handmade envelopes, moustache straws and the most amazing coasters with faces on for guests to put over their noses, made with the help of the lovely Louise. They went down a treat and had everyone laughing. We were so happy with all our little details and everyone said how personal everything was.

Our band were called Elwood and were just amazing. We had went to see them play one evening at the Guille Dhu and hoped they would be as good as we (slightly drunkenly) remembered, but they were even better. With a mix of rock, pop and upbeat tunes, the dance floor was always full and everyone had the best time and lots of loud singing along. The best kind of party! I spent most of the time spinning in my dress, as expected.

So, that's it, our big day in a nutshell. It really was such a special day and we felt so so lucky to be able to celebrate together with all our family and friends (who are the best in the world obvs and are truly wonderful people - thank you). Hope you enjoyed reading about it and about our prep over the past few months.

Now that the wedding is over, it's a funny feeling really. I am a Mrs, I have a husband and have married my best pal. Even so, I have this strange mix of feeling a bit redundant, and like I have something else to be doing but have forgotten. Sure, I am not missing sitting up till the small hours making moustache straws (they were bloody awesome in the end!) and am enjoying having my evenings back. I love spending time with Robin where the wedding isn't at the forefront of every conversation too. But, on the flip side, planning our special day was a big part of our lives for almost two years, so it feels funny now not to be thinking about it at all, other than all the happy memories and looking through photos. The whole process was just so much fun and I enjoyed being creative and planning, not to mention how amazing the day itself was! Now I just need some close friends to get engaged so I can help them plan theirs, hint hint *cough*.

Friday, 19 June 2015

#246. Fitness Friday - My current favourite healthy snacks

I love snacks as much as the next person. I tend to get really hungry around mid morning and mid afternoon, no matter how big or small my lunch - what a right grubber! So I've been on the hunt for healthy snacks that will fill me up and keep those cravings at bay during the week when I am at work and at the weekends. Now I plan to take snacks with me on the go, so I'm not tempted by something sweet or sugary, which has helped massively in sticking with my healthy eating.

My current favourites are:  
  • A handful of nuts. I am a big fan of cashews or almonds at the moment, they are just so tasty and filling. Just so quick and easy.
  • Hummus and carrot sticks. Simple and yummy and easy to prepare.
  • Greek yogurt is my new favourite thing. Not that it's a new discovery or anything but I've been spending a lot of time in the yogurt aisle and found so many new and exciting flavours to try, which when paired with fruit or a sprinkling of cinnamon, really helps with any sweet cravings and it's just so darn tasty! I love plain greek yogurt but I am obsessed with Rachel's Organic coconut greek yoghurt and always need to have a tub of it in the fridge now. It's also nice to have a little bit after dinner instead of desert.
  • Nut butters. Nuts made into butters, who knew? Mind blown! I love having some with an oatcake or half a banana - the perfect pick me up.
  • I do really love a Nakd bar, particularly Chocolate Orange and Strawberry Crunch. The bars are made from as few ingredients as possible - have a wee look on the label and all you will see are dates, cashews, apple juice and other natural flavours. They are perfect for keeping in my bag and ideal for after a workout. If you order them direct from online too, they often sell boxes cheaply that are close by their sell by date and do deals and promotions too. The chocolate orange flavour is delicious and tastes like a naughty treat, but is so good for you.
  • I've started making up my own trail mixes so Holland and Barrett has been my new best pal. I've been enjoying putting together sheredded coconut, goji berries, almonds, cashews, other dried fruit and a little bit of 80% dark chocolate. Yum!

What are your favourite healthy snacks?