Photography, Scotland, travel

Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle

May 25, 2015

Urquhart Castle

I’ve wanted to go to Loch Ness since I was a little kid. The whole idea of ‘Nessy’ is something that captivated me since I was a kid. 

The loch was a good three hours away from where we were staying, a journey that was made even longer by a car we followed for about 40 minutes who insisted upon driving at 30mph in a 60 zone, for no reason.

Loch Ness Forecasting StoneJacobite Loch Ness cruise boat

To my surprise, there aren’t many places that you can get down to the shores of Loch Ness. We decided to do a boat trip around the loch, and to Urquhart Castle to see more of the loch, and because we’re all big castle fans. 

There are a few points you can get cruises around Loch Ness from. Out of interest, we went on the Jacobite Freedom, The Clansmen and the Castle from Clansman Harbour. 

As we set off towards the castle, we could see big grey clouds ahead. Thankfully, the changeable Scottish weather was kind to us, and it cleared up.

Rain clouds over Loch NessLoch Ness from a Jacobite boatNo puffin

We stepped off the boat to glorious sunshine and blue skies. Oh, and a trebuchet, which instantly caught Tom’s attention. He loves trebuchets and wants to build one of his own. Urquhart Castle from Loch NessUrquhart CastleUrquhart CastleTrebuchet Urquhart Castle

The ruins of the castle were beautiful, and I can only imagine how stunning it must have been when it was in it’s full glory, perched at the edge of Loch Ness. It must have been quite a sight. 

The main tower had been renovated a little so that you could climb it and take in the views. 

Urquhart CastleUrquhart Castle arrow slit

Something that always amazes me about castles is how ridiculously tiny, tight and uneven the staircases are. It must have been awful to try and climb up and down those stairs all the time, especially in the dark when you might have been carrying a candle or a light to see by. Or perhaps, we’re just used to nice, wide, even staircases? Maybe it was a piece of cake.

As we headed back on the boat, I had a good look for Nessie but I couldn’t see her. However, I did begin to understand why people might have thought they saw things. The loch is so deep, and the water is dark, so I can imagine how the waves might play tricks on the eyes. 

Visiting Loch Ness was a childhood dream come true, and I’d love to go back again. I’m sure I’ll watch Nessie documentaries with even more excitement knowing I’ve been there now. 

Have you ever been to Loch Ness? 

beauty, haircare, Product wars

Product Wars: LUSH Veganese vs LUSH American Cream

May 21, 2015

Product wars: LUSH Veganese vs LUSH American Cream

Product Wars is going to be a new series where I pit two similar products against each other to see what worked best for me. A bit of an English essay style “compare and contrast”. 

For the first instalment of Product Wars, I’m comparing two LUSH conditioners to each other: Veganese and American Cream. 

Performance 

LUSH say that both of these conditioners are lightweight, and I do agree with that. Neither of them feel like super thick conditioners, but Veganese has a thinner consistency, and a little goes a long way. They both apply easily and neither of them make your hair feel greasy or weighed down. 

Both conditioners do a brilliant job of making your hair feel silky smooth, so much so that I couldn’t choose which one is better. 

Scent 

American Cream is supposed to smell of strawberry milkshake, but I’m not really picking up on a strawberry scent. To me, it smells more like vanilla milkshake. The scent seems to last a long time as well, my hair smells nice the day after washing, which isn’t something I’ve experienced with a conditioner before. 

The scent of Veganese is harder to describe though. It just smells fresh to me. 

Price

There’s no denying that LUSH conditioners aren’t cheap. A 100g bottle costs £4.50, a 250g bottle is £8.95, and the 500g bottle is £14.25. Not super cheap, but I guess it depends on how often you need to wash your hair. 

I acquired my 250g bottles of both about 4 – 5 months ago, and I’ve been swapping between both and I’ve got about a quarter left in each. So for me, they do last a while and I feel they’re worth it considering how nice they make my hair feel. 

The verdict

Well I suppose this is a slightly disappointing outcome for the first Product Wars, because both of them perform exactly the same. For me, Veganese has the edge though because it is vegan, while American Cream isn’t. 

Have you tried either of these conditioners? 

 

Life, Outfit, Photography

A picnic in the ‘Secret Forest’ & OohLaLaSpring with Joules

May 20, 2015

It’s finally happened; I’m doing an outfit post. I’ve wanted to do one for a while and a picnic in the ‘secret forest’, proved to be the perfect location. 

A few weeks ago, Joules got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to take part in their Spring #OohLaLaSpring campaign. I jumped at the chance and Tom happily agreed to the idea of getting to play with his new camera and eat food outside.

We packed our picnic rucksack full of tasty goodies and headed off to the ‘secret forest‘. 

George's Hayes

We found the ideal spot amongst the tree stumps and I opened the picnic blanket as soon as possible. Did you ever play “the floor is lava” as a child? Yeah? Well that’s what me on a picnic blanket in the middle of a forest looks like. 

I have a fear of things I cannot see, and grass / plants that are a couple of inches high are excellent places for snakes to hide. At least, it is in my head. 

Once the picnic blanket / serpent banisher was on the ground, it was time to whip out the food. We don’t mess around. 

The rucksack comes with everything you could possibly need for a picnic, apart from the actual food. It even has a place for you to keep your wine cool, which we severely underused with a bottle of Ribena. #LivinItUp. It was really comfortable to carry, and I think I could have fit my camera in there too, which makes it ideal for me on one of our day-long camera adventures. 

Hampers look beautiful and fancy, but they’re impractical for walking with and there’s no way I could carry one around all day. 

Can we also take a moment to appreciate the fact that a matching dress, picnic blanket, and rucksack makes me look like I’ve got my stuff together for the first time ever? 

Things have been hectic for Tom and me for the past few weeks; he’s been working nights and I’ve been busy with general stuff, so the picnic was more in order than I realised. 

The ‘secret forest’ was so quiet that as soon as we sat down and started eating, I felt lighter. Of course, I mean that metaphorically given the amount of hummus and cake I went on to eat. 

You could be anywhere in the world in that forest, and it’s nice to feel like you’re the only people in the world every now and then. And it feels even better when you feel like the only person in the world wearing a darn pretty summery dress. 
Reading in a forest

Then came outfit post time. I have a reputation with myself for being hopelessly awkward in front of a camera. Think Chandler from Friends in front of a camera. I can’t help it, I blink as the shutter closes and my face does things I didn’t know it could do. 

But you know what? The outfit shoot turned out to be much more fun than I expected. It was a little awkward to start with as I gave Tom a list of what kind of shots I needed and it got a little easier. 

My directorship (is that the right word?) obviously worked fairly well because I’m really happy with these photos. 

And last but not least, the dress. The dress. It’s not the kind of style I normally wear, which is partly which I picked it. I love the colour, the pattern, and the style. It’s really comfortable, and it has pockets! I have instant love for dresses with pockets because being without pockets is so impractical! 

Yes, there’s a good chance I picked up a stick and decided it was a wand. 

All in all: we has a fun time, my dress was beautiful, the rucksack was perfect, the blanket protected me from snakes, food in a forest is fun, and Tom will be asked to take more photos from now on, muahaha. 

Wearing 

Joules floral dress in Opal Blue Blossom* // Joules Picnic Rucksack in Chocolate Blossom* // Joules Fold and Carry Picnic Blanket in Chocolate Blossom* // New Look ballet flats (Super old) // M&S black cardigan (Even more ancient) //

* The items were provided by Joules for the purpose of this adventure. 

Special thanks to Tom also, for being a photography wizard. 

When was the last time you went on a picnic? 

Photography, Scotland, travel

The Glenfiddich Distillery Tour

May 19, 2015

Glenfiddich Whiskey Distillery

Glenfiddich Distillery

I must confess, I’m not a whiskey fan. I adore the smell of whiskey, but the taste? Nope. If it tasted the same as it smells, I would love it, but I’m not a fan of the burny taste. 

My Mum and Tom are big whiskey fans though, so when we decided to go to Scotland the Glenfiddich Distillery tour was at the top of the list. 

Glenfiddich Washback

Glenfiddich Underback

The tour was really interesting, but the best bit for me was the smell. As we walked through the first building, the delicious smell of whiskey got stronger and stronger. I was practically salivating. 

Whiskey always reminds me of cosy nights by a log fire. Which is interesting because I’ve never drunk whiskey by a log fire, but that’s just the image it conjures up in my mind. 

We were taken into a couple of the storage rooms, where we heard about the barrelling process, and how they experiment with new flavours. I felt pretty old when I saw barrels of whiskey that were barrelled the same year I was born.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos in there, which is a shame because they would have made fantastic photos. But I guess you have to go for yourself to see what they look like! 

Glenfiddich tasting

Glenfiddich whiskey tasting

The best part for my Mum and Tom was the tasting session. I was driving so I couldn’t take part in the tasting, but I was only really interested in the sniffing. 

We were given four different whiskeys, a 12 year old, 14 year old, 15 year old, and 18 year old. They all sniffed amazing to me. Apparently they all tasted incredibly nice also. 

The Glenfiddich Whiskey Distillery

The Glenfiddich Distillery

I’ve been on a couple of brewery tours before (including the Guinness one I posted about here), but neither of them had grounds as pretty as the Glenfiddich Distillery. We didn’t go to any other distilleries, but we saw a few on our rounds and they all appear to surrounded by beautiful scenery. 

While we’re talking about fancy and grand, the toilets. The toilets. The toilets, wow. I have never been in a bathroom so grand in my entire life. The bathroom had a waiting area with a logfire and ARMCHAIRS! WHAT EVEN?!

Glenfiddich Distillery fancy bathrooms

Have I been using bathrooms wrong my entire life? Because I have never needed to sit in front of a logfire before or after going to the toilet. 

Looking at these photos makes me want to go back to Scotland *sobs*. 

Have you ever been on a distillery or brewery tour? Have you ever needed to sit in front of a logfire in a bathroom?

books

Paper Towns – John Green review

May 18, 2015

Paper Towns, John Green

Paper Towns quote - you will go to paper towns and you will never come back

The first two John Green books I read were Looking For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars, so I had a lot of expectations going into Paper Towns, but did it live up to my expectations? 

My synopsis: Margo and Q were friends as children, but as they grew up they drifted apart and began to move in different social circles; Margo is popular while Q is not. 

One night, Margo shows up at Q’s window and the pair enjoy a wild night of revenge on fellow pupils and general badass-ery, leaving Q thinking they could be friends again. Margo disappears before that can happen though, leaving Q desperately trying to find her. 

Margo is your signature John Green manicpixiedreamgirl:

  • She’s popular but doesn’t really like it. It just happened to her.
  • She does whatever she wants.
  • She likes unpopular things.
  • She’s full of wanderlust.
  • She doesn’t want grow up, get married, have kids, and get a job, because that’s what everyone else does. 

Q, or Quentin, on the other hand, isn’t popular at all. He’s been in love with Margo since they were kids, and he can only dream of them being as close as they used to be. 

The thing that annoyed me about Q is that he doesn’t really have any interests, apart from Margo. He just exists to like Margo, and that seems very un-John-Green-ish. 

Paper Towns is split into three sections. Part one was great; it was funny, fast-paced, we got to learn about the characters, and revenge is fun. 

In part two, John threw the anchor out the window. Things slowed down, and after a couple of chapters it really begins to hit a lull and reading becomes like trudging through gloop. 

In the words of my Mum, “reading about someone who is reading about where someone might be is boring.” It’s hard to argue with that because that’s pretty much all that happens in part two. 

The plot picked up in the third and final part, but it still wasn’t as good as the first part, and the ending left me feeling a bit “meh”. 

The parts I enjoyed about the second and third parts of the book were less to do with the plot and more to do with the messages of the book, which were pretty deep, as you would expect from any John Green book. 

For me, Paper Towns came across as a poor man’s Looking For Alaska. It lacked the frenetic energy that LFA and TFIOS left me with when I reached the end of the book, and I didn’t care about Margo or Q as much as I wanted to. 

The Paper Towns movie is out in the UK sometime in August, unless they chance the date again, and I think this will be one of those rare occasions where I enjoy the film more than the book. I can just imagine how the film will spice up the lull in the action and make it interesting, so I’m looking forward to seeing that.

Have you read Paper Towns? What did you think? 

Paper Towns Book Cover Paper Towns
John Green
Young adult, contemporary, mystery,
Paperback

Quentin has always loved Margo Roth Spiegelman, for Margo (and her adventures) are the stuff of legend at their high school. So when she one day climbs through his window and summons him on an all-night road trip of revenge he cannot help but follow.

But the next day Margo doesn’t come to school and a week later she is still missing. Q soon learns that there are clues in her disappearance . . . and they are for him. But as he gets deeper into the mystery – culminating in another awesome road trip across America – he becomes less sure of who and what he is looking for.

Life, things that made me happy this week

4 things that made me happy this week

May 16, 2015

4 things that made me happy this week

Spanish Grand Prix – I had a fantastic few days in Spain last week. Great racing, and good times with good friends. If you’re intrigued, you can read my Spanish Grand Prix diary on my F1 blog, Niawm. 

Drawing and painting – This week I was suddenly hit by the urge to draw and paint. I used to do it all the time, but it’s something I’ve not done in years and I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it, and how relaxing it is. 

Books – I came back from Spain to find two books waiting for me; The Heir by Kiera Cass, and Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda. You just can’t go wrong with coming home to books. 

Music – This week Kacey Musgraves’ new album, Pageant Material, went up for pre-order and I pre-ordered the hell out of it. I cannot wait to hear her new album. On top of that, Joy Williams released Until the Levee off her upcoming album and I’ve had that on repeat all week. 

What made you happy this week? 

Life, travel

Strangers on a plane

May 15, 2015

Strangers on a plane

A funny thing happened on the way out to Barcelona. 

In the blog post I put up while I was away, I said I hoped I didn’t sit next to someone who wanted to talk. The opposite of that happened. I sat next to a nice chap called Charles. 

He was going on a sailing course in Spain with his friends, and we got talking about that, his love for sailing, his career, and his life. 

Charles was a genuinely nice, friendly bloke. He was fascinating, and he said something which really struck a cord with me. It went something like this. 

“I want to live my life and have fun, and make sure my cheque to the funeral director bounces.” 

That wasn’t his exact wording, but the point is the same: live your life

Since meeting Charles over a week ago, I’ve found myself thinking about him a couple of times. I think he’s one of those strangers you meet, but never quite forget. I can never quite get my head around the idea that you’ll meet someone who you get on with, but you’ll never see them again. 

While I was writing this blog post, I came across a post on Reddit about strangers people had met and never being able to forget. It’s well worth a read

Tell me about a stranger you met, that you’ve never quite forgotten.