Friday, 18 May 2018

The Craft Pottery

If you have a bit of an arty side, (talent not required) and you need an outlet after a stressful day at work, I have the perfect solution.

The Craft Pottery is a real hidden gem in the city centre of Glasgow. A small studio on West Campbell St, they provide a peaceful setting to sit with friends or on your own and paint some pottery until your troubles melt away.

You can select a piece of hand-made pottery to paint - everything from mugs, plates, figurines and picture frames. It's all individually priced and ranges from £1 to £34, so it won't break the bank.

There's a £3 painter fee to get you started, and this covers unlimited time and paints. There are a variety of options along with sponges, stencils, stamps and other tools to create something unique.

Best of all, it's BYOB and there's no corkage fee, so you can enjoy a chilled glass of wine or beer as you paint. What could be more blissful?

Last week, I visited on a Thursday evening with my friend. She painted a ceramic seahorse and I tried my hand at a spoon holder (not entirely sure the correct term for this. Spoon rest?)

After you're done, the team will glaze and fire your pottery for you and you can come back to collect it, usually in about a week's time.

The Craft Pottery is open until 8pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays. They also offer party packages and regular pottery workshops and classes. All ages are welcome, too.

For me, this was the perfect mid-week activity. Relaxing and detoxing, social and affordable - a great alternative to the pub and you get something tangible to take away at the end of it.

Read more »

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Glasgow's new home of whisky

The River Clyde is synonymous with shipbuilding and construction, but more recently with modern science, technology and innovation. Once the industrial hub of the city and gateway to the world, the shipyards and factories on the banks of the Clyde employed thousands of manual workers, building huge liners, importing goods and sending Scottish exports all over the world.

At the Queen's Dock, Crates bringing back spices from Asia and tobacco from America filled the air with a mixture of new and exotic scents. Among these was another unmistakable aroma: Scotch whisky. Right here, on the site of the birth of the whisky industry sits the newly opened Clydeside Distillery.

In its heyday, Glasgow was home to several whisky distilleries and 'whisky barons', businessmen who pioneered new products, built and shaped the landscape of the city. Among them was John Morrison, founder of the Queen's Dock who laid the foundations for Morrison Bowmore Distillers. In 2017, his ancestor Tim Morrison has opened one of the first malt whisky distilleries in Glasgow for over half a century.

Although the Clydeside Distillery is brand new and not currently producing any whisky yet (it takes three years to create a malt whisky) the doors are open to the public for tours to learn more about the history and the distillation process.

Our tour guide, Ronnie, was engaging, witty and definitely knew his whisky! The building is a bright, modern space with views of the Clyde and it retains the old stone of the Queen's dock and striking clock tower. It's a real joy to wander round, read and learn about the history surrounding Scotland's most famous tipple.

Even if you aren't a whisky fan, it's a fascinating and sensory experience. You might even be converted by the end of the tour, where you get an opportunity to sample 'Three Wee Drams' from across Scotland in a beautiful tasting room. And you get to keep your glass as a souvenir.

Ronnie guided us through the six steps of whisky tasting, encouraging us to take notes. There's a cute cafe offering delicious platters of home-grown produce and a gift shop, where you can take home your favourite whisky. You can even purchase bottles with personalised labels to commemorate a special occasion or trip.

Tours cost £15 for an adult and they run every hour on weekdays and every half hour on weekends. You can book online or buy tickets on arrival.

Combining history and tradition with innovation, the distillery brings new life to the banks of the River Clyde. It's a fitting tribute to the industrial, pioneering spirit of the city and an exciting vision for its future.

Read more »

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Vita Liberata holiday glow

So, there have been a few nice days in Glasgow. Finally, we can rejoice and revel in the Spring weather! No more winter coats, bulky jumpers, bobble hats and pasty skin.

Fully embracing the Summer vibes, I went along to an event at Polished salon in the south side, to launch the new range from Vita Liberata.

I've always been interested to dive into the world of sunless tanning (for me, a using a gradual tanner a few times a week is as far as I go)  and Vita Liberata was a brand I'd heard good things about. I was particularly intrigued by their new 'Body Blur' products which promised glowing, natural looking skin. Could it be possible? 

On a glorious Wednesday evening (temperatures soared to 17 degrees!) the girls at Polished let me try out the new products and see how they worked. 

The Body Blur (for face and body) gave an instant, golden finish to the skin which didn't look streaky or patchy. Perfect for an instant boost to your skin before an event or a night out.

The Beauty Blur - a hybrid primer/tinted moisturiser/foundation wonder product - gave my skin a natural finish - like I'd spent all day sunning myself on a beach. A really good one to take with you on holiday for a glowy evening look.

I also picked up the Illuminate Wash Off Body Bronzer, which I am yet to test out.

For those of us in search of exotic, tanned skin for an unpredictable Glasgow summer - Vita Liberata is a great shout. There's no danger of looking orange or over-done here (RIP Dale Winton, we love you but we don't want your tan). Just a natural looking glow that's super easy to do at home (even for a tanning novice like me).

You can find all the Vita Liberata products online or stocked at Polished salon. While you're there, they offer every kind of beauty treatment you can imagine: nails, hair and make-up. Even if you're just looking for some beauty advice, these girls really know their stuff.

Read more »

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Ox and Finch, Finnieston's finest

Like most millennials my age, I am partial to a list. Every time someone says 'You NEED to watch (insert name of new and popular film/TV show)' I add it to my list. I also have a list for books and podcasts, and for restaurants too.

Living in Glasgow is great- there are so many new places opening up all the time (it feels relentless) and for the real gems you don't have to stick to the west end or city centre any more - there are super cool cafes, brunch spots and New York inspired eateries in Dennistoun, South of the river and beyond. Which can be tricky, especially if you're a foodie like me, you love a gimmick and you're a sucker for advertising and hype (guilty..)

Anyway, I've been meaning to try Ox and Finch in Finnieston for a while now. It's one of those places you only hear good things about, and it always crops up on the list of recommendations when people are looking for places to dine in Glasgow.

With so many options now it felt like a safe choice and I was excited to finally try it out over the weekend. It definitely didn't disappoint!

I was slightly wary of the 'small plates' approach to the menu - this can be hit or miss sometimes, but it really worked here. We went for five dishes between two and it was more than enough.

The scallops were melt in the mouth incredible (much like the courses to follow). I liked how they didn't bring everything at once which can sometimes be quite overwhelming.

Next was coley with chorizo and grilled chicory, followed by slow-cooked lamb shoulder with bulgur wheat, apricots and mint yoghurt. I think this one might have been my favourite, it was so good!

The braised pork cheek with polenta (which I recently discovered in Italy and now love) and salsa verde was divine too. Definitely worth a trip here for these two dishes alone!

I had a delicious South African semillon sauvignon with my dinner from a decent selection of reasonably priced drinks. I liked that I could order a carafe of my wine! Always good when you don't want a full bottle but a glass just won't cut it.

Before and after

For a special occasion, this place is such a winner. I'd definitely go back - it feels cool and modern and the food is just really tasty. I forgot to photograph the quirky toilets so you'll need to go there to see what I mean!

So next time you're in Finnieston, sipping on cocktails or having a pint in the Park Bar (either one works for pre-dinner drinks) consider Ox and Finch. Or, if you're in Edinburgh, BABA is their sister restaurant. 

Read more »

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Things I learned living on my own

Last weekend, I moved out of the flat I've lived in alone for two years, from age 25 to 27, to a new place with a flatmate. Not just a flatmate - a friend, and a close friend. It was a big decision to make - I'd been on my own for a while and had become very used to it. I'd never lived with anyone else before (parents don't count, neither do backpackers).

I deliberated for a long time but in the end, it just made sense to move. Namely, financial sense - living on my own was ridiculously expensive and it meant I could save a bit of money each month. Besides, living with another person was a new experience and I'd heard it could be fun! So I emailed my letting agency and just like that, ended my two year tenancy.

It felt a bit like ending a relationship. I'd grown very attached to my wee flat (which incidentally, was probably far too big for me.) I'd filled it with all the things I loved and really made it home. When moving out day finally arrived and I had to pack it all into boxes and leave, I felt heartbroken. I reflected on all of my memories of this place, everything that happened here. I held a 'farewell' party with some of my friends to give it a proper goodbye.

I recently this article by Polly Dunbar, where she talks about how she did most of her growing up in the flat she lived in during her mid twenties. I definitely agree - your childhood home is just that, your first 'grown up' home is the place where you really learn about yourself, and life as an adult.

I considered how much things had changed in the past two years for me, and how living on my own had helped mould me into the person I am now. It's definitely not for everyone so I don't want to say 'it's something everyone should experience at least once in their life' but for me, it was.

So here are 10 reasons why living on my own was so awesome.

1. Having a place that's truly yours. Stamping your personality all over it and having people say "this is such a Kirsty flat" when they walk in.

2. You get to feel all independent when you tell people "I live on my own". This usually generates one of two reactions: "Amazing!" or "Aw, that's so sad. Don't you get lonely?"

3a. Having no-one there to judge you when you're standing in your kitchen eating dry cereal out of the packet, crisps and anything else in your cupboards after a night out.

3b. Having no-one there to judge you when you wake up the next morning after said night out and find crumbs all over the kitchen floor, half-devoured mess, clothes and belongings strewn across every room.

4. Being able to be naked whenever you want (obviously)

5. Being able to sing loudly whenever you want. And talk to yourself.

6. Cooking whatever you want to eat. Even if that was a rotation of the same 5 meals. Ramen noodles again? Hell yeh!

7. Only ever having to clean up after yourself.

8. Never having to wait for the bathroom.

9. Being able to host 'dinner parties' for your friends.

(Reality: planning an extravagant menu and then panicking at 5pm on the way home from work when you realise you don't have the time, ingredients or culinary skills you thought you did. Cue plan B - basic menu option - which you still manage to mess up - rescued by a lot of crisps and hummus and a LOT of cheap wine.)

10. Eating all of the leftover food from said party when everyone leaves.

And, even though I'm still very new to it, here are some reasons why living with a friend is awesome too....

1. Having someone to come home and rant to.

2. Someone to motivate you to go to the gym.

3. Someone to share the household chores with.

4. Doing Beyonce dance routines in the living room is a lot more fun with two people (and a dog).

5. Learning new recipes and trying new things (pumpkin gnocchi is my new favourite dinner!).

6. Someone to do 'fashion shows' with and get their opinion on outfits.

7. Making a home that reflects both of your personalities.

8. Drinking wine on a Monday is perfectly acceptable when you have someone to share it with.

9. Having someone to come and pour you a glass of wine in the bath (and rescue you when you spill it in the bathwater).

10. Making new memories together and sharing everything in your lives - good and bad.

It was tough leaving my old place but I wouldn't go back there now. Change isn't always easy but I think it's a good thing and it can help you to grow.

Conclusion so far: living on your own is nice, but living with someone is definitely more fun. I will report back with more updates.

Read more »

Friday, 16 March 2018

Skiing in Cervinia, Italy (for a first time skier)

So I recently went on my first ever sking holiday, as a 27 year old adult who has never skied before.

Ok, disclaimer - I had one lesson the week before I left, on the indoor slopes at Snow Factor Braehead. Although this was really useful in terms of getting a feel for the skis on my feet, learning how to put the boots/skis on and introducing me to the basic concepts of stopping, moving forwards/uphill, it didn't do much to prepare me for the reality of sking. Nothing can really prepare you for this. Once you're out there, on the mountain... it's miles away from anything you've experienced or imagined.

And despite everything people tell you and warn you about, no matter how well prepared you feel you might be, there are certain things you just have to discover for yourself. Here's a shortlist.

20 Things I learned skiing

1. You freeze in places you didn't know you could

"The inside of my nostrils have frozen!" (This is a weirdly enjoyable feeling)
2. Helmet hair is a real concern. As is post-mask face.

Wearing the helmet and mask is totally fine, if you like to feel like you're being suffocated. Takes some getting used to...

3. But ski gear is surprisingly fashionable.

4. Walking/moving in ski boots is HARD. 

And try carrying skis and poles at the same time, whilst wearing about 50 layers of clothing. Potentially a bigger struggle than the actual skiing.

5. Apres-ski is more amazing than you imagined it would be.

6. Carbs, carbs and then some more carbs....

7. You will fall over. A lot. You might have to get mountain rescued.

Tip: If you do happen to fall and actually injure yourself (especially your knee) don't try to be a hero and go out on the slopes again. Twice. (This will result in an embarrassing ride on the 'ski doo' followed by an even more embarrassing knee brace/bionic woman attachment)

8. Your ski instructor will be near-impossible to understand

"Ski more parallel!" is not the most helpful advice for a beginner...

9. Every ski school group will have one unbearably annoying member 

They will hold everyone else up, have tantrums and constantly tell you you're doing it wrong. 

10. Limoncello. Boozy hot chocolates. Tiramisu. And repeat.

11. Every part of you will hurt, everywhere. All the time.

Alcohol helps to ease the pain
12. Walking home up the steepest hill of all time back to your apartment is a lot easier when you're drunk and singing loudly to an 'Independent Women' playlist.

13. You might see Bonnie Tyler.

(Or, loudly sing the lyrics to 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' walking past the apartment she's rumoured to be staying at at 2 in the morning...)

14. You learn to eat fast before your food instantly freezes

(beer stays cold for longer, though!)

15. You might play this game...

16. Don't be dramatic on the ski lift

It's not helpful.

17. The scenery will take your breath away

18. Ski shot, anyone?


19. You might see some wildlife on the mountain. 

Your instructor will point out a mountain goat like animal called a chamois - you'll have no idea what this is and it's too far away to see but you'll get SO excited, take a million pictures and tell everyone about your 'wildlife sighting'.

20. You'll have the best time and leave feeling physically, emotionally, mentally (and financially) drained. But in the best way!

So, to conclude.. 

Alcohol, food, pain, emotional trauma, amazing scenery, ski fam bonding.

Is it worth it?

A resounding yes. It was one of the best holidays I've had and an experience I will never forget. Already planning next year's trip! 

If you're interested, the resort I went to was Breuil-Cervinia and our accommodation was Residence Cervinia Due. We flew from London to Turin and the transfer took about an hour and a half (with whisky it felt less than that.)

Read more »

Monday, 12 February 2018

Three days in Venice

Venice - the city of waterways, masks and canal bridges has always intrigued me. It sounded like a place from another time, even another world... and it definitely feels that way when you're there.

Since it was high on my travel list and my bucket list for 2018, I was glad when I got the chance to spend three days there at the end of January. Here are my top ten highlights.

1. St Mark's Square and Basilica (Piazzo San Marco)
An obvious choice for any first time visit to Venice, but the basilica of St Mark's really does take your breath away. Those horses! When we first arrived late on the Monday night the square was shrouded in mist which gave it such an eerie, mystical quality.

2. Glass blowing demonstration in Murano
Our three islands boat trip was a definite highlight, and our first stop was the island of Murano. Famous for its glass making (the industry moved here from Venice when a law was introduced permitting open fires. As a result, Murano is now sometimes referred to as 'fire island'.)

We were lucky enough to visit a glass making factory and museum to see a live demonstration, where 'Maestro' whipped up a beautiful vase tinged with red (the most expensive colour in Murano glass) and a prancing horse. Both seemed utterly perfect, and were created freehand using pliers in a matter of minutes. It was amazing to watch.

Afterwards you get the chance to visit the factory shop, where you can take some Murano glass home. Beware - the prices are far higher here than the other shops right next door and throughout the island. We learned the hard way! Still. there are some beautiful pieces on offer. Since we had limited luggage space we chose some jewellery. I picked a clear, sparkling half moon pendant to remind me of my trip.

3. The rainbow island of Burano
Our second stop on the boat tour was Burano. It might have been the most beautiful little town I've ever seen. The houses, shops and trattorias were all painted in the brightest blues, pinks, greens and oranges - colours reflecting into the water of the canals which snaked through the streets.

We wandered through the town and took a lot of photos (it is the most 'instragrammable' place) and enjoyed the peace and quiet. January is a good time to go - I can imagine it would heaving with tourists in the summer months. Perhaps the top highlight of my entire trip, Burano is well worth a visit even for a short stay in Venice.

4. Harry's Bar (and not Harry's Bar)
We'd heard from friends that Harry's Bar by St Mark's Bay waterfront was an institution worth visiting. Opened in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, famed birthplace of the Bellini, the bar was a favourite for the rich and famous. Once frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote and Orson Welles, and more recently the likes of Woody Allen and Nicole Kidman.

This was enough to get us in the door (after a bottle of wine with dinner to convince us it was a great idea). It's definitely a luxurious experience. Although the interior of the bar itself is fairly underwhelming, the service by tuxedo-clad waiters who bring you delicious nibbles on platters to accompany your drinks is quite something. Said drinks were very expensive - 18 euros for a brandy was heart-attack material for a pair of Glasgow girls. After making friends with an American English couple at the neighbouring table, we stumbled across a lively little bar a hop, skip and canal bridge over which was doing prosecco by the glass for two euros. A much better arrangement!

5. Aperitivo by the Rialto
Admittedly a very touristy experience, I thoroughly enjoyed our 4pm aperol spritzes (at discounted rates) by the canal, right next the Rialto bridge. Nothing quite beats watching the hustle and bustle around the famous Venitian landmark as we sipped our drinks, nibbled on our aperitivo snacks and then swiftly ordered another round! The ideal way to unwind after a day of sightseeing, before heading out for dinner later in the evening.

6. Dinner at Vino Vino
Following a recommendation from our hotel receptionist (who also informed us we wouldn't find good pizza in Venice - turns out this is because there aren't any pizza ovens in the city. See previous law regarding open fires) we headed to Vino Vino, a firm favourite with tourists and resident Venetians alike.

I had pasta carbonara (authentically Italian, cooked only with pancetta, parmigiana and egg) and my mum the lasagna. Both were exquisite - washed down with a bottle of regional red wine which accompanied our meal perfectly.

7. Canal side lunch
Continuing with the food theme - our lunch the next day was equally good. We walked for an hour or so to find the perfect place (I was determined to eat at a canal side location) and finally stumbled across a little trattoria with tables by the window.

We dined on bruschetta while we watched the endless gondolas lazily drifting past, and enjoyed our last glass of wine to celebrate the end of our holiday. Very good, and very inexpensive too (if you don't mind searching for a while!)

8. Lorenzo Quinn's hands sculpture
On our way to see the Ca' d'Oro (an impressive structure on the grand canal which now houses a museum) we stumbled across some giant hands rising out of the water.

Support by Lorenzo Quinn is a monumental installation at the Ca'Sagredo Hotel (which is, incidentally, also worth a visit - we stopped here for a very fancy coffee, unrivaled views of the Grand Canal, and the sculpture in all its glory). The sculpture is meant to be a warning of the threat to cities like Venice due to rising sea levels, It serves as a reminder of our role as humans to help make a positive impact on history and our environment.

9. The Museum of Music (Museo della Musica)
One of the best things about Venice is the way you can stumble across some real gems without even trying. On our last day we found this great little museum (which was also free - a rarity in Venice) and home to an expansive collection of old and beautiful musical instruments.

10. Shopping in Venice
Last on my list may seem like an obvious one - but I had to include shopping. Anyone who's been to Italy before will already be familiar with the juxtaposition of high and low end stores, quality goods and tacky souvenirs creating a harmonious retail experience.

I picked up some real finds - the leather goods are of course, second to none and I couldn't leave Venice without Murano glass souvenirs (and a glittery Venetian mask or two!).

If I had the money, perusing the rows of beautiful designer stores, Italian houses in particular (Dolce and Gabanna was like a palace) would be the dream! Until that day comes (which I'm confident it will) I was satisfied with taking in some of the wonderful window displays as we strolled round the streets.

So, was there anything I didn't manage to do?

I feel like I definitely managed to do and see quite a lot in three days here. However I would definitely return - I'd love to come back during the famous annual carnival, and to see an opera.

Venice was even more enchanting than I expected, and confirmed by love of all things Italian. I can't wait to return to my favourite part of the world again next month.

Read more »