Hopes for a new year

There's something about New Year's resolutions which make me a little uncomfortable. I think it's because the phrase conjures up images of diet food and celebrity fitness DVDs. It's fantastic when people find motivation in the start of a new year, but I think the focus should be on changes which will genuinely make someone happier and healthier. That's why I've loved reading other blogger's lists of resolutions for 2015, as so many focus on reading, travelling, studying and all of the other wonderful things which people will really thank themselves for later.  

I also read a fantastic post from Kitty and Nathan which reminded me that New Year is 'a time to celebrate the goodness you have also done... don't forget that over the past year you have done wonderful things that you should take into this next year with you too'. I think this is a beautiful sentiment at a time of year when the focus is on everything not yet achieved. I have tried to keep that in mind while writing up my little list of hopes for 2015. 


Go on more adventures.

I haven't seen nearly enough of Scotland or the rest of the UK and there's no real reason for it. I simply need to make the time to book a few long weekends off work, pack an overnight bag and go. If you have any recommendations of places I should visit, please comment and let me know!

Finish decorating the flat.

I'm proud of what we've achieved already - with no landlord around, we jumped straight into repainting and hanging pictures - but there are still a few tweaks and changes I'd like to make. It's only little things, like framing and hanging the rest of our pictures and finally ordering the last bits of furniture we need, but I think it will make a big difference. I'm excited about ticking everything off and having the flat feel 'finished'. The only big job I would really love to do is have a new kitchen fitted, but I think I'll only get as far as starting a piggy bank for that this year!

Give another guinea pig a new home.

We sadly lost one of our guinea pigs, Daisy, in November and now Cotton is living alone. As guinea pigs are sociable animals and prefer to live in pairs, I want to find her a new friend soon. I'd preferably like to re-home another girl from a rescue centre, so I'm keeping an eye out for a single female up for adoption.


Take up a sport.

I used to love cycling and swimming, took a weekly self defence class and had started running before we moved, but I now do no other exercise than walking. It's silly that I've let myself fall out of the habit though, because when I think back I'm always happiest when I have an active hobby. I'm also a bit of a stresshead and I think I owe it to my mental health to find a hobby to keep me happy and healthy over the next 12 months!

Be braver.

Whether it's a tattoo, a new haircut or a different life direction, I need to not be so afraid of change and stop being so obsessed with what I should be doing.

Volunteer more.

While I have volunteered with various charities in the past, I'd love to start helping on a more regular basis, particularly with communications and events - although I'm happy to shake a bucket too when the need arises!


Stay positive.

As Cady Heron famously said 'Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter'. I think this doesn't just apply to thinking mean thoughts about other people either: I need to remember that bitching and complaining (whether that's about myself or an aspect of my life) isn't going to make any difference - I need to shut up and actually work towards fixing what is making me unhappy.


I've definitely not been as creative this year and I really regret it. I want to start focusing again on creative projects - whether that's devoting more time to blogging, creative writing, baking, Octavius or trying something new.

Get a dog.

We can't seriously consider getting a dog until both of our work schedules are more settled, but, after hours of obsessively browsing different dog breeds online, a girl can dream!

2014 was the year...

2014 has been a funny old year. While I've managed to tick off several big items from my to-do list (some of which have been on there for years), there are other little things I've let slide more than I'd like. The positive of this niggling knot of regret is that I can use it as motivation to not make the same mistakes next year - after all, I'm a firm believer that it's really the little things that make a big difference over time. But it's not 2015 yet: for now, I thought I'd take a moment to look back on some of the things which did happen this year - good and bad... 

Sam released his début novel, Shop Front.

I met Sam while we were both studying English, Journalism and Creative Writing at university. This March - after years of studying, submitting to literary magazines and writing competitions, performing at spoken word events and setting up his own literary magazine - his first novel, Shop Front, was published by Fledgling Press and launched in Scotland's largest book shop.

It was an absolute 'pinch yourself' experience from start to finish - and it isn't even my book!

You can buy Shop Front as a paperback or eBook from Fledgling Press, Waterstones or Amazon.

I turned 25 in Dublin.

I spent the loveliest Easter weekend in sunny Dublin to celebrate my 25th birthday. The weekend whizzed by in a blur of sightseeing, drinking cocktails, eating ice cream in the park, going out for burgers, swooning over the beautiful Georgian architecture and generally falling in love with this wonderful city. 

We bought our first home together.

I'm not going to lie: this was a horrible experience. I spent the summer stressed and agitated as the purchase dragged on for months - particular low points include when the bank 'lost' £10,000 of our deposit and the solicitor couldn't confirm what exactly was still required before they could conclude missives less than a week before we were due to move in. 

But, we're here now, and that's the important part. I love our little home - which is a good thing, because I think I've been scared off moving again for life.


Scotland voted no in the independence referendum.

This isn't a personal experience, but the independence referendum definitely had an impact on my life this year. It felt like the country was suddenly buzzing with debate, passion and an engagement in politics unlike anything I'd witnessed before. While there were some negative aspects to the referendum (it was of course disappointing that some people used it as a platform for hatred and bigotry), I particularly loved that it engaged people who have never been interested in politics before, and people were hopeful that, unlike the feeling in general elections, their vote actually counted for something.

I went to Walt Disney World for the first time.

After dreaming about this holiday since I was a little girl, I finally got to walk down Main Street USA in the beautiful Florida sunshine. We spent two wonderful weeks soaking up all things Disney (and nipping across to Universal Studios for the Harry Potter attractions, of course), and I'm already planning when we can book to go back. 

By the way, the photograph above was taken from the back of Cinderella Castle: inside the stained glass windows is 'Cinderella's Royal Table', a beautiful restaurant where you can eat dinner while Cinderella, Snow White, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and Jasmine pop by every table for photographs and autographs (and very strange conversations - cue Ariel asking 'if it's an awfully long way to swim from Scotland?' and Sleeping Beauty asking Sam if 'Scotland has no dragons left because he has slain them all?'). I now can't watch a Disney film without wanting to squeal 'I've had dinner in there!' every time the castle animation appears at the beginning!


Sam spent two weeks in the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

The morning we landed back in Glasgow from Florida, Sam went to A&E with stomach pains. He thought he had pulled a muscle in his side and wanted to make sure he hadn't done any permanent damage: it turns out his appendix had burst and he had an infection in his stomach which was so bad the doctor estimated he would have collapsed within the next 24 hours. He spent the next two weeks in hospital undergoing various drips, blood transfusions and operations. 

I'm lucky enough to have very little experience of inside hospital wards, but after visiting Sam every day for a fortnight, I can say there's nothing that will make you as grateful for your own health, and the health of your family and friends, as the people you will meet there and hearing their stories.

2014, we've had our ups and downs, but I'll always remember you fondly, kid. 

If you've written a round-up post of your year, please let me know in the comments below!

Getting into the spirit

As someone who loves Disney, musicals and children's literature, it probably comes as no surprise that I also love Halloween. I hate anything scary (the scariest film I own is Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe, which, as my friend who loves scary stuff advises me, 'isn't scary at all'), but I love the silly, over-the-top, cheesy side of Halloween. If it means I can dot gaudy decorations around the flat, eat novelty sweets and listen to Monster Mash over and over on my walk to work, then I'm happy.

As well as decorating the flat and eating more artificial flavourings and sweeteners than is advisable, I have been making a habit of long walks in the crisp weather - there's just something lovely about red and gold leaves, grass covered in fallen conkers and wrapping up against the chill in pretty knitwear. I plan on soaking up every single second before autumn starts to make way for the miserable rain and wind of winter. And even now when the nights draw in, and the temperature drops to more cutting than crisp, there is something lovely about a toasty night in with good food, good friends and my favourite Halloween films (Casper and Addams Family Values, FYI).

So while some people moan that Halloween is commercialised nonsense and tacky-beyond-belief, I welcome any excuse to not take life so seriously - so hooray for pound store decorations, Wednesday Addams (one of my favourite ever female film characters) and for living with a boyfriend who put a ghost candle in our bathroom 'because, well, why not?'.

For those of you out there who share my love for this, the tackiest of seasons, then I hope you have been enjoying the build up to October 31st. And for those who hate Halloween - at least this means we're getting closer to Christmas!

Moving out lessons

I bought a flat with my boyfriend this summer and we moved in in the middle of September. This is the first time either of us has bought a home before so the process has been bewildering, exciting and stressful. Now that the WiFi has finally been set-up, I thought I would share some of the moving out lessons I have learned over the past few weeks.

1. Arrange for your internet connection to be installed as soon as possible.

We had some last minute panic with our solicitors over our move in date so we didn't want to arrange any of our suppliers in advance - cue phoning TalkTalk on our very first morning in the flat, who advised an engineer would be out in three weeks to install our TV, phone and internet. Three weeks?! I didn't bat an eyelid at the TV or phone, but three weeks without internet access felt like a sentence. When I told a friend about my struggle going cold turkey, he admitted he arranged for his internet to be set-up before his move in date was confirmed - a gamble which paid off when his internet was installed a couple of days after he moved in. Learn from my mistakes, people.

2. You will come face-to-face with some uncomfortable home truths.

I hate washing dishes. I also didn't do any ironing for almost a fortnight (I have even found myself picking out clothes in the morning on the basis that they don't need ironed). I might not be proud of these facts, but I have to own up. With no flatmates, siblings or lodgers to use as a scapegoat, when housework goes undone there aren't many places to point the finger of blame. I can't even blame Sam because he is strangely neat - although I don't think he's used the mop or the glass cleaner since we moved in, so we're even, right?

3. Ikea is terrifying.

A novel afternoon out when you're browsing kitsch glassware and pretty duvet sets, but when you're faced with the daunting task of furnishing an entire flat, the activity loses its shine a wee bit. By the amount of arguing couples I (uncomfortably) walked by in the aisles, it must also account for a significant percentage of divorces. 

4. The TV licensing people are like a dog with a bone

While I can't seem to contact Glasgow City Council for love nor money, the TV licensing people had sent us a letter before we had even moved in and have now - despite not a single moment of live television being watched in the past three weeks - have sent us a threatening red letter to say 'officers have been authorised to visit the property'. Despite the implied threat, I'm a marketing officer and I know I'm about as likely to arrest someone on their doorstep as this crew.

5. Living without furniture is a rite-of-passage 

We still don't have a sofa (although it has now been ordered and I am embarrassingly excited about it), which meant we spent our first evening in our own flat drinking a bottle of champagne while sitting on the living room carpet. I had to use a shelf from one of our dismantled bookcases as a coffee table when my parents came over for tea. From the amount of friends who have wistfully sighed 'Oh, but that's all part of the experience!' I can only assume I will one day look back on the 'owning no furniture yet' stage fondly - if only because it means I never have to face Ikea on a weekend again.


If you read my blog this summer then you may have heard me mention that I've been a very busy bee - as well as writing an annual report for my work (which is now complete and thousands have been printed - no pressure!), launching a new publicity campaign, and organising seven different events, I have bought my first flat with my boyfriend!

I didn't want to mention it until now because we have been paranoid that something would go wrong, but our moving day has finally arrived. I am easing myself in with tea and Disney songs in bed, but we'll be collecting our keys soon and then the chaos of the removal van can begin! I am really looking forward to unpacking everything we spent all weekend packing...

I have big ideas for tartanmouth, despite falling off the blogger wagon spectacularly this summer. If you're still around this autumn (once we finally get internet connected in our new flat), then I'm so excited to share my new posts with you.

See you soon ish!

Disney themed charity day

I've posted about my love of Disney and my love of colourful, girly tattoos before, so I'm sure you can imagine I did a little bit of a happy dance when I found out about the Disney themed charity day which Rachel Baldwin is hosting this weekend. Rachel is one of artists I featured in my tattoo blog post and I have a massive soft spot for her. As well as being an incredible artist, she got married in Las Vegas and had her honeymoon in Disney World, which I just think is ah-may-zing! *girl crush alert*

This Saturday Rachel is teaming up with other amazing artists to host a Disney themed day of tattoos, jewellery, original art, cakes, prints, clothes and manicures, all to raise money for Alder Hey Childrens Hospital in Liverpool. The event is to celebrate Rachel's shop, Bold as Brass Tattoos, turning one, and everyone is encouraged to dress up in Disney fancy dress - the best costume wins a goodie bag!

I'm getting excited just writing about it. Seriously. 

The photographs above are of just some of the flash you can choose from on the day. The artists will be doing walk-in tattoos from 12pm - 10pm. You can see more of the designs which have been revealed on Rachel's Instagram or the Facebook event page.

If you're not in the market for a new tattoo, but would still like a Disney treat, then you can browse the art, jewellery or get your nails done! I actually had to show the nail art to some of the women in my office - cue an excited conversation about which nails are our favourites (I think mine are the Snow White and Cinderella nails, FYI).

This incredible Levis jacket which Rachel painted will be available to view on the day and will be placed on eBay, with bidding starting at £50, after the event.

This is such a wonderful event for an incredible cause. 100% of the money will go to Alder Hey Childrens Hospital and I'm delighted to see so many incredible artists donate their time, energy and work to support this cause.

I unfortunately won't be able to make it to the event on Saturday but I did manage to buy some beautiful Disney prints by Charlotte Timmons in advance - if you like the look of these, you can snap up your own copies on Saturday from Bold as Brass Tattoos!

Imaginary poolside reads

But, seriously, though - how is it the first of September already?! I didn't take any annual leave this summer and I'm cursing myself because it is now officially autumn and I've missed out on long summer afternoons spent away from my desk. So I'm doing what any self-respecting bookworm would do and consoling myself with books. Specifically books which are perfect for reading by the side of the pool on holiday, when reading a book from cover-to-cover and drinking cocktails is pretty much your entire plan for the day.

I bought these books in WHSmith when I was in the mood for stories which suck you in for hours and you can't stop reading - I didn't read any of these books by the side of a pool (sadly) but they provided a little bit of escapism around my 9-5. If you're feeling a little gloomy now that we're hurtling towards shorter days and colder nights, then I recommend these for a bit of summer make believe.

"'Kiss me,' he breathes into her clavicle. The car turns into the driveway. He increases the pressure of his hand but it remains fixed, like a clasp, keeping her stitched up, held together. Still in control; but how badly she wants to let go. A yelp seems to rear up from her guts. It is not release or ecstasy, but mercy, soaking through her pants to meet the sweat-hot cradle of his palm. The slap of a car door. Only one. Where is Emma? Footsteps on the terrace. His hand drops away, leaving her wide open, bereft. The cool sweep of the air conditioning breezes across the damp of her face; her soaking briefs. He hastens to the couch; picks up her book. She is still standing in the archway, dazed, when Greg comes in."

Jenn and her husband, Greg, return to Deià, on Mallorca's west coast, every summer. This summer, Jenn's stepdaughter, Emma, and her new boyfriend, Nathan, tag along, spoiling the peace and Jenn's mood. With an already fraught relationship with Emma, Jenn dreads a summer spent in close proximity with her and her new beau - until she meets Nathan, and finds herself irresistibly drawn to this cocky, beautiful youth. 

I read The Lemon Grove in one sitting, in a matter of hours. I lay down on my bed one Saturday afternoon, with a mountain of housework waiting for me, promising myself I'd "only read a chapter or two" - fast-forward a few hours and, while the dishes were still piled in the sink, I was turning to the last page, completely enthralled. 

I was worried that The Lemon Grove would be a little bit Fifty Shades, with lots of indulgent sex scenes and not so hot when it came to the writing. I was happily wrong. While the book grabbed a lot of attention for its sex scenes, I actually feel like Walsh's talent for writing erotica stood out when the characters weren't having sex. The tension is some of the scenes was incredible - literary foreplay at its best. 

The complex relationship between Jenn, Greg and Emma was by far my favourite part of the story, with steamy sex scenes (even the one involving Serrano ham) quickly skimmed over in pursuit of more details on why the relationship between Jenn and Emma is so fraught. This wasn't a typical 'bratty stepdaughter and uptight step-mum' story and I was eventually grew to really care about Jenn and Emma - three cheers for three-dimensional, interesting female characters!  

"As for Robert, Gretta cannot begin to think. His absence is beyond understand. She is so used to him being there, being around, that she can't quite accept he has disappeared. She finds herself almost on the verge of speaking to him: this morning, she got two teacups down from the shelf. They have been together for so many years that they are no longer like two people but one strange four-legged creature."

It's summer 1976 and the people of London are struggling through a heatwave which has lasted for weeks. Retired Irishman Robert Riordan tells his wife, Gretta, that he's popping out to buy a newspaper, the same as every morning, but this time he doesn't come back. With his passport missing and money taken from their joint account, it's clear that Robert has 'taken off', but it's not clear why.

In the search for their father, siblings Michael Francis, Aoife and Monica come back to their childhood home as adults, reopening old wounds and scratching at secrets buried long ago. Aoife and Monica haven't spoken in years. Michael Francis can feel his marriage slipping through his fingers like cupped water. Gretta is hiding a secret that not even her children could ever suspect.

O'Farrell writes about the dynamics of family beautifully: I felt like I had been dropped into the centre of the Riordan's universe and I didn't want to leave. Every character in Instructions for a Heatwave felt genuine - I had a particular soft-spot for Irish mammy Gretta as she reminded me of my own mum! The plot jumps seamlessly from character to character, but I never felt confused or irritated by the change in point-of-view, instead I enjoyed the unravelling of the family history, pieced together by the memories of each sibling and their mother. 

While the personal histories of the Riordan family were my favourite part, I also loved the insight into the experience of Irish immigrants moving to England at the beginning of last century - while I know prejudice was a problem, I hadn't read personal experiences of Irish discrimination before. As O'Farrell moved to Scotland with her Irish parents, I assume most of the anecdotes in Instructions for a Heatwave are taken from her and her parents' personal experiences, and, while it was really sad, it was interesting to read about how the Irish used to be widely viewed in the UK.

As the story moves forward and the family travel home to track down Robert, I guarantee you will fall a little in love with Ireland and a little in love with the Riordan family.

"Roughly half an hour after I'd picked him up, we pulled into the overgrow tree-lined drive of a long-abandoned farm. 'It's safe here,' I announced. He nodded back at me, eyes filled with eager uncertainty, looking briefly out his car window into the pitch-blackness surrounding us as if to scan for predators. 'No-one's going to interrupt us,' I stressed, my voice a honeyed invitation. "We're in the middle of nowhere.'"

Celeste is a beautiful twenty-six year woman, with a gorgeous husband, a nice car, and a new job as a high school English teacher. She is also a paedophile. With an insatiable lust for young teenage boys, Celeste can barely have sex with her own husband, and has taken a job in a high school as an opportunity to get closer to her students.

I had seen Tampa pop up over and over again in newspapers, magazines and online and I had to see what all the fuss was about - unfortunately I still don't. 

While at first I was happy that Nutting had made Celeste beautiful (it would have been so easy to write a perverted female character so undesirable that she had turned to preying on children), but after a while I was... well, bored, over how bland Celeste is. It seems strange to be describing a book about a seductive paedophile as boring - but when her only attribute seems to be that she's sexy (so sexy in fact that even the father of one of her victims seems to overlook the fact his son is being abused because, well, if he ignores it then he might be able to sleep with her too...) I couldn't help but roll my eyes. 

As well as making Celeste dull, her preposterous good looks killed any suspense in the book. I had assumed the compulsion to keep reading Tampa would be the risk of Celeste being caught - but every man in the book appeared to become such a slack-jawed moron at the mere sight of her that she could have been caught rolling around naked with the entire high school football team and people still wouldn't suspect her of any ill-doing. 

While the premise of the book is original, I also felt let down by how repetitive the storyline became - when I first started reading, I did laugh at how graphic and colourful the writing is ("I spent the night before my first day of teaching in an excited loop of hushed masturbation on my side of the mattress, never falling asleep" is the first line of the book), I started to feel exasperated with just how much sex there is in Tampa. I obviously didn't expect a book about this topic to be 'vanilla', but explicit sex and masturbation scenes started to lose their impact when they were peppered through every chapter. I would like liked less sex with adolescences and a bit more insight into Celeste. 

The bad taste in my mouth after reading Tampa might have been intentional on Nutting's part, especially considering the unsavoury topic, but I had hoped for more from a book with such an original premise. 

Did you read any books which you couldn't put down this summer? Please leave any recommendations for books to dive into (geddit?) this September in the comments.

Broken Soup

"When I think of people like Kurt Cobain or River Phoenix or Marilyn Monroe, it seems the most famous thing they ever did was die young. They stopped being real people who took drugs or told lies or went to the loo or whatever. They became saints and geniuses overnight. They became whoever anybody wanted them to be. It was the same with Jack. He was a saint. We were just the living."

Rowan's big brother, Jack, has died, and Rowan is left to pick up the pieces of her old life which are left. Her dad has moved out, her mum is losing a battle with depression, and her little sister, Stroma, needs someone to take care of her. Instead of spending time with her friends, fifteen year old Rowan is cleaning the house, looking after her little sister, and trying to hide how ill her mum is from everyone, including her dad.

Then one day after school a boy hands her a negative of a photograph he insists that she dropped. Embarrassed, Rowan reluctantly takes the negative from the insistent stranger, and stuffs it in her school bag. Broken Soup follows Rowan as she solves the mystery of the negative, making friends with the mysterious boy, Harper, and an older girl from school, Bee, as she does.

Despite the difficult subjects covered in Broken Soup, I didn't feel morose at all reading it; Rowan is an incredibly likeable protagonist, who marches on, independent and strong, not letting the tragedy of her brother's death overwhelm her. She isn't heartless - she clearly misses Jack desperately - but she recognises that life does go on, and has to go on, if only for Stroma, a six year old little girl, whose parents seem to have forgotten her because of the death of a brother she barely remembers. 

The writing is simple and direct: Rowan adored her big brother, but she remembers the real Jack, the boy who lived in the bedroom next door to hers, not the golden boy enshrined in her parents' memories. I can't remember reading a book which addresses this topic so directly before - is it bad to remember the good and bad about someone who has passed away? - so I enjoyed the original point of view. I loved how genuine Rowan's voice is because of this aspect of the storyline: she's a regular teenager who remembers the things she loved and hated about her annoying big brother.

"So what if you couldn't move for school photos and team photos and brushed hair and smiling? None of them were the real him. Jack would never have let Mum get those photos out to show people. He'd have burned them if he could. They had fights over it. And his room was the same, but totally different, like a stage set of itself, like a piece in a museum, a fake boy's room. I don't think I ever saw his bed made when he was alive. He let plates and cups collect and fester on his desk for weeks. He stashed food under the bed and he smoked out of the window, even when the wind blew it straight back in so everything smelled of weed and old bananas and his socks, not air freshener and dust and the stopping of time."

While the premise of the book is the mystery of the negative, the real story is in the developing relationships between Rowan and the other characters. While she drifts further away from her parents, Rowan quickly becomes close with Harper, Bee, Bee's dad, Carl, and little brother, Sonny. I felt that how endearing the other characters are also help keep Broken Soup optimistic. Stroma is a hardy little girl, funny and sweet; Harper is kind and quirky; Bee is spontaneous, confident and cool. I think in most books you have a favourite character or two, but I genuinely cared about every character in Broken Soup: Valentine has created such endearing, three-dimensional people that I couldn't help but want to know more about every single one of them - even Bee's dad!

As a young adult novel, it was refreshing to find how honest and unusual Broken Soup is: Valentine takes on death, suicide, sex, delinquency and drug taking without ever seeming preachy or judgemental. I think I would really have appreciated Valentine's attitude as a teenager - she writes about each topic without praise or condemnation, allowing the reader to make up their own mind about how they feel.

Broken Soup is a sweet and offbeat book, which finds hope in the most difficult of situations. I hope the storyline will help anyone whose life has been touched by bereavement or depression. For anyone lucky enough not to have experienced either, particularly young people, I hope it reminds them of the importance of being kind to those who have.

Thank you so much to Natalie from Rocket Dreamers for sending me Broken Soup - I'd never heard of it before, but I love the writing so much that I've now also bought Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine. This was part of the Summer Book Swap organised by Hayley and Beth - thank you both so much for organising this! To read about more of the fantastic books bloggers have swapped this summer, check out #uksummerbookswap on Twitter and Instagram.

Comfort food

I've got the September issues of my magazines and it's raining outside, so I think it's okay to start talking about comfort food. While I might crave picnic food and tapas (or picture perfect barbecues, with the tomato sauce squiggle on my hot dog just so) when the sun is shining, as summer draws to a close, I start to think about lovely jubbly autumn comfort food.

Last night I made sausage and baked bean pie. Yes, I do realise that this is the dinner of children, but I wanted something easy to cook, and... Well, do I need any more justification than cheesy mashed potato?  

Warning: the pie looks horrible in these photographs (why is comfort food always so ugly?) but I promise it tastes amazing.

Baked beans
Mashed potato
Grated cheese

I know, I know, how will you ever track down these tricky ingredients? I think the reason this meal appeals to me so much is because it's made out of things I usually have in the house anyway.

Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.

Fry up the sausages in a little oil until cooked through. Cool, then halve. By the way, these are Quorn sausages - I've been vegetarian for ten years, so I can't remember if they look strange compared to regular sausages or not!

Boil the potatoes until soft. Mash with a little milk and butter (or milk and mayonnaise, as Sam insists on).

Heat the beans up.

Here comes the tricky bit...

Pour the beans into a casserole dish, spoon the mashed potato over the top, then stick the sausages into the mashed potato. Sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Et voilà! Gooey, cheesy, baked bean goodness.

Dish out and enjoy.

And pour yourself a drink - you deserve it after all that cooking.

The little things - July edition

As you might have guessed if you read my last post, I've been a wee bit stressed out this month... Well, more than a wee bit, actually. I was worried I'd look back on July and the overwhelming thought would be that it SUCKED and all I did was run screaming at deadlines and paperwork. But a little swipe through my iPhone reminded me of some of the rather lovely things that happened (as well as the screaming) this month. When I'm going through a particularly stressful time, it's especially nice to look back and focus on the little things that have put a smile back on my grumpy chops.

One of the best things about working smack bang in the city centre of Glasgow is the abundance of pubs and bars to choose from for after-work drinks. I have taken advantage of this perk with extra gusto this month by arranging to meet friends for, ahem, a few drinks after 5pm. I started with burgers and cocktails in Hummingbird, which is a beautiful bar/restaurant/club (it's set over four floors, so there's plenty to choose from), with my oldest friend from primary school. Because sometimes it's nice to sip cocktails and reminisce about a life before bills and pension plans, when how to get your gooey alien to give birth was pretty much your top concern (please say we're not the only ones who did this?!).

Afternoon drinking on a sunny day with this handsome fella is always a lovely way to wile away an afternoon. We don't always have the same days off anymore, so free days together are my absolute favourites.

On a scorching hot evening in Glasgow I fled to the cover of Saint Judes after work for 'a drink or two' with some girls from work - fast forward a few hours and we're taking selfies in front of the giant Commonwealth Games logo in George Square. Saint Judes is a gorgeous ivy-covered townhouse, which was hosting a pop-up Mexican restaurant and pretty lethal frozen margaritas the night we were there.

July was an excellent month for reading. I sometimes have a bit of a 'reading slump', and I can't get into the book I'm reading or I'll not read for a few days and fall out of the routine, but this month I got into a really good reading rhythm and was picking up one book after another. I started the month by finishing the Matched triology, then read How To Build A Girl (reviewed here!), Broken Soup, The Lemon Grove, Instructions for a Heatwave, and I've just started A Monster Calls. The silver lining of my horrid daily commute is the uninterrupted intervals of reading time it provides.

It was incredible to see that Waterstones around the corner from my office have featured Shop Front as one of their promoted books (in case I've not banged on about it quite enough yet, Shop Front is my boyfriend's début novel). Cue squealing and me unashamedly snapping away on my iPhone. 

I received Broken Soup in the post from the lovely Natalie as part of the Summer Book Swap organised by Hayley and Beth. I've not read anything by Jenny Valentine before but I read this in a couple of days and I loved it. I'll post a full review soon. Also, and I know you're not supposed to judge them by this, but how amazing is that cover?! I genuinely traced my fingers across the paper, thinking Natalie had written the message in biro!

I've just noticed how much Sam has featured in this post (*soppy girlfriend alert*), but he really does know the value of the little things. From a Pino Colada chilling in the fridge for when I tumble through the front door after a roasting day spent in work, home-made ice cream cones (sometimes more than one a day, I have to admit), and pretty roses bought 'just because'.

Not photographed is the little chocolate monkey lollipop Sam came home with one day - weeks ago, but still not eaten because he's just too cute. Is it weird to get emotionally attached to your food?

What little things have you enjoyed this month? I'm a nosey parker and love hearing about the day-to-day things which make other people smile, so please do share below!
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