Thursday, 3 September 2015

Recipe - Warm Artichoke Dip

It's been a while since I hosted a 'bring a plate' night at my house. It's a great way to get my busy mum friends together for dinner without anyone having to do all the work. We literally all just bring a plate of something, and we end up having a great selection of dishes and desserts.

The first night I hosted was at my old house, and it was when my good friend Ailsa was still in Glasgow (she emigrated to Australia nearly three years ago... I miss her & her brood so much!). Anyway, I digress. Ailsa made a more-ish artichoke dip that was just delightful. It was so easy to put together and yet tasted/looked like she had made a huge effort.

Well, I was flicking through the Sainsbury's magazine yesterday and stumbled upon a Warm Artichoke Dip recipe that looks pretty much the same as Ailsa's one... so I thought I would share it with you. I think I'll make it this weekend.

Warm Artichoke Dip


1 x 400 g tin artichoke hearts in water, drained
100 g mayonnaise
100 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Olive oil and thyme leaves to serve along with a fresh Focaccia bread or similar.


Preheat oven to 200 deg C (fan 180 deg C, gas 6).

Blend the artichokes, mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese in a food processor.

Transfer to an oven proof dish.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve with toasted Focaccia drizzled with olive oil.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Fashion - Gray & Willow

Last week I was at the House of Fraser AW15 preview event. We sipped on cocktails made by Hutcheson's, nibbled delicious canap├ęs whilst browsing the latest collections. It was such a lovely evening.

One of the brands that caught my eye that I just had to share with you is Gray & Willow. Launching exclusively at House of Fraser this autumn, the brand has a selection of ladies clothing as well as the most gorgeous homeware pieces.

"Gray & Willow embodies relaxed design for your contemporary lifestyle. The brand explores a mindful approach to design that demonstrates relaxed versatility for an effortless, modern Scandinavian style, which has comfort at the core of it’s aesthetic."

I would quite happily fill my wardrobe and kitchen with all of the Gray & Willow! The clothing does have a relaxed feel about it and would be ideal for a busy mum's capsule wardrobe. I rarely have time to think, let alone plan my outfits, and instead rotate around a few tops with jeans (Breton stripe, navy jumper or a black shirt) or a few smart/casual dresses that I team with thick tights for work. I desperately need a few more items and am just loving this brand. I'm hoping that soon I can justify a wee shopping spree.

Cocktails from Hutcheson's

Gray & Willow Fashion


Gray & Willow Homeware

Gray & Willow Scarf - thank you HOF :-)

Disclosure - I received a goodie bag on attending the HOF AW15 event

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review - Breville Blend-Active Pro Blender

I was tasked with creating a recipe using the new Breville Blend-Active Pro Blender on the theme of the Edinburgh Festivals.

This new look personal blender is a lot more stylish than the previous model and looks great on my counter top. Big thumbs up from me.
I decided that I would use some Scottish shortbread in my recipe, which could be crumbed easily using the new smaller attachment and new pulse function. This is a genius little gadget which allows nuts and seeds to be crushed more easily compared to the previous model and it whizzed up the shortbread biscuits easily.

I then transferred the biscuit into the bottle to which I added some raspberries, vanilla ice cream and milk. Within minutes I had the most delicious "Edinburgh Festival" milkshake. The new neoprene sleeve helped keep the milkshake lovely and cool as I drank it. However it was so delicious that it didn't take me long to demolish it!

Sarah's Scottish Milkshake for the Edinburgh Festival

2 x shortbread fingers
Handful raspberries
2 scoops vanilla ice cream
A few splashes of milk

Blitz the shortbread fingers using the small safety blade attachment
Transfer the shortbread to the bottle
Add the remaining ingredients
Pulse for a bit until the milkshake is smooth
Add more milk to achieve your desired consistency
Swap out the blade cap for the lid, add neoprene sleeve and you're good to go!!

Like the previous model, the machine is super easy to use and is easy to clean too.

I still found the problem of blitzing frozen fruit as I did with the previous Breville. The wattage of this newer model is the same, 300W, so there isn't any additional power. (For comparison's sake, NutriBullets start at 600W). I just need to get more organised and pull the fruit out of the freezer in advance of me needing it.

What do you think of the new design?


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Weekly Wishes

// Fashion

I was in desperate need for some comfortable shoes for work... something smart, but something that I can walk around in easily as at the end of the week, when I have the kids, I do the school run and then make a mad dash for the office! So basically a versatile style that can be dressed up or down. I'm still trying to stick to a capsule wardrobe and I don't have space for loads of clothes!

Just a week after I started drafting this post, I found a perfect pair of ankle boots that met my wishes... ta da:

I've been wearing them every day since!!

// Hair & Beauty

My feet are in a bit of a state. So much so that the littlest asked what was up with them and why was my skin so hard. Yikes! I bought a little buffer, pumice stone type thing but it's pretty rubbish. I think it's perhaps time to invest in something a bit more powerful... the likes of this came to mind:

// Home & Interiors

My home office area has been improved lately due to my new desk, and as a result I've got some new shelves that need to be styled. I've been looking out for magazine files and haven't been able to find anything in the shops as yet that takes my fancy. I still like these ones from Muji, but I think I need something a bit sturdier. I like this one from Brissi, but it's very pricey at £29!!

Hopefully I'll have my space organised and I can film another wee YouTube 'room' tour for you :-)

This was how it was before...

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Health: My MRI Experience

I had been booked in for an MRI of my small bowel by my gastro consultant. As I've had two Crohn's flare-ups in the last year, they thought it would be wise to do a bit of investigation just to see how things are.

I had booked a taxi which collected me at my house and dropped me off at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. He thought I was going off to work but I explained briefly that I was going in for a scan. The previous week a colleague overheard I was off for a scan and assumed I was pregnant (which I'm not btw) so I clarified to the driver that in fact it was an MRI scan. He proceeded to tell me that he's had one before and about the nightmares he had before his and that he was claustrophobic etc etc which was far from reassuring. I too am claustrophobic and have been dreading this day. My GP had prescribed me some diazepam so I took these in the taxi en route.

After navigating the hospital corridors I found the MRI unit only to be told I had to find the X-Ray unit to get a nasogastric tube put in. The lifts weren't working (adding to my stress levels!) and so I took the stairs. I was feeling a little out of it, must have been the diazepam starting to work!!

The staff were lovely and made me feel a bit more relaxed. I think they could tell I was anxious and I got asked a few times if I was on my own to which I had to keep explaining yes I was and I intended on getting a taxi home. I got changed into my double gown and went through the questions and consent forms with one of their team. 

The nasogastric tube insertion was not pleasant. The consultant had to get it out of my stomach and into my small intestine and there was a lot of tooing and frowing which was very uncomfortable, particularly in my nose, and a little sore at points. Once it was in place though it was bearable, just. I was sneezing lots during and apparently I'm the only patient who has giggled during a nasogastric tube insertion! I'm so proud of myself for not panicking.

Next up was the cannula. I've had terrible experiences with cannulas before and was not looking forward to this either. However the nurse was fantastic & she got it in first time with zero drama and thankfully no tears from me. Phew!!

I then had to wait for my turn in the MRI machine. From the corridor I could hear how noisy it was but I had been told I'd be going in feet first on my tummy so I wasn't as nervous as having to go in head first. I really would have freaked out if that were the case. Although I had been organised and brought an eye mask with me so that I didn't have to see what was going on. The nurse gave me ear plugs to use, but the best ear plugs I have ever used are these ones from Boots. So I would perhaps consider taking your own, especially if you are going to be in there for a while.

By this point it was midday and I had been fasting since the previous night. I was certainly looking forward to a cup of tea afterwards and some lunch!!

I was going to have my bowel filled with liquid laxative via the NG tube and then a contrast agent put into the cannula to show up my veins. What I didn't realise was how sick I'd feel as they filled my bowels; they didn't manage to get the last two syringes of laxative into me. Add to that the bed of the MRI going in and out of the machine and I really did feel rather sick!! A bit like being on a boat!

I had to breathe in, out and then hold my breath for what seemed like ages. This was repeated a number of times. The consultant had to dash away to another clinic so the NG tube was removed (made me gag somewhat) and then I had a few more images taken. I glad when it was over. However compared to the colonoscopy, this wasn't nearly as painful or traumatic.

I didn't get any feedback; instead I was shown to a cubicle to get changed and then directed to the exit where I could wait for a taxi. I'm guessing if there is anything up with my results then I'd be contacted, otherwise I'm next seeing my consultant in October.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Fashion - Mint Velvet

I love Mint Velvet. I was introduced to the brand at the end of 2011 by House of Fraser's personal shopper Jeanette, and it's now one of my go-to labels for when I need a new item to add to my capsule wardrobe. At the moment a number of my tops have become worn out through a few years of wear and tear. I could be done with another casual top for day-to-day so I thought I would do a bit of online browsing! 

Here's my top picks:

I love the button detailing on the front and back of this shirt. Just gorgeous and I thought this would be a versatile piece that could be dressed down with jeans or equally dressed up for a dinner date :-)

There are quite a few different shimmer tees in Mint Velvet at the moment - I do love a bit of sparkle and sequins in my outfits! And I also spotted these fantastic trainers:

Friday, 21 August 2015

Kittens & the Kinder

I am so pleased that we decided to get our kittens Rhubarb & Crumble. They really are just the most delightful little cats you could imagine.

The cats have helped to teach my wee ones to be a bit more responsible and be confident around animals.

I was pretty scared of pets growing up... I can remember that I would have our pet rabbit on my knee, only if he was sat on top of a cushion and I would wear oven mitts to pick him up to protect my hands, and the minute he moved I would be getting someone else to take him away from me. I really didn't want my two wee ones to be scared like I was, so I thought that getting a pet early on was a good idea.

We had originally thought of getting just the one kitten, but due to my long hours at work, we thought that two would be better as they'd have a play mate whilst I was out. Rick and I collected the cats and these two were playing together and we just couldn't bear to separate them. It's worked out brilliantly and I'm really happy that we took them both. They're now nearly a year old and they've settled in perfectly. My allergies were a bit of a nightmare at the start and I was taking antihistamines daily, but I can now manage without.

Rhubarb, our wee girl kitty

Crumble is a little troublesome as he's gone missing a few times... he's always on the hunt for food and unfortunately some of the people he's encountered on his travels have been feeding him - one lady called me to say she gave him a tin of tuna as she thought he was lost and another gave him a bowl of milk. This only encourages him and he's been making his way into stranger's houses. Quite a few times now I've had to collect him and take him home!! I'm also extremely grateful to my lovely neighbours who have helped out on numerous occasions now with cat sitting, or even babysitting whilst I dash out with the cat carrier to collect Crumble!!

I absolutely love watching the kids interact with the cats. My son especially can be spotted chatting away to the cats, telling them about his day, or teaching them new things that he's learnt. Whereas my daughter loves to play with Crumble in particular who is so patient with her even when she tries to wrap him up in her blanket! It really does make my heart feel lovely and fuzzy, which I know is super cringy but I'm writing it anyway!!

Littlest with her favourite, Crumble (the boy)

The final thing that I love about the kittens is that when the kiddies are away with their dad, and when Rick is at his place, I still have some company and little ones to look after. It's really nice to have a wee cat snuggle when I'm feeling lonely. Crumble is so gentle, and he'll just stick his wee paw out and give me a pat before curling up in my lap. 

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