Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Book Review: Christmas Cravings by Emma Hamilton

From the back of the book:

Snow is on the ground and Christmas lights twinkle in the German Christmas market. The warm, spiced wine is just right, but there's still one key ingredient missing from her romantic dream. Will Mia's Christmas turn out to be sugar and spice and all things nice - or a deflated soufflé of loneliness and regret without the man of her dreams? 

Christmas Cravings is a festive romance standalone episode from the Greedily Yours series.

About the series: Mia Maxwell loves food. She loves it so much that she's made it her career. She owns a food PR business that fills her days, and by night she's a food blogger with a burgeoning audience. With her 'Culinary Confessions of a Greedy Girl', Mia takes the reader on a delicious journey, searching for top dishes and the perfect man. 


This Christmas novella is part of the Greedily Yours series - a serial novel that’s available in 8 parts all focussing on Mia, a food blogger on the search for good food and the perfect man. Despite being part of a series, this little Christmas tale is a standalone story so you don’t need to have read the novels to understand and enjoy this book.

I really liked the writing style of the author. I’m not normally a fan of chick lit but this one really drew me in and made me keep coming back just wanting to read a little more each time. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I’m definitely going to check out the Greedily Yours series and any other books by the author.

Although the story wasn’t overly romantic - more sweet than anything - I was still really rooting for Tom and Mia. They were both very real characters and it was hard not to like both of them but Mia especially.

I was quite surprised that the main conflict was resolved well before the end of the story. Not that it matters but it kind of made the book one of two distinct halves.

In a series called ‘Greedily Yours’, obviously the food is a key feature of the book. And boy-oh-boy, if you’re not hungry when you start reading the book then you will be by the time you’re finished. Every sight, smell and taste sensation is described in delicious detail, in a way that makes it seem real - but unfortunately not real enough! There are also a few recipes included at the end of the story which is a definite bonus.

This is a quick (98 pages), cute and Christmassy story that is perfect for a lazy afternoon when it’s raining (or snowing?) outside. I would definitely recommend this tasty little story for anyone who enjoys food, Christmas and romance.

4 stars.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Innerdownie: First Donald Bagged

With a fledgling interest in hill walking and an apparent death wish (I was in the beginnings of a flu-ey cold that would last a good 4 weeks), I decided to start at the bottom (no pun intended), not to climb a Munro, but a Donald!

Most people have heard of Munro bagging but if you’re semi-sensible (or just want to work your way up to it) then you first have to go through the Donalds (and maybe the Corbetts and Grahams!).

The Donalds are hills in the Scottish Lowlands over 2000 feet (609.6 m). The list was originally compiled by Percy Donald, and is maintained by the SMC. It comprises 89 summits and 51 subsidiary tops, giving a total of 140 hills.

Naturally, we chose to climb the lowest - Innerdownie - at a still hefty 2004ft.

When we started out the weather was clear but very quickly the clouds descended until you couldn’t see more than a couple of meters in front of you. There wasn’t much view to miss out on at this point in the walk but it did make me a little more grumpy than if it had been a glorious day!

I don’t think Tilly was particularly pleased either as low cloud meant we were walking through a wall of water!!

Luckily for us, the clouds lifted soon after and we finally made it to the top with only one wrong turn!

The downward journey was a little bit more eventful and unfortunately included one more wrong turn. We found ourselves traversing a path right alongside the edge of the forest in plants that were as tall as we were.

Another unfortunate circumstance was that I tend to get the giggles at really inappropriate times. As we battled through the plants and willed ourselves to the bottom of the hill (all the while seeing a lovely clear path through the fence to our other side - upsettingly blocked by a small ravine and our own obstinacy that we shall not turn back!!) I got such a fit of the giggles. I was laughing so hard that I had to stop and take a breather.

It was not funny.

That made it funnier.

We made it to the bottom in one piece and drove home. It was then I realised how unwell I really was as I couldn’t swallow any food and was running a very high temperature. Oh well - at least I have pictures to prove that I actually climbed my first Donald. If I didn’t then perhaps I would have thought it was a hallucination.

I’ve got another few Donalds on the list before I work my way up higher. But they might wait until after this bad winter we’ve had predicted!!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Crap - was that the starting gun?

I don’t know about anyone else but I’m constantly waiting for the ‘right time’ to do everything that I’ve always wanted to do.

  • I want to write more on this blog - better wait until I’ve written a few blog posts and have an exact schedule of what I plan to write and when.
  • I want to write a romance novel - better wait until the story is perfectly composed in my head before committing it to paper.
  • I want to get back in the dating game - better wait until I’ve either lost my steroid weight or until I have some self-esteem.
  • I want to get fit and lose some weight - better wait until I’ve started losing weight so that I don’t look like a fool when I’m out running, swimming etc. (I’m not even joking about this one even though I know how ridiculous it sounds!)

I always seem to have some excuse or reason for procrastination.

Even knowing that it’s pure procrastination, and knowing that it’s only because these things mean a lot to me personally that I'm hesitating, doesn’t help me to actually get going.

So, I’ve decided to fire the gun.

I’m not ready.

I don’t know which route to take.

I haven’t stretched.

But that’s too bad - the starting gun has been fired and everyone else is running. Even if I look at it as a one person race, that gun has still gone off and can’t be unfired.

So, I can either take the heart lurch of missing the starting gun and knowing I’ll be a step behind, say ‘shit!’ and just get going, or…

D'you know - there’s never a ‘right time’ which means there’s never a ‘wrong time’ either!

Let’s get going.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Outlander: In Search of the Black Kirk

When I was in Culross a couple of weeks ago, I took to opportunity to have a quick shifty round the village and take some pictures of the places that were used to film Outlander.

Job done - let’s go home!

So, imagine my surprise when later, as I was looking for other filming locations that took place in the lovely Kingdom, I read that The Black Kirk was in fact the West Kirk. Also in Culross.

What? Eh? How did I manage to miss that?

Okay - not to worry - I had time to regroup and plan. And Culross is only about 25 minutes or so from my house so it’s not like I was travelling cross country - I would return! Yet I do so enjoy an opportunity to be grumpy at myself for not knowing things before I know them.

Anyway, Culross West Kirk isn’t actually in Culross proper - which is the reason (I tell myself) that I missed it first time round!

It’s not exactly hard to find - it’s on maps and there are roads leading to it. If you can call them roads.

I grew up in the Highlands so I am used to country roads that are barely big enough for one car, let alone two. Or a tractor, or a herd of cows, flock of sheep etc.

I am not, however, used to driving on them.

I’m also not used to driving on them when I’m not 100% sure that I actually should be on them in the first place.

That was my main problem with finding the church. I drove up the country tracks and just prayed that 1) I wouldn’t encounter a tractor, 2) I was going the right way, 3) If I did meet a tractor I would acquit myself adequately when reversing back down said lane and of course, 4) that I wouldn’t get stuck in the ginormous potholes or mud puddles and have to live on the lane for the rest of my days.

Finally, I reached a clearing that then branched off into three fields. Where to go now? I decided I would park up and go the rest on foot. If I was even in the right place.

Then I saw this:

Woo hoo!

Tilly and I walked the rest of the way to the kirk which keeked out through the trees with just enough secrecy to make my inner fan-girl (and let’s be honest she’s never too far buried these days) do quite a lot of squeaks and squeees on the trek across. Sorry - did I say I trekked? I meant that I ran while doing a silly little jig, of course!

Luckily, there was no-one else there when I arrived. Or at all.

But, oh, what a place.

I always find that there are certain places that just exude peace and calm; that make you feel like you could be in another time and place. The West Kirk was one of these. Just lovely and serene.

A church abandoned yet somehow not.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else but when I look at pictures of the places that have been in the filming, I want to relate. I’ve seen quite a few pics of filming locations and thought - pretty, but I have no clue when or where that featured in Outlander.

So I decided to do some side by side pics.

I might have been just guessing with that last one - but I leaned up against the ivy and swooned just in case!!

And here are some other pics of the church including my arty farty ones.

Let's go! 'Tùlach Àrd'
Look at this wee dude. He looked blurry from every angle!

Seriously, dude! Let's go home!

So, that was my Outlander adventure to the Black Kirk. Fortunately I didn’t eat any wood garlic. Unfortunately, Jamie Fraser wasn’t lurking about in the church yard!

Ach well, you win some and you lose some!

Until our next adventure!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Prestonmill Article from Trust in Scotland

A quick and sweet article from the Trust in Scotland magazine about Prestonmill which featured in Outlander. A certain gent was naked in that there water!!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Outlander comes to Fife Part 2 - or, how I met Sam Heughan!

Where were we?

Oh yes.



This is fairly wordy - brace yourself!

The next day (which was Wednesday) I was only working until lunchtime and I knew that filming would begin at 3pm. I didn’t actually plan it that way but I might have done if I wasn’t lucky like that with my schedule!

I went home, had my lunch and then walked down to the security gate. I’d seen what I wanted to on the set and hell, you only live once - I decided to go down and see if any of the cast would be around for a sneaky autograph or picture.

I’m going to make an aside here to say that never have I ever met a nicer bunch of people than those working on the Outlander set. I’ve never been around sets before but I pretty much assumed that people would be dismissive of anyone milling around and treat them like nuisances. Not. At. All. Everyone was lovely and welcoming - answering questions if they could and explaining what was going on if they had the time to. Lovely bunch of folk.

Arriving at the gates and there were a few other fans milling around outside watching as the busses of extras (nearly 200 according to one of the production company) were coming through. They were all suited and booted and I can only imagine what it would have been like to stop at a set of traffic lights alongside a bus, turn around and see 18th century French people staring down at you. Ha ha ha!

I asked the security guard if anyone was on set and Caitriona was although she was busy filming. What about Sam? He sized me up (probably looking for the crazy that I was trying hard to keep hidden!) and let me know that he wasn’t scheduled to shoot until 6pm. I thanked him (which probably sounded more like weeping sobs of gratitude) and headed back home to stare at the clock for a couple of hours while panicking over whether the security dude had been lying to me for his own amusement.

It might be worthwhile going into another aside here where I tell you I have a little bit of an anxiety problem and fear people laughing at me or at my expense. It’s not fun. To say it’s unusual to see me in a situation where I have to ‘put myself out there’ or even chat to people I don’t know, is quite the understatement. My mum kept on saying to me that you only live once - enjoy it and to hell with people who will make fun or be nasty. (Actually, her exact words were - “tell them away and byle their heeds!”). It was difficult, don’t get me wrong, but I knew I couldn’t put this off. They were only going to be there for a few days! Perhaps Outlander should film in my town regularly - it might cure my social anxiety once and for all!!

Anyway, long aside - sorry about that.

When I got back down to the gates there were a couple of other people there - a young lassie (18) who was there with her friend, an older lady and me. There were a few others milling around but they were just looking at what was going on by the looks of things.

Sam was due on set in about half an hour so we waited and bonded over our love of Outlander and, strangely, the difficulty of sitting exams (the girls were just finishing school and the lady an ex-teacher).

All the while the security guards (and a few others) were laughing and bantering with us. At one point the security guard (whose wife loved Sam - much to his chagrin!!) was pretending to get grumpy about why all the girls loved Sam. He started chanting (at the top of his lungs, no less) “Tobias is the best!” “Tobias for king!”

Just then a production lady came over and asked us if we were there to see Sam. We nodded like the calm, rational people we were. She said that he’s just arriving.

The older lady turned to me and I could see in her eyes the same ridiculous excitement I felt inside. I'm pretty sure we both let out a brief "squeeee!" I’ve never fan-girled so hard in all my life as I was at that moment. Eeeeeek!

And that’s when things started to go into slow motion and my vision started to narrow to one particular thing. I pity the poor production guys and security who we’d been speaking to up until that point - they were dead to us now!! :D

Security told us to all stand at one side and his car drove by. He was in the front seat and waved at us. We all fainted on mass.

The security guard radioed. “Sam’s here. Let’s have crowd control. Police? Are you there?”

No word of a lie, the police started to walk over from inside the set! Then I realised they were two lady officers and suspected that they weren’t there to control the ‘crowd’. Rather be part of it!

Sam got out of the car about 200m away from the gate and spoke to the production lady. He then started to walk over to the gates. Oh my God - this is actually happening to me!!! Right - don’t faint, don’t drool, don’t fling yourself into his arms and beg him to take you. Behave. And behave normally!

As he walked by the security and production guys, they shared some banter and chatted away to each other. They were teasing him about him being the king of men - obviously all friends on set. (Which was so cute!)

Anyway, I’m feeling myself getting all nervous and excited again so apologies if I start to ramble more than I usually do!

When he walked over to us he looked genuinely surprised that we were there to see him. He looked like a wee boy that was a bit shy in a strange situation so I think he decided to reach down to clap Tilly (my dog) to break the ice.

Bad move.

Tilly identified this man as the reason she had been forced to walk 6 times a day and hang about in the woods in the dark for the past week. Sam knelt down, put out his hand and she immediately started barking at him. She’s just a wee thing but she was giving it laldy. Awkward!

I snapped this pic just before we were told no photos. I'm only posting it because it doesn't show anything but his hand and my crazed dog!!

We all just stood there for a beat after the barking incident, not really knowing what to do - then I thrust the whisky I’d brought at him (yep, I’m even more awkward than my dog!) to break the silence. He said something like, “Oh! Why? You didn’t need to do that.” Erm - yeah I did - have you seen you? *swoon* (I did not say that to him, I’d like to point out! I probably said something like: *giggle* mmppphen *giggle* *hyperventilate*)

Then the lady next to me gave him her gifts (a Dundee cake, some whisky jam and, wait for it, a guidebook of walks in her area. This lady is my new hero. Genius!). She then asked for his autograph. He asked her name and wrote her autograph.

All the while we were all chatting away - are you enjoying being back on set? What are you up to? (Duh!) How’s Caitriona? You are the best actor I’ve ever seen in my life. I love you. (Shit - so much for being normal!)

Someone asked for a picture and he apologised that he couldn’t - he was in costume! Darn it all to pieces. I refrained from suggesting he just take it off. Then we could have got pictures, right?

Then he turned to me and wrote an autograph for me (he first asked all our names and how to spell them). I then asked him if I could have a hug and he agreed.

Man - that was an awesome hug. *Sighs*


He smelt all clean and soapy and he was the perfect height for cuddling. (Any other 5’ 6” gals - it’s perfection!) I didn’t want to let go but I was very much aware that the security and police were lurking behind Sam ready to take me down if I held on!! Plus, he works out - he could take me. No pun intended.

Then the older lady was a bit bummed that she hadn’t asked for a hug - so she did and he obliged. Then he hugged the young girl and signed the book she’d brought. Her friend (who had yet to read or watch Outlander - I know, right?) had been quite cool up until that point. “I’m just here to support my friend.” Blah, blah, blah. When Sam turned to her, she said “Oh why the hell not!” and hugged him as if her life depended on it. I bloody knew that she would cave as soon as he turned his blue eyes on her! 17 year old girls cave easier than 33 year old girls apparently!!

Then he thanked us all for coming to see him but said he had to go and get to work. He was still a little surprised that we were there to see him - so humble and so, so nice and sweet. He said goodbye and was pretty much engulfed by security and production folk who moved him away towards the set. He turned just before he went round the corner, and waved to us all.

That’s probably when the squealing started. Then Tilly decided to bark at one of the police officers who’d decided to clap her, so we hightailed it out of there before we could be arrested. Not sure barking at a police officer is an offence but why take the risk!?!

So that was my encounter with Sam Heughan. As I said, I’ve got no famous people to compare him to, so I’m just comparing him with every single person I’ve ever met in my entire life. And I have to say that he was one of the nicest, kindest people ever. He seemed so sweet and thankful that people had taken the time out to see him (when we were just so grateful he’d taken the time to speak to us!). And did I mention he is gorgeous!?

*Fans face*

Oh and I’m never washing again.

*Disclaimery bit again. I’m not official. I’m not a stalker. I’m not deranged. I’m just an over enthused fan who met Sam Heughan!!!!!! Aaaaaargh!

As a final aside, I feel I should give a huge virtual hug to the Outlander fans on Twitter. Never would I have expected such a kind hearted and sweet bunch of people. Most people were kind, fun and genuinely excited to share in my mammoth excitement. Thank you all.

And so my fan-girling endeth and the town goes back to normal. For now.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Outlander comes to Fife - Part 1. Or, how I turned into an Outlander Fan Girl

I would like to start off this blog entry by stating that I am a normal person.

Okay, that may be something of an exaggeration, but I am a fully functioning member of society. I’m not a stalker, deranged or otherwise, and I’ve never had the occasion to meet anyone famous before. And I’ve certainly never had the inclination to go fan-girl crazy before.

But that was before…

It all started on May 25th when I found out that Outlander was filming in our town.

Holy macaroni! How exciting! Nothing like this ever happens in Fife. And just 5 minutes from my house on my usual dog walking route - this couldn’t get any better.

*Okay breathe. Just breathe.*

The plan was simple. Over the next few days I would increase my daily dog walks to the point of ridiculousness, trying to get a glimpse of, well, anything remotely Outlanderish.

At first my Tilly was excited by the exercise… but she soon realised that while we went on the walk, it would take triple the usual time to complete the circuit as I stood generally spent the time hanging around and looking at “stuff”. Barrels, carts, lights, boats, green screens, people in kilts - if it wasn’t nailed down then I was taking a picture of it!

Over the next few days my wee camera got quite a workout when I was able to get out and about. When I wasn’t, I asked my Dad to walk the same route as I would usually and take photos of whatever he could see. Bless his cotton socks, he got some great shots and became an Outlander internet legend!!! *Snort*

 Then May 28th came and everything became a bit more real. This is when I realised that I was no longer just enjoying Outlander and the fact they were filming in my town - I had become a teeny tiny bit obsessed!

I realised my craziness was on the increase when this happened:

So much for being a fully functioning member of society - here I was running through the trees, arms flailing, battle cries resounding, with a look of crazed desperation on my face. *Yep - time to send for the men in white coats!*

Not to worry:

So this pattern continued for a couple of days - me pretending that I was ‘simply walking my dog’ when I was actually using her as a cover story to have a sneaky peak of what was going on in Dysart harbour.

By this time the fact that Outlander were filming in the area had reached the local press and there were many more people out to have a peak. It was quite an exciting buzz. I’m going to blame that excitement for the fact that I found myself in a pitch black forest in the dead of night (11pm is the dead of night for me!) with a bunch of random strangers with cameras.

Lordy - that sounds even worse written down than it did in my head.

I was reaching a pitch of excitement when filming actually started even though I was bloody well at work on the first day! Damn this need to feed, clothe, house and look after myself! So irritating!

I got home the first day of filming to an envelope with a memory stick inside.

Inside was this photo:


At this point I should probably explain that over the course of the week, they had been shutting more and more roads around the town near the harbour. By the time filming started, you could be up in the park overlooking the harbour and if you wanted to get down to the front gate it was a fair hike round the town and back down along towards the beach. Normally you could just go right down the path but they were using that for lights and it was a no-go area. However, if you went down to the security gates then you couldn’t see a bit of what was going on on set. A dilemma.

But by the end of that evening I had seen a lot of what I’d wanted to see from up in the park.

I’d seen them filming and got a couple of photographs from far away. I’d met some fun people who were just as excited as me that Outlander was on the east coast. And I’d seen them set up a TV production with their lights, sets and etc and talked to some lovely crew people. What else could a girl possibly want?


Maybe tomorrow.

*Disclaimery bit. These are (obviously) not official photos. I am just a fan who was lapping up the excitement and taking pics for my own (and any other interested folk on Twitter’s) enjoyment. There are loads of other pics out there which show the stars close up - that’s because they’re paparazzi shots (for the most part) and they have ridonculous, high power lenses. We were actually quite far away from the action and understandably so. I’m not out to spoil anything for anyone or stick my neb into people’s personal lives.