Four Years

On Thursday, Danny and I celebrated four years of marriage. Four years! Cannot believe that I’ve been married for that long – didn’t I just graduate college?!

We went out to eat at Chaophraya, whose Glasgow location is the biggest Thai restaurant in Europe. It’s housed in a huge grade A listed building and I wish I could say I got gorgeous pictures of the place but my phone camera has been wonky lately and I wasn’t about to cart the DSLR to my anniversary dinner.

We did snap this one before the taxi arrived and I managed to get some seriously blurry shots of our feast.

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We ordered the banquet style dinner and I was stuffed at the end of the meal.

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Siam Smile cocktail and a side of our appetiser platter.

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From the left, four seasons duck curry, chili and garlic pork belly, black pepper beef and ginger shrimp. Not the best picture but it shows just how much food we ate. And yes, all those dishes were empty by the end of the night.

We finished off with fruit fondue then headed home right after dinner as it was a “school” night. Can’t wait until next year when it’ll be on a Friday. Five years and a Friday, we’ll have to do something extra special for that!

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Late May Bank Holiday

Bank holiday weekends are a wonderful thing. Lucky me, we get two in May right after a four day Easter weekend. In 2011 and 2012 we got an extra added on because of the Royal Wedding and the Diamond Jubilee. No extras this year, but Britain is still a wonderful bank holiday filled country in the spring. In comparison, this weekend is only a two day and I’m coming up to that fear time on a Sunday evening. Need to distract myself with pictures of last weekend.

I wanted to take a last minute trip for this bank holiday but flight prices were higher than normal due to well, the holiday! Scotland always seems to have good weather during the last weekend in May so it wasn’t too bad to stay home. Last year I was in a bathing suit at Ayr beach! No bathing suit this time, but the sun was out and temperatures reached 20 degrees celsius.

On Saturday Danny and I walked into town for some shopping. He wandered into H&M for some work shirts and we ended up walking out with some work shirts and a new bikini for me. No beach holidays booked yet but this is good motivation!

pineapple bikini

We continued our walk to the West End with BrewDog in mind as our destination for lunch. On the way we stopped at McPhabb’s for a Pimm’s and beer, but left after one drink because we couldn’t get a seat in the sun.

Brewdog only had indoor seating but the view, beer and good food more than made up for it.

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I didn’t think I liked beer but trying some from a small brewery makes a world of difference. I got the ‘Punk IPA’ which I would definitely drink again! Their food is also really good. We got a meat lovers pizza which sounds quite down market and pub-y but it had fennel and fancy meats and was delicious. Went too fast for a picture.

As we were eating Danny saw that a few of his friends were on the train into town so we headed over to Ashton Lane to meet up. It was packed. At first it was really weird because it felt like a total dude-fest but then I realized that all the groups of guys were out early for the Champions League game later that night.

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After a few drinks I left my guy to do the same and headed home happy with a Taco Mazama burrito.

Since it was still alright weather on Sunday we headed out for a proper day trip. The weather was kinda overcast as we picked up picnic supplies but it was a gorgeous day in our destination, Oban.

We stumbled upon Dunollie Castle and hearing it was open day, we eagerly went in. The views from the crumbling, old tower were amazing. I need to live in a castle by the sea!

Oban

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dunollie

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inside dunollie castle

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After our bit of historical time we drove to the opposite side of town for our picnic.

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In heaven!

On our drive home it started raining and continued to rain for the actual bank holiday Monday. Tis to be expected! I had a brilliant weekend anyway and who can argue with a four day work week?

Birthday Day

I’ve been 27 for a week now. Officially in my late twenties but I think I can still get away with ‘the end of my mid-twenties’.

I’m only posting about my birthday now as I got a whole week of celebrations. Half day from work on Wednesday, long bank holiday weekend and an Italy planning dinner last night.

On my actual birthday I had to get up and go to work, but Danny drove me and we stopped off for an iced vanilla latte so I guess that was okay. Work has been slow lately but no one wants to spend their day at work. I finished up on the dot at 12:30 and Danny picked me up again to take me out to lunch.

We went out to Central Market which opened last fall but since I hibernate over the winter I hadn’t heard of it until now. We snagged an outside table and prayed for the clouds to stay away.

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They did! I got oysters to start and a chicken sandwich with bacon jam for my main. And prosecco of course! There was a cupcake shop across the street for dessert and then I headed home to change and get ready for our evening.

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A few weeks ago I bought a voucher for a 4 course meal at Chardon D’Or and this seemed like the perfect time to use it. The restaurant was really nice but very quiet as it was a Wednesday. Very fancy as well. I felt like I had to whisper the entire time as to not cause a scene! Service and food were great though.

Before dinner we headed to Limelight for a pre dinner cocktail. Their cocktails span the decade and I choose the Aviation, which was invented in 1915. So good. I’ve recently discovered that I love gin cocktails so this was perfect. We also cracked open a bottle of Tolosa for the celebrations and I was very happy to wake up clear headed the next day. Guess I’m not getting too old!

This is why we can’t have nice things

Interesting weekend.

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Pros:
– Went out to lunch at Brel for a pot of mussels and a glass of wine.
– Had a wee pub crawl around the cute West End pubs while it snowed outside.
– Met up with some friends afterwards for the Scotland v Wales match.

Cons:
– Lost my camera lens cap.
– Lost one of my J.Crew leather gloves.
– Lost my dignity.

Combine that with the fact that I lost my favorite purple glasses on the flight back to Glasgow and I am starting to feel like I shouldn’t be allowed anything nice! I would usually leave my expensive camera at home if I was going out drinking, but we hadn’t planned to stay out beyond lunch. I actually think I lost the lens cap on the walk home when I took the camera out to take a million pictures of the freshly fallen snow. Upon second viewing, so not worth it! They’re all orangey and out of focus. I’m not sure what happened to my glove but it’s not shown up at any of the pubs we were at so I must have lost that outside as well. I need to start wearing Primark when I go out drinking, I’m a hopeless case.

Not worth the £5 for a replacement cap.

Not worth the £5 for a replacement cap.

The day out was a celebration for my entry back into the working world. I start back on April 2 and funnily enough, I start back at my old job. Yep, same company and same position as the contract that ended in December. My old VP saw my CV floating around the internal job bank and because of a few people leaving and a shift of workload, they need me again! Strange how the world works. Looking forward to my next week of freedom from a job and job hunting.

Dim Sum Saturday

Last Saturday I upped my game and went out to dinner with TWO Americans. Both work at my old employer and we all found each other by our colleagues pushing us to meet. I was pretty sure I knew all the Americans at old employer, but a couple more have joined since I left and one of my old colleagues made sure to make the introductions. I think it’s cute how eager everyone seems to be about getting the Americans together. I imagine this is how it works with expat Australians or various European nationalities but the relative scarcity of us means that it seems to be more of a find for the introducer. “You’re American! Do you know the American on the 4th floor?!” 

Anyway, we went in search of dim sum for dinner and took a taxi out to See Woo which is basically a Costco sized Asian market. This place is huge. So big that I never knew that they have a restaurant in the back that can sit 500 people. I think they do wedding receptions in there so all the tables are set up for 8/10 people and there’s a huge stage at the front draped in red and gold tapestries with 4 foot Chinese characters hung up. There’s also a 90’s pop CD on repeat and since we took our time having dinner we got to listen to it 3 separate times. Lucky us!

The food was really good and even though dim sum was only on the menu as an appetizer I totally enjoyed it. This was my first time having it, not sure how I’ve gone 26 years without trying it at all! One of my friends said that the full dim sum menu is on during the day so I might have to go back for lunch. 

We had hoped to shop the market bit after dinner but it was closed by the time we finished.    It was still too early to call it a night so I suggested getting a drink in the city centre. We went to St. Jude’s on Bath Street, ever my favorite since they once had Anchor Steam beer (from SF) on tap. I don’t even like beer but I do like San Francisco so they win in my book. 

On Sunday we went to Danny’s mom’s house as it was British Mother’s Day. All the family was over and we got fed massive amounts of food. She also seemed to have a never ending supply of wine for ladies and even though I think it was because of the Mother’s Day celebrations she kept filling my glass up as well. It was snowing and hailing like crazy that day so I’ve basically been hibernating since then. I refuse to accept that kind of weather by the middle of March. 

 

 

Scottish Steak Pie

Had a lovely weekend. Met up with a fellow American for Sunday lunch at Citation and afterwards we found the rumoured bubble tea stall in the Savoy Centre. The Savoy Centre is exactly as it sounds. Totally 70’s and made up of tiny little storefronts selling DVDs, random household stuff and a wig shop. There’s also a growing Asian population so there’s now a Chinese medicinal herbs office and most importantly, a bubble tea stall!

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I am addicted to sucking up those bubbles!

Our lunch at Citation was a brilliant two course and a glass of wine for a tenner deal. We both started with chicken liver parfait and I got the pork roast while my friend got the butternut squash risotto. The roast was amazing and such a big portion for the price. Even so, I woke up this morning craving even more comfort food. I don’t make a lot of traditional Scottish food but I do make – and absolutely love – Scottish steak pie.

Now, this isn’t a British steak and ale pie. There’s no ale or beer in it. No vegetables other than one large yellow onion. No herbs or spices other than salt and pepper. It’s not even pie shaped. This is the traditional Scottish New Year’s/Hogmanay dish that can be enjoyed year round and it is absolutely delicious.

Every New Year’s Day my mother-in-law has the family over for steak pie. Most people I know go over to their ‘wee maw’s’ for their New Year’s steak pie. It’s tradition, it’s yummy and it happens to be the perfect hangover food. A lot of people will pick up a pie at their local butcher’s but it’s so easy to make yourself. After my first time tasting it, I immediately asked for the recipe. My MIL rattled off a few ingredients to throw in the slow cooker – an onion, stewing beef, an Oxo cube (beef stock) and some water. Sometimes she’ll throw in some mini beef sausages toward the end but it really is that simple.

Scottish Steak Pie

Serves 3 to 4

500g stewing/casserole/slow cook beef
one medium yellow onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp and 1 tbsp black pepper
1 Oxo cube or any beef stock cube
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch
200g puff pastry

1. Cut the onion into slices and drop into the slow cooker
2. Trim the beef and cut into bite sized pieces if not already pre-diced.
3. Mix the flour, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a large bowl and then add the beef, coating each piece in the seasoned flour.
4. Heat the olive oil in a pan until very hot and then brown the beef in small batches. As always, don’t crowd the pan and allow each piece to get browned on all sides. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker once done.
6. Crumble the Oxo cube in, add the remaining 1 tbsp black pepper and enough water to barely cover the mixture. The top pieces should still be a bit above water.
6. Cook on low for 5-6 hours. An hour before done, mix 1 tsp cornflour with 2 tsp water and add to the mixture to thicken it up.

Now as for the puff pastry topping, I prefer to cook the pastry separately and then add it to the individual servings. I see from a quick perusal on the internet that this is sacrilege for some people, but this is how my Glaswegian MIL taught me so I’m sticking to it! Plus, I’m not a fan of ‘soggy bottom’ pastry.

I usually use store bought puff pastry but today I tried making my own and it turned out pretty well! I followed this recipe (to a freaking T by the way – I even watched the video) and used a little less than half for tonight’s dinner. I just rolled it out and cut long strips to bake. I love this way because you get little flaky batons to dip into the gravy.

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We usually eat ours over boiled potatoes but anything goes. My MIL serves hers with mashed potatoes and boiled carrots or green beans. I get chips with mine if I’m eating out at a pub or cafe. We had a big portion for dinner tonight and Danny proclaimed it the best steak pie I’ve made and that I’m to try and make mince and tatties next!

Valentine’s Week

Danny and I have been a bit naughty this week. Even though we just got back from holiday, we’ve been out for drinks or dinner three times. We need to buckle down and be good for the next few weeks – I need to find a job, for starters!

Tuesday night was the Celtic v Juventus game. Celtic sadly lost by 3 points so they have little chance of advancing to the next round in the Champions League. We went to O’Neills in Merchant City, which was packed of course. Absolutely no room to move around and a constant danger of getting a drink spilled on you. I had two vile glasses of red wine (when will I learn to not order wine at a pub?) and ended up with a headache the next day. It was good to see friends though and we ended the night with a Indian garlic chili chicken pizza. Cannae beat it!

On Valentine’s Day we hemmed and hawed about whether to go out or not but finally decided on dinner at Roma Mia – a cute family run Italian only 5 minutes from our flat. We’ve been there before, but I appreciate it so much now that we’ve been to Rome. It really does feel like you’re in Italy at this place. I got buffalo mozzarella with rocket and tomatoes to start and pasta puttanesca for my main. Danny got shrimp ravioli to start and some sort of special with sausage and tagliatelle for his main. Dessert was chocolate! A whole box to myself as Danny’s cutting out the bad stuff from his diet.

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Friday night we met some friends in town for a few drinks. We had originally planned to just meet at Wetherspoons and then head elsewhere after one, but we ended up there until closing time. I think it was mostly to do with the fact that we all had seats at ‘spoons and didn’t want to give them up and stand in another crowded bar. I had wine of course, but Wetherspoons serves drinkable wine so it was all good. We ended up having a great night – good conversation and a lot of laughs.

Soooo, this weekend has been a quiet one. Grocery shopping, Netflix, and some coconut chicken curry in the slow cooker for tonight.

 

I used the above recipe but added a lot more garam masala, more curry powder, ginger and more vegetables in the curry itself. To be honest, I think it’s going to turn out better than the original – I mean, who puts carrots in a curry?!

Back to life, back to reality

We’re back! That shouldn’t be an exclamation point as much as a sad face but I’m slowly warming up to our return to the UK. We got back Tuesday afternoon and I have been in a zombie like state since then. I think I finally kicked it by sleeping 11:30 pm to 3:00 pm yesterday. It’s amazing how jet lag can affect you when there’s really nothing to get up for!

Our flight back went much more smoothly than our flight over, but that’s a story for another post. We got the 4:30 pm flight out of LAX on British Airways and I passed the time by watching movies and reading my new American magazines. Checking in and getting to the airport was fine, but LAX was crazy busy. Maybe it’s because we were flying out on a Monday but it seemed weird, like there was some mass exodus out of LA.

The wait for security was the longest I’ve ever been in and I went through one of those full body machines for the first time. I know, they’ve been out for a while, but as I realized on this trip, I’ve been out of the country for a few years and one can miss a lot in that time. (Is everyone on Instagram? What is this mid-day happy hour with $3 glasses of wine and how can I bring it to the UK? How did Chobani’s greek yogurt get so popular?)

I find that the movie audio is absolutely horrible on flights so I tried to pick the mindless action movies to watch. I really wanted to see Anna Karenina and Lincoln but those are way too dialogue heavy so I settled for End of Watch, Looper and Total Recall. I really liked End of Watch and will probably try and watch it again so I can hear it better and Danny can see it.

We got to Heathrow around 11 am the next day and after clearing immigration and security we were starving and picked the exact same restaurant as last year – Giraffe. I love this place because it’s a perfect US/UK transition. I got massive chunky chips with my chicken sandwich and they have no free refills on their £2.50 Diet Coke but I also got loads of avocado and they have Chipotle Tabasco. It’s the closest I’ll get to California cuisine and I really wish we had one in Glasgow.

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The LHR-GLA was fine, we got a taxi home and then immediately jumped into the car to pick up our cat-baby Fernando. He was not impressed that we had abandoned him for two weeks but like my jet lag, I think he’s over the worst of it.