Falling off the edge of the internet

I took last week off work and didn't go anywhere. I mean, yes, I did leave the house, but I usually save my holidays for city breaks, so to use up five precious days of annual leave to hang out in my own neighbourhood was pretty unusual.

It feel good to hang out in my own back yard though. It was lovely to go to sleep in my own bed and not have to worry about an alarm clock; to spend a Wednesday morning in my pyjamas, watching Pretty Little Liars and sipping tea, while commuters rushed to work down on the street below; to not hesitate when another round of drinks at the bar was suggested on a school night; and to forget about the steady ping of my Outlook inbox.

I did plan to spend some of my week off writing posts and even flirted with the idea of a new layout, but I didn't open my laptop once during those cherished seven days. It wasn't intentional, but I ended up falling off the edge of the internet for a little while (except over on Instagram, because, as long as I have breath in my body and a charged phone in my hand, I can't resist snapping pretty things I spy). 

The week was instead spent visiting the beautiful Hunterian Museum in the West End; finally repainting our bedroom; going to see the incredible Taylor Swift in concert; drinking rum cocktails; arranging the first appointment to have our kitchen refitted; drinking endless cups of Barry's Tea (I had to see what all the fuss is about); being surprised with the most adorable Seven Dwarfs toast rack from Sam; drinking gin cocktails; going out for dinner; devoting a little too much time to Netflix; going to the zoo; catching up with friends; always having a desert; seeing my mum and dad; treating myself to a lazy brunch; and wearing a Mexican sombrero and a dinosaur mask within 24 hours.

It has been bloody lovely. Who knew it could be so much fun to just stay home?

Feel Good Friday #17

They're baaack! 

I took a break from my Feel Good Friday posts because I started to feel like I had to write them and I didn't want something so positive becoming a chore. However, when I saw this story in the news, I knew I had to bring back Feel Good Friday this week.





Wednesday marked the 70th anniversary of the annual 'Taxis to Troon' event. The event sees cabbies from Glasgow Taxis decorate their cars, dress up in costumes and transport local children to Troon for a day at the seaside.

The event has been running since 1945 and the Glasgow Taxi Outing Fund estimate they have helped around 60,000 children have a brilliant day out since then. The event is free for the children and their families, with the Glasgow taxi drivers and other local businesses (both in Glasgow and Troon) donating time, sweets, toys and effort into putting on a special event every summer.




The day kicks off with a procession of nearly 100 decorated taxis making their way through the streets of Glasgow on their way to Troon. Festooned in balloons and costumes, it really is a special sight. I think my favourite taxis this year were 'wearing' Ghostbusters and Darth Vader costumes. 

When the taxis arrive in Troon, the streets are lined with people to wave them in welcome, many with home-made signs and banners, and shop windows are decorated with displays to mark the occasion. As well as the pretty seaside town of Troon, there is a bouncy castle, toy give-away and fancy dress competition for the drivers, guaranteeing plenty to keep over 300 kids entertained. 

'Everybody puts a big team effort into it and at the end of the day, it's all about the kids,' says Glasgow taxi driver, Tom Gillon, who has been taking part in the event for 25 years. 'The people of Troon are utterly fantastic, I mean that big time. They go out of their way to give these kids a day they'll never forget.'

This is a wonderful example of people doing something 'just to be nice', which is pretty much my favourite reason for people doing anything.

Glasgow West End

I woke up last Sunday with no particular plans for the day but I knew I was itching to get outside and into the fresh air. Scotland has been rubbish for good weather so far this summer - the few sunny days have been bookended with cold, rainy weather - so I was disappointed to work through a row of beautiful days last week. Even though the grey skies looked a little dubious on Sunday morning, I was desperate to explore the city outside of my office while the weather at least stayed dry!

The West End Festival is on at the moment so Sam and I decided to head to the other side of the city for a wander around. We started with Love Letters to Glasgow, an exhibition by Japanese paper cut out artist Chop Pop. These beautiful hand-cut paper landscapes colourfully show different iconic scenes in Glasgow, including The Barras outdoor market, legendary music venue King Tuts and Hillhead Library. The designs go on sale on eBay in July so I'm really hoping to snap up a copy of The Barras or the Duke of Wellington wearing his infamous traffic cone hat for our flat.

As the exhibition is across the road from the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, a stroll around them in the sunshine seemed too perfect an opportunity to resist. Sam also spotted a sign outside advertising a book fair so he practically carried me across the road in his haste to get there. While I was being quickly rushed into the park, I spotted the very tempting ice cream van by the gates, but I wanted to save myself for Big Licks later on... 

The 'miniature' scale models for the gigantic Kelpies in Falkirk are on display inside the Glasgow Botanic Gardens at the moment - I was so excited to see these, although it left me feeling a little shamefaced that I still haven't been to see the full sized versions in Falkirk yet. Kibble Palace, behind the Kelpies in the photograph above, is a huge glasshouse filled with exotic plants, trees and sculptures. It was absolutely roasting inside though - perhaps not the best place to spend too long when the sun is shining!

After a walk around the gardens and the book fair (where I spent a considerable amount of time cooing over some beautiful old editions of fairytales) we decided to visit the stunning University of Glasgow campus. I didn't study here but I still have such a soft spot for the campus because of how gorgeous it is. And, let's just admit it, because you do feel like you're walking around Hogwarts while you're there. The weather couldn't make it's mind up at this point, switching between blue skies and fluffy white clouds and angry, grey storm clouds, but I actually think the University of Glasgow looks stunning with either sky as a backdrop. 

If you live in or visit Glasgow then I really recommend a trip to the campus: as the fourth-oldest university in the English speaking world, founded in 1451, it really is breathtaking. The campus includes a University Chapel, which was constructed as a memorial to the 755 students who lost their lives in the First World War. Graduates, students, members of staff and the children of members of staff can get married in the Chapel - I've been on campus while a couple were getting married and it really is such a beautiful venue for a wedding! 

We happened to pass the Glasgow Mela, an enormous multicultural festival, on the way back to the city centre, and decided to have a nosey. It was slightly surreal seeing hundreds of people at the Kelvingrove Bandstand taking part in a Bollywood dance class but definitely something different to do with your Sunday! 

I am delighted to report that, hours after seeing that ice cream van outside of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, that we finished our day with a trip to Big Licks to buy enormous ice cream cones. This ice cream parlour serves up enormous cones and tubs of ice cream in the most delicious flavours. I opted for Kinder chocolate (which did taste exactly like Kinder Eggs) while Sam went for cookie dough. They were so, so good - I already have a craving for another one after looking at this photograph! If you're not into ice cream then you're crazy you can choose from their cabinet of fresh doughnuts instead.

For a Sunday with no plans, it really turned into a lovely day out!

Donating blood for the first time for Blood Donor Week

Would you like to give blood but have always been too scared to? This is just an itty bitty post to let you know what it's like - and tell you not to be scared!

When my boyfriend, Sam, got sick at the end of last year, he needed four blood transfusions to save his life. If you receive a blood transfusion then you're no longer allowed to donate, which means Sam is now banned for life. As Sam used to be a blood donor, I thought it was really sad that he was no longer able to and promised I would donate (after putting it off for years and years) in his place. I then didn't donate for a month, then another, then another...

But when I spotted it was Blood Donor Week on Twitter, I knew it was, seven months later, finally time to pluck up the courage...

After work on Wednesday I made my way down to the Glasgow Donor Centre, stomach churning with nerves, unsure of what to expect and terrified in case it hurt. Here's what happened next:

  • When I arrived at the centre, I was asked to confirm a few details, such as my name, address and date of birth;
  • I was then given a short, multiple-choice form to complete. The form is to help check your blood is suitable for donation and includes questions on your health, travel history and sexual background. It is completely confidential;
  • The nurse then took a small prick of blood from my middle finger to check my iron levels. I've had problems with low iron in the past so I was worried I'd fail this test, but my iron levels were fine on the day, so I was given the go-ahead;
  • Now for the (really not so scary) part. I took a seat in a reclining chair and the nurse applied a tourniquet to my upper arm. This helps fill your veins with more blood and makes them easier to see. Then the skin on the inside of my elbow was cleaned to sterilise it. A new, sterile needle was then inserted into a vein in my arm. This is the part I was dreading, but it really wasn't bad at all - there's a short nip when the needle is inserted and that's it. You know the quick pinch of having your ears pierced? It's really no worse than that. Also, if you've ever had a blood sample taken at the doctors, then you'll know exactly what to expect. As the nurse laughed afterwards when I said it wasn't as bad as I'd thought: 'It never is - we can't compete with your imagination!';
  • The needle is attached to a thin, plastic tube and a blood bag and it takes around 10 - 15 minutes for the bag to fill up. For an experience I was so worried about, it was very relaxed: I chatted to Sam and the nurse throughout and it was easy to forget what was happening to my arm (which I was still making a point not to look at!). Other people were reading books or scrolling through their iPhones;
  • When the bag is full (the nurse keeps an eye on this, so, if you're squeamish like me, you never need to look at the bag if you don't want to), the needle is quickly removed (there's that little pinch again). The nurse quickly wiped my arm with a cotton pad and applied a plaster. And that's it! 

After you've finished giving blood, you're asked to sit in an observation area for ten minutes or so, so you can have a glass of juice and something sugary to eat. There were Blood Donor Week chocolate lollies and enormous plates of biscuits to choose from. The reason you're asked to rest and eat something after is to help you not feel ill or faint from the loss of blood. I felt absolutely fine, with no lightheadedness at all, but that didn't stop me from having a second chocolate lolly!

So there you go. That was my first time giving blood and it was distinctly less terrifying than what I'd built it up to be. If you've considered giving blood before then I'm sure you know all of the reasons why it's such an important thing to do, but you can read more about why you should give blood here.

I hope this little guide helped clear up what giving blood involves exactly. If you decide to give blood for the first time, please let me know!

Tea Jenny's

Last Tuesday I took a half day from work (for the first time in three years - I felt like I was skipping school walking home in the middle of the afternoon!) and dashed through to Falkirk for the launch of Alight Here. This new anthology of Falkirk writing is a Creative Place Project commissioned by the Falkirk Community Trust. As Sam has a new short story published in the collection, Falkirk Community Trust interviewed him a few hours before the launch event, which meant we had some time to kill. If you ever have a spare afternoon, then there's only one option: tea and cake. 

Tea Jenny's is a pretty tea room is tucked down a quiet lane off the high street in Falkirk. I'd never been before but have wanted to visit ever since I spotted the incredible looking cakes on their Facebook page. Decorated with cute chalkboard signs, fairy lights and strings of colourful ice lollies, Tea Jenny's is a quirky little spot to hang out with a cup of tea and a piece of cake (if you can manage to choose only one from the incredible selection available). 

I opted for a peanut butter cupcake topped with a Reese's peanut butter cup (since my friend came back from New York with an enormous bag, I am addicted to these!) and a pot of tea. The second it arrived with a home made Elmo tea cosy I knew I was officially in love with Tea Jenny's. Sam picked an empire biscuit, which was about the size of three regular empire biscuits combined, and Irn-Bru. As much as I love a bit of Scottish brogue, I'll never understand the Irn-Bru when you're not hungover thing...

If you fancy something other than tea and cake (it sounds crazy, but sometimes people do), then you can pop upstairs to Wee Jenny's instead. Wee Jenny's serves breakfasts and lunches, so you can choose pancakes, soups or a sandwich instead. The food is home made and looks incredible, so I'll definitely be visiting again for lunch the next time I have a free afternoon. I'll still have cake after though! 

If you would like to take a bit of Tea Jenny's home, there is a big selection of loose teas, jams, chutneys, crackers, oils and pastas to choose from to take away. With gluten free and vegan options, there's something for everyone. As a loose tea obsessive, I bought a bag of Marshmallow Fluff, which is a fruit tea with kiwi, cherries and coconut. It smells amazing and is such a lovely mixture of different fruity flavours. I've been trying not to chain drink too many cups, but I guess finishing the bag would give me an excuse to catch the train through to Falkirk... 

This was my May

Do you ever wake up in a bad mood for no reason? With no unexpected bill, delayed train or grumpy manager to attribute the blame to, it can still sometimes be difficult to shake off a 'blue day'. Well, forget a blue day, my May has been a blue month. Overcast with grey skies and a cloud of deadlines in work, I've felt a little blue, a little off and a little down all month. But there have been some glints of sunshine. I would like to take a moment to thank my iPhone. Expensive, unnecessary and overrated. This little phone (of which I'd guess I use around 23% of what it is capable of) has reminded me of the lovely moments from May which I'd been too quick to overlook.

It's official. I eat too many burgers. The burgers at the top are from Dennistoun Bar B Que and were quickly demolished to celebrate National Vegetarian Week. I'd also spent the day working at a conference and the best way to relax after being all 'eyes and teeth' for eight hours is by scoffing a particularly messy burger in your pencil dress. The burgers at the bottom are from Gourmet Burger Kitchen. They'd run out of falafels for my usual choice, so I opted for a veggie version of the Taxidriver, which comes with American cheese, onions rings, Cajun relish, smoked chilli mayo and pickle. I can't kick my burger habit with toppings like that. 

The double nougat dessert with vanilla ice cream and fresh raspberry sauce was my dessert at Lucky 7 Canteen after eating Moroccan sweet potato and chickpea stew with flatbread and rice. I felt a little better about my burger addiction after typing that, until I remembered I'm going out for dinner tomorrow night and I've already picked out the burger I want... Grilled halloumi cheese and hummus though. Hubba hubba. 

I half-heartily tried to walk off some of those burger calories by going for a long walk around Glasgow Cathedral and the University of Strathclyde campus on a rare sunny day. It's difficult to enjoy any sunshine when you work full time and Scotland has decided that it would rather pretend it's March than May (and a pretty miserable cold and wet March at that). I have managed to squeeze in a little bit of sunshine this month though - even if the sun only sticks around for a few hours on the weekend, that's been enough time to notch up a few trips to Coia's for some of the best home-made ice cream I've ever tasted! 

By the way, the stone doorway in the middle photograph is from the Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital, which used to stand where the University of Strathclyde campus now is. I didn't appreciate it as a student, but now I love wandering around the empty campus on weekends and spotting beautiful parts of the old hospital which they decided not to tear down.

As well as clearly eating out far too much, long walks and taking up running again (there is thankfully no photographic evidence of that), I have taken up hibernation in our flat when I've had the chance. A stack of Disney brochures and the new Big Hero 6 DVD brightened up a drizzly bank holiday afternoon (I still walked into town for the DVD on release day though, of course). The sign in the middle is from the pretty Maia Gifts Store and perfectly summed up a hungover Saturday morning after a fun Friday night on Sauchiehall Street (there is photographic evidence of that, but none I want to share on the internet!). I also bought into the adult colouring in book craze this month, after seeing this beautiful Once Upon a Time book in Waterstones. It folds out to make a panorama scene of different fairytales which blend together, rather than individual pages, and is actually very relaxing to devote an hour to now and again - it's almost enough to help someone forget about constant rain, deadlines and shopping for kitchens (but that's another, very boring, story!).
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