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…

NAF Glasgow Guuurl

This is the face of a very happy lady! Not only because I’ve got a cracking new set of gels on the nails I’ve been growing and carefully babying for weeks…but because one of my oldest and dearest friends has just realised a business dream, I’m so proud!

Years ago, Tammy started painting nails in her bedroom in Stirling. I’m pretty sure her first leopard print nails were done with a sharpie on some Bodycare falsies and she’ll probably kill me for that. But if there’s ever a better example of making a dream come true, it’s Tammy and her brand new salon – NAF.

It stands for nails & face if you hadn’t already got that…Tammy has taken her DIY Nails business and expanded into the beauty market with a fully stocked salon doing nails, make up and soon to include henna, extensions and more! It’s basically your one-stop-shop for looking great in Glasgow.

I’m going to leave this as a photo post from here on because just LOOK AT IT! Definitely going to be the most instagrammed salon in Glasgow.

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Betty inspects the job the girls have done before you’re allowed to leave…

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Tammy did a beautiful job on some pale pink gels for me and I couldn’t resist a wee selfie session in front of the mirrors…

NAF has just opened in Central Chambers, if you’re walking down Waterloo St look up and you’ll see her emoji-windows! If you’ve never treated yourself to a proper manicure before, then why not? You’re in very good, very talented hands and you’ll leave feeling so sassy. I’ve popped their opening offers price list below, can you believe how bloody reasonable that is!? Make sure you book because they are sure to be busy – nafsalon.com

facebook.com/nafsalon  //  instagram.com/nafsalon  //  twitter.com/nafsalon  //  56, 1st Floor, 12 Waterloo St, Glasgow

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Birthday Bar Crawl

Last Sunday it was my wonderful flatmate’s 25th birthday and to celebrate her quarter life crisis, we decided to do what we do best –  drink lots and lots of alcohol and take lots of photos of it. I’ll leave this post as fairly photo heavy and text light, but we had a cracking day touring about Glasgow and it really made me miss the West End!

First up was breakfast in Stirling at Monterey Jack’s. I’ve never been up early enough for their famous pancakes and I’m so glad we made it. I over ordered as usual…

We had a few train issues due to some industrial action and I felt a bit like Samantha from SATC trying to get us to Glasgow but we managed it and the celebrations kicked off straight away with the standard birthday embarrassment for Marzy! A woman across from us couldn’t stop laughing at us with our table cover, birthday banners and tacky alcohol (it was after 12!). That and I kept calling the new passengers gatecrashers…

We headed straight to the West End for midday mojitos in Vodka Wodka and a HUGE lunch at Cafe Andaluz. It was absolutely ideal, I felt like I was on holiday.

All that food was a big case of make or break and I’m so glad I had that ridiculously strong espresso (with condensed milk, GAME CHANGER). We headed back into the city centre on a recommendation to head to Sugar Dumplin’ with a quick dive into Lush first to pick up our #gayisOK soap bars. If you’ve not head of the campaign, you can still support it here.

The decor is so cool, no other word for it. I loved it and I’m getting George to make me a light fixture out of the copious number of empty gin bottles I have.

Sadly the atmosphere was severely lacking due to it being completely empty but I can imagine if it was busy, it really would feel like you were in the Caribbean (if you don’t look out the window). The cocktails were standard prices and tasty and the staff were fab, but I’d probably only head back in if I knew it’d be busier.

We finally made it to the place we’d planned to go to all along – Gin 71. Cup on the corner of Renfield St turns into a fantastic, juuuust slightly opulent gin bar after 6pm and it’s definitely my new favourite Glasgow haunt. I made a bold order of a No3 gin with coriander and lemongrass with Fevertree tonic. It’s one of the tastiest ways to serve a strong gin and I love it. The range is fantastic and the staff are super knowledgeable…and particularly handsome. By this time I was suitably rosy cheeked and I think I fell in love with one of the beardy barmen. I don’t even mind if they tell him, he was lovely.

I’m actually worrying about the sheer amount of different alcohol that I put in my wee body. This post doesn’t include the ‘waiting for the train to Glasgow gin’ or the ‘waiting for the train to Stirling gin’…

We made it home and popped into the Curly Coo to say hello to Mandy, the cracking wee landlady. She was all excited to say Happy Birthday to Marzy and even came to the table with a ferrero rocher with a candle in it. Adorable. I took a wee snap of the pub but I think I’ll do a proper post on it because it really is my favourite pub in Stirling.

You’d think we’d be taking it easy after all that but no no, we’re off out tonight. Don’t think I’ll do a blog post about pre-drinks pitch perfect soundtrack karaoke and ring of fire though…

Where did we go?

Vodka Wodka – Ashton Lane, Hillhead subway and turn left.

Cafe Andaluz – Cresswell Lane, come out of Vodka Wodka and stumble along the cobbles.

Sugar Dumplin’ – Princes Square, right at the top – go on a Saturday.

Gin 71 – In Cup but only after 6pm, near Burger Meats Bun on the corner of Renfield St.

Curly Coo – Stirling, but worth the trip through just to meet Mandy.


Hair Mare: Blonde Ambition

This is a hugely shallow post about my hair. Carry on if you enjoy that, I do.

Recently I’ve accepted a fate. During a deep, wine fuelled discussion about which Friends character we each were, it was unanimously decided that I was Rachel. At first I was like ‘maaate I’m Chandler’, but after it was pointed out that I have very little trouble with finding men (just lots of trouble keeping them), I’m an ex-cheerleader (haha I know), I have a serious shopping problem, I spend money like it’s not mine, I waitressed for years, my ankles weigh me down, I send badly judged 3am messages and I have had the same hair style for…forever, I took it. Actually, the more I think about it, there are frightening similarities.

I’m now saved in my flatmate’s phone as ‘Blonde Ambition’ after a nightmare week of hair changes which have left me with a fresh, lighter tone for summer. She’s in mine as Burgundy Sparrow but that’s a whole different story… Anyway, I’ve made some hair changes for the first time in years and you may be looking at these photos thinking, eh Lauren that’s the same as before but for me it’s v different! I had grown out my wintery auburn ombre and I wanted a change.

First stop was my usual hairdresser, who I adore and I’ve trusted with my hair for years and years. I’ve followed him from salon to salon and even used to come back through from Glasgow to get my hair done here in Stirling. This time it just wasn’t what I wanted, and it’s just as much my fault for not being clear and not having the balls to go ’em that wasn’t what I wanted’. The top of my hair ended up very stripy, it just wasn’t me at all. The photos below don’t really show just how bright the blonde was on top, I spent a few days plaiting it onto my head to try and hide it!

The ends were a very bright yellow blonde too, which was just too harsh for my skin. I’ve usually got a bit of a tan (not real, plz) in summertime anyway but it was clashing terribly with my general skin tone and eyes. I walked home from the salon in a total panic and found myself booking an appointment with the Rainbow Rooms for a few days later to get it fixed. Saturday rolled around and I found myself sitting having a really delightful salon experience. Double consultation with my stylist and the head honcho who discussed numbers and tones and made sure I was getting exactly what I wanted. I had a couple of lovely strong coffees, an incredible head massage and the colour work they’ve done is fantastic. The stripes are completely toned down and the ends are a lovely rose gold to ash blonde.

Unfortunately, half an hour later I found myself nearly fainting in Boots. I was having a reaction to the dye. I managed to sit myself down, get some sugary tea and food in me and meet my Gran for our usual Saturday bingo thinking I’d be fine and it would just pass once I had some fresh air. Turns out it got worse and I was having a mild anaphylactic shock. I’m allergic to nuts (amongst a few other things) and I know the signs, so when my tongue felt like it didn’t quite fit in my mouth I started to fairly panic. I called NHS24 and twenty minutes later I was in an ambulance on my way to hospital. They didn’t know if this was it as bad as it was going to get or if it was going to get worse. Oh joy. Turns out I was going to be fine but it wasn’t exactly a fun Saturday. I won’t be letting dye touch my skin again and although the salon did a patch test, I’ll stick to foils and my natural hair on top from now on. The joys of having an ombre hairstyle, no one knows if it’s roots or you meant it.

Stirling Eats: Bite East

Yep, I’ve dyed half my head blonde again. Half love it and half in absolute horror that the top of my head is stripy. It’s turned me into a total hair-zilla this week and luckily I’m getting it fixed on Saturday morning. My poor natural brown! Anyway, I’m writing this up a hill in the 26 degree… cloud-shine? It’s roasting but the sun is hiding, there I’ve invented a new weather term. There’s a couple lying on the other side watching me with great interest, reaaaaaally hoping I don’t get mugged for my mac.

Last night I continued my journey around the fantastic independent restaurants in Stirling. I’ve said before, it’s pretty hard to find somewhere to eat that isn’t a chain but the little guys are fighting back. None more than Bite East. The evening was organised between myself and Cailin who owns the restaurant. She had popped into the office to ask about working with us over Freshers, doing some promotion etc and my boss mentioned I blogged. A few quick emails back and forth and I assembled some troops in the form of new bloggers, Clare & Hollie and seasoned professional, Sharon. It was actually really nice to get a group of people who don’t know each other together and we all had a good giggle.

Bite East is located right in the centre of town on Port Street in a beautiful old building which I remember being called Little Johns (showing my age). It still has the old, pretty stained glassed windows – I’m so glad they didn’t get rid of them. We were given a big table right at the front door, which was a blessing on such a muggy night, but I do recommend you ask to sit up the back at the more ‘romantic’ tables.

We kicked off with some very refreshing fruit punches and bubble teas. I’m 50/50 on bubble tea, I find it a really funny consistency but the fruit punch was ideal. I had a very tasty passionfruit one which came with yogurt flavoured balls in the bottom, the girls laughed at me when I said ‘It makes my drink fun’ ‘eh, that’s what alcohol is for Lauren!’

Cailin had worked out a menu for us in advance and it wasn’t long until the sushi was coming thick and fast. My goodness I’ve never seen such beautiful presentation in a restaurant. Nothing was tacky or overdone, it was Instagram heaven. I’m not a sushi novice, I’ve had a fair few visits to YO in my time but this sushi was something else. So fresh and light…and huge.

Things kicked off with little warm battered balls called Takoyaki with octopus. I love calamari so I was so down with these. The flakes are actually delicately thin slices of dried fish which gave the whole thing a lovely aroma. Next up were some beautiful California rolls with crab and avocado, a sprinkling of roe and a Japanese mayo. I had forgotten how good it was to dunk one of these babies in some soy and shove the whole thing in your mouth. Even if I did look like a hamster.

Next up, the Nigiri Combo and Sashimi Combo. A raw fish lovers heaven. I can get fully onboard with the salmon, tuna and prawn but I couldn’t have a raw scallop. I just can’t have them any other way than fried quickly in butter… The fish was incredibly fresh and beautifully chilled on a bed of ice & shredded Japanese radish. You can start to see what I mean about the presentation, so much work goes in to each plate. Never mind slapping some chips down, this is art!

We reached the end of our sushi adventure with this little guy, what a handsome and inquisitive chap! He almost distracted me from how delicious the Dragon rolls are, but I was quick to ruin the presentation and nab his prawn dragon tail from the other end. A crispy fried piece of king prawn with that moreish sticky rice and a little avocado jacket. The drizzled sauce was a sweet teriyaki style glaze and I reckon this was my favourite from the whole selection!

We were all suitably stuffed in that nice way that sushi makes you, but we were nowhere near done. Even writing this I keep letting out little slow ‘I’m still full’ breaths. The mains started coming pretty quickly, which is a testament to the chefs – I love quick service!

First off, these crispy delights! King Prawns with very fine crispy potato ‘shreddings’ and a sauce that tasted like really top quality…salad cream. Bear with me, it was incredible. The prawns were so thick I had to revert to my knife and fork (I’d been chop-sticking the best I could), they were warm and just what I needed to transition from the sushi.

Next up, the star of the show – sticky, sizzling, spicy sea bass. I feel like I’m revealing this too soon but I’m trying to remain in the order things arrived in. This appeared bubbling and as Jamie Oliver says ‘blipping’ away on it’s little tin foil bed. It smelt incredible, like allllll the good Chinese food at once. The fish fell off the bone and into all our mouths so quickly. We had it with some lovely fresh fried rice and every one of us went back again and again for more. Definitely the favourite! We all kept exclaiming that it’s something we’d never order, but now we’ve tried it I think a repeat visit is due.

Talk about an Instagram dream, we were served a sticky sweet & sour chicken IN A PINEAPPLE. Cailin brought it over and we all thought we’d skipped to dessert early, but she opened the top to reveal another course! This was a special serve as usually the pineapple bowl is reserved for the pineapple chicken which will hit the menu soon, but what a showstopper and very very tasty. I think this would be a great date restaurant, no chance for awkward silences with this on the table.

By this time we were all really struggling, as Sharon put it, the table had reached critical mass and there were still more courses to come. Cailin couldn’t recommend these stir fried fine beans enough and I think I’d have destroyed the whole plate if I wasn’t struggling by that point. A really fresh version of my favourite take away Chinese, special fried rice.

We’d gotten to the wide-eyed ‘I can’t eat anything else’ stage but those green beans were a game changer. We all dug in and exclaimed about just how good they were. I know, just green beans but they were in a full-flavoured almost salty dressing which we managed to find out was made from bean sprouts. Make sure you order these as a side if (when!) you go, I could just eat a plate of them on their own. We finished up with the classic peking crispy shredded beef, which I think was maybe too sweet for some of the girls but I loved it. Another presentation gold star here too!

There was so much food leftover, Cailin gave us all a little take away box and we plundered the table buffet-style. I spent my morning nibbling on more of those incredible green beans, not your usual breakfast.

Obviously as full disclosure, all meals and drinks were provided free of charge by Bite East as a gift. But don’t let that fool you into thinking I was forced to write nice things, the food was bloody delightful!

I’m hoping that this post has made you crave an evening of oriental fusion cooking, there’s no better place than Bite East. The attention to detail that goes into each plate, the freshness of ingredients and the passion from the staff is just wonderful. If you’re in Stirling, pop along to 52 Port Street and have a proper, delicious and very reasonably priced sit down meal in lovely surroundings. You can have a nosey (and a like!) at their Facebook page here and if you go in, say hi to Cailin for me!

Stirling Eats: Ground House

I reckon I instagram a coffee-based beverage at least twice a week, and that’s just a law of averages based on the fact I drink at least 3/4 cups a day. That might sound excessive but I have a good old fashioned caffeine addiction and I simply don’t function in the morning without it (or the afternoon…)

My problem isn’t just that I need lots of it, it’s that it has to also be good. I’m a bit of a coffee snob. My name is Lauren and I hate instant coffee. Hi Lauren. Luckily for me, Stirling has a little haven of lovely, good quality coffee – The Ground House.

I’m still struggling to not call it Beanscene as that’s what it was all through my teenage years. I spent hours and hours in there having ‘girly chats’ with school friends or ‘dates’ with floppy haired boys. It hasn’t really changed at all, just scrubbed up a bit with lovelier staff and a cracking menu. Oh and I still go on dates there…

The whole place is decorated like you’re actually inside a cup of coffee, with the addition of some fairy lights and colourful chalk boards. I don’t have many photos of the rest of it because it’s always busy and I don’t want to take photos of people I don’t know…

Everything is pretty damn reasonable price wise, especially for how lovely the coffee is. Food wise, get a Ground House Dog – oh my god. A huge, very tasty hot dog in a bun with bacon, jalopenos, cheese and chilli….mmm. In Summer they have a great outside seating area on King St, I’ve spent many an afternoon baking in the sun with an iced latte.

Just a tip, don’t try and convince yourself you’ll manage one of their incredible cakes after that, go for one or the other – you’ll just let yourself down. They’re always fully stocked with the most ridiculously opulent brownies, home baking and tray bakes. You’ll never find a dry bit of millionaires shortbread though, everything I’ve tried has been really more-ish and tasty.

I realised whilst writing this, that I’ve dotted a few photos with my favourite iced latte (poured over ice, not blended, no syrup or sugar) but I’ve only one photo of an actual flat white. Ohhh their flat white. The best way to enjoy their smooth coffee – delivered roasting hot and straight to your table from a lovely, cheery staff member. Apologies that I’ve not got more photos of them. I suppose I’ll just have to get back in there and have more coffee, what an absolute shame…

Check them out on Facebook here or pop in next time you’re in town and dare to think of having a chain coffee!

Stirling Eats: Monterey Jack’s

Standard ‘here’s my face at the start of my blog’. As you may have noticed, I no longer live in Glasgow (and haven’t done so for nearly two years!) and I’m back in my hometown of Stirling. Blogging here is pretty difficult because there are no regular events, the newest place that’s popped up is a Spoons and the range of restaurants is very poor. I’ve managed to find the gems in amongst the pub chains and I’ll be sharing them on here over the next few weeks. I’ll probably have to move once I’ve reviewed them all, otherwise I’ll have no more restaurant content…

First up we have the ever-popular ‘Americana’ style burger bar, Monterey Jack’s. You couldn’t move in Glasgow for burger restaurants and this has spilled over into the Stirling bubble. Thank god though, I was sick of floury frozen buns and dry thick burgers from chains and pubs. MJ’s fit the bill perfectly here, they’re reasonably priced (this is a student town), their burgers are seriously tasty and the fact they deliver is a game changer for hangover days.

Situated in the old Stirling arcade, the owners have done a great job at adapting the oddly shaped long restaurant into a really cosy, well decorated venue. Comfy benches, eye-catching chalkboards galore, oh and the music will have you jiggling about in your seat. The menu is actually quite big choice-wise, but streamlined down to burgers, hot dogs, nachos, pizzas, tapas (american style) and salads.

There’s a great cocktail menu, although everything is very sweet so just a warning for those that prefer a drier hit. I imagine they’ll knock up whatever you fancy though, and of course everything comes in the oh so fashionable mason jars. At 2 for £8, they are definitely the cheapest and tastiest in Stirling.

I’ve been in a few times and I always go for a milkshake or a blueberry mojito, oh did I mention this was not a restaurant for days when you’re trying to be good?

The blueberry mojito is super sweet but so fizzy and tangy at the same time. The milkshakes are trial and error, above is the cookies n cream, but because they’re made from ice cream, it just tasted like vanilla with bits. Go for chocolate or strawberry!

Food wise, I’ve been a few times and sampled most of the menu but the burgers always win. My favourite is The Mounty, a gently spiced beef burger with amazingly crispy, sweet smoked bacon, onion rings, monterey jack cheddar and a drizzle of maple syrup. (I told you it wasn’t for diet days…)

My Mum came along last time and had The Sicilian, the same gently spiced patty with pepperoni, sun-blushed tomatoes, mozzarella and balsamic glaze. The buns are a really delicately sweet brioche that hold together really well and they’re just the right size to fill you up and not leave you struggling.

The burgers don’t come with chips, but at two for £11 you can’t really complain! We ordered some skinny fries (like what MacDonald’s fries should be like) and a house salad which was massive. I’m yet to make it to dessert in there but I hear their american style pies are incredible, plus I MUST make it up in time to head to their breakfast service, the pancakes on their Facebook page look unbelievable. It’s an ideal little date restaurant and I’d recommend firing in a booking on the weekend, ask to sit inside though as the courtyard seriously lacks atmosphere/good lighting.

*A little disclaimer, if I’m ever given a free meal because of this blog, I’ll say. All reviews in Stirling so far have been paid for by myself or were treats with my Mum!

That Time I Wrote a Novel

That might be a fairly bold title as the ‘novel’ is much more of a short story at 14,000 words and was my final year English Studies dissertation, but bear with me. I’m back at the ol’ mac and I’m here to tell you about my writing.

I’ve always had to be difficult and different. Not in an emo kid way, just that I always looked at what everyone was doing and thought ‘How boring and same-y’. I never followed fashion trends, I always liked to question and challenge what was happening and if there was a more interesting way of doing something, I’d find it.

It carried on at University. During my final year I did a photography portfolio for my Children’s Literature class titled ‘Alice in Wonderless Land’. Photos of my friend Tammy in a tacky Alice dress up outfit sitting in my stairwell with a bottle of Jack Daniels, spelling out ‘Eat Me’ with ketchup and falling down the rabbit hole…to find the bins. I got a 1A for it and my tutor was in raptures over it. I hadn’t written a thing and I’d still smashed it. Being different worked.

So when it came to my dissertation I knew I was never writing about poetry or slaving over literature theories. I wanted to do what I did best, creative writing. Luckily for me, it was an option that was offered and my dissertation supervisor (I still dedicate the odd shot to him, what a legend) was very supportive. After reading the first few chapters he called me in for a meeting and said he not only loved it, but was excited about it, calling me ‘an experiment’. I wasn’t sure how to take that, but I got a 2:1 for it and I think that’s pretty damn good for a story. Below is a bit of the ‘critical analysis’ part of my dissertation, where I explained what I wanted to do and how I did it.

  I wanted to write a dissertation that allowed me to explore my own personal tastes. A piece of work that successfully portrayed everything I had learnt from my four years of English Studies combined with my own preferences in literature and in life. I chose a creative writing dissertation as prose has always been my strong point. However, I didn’t choose to write a historical re-telling of a heroic battle or a gothic horror laced with mystery. I chose to write about what I know. And what I know well is women, high heels and revenge. I approached the subject with caution as I didn’t want my writing to fall into what I would term, ‘a trashy beach novel’. I didn’t want my characters to become sad, single, thirty something’s with a part-time love interest and a cat. I wanted to write about powerful women and I wanted to write in a popular fiction style, so what better place to look than the world of celebrity. The general aesthetics I wanted to invoke in this short story were that of the extremes – power hungry women, image obsessed and out to seek revenge. I wanted to parody this celebrity obsessed world, where we can’t get enough of the next glossy magazine or headline and we seem to be overly influenced by these figures that more than likely have less of a moral standing than your average Joe (or Jane) I wanted to explore the difference between reality and representation, i.e. how these women appear versus their actual sense of self. 

      My short story winds around 5 women, all of which perceive power in different ways. Mandy Hunt, the protagonist and her Scottish P.A. Kerry Abercrombie (named after a friend from University actually!). Charlotte Blake, a model and designer, and ‘leader of the pack’. Alexandra Wright-Phillips, a stony, cold magazine editor. Georgiana Silva, a naive Brazilian actress. In my research I explored many different aspects of the kind of lives these women would lead. From contacting exclusive nightclubs in New York City directly, to applying to be a pupil at the school I use. I immersed myself in the world of these fictional women by exploring New York’s elite through television, film and other similar novels. 

It’s never been one to shout about what I’m good at, unless you count being at my desk and functioning at 9am after a night on the Gordon’s, but I realised that you lovely people who read my blog are reading my writing anyway. So why not share something with you that I actually worked hard on? Ok ok, I wrote the thing in three weeks, half drunk and pumped full of black coffee but still, I was passionate about it.

Enough excuses, here’s an excerpt of it for you to (hopefully) enjoy. I’m going to spend some time this summer editing it and looking at ways to extend it, who knows what I could do with it.

Welcome to New York. 

Chapter Four

“Watch yersel!” I grabbed at the back of Mandy’s coat as she nearly stepped out in front of a taxi, now a speeding yellow blur with an angry fist shaking from the window. We were standing in Times Square, the press had gathered and were all hankering after interviews and vox pops for their respective publications on the announcement of Poil. Mandy turned to me as she slipped out of her fur coat to reveal a skin-tight, acid pink dress and whispered, “Showtime!” The camera flashes nearly blinded me as she strutted to her podium on the traffic island we had all squeezed onto. Where better to hold a press conference about a new gasoline but right in the middle of the road? I watched as Mandy nailed her speech, delivered through her brand new, pearly white teeth. Her skin was glowing and her newly defined cheekbones, held high by her completely fake smile, were highlighted to perfection to catch the cameras. Even her hair seemed to light up the smoggy air around her. The media were lapping it up. Standing behind the tangle of cables and tripod legs I thought about the fakery of it all, not just her teeth but the all trickery behind successful marketing. We were here for a month to promote Poil; we had a rented apartment in the Upper East Side and the public appearance requests had come in thick and fast. Mandy returned to my side through the throng of reporters, “Let’s get out of here, my hair is starting to stink.” I motioned to the driver and we made our get away into the mid morning traffic.

The next few weeks were a blur; Regis & Kelly, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show. Jay Leno gave her a nickname heavier with irony than he could ever realise, ‘Poilson Ivy’, after her long red hair and feisty attitude. Mandy cut pink ribbons with pink scissors to new pink petrol pumps all over town. There wasn’t even a backlash from the feminists. Who can say anything against environmentally friendly gasoline? They even loved that it was pink! A moment of clarity came in the form of a lavishly thick, silver envelope, delivered by hand to the apartment. It was an invitation to a film premiere, but not just any film. Georgiana Silva’s new self-penned, self-directed, self-starring movie ‘Silvastra’, about a young Brazilian dancer trying to make it in New York. I read the invitation and almost yawned at the plot before handing it over to Mandy. “This should be interesting….” she chewed her lip as she examined the embossed paper. “It looks pretty shite to be honest” I muttered.

“I wasn’t talking about the film…”

A Lush Evening

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I’m baaaaack! Here’s my big, silly face incase you forgot what it looked like. I have a feeling that most of my blog posts will start like that. I just simply don’t have the time to post regularly, I’m too busy with my full time job, family to look after and friends to party with. I did manage to find an evening (literally slotted in between work and more work later in the evening) where I could visit the Lush Stirling store with my favourite blog guest, Clare. It’s so exciting to see blogger events in my hometown, and definitely a forgotten market. There are over 10,000 students here, someone needs to start a Stirling blogger network! Maybe they already have and I’ve just been too lazy to google it…

Anyway, we popped down to a little after hours pamper sesh with Lush and I can say from the outset, I am hooked. I’ve always dipped in and out of Lush. When they first came to Glasgow I thought it was amazing, the smell, the colours, the awesome service. Over the years I felt like I grew out of the brand. I opted for higher end skincare and bath products (I still use Chanel soap, it’s glorious) and I just didn’t seem to want to go in. I’m still of the mindset that it’s actually quite expensive, but since I learnt a lot more about the brand, I can see why. I shall elaborate.

We arrived and were thrown straight into a beautiful arm and hand massage with a lovely member of the Edinburgh Lush Spa team. An incredible smelling, grainy (but not scratchy) hot chocolate mixture was rubbed into my skin (much to the delight of my parched, fake baked arms) and I honestly couldn’t tell you what she spoke to me about. I was in another wee world. Heaven!

Clare had her turn and we couldn’t stop stroking our arms afterwards. Truly soft and smooth skin, almost like I’d had my arm waxed. I do remember that they explained how the treatment is done at the spa – it’s called The Comforter. You lie down under a big soft cloud of a duvet, and they do single body parts one at a time, then place them back under the duvet. Can you imagine? I’d be out like a light. I’ve been reading up on the treatments and this is definitely one I’d book. The girls explained that their spa treatments are all aimed at the ‘British’ need for modesty and control, the modesty bit doesn’t bother me a bit (I whip it out for the waxer/tanner all the time) but the control part intrigues me. Ever had a massage and not quite known what was happening? They gently explain during it, I think that sounds fantastic.

What grabs me the most is that each spa treatment has accompanying soundtracks! The Comforter is inspired by Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (Come with meee and we’ll beeee in a world of pure imaginationnn, it’s in your head eh?) and you can hear a little clip here. It’s very dreamlike.

We moved on in our little group to the next station where we learnt how to give hand/arm massages, I think I was pretty good because Clare looked like something out of When Harry Met Sally (she’ll kill me for that). We used my favourite Lush massage bar, Therapy, which was made (and this is adorable) for use on expectant mothers and the little bumps and inward dips symbolise that one in three babies are born with an out-y belly button. It’s a luxe mix of cocoa and shea butters with orange, neroli and lavender oils. I don’t usually like lavender that much, smells like old ladies in M&S but I’ve used this one before and it’s so gently scented and relaxing. You sort of rub them on your hands and they melt like chocolate…but as oil. Not greasy, just moisturising and slide-y. I’ve used them as part of couples massage (oh hello!) and they are a lovely alternative to a bottle of oil, because let’s be honest, it feels a bit seedy doesn’t it?

This has taken a turn so back to my evening! We toured around the rest of the shop and I learnt SO much about the brand. I’m always interested in the ‘behind the scenes’ and Lush’s history (It started off as ‘Cosmetics To Go’, sort of like avon, in the 70s). They put so much time, effort and knowledge into sourcing their ingredients that if they lose a supplier, they pull the product. They won’t do anything by halves, apparently it takes around 3 years to pass all their checks and become a supplier. That would kill me if I worked there because I want everything done yesterday, but I appreciate the effort. I also understand the pricing a bit more now too, I’ve gained a new found respect for their products.

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I’ve also fallen in love with one of their Gorilla perfumes and although they are all unisex, this one is definitely a strongly masculine scent. Breath of God just got me. I took a big deep sniff as the girl described how it’s inspired by the wind blowing through some woody trees, then blowing back through burning incense. I didn’t even really want it to wear, I wanted to wake up smelling it on a man’s neck. Is that weird? Probably. Can I justify spending £16 so I can spray it on boys?

We came finally to face masks and skincare, with the lovely Iona, and I broached a new subject for my skin…ageing. ARGHHHH. Yeah ok, let’s go for it, I’m 26 and I want to start thinking about anti-ageing. Probably should have years ago to be honest, but I still get ID’d for lottery tickets. I’m struggling with the concept, not because the idea of getting old scares me, but because I don’t want to ‘anti’ my skin anything, I just want to support it on it’s little journey. I’ve been pretty bad to it over the years (I sleep with make up on pretty much every night, I KNOWW) and it’s time for some TLC.

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Annoyingly I’m allergic to nuts, and although I don’t know for sure if having them in my skincare would kill me, it’s not a risk I’m willing to take. This meant I was a bit of a pain in Lush because they use almond in a lot of their masks, but Iona managed to hook me up with a huge pot (thank you!) of Cupcake which is a chocolate based fresh face mask. Fresh means it lives in the fridge and won’t last, but I’m ok with that, I’ve always been funny about best before dates anyway. It has cocoa powder to draw out impurities, fresh mint to stimulate and tone and cocoa butter to moisturise. Sounds absolutely ideal and like the bad blogger I am, I haven’t tried it yet. I’ll report back. Might even give it it’s own post if it’s good enough!

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So I’m definitely back being a huge Lush fan after all that, and not just because I skipped off with a bag full of lovely freebies to try (Golden Slumbers bath bomb, a very pink sparkly lip balm, my Cupcake mask and a Sugar Scrub bar). I’m looking forward to finishing my mask and going back in for my next one. I’ll definitely take the time to speak to one of the incredibly knowledgeable staff who you don’t feel are selling you the actual product, but more explaining its benefits and the background to its creation. I also need to start saving for a Lush spa treatment day with the girls and get myself under that duvet!

Thanks to Lush and Iona for the invite, I can’t wait for the next one. Foot massages yeah?