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

 

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?

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 🙂

I Have This Thing With Clock Towers

There are a few accounts and corresponding hashtags on Instagram, like #ihavethisthingwithfloors and #ihavethisthingwithlibraries, that focus on specific architectural features. My “thing” is clock towers – I absolutely love them. Whenever I’m out and about and I see one over the rooftops, I have an irrepressible urge to go find where it is and what building it’s on top of. So the other day I decided to indulge my weird passion and go clock tower hunting!

ACT Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

First up is ACT Aberdeen, formerly known as the Aberdeen Arts Centre. This one is in the city centre at the junction of King Street and West North Street, and as you drive along W N Street it gets framed against the spectacular Marischal College. I like the grand columns on the building and that this clock’s four faces alternate black and white on each side.

East St Clement's Church, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

In the nearby area of Footdee is St Clement’s Church. This lovely little old kirk is now disused, but the graveyard is still open to the public so you can wander round and read the collection of lopsided gravestones.

Aberdeen Harbour Board - Emma's Picture Postcards

Up close and at ground level, Aberdeen Harbour Board’s office blends in with all the other grey granite facades on Regent Quay. But from a bit further away its clock tower stands out as a focal point.

St Stephens Parish Church, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Leaving the city centre and heading out towards the airport, you pass St Stephen’s Parish Church on Powis Place, with its cheery red doors, classy cupola and weather vane. Powis Place has been looking a little shabby the last few years as there were a few empty buildings, but they’ve been renovated and replaced now so the whole street is spick and span again!

Woodside Parish Church, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Carrying on along Great Northern Road, you reach Woodside Parish Church, which is tucked away up a peaceful little side street. As you can probably tell, Aberdeen is very grey, so the little splash of colour provided by the green dome is always welcome!

St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

And last up is a favourite, the beautiful St Machar’s Cathedral, in Old Aberdeen. I arrived just as a wedding was finishing, but I managed to get a stealthy snap without getting in the way!

After I took these pictures the rain started so I decided to call it quits, but it was a nice way to get some exercise so I’m sure I’ll be back with a part 2 some time soon.

What’s your favourite? Do you have a #thingwithfloors, ceilings or anything else?

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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Isle of Skye, March 2016 – Day 1: Eilean Donan Castle

Last month James and I had our five year anniversary! Whaaat! We decided to celebrate with a little weekend away to the Isle of Skye.

Eilean Donan Castle - Emma's Picture Postcards

We set off from Aberdeen around 9am, with a little pit stop in Keith (“The Friendly Town”) for petrol and snacks, and made it to Eilean Donan Castle around 2pm. Eilean Donan was built in the 13th century, in a key location to defend the Highlands and Western Isles against Vikings and the English. It was restored in the 20th century and is now one of Scotland’s most beautiful and well-recognised landmarks.

Eilean Donan Castle - Emma's Picture Postcards

Eilean Donan Castle - Emma's Picture Postcards

Eilean Donan Castle - Emma's Picture Postcards

Eilean Donan Castle - Emma's Picture Postcards

Eilean Donan Castle - Emma's Picture Postcards

Look at that sunshine and stunning blue sky! What a great start to our trip…

…and then we went over the hill and into the cloud. Ha.

Kyleakin, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

Kyleakin, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

At least it was nice and atmospheric 🙂 We stayed at the White Heather Hotel in Kyleakin, which is a real home away from home. The rooms are comfortable and clean, and the pictures above show the view from our bedroom! The owners are very friendly and helpful, and along with a good breakfast and in-room wifi, guests also have access to two living rooms and a little study complete with a computer, DVDs, books and board games.

White Heather Hotel, Kyleakin, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

White Heather Hotel, Kyleakin, Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards

For dinner we popped along the road to the King Haakon Bar, which was… fine. It’s a pub, with standard pub meals, and a nice view out across Kyleakin’s village square and over the water to the bridge. The bar is on the back of the Castle Moil restaurant, which we didn’t see open – I presume it was still closed for the winter.

Pop back on Monday for Day 2 🙂

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Happiness Link Up

Daffodils - Emma's Picture Postcards

I’ve been feeling unusually frazzled lately, and have been dealing with some of my migraine symptoms. I get a variety of them: flashing vision / blind spots; sensitivity to light, noise, smell and/or touch; headaches, neck pain and general achyness; fluctuating body temperature; nausea and sickness… you get the picture. Thankfully (and weirdly) I’ve only been experiencing one symptom at a time, but unfortunately each one has lasted for a few days, including two days of blindness, which got pretty boring!

Anyway, that was a bit of a bleak intro, but my point is that as a result of feeling a bit off, my productivity is a bit low and although I have a few blog posts started, I can’t seem to get them finished. However I’ve just read Jasmin Charlotte’s Happiness Link Up post and thought I’d jump on the bandwagon to perk myself up a bit!

  1. Quality time with friends and family. James and I are off to my cousin’s tomorrow for a family bbq, and I popped to London (or at least that was the plan – see #2!) to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday last week. I got to have a great catch-up with the birthday boy and his wife, who I haven’t seen since they came to visit last year, another few friends from the same group who I haven’t seen for a few years, and I also invited along my school friend who lives in London and I last saw in Edinburgh last year.
    Emma's Picture Postcards
  2. Sweet surprises. I had a classic Emma disastrous journey on the way back from London. I have the worst travel luck of anyone I’ve met – I might do a post at some point listing all my misadventures! Anyway it happens so regularly that after the initial upset I quickly get over it and get on with getting myself to my destination. However the friends I went to visit aren’t so accustomed to it, and I opened the door a couple of days later to a beautiful basket of flowers from them! It was such a lovely surprise and brought a wee tear to my eye!
    Dr Knox's Enigma - Emma's Picture Postcards
  3. Escape-the-room adventure. The Scotland-based contingent of my school friends met up in Edinburgh last month and had a go at Dr Knox’s Enigma. Escape games are popping up in most cities now and I really recommend you give one a try! It was so much fun and really got the adrenaline flowing, I honestly started to think towards the end that I might have a heart attack (drama queen), but we were a good team and worked out the clues, escaping the room with three minutes to spare!
  4. Avenue Q. I went to see Avenue Q and laughed SO much. Highly recommended.
    Emma's Picture Postcards
  5. Decorating! As I mentioned in my 2016 bucket list, my mum kindly agreed to come up to Aberdeen and help me do some decorating. We had a nice sunny week for it so we opened the windows, stuck the radio on and cracked on. We got two rooms done – the second bedroom / my study (above), which was previously peach with one blue wall, with a bare patch where there had been a naff vanity mirror, and James’s study, which had been the previous owners’ baby’s room, complete with bright yellow walls and an animal frieze! It’s now grey to suit his grim Northern Irish demeanour 😉 This week I used the last of the grey paint to put a couple of coats on the end wall of our bedroom, covering up the Polyfilla patches you can see in this photo – the previous owners had wave-shaped mirrors up there, which they took with them, leaving some nice holes for us to fill in! [On a tangent, I have to double-check every time I use the word Polyfilla, because I confuse it with Poligrip, haha!]
    Isle of Skye - Emma's Picture Postcards
  6. Celebrations with James. It was our 5-year anniversary last month, and we celebrated with a little trip to Skye (full post coming soon). This month it was his birthday, so we went for a meal at our favourite, Jewel in the Crown, and then he submitted his PhD thesis and booked our summer holiday – we’re off to Italy and I can. not. wait.
    Emma's Picture Postcards
  7. Spring! April has been a little bit of a let-down this year – it’s snowed and/or hailed pretty much every day in Aberdeen! But between the cold showers it has been nice and sunny, and the long hours of daylight and all the flowers make me happy 🙂
  8. I wasn’t sure how much travel I’d manage this year after my trip to the USA last year, and with trying to keep my spending low since I’m job hunting! However I’m actually getting in a fair amount of jet-setting – Skye, London (twice), Italy and finally Germany in October, for a dear friend’s wedding. We started out as penpals and did an exchange when we were 15, and have stayed in touch and visited each other every couple of years since. She’s like an extra sister now, and I’m so excited to be there for her wedding. Plus it’ll add another culture to the list of weddings I’ve attended – so far I’ve experienced Scottish, English, New Zealand (with a Bollywood dance for fun), US, Romanian and Finnish!

Make sure to take a look at Jasmin Charlotte’s post, and the widget at the bottom linking to a few other people’s cheery posts – sure to boost your mood ready for the weekend 🙂

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#abzmeet at Tea Zone

Tea Zone, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Last weekend I met up with some of the other lovely bloggers based in and around Aberdeen. It was so nice to meet everyone, especially as there were three of us who were along for the first time. It was an unusually mild and sunny day, with no wind (unheard of in Aberdeen!) and we spent a really relaxing couple of hours chatting. I seem to have caught Amey warming her hands on her teapot in this picture, sorry Amey!

Abzmeet - Aberdeen Bloggers Meet at Tea Zone - Emma's Picture Postcards

Tea Zone, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

We went to newly opened Tea Zone, a gorgeous little tea shop just off the Castlegate in the city centre. How cozy is that little window nook?! After choosing our teas from the large selection, and of course a cheeky slice of cake (yum) we made ourselves comfortable in the seating area in the next room, which we were lucky enough to be the first customers to use since it was decorated!

Tea Zone, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

Tea Zone, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

I’ve mentioned before that I was never a tea fan until recently, when I discovered green tea – before that I’d only tried black tea (bitter, yuck) and fruit teas (smell good, taste of nothing). This time I tried a ginger and orange green tea, and it was really good – I’ll be back to try some of the others available. The teas are served in a beautiful glass teapot, which yields 3-4 cups, with a glass bowl underneath holding a tea light to keep it at the perfect temperature. As for the cakes and bakes, some are made in-house, while the chocolate orange brownie I sampled was provided by another local business, Cake. As usual, I was tempted by the carrot cake but sucked in by the chocolate option, but everyone around the table was happy with their selection.

Tea Zone, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

If you fancy some more weekend reading, check out the ladies’ blogs: Amey, Eni, Iga, KarenKatherine, Laura, Sarah and Sarah

And if you’re a blogger in the Aberdeen area, join us for our weekly Twitter chat using #abzchat, Wednesdays 8-9pm, and join our Facebook group for details of our next meet.

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