Feel Good Friday #34

Toshiyuki and Yasuko Kuroki worked as dairy farmers in Shintomi Town since getting married in 1956, happily raising two children and dreaming of travelling around Japan after they retired. Sadly, after thirty years together, Yasuko started to have problems with her sight and, within a week, went completely blind due to complications with her diabetes. 

Instead of seizing their retirement as an opportunity to go travelling, Toshiyuki watched on helplessly as his wife became very withdrawn and depressed, eventually secluding herself entirely in the family home. Determined to make her happy again, Toshiyuki planted a small flower garden of strongly scented shibazakura flowers for his wife to enjoy. However, after seeing a group of passers-by admiring the garden, Toshiyuki decided to plant a larger garden, hoping to attract visitors to stop his wife from feeling lonely.

A little thank you note to blogging

I've never tried online dating. I met my boyfriend in the traditional way - drunk and stupid in the student union. We've been together while the landscape of online dating has exploded from a few tentative Bebo messages to the scrolling, sweeping and beeping normality of dating in 2016. 

That isn't to say I haven't met someone 'off the internet'.

Valentine's Day in chilly Edinburgh

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day or Sunday last week, depending on how you viewed it! I've spoken about how I think February 14th is a silly bit of fun in the middle of a few grey months before and this year was no exception: while I didn't want to splurge money on it, a day trip to our chilly capital sounded like a fun and low-key way to celebrate!  

The day started, as all great romantic dates do, in the, er, graveyard. Greyfriars Kirkyard is a bit of a special graveyard though: as well as being the site of the famous Greyfriars Bobby story, it's also home to a grave for Tom Riddle, believed to be part of the inspiration behind Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books.

Greyfriars Kirkyard is such a beautiful graveyard that it's worth a visit even if you're not a Harry Potter fan though. Dating back to 1561, it's home to the Greyfriars Kirk, a parish church, and many wonderfully eerie gravestones, tombs and monuments. While a bitterly cold day under a blanket of grey cloud isn't usually ideal for Valentine's Day, it did help make our walk around the graveyard very atmospheric!

Feel Good Friday #33

This week's Feel Good Friday is a bit of an unusual one because it's still a work in progress - but I hope by next week (and possibly even with a little help from us) it will officially have the 'warm and fuzzy' stamp of approval.

An 85 year old woman has been conned out of a three figure sum of money by a bogus caller to her home in Barrhead, Glasgow. The crook - complete with boiler suit and work van - knocked on her door pretending to be a workman who was following up on genuine work which had been carried out on the woman's home a few weeks earlier. After 'checking' the work, the man asked for a settlement fee to finalise the job - after handing her money over, the woman contacted the firm who originally carried out the work only to be told the man didn't work for them.

East Renfrewshire police have now launched an appeal to trace the man, asking anyone who may know the man or saw him in the area to come forward.

So far, not so feel good.

However, in response to the appeal, residents in the area have launched a gofundme appeal in the hope that their 'wee town will come together and try and help get at least some of it back to her'. While the police have not released the identity of the woman or the sum of money taken, the appeal has so far raised £180 in donations, with a target of £500.

If you would like to chip in, you can donate through the gofundme appeal page. It may also be worth checking in with vulnerable friends and family to make sure they're aware of doorstep crime and the steps they can take to stop it. No one should have to feel unsafe in their own home - hopefully this appeal will help the wee woman in Barrhead know there are people looking out for her.

Cupcake Masterclass

I definitely have more experience eating cupcakes than decorating them. I wish I could create beautiful little works of edible art, but any time I try to decorate a cake it turns out like one of those terrible (but hilarious) Pinterest 'Nailed It' experiments

That didn't stop me from agreeing immediately when my friend suggested we book ourselves into a Cupcake Masterclass hosted by Buttercup though. 'Sure, my cupcakes might be the worst in the class', I thought, 'but I still get to spend the evening drinking tea and eating cake'. Even the bruised artist in me couldn't resist that invitation.

Feel Good Friday #32

Norwood Thomas was a 21 year old paratrooper when he met 17 year old Joyce Morris in London shortly before D-Day. They dated for a few months before he was suddenly dispatched to fight in the Battle of Normandy. After the war Norwood went home to America, where the sweethearts kept in touch by letter. Norwood even plucked up the courage to ask Joyce to move to America and be his wife - but somehow Joyce misunderstood his letter and thought he was marrying someone else. She stopped writing to him.

A lifetime has intervened since then, with both Norwood and Joyce marrying other people, settling down and having children. But, even after 70 years, Joyce, now divorced from her husband, didn't forget about her American paratrooper, and last year asked one of her children to help her find Norwood online. After discovering his name in an article about D-Day in a Virginia newspaper, Joyce got in touch and they spoke on Skype, with the help of their children.

When The Virginian-Pilot heard about their story, they launched a campaign to help send Norwood from Virginia to Australia, where Joyce now lives. Donations poured in from the public and Air New Zealand donated first class airfares for Norwood and Steve, his son and carer. Before setting off on the 10,500 mile trip, Norwood, whose wife passed away over a decade ago, told the paper 'I'd rather die travelling to Australia than live sitting around at home wondering 'what if?''.

When the pair were finally reunited, hours and decades later, they hugged and laughed. Norwood said of their reunion 'This is about the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me', with Joyce adding 'We're going to have a wonderful fortnight'.

'I have no idea if there'll still be romantic feelings', confessed Norwood, 'But at the very least, I'll get to spend time with an old friend. Just sitting and reminiscing will be wonderful.'

Image source.

Bloc Wars - Street Food Battle

The eagle-eyed among you who read my Veganuary posts may have spotted a photograph of a little glass jar of chocolate mousse. What you won't have known is that it was actually rum-infused chocolate mousse with chia seeds and agave nectar - as mouth-watering as it sounds and just one of the courses at the fantastic Bloc Wars - Street Food Battle event.

You might have heard of Glasgow bar Bloc+ before because of their crazy-good menu, including the now infamous 'Not Dog'. With a menu chock-a-block full of tasty, cheap and creative vegetarian and vegan options, I'm already a regular for after-work dinner and drinks, so I didn't need my arm twisted to book a space when they announced a vegan round of Bloc Wars. The event challenged two chefs to create a three course vegan feast, with each round rated by the public and the triumphant chef crowned the winner (and given the day off, according to the barman when I asked what they won).

The first round kicked off in the last weekend of January with a fantastic menu revealed by the Mad Chef. He started with tofu in panko bread crumbs topped with a spiced mint and orange chutney. If I hadn't already been won over to tofu since starting Veganuary, this starter would have done it for me: crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside, with a fiery punch of chutney dolloped on top. While tofu can have a bad reputation as being boring, the Mad Chef proves that if your tofu meal is bland then chances are you're cooking it wrong.

I feel as though there should be a drum-roll before the next course, because it was the phenomenal black bean ramen burger: this stands out as one of the most creative meals I've ever eaten (and, trust me, as a vegetarian I've experimented with some weird food). This squidgy black bean burger was slathered in soft vegan cheese and hugged by impressive crunchy noodle buns. I was a little perplexed at first - 'Are those noodles? Are they cooked?!' - but I soon gave in to the taste sensation of spicy and savoury flavours.

The meal was perfectly finished off by the aforementioned pot of chocolate mousse: rich and boozy, this little dessert served up layers of delicious flavours, from the white chocolate sprinkled on top to the tiny nutty explosions of chia seeds mixed through the chocolate. Decadent without being overwhelming, it was a perfect finish to the experimental and unforgettable flavours of Round 1.


The second round was served up by Chef Sue last weekend, starting with polenta fries and chipotle mayo. I'd never eaten polenta before so wasn't sure what to expect, but these fries were crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and were a satisfying alternative to regular fries without tasting 'too healthy'. If you're not a dip person then you might not understand my delight at the chipotle mayo, but as someone with something of a love affair with tomato ketchup, sour cream and onion dipping sauce, sweet chilli mayo and smoky BBQ sauce (and pretty much anything else I can dollop on top of my chips), this chipotle mayo was a revelation to add to my obsession (and fridge). Creamy with a feisty kick, I could have eaten this straight from the pot when I ran out of fries (but managed to resist - just).

Next up was the jalapeno and ginger noodle bowl. This generous portion of fine noodles was heaped with peppers, kale and sliced carrot, but don't let it's unassuming and healthy appearance fool you - packed with a hot and spicy flavour, I was gulping down my pear cider between mouthfuls to stave off the face sweats. An unusual and interesting dish, the noodle bowl was a brilliant alternative to the usual pub grub fare.

Chef Sue finished off Round 2 with this incredible chocolate hazelnut cheesecake with caramel sauce and raspberries. Even looking at this photograph is enough to set my taste buds tingling - creamy and nutty, this little slice of heaven was the perfect indulgence for someone who always reaches for the nutty chocolates in the tub first (and can't be trusted around a box of Ferrero Rocher). The rich caramel sauce and tang of raspberries complimented the chocolate flavours perfectly.

Bloc Wars - Street Food Battle was a fantastic event and I'm so glad I went along for both weekends. Proving that vegan food doesn't have to be boring (and putting to shame the restaurants which don't offer any vegan options), Bloc+ has created an exciting array of dishes perfect for anyone who wants to try something new, whether you're a vegan or not. I hope to see some of these meals pop up on the permanent menu soon.

Oh, and, by the way, it was a close fight, but Bloc+ announced the Mad Chef as the winner earlier this week!

Seven things missing from the Harry Potter films

Happy Harry Potter Book Night! To celebrate J. K. Rowling's wonderful series, Harry Potter themed parties and events will be held up and down the country today. I've lost count of the number of times I've read my Harry Potter books, but their cracked spines and yellowed pages testify to how often they've been pored over throughout the years. However, I have to admit that I've watched the films even more than I've read the books - while starting the first of seven books can seem a daunting task, it's easy to dip in and out of the films more regularly. I hate to think how many hours I've lost after thinking 'I'll just watch one' then getting sucked into watching the entire box set. As any bookworm will testify, however, the book is always better than the film and, while I still bloody love the films, that is definitely true of Harry Potter. With the spirit of Harry Potter Book Night in mind, I've shared my seven favourite details which didn't make it from the page to the screen.

'Luna had decorated her bedroom ceiling with five beautifully painted faces: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville. They were not moving as the portraits at Hogwarts moved, but there was a certain magic about them all the same: Harry thought they breathed. What appeared to be fine golden chains wove around the pictures, linking them together, but after examining them for a minute or so, Harry realized that the chains were actually one word, repeated a thousand times in golden ink: friends... friends... friends... '

When Harry, Ron and Hermione visit Xenophilius Lovegood in the final film, they discover this beautiful artwork painted on the ceiling of Luna's bedroom. A touching insight into a more personal side of Luna, I'm always disappointed when I watch the Deathly Hallows and this scene is missing. As well as being a moving moment, the suspense built in this chapter isn't matched on screen - I still remember reading this for the first time and feeling physically anxious as the characters begin to realise Luna's bedroom has been untouched for weeks and Xenophilius is lying to them to deliberately keep them in his house until the Death Eaters arrive.
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