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 and (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.

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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A Weekend Video and Mum’s Pavlova Recipe

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Sarah and Louise recently started a new link-up called This Little Big Life, celebrating the weekend. I decided to join in with a video capturing some of last weekend’s little moments. It was a fairly standard weekend for me – I also went to the gym twice as usual, but no-one needs to see that 😉

Featured:

  1. a quick and breezy walk by the beach
  2. playing hide-and-seek with Lucy
  3. attempting to give Lucy a treat and somehow managing to bounce it under the bathroom door
  4. mmm bacon
  5. Lucy being offended by a fly
  6. Formula 1
  7. pavlova prep
  8. my favourite dinner (James’s lime and coriander chicken)
  9. snoozy cuddles
  10. failing to cut up a mango
  11. pavlova end result
  12. sparrow feeding frenzy
  13. the largest carrot in the land
  14. and more cuddles (and yes those are Christmas pyjamas, what of it 😛 )

This month’s theme for the Bumpkin Betty Baking Club was “free from”, so I decided it was finally time to take up my mum’s mantle and have a go at making her famous (and gluten-free) pavlova. This is such a family favourite that I think if Mum turned up to a family party without it, she’d probably not be invited in 😉 The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients: 3 egg whites, 175g caster sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, 1 level teaspoon corn flour, plus cream and fruit to go on top.

Method:

– Preheat your oven to 150C.

– Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and form small peaks. You should pretty much be able to turn the bowl upside down without them falling out! I really recommend getting yourself a hand-held electric whisk – we have one similar to this which doubles as a blender and it saves so much time and effort!

– Gradually whisk in the sugar.

– Whisk in the rest of the ingredients.

– Draw a circle on a sheet of greaseproof paper (draw around a dinner plate). Place the paper on a baking tray and scoop your mixture out of the bowl and onto the circle. It should be a little bit thicker round the edge.

– Bake for 1 hour. Keep an eye on it, especially if you have a fan oven – if it starts to brown, you may want to pop some foil over the top.

– Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova inside to cool [I’m not sure if Mum actually does this – I’m sure she’ll tell us in the comments – but as I was about to remove it, I suddenly thought “wait!” and googled].

– Top with whipped cream and fruit of your choice. I went for mango and kiwi this time for a summery tropical topping, but strawberries and/or raspberries are a more traditional choice – whatever takes your fancy!

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Giraffe restaurant review

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

bowl for the soul

Recently Giraffe invited a few Aberdeen bloggers along to sample their new menu. I had only been to Giraffe once before, with my dad in London, but I loved it then and was keen to try out their Aberdeen branch, located in Union Square shopping centre.

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Giraffe’s ethos is to be a friendly place that showcases food and music from around the world. The restaurant is really nicely decorated, with lots of wood and cozy lighting (including fairy lights!), painted brickwork, and a choice of tables or raised booths, with a few of the tables looking out onto the shopping centre. Their dishes tend to include a lot of fresh vegetables and a tasty mixture of flavours, and their smoothie and cocktail menus are not to be missed!

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

I went for a mango mule cocktail, Goan prawn curry and passion fruit cheesecake, and they were all delicious. The curry was just the right level of spicy for me (and gorgeous to look at!) and the cheesecake ticked all the boxes on my extensive cheesecake checklist: not too sweet, neither too creamy nor too dense, enough biscuit base but not too much, etc 😉

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Goan king prawn curry

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

passion fruit cheesecake

Some of the other dishes around the table looked great too, including the “bowl for the soul” (pictured at the top of this post), the harissa chicken burger (below) and the churros, which didn’t last long enough for me to catch a photo! Churros aren’t really my cup of tea but were a very popular choice, and looked very cinnamonny (that’s a word).

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

harissa chicken burger

The blogger meet was such a fun evening and I really enjoyed chatting with Karen, Hannah, Sarah, Laura, Laura and Eni (Amey, Anastasia, Denise, Jo, Katherine, Lauren, Mairi and Sarah were also there but at the other end of the table!) We were well looked after and were each given a goodie bag, which included a £5 discount voucher for another meal. So James and I decided to treat ourselves to a meal out the following week.

Giraffe, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

mango mama and espresso martini

This time I tried the espresso martini and tuk-tuk duck stir fry. I enjoyed the martini, and the stir fry was SO GOOD. I must have said so about 10 times while eating it. Tender duck, crunchy veg, doughy noodles and yummy chilli jam. SO GOOD.

*First meal provided by Giraffe in exchange for an honest review. Second meal paid for ourselves minus a £5 voucher. Opinions, text and photos are my own.

Isle of Skye, March 2016 – Day 3: Fairy Pools

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

After our hike up Storr on day 2, I was relieved that the other place I’d hoped to visit, the fairy pools, was a much easier walk!

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

The Fairy Pools are a succession of small pools and waterfalls, created by a stream coming down off the Cuillin mountains. The water is bright blue and beautifully clear, and it’s easy to see where the name comes from as the place feels very magical.

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Although the walk is a lot less steep than the one at Old Man of Storr, you still have to be nimble enough to navigate the stepping stones above. We saw a lovely little Westie carefully hopping his way across, with lots of encouragement from his owners 🙂

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

When we arrived back at the car, we discovered that it had made a friend…

Emma's Picture Postcards

We spotted this gorgeous little chaffinch from about 10 metres away and inched slowly closer, but he was completely relaxed and only flew away when he was finished admiring his reflection 🙂

Emma's Picture Postcards

On the way back to Kyleakin we stopped in at Cafe Sia in Broadford. They take pride in using local ingredients, hand-roast their own coffee beans and grind them to order, and have a traditional wood-fired pizza oven. I tried out the Traditional Italian pizza (mozzarella, basil oil and tomato) and a flat white, and both were delicious. With his pizza, James tried another tasty local ale (from Plockton Brewery), which was served in a frozen glass! Yum. Despite grinding the coffee beans to order meaning it took a while to prepare each one, the cafe was doing a roaring trade in take-away orders as well as people having a relaxed sit-down lunch, so I think that speaks for the quality!

Cafe Sia, Broadford, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Full up on our pizzas, we relaxed at the hotel for a while, before realising it was 7.30pm, on a Sunday, in the Highlands, in the winter season. Good luck finding somewhere open for dinner! Google informed us that the fish and chip shop in Kyle of Lochalsh was open until 8pm, so we jumped in the car and zoomed across, realising when we reached the village that we’d forgotten to take a note of where exactly the chippy was. We ended up driving past the Kyle Chinese Takeaway (on Main Street) and decided that would do nicely! Our meals were decent but apparently forgettable – I think we had chilli chicken – but the highlight was the ribs, which were fantastic.

Fairy Pools, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

And that was our weekend complete! We had such a lovely stay – Skye is a very peaceful and refreshing place. I’d recommend everywhere we visited, but most especially our accommodation, walks and lunch spots. Here are the links to Day 1 and Day 2 in case you missed them 🙂

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Isle of Skye, March 2016 – Day 2: Old Man of Storr

Isle of Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

After a tasty breakfast of poached egg, bacon and – er – vegetarian sausage, because that’s how I roll, we set off up the island to tackle the walk up to the Old Man of Storr.

Storr, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

The Storr hill is part of the Trotternish ridge, and includes a rocky cliff-face looking out across the water to nearby islands Rona and Raasay, as well as a tall rock formation that stands slightly apart and is visible from afar, known as the Old Man.

Old Man of Storr, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

The route is well-marked, with a gravel track winding its way up the hill, giving way to a smaller dirt path near the top, with some large rocks acting as steps in places. A word of warning though, it’s very steep! Even with a few stops to drink some water, I got pretty out of breath, and I’m fitter than James, who managed to puff “I lead a sedentary life!” before returning his concentration to putting one foot in front of the other 😀 The tides turned on the way back down though and he got to be the patient one, as I took tiny steps and clung on to him to avoid sliding on the gravel. It was all worth it though, as the sea breeze certainly blew away the cobwebs, and we had a clear day granting us a stunning view.

Storr, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Storr, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Storr, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Storr, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

After tumbling our way back to the car park, we drove into Portree for a well-deserved late lunch at Cafe Arriba. This lovely, cheerful little place changes its menu regularly, with specials from around the world. It was American Diner day when we were there, so James had a burger while I went for the mac ‘n’ cheese, both with bacon on top! The portions were generous and everything was delicious. James also sampled another Isle of Skye Brewing Co. ale – he made his way through their range during our stay (all in the name of research, of course) and declared them all worthy of praise 😉

Cafe Arriba, Portree, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Cafe Arriba, Portree, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Cafe Arriba, Portree, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

After a wee wander around Portree, we headed back to the hotel to rest our weary legs, then went for dinner at Taste of India. Because the standard is so high at our regular Indian restaurant (Jewel in the Crown in Aberdeen), we keep our expectations low when eating elsewhere, especially in the countryside where there might be less competition, but we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food at Taste of India. The main criticism on Tripadvisor seems to be that the service isn’t the best, and I can understand that complaint although we weren’t hugely fazed ourselves. There were only two staff members in the customer area of the restaurant, covering the tables, bar and take-away orders, with occasional help serving from a member of the kitchen team. They were very efficient and the waitress was pleasant, but the waiter seemed to be one of those people who needs to be in a mood to get stuff done. He stomped about and was quite abrupt, and spent a few minutes scowling in our direction while correcting our bill, which was a little uncomfortable! (We had ordered a naan, which never arrived, but we didn’t chase it up because we had plenty to eat with just our curries and rice, especially after our earlier feast at Cafe Arriba, so when we asked for our bill we just asked for it to be taken off, and assured them it wasn’t a problem.) I understand that it was busy and that they were presumably understaffed, but I have enough customer service experience to know that taking it out on the customers doesn’t help anyone!

Portree, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hope you have a great start to the week! I’ll be back on Friday with part 3 (and part 1 is here if you missed it).

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Photo an Hour, March 2016

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

07:00 “up and dressed and already perplexing the cat”

New Look leggings, H&M top

James has had the flu this week and has been sleeping in the spare room – he says it’s purely for selfish reasons so he can roll about more, but I took it as a kind gesture as it’s meant I haven’t been woken by his coughing. Plus it gives me the rare opportunity to get dressed in the bedroom without being in the dark! Puss has been sharing her time very fairly between us, but me sitting on the floor to take this photo was just too much for her little brain.

BodyPump - Emma's Picture Postcards

08:00 “BodyPump – little weights for my little arms”

I’m still a big fan of BodyBalance but have also started going to BodyPump once a week. It’s basically weightlifting to music, which sounds a little bizarre especially for someone of my stature, but is amazing. As per the caption I’m still using pretty small weights but it gets a little easier each time and is already having a noticeable effect – a few weeks ago I went to buy some new leggings (including the ones above) and had to size up because there are actual muscles in my thighs 😮

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

09:00 “welcome home party – I already see a pattern emerging in my #photoanhour #crazycatlady”

There’s always trouble when I have the audacity to leave the house – she walks around meowing loudly and incessantly until James shuts her in a room with him and makes her lie down!

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

10:00 “shower time, and now for second breakfast”

I love this mirror, which came with the house. I also love second breakfast 😉

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

11:00 “I’m not sure ‘choose your right dosing’ is how I would have phrased it #engrish”

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

12:00 “such a lovely sunny day! Coffee mug originally held mulled wine at Stuttgart Christmas market

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

13:00 “my fork is reflecting light onto the wall and it’s terribly exciting”

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

14:00 “about to attempt baking a cake for the first time in approximately 15 years… wish me luck!”

I’d fancied giving baking a try for a little while and was finally given a nudge by Bumpkin Betty’s new baking club – the theme this month is “cooking with vegetables” so I went for this simple carrot cake recipe.

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

15:00 “well apparently the only phone pic I took this hour was of the grated carrots, so… ta-da!”

Grating three carrots was ridiculously hard work, especially after this morning’s gym class! I’m such a wimp 😉

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

16:00 “trip hazard”

This brings my total to 25% cat photos for the day – I feel that’s an accurate representation of my day-to-day camera roll 😉

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

17:00 “I’d say that’s a pretty successful cake 😀 ”

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

18:00 “steak and chips and pepper sauce. Yum”

I wish I’d wiped that horrible smear off the plate, but apparently my stomach won that battle!

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

19:00 “…and Black Sails 🙂 ”

Still loving this show, it’s gotten less gratuitous since my review, and in exchange they’ve really upped the ante on the drama, and I love that it’s quite unpredictable.

Carrot Cake - Emma's Picture Postcards

20:00 “unsure if it looks better or worse with icing but mmm it tastes good”

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

21:00 “finally painted my nails, have been meaning to all day”

The colour is “Uptown Glamour” by Kate Spade for Nails Inc, and my heart has just broken a little because it seems to have been a limited edition that was released as a free gift with Glamour magazine a few years ago, so I won’t be able to replace it when it’s gone. It’s a really lovely pale gold-ish, brown-ish, silver-ish colour that goes with everything.

Photo an Hour - Emma's Picture Postcards

22:00 “tickets bought to go see Avenue Q next week. Off to bed soon so that’s my first #photoanhour complete!”

My purse is by MenKai, and I’m not sure where I got it, I think it was maybe a gift.

This particular monthly Photo an Hour project is hosted by Jane and Louisa. Jane will be posting the list of everyone who took part this month, so keep an eye out for that if you want a peek at some more versions of 27th March! I always enjoy reading these posts and had fun taking part too. I took all the photos on my phone for the sake of convenience and also ease of uploading them (I posted them on Twitter throughout the day) and the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the huge difference in quality between the ones taken in natural and artificial light!

How did you spend your Easter weekend?

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USA, October 2015: Part 1 – Destin, FL

Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Hello! I’m back, after an unexpected month off from blogging. I was planning to schedule a post or two for while I was away on holiday, which… didn’t happen… and then when I got home it took me a while to get back into the swing of things.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times on here that I had a holiday to the US planned. My cousin, who lives in Atlanta, was getting married, and we (my boyfriend, parents, sister and I) decided to make the most of the opportunity for some beach time as well. To minimise driving time (or, heaven forbid, the cost of flying into and out of different airports) we decided to head for the Florida Panhandle, and after a little bit of searching online we found this beautiful rental apartment in Destin.

Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

The apartment was one of the best and most spacious rental accommodations I’ve ever stayed in. The kitchen was fully equipped with everything you could need, and there was a lot of storage space, so it would be ideal for a longer stay. It has three bedrooms, two with king size beds and one with two doubles, and all have en suite bathrooms. There are two balconies, the main one looking out over the marina and accessible from the living room and master bedroom, and the second looking down on to the pool and accessible from the second (our) bedroom.

Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

The sea was mostly hidden by a neighbouring apartment complex, but we did have a sea view on either side of it, and were treated to some spectacular sunsets. It was also fun to watch the wildlife in the marina – there were often enormous shoals of fish circling around in there, and casual fishermen would swing by to haul up a net full of them, plus there was a regular heron, some extremely tame sparrows, and we even saw a great big ray swimming around one day.

Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

The apartment complex had a beautiful swimming pool, which was mostly deserted, since it was “cold”, to quote the locals – the temperature was in the upper 20’s every day, and perfect for sunbathing as far as we were concerned! We also had an access code allowing us onto the beach – as far as we could tell from exploring, the beach seemed to be entirely private access, so that’s something to bear in mind if you’re visiting Destin. There are some public access beaches in the national parks, but from what I read on Tripadvisor the quality isn’t as high, and you often have to pay for access and/or walk a considerable distance from your car to reach the actual sea side. Anyway, our particular stretch of white sand was pretty perfect, and also quiet, so we were more than content to stay close!

Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

Since we were visiting out of season, we knew that the majority of Destin’s local attractions would be closed. To be honest though, I’m not sure there was a huge amount we were missing out on, other than Big Kahuna’s, a water park which looked fun, and a weekly fireworks display on the beach front. We were also told that the traffic in summer is CRAZY, and it was still busy by our standards in October! In any case, our number one priority was just to relax, and we took that seriously 🙂 We did venture out to the local outlet mall – a few items of clothing were found by all, and my sister and I also got a great deal on a beautiful Calvin Klein handbag each, but it was mostly an exercise in sighing over all the beautiful things – and to try out the tasty cuisine and Southern hospitality. With a member of the party who is both gluten intolerant and a vegetarian, plus another two who don’t like fish or seafood, this turned out to be much more difficult than I would have imagined. Most places have a gluten-free menu, but almost all the dishes on there are meat-based. I can recommend the following though:

La Paz, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

The Local Market – We ate here at least three times, and loved it. The decor is lovely, really open, with big wooden tables and benches, with chalk board menus and shelves full of produce. The majority of the lunch menu is sandwiches, which are on the pricier side (around $12-13) but 100% worth it – they are big, stuffed full of high quality, fresh ingredients, and come with generous sides plus a packet of Lays chips (Walkers crisps to us Brits). They also do amazing specials – I had a half rotisserie chicken, which was safely the biggest portion of chicken I’ve ever had in my life, with fries and coleslaw, for $6. $6, folks. The staff are friendly and relaxed, patiently waited for us to slowwwly decide what we wanted to order, and welcomed us back when we returned.

La Paz – La Paz is next door to, and shares a car park with, The Local Market; I noticed some of the staff in both; The Local Market is open for breakfast and lunch and La Paz is open for dinner; they have a similar vibe… I’m going to go ahead and say they’re sister restaurants, although they’re not advertised as such. Anyway, La Paz is a Mexican restaurant with a friendly, family feel. The decor is quirky, with walls covered (and then some) in fun / crazy art and pictures. Most importantly though, the food is fresh and tasty – the photo above (sorry for the poor quality!) is of the South of the Border salad. 100% of the dishes on the menu are available gluten free (with the carbs coming in the form of corn chips, corn tortillas or rice) and there are plenty of veggie options.

Mimmo’s – A more upmarket option, Mimmo’s is an Italian restaurant open for both lunch and dinner on weekdays, dinner only on weekends. The front windows are almost entirely covered by enormous curtains, which made me doubt it was open despite one of those neon “open” signs, but it’s nice inside and the food and service were great. Gluten free pasta is available, although only one type, but that was a happy compromise.

Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards Harbor Landing, Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

A few others we tried:

– Waffle House – The waffles, bacon and maple syrup get my vote; the coffee, not so much. The wait staff were the friendliest of the trip, which is saying something, but this is one to avoid if you’re coeliac – the one “gluten free” option, an omelette, was served with toast…

– TGI Friday’s – TGI’s is TGI’s – reliable quality, if a little overpriced. Bonus points for an extra lovely waiter, and a complete GF menu including dessert, beer and cider.

– Pizza Hut – mentioned here only because the GF pizza was enjoyed; the rest of us suffered from huge amounts of grease! The restaurant was large but always empty, which is never a good sign.

Cheeseburger in Paradise – good fries, and a GF vegetarian burger!

Island Wing Company – really good, baked chicken wings. Choose how many you want (from 5 to 100!) and which of the many sauces takes your fancy. We visited on a Sunday lunch time so there were several different NFL games showing on the multiple TV screens, which was… overwhelming. When we left I noticed that they have an outdoor seating area with only one screen, so if I were to go back I’d definitely sit there!

Destin, Florida - Emma's Picture Postcards

I hope y’all 😉 have a lovely weekend. I’m off to a ceilidh tonight and a wedding reception tomorrow, and inspired by this post by Sunny Sweet Pea, I think I might have a relaxing movie day on Sunday to recover!