Speak Your Mind

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(Image from a fantastic article from Buzzfeed here)

I’m scared to publish this because it’s on my blog that I’ve not updated in months. I’ve not wanted to, I’ve had no passion for it and that’s because it was going well. If I stop writing for it then it was my choice and not because it started to go really badly. That sound familiar?

When I start to achieve something, when I start to do things right and everything seems to be going ok, a creeping sensation runs up the back of my neck and I freeze. I start to feel sick and shaky. My eyes get really wide, my breathing speeds up, my chest and throat tighten and my flight or fight response goes into overdrive. A woozy faint feeling washes over me and I break down. It can’t all be ok. There has to be something bad happening to me, or something wrong, or something coming.

It’s only after about a year of trying different types of therapy, medication, reading books and articles and breathing along with apps that I’ve managed to say ‘No no, not just now. Go away’ and push the feeling back down.

Anxiety presents itself differently for different people. I’ve always been a worrier. I used to throw up before family holidays when I was wee. My nickname was ‘sell-by-date’ because I wouldn’t eat anything that I thought might be bad and don’t even ask me to set foot in a dentist’s office. That level of anxiety lived with me throughout my life and I didn’t really let it get me. It came and went at appropriate times; it helped me through essay deadlines and kept me safe when I questioned possible nut-traces (I’m allergic, super unhelpful in not adding to my worries).

This time last year, that anxiety swooped in and knocked me off my feet. I had had a pretty bad year and a serious family illness was the icing on the big anxious cake. I walked home from having dinner with my Mum one night, suddenly knowing that she wasn’t ok and we had a big journey ahead of us. With so many questions that I hadn’t asked, I let it all pile up. It was suddenly living in this strange fog. I was grazing the top of life and never really putting my feet down. Does that make sense? I wanted to avoid thinking too deeply so I put all my focus into the physical aspects of my life. I became hyper-sensitive to changes in my body, assuming every time I ate something that I was allergic and my throat was closing. I haven’t eaten a chocolate bar in months and I’m terrified every time I eat in a restaurant. I couldn’t walk any sort of distance without feeling like I was going to faint or fall over. I had no confidence that my body was doing its job. I wanted to keep my mind off the serious issue at hand and I channelled all that energy in the worst ways. In the first few months I was single and spent the majority of my time looking for a distraction (Don’t sleep with your neighbour folks, it will remain awkward until your lease is up…and I still live there.) I was scared to drink too much in case it became my coping mechanism and worryingly to this day I still feel better after a gin but I’m definitely not reliant on it. I even still struggle to walk through the shopping centre without feeling dizzy, faint and panicky. Sadly I’ve not saved any money on clothes, I’ve just become an online shopper…

My body started to take on the stress I was projecting on it and I ended up with crippling stomach pains on a daily basis. I would have to sit with my head on my desk at work because I felt faint and sometimes I simply couldn’t get out of my bed. Work had to send me to Occupational Health because I had so many sick days and they referred me to see a therapist. It was the best thing that could have happened. Once a week I left work early and went to see Carole in Dunblane. We’d sit in her cosy little room with the fire on and she’d just talk to me. She was straightforward, honest with me and I learned more about myself in that room than I have in my whole 27 years. I sometimes felt like a fraud, and still kind of do, that I was receiving support for being worried. Worrying isn’t life threatening! But it was in a different way. I could have lost my job if I kept going off sick, it was affecting my relationships and my physical health. It was a lot more serious than I thought and looking back I was in a very deep, dark hole that was only getting worse. It’s not easy to get a therapist on the NHS, certainly I’m still on the waiting list for Stirling and for a while I paid for private care. I received EMDR and this helped massively for processing some worries I had about my wee Nanny Helen. She collapsed just before midnight on my birthday on Hogmanay giving us all the biggest fright we’ve ever had. She’s ok now, she’s a wee toughie, but I was so shocked when my therapist listened to my backstory and told me I had severe anxiety and PTSD. I actually laughed and said I wasn’t some soldier back from war. He didn’t laugh, in fact he quite sternly told me that I had it so badly that it explained away most of my physical symptoms immediately. This diagnosis was incredibly helpful. He told me in no uncertain terms that when I felt like I was going to faint, I was not going to faint. I.would.not.faint. It was the stress and anxiety causing it and nothing physical. To this day when I’ve made it into New Look and I feel a bit ‘uh oh’, I think really hard on the fact that it’s all in my head and my body is doing a grand job keeping me up.

My friends were so understanding but I think they were shocked. Lauren has anxiety?! Lauren?! The one who’s the most daft, up for any kind of social activity, does so much, works so hard? No way. Yes way, I’m a bit broken but I’m incredibly good at hiding it. I read an article today that described having high functioning anxiety. It doesn’t describe exactly how I felt (or sometimes still feel) but a few points really hit home. Give it a read here.

I’ve been incredibly lucky and I want to drive that home. I never want to sound ‘hard done by’ because I’m not at all. My friends and family have been so incredibly supportive and without that I’d still be finding excuses for not leaving the house. I wouldn’t have made it for a long weekend in Amsterdam (granted I had a panic attack in the Anne Frank House…), I wouldn’t have made it to my sister’s wedding in Ibiza and I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this after a day at work promoting World Mental Health Day. It took me a while to let my boyfriend in on it because I’d been guilty of relying on my ex to do things for me instead of facing my fears. I didn’t want to repeat that, but I’m really proud to say I haven’t. In fact, I’ve spent more time in the pub and out with him than I have in the house recently. It’s fun to be proud of yourself for socialising.

I do worry (shock) about how ‘fashionable’ anxiety seems to be at the moment. Teenagers seeing people like Zoella opening up about her anxiety makes them want to say they have it to, isn’t that scary?! I feel like I wouldn’t have written this post without sharing all the professional help and diagnosis I received. And that’s because I’m incredibly cynical about people saying they have anxiety when they don’t really, so I’d expect everyone else to be. I feel I have my little note from my Mum that says I can miss PE and actually that isn’t so I can justify how I feel – instead it shows that I’ve taken steps to get better and I’m bloody proud of that.

You’ve maybe read this because you want the answer to getting over anxiety or stress or whatever demon is sitting on your shoulders making you feel like crap. Here you go – try everything. I’ve got books called ‘Fuck Anxiety’. I’ve had countless apps that teach you how to breathe through a panic attack. I’ve spoken to my doctor (don’t accept the first answer) and I’ve been open with my friends and boyfriend about having an off day. There’s not one simple fix and that sucks, but just like alternating ibuprofen/paracetamol when you’ve got a banging headache, mixing a few different methods really helps. I struggled with mindfulness because I’m a total cynic but it works for some people. Sometimes I bake cakes or clean the bathroom as a distraction – it makes you look and feel like you really have your shit together. Read articles that show you that people are having the same struggle, you’re not alone. I had days where I sobbed in the shower for an hour solid and felt like I just didn’t have anything to give to anyone and now I’m writing this hoping that someone reads it when they’re at that point and finds help. I’m not 100% and I’m not sure I ever will be, but this week after some great news I found myself waking up feeling good about my life. My Mum is fine, Nanny Helen is fine, I’m fine. I’ve got a cracking flat and flatmate, great pals, one hell of a keeper of a man and I’m proud every day of what I do at work. I’ve been learning to drive, something I didn’t think I could ever do, and I’m good at it! It’s all these little milestones and days of feeling good that help keep me going.

There are a lot of things in this article that I’ve never said out loud or written down before and I was worried about how it would be received. I don’t want my family to read it and feel like it’s their fault that I’ve had these feelings. It’s bloody not. I’ve told you, my therapist has told you, the doctor has told you – so stop right there with those thoughts. I’ve written it on World Mental Health Day because I was so inspired by the students in our campaign who opened up to the entire student body about their issues and gave helpful tips. They let me put their faces on posters and plaster them all over social media. That’s bloody brave and I’m totally humbled by it. Opening up to your friends and family about your issues is the most important thing you can do to help yourself. So do it, some people might be a weirdo about it but that’s fine, you’re the biggest ‘weirdo’ and you’re the one making a start on dealing with it.

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Cocktail Masterclass with the River House Stirling

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The River House is such a Stirling classic. I’ve been to countless family birthdays, anniversary dinners and the like here. I didn’t, however, have it pegged as a cocktail destination. Having been taken over recently by new management, the place has had a much needed spruce up, lovely happy staff and a brand new cocktail menu!

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Myself and a couple of other Stirling bloggers were invited along for a Cocktail Masterclass with our very own mixologist, Liam. There was no sitting back and letting him do all the work though, he put a glass of ice cold prosecco in our hands and told us to get thinking about which cocktails we’d like to make.

I chose a Passion Fruit Mojito and my all time favourite, Espresso Martini. Sadly my recent inability to have any kind of strong caffeine meant that I made a decaf one, but it still tasted really bloody good if I do say so myself. (Any of the following photos featuring me are the handiwork of Gail (thanks!))

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Liam was absolutely fantastic at hosting, he was happy to let us change ingredients and get stuck into every stage of making them. I worked in bars and restaurants for years so I have full cocktail training, slightly unfair advantage I guess, but the other girls were first timers and loved it!

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Even if you don’t go for a cocktail, the food is bloody fantastic and very reasonable. As it was a Sunday, I went for the classic steak pie and mash which was cracking. I’d also been in a few weeks before for a meeting and got my hands on the duck shepherd’s pie – absolutely sensational. The whole place is based on an old Scottish crannog set in a beautiful little man-made loch with some local residents floating about hoping for a spare bit of pastry. (Don’t worry, they don’t cook the locals…)

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Give them a call to book a Cocktail Masterclass, it’s an ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon or for a girly hen party! 01786 465 577 or book online riverhousestirling.co.uk

Make sure you check our their blog on their website too, I’m thinking of making them honorary members of my Stirling Bloggers group!

My vlog of the evening is here🙂

Casual Date Night at Beefeater Stirling

I don’t like chains. I’ve said it before and I’ve always said it, I’m not a huge fan of the lack of atmosphere or individuality. The plastic, sticky menus and children everyyyywhere. I know that there’s a place for them in the world and they are super family friendly, it’s just that I’m not. So when Beefeater asked me to pop in and visit their Stirling branch, my first thought was ‘oh no, I can’t review a chain!’ Actually, I can. I did and I was really impressed. Read on to find out why (and no, it wasn’t because dinner was on them)

Attached to a Premier Inn and situated in the new-ish development of Forthside Way in Riverside, Stirling, Beefeater popped up and passed me by. The brand reminds me of family dinners in days gone by. Cold peas and kids packs, thinking I was cool because I came with my Dad to the bar to place the order when I shouldn’t have been allowed. Put all those ideas to the back of your mind, it’s nothing like that anymore. I was so shocked when David and I walked into a fresh, modern ‘proper restaurant’. Someone at HQ has definitely been on Pinterest looking up ‘New York grills’ and it’s working.

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Beefeater have a shiny new menu (with a very cute little cow mascot) and although they are staying true to their roots with the pub classics of gammon steak or fish & chips, you can now pick from some rather fancy starters of duck wings or a salt beef board (mmm pickles). Mains are a huge range of steaks, lots of sticky ribs from the grill and even a steak salad for those strange people who don’t eat chips. OH did I mention that some meals come with unlimited refills on chips? How ridiculously good is that?! We ordered half from the main menu and half from their fantastic deal of 3 courses for £14.99, decent.

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From the main menu we started with a lamb kofta and some crispy potato skin dippers with sour cream dip from the deal menu. The lamb was just spicy enough and the tzatziki made it a really fresh, light choice to kick off with. The potato skins were ok, just a little bit tasteless! Would have been better to leave them in the classic half-shell way with loads of cheese, the portion size was huge though.

I was determined that we were trying the steaks and David voted for something from the grill so we went for a rib-eye (it’s on the deal menu for only £2.99 extra!) and BBQ ribs & chicken from the main menu. We got both chip options and we can safely vote on the chunky ones as being the best. Triple cooked and super crispy, they went really well with the steak sauces we ordered. Nothing like dipping that first chip into a hot, creamy, pepper sauce.

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The steak was cooked perfectly. I’m always wary of ordering medium rare when I’m out because so often you end up with an overcooked, tough steak. They’re not messing about with the meat at Beefeater. It was melt-in-the-mouth and I absolutely demolished my half with a few dips into the triple peppercorn and béarnaise sauces on the side. The ribs were sticky and charred with loads of meat on them and although I only managed a wee bit of the chicken, David cleared his plate and that’s always a good sign.

The service was bloody fantastic. Our waitress was really lovely, had a nice level of ‘hover and check without pestering’ as well as making sure we were never without the option for more drinks/chips/sauces etc. I’m allergic to nuts and it causes me a lot of stress when I eat out because restaurants just say ‘Oh we can’t guarantee’ and leave me at that. It often means I miss out on tasty things that I could have eaten, just because they don’t have all the info. When I asked our waitress to check the desserts for me, she produced a full allergy folder from the wait station and totally put my mind at ease. Can’t stress enough how much I appreciate places that have themselves together on allergens!

Oh the desserts. I never make it to pudding and I’m so glad I paced myself and powered through to the end. The only thing I couldn’t have was the bakewell tart which meant I had full run of so many other cracking options. I’d been craving chocolate all day so I went for the melt in the middle chocolate pudding. It was rich, the exact right size and came with a nice big scoop of lovely vanilla ice cream. David opted for the raspberry cheesecake which was bloody huge but really light and fluffy.

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If that’s left your mouth watering then you’ll be glad to know that Beefeater Stirling have given me a 25% off code for you guys to use! Head along for a pre-cinema dinner in Stirling before the 18th of May and quote 588113001. Enjoy!

*All food and drinks provided by Beefeater free of charge, thanks very much folks!

I Bought Some Pink Trainers.

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Yeah that’s right, pink. Pink trainers. Stay with me on this because they are not only adorable to look at, they’re also the comfiest things I’ve put on my feet in a while and I don’t feel like I should be at the gym in them. Does anyone else get that trainer guilt? Wearing a pair of properly sporty numbers thinking ‘these are wasted on my office floor, I should be giving it laldy on the treadmill in these’. Just me then.

Online shopping has been a bit of a slippery slope for me recently. I’ve not been frequenting the shopping centre in Stirling as much because, for reasons which myself (and a professional) have tried to work out, it gives me terrifyingly bad anxiety attacks. I’m looking on the bright side that I’m no longer having H&M binges every Thursday night but I’m probably spending double online. I’m that person that gets express delivery.

ASOS, Missguided and New Look have taken a bit of a hit from me recently but in my search for some summery trainers, Zalando hooked me in. This was also my very first order from them and I’m about to sing their praises (this isn’t sponsored, I bloody wish it was). Their website isn’t as jazzy as ASOS or its pals but it does the job. Plus there were so many options in the refine bit of your search, ideaaaal. A few clicks later and I was staring lovingly at these babies.

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I silently debated with myself over the mint ones, but I fell for the cute powdery look of the pink. Icing on the little pink fairycake shoes? They were only £34! I had just bought a pair of white, clumpy, £80 Nike leather monstrosities from ASOS and sent them back after they made me look like I was wearing my Dad’s shoes to take the bins out. So to find a pair three times nicer for less than half the price, decent. They are super comfy, really padded round the sides and although they look a bit leather-like in the photos, they are canvas so they are nice and light. I can’t wait to wear them with jeans and white tops or a wee denim skirt.

Here’s the BEST BIT though, I had found a £5 off voucher that I had already used when I checked my emails and saw that as I registered Zalando had sent a £10 off voucher. Oh mannnn. I quickly tweeted them and oh my days, their customer service are superb. They replied in the morning and immediately sorted it all, taking another £5 off for me. Fan-bloody-tastic service if you ask me. Plus it’s free delivery and everything arrived on Wednesday when I’d ordered late on Saturday night. I also bought some Adidas leggings which are a great fit (and motivation to get me to go back to the gym) but I’m weirded out by the idea of posting a photo of just my bum/legs on my blog so here’s a link to them.

Again, this isn’t sponsored, but I fully recommend a wee nose around zalando.co.uk, they have a much better range than Schuh or Office IMO. (I only just learnt what this stands for and I’m overusing it ok?)

 

Stirling Eats: Sable & Flea

Today I squealed in excitement at a box outside a vintage shop full of £2 crockery. This is the kind of thing that makes my eyes widen, my heart beat faster and the irresponsible adult in me go ‘ooooh I’ve got an overdraft to exercise’. So imagine how I felt walking down the street clutching a bag full of beautiful mismatching plates and seeing this cute newbie on Friar Street.

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Sable & Flea is coffee shop & vintage store and I have a feeling it’s my new favourite Stirling haunt…sorry Groundhouse. I’ve always had an affinity with this shop, it used to be a children’s clothing place called The Honeytree. My Mum bought most of my ‘fancy’ clothes from there until I was about 4 years old, it was a beautiful old fashioned shop and that carnival horse (which I’m SO GLAD they kept) had a bloody waiting list! When it closed down last year I was really sad, even if I hadn’t shopped there in quiiite a while, but it was a shame to see it go. I’m really chuffed that it has been used in this way.

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We had a couple of post-walk hot chocolates to warm up our cold fingers and they were ideal. Frothy and thick, and those are some excellent sized marshmallows. We didn’t eat but I had a nosey at the menu anyway, it’s an ideal change from the usual fayre in Stirling and I’m going back to try some of the fantastic looking fresh bread.

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The vintage buys are so tempting, but not anywhere near as cheap as my £2 finds. They are clearly handpicked and I looked around thinking, ‘I want that, I want that too’ but I’ve been trying to cut back on my taxidermy recently…

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If you’re offended by taxidermy, you’re on the wrong blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not off out to the Trossachs with a shotgun, but really old vintage taxidermy that was done in a time before people thought ‘oh hey wait maybe we shouldn’t kill helpless animals for fun?’ is fair game (excuse the pun). Would you rather these vintage treasures sit in a damp back room somewhere or actually get to be enjoyed and have another kind of life? I really wanted this little squirrel pal, but I held back. Mainly because he’s so at home in the beautiful little cafe!

Can we also take a second to enjoy my new jumper? I’m becoming quite the social media geek after giving myself a kick up the backside to advance my knowledge and I just HAD to have this ‘trending‘ number from New Look.

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So if you’re in Stirling and fancy an ideal place for a cute lunch or somewhere reasonably priced to take your mum, I know that one is often a struggle, then Sable & Flea is for you.

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Find it on Friar Street, next to Europa. Don’t have a go on the horse, you’re too big now, get over it.

Back to School with BrewDog

I honestly don’t work for BrewDog. Promise! I’ve just got a bit of a brand crush and I’m flirting outrageously. The team invited myself and some other lovely Stirling Bloggers along for a Beer School this week and it’s safe to say I learnt a LOT. I don’t want to write too much about it though, which may seem counter productive for a blog but I’d rather tempt you all with snippets and hear that you’ve booked a lesson.

First off, don’t go in thinking it’s an actual school day. There’s no test, they don’t put you on the spot and you’re still correct if you think your beer smells like a pet shop (It did ok!)

I’d thoroughly recommend booking up if you want to learn the secrets behind the names of the beers (5AM Saint is a particularly cool one) and be taught the perfect way to smell and further taste your beer.

A warning though, it’s definitely pushed my levels of beer snob up a few notches. Pre-school I could quite happily neck a pint of cheap lager or drink a slightly warm desperados and think it was tasty.  Now I look out for Punk IPA on offer in Tesco and I’ll have a peer over the bar to check the fridges for the distinct BrewDog bottles…or at least I’ll have a Guinness.

We tried 5 different beers, all completely different and I definitely have a new favourite go-to after it. So let’s enjoy some photos and a few tasting notes on the beers. There’s even a little video at the end for you, please excuse my editing skills – it’s been about 6 years since I even opened an editor.

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This is Lager 4.7%
Tasting notes: Bit lemony and nicer than any standard watery lager.
Overall thoughts: Not a huge fan, but Tina loves an ice cold lager on a hot day on holiday so this one is for her.

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Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier 5.4%
Tasting notes: Foam bananas. Seriously, you have to try this one and think of chocolate covered foam bananas.
Overall thoughts: Huge fan! This is definitely my new favourite to have next time I’m in.

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Punk IPA 5.6%
Tasting notes: Fruit, pineapple, mango, frrrrrresshhh.
Overall thoughts: My all time favourite and I doubt I’m alone. You can get it in Tesco so there’s no excuse not to try it.

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5AM Saint 5%
Tasting notes: Malty, sweet and kinda caramel-y.
Overall thoughts: Not a big fan but the story behind the name is pretty cool.

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Death by Coconut 6.5%
Tasting notes: Urggghhh so goooood. Coconut, coffee, chocolate, all the good things.
Overall thoughts: A strong favourite but I could only have one before it got too much.

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I actually forgot to take a photo of this, maybe because it literally blew my mind.
Tasting notes: It’s not beer, it can’t be, surely not. Superbly strong, more like a syrupy whisky. Swoosh it around your mouth if you can stand it then swallow and breath out through your nose. Insane.
Overall thoughts: Never again but it’s a ‘try it once in your life’ thing. It only comes in 25ml measures in the bar funnily enough.

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It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the eats too. We were needing a little break by the time we got to the third beer and these beauties appeared. That blue cheese with a sip of the 5AM Saint? Oh my. Plus that last bit of charcuterie on the bottom is venison, properly properly tasty.

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I hope I’ve managed to peak your interest in going back to school. You don’t actually have to take notes like I did, but my scribblings meant I could write this with some shred of knowledge that the 32% beer didn’t wipe out!

Check out this little video (I knowwwww it’s 4:3, I’m sorry!) and get booking by emailing stirlingbar@brewdog.com

BrewDog Comes To Stirling 

 

I love a good brand. If you’ve been reading my blogs for a few years you’ll know I’m easily seduced by nice clean branding, a good company ethos and honest social media. BrewDog nail all of those things as well as providing the only beer I actually like to drink. So you can imagine I was beyond buzzing to find out they were knocking down ‘the runt of the Belhaven pack’ and putting a brand new BrewDog right in the centre of my beloved Stirling. 

I got straight on the emails to the new manager and organised for myself and some of the lovely new members of my Stirling Bloggers group to head along for a sneaky preview. We were to be BrewDog guinea pigs and it’s safe to say we all left feeling full, tipsy and very pleased.  

  

 

  
I’ve been a fan for a few years now, having my first half of Punk IPA (a good starting point for newbies!) at their Kelvingrove-facing bar in Glasgow’s West End. I was immediately hooked on just how damn cool everything about the place was. The staff knew their shit, the beers actually tasted like beer not watery nonsense and the food was super tasty. All of these things have been brought to the Stirling branch and more. Darren and his team were welcoming and happy to chat to some of our BrewDog virgins about the (young!) history of the brand, as well as making some great recommendations at the bar.

  

  
 I had to start off with a lovely cool half pint of my favourite  Punk IPA but I got more and more adventurous after a wee chat with the bar staff. I sipped away at tasters of their milk stout and ended up with a medium strength and slightly festive, Candy Kaiser (or as I accidentally described it, ‘Tasty Vicar’…) I can’t wait to head back in and try a full pint of the stout that really tasted like espresso and coconut, my faaaaves. 

Can we just take a second to look at this awesome photo that ‘lcblair23’ on Instagram took, feat. the back of my head and our wee beer crew. I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing it!

  
The beer is perfectly complemented with some cracking pub food in the form of pies from Pieminister, a local company who deliver them fresh, as well as stews, toasties and my favourite, cheese & charcuterie boards. Get the minty mushy peas with your pie, you won’t regret it. They also brew Dear Green coffee which is soooo good, but I can’t imagine not having beer in there. Maybe I’ll be popping in for a take away flat white if I’m picking stuff up from their neighbours at Mailboxes before work…

   

  

 

  

  

Beer cocktails! You know I’m going to be all over the Espresso Stoutini.

  
 
 

The whole place is a breath of fresh air for Stirling, the decor makes it feel very young and studenty and the pricing (which I have no problem with) keeps out the annoying weans and old jakes. They even have a Walking Dead pinball machine, they do takeaway on all their beers aaaaand they are dog friendly! It was lovely to meet Ingvild and Sophie too, even if we were all being typical anti-social looking bloggers. I can’t wait to spend a fair few winter evenings in there, making friends with the lovely staff and working my way through that beer menu. 15 taps? I accept the challenge. 

 Give the guys a follow on Twitter & Instagram  @BrewDogStirling

(P.S. Excuse the messiness of this post, the WordPress iPad app is painful to use. I’ll tidy it up when I’m back home) 

From France to Scotland in 24 hours

I’ve just had one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time, which was so picture-perfect that I felt it deserved it’s own post! Friday evening and I found myself on the ‘fast train’ to Glasgow, heels on and an evening of wine and good company ahead. I love love love trying new places and the idea of a little French bistro sounded like an ideal way to end a busy week. Excuse the exceptionally shoddy photos, the lighting wasn’t my pal and I didn’t really want to be that food blogger who ruins every meal by snapping everything 10 times!

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We started off sharing a little taster platter of escargots and cuisses de grenouilles – that’s snails and frogs legs to you (/anyone else who still doesn’t pretend their advanced higher French means they can speak it) I had never had them before, which is surprising since I’ve frequented Paris a fair few times! But I was convinced and I’m definitely converted. Mind you, anything saturated in lovely fresh garlic is a winner to me. The frogs legs really bloody do taste like very tender chicken, don’t be scared to try them!

Mains are photographed so badly that I actually feel guilty showing you them, but I wish I could pass you a forkful. The fish (sea bass) in that little mysterious parcel was so soft and buttery it just fell apart on your tongue. My chicken came stuffed with a beautifully salty tapenade, wrapped in crispy parma ham and accompanied simply by the best gratin dauphinois I’ve had in a long time!

The little bistro itself was so cute, simply decorated (how v French) and the service was absolutely faultless. The two waiters had just enough ‘chat’ with us to not intrude on our meal, everything was whipped away in a timely manner and our wine glasses were never empty. I love that. It was fairly quiet for a Friday night, and I’m very surprised considering how delicious everything was. Actually, I take it back, no one go. I want it to be quiet so I can go again next time I’m through and maybe take Tina for dinner!

It’s situated on Hope St, just around the corner from Blue Dog which makes for an ideal pre-dinner drink venue. Don’t judge it by the website font choices, it really is wonderful – www.lebistrobeaumartin.co.uk

We didn’t manage pudding, but meeting this handsome chap was enough of a treat to end my evening on!

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After an evening in ‘France’, it was only fitting that we got back to our roots with a day driving through the beautiful Scottish countryside, the best of Scottish music playing and the sun in our eyes. First off, a quick stop at Campsie Fells as I had never been, what a beautiful little green valley!

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Then on to the beauty of Loch Lomond, where it just so happened that there was a food and drink festival on! It was far too busy to properly nosey at the stalls but we managed to grab some incredible smoked, roasted meats. I’m 90% sure it was beef, I actually forgot to ask, but it was so good. It came drizzled in chimichurri sauce on a bed of mustard mayo. In. My. Element. I also won Mini Golf by 5 points so I was just a chuffed wee lady all round.

It ended up being a really warm and sunny day and we managed to finally find a quiet part of the loch and have a wander. I decided I had to be king of the fallen tree castle. Look at the sun on that water, oh I wish I had a boat!

That was my last free weekend for two weeks (until I’m sunning myself in Spain) because Freshers madness is upon me at work. I think I’ve gone out with a bang. You really can’t beat good food, beautiful views and excellent company.  Oh and cats, lots of lovely fluffy cats. Have some more cats….

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Big Willy Wallace Style

There’s my big daft face, starting my blog posts off as usual. I’ve been partying too much lately and that hungover face above is the reason for the next post – Kirk is getting fit! Apart from slipping off the wagon a few times with the odd takeaway, I’ve not been doing too badly at eating less, eating well and exercising. Freshers is just around the corner at work and I’m going straight to Spain after it so I need to whip my ass into shape quickly.

I love the gym and going to classes, but sometimes the best exercise is getting out in the rare sunshine with friends and exploring. McKay and I did just that and ended up doing over 11K in a few hours. We headed from mine to Toast to fill up on a big breakfast, I really should do a post on there because I’m such a regular.

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A few comedic stretches and we were off through Riverside, on to Cambuskenneth with a little pit stop at the Abbey.

The Wallace Monument was our final destination and we managed to pick the hardest way to get to the ticket office, as well as the warmest day for climbing the hill to it. It was about 19 degrees in the shade of the trees and it’s safe to say we worked hard!

During Summer, they put on a little woodland tour with some wonderful actors – we met Wallace! It’s a must if you’re a tourist and it was certainly a nice little refresher course on my local history.

Prepare yourself for quite the spinny stairs climb once you’re inside, if you get dizzy easily then it’s not for you! There are levels every few floors where you can stop and read about the incredibly rich history of the area, see Wallace’s sword and even crack out a (very poor) Y stand…

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It’s definitely worth the climb for the views from the top alone. It’s quite reasonably priced if like me you’ve managed to get yourself an NUS card and live as a perpetual student. We also made friends with two lovely American men from Virginia and I can’t lie, I might have slightly fallen in love with one of them. It clearly wasn’t meant to be as we popped into the Coo for a Sunday evening night-cap to find that they had been in (on my recommendation) only an hour before!

I was pretty shattered by the time we walked back down, back into Stirling and up the stairs to my flat, slept like a baby! It’s nice to visit local historic sites and team it up with some good exercise, what’s near you?

More info here – www.nationalwallacemonument.com Oh and if you fancy it – go on a nice day, it’s rubbish when it’s cloudy.

Lochside Lunch

This is just a quick little post about one of my favourite day-trip places to eat. Situated on the banks of Loch Venachar just outside Callendar, Venachar Lochside is a perfect little ‘taste of Scotland’ cafe with stunning views. It has a 4 star Scottish tourist rating amongst countless awards…Scotland’s Best Restaurant 2014 – Scottish Baking Awards, Taste Our Best 2014/15 – Visit Scotland and Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015! If that’s not enough to convince you, read on.

It’s my absolute favourite to go to with the girls on a sunny day for a ‘ladies who lunch’ day. The staff are delightful, polite and seem to all really get on which I like a lot – it’s a great atmosphere to dine in.

Go hungry. Their portions are generous and you have to leave room for some of the incredible home made cakes. If they have the coffee cake, get it and get a bit to take home – it’s divine!

I usually opt for mussels or their very homely and tasty cullin skink soup – I love fish. Their menu is refreshed regularly and never fails to give me that ‘oh but I want three different things’ feeling. Click here for a sample menu. 

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Equally as good as the fresh, tasty Scottish fayre is the beautiful view from the huge windows. Sit outside if it’s sunny, it’s a perfect scene. I wish I had taken more photos of the inside, it’s very simple and I can see why people have their weddings there. I really need to get Tina up there for an afternoon, I’m sure my Dad would love to get out on the boats too. I wanted to jump into one and putter off into the sun.

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Give their Facebook page a like here, if only to drool over the albums of food and cakes…