Friday, 6 March 2015

#215. Fitness Friday - This Girl Can

Given how much I have been enjoying keeping fit lately, I thought I would start a new series called Fitness Friday which, as you might guess, will be me chatting about fitness on a Friday...go figure. So for my first post, here is a bit of motivation and inspiration.

I seen this advert on the TV the other week and just fell in love with it. What an inspiring and honest video. I used to be really self conscious out for a run or at the gym about how red my face was getting or if you could see sweat through my tshirt and it's taken a while, but now I don't really care. Yes we like to exercise, yes we like to dance, yes we will sweat a bucketload and our bums will jiggle but we will look bloody beautiful doing it because we are doing it for us. We are motivated, fierce, fit and strong and no one can tell us any different. Do what makes you happy.

Hope you enjoy the video. What do you think of this campaign?

Thursday, 5 March 2015

#214. A visit to Ox Pasture Hall

At the end of November Robin and I headed down to Yorkshire for a truly magical wee weekend away. Our destination, Ox Pasture Hall, a beautiful country house hotel near Whitby and Scarborough. 

We set off on our roadtrip on the Saturday morning, aiming to be at the hotel around 1pm, but as is always the way, things never go according to plan. In need of a stop off point, we seen a sign for Chainy Bridge Honey Farm, so thought we might as well go for a wee investigation and we were so glad we did, learning about honey, seeing a team of honey bees working away, tasting lots of types of honey and taking a few pots away with us to have on toast later...yum! That's not to mention finding a beautiful vintage antique shop too. If we lived closer, I know where all our money would go! We were attempting to see if we could fit an old church pew in the back of the car at one point...

Then back on the road. After meandering our way up a little country lane an hour or two later, we seen Ox Pasture appear on our right hand side and it was like something out of a novel - all butterscotch coloured walls, with a red tiled roof and ivy climbing all over, just lush! It used to be an old farmhouse. I am a sucker for old buildings like this, I love the history of them so much and want to live in one at some point. 

General Manager, Lyndsey and her team were so lovely from the moment we arrived, we really couldn't have asked for any better. From the outset, the hotel seemed cozy and comfortable and we seen some roaring fires, perfect to keep that winter chill away. After checking in, we were shown to our room, a large suite on the first floor of the newer part of the hotel with beautiful views across the grounds and the valley beyond. The room had ample space and all the amenities you might have wanted, including sachets of Yorkshire Tea, with a good sized bathroom with his and her sinks. 

After some short chill time, we headed downstairs for afternoon tea - nom! Those of you who read my blog often will know how much I love afternoon tea and I have dragged Robin along to the club as well. We were presented with bottomless teas and coffees and a cake platter filled with lots of sweet treats such as a mini lemon tart, carrot cake and cheese cake, sandwiches with salmon and beef and the best bit, fruit scones with clotted cream and jam! My mouth is watering again just thinking about it. Everything was absolutely delicious and we took our time, savoring every mouthful. The treats were just the right size, little bite sized chunks but my favourite had to be the scone - you just can't get any better! The only slight disappointment was the last set of sandwiches were cucumber so I think that chicken or a different vegetarian option would have been better.

After we had finished eating, we went for a walk around the gardens. It was now close to 4pm, so the sun had set and dusk was creeping in but it was still great to have a wander. The grounds are beautiful and extensive, with a large pond, archways and statues and landscaped at the front and would be the perfect place to wile away a summers day with a good book. You could also look down onto the valley beyond, into the fields with sheep beside and do feel really remote even though you are only a short drive from civilisation, which automatically seems to turn your brain into major relaxation mode. Ox Pasture Hall also hosts weddings, so the grounds and views beyond would be perfect for photos of the happy couple and would leave them with some stunning memories of their special day. 

The older park of the hotel is arranged around a central courtyard, with some guest rooms off of it. The courtyard is covered in plants and flowers, light beautifully by fairylights in the evening and has a lovely fountain too. The hotel really has a rustic charm to it and I fell completely in love. Although our room was in the newer part of the hotel, we had to walk through the courtyard, into another courtyard, again with a fountain. The whole place really does look like it could have sprung from a Jane Austen novel...just gorgeous!

We headed down early before dinner, to sit savouring a glass of wine in front of the fire on large comfy sofas which was so lovely. Both of us felt so relaxed and content, a bit of a home away from home. We were given the menus to peruse as we sat and a complimentary glass of fizz, making the choice ever so slightly easier because we had more time to decide, as everything sounded so delicious! It was a hard choice.

We were lead through to the dining room of The Courtyard Restaurant and were only seated for a few moments before a chefs special came out and we were treated to duck liver parfait on melba toast with cranberry compote. I love it when you get a chef special, it always makes the meal seem so fancy and that bit more special. The parfait was smooth and velvety and full of flavor and I thought the sweetness and ever so slight tartness of the cranberry worked well. The melba toast provided a welcome change of texture. We also ordered a nice bottle of white wine to go along with our meal.

For starter Robin had ordered the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato (always a favorite). The soup was so delicious, rich, warm and comforting that I definitely had a bit of food envy. I had decided on the chicken roulade served with spiced apple chutney. The roulade was beautifully presented on a bed of salad leaves, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The chicken was wrapped in parma ham, which worked well with the sweetness of the chutney. Overall, both starters were so delicious.

For main course, everything sounded so tasty with a wide selection of meat and fish but I couldn't see past the lamb. The lamb was served as a two bone rack and braised, with boulangere potato, curly kale and root vegetables. The lamb was cooked to perfection, lovely and tender and fell of the bone easily. The potatoes were delicious, so creamy and cheesy and the vegetables lovely and soft. It was really nice having the different cuts of lamb and I was sad when it was finished! Such a little pie.

Robin had chosen the pork, which again, came in a few different forms; slow cooked belly and tenderloin stuffed pork with apricot and sage, savoy cabbage, sauteed potato, homemade black pudding and red onion marmalade. This was Robin's perfect meal on a plate and he thought it was delicious, tender and juicy and enjoyed the tartness of the cabbage and red onion marmalade, against the sweetness of the pork.

Both us us were completely stuffed, but the desert menu sounded so appealing, so after a break we both ordered. I am normally a starter person rather than a main, but creme brulee is my weakness. My desert came well presented on a slate board, drizzled with a tarte raspberry coule, a small shot glass of raspberry  milkshake and homemade shortbread. The milkshake was so sweet and creamy and went down a treat after the main meal. The creme brulee again was lovely and fruity and had the hard top to crack with your spoon, which is my favourite part. A creme brulee wouldn't be complete without it! All the parts of this desert worked so well together and it was a treat to have the shortbread to dip. Robin went for the healthier option of a liqueur coffee with Dramubie, but I know he was eyeing up my desert!

Both of us thought our meal was completely delicious and we would have it again in a heartbeat! Special mention must be given to the staff, who waited on us so well and really looked after us. Special mention has to be given to Rosie who really was wonderful.

As Robin and I were planning our own wedding when we were down, we couldn't help thinking what an ideal venue the hotel would have been for us, if only it had been closer. I was looking for something a bit different for our wedding and Ox Pasture would have fitted the bill completely. The hotel itself is just beautiful and it is in the country side enough to give the feel of being remote and exclusive, with gorgeous grounds and plenty of locations for wedding snaps. The food is so tasty and the rooms are lovely, suitable for all guests and the wedding party too. Ox Pasture also have a large function room, that can comfortably fit up to 200 guests, so the hotel would be ideal for both large and small weddings.

After a great sleep in the comfiest bed ever, the next morning Robin and I headed back downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast. There was a continental selection of cereals, fruit, pastries and toast and the option of a hot breakfast too, from porridge to eggs and a full cooked breakfast. As we were away for a treat, Robin and I both went for the full cooked breakfast which had sausages, bacon, eggs, beans, tomatoes and mushrooms and black pudding. You really can't go wrong. 

We were along lucky enough to meet General Manager Lyndsey's beautiful dog, Sheldon, as the hotel is completely dog friendly and welcomes dogs of all shapes and sizes. 

Overall, I can't recommend Ox Pasture Hall enough. Robin and I had a truly wonderful time and neither of us have felt that relaxed and chilled in ages. The staff were so lovely and went completely out of their way to make sure our stay was perfect. The food was truly delicious and we felt completely spoiled and lucky to have had a weekend in such beautiful surroundings. Our room was beautiful, cozy and comfy with lovely views and we would both have liked to have spent more time there. It would also be the perfect wedding location too - both of us said that if Ox Pasture was closer to our home, we would have been getting married there in a flash! We will definately be down again for a visit, neither of us can wait to go back and I would urge all of you to go as well. It is that fab! Do it.

**Disclaimer - I was invited to Ox Pasture Hall as a guest in return for a review. Whilst our meals and overnight stay were complimentary, I was under no obligation to write a positive review and the post above reflects my true and honest opinion of my experiences of our visit. We had a great time, end of.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

#213. Wedding Belles - Part 3. Flowers

I love flowers. Really love them. Their smell, their bright colours, you can't look at a bunch of flowers at home and not feel happy. So, flowers are something that are quite important to me for the wedding. I don't want to spend a lot of money, but I want to use the budget we have wisely and get the most for our molla.

Images from Pinterest. Link 1 and Link 2

So, I took to pinterest for a browse and a good look around, as I'm sure every bride now does. There are just so many different styles of design and types of flowers you can go with, what is and what isn't in season that it's a bit of a mindfield. I had initially thought. to keep our budget a bit lower, I might attempt with my amazing creative bridesmaids to do our own flowers, but after some research, given that I know nothing about flowers in the slightest, I thought I would leave it up to the experts and I am so glad that I did. One less thing to worry about.

 Images from Pinterest. Link 3 and Link 4

First up, was to choose a colour scheme. Now this is complicated in itself, as depending on what you want, everything else might have to tone in, from the bridesmaids dresses to the venue decor to the invites! Oft! I keep chopping and changing my mind in terms of colour, but have eventually decided to keep things pretty with pastels...lovely lilacs and lavenders and iris blues, with some light greens, alongside natural materials like twine and hessian. Lovely jubbly. We want everything to be soft, relaxed, romantic and natural for our woodland theme so this will have to be reflected in our flowers too. We decided to have a woodland and nature theme for the wedding as we got engaged in one of the most beautiful natural places in the world, Yosemite National Park in California, so wanted to carry this over.

Then onto the flowers. I really love the idea of lavender and babies breathe and am a sucker for a peony but other than that I am pretty easy. I like the idea of purple flowers, with some blues, mints and light pinks too. Colour, colour, colour and wood, moss and twine and general woodland loveliness. My wonderful florist, Sparrow and Rose and I are meeting this weekend to really put concrete plans in place which is so exciting. It will be really fun to see all the thoughts in my head come together and see what thoughts Lisa has had to.

Images from Pinterest. Link 5 and Link 6

We will be chatting about flowers and props and what else Robin and I would like on our big day. The flowers are something I have been particularly looking forward to organising, so I am so happy that I get to chat and arrange this weekend!

Friday, 27 February 2015

#212. Long time no see!

So, it's been a while. I've had some time off because of other commitments but now I have some free time again and can get back to blogging. It's been weird not updating, but I've still been enjoying catching up on what everyone else has been up to and am feeling refreshed with a tonne of new ideas and things to share with you. 

So to start, here's a wee summary of what I've been up to since the start of the year and my life's been a busy one!

1. One of the most exciting and nervewracking things about wedding planning was dress shopping for my beautiful bridesmaids. I wanted a dress that they would all feel gorgeous, happy and confident in and as I have five who are all different, that was proving to be a challenge. I also didn't want to go down the traditional bridesmaids dress route, so was looking on the high street and online. Then everything miraculously seemed to slot into place and I found a stunning dress on ASOS from Needle and Thread, which really is so beautiful, so flattering on everyone from the style and cut and is such an interesting colour...all my maids are so happy with it and I can't want to see them wearing it on our big day in a few weeks time. 

2. I have been trying since the turn of the year to really watch what I am eating and choose more lean, clean and green meals. This has meant that I am cooking a lot more from scratch for Robin and I, rather than just grabbing a pizza from Sainsburys and really making an effort to think about what I am eating and fueling my body with. I feel a tonne better, have a lot more energy, my skin is clearer and I just generally feel great. I've been searching online for healthy recipes and have been following the Tone it Up nutrition plan and can see such a big difference. One of my new favourites are these TIU pancakes!

3. The biggest reason why I have been hiding under a rock for most of the year so far has been Sanitise. This is the show I produced during the Edinburgh Fringe festival in August 2014 and we have just completed our Scottish tour, visiting Dumfries, Cumbernauld, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and finishing in Edinburgh. I was responsible for all the marketing, press and budgeting as the producer. It was a lot of hard work and stressing over if anyone would come and watch, but we had great audiences (including two sell out performances) and lots and lots of positive feedback. Sanitise is such a special show and I feel so lucky to have been involved and have worked with such an amazing and talented team. Who knows what will be next?

4. I have rediscovered my love for fresh flowers in the flat. There really is nothing better and they help to brighten up even the dreichest of days.

5. A few weeks ago we went for our wedding tasting and were completely blown away with how delicious the food was. We are so happy and have chosen a great menu that all our guests will love. We can't wait to eat it again and it was so much fun getting to sample 5 different deserts too!

6. Robin and I went down to the media launch of V Deep, Hardeep Singh Kohli's new bar in Leith, that also serves Indian/Scottish inspired fare. There were a great selection of craft beers on offer and I am so in love with the Mutton Achari and haggis pakora. We had great catch ups and laughs with the lovely Gillian and Laura whilst being spoiled and we will definitely be back. 

7. We made and posted our wedding invites! Getting the invites out and receiving the rsvps back makes everything seem a lot more real now, which is so exciting. We designed the invites ourselves on photoshop, sent them away to be printed and then when they came back added our own finishing touches like paint, twine and a little customised stamp from Etsy. We were keen that the invites were our own and I am so proud of the way they turned out. Robin also made a beautiful website for our guests to rsvp on.

8. Along with my eating lean, clean and green, I have also started taking better care of myself physically as well and have been trying to do a little bit of exercise everyday, to make me sweat and get the ol' heart rate up. At the start it was a struggle as I found that the best way to make sure I did something was to do it first thing and I am NOT a morning person in the slightest. But having persevered since January, it now feels weird not to do some form of exercise in the morning which can only be a good thing. I have the wedding to aim for and my honeymoon bikini body, but I want it to be more than that, a livestyle change and something I continue with, looking after myself better and I have really been enjoying it. I love Karina and Katrina's workouts from Tone it Up, those girls are so inspiring and have been doing Cassey's Blogilates 30 day challenges too. I can definitely feel a difference...clothes fit better, I am more toned and more confident, actually look forward to a workout and now a treat to myself is to buy some new workout gear. I'm not sure who this new person is, but long may it continue!

9. Lastly, a few days ago we booked our honeymoon! I am so excited for 10 days of sun, sea and adventures with my hubby-to-be. We are heading to Zanzibar, so bring on the beach lazing, snorkelling with the fishies and chill out time. We also decided to try all inclusive for the first time, so we can just enjoy ourselves and not worry about money - bring on those 12pm proseccos in the sunshine! I really can't wait!

Oft, so there you go. There is my January and February. It's good to be back!