Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Scottish Independence

Something very exciting is happening. Two years ago the UK and Scottish Government agreed on a referendum for independence in Scotland. And tomorrow, we vote.

I don't really feel qualified to write about politics, but it would feel strange not to mention it at all. If you aren't in Scotland (which, surprisingly, actually applies to the majority of this blog's readers) you might not have heard much about it, or even cared. But here, the atmosphere is electric.

I'm not going to talk about what way I'm voting, or why, because I think the most exciting thing of all is how people have changed. I've been eligible to vote for ten years, but I've never seen people (of all ages!) so passionate and eager to learn, to find an answer, and to talk to others about it.

It's gone far beyond boorish suited politicians shouting at each other. It's the conversation that's happening on the street, in the pub, between friends, and with people you've only just met. It's not the angry, scared, bitter fight that it might appear on tv either - I realise that there are idiots on both sides (and tensions have been growing pretty high in the last few days), but every conversation I've had with yes, no, or undecided's has been measured and considerate and respectful. We know that we all have to live together regardless of what way the vote goes. It isn't about country or a particular party or even a particular person. It's about making a decision. And I'm just so impressed with the good humour and intelligent thinking that I've witnessed from the people I've met.

So who knows, what'll happen on Friday. 97% of people have registered to vote, with a turnout of 80% expected. So whether it's a yes or no, either way we've got a country full of people who are talking and asking questions, and (in my case) thinking that perhaps I can write about politics after all. And that's very, very exciting.
Friday, 12 September 2014

Autumn homeware wishlist

I love Autumn! The leaves are changing colour, the weather will soon turn all lovely and crisp, and we can wear layers again (and escape the daily wardrobe confusion of how to dress for sort-of-muggy, sort-of-sunny, sort-of-breezy end of summer weather). I am very excited to dig out my bobble hats, and I am SUPER excited about entering an autumnal hibernation that involves being cosy, cooking roast dinners, and drinking red wine.

I am so excited about this actually, that I have accidentally gone on a bit of an autumn spending spree, so I thought I'd share what's caught my eye.

Tunnock's teacake cushion
I have wanted a Nikki McWilliams cushion for AGES, and figured it was finally time to treat myself to one (although it was surprisingly hard to choose between a teacake and a custard cream!).

Vanilla and fig candle
You're going to be spending loads of time inside, so make sure your house smells beautiful! This Anthropologie candle comes in loads of different scents, but I bet this one is lovely.

Mustard knitted throw
Ever since I pinned this picture, I've basically been on a mission to recreate it, and have been on a long search for the perfect mustard throw blanket. All summer I told myself that I'd "probably" get around to knitting one, but now it's a wee bit cold and I haven't done anything about it. Surprisingly, it's BHS that's come to the rescue, with this mustard loveliness.

Autumn is for nights in (you know, under your blanket, candle burning, leaning on your biscuit cushion) with a book. I've been a bit terrible at keeping my book love series up to date, but recently I have been discovering the Discworld series, and absolutely adoring it.

Fairy lights
Last year I went to an ikea event, where they told us the most imporant thing in dressing a room was to fill it with lots of soft lighting (and avoid having one big light on). Fairy lights aren't just for Christmas, they make your space feel soft and cosy all year round.

Monogrammed mugs
Aaand when you aren't drinking wine, you will need a constant supply of tea, coffee or hot chocolate to keep you cosy. I would quite like to buy the entire Anthropologie kitchen selection, but I can't really afford that, so a mug is a good place to start.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Botanical jewellery

Oh my god, I am OBSESSED. I love plants and I love pendants, and before now, I didn't really think the two would meet.

But say hello to Ruby Robin - an Irish boutique that makes the most beautiful hand-crafted jewellery, using curiosities found in the woods, on mountain sides, combed from beaches or picked in wild meadows  Here's a few of my favourites from their etsy...

Dandelion necklace

Real fern necklace
Miniature terrarium necklace
Irish wildflower necklace
SO so so lovely. I want them all! They are surprisingly affordable too, priced at about £30 each. You can choose the length of the necklace chain (and for some you can pick if you want gold or silver), and they also do personalised pieces, which would be such a lovely gift.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Painting ponies

When I picked painting up again (after a break of years and years), I found I had a really bad habit of being SUPER heavy with shadowing and brush strokes. I found it so satisfying to paint heavy outlines and keep layering shadows, that I couldn't really make myself stop... and so the finished painting looked clunky, had no subtlety, and pretty much lost all its light.

But, considering I had been so nervous and awkward about picking up a paintbrush when I restarted, I wasn't going to let this stress me out. I paint because I love it and it really calms me, so rather than trying to teach myself big changes, I've just been taking tiny steps to try and fix my heavy hand.

I found that painting using just one colour has been HUGELY helpful in this! It's such a simplified way to do things, but it has really helped me concentrate on light and shadows, and play with when it's best to leave the paper blank.

I've also been trying to make myself stop before I think I'm actually finished, which is a total test of my willpower.

So, this isn't my normal type of post but it does feel like I'm maybe getting somewhere (and it's been over a year since I last wrote about painting). Now I need to practice on painting people... perhaps it's time to bring my illustrated bloggers back?

Friday, 5 September 2014

Chop Chop, Edinburgh

I've heard all sorts of great things about Chop Chop. They've been voted Britain's most popular Chinese restaurant, have received multiple AA Rosette Awards for the quality of their food, were on Gordon Ramsay's F Word, and their factory sells millions of dumplings each year. My friends rave about them, and I have lived within easy visiting distance for YEARS.

I've been meaning to go for ages, but am hopeless, so hooray for Chop Chop for inviting me along to try out their Leith restaurant.

Chop Chop specialises in authentic Chinese cuisine,  making all of their dishes from fresh ingredients with no artificial colourings or preservatives. Food is served as soon as it's ready, encouraging diners to order together and share their dishes, so you can mix the textures and flavours of all food on offer. 

You can either pick and choose off the menu, or order one of their unlimited banquets (which look incredible, oh my god), where food just keeps coming until you are defeated.

It's BYOB too (I wish I'd known this before we visited!), with a £5 corkage charge (per bottle...). 

Joshua and I couldn't really decide what to go for, so we ordered EVERYTHING. That included: pork dumplings; seasoned chicken wings; spicy squid; green beans and chilli; garlic with cumin seed (sounds weird, but it was SO good); aubergines; and stir fried spicy beef (amazing amazing amazing).

Both of us tend to make dumplings quite a lot (you can buy them in your local chinese supermarket, and they are the best lazy dinner/comfort food!) so wouldn't normally order them in a restaurant, but it felt rude not to try them as they are such a famous Chop Chop dish!

The food was all beautiful - I would make a special trip just for the spicy beef alone (it melted in your mouth, and was just, oh, hello). The vegetable dishes were all great too, it's easy to get lost in a world of noodles and meat, but these were so much more than side dishes.

The restaurant was fairly informal and had a nice, relaxed vibe, but unfortunately the staff were slightly too relaxed... and left us sitting for about thirty minutes after finishing our meal. We had been so pleased with the food that we were dreaming of dessert (and more wine), but by the time we managed to get someone's attention, we were both too full and ready to go.

Still, the food was marvelous (and as soon as they realised we were there to review it, a very nice man came out and gave us lots of chat).

Chop Chop have two restaurants in Edinburgh (Leith and Haymarket) and are opening a Glasgow branch in October 2014. They also have a delivery service and run a membership scheme that gives you a discount on each visit, and sends you celebration vouchers across the year. Yum. Thanks for having us Chop Chop, we'll be back!