December 2017 Highlights

Winter Berries - Emma's Picture Postcards

Christmas cheer at work

The start of December marked my first anniversary at my current workplace, and after making it out the other side of my job’s tough season (Aug-Oct), I really noticed the change as everyone shifted down a gear ready for Christmas.  There were cards from colleagues, a constant supply of chocolates in the kitchen, a perfect Secret Santa present, a fun party and a cozy carol concert, and everyone just seemed… cheery!

Time off and a quiet festive season

On the other hand, after that hard couple of months combined with my first five months of full-time work in two years, I was really ready for the Christmas holidays.  James and I stayed home in Aberdeen this Christmas, and I didn’t talk to anyone except him for an entire week.  It was absolute bliss 🙂  We went to visit his family in Northern Ireland for New Year’s Eve and continued the theme – lots of food, drink and card games by the fire.  Their old cantankerous cat was being astonishingly friendly, and since it was quite windy even the peacocks kept quiet so we could get a lie in 🙂

Hanging out with family Rooftops

Between Christmas and New Year I went to visit Sarah, Alice, who was as enchanting as a one-month-old can be, and Matilda, who blows my mind every time I see her with how much vocabulary and information she’s gained.  Sarah’s kids are the first ones I’ve really spent time with on a regular basis, and it’s amazing to see how quickly humans become people.  I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a weird alien robot, haha.  Full marks to Sarah also for still trusting me to hold Alice despite me answering the question of whether I was confident to do so with ‘Let’s give it a bash’ >.<

The Crown

Little-known fact about me: I am quite fascinated with the royal family.  The Crown is exactly my cup of tea and I love the acting and the cinematography and how subtle it is.  The series are short but I savoured every moment of the new episodes.

More family time, and Up

My parents came for a flying visit a week before Christmas to ‘do the Santa run’ as my mum puts it.  They’d been up for a longer and busier visit in October when we had a proper catch-up, went out to eat and showed Dad the house updates that we’d made since his last visit.  Since that was quite recent and had ticked all the boxes, this visit felt really relaxed.  We stayed home, James cooked us a tasty roast lamb dinner, and then when Mum got distracted mid-sentence and I said ‘Squirrel!’ and was met with blank faces, I insisted on watching Up.  It’s one of my favourites and it felt nice and nostalgic to watch a Disney film together 🙂

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year…  As I’ve been dithering over this post for a few weeks now I’m about to launch into January’s highlights, so I’ll be back with those very soon!

November 2017 Highlights

Things have been awfully quiet around here this year.  Instagram, which links to my blog, suddenly started suggesting I follow everyone I’ve ever been friends with on Facebook.  I had intentionally kept the two separate, using different email addresses etc, and when real-life acquaintances started popping up in my online world, I got a bit of stage fright.  Then I increased my hours at work (to 4 days a week in April and 5 days in August) and it became harder to find the time to blog, and the backlog of overdue and half-written posts became overwhelming.

I thought a good way of getting myself back into the swing of things would be to start doing regular highlights posts.  I really enjoy these on other blogs (Sophie’s weekly ’10 Favourites’ and Alex’s monthly ‘Great Escape’ round-ups to name but a couple) and I hope that committing to posting at least once a month is both feasible and will let me feel a bit more on top of things!

Paris, France - Emma's Picture Postcards


The first and best highlight of November happened the first weekend, which was my 30th birthday.  James and I went to Paris for just over 24 hours, and it was a magical autumnal trip.  On the Saturday evening we visited Sacre Coeur and had a delicious dinner of beef bourguignon nearby, and then on the Sunday we visited the Musee de l’Orangerie and walked along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower and then back to the Louvre and the Palais Royal.


It’s been a good month for my friendships.  We went for dinner at new favourite Byron with my best uni friends Andy, Emma and Pete.  Laura and I went for drinks and to support my colleague at an ice hockey match.  Doro and I caught up via a Whatsapp video call.  I booked a trip to Alicante in February with my year-abroad friends.  And I received exciting baby news which is not mine to share but made November feel extra special!

Autumn - Emma's Picture Postcards

Last of the Autumn Leaves

I’m very much a spring/summer kind of person, and autumn usually fills me with dread as the sun sets earlier and earlier.  This autumn has been quite mild though and the leaves have been absolutely spectacular – October was a blaze of orange and November was a vibrant red.


I quit the gym in March after they messed around with the timetable one too many times, and although I do miss the routine, company and fun of group exercise classes, I definitely don’t miss the monthly hit to my bank account, and I’m proud of myself for keeping a good exercise routine going on my own – particularly in November as the weather took a turn for the wintery.  I’ve been for a run almost every weekend, and when the weather really is too bad (snow, ice, very strong winds or an actual storm) then I’ve been using Les Mills On Demand, which lets me do the same classes I used to do at the gym, but to my own schedule, in my own home, and for £15/month rather than almost £40.  I was just doing Body Balance and Barre at first, but James got me the weights I’d been saving for for my birthday so I’ve now added Body Pump back into the mix too.

London Grammar

I adored London Grammar’s first album and was delighted when they snuck out a new song on 1st January.  I decided to wait for the deluxe edition before I bought the second album, but forgot to actually do so until I got an Amazon voucher for my birthday, so I’ve spent the month immersed.  I do feel it’s missing a more upbeat track the likes of ‘When We Were Young’, but ‘Here’s to the Liars’ is so beautiful it made me shed a little tear the first time I heard the Kolsch remix on the radio, and then again when I heard the original on the album!

Mental Health Progress

Another huge highlight of this month was realising how far I’ve come in improving my mental health.  I might go into this in more depth at some point, but for now I’ll just say that I started counselling in September, and if you feel like it would be in any way helpful to you I 100% recommend just going for it.  The biggest thing I’ve gotten out of it has actually been to give myself credit for the progress I’d already made on my own in trying to think rationally about my feelings and experiences and develop strategies to deal with them.  When I first started, the thought of there only being ten sessions made me feel really panicked, but I have two left now and feel pretty calm.

How was your November?

Johnston Gardens and Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen

Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

I’ve been getting back into running recently, and to keep things a little more interesting I’ve abandoned my usual local routes, in favour of exploring different areas of the city.

For my first adventure, I parked up on Springfield Road and headed for Johnston Gardens.  I’ve driven along Springfield Road hundreds of times and seen the signposts for the Gardens, and I’d heard them mentioned as a favourite location for wedding photos, but had never taken the time to actually visit.

Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

I’m glad I finally did, because they’re lovely.  I think I went slightly after the prime time to visit, because the flowers were getting a little past it, but it’s a beautiful place and very peaceful.  It’s a small area, nestled in a hollow and only accessible by foot, which all gives a very ‘Secret Garden’ feel.  It had rained heavily about ten minutes before, but the gardens were still quite busy – along with me, there were a couple of families, a dog walker and a few pairs of teenagers – and the fresh raindrops just made the flowers all the prettier.

Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Johnston Gardens, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

After a nice wander around all the little paths in Johnston Gardens, I headed back in the direction of Hazlehead Park and started following a route marked out by wooden signposts.  It was mostly a good, clear route, although there were a couple of places where I came out on a side street and wasn’t entirely sure which way to turn, so I was glad I had my phone to double-check and get me back on the path.  I did also feel a little bit isolated at this point and paid more attention to my surroundings just to make sure I didn’t get a fright if someone ran up behind me.  Overall though, it was a pleasant run by a woodland stream, with birds singing – and on flat soil, which is always a bonus!

Johnston Gardens to Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Once I arrived out the other side of this path, I cut across the playing fields in the direction of Hazlehead Park.  I only remembered when it was too late that I find this part of running an absolute slog – I know running on grass is supposed to be better for you physically than running on pavement, but I definitely need something a bit more interesting to keep me motivated mentally!  Next time I’ll carry on around the road, which joins up with the main pathway through the park.

Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hazlehead was its usual gorgeous self, and I stopped to take some photos before heading back to my car through the nearby residential area.  This was when the imaginary house hunting started – that wide, open street is a luxury in itself and how cute is the house with the Hobbiton-style door?

Hazlehead, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hazlehead, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards


Filthy Gorgeous – restaurant review

Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

It’s not often I look at a menu and immediately know – not only what I’m going to order, but also what else I’d like to try on my next few visits after that.  That’s exactly what happened though when newly opened Filthy Gorgeous invited me in for lunch.  Their aim is to do burgers and milkshakes right, but with some quirky extras that make them a little different from the average burger bar.

Moopocalypse Cow, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

To drink, I went for the Moopocalypse Cow milkshake – milk, chocolate ice cream, fudge sauce and chocolate brownie pieces.  It was delicious and almost a meal in itself.

Krabby Patty, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

For my burger, I chose the Krabby Patty – a soft-shelled crab with sriracha mayo, coriander, lime juice, lettuce and tomato.  It’s described on the menu as a ‘crab burger’ which made me think it would be crab meat, but it’s an actual entire crab!  I was really pleased with my choice and glad I got stuck in, because it was the perfect combination of textures and flavours.

Krabby Patty, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Sweet Potato Fries, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

The item on the menu that really caught everyone’s eye was the sweet potato fries with toasted marshmallows and bacon shrapnel.  We ordered a portion to share, along with some plain fries as back-up.  The verdict was positive on both, to the extent that we started scooping up marshmallow goo with the plain fries too 🙂

Dirty South, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Elsewhere at the table was the Dirty South – buttermilk fried chicken, chipotle mayo, honey nut Cheerios and BBQ sauce – which was a close second on my wishlist.  How good do those chunks of chicken look?!

Cheat Day, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Putting everything else to shame was the ridiculous Cheat Day – two beef burgers, fried chicken, pretzels, bacon shrapnel, Gorgeous sauce and Franks Buffalo sauce.

Popcorn Ice Cream, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

After eating my milkshake’s chocolate brownies and ice cream alongside my meal, I passed on dessert, but admired the popcorn ice cream (above) and the Dead Unicorn sundae (below) – Jack and chocolate ice cream, bitter cherry sorbet, candy floss, marshmallows, banana, sprinkles and a wafer cone.  Phew!

Dead Unicorn Sundae, Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Filthy Gorgeous’s aesthetics match the quirky menu, with wooden tables and metallic grey walls contrasting against floral wallpaper and a fancy chandelier.  It’s well-lit and they give you plates to eat from, both of which are an improvement on its predecessor in this location, which in my opinion took that little step from hipster into impractical 😉  Also on offer are beers, wines, cocktails, a photo booth and a set of Cards Against Humanity if you feel like making a night of it after all that sugar!

Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Filthy Gorgeous is on Netherkirkgate, and is available via Deliveroo.

Filthy Gorgeous, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Filthy Gorgeous invited me for lunch in exchange for a fair review.  Images, text and opinions are my own.

2017 Bucket List

2017 (Diary from Asda) - Emma's Picture Postcards

I wrote a wordy review last week of my general experiences of 2016 and intentions for 2017, but here’s more of a precise look back at what I fancied doing last year and forward to my plans for this year.  I’ve never really been a New Year’s Resolutions kind of girl, but I couldn’t function without my daily to-do list and I enjoy expanding that to a longer term, no pressure list of fun things I’d like to do.

The 2016 Bucket List (full post here)

What I did that was on the list:

– Went to Skye and Eilean Donan Castle.  These were everything I’d dreamed, and a lovely long-weekend trip.

– Trained for and ran Race for Life in June.  Not only that, but I actually kept it up and then ran the Dandara 5k in September, too.  A bit more on this below, but I really enjoyed running more frequently.  I must admit, I’m a fair weather runner, but I did get out there as soon as spring started to show its face in 2016 and am keen to get back to it soon.

– Did some decorating.  I did take pictures as promised, but I think I was having camera troubles at the time and they’re all fuzzy except for this one, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that we did a good job 🙂  We each have our own little home office in this house and each one is suited to our own tastes now so we’re contented little bees!

Emma's Picture Postcards

Extra things I did:

– became self-employed and started two new jobs.  After a few fiascos and with the offshore industry looking less and less of a wise place to be, I was keen, verging on desperate, to get a job with either the NHS or one of the local universities or councils.  Meanwhile, I decided to see if I could turn my hand to transcription and started freelancing for a company based in London.  As it turns out, I absolutely love it!  I then did find a part-time job at one of the unis, so I’m now splitting my time between the two.  At risk of jinxing it, I’m finding it an absolutely perfect balance.  Both jobs are interesting but in different ways and have their own challenges and rewards.  I find three days in the office the perfect amount of social interaction, while the remaining four days I can set my own schedule of when I want to work, sleep or do other things.  The harder I work at the freelance work, the more I earn, and on the other hand, while of course I’m conscientious in my office job, I can rest easy knowing that I have that secure income each month.

– got into some decent routines.  I got myself a Fitbit in the Black Friday sales in 2015, and realised that the end of the year is a good time for me to establish myself in a routine and feel a little bit rebellious for not doing it in January 😉  It’s helped motivate me to walk a lot more and I upped that into running in the warmer months, plus I’ve kept up my habit of going to at least one or two gym classes a week.  It also helped me work out what sleep routine works best for me, and I’ve realised I’m a real early bird.  I feel best when I’m in bed by 10 and up at 6 – this doesn’t always happen, but it’s the aim, and the difference in how I feel is enough to make sure I keep vaguely to that schedule, even if it does end up being an hour or two later that my sleep starts and finishes.  I’ve learned that I absolutely have to stick to 6-8 hours of sleep though, because if I get more than that, I feel awful and sluggish all day, and if I consistently get less, it’s a one-way ticket to a migraine.  I’ve also been tracking (and upping) my water intake and feel so much better for that too.

– as well as those health-related routines, I’ve gotten into a good routine for keeping myself organised.  I’ve always been a big fan of lists, and for a while now I’ve been writing a daily to-do list with absolutely everything I have to remember on it.  Often this includes everything right down to showering and eating lunch, because it’s not unheard of for 3pm to come and I suddenly realise the reason I’m so light-headed is that I haven’t eaten!  It felt a little bit daft at first, but it really works for me.  It also helped me when I was job-hunting to be able to quickly and easily look back to see what jobs I’d applied for, and to be able to tell James what I’d been up to when he came home from work.  It’s so easy for a well-meant “What did you do today?” to be taken the wrong way when you’re feeling sensitive and dependent!

The 2017 Bucket List

Things I didn’t get to in 2016 but am carrying forward to 2017:

– a trip up Cairngorm mountain on the funicular railway.  A vague plan is already in the works for this, so watch this space!

– Blair Drummond Safari Park

– Edinburgh Zoo

– the Kelpies

New items:

– Footdee – it’s absolutely ridiculous that I’ve lived in Aberdeen for eleven years and never been to one of its most picturesque locations.  Thankfully I righted this wrong the other day and you will soon see the photo evidence!

Footdee, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

– introduce James to my Kiwi friends.  One of my favourite people in the world is a young lady named Erin.  Long story short, she’s from New Zealand, we met in Germany, and she currently lives in the UK.  I’ve seen quite a bit of her and her husband over the last few years, but it’s never worked out for them to meet James – either he’s been away for work, or I’ve visited them while on father-daughter trips to London, etc.  It’s reached the point that there’s a running joke that James doesn’t exist, so I’m hoping to get them up for another visit this year and make the myth a reality.  I may even take them to Loch Ness to look for Nessie too 😉

– explore a new European city (Prague / Venice) or rediscover one I visited in my youth (Paris / Amsterdam / Budapest).  These are the current suggestions but we’ll see.  Europe is our oyster 🙂

– send (and make???) Christmas cards!  This one is non-negotiable, even if I have to start preparing in January 😀

– Last but most random: go to Clatt.  When my gran was a young mum (I’m not sure, but I believe when my dad’s eldest sister was a toddler, so before my dad was even a twinkle in her eye) she lived in a tiny village in Aberdeenshire called Clatt.   She’s always asking me if I’ve been yet, and I haven’t because honestly I think it probably is the definition of a one-horse town, but I actually looked it up the other day and it’s not as far away as I thought, so I’m going to take a little road trip some time soon and take some photos, just because it would tickle her.

What are your dreams for this year?


2017 - Emma's Picture Postcards

My blog feed last week included a lot of mentions of 2016 either being downright pants, or a variant of “actually, surprisingly decent, all things considered”. I had a lot of great highlights, but overall it was a pretty rough year for me personally.

A big hurdle was having to quit my job in July, with no new opportunity to go to, no firm idea of what I really wanted to do, and at a time when the employment market in Aberdeen was (is) dire. I have a bad habit of getting emotionally invested in my work, and considering that this particular job was in a very small business, working for people I had considered friends, it was difficult to give up on. I’ve also struggled with a variety of other issues this year, big and small, which have frustrated and upset me and which I’ve dwelled on to a point that I’ve realised is neither healthy nor normal. I’ve been proactive over the last couple of years about getting physically fit and strong, and I’ve decided it’s about time I applied the same approach to my mental health as well. Wish me luck 🙂

My rock throughout, though, has been my little family of three – me, James and Puss, that is – I didn’t pop out a child while your back was turned 😉  James and I have now been together for almost six years, and have had Puss for almost four and our house for three and a half.  The house has felt like home since the day we found it, but I feel like this is the year where we properly settled in and made it our own.  James also finished his PhD this year and got a long-term contract as a researcher in the same department and I’m so proud of him 🙂  I’m proud of our relationship too – I’ve been a pain in the ass at times but he’s been nothing but patient and supportive and kind and understanding, and I feel like we’ve come out of this year stronger and knowing each other better.

The other big positive from the past year that I intend to carry on into 2017 is that I made face-to-face time with friends a priority.  I can sometimes be a little rubbish at keeping in touch remotely, but I have always been a big fan of visiting people wherever they may be.  It can be an effort and an expense, but I’ve never once regretted spending that time and money to see them.  Plus, not only do I get to spend time in their lovely company, but I have an excuse to visit the place they’re in, usually with free accommodation!  In the past I’ve been to Iceland, Gran Canaria, all around Germany and even to New Zealand to see friends and they’re some of my favourite travel experiences.  Closer to home, Sarah and I have gotten into a nice routine of meeting up every few weeks, and I’ve seen my other Aberdeen friends a fair bit but need to up this a little next year.

Speaking of travel, though, 2016 was in theory a low-key travel year for me after big trips to the USA in 2015 and Iceland in 2014, and especially since I was without an income for a while!   I did get a surprising amount packed in though, which was lovely: James and I went to Skye in March, a family party in Dalgety Bay in April, York and Italy in August and Germany in October, plus I also went to London twice, Edinburgh two or three times and to my parents’ house in the Scottish Borders for Christmas.  Most of those were repeat visits but it was my first time to Skye, York and Tuscany, so for a quiet year, my wanderlust quota is quite happy!  In 2017, I’m off to Nottingham next week and we have a trip to Northern Ireland planned for late spring some time and Italy in August for a wedding.  We’re also hoping to head off for a city break or two somewhere in Europe – the list of potential destinations for this is as long as my arm so we might have to pick one out of a hat 🙂

As for blogging, it’s been a mixed year on that front too.  I went along to my first blogger meet-up in March, which feels like a lifetime ago.  Getting involved in the local blogging community has brought some lovely experiences and friendships and fun opportunities, but also occasional feelings of comparison and obligation that I’d pretty much managed to avoid previously.  I think that was helpful though, because I now have quite a firm idea of what my priorities and expectations are.  First and foremost, I’m here for my own enjoyment, because I like writing and taking photos and having people read and look at them, especially if they like them.  I would like to post more regularly and not worry about every post being the best it can possibly be.  I’m going to try to remember that I’m not trying to write something that’s helpful, but something that’s enjoyable and that maybe provokes a bit of thought or wanderlust.  I’m never going to be a daily blogger.  I said this time last year that once a week feels ideal, and I agree with that now.  Looking back at my stats, I posted half as many posts in 2016 as in 2015, which makes me sad, but I got twice as many views and visitors, which is nice.  Part of that is natural growth and me telling people the blog exists, and some is from casual social media promotion – again, I’m confident that I’m never going to be a social media guru, especially because I usually just don’t like Twitter, but I’m happy with my current level of dabbling.

Anyway, I’ve been writing this post for days so I’m going to go ahead and push ‘publish’.  Enough naval-gazing for now 🙂  Happy New Year and speak to you soon!

Italy, August 2016 – Florence

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hello! I mentioned in this post that I had found myself some freelance work, and I’ve now found a part-time office job to go alongside it. I’m finding it the perfect balance, and it’s such a weight off my shoulders to know I have a regular income again! And now that I have job-hunting off my plate, my brain is free to get some blog posts written! So bear with me through the next few posts as they’ll be somewhat unseasonal – but I reckon a break from Christmas gift guides can’t be a bad thing, right? 😉

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

This is the third and final post from our Italy trip – part 2 covers our accommodation in a small town in the Tuscan countryside, and part 1 was some tips (aka a rant) on using the local buses!

Our favourite thing to do in a new city is to just have a good wander and see what there is to see. We decided to skip going inside the Duomo, but it was the first landmark we headed for since it’s near the bus station and really stands out as the most visible and unique building.

Duomo, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Duomo, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Duomo, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Duomo, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

The Duomo is really stunning, but tricky to photograph as it’s just so huge!

We wandered on through Piazza della Signoria, which contains lots of grand old statues, the grand old Palazzo Vecchio… and a giant gold turtle, which Google tells me is a Jan Fabre exhibit. It was a little odd but kind of worked.

Pallazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Piazza della Signoria, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

By this point we had started to follow signs for Ponte Vecchio, and shops were getting more and more upmarket! The bridge itself is stacked full of expensive jewellers.

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

I love Ponte Vecchio’s unique hodgepodge of structures and shutters and colours, and again it really stands out from afar. The shops on the inside are flawlessly well-kept and clean, whereas the outside is a lot scruffier – I edited the photo above a fair bit to make the paint colours a bit brighter and the whole thing less dirty-looking.  But I guess if they were constantly cleaning or painting it, it would always be covered in scaffolding and safety nets, so I’ll take a bit of scruffy charm 🙂

City Walls, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

City Walls, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

From Ponte Vecchio we made our way through the city walls and up the (oh-my-gosh-so-very-relentless) hill to Piazzale Michelangelo. These are the only close-up photos I managed to get of the walls as this was the only time we were near them on foot, but they surround the whole city centre. It was quite fun zooming along the side of them on the bus and they add another layer of character to the city.

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

This quiet little public rose garden is halfway up the steps, and provides a welcome break from the climb and also from the crowds at the main sights.

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Piazzale Michelangelo is a big open square, containing a replica of the Statue of David (the original is in an art gallery to protect it from damage) and providing beautiful views of the city.

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Florence, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

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Orchid Aberdeen Winter Cocktails Menu 2016

Orchid Aberdeen Winter Cocktail Menu - Emma's Picture Postcards

Orchid has been one of my favourite bars since it opened in 2009, and is one of the few nightlife locations to have lasted the test of time in Aberdeen, thanks to delicious cocktails and knowledgeable and friendly staff. Every few months they change up their cocktail menu, and recently I was invited along to a bloggers and press evening to take a look at their new winter menu.

Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

The concept behind Orchid’s 2016 Winter Menu is to share a bit of love with their favourite places around the city, with each drink inspired by a different location (e.g. Footdee, the beach, etc). You’ll receive a badge with your drink, and the idea is that you can take yourself on an alcoholic treasure hunt and visit all eight locations wearing the different badges – provide photographic evidence and they’ll feature your name on next season’s menu 🙂

Religious Robbery, Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

On to the drinks! First up was the Religious Robbery, which was my favourite of the new offerings. It’s a cross between a gin martini and a pina colada, made with Porter’s gin, spiced pineapple syrup, coconut juice and Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters. It was so refreshing – the sort of cocktail you could happily knock back like juice and then realise your mistake when you stand up and feel a little dizzy 😉

You might notice glasses of water lurking in the background of my photos. When you arrive at Orchid and sit at a table, they will always bring you a glass of water as standard. This is apparently common practice in London, but isn’t (or certainly wasn’t) in these parts. As someone who’s grown a little older and wiser since her uni days, I’m now a prolific water drinker on a night out, and really appreciate not having to queue at the bar for it!

Honey Rider, Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

The second new drink was the Honey Rider, named after the Bond girl of the same name. It’s an Old Fashioned, made with mango rum, grapefruit oleo saccharum and Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Orinoco Bitters. It’s really strong, and was given the seal of approval by our group’s Old Fashioned drinker, Georgie, who described it as “like a punch in the mouth – that’s a good thing!” As you can probably tell from the rest of this post, I prefer my alcohol to be a bit more subtle, so I wasn’t the biggest fan of this one.

Beerlini, Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

The final new drink we tried was the Beerlini – a bellini with beer instead of the usual Prosecco – made with grapefruit cordial, salted Campari and lager. I liked the concept of this – basically a gateway to beer for cocktail drinkers and vice versa – and it’s SO PRETTY, but unfortunately I don’t like grapefruit and it was just too sour for me. If you do like grapefruit, however, I recommend you give this one a try.

Pink Orchid, Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

After sampling all the new winter offerings with Nick, we joined Matthew at the bar for a fun mixology class. He showed us how to make a classic daiquiri and let us loose on the bar to serve up Orchid’s signature cocktail, the Pink Orchid. I think this beauty (made with vanilla vodka, raspberry liqueur, cranberry juice, lime juice, sugar syrup and egg white) was the unanimous favourite of everyone in attendance, and it’s easy to see why it’s the one cocktail that’s always on the menu.

Peachy Queen, Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Matthew then asked us to fire some ingredient suggestions at him to create our own cocktail. We came up with the Peachy Queen, containing peach, coconut and strawberry flavours with a base of rum and lime juice, and I have to say we outdid ourselves. It was really tasty, and for our efforts we won best cocktail and received a mini bottle of Porter’s gin.

Gin Tasting, Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Our final stop of the evening was a gin tasting session with Porter’s. Porter’s started out as a fun side-project by some of Orchid’s staff, and was eventually launched as a proper brand last December. Their aim was to create a gin for gin drinkers, and the little bottle I won has been a welcome addition to an occasional wee gin and lemonade in my house 😉

Orchid, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

To finish up, after all those drinks it was time for some food, and we were served up a few of Orchid’s beautiful charcuterie boards. If you can take your eyes off them, take a look at the wall behind – it’s covered in cocktail shakers. Just another of the little features that lend this bar a lovely aesthetic and make it a really pleasant place to spend an evening.

Orchid Aberdeen Winter Cocktail Menu 2016 - Emma's Picture Postcards

I was invited to attend Orchid’s menu preview in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Happy Things, October 2016

Autumn Leaves - Emma's Picture Postcards

I always enjoy reading people’s collections of little positive things but it’s been ages since I last wrote one! Here are a few things making me smile:

  1. My new job, self-employment and my first big tax refund! Since quitting my last job I’ve been (and still am) looking for a new, traditional, 9-to-5 office job. Aberdeen is full of unemployed, overqualified people at the moment though and it’s a bit of a struggle. In the meantime, I’ve started working as a freelance audio typist, and I absolutely love it. The pay isn’t great (you get paid for each minute of audio you transcribe, rather than how long it takes you, so with practice I’ll start earning more per hour) but it’s enjoyable, gives me at least a little income, means I won’t have a big gap in my CV, and gives me another skill and experience which will hopefully be useful for future jobs. I also received a great big tax refund since my tax had been calculated on the assumption I’d continue in my old job for the rest of the financial year – I knew it would be coming, but it still felt like an amazing bonus when it did!
    Apple and Bramble Pie - Emma's Picture Postcards
  2. Baking and cooking! James is the one with the skills (enthusiasm, patience, imagination) in our kitchen, and normally does most (all) of the cooking. Recently I’ve been trying to give him a break and take a week off his plate (I can’t think of a less punny way to say that, haha) every 3-4 weeks. Usually I rustle up a few of his or my mum’s regulars and try one new thing that I’ve half dreamed up myself and then looked up on BBC Good Food for rough guidance on quantities and measurements. Last week I made what I’d imagined as a stew/casserole, but decided to turn into a really delicious pasta sauce, with tomatoes, sausage, chorizo and peppers, and my mouth is watering just at the thought of it. While it was simmering away, I made an apple and bramble pie as my October effort for Bumpkin Betty’s Baking Club. I used this Hairy Bikers’ recipe, but because we only have a teeny little flan tin, I halved the ingredients. This didn’t leave me enough pastry for the lid and I’d pretty much run out of flour, but with the help of the internet again (what on earth did we do before Google?) I found this open-top apple pie recipe, and covered mine with a half-lattice, half-crumble concoction. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to hover around, peeking through the door to see how it was getting on, because by this stage I had no idea how long I needed to bake it! And the result? *Drum roll*… it turned out perfect. Yay! To date, I am 3 for 3 and the world’s luckiest baker.
    Dornstetten, Germany - Emma's Picture Postcards
  3. A quick trip to the Black Forest, for the wedding of my favourite German! We started out as exchange students when we were 15, and were lucky enough to actually like each other and stay in regular contact afterwards! We’ve visited each other every couple of years since then, and really feel like family now. It was wonderful to be there for her wedding, to be back in her home village, to spend some quality time with her family and friends, and to introduce James to a place that’s been a big part of my life.
    Stranger Things Halloween Party - Emma's Picture Postcards
  4. A wonderful week in London. I’ll write a full post soon, but the original premise was for Dad and I to go to another NFL game. The friends I’d planned to stay with then invited me to a Stranger Things themed Halloween party the following weekend, so I decided to stay a week! I really enjoyed both events, the chance to catch up with London- and Nottingham-based friends, and the opportunity to spend a whole week with my Kiwi friends. There’s nothing like knowing your friends will eventually return to the literal opposite end of the Earth to make you appreciate their current, relatively convenient home!

Happy Halloween! Let me know your October highlights 🙂

Italy, August 2016: San Casciano, Tuscany

San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Tuscany, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Italy is one of my favourite destinations. Before this trip to Tuscany, I had been to Rome and Turin, and there are so many places still on my list. This time around, we went to the Florence region and stayed in a villa recommended to us by James’s boss, in a village called – deep breath – San Casciano in Val di Pesa. San Casciano is (in theory) conveniently located a half hour’s drive out of Florence, and felt to me like the epitome of Tuscany. Rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards, little churches with tall, thin bell towers, and an abundance of gelaterias, cafes and pizzerias with relaxed outdoor seating areas.

San Casciano, Tuscany, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

We stayed at Il Visciolo, a farmhouse-style villa that manages to feel rustic and traditional, while still having all the mod-cons we needed (so, wifi, lights and a fridge then, haha, but also automatic sun awnings and solar outdoor lighting, which were really nice to have).

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture PostcardsIl Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

The whole building pictured above is the rental property, and it would comfortably sleep four. As well as the master bedroom, there’s another double bed on a mezzanine level in the study, which sounds like it might be warm, but I think it would be ok. The window is covered over by a brickwork lattice (you can see it in the external photo above) which keeps the room cool and allows you to see out without letting anyone see in – the bathroom is the same. The thick walls and tiled floors also keep the house nice and cool. In any case, the amount of space was a luxury for just the two of us, and we spent a lot of time relaxing and reading, and enjoying the peace and quiet and beautiful views:

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

The owners are extremely helpful for anything you might need, and welcomed us with some fruit, bruscetta served with their own home-grown olive oil, and a bottle of Chianti. We had some additional friendly visitors in the form of their cats, and a praying mantis who came to hang out one evening!

Il Visciolo, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Praying Mantis, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Unfortunately, Mr Mantis wasn’t the only insect to visit us, and I took a severe reaction to mosquito bites – scroll quickly past if you’re squeamish! Even more unfortunately, since James didn’t seem to have been bitten at all, we assumed that I was allergic to the washing powder used on the bedsheets, and didn’t use the mosquito net provided. Rookie mistake. This was the most dramatic allergic reaction I’ve ever had though, so I definitely learned my lesson and will be well-armed with anti-histamine tablets in future!

Mosquito Bites, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Mosquito Bites, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

San Casciano, Tuscany, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Piazza della Repubblica, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Our first night in San Casciano coincided with the village’s Saint Day celebrations, with a market on Piazza della Repubblica, fireworks launched in the valley below and visible from the piazza’s terrace, and live music in Piazza Cavour. As an almost-Bonfire-Night baby (I was born 4th Nov), I’ve always adored fireworks, so it was a lovely way to start the trip, especially if we pretended they were celebrating our arrival 😉

Pizzeria La Carbonaia, San Casciano, Italy - Emma's Picture Postcards

Otherwise, our time in the village was spent sampling the local cuisine – tough job, but someone’s got to do it 😉 We started off at Pizzeria La Carbonaia, where I had the Carbonaia pizza (above), topped with sausage meat and, at a guess, about ten cloves’ worth of garlic. It was so delicious that we bookended our trip with dinner there on the first and last nights of our trip, and I had the same pizza the second time too! We also sampled, at Nello, the local speciality of a 1kg T-bone steak – so, half a cow, basically – at a casual €45/kg, which is the minimum portion size. We expected to have major meat sweats and aching jaws and stomachs after sharing one, but actually it was beautifully tender and melt-in-the-mouth, and we managed it fine between two with some fried potatoes on the side. If you’re travelling in a larger group though, I’d definitely recommend one between three or four of you! We also went for lunch at Cinque di Vino (fancier and a little theatrical!) and dinner at the more down-to-earth Trattoria Cantinetta del Nonno, where we had simple but tasty pasta starters and meaty mains. All washed down with local Chianti wine, served in adorable little glass jugs.

Emma's Picture Postcards

Back soon with photos of Florence 🙂

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