Sunday, 15 July 2018

Flinder's Lane, Stamford

Before I get around to reviewing Edinburgh restaurants, I just wanted to write a quick review of one of my favourite restaurants in Stamford. Flinder's Lane is an Australian restaurant and bar located on Summer Street in the downtown Stamford area. I've visited the restaurant twice, once with some friends to celebrate a birthday and a second time on a work trip. The photos/food from this review is from the initial visit. We headed down after work one weeknight and bagged a table outside. Everything that we ordered was from their happy hour menu which has cocktails at $6 and snacks at $5 each. We ordered a lot of snacks to share instead of having a main meal each. Almost like tapas! 

Starting off with some drinks, what is better for a summer's evening than an Aperol Spritz? If that doesn't entice you, how about a Lillet Rose? With Lillet rose, Ford's gin and grapefruit, it's the perfect summer cocktail. They have a fantastic cocktail menu and at $6 each, they are a real bargain during happy hour. 


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

June Edit


Man, what a month.

It's odd to think that I spent half of this month in the US as now that I'm home, I can't even comprehend being there. Definitely a chapter on my life that I'm more than happy to shut the lid on. And... it feels so good to be back in Scotland.

I started the month with a short trip to Canda. I was there only for a weekend as I wanted to attend a family birthday party. Unfortunately, I didn't take many photos apart from photos of me and my family which for obvious reasons I won't be sharing on the blog. However, I had the best weekend and it came at the perfect time for a break, motivating me to get through the rest of my time in the US. 


This month I've been catching up on Brooklyn Nine-nine. I love it so much. I didn't think I would like it because, to be honest, I don't usually find US sitcoms funny. That being said, it's had me laughing out loud on several occasions and it deals with some important issues too.

And of course, the show that everyone's been talking about LOVE ISLAND. I have no shame when it comes to Love Island, I love watching it. It's just such dead head tv and whilst I have a quiet summer it's something to look forward to. This year I'm really rooting for Dani and Jack, Alex and Georgia. Who are your favourites?

The only movie I've seen this month was Ocean's 8. Which was FANTASTIC. Such a feel good, girl power movie. If you haven't seen it yet, do so ASAP.


Sunday, 8 July 2018

One Student at Nigella's Table: Update 1

So as we discussed in my first blog post about this project, I'm currently on a mission to try out every recipe in Nigella Lawson's latest cookbook At My Table. I'll be posting updates every 10 recipes so here's what I've made recently. I've not quite gotten into the swing of trying out many of the dinner recipes as I'm living at home and running on everyone else's schedules/tastes. But I definitely plan to try out more fo the dinner recipes when I'm living on my own.

I've made a few of the main dishes and a few of the desserts too. So far I've had no major disasters and everything has been at least edible (when you aren't a good cook that's the standard). I tried black pudding for the first time, was shocked at how easy it was to make mayo and terrorised some Americans with the concept of savourty French toast.

Here's what I thought of the recipes:

Golden Garlic Mayonnaise

Rating out of 5: 5
Time taken: 5 minutes
Any changes: I forgot to add a teaspoon of lemon juice right at the end. Didn't notice that it was missing. 

I used to be firmly in the 'mayo is gross' camp but recently I've become a big fan of flavoured mayo. Particularly anything spicy or garlic. I was so surprised by how easy it is was to make this from scratch, just putting all the ingredients into the bowl and blending them together. This recipe does include saffron which is expensive and you can't really taste it but it does add a lovely colour. I made this to serve alongside the next dish as I thought the garlic mayo would work really well with the crispy potatoes. 

Black Pudding Hash with Fried Egg

Rating out of 5: 3
Time taken: 45 minutes
Any changes: I used chilli flakes/powder in replacement of a fresh red chilli. 

Oh, what sins can be hidden by a well placed fried egg? This dish tastes nice in the end but my recreation looked nowhere near as good as the picture. I didn't quite get the nice crunchy look that the book demonstrated. My potatoes also took a lot longer to good than the book suggested so the overall cooking time became a lot longer. This dish was lovely and went really well with the garlic mayo but for what is supposed to be a breakfast meal the prep time wasn't really worth it.


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

June Reading Wrap Up

June was a month that totally flew by and with my return to Scotland, I've been a bit easy on the books without my lovely Stamford library. I read 6 books this month. Everything was either a 3 star or a 4 star read for me. Nothing terrible but nothing that totally blew me away either. That being said, I generally try to read outwith my comfort zone so it should be no surprise that I'll come across books that aren't quite my style. I also recently published my list of books that I want to read this summer and as always add me as a friend on GoodReads if you use it!

The Children by Ann Leary
This book follows our narrating character who is a famous Connecticut mommy blogger. The secret? She doesn't actually have any children. Charlotte lives at home with her mother in a house that was left to them by her stepfather. This book follows the characters over a summer when romance blooms in the family and an inheritance feud begins. I was attracted to this book because it involves a blogger and it was also set in Connecticut. It was a fun little mystery but honestly, at the times it didn't really seem like the plotlines flowed together very well. Like it was 4 mini stories about a family that didn't fit into a big picture very well. I gave it 3/5 stars.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

10 Books I Want To Read This Summer

Summer is upon us and I am ready for a little rest and relaxation. Summer is using when I get the most of my reading done for the year so I've been taking the time to plan out my reading for the next few weeks. These are the books that I'm most excited about this summer, most of them are new releases that have got a lot of hype around them, so I'm hoping that they live up to expectations!

Almost Love by Louise O'Neil
I am a big fan of Louise O'Neil's books and I am very excited about the release of her first adult fiction book. In this book, we follow a character called Sarah who gets involved with a man who is 20 years older than her but does not treat her very well.  This book has gained a lot of attention because the characters are not particularly likeable but it explores a lot of serious issues. I really like when an author is not afraid to make their characters very realistic and human so I am very excited to see what this book brings. 


Sunday, 24 June 2018

May Reading Wrap Up

Ok, so I am very aware that this post is long overdue. But it's time to get back to my mini book reviews after my blogging hiatus. Maybe my lack of blog posts was due to increased reading because I made my way through a lot of books in May! I was definitely taking advantage of my library access before leaving the city! 

Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman 

This book follows a stay at home mum as she unravels all the gossip of her little neighbourhood. It kind of felt like a real-life desperate housewives but much less glamorous. I really enjoyed it and it was a fast easy read, even if the characters felt very unrelatable at times. I gave it 4/5 stars.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

One Student at Nigella's Table

I don't want to alarm anyone... but I'm writing a blog post!

Long time no speak. So yeah, the blogging schedule kind of went to pot over the last month or so. I lost my writing energy and just really wanted to focus on my last few weeks in America. Not going to apologise for it either because I believe blogs should be written because people want to and not as a chore.

So anyway, today I want to launch a little project on my blog. But before I get into it, I need to drop on the back story. 

I recently watched a movie called Julie and Julia which is based on the real-life blog of Julie Powell. Over the space of a year, she cooked her way through Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The movie was excellent and really heartwarming. I felt really inspired to cook after watching it. 

Cooking and I have a complicated relationship. I love to cook really but... I'm not always the best at it. I'm not a bad cook per se but I'm easily demotivated and one bad meal can put me in a real sour slump. So I've decided to challenge myself by cooking my way through a cookbook this summer, although certainly not one as big or as challenging as Julia Child's! 

Nigella Lawson is one of my favourites for recipes and so I've decided that this summer I'm going to cook my way through her most recent book, At My Table, over the course of the summer. The book has 109 recipes and I have 91 days until the first day of my next semester. So it's definitely going to be a challenge, but I want to push myself to try new things and follow through. 

And the rule is that I'm not allowed to make substitutions because I don't like something, only because of lack of availability/cost.

I've already made my first dish which was...

Sunday, 6 May 2018

6 NYC Instagram Foodie Hotspots (And Their Closest Attraction!)

Posting photos of your food on social media. 

It's something that people either love or hate. Personally, I am a fan of the quick food photo, but you won't catch me letting my food go cold to get the perfect shot either. I just love to eat too much. Living near New York, there's no shortness of Instagram foodie accounts. There are so many restaurants/cafes/food stalls that say their secret to success is the 'gram. I've visited a fair few spots in NYC because of what I've seen on Instagram so today I'm sharing their location, what they serve and what tourist attractions are close by so that you can maximise your time in the big apple. 

Dominique Ansel Bakery
What: Cronuts, cookie-milk shots, frozen smores, blooming hot chocolates. 
Where: 189 Spring Street.
What next?: Shop until you drop around Soho. 


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The April Edit

Woweee April has been a busy month. With a visit to Boston to visit Leda and my mum/sister visiting for 10 days, the month flew by. The weather has finally brightened up a little bit which has given me that little burst of energy that I really needed to get through a busy month. One thing, that I didn't realise is that the US gets less daylight hours than the UK during the summer so if the days are really bright and sunny, that helps make up the difference. It was so nice having my family here to visit. Taking them to New York was fun of course but I really enjoyed showing them around Stamford. Showing them where I go grocery shopping, our favourite restaurants, them meeting my friends etc. The 10 days flew by and whilst I'm sad to see them go, I'm also ready to power through my remaining 7 weeks in the US.

What I've Been Reading

My favourite books of the month were Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. In Eat Up, Ruby Tandoh explores our relationship with food whilst adding in some beautifully descriptive pieces and scrummy recipes. In Little Fires Everywhere, we go back in time and follow two families in the events that lead to a house burning down. 

Both books, in their own right, were gripping, unique and addictive. I'd fully recommend! 

Honestly, with how busy my month has been I haven't really kept up to date on any of the blogs that I read so I don't have any great list of posts to recommend in this department. Apart from this post by Jasmin called 'I Want to do EVERYTHING but Also Spend Time on the Couch' which really summarised a lot of things I also feel. 

Sunday, 29 April 2018

April Reading Wrap Up

In April I tend to swap reading books for hitting the books in preparation for exams but this year I don't have any so I've been reading to my little heart's content. I'm actually really sad that I only have 6 weeks left with my local library as it's such a good one. I'm on a mission to read as many good books between now and my return to Edinburgh. I read some really interesting books this month and most of them I'd really recommend.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
This is the famous graphic novel that the hit movie is based on. I loved the movie so was excited about reading it. The story follows two obnoxiously 'individual' teenage girls as they negotiate boys/men in the summer between high school and college. It was ok. The plot was different to the movie and I think I actually prefer the movie plot. I found them a little irritating at the time but it was a nice easy read. I gave it 3/5 stars. 


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Giving Thanks

  • I am thankful for blue skies, crisp cold weather and golden hour sunshine. 
  • I am thankful for friends that despite being spread across a globe, will always be there for the Facebook group chat or a silly, drunken snap chat. 
  • I am thankful for American Netflix having a much wider range of shows, to brighten dull Connecticut evenings. 
  • I am thankful for the 10:25am express train to Grand Central. 
  • I am thankful for all the dogs I get to pet.
  • I am thankful for the realisation that just because something is a fantastic opportunity, that doesn't mean it's the right opportunity and that's ok.
  • I am thankful for developing a taste for wine because not being a wine or beer drinker is just awkward in most situations.
  • I am thankful for ice hockey stadiums that let in dogs.
  • I am thankful for bread and fast rising yeast.
  • I am thankful for the spare bed in Leda's attic that is always there to welcome me. 
  • I am thankful for coconut gelato.
  • I am thankful for $1 slices of pizza.
  • I am thankful for Ruby Tandoh, Nigella Lawson and Mary Berry.
  • I am thankful for elastic cuffed lab coats. 
  • I am thankful for Skype and phone calls and all those things that connect me to the other side of the pond.
  • I am thankful for organising trips to distract my mind. 
  • I am thankful for the woman who empties the bins at work because one time I heard her audibly hiss at a man I don't like. 
  • I am thankful for discovering how great scouring bleach powder is for cleaning out a bathtub. 
  • I am thankful for Sunday dinners at Leda's house. 
  • I am thankful for being able to renew library books online.
  • I am thankful for poetry. 
  • I am thankful for the scratch-off maps.
  • I am thankful for postcards from Scotland. 
  • I am thankful for the end being in sight.
  • I am thankful for Rebecca, who is always there for a chat. 
  • I am thankful for my past self, who spent so much time with her grandparents.
  • I am thankful for the NHS.
  • I am thankful for the one, disgustingly greasy English fish and chips shop in Stamford CT, even if its chips are really fries. 
  • I am thankful for dancing around the lab to Rihanna.
  • I am thankful for blogging. 
  • I am thankful for writing. 
  • I am thankful for reading. 
Twitter @honestlyrussell // Instagram  @honestlyrussell // Pinterest @honestlyrussell

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Postcards from Maine

What a way to round up New England. This month, I finally visited my last New England state: Maine. This tiny little state (roughly the size of Scotland actually) is located right up in the northeast corner of the US and is famous for it's coastal beauties and LOBSTER. I visited this state as I did my first, with the lovely Leda

I'd arrived in Boston the night before and after a night of Chinese food and sangria, we drove up to Portland on Saturday morning. And by we drove I mean Leda drove. So shout out to her for being a fantastic chauffeur for the day. It's about a 2-hour drive from  Boston and we arrived around noon.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

NYC's Tartan Week Parade

If I've learnt one thing about Americans, it's that they love to tell you about their heritage. No American is American. They are half Irish, a quarter Scottish, one eight Polish and one eight French Polynesian. Alter nationalities as required. The upside to that, when you're a little Scottish girl far away from home, is that they'll have parades to celebrate. Which is how I found myself on 6th Avenue on Saturday the 7th of April to watch NYC's Tartan Week Parade. 

Tartan Week is an annual thing in New York City, where Scots and fans of Scotland come together to celebrate Scottish heritage and the contributions that Scots have made to the city. No idea where they got the dates of early April from but I'm not complaining. 


Sunday, 15 April 2018

You Must Be Very Intelligent

It's very rare that I'll write a whole blog post about one book. It's not that I couldn't, but they never really gather much interest which is why I prefer to do monthly reading wrap-ups. So I only really do it when I have a lot to say about a particular book.

Turn the kettle on, get yourself a cuppa, I got a lot to say about this book. 

Now, I love a good gossip. I'm a hairdresser's daughter. They gossip all the time. Sue me.

So when I heard whispers that a woman who completed her PhD in the same chemistry department as I study in has written a book that's all about how horrible her experience and her supervisor were? I was curious. 

When I realised that the book (You Must Be Very Intelligent: The PhD Delusion by Karin Bodewitz) was about £20 on Amazon I was a bit put off of reading it. To be honest. I've been almost solely using the library for the past year so the prospect of spending £20 on one book? Hmmm.

But then a friend of mine noticed that you could read it online for free here if you're on an academic network (aka using a university computer/VPN). And then I thought, well if it's free then I'll tuck in. 


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

50 Lists to Include in Your Bullet Journal

Are bullet journals still trendy? Who knows. But I'm still using mine and enjoying doing so very much. When I moved I left my Leuchtturm1917 behind (it was heavy) and opted for a regular lined, ring bound notebook instead. I much prefer this. I never look back at my weekly spreads or daily to-do lists so I like being able to rip them out when I'm finished with them. But anyway, I digress...

I must admit, I am a list fiend. And whilst I like filling in my daily bullet journal, there's something that's very soothing about sitting down and writing a few lists. So seeing as my previous bullet journalling posts have been very well recevied, I thought it would be fun to share with you the sort of lists that I write in mine. And here's 50 of them!

  1. New Years resolutions.
  2. Local restaurants to visit. 
  3. Movies/shows to watch.
  4. Books to read.
  5. Books read.
  6. Countries/cities/states visited. 
  7. Wishlist of things to buy. 
  8. Recipes you want to try. 
  9. Packing lists for your upcoming trips. 
  10. Ideas for birthday/Christmas presents. 
  11. Blog posts to write. 
  12. Craft projects to work on.
  13. A 101 things in 1001 days list.
  14. US state license plates you've seen (ok this is niche but I'm obsessed with trying to see them all).
  15. Your favourite blogs to check in on. 
  16. Things to do to clean up when you only have x, y and z minutes. 
  17. Blogging tasks to do when you only have x, y and z minutes. 
  18. University deadlines. 
  19. Parcels you're expecting in the post. 
  20. Instagram photo ideas. 
  21. Cocktail recipes you want to try. 
  22. Bucket list. 
  23. An x before x lists (eg 20 before 20).
  24. Countries/cities/states to visit. 
  25. Things you need to prepare for an upcoming trip (visas, reservations etc).
  26. A seasonal bucket list. 
  27. Things you are grateful for. 
  28. Things to sell, donate or bin. 
  29. Important phone numbers that you use frequently.
  30. Local bus/train information for routes you take often. 
  31. Favourite recipes.
  32. Dinner ideas that take 20 minutes or less.
  33. Things you can do to de-stress
  34. A city-specific bucket list
  35. Spending logs.
  36. Habit trackers.
  37. A reoccurring to do list (for things you have to do frequently like hoover).
  38. Quotes to remember.
  39. Happy memories to look at when you're feeling down. 
  40. Milestones you achieve in a hobby (I have one where I note down what grade the hardest climb I do at rock climbing is). 
  41. Important dates like birthdays and holidays.
  42. Potential dog names (always best to be prepared).
  43. Potential child names (you never know).
  44. A list of YouTube videos that really inspired you that you can go back and watch later.
  45. Musicals you'd like to see live.
  46. Musicals you've seen live. 
  47. Places nearby you want to visit. 
  48. Anything you borrow from someone that you need to return. 
  49. Beauty products that you've heard are good and want to try.
  50. A list of all your tinder dates rating them out of 10 (just kidding but if anyone has this PLEASE let me read it).

Twitter @honestlyrussell // Instagram  @honestlyrussell // Pinterest @honestlyrussell

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Anecdotes of Appetites

After writing my blog post about my love of bread, I realised that I absolutely love writing about food. I've been feeling a funk with my blog over the last few months and that blog post really helped pick me out of it. But I knew that I couldn't carry on writing blog posts about specific food groups like that because, quite frankly, there's nothing I love as much as some damn good bread. I was reading some of Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh and I was revelling in all the little snippets. Descriptions of rich, sweet tomatoes and the curing powers of a good curry. And it really inspired me to not lose that spark of food writing. And so I had the idea for a new series. Where I share 3 stories about food in a blog post. Not necessarily the taste of the food. But the story behind it. Because after all, food does not only nutritionally benefit us. Food is more than atoms on the very basic level. It's about who we eat it with, where we eat it, how it makes us feel. 

$100 Over Thanksgiving Poker

For a few months, here in America, I was dating someone. And his mom invited not only me but my friends as well over for Thanksgiving dinner. Not one to pass up on a cultural exchange opportunity I was happy to be invited and went with two of my friends, Kathryn and Taylor, as all the other interns had other plans. Thanksgiving day was crisp and clear and we decided to walk the 45 minutes to their house in the much wealthier Old Greenwich. Along the way, we stopped and watched some deer that we spotted in the woods and whilst it was cold, it was a beautiful day. 


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

My Ultimate Guide to Graphic Novels

Over the past year, I've really gotten into graphic novels. I've always really enjoyed them but mostly just down to price, I hadn't read that many. Thankfully, my local library has a fantastic collection which has allowed me to try out lots over the last few months. With this, I've become really good at being able to guess which ones I will and will not like. As I've been featuring them in my monthly reading wrap-ups, I've realised that not a lot of people have tried reading graphic novels. So I decided to write this guide to graphic novels to hopefully inspire some more people to try them out. Graphic novels are fun, fast reads that sometimes can convey a story better than regular print.

Where to get graphic novels

My first port of call when looking for graphic novels in the library.  Graphic novels can be expensive and because they're generally much faster reads, they often don't end up being great value for money. Following on from that charity shops or online second-hand bookstores may also be a good place for you to score some bargains. If you want to buy from a store I'd recommend Waterstones as they have a good points card system and often run a stamp scheme where you can get a £10 voucher after spending £100. As always, it's great to support local independent bookstores but be aware this may be the most expensive option.


Sunday, 1 April 2018

March Reading Wrap Up

I only read two books in February but March was the complete opposite. I read so many books this month! Which I think is probably down to there being some pretty bad weather this month. I had two snow days which are the perfect opportunity to snuggle up with a good book and a cup of tea. I read some really great books and some meh books. My favourite was probably Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine which I read as part of the Slow Sunday Club's book club. It's been a while since I was involved in a book club and I really enjoyed it! 

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan
This is a selection of short stories featuring the lives of children in different African countries. I really wanted to like this book but it was very difficult to read. Large chunks of the text where written phonetically which I really struggled to understand. The short stories were good but there were two longer ones that were so slow and almost painful. I gave it 2/5 stars in the end.


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The March Edit

Okay, so March started off a bit shit. I was all set to spend the first weekend in Chicago. I had a hotel room all to myself. I had plans to meet friends. I had a ticket to HAMILTON. But it was not to be. Winter Storm Riley blasted the northeast of the USA and as a result, all the flights out of LaGuardia got cancelled. Oh, and I didn't find out until I'd already gone to the train station to get my train to the airport. 

Whilst I know that it's far better to have had the flight cancelled than to have flown in dangerous conditions, I lost out on quite a bit of $$$$ and ended up spending the weekend in Stamford barely leaving the house as the weather was so bad and it just put me in a right funk. And I'd taken a tonne of books out of the library on a whim the week before and none of them were wowing me and I was just BORED.

But the rest of the month picked up quite a bit. I realised that with my own trips planned and my mum and sister coming to visit, I didn't have too many free weekends left and that I better make the most of it and visit New York a little bit more. So I've checked out the Brooklyn Bridge again (one of my favourites), DUMBO, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and China town. This weekend I'm going back and hopefully checking out the Smorgasburg food market as it opens again for the summer.

So despite the weather not being great, I've really tried to make the most of the month. That being said, I'm glad to see the end of it. 

What I've been reading...

My favourite book this month was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It follows Eleanor who leads what appears to be a very organised and simple life. But things happen that shake up her routine and we find out that she may be hiding a darker past. This book was gripping, sad, heartwarming and hilarious all in one go. I'd really recommend it! And after I said I wasn't going to buy a copy of Ruby Tandoh's Eat Up in the US, I found a cheap copy of it online and can't wait to get stuck into it, though I did say I'd read all my library books first.


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Recipe: Rosemary and Cheddar Soda Bread

My latest hobby is bread baking. It's ideal because I have a lot of long evenings in Stamford that I need to fill with something, and bread baking is often a relatively long process. However, one type of loaf that I hadn't tried was soda bread, which is always considered to be the easiest type of bread to bake as it involves no kneading and no proving. So I set out to read lots of different recipes to learn some more about it. I ended up knocking a few recipes together to come up with this one, based on what I had available and what sounded good. 

So here we have my recipe for cheddar and rosemary Irish soda bread. St Paddy's day may be behind us, but I promise that this bread will be enjoyed all year round. I've made this twice in the past week and has gotten the approval of my friends as we snacked on it whilst watching old Come Dine With Me episodes (god I love that show). This bread can go from ingredients to on the table in under an hour so ideal for those who are short on time but don't want to miss out on the pure joy of homemade bread.


1 cup of bread flour or plain flour
1 cup of wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of dried rosemary
1 cup of cheddar cheese, grated
1 + 1/2 cups of buttermilk


1. Preheat an oven to 220 Celsius / 425 Fahrenheit / gas mark 7 and grease or line with baking paper.
2. Combine the flours, baking soda, salt, rosemary and cheese in a large bowl. Mix until combined and form a well in the middle of the mixture. 
3. Pour 1 cup of buttermilk into the well and with one hand, begin to stir the flour mixture into the buttermilk. 
4. Try to totally combine the dough together, if it is too dry then slowly add the other half cup of buttermilk, though you may not need it. The ideal consistency is sticky and rough. 
5. Transfer onto the baking parchment in a rough circle and score the top of the loaf with a knife/razor blade in a cross shape.
6. Bake for 20 minutes and then turn off the oven, leave the bread in the oven for a further 5 minutes and then take it out of the oven. 

My favourite way to eat this bread is fresh out of the oven, spread with butter and a little bit of salt. It would also work excellently with soup or stew. If you're feeling particularly fancy, spread it with mashed avocado and a poached egg on a weekend afternoon. 

Happy baking! 

Twitter @honestlyrussell // Instagram  @honestlyrussell // Pinterest @honestlyrussell

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

How to Cut Animal Testing Out of Your Make-up Bag

When I stopped buying beauty products that are tested on animals, I thought that it seemed like a really big decision. And that it was going to be hard. And now it's 5 years later (already?!) and it's easy breezy. So to celebrate my 5-year cruelty-free anniversary, I've compiled a list of my best tips for making the transition as easy as possible. It's something that I'd really recommend doing. Whilst I try to remain open-minded, I just cannot justify the use of animal testing in cosmetics when there are so many great brands producing great products without it. I don't think that a mac lipstick or a Revlon lipstick justify it.

So these are my tips for anyone looking to stop buying beauty products tested on animals. I promise it's easier than you think.

1. Check out own-brand items

Generally, most own-branded items will not be tested on animals. From places like Boots, Superdrug, supermarkets etc. This is great news for you because this stuff is often the cheapest. Excellent for things like shower gels, toothpaste, hairspray, shaving foam, nail polish remover etc. You have to try Sainsbury's shaving foam. It smells AMAZING. Superdrug is also my go to for skincare. I love their naturally radiant range and it's cheap too. 


Sunday, 18 March 2018

What I Ate in a Week: Vegetarian

Going vegetarian has always been something that I've toyed with the idea of but never been able to fully commit to. I've struggled with my eating in the past and have always been a little scared to approach a veggie lifestyle in case it resulted in a spiral in unhealthy behaviour. I recently watched a Ted Talk video that discussed how reducing your meat intake still has an impact. Whilst I know that it's not all that is needed, I was much more comfortable with the idea of having several meat-free days a week than with the idea of converting totally. 

However, I wanted to try eating vegetarian for a week just to prove to myself that I was capable of it. And I did it! Honestly, it was much easier than I thought it would be, in fact, I hardly noticed it. That being said, I didn't eat out during this week. And I do tend to eat only meat meals when in restaurants. But I digress. I wanted to share this post to open about a discussion about vegetarianism on my blog. I also wanted to show that real life isn't all Instagram friendly meals and 'whole foods'. Life is frozen chips and whatever is in the freezer after a long day.

Realising how much I didn't miss meat when I stopped eating it, had really inspired me to begin to really cut meat out of my diet.

Breakfast: Orange juice, bran flakes and satsumas. 
Lunch: Sweet potato, carrot and coconut milk soup with pitta bread. 
Dinner: Mac and cheese with a side salad.


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah oh nah nah.

Half of my heart is Savannah oh nah nah. 

Wait? What do you mean those aren't the lyrics?

When Jess and I went to Charleston for the weekend, we could pass up the opportunity to sneak across the state border to Georgia. Savannah is a beautiful, relaxed city located about 2 hours from Charleston. The two cities are very similar but also very different. Savannah is like Charlestons, cooler, more relaxed younger sister.

When looking at things to do in the south, plantations come up time and time again. And we were both a little uncomfortable with the idea of visiting one. We took our time to select one that would not ignore how those plantations came to be. We settled on the Wormsloe Estate which has this beautiful driveway covered in Spanish moss. The night before I went to check the opening hours and we found they were closed on Mondays (the day we were planning on going). We decided to go by anyway to take some photos with the Spanish moss and realised it was actually open for the holiday. However, we'd already planned out our schedule without going in so we didn't have time to properly go in. 


Saturday, 10 March 2018

For The Love of Bread

When it comes to food, my favourites are often the simplest. 

That's not to say that I don't enjoy exotic spices and rich textures. 

But there's something special about the sweet tang of freshly picked raspberries, the crunch of freshly fried chips and the smooth flavour of good vanilla ice cream. 

And bread, don't get me started on bread. In fact do, because this is a blog post about bread. A love story to bread. An ode to bread. Bread.

There's just something so magical about good bread.

Freshly baked bread, warm from the oven, laden with salted Lurpak. Butter slightly melting into the bread with cool unmelted patches.

The crisp, outer edge of a grilled cheese sandwich. The crunch of the bread with oozing cheese so hot that it almost burns your mouth but crucially cold enough that it doesn't. Eaten with pleasure and speed at peak hunger. Buttery fingers cleaned later and crumbs brushed from the corners of the mouth. 


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Charleston Travel Diary

Now there's one thing the US has got on the UK: a bank holiday in February. Not that they call them bank holidays, but still the idea is there. February 19th was Presidents' Day, a national holiday celebrated on the closest Monday to George Washington's birthday. I don't get a lot of time off of work but I love to travel so this is something you just have to take advantage of. Luckily, I had Jess as a travel buddy. We both took the Tuesday as a holiday from work too and began planning our long weekend in Charleston and Savannah.


Sunday, 4 March 2018

The February Edit

If I go fully by what Twitter has to say, February has been a super quick month for everyone. And I mean, that's true. It's the shortest month though, are any of us surprised? February has been, for the most part, a really good month for me. I spent a lot of time with my friends, ate some good food and had a little holiday. What more can I ask for?

What I've been up to...

February has been a really busy month, which means that it's gone by really fast. Not that I'm complaining!

At the beginning of the month, I headed up to the University of Connecticut to spend the weekend there with my friends who are there on a year abroad. We went to go see their men's basketball team play against Cincinnati. They lost, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. I also got introduced to proper dorms for the first time and dining hall food. Oh.... and I ate tater tots, a classic American dish, for the first time.

The weekend after that, those same friends came to visit me in Stamford. We had a slow morning, went to the mall and watched The Post at the cinema. It was a good movie but very slow. Then my friends made mac and cheese for dinner and we drank wine and watched movies.

I still haven't gotten around to writing a big post about it, but Jess and I spent Presidents' Day weekend in Charleston and took a day trip to Savannah. Meaning I've ticked off another two states and grabbed some winter sun whilst I was at it. I have a lot of photos to get through but there will be posts soon I promise!

I'm writing this on the last weekend of February and I am planning to just relax this weekend. I'm heading to Chicago next weekend to start off March with a bang and I am excited!

What I've been cooking/baking...


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

February Reading Wrap Up

Sometimes, I just really find myself losing the motivation to read. And February was like that for me. I was busy, the weather was bad and I really just wanted to snuggle in bed watching Netflix rather than having to put in the energy to read. Also, it took me a while to read my first book of the month. I enjoyed it but found it to be the sort of book I could only read for a few pages at a time. That being said, I picked up towards to end of the month so hopefully, I'll read some awesome books in March.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
This is the follow-up book to The Rosie Project. I read it two years ago so I was a little hazy. Without spoilers: Don is a serious professor of genetics at an Australian university and ends up marrying Rosie who is a bit of a free spirit. It's implied heavily that Don has some form of autism but it's never explicitly said. In this book, they find out that they are expecting a child. Which Don has some struggles with. I enjoyed this book and it was a nice continuation of the story but I wasn't wowed by it. 3/5 stars.


Sunday, 25 February 2018

Butcher & Bee, Charleston

I've just gotten back from a trip to Charleston and Savannah with Jess. It was a fantastic break: good weather, good food and good company. Both cities have very relaxed vibes. Usually, I'm cramming everything into a city break so it was nice to take a slower and more relaxed approach to travelling. I've got some travel diaries coming up but be warned - they're long. So in the mean time, I'm writing a review of my favourite meal from the trip. 

When looking up places to eat in Charleston, Butcher & Bee came up time and time again. A fun, fresh mezze based menu with some bigger dishes too. All served up in a very light and open restaurant. It's a little farther out of the city centre but has great parking. We rocked up at 5pm on Sunday night with a reservation but to be honest, we didn't really need one. However, it was much busier by the time we left so I'd recommend making one anyway.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Moving to the United States Q&A

I get a lot of questions on frequent about moving to America, the logistics of it, the experience etc. So I decided to do a little Q&A. Over on Instagram, I asked for some questions and this is what I got! Such an easy blog post to write! I hope I've answered any questions you may have but if I haven't, leave it in the comments and I'll add it to the post! 

"What are you doing in the US and how did you find that opportunity?"
I'm doing an industrial placement year as part of my degree. It's like study abroad but working instead. My internship is a full year long and I'm doing research. I also have some university work to complete outside of work, but not a lot. The company I work for hire interns from my university every year which is how I found the programme.

"Is the best part about moving to America getting to hang out with me and my mom yes or no?" - This was from Leda.
YES. Second place is Swedish Fish.

"What's surprised you the most?"
What's actually really surprised me is how run down a lot of the US is, and how much poverty there is. In the town I live in, you can walk from houses that cost millions of dollars to really poor areas in about 10 minutes. Things also just generally seem run down, especially public areas like parks and the pavements (should I say sidewalks?). It's quite startling.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Sunday Spiel #4

I'm sure you all know the spiel by now. The occasional Sunday blog post chatting about some things that have made my day recently and what I've been up to. A homage to the early blogging days where we just shared the photo's we'd posted on Instagram and talked about how much we wanted some litas. I haven't written one of these posts since coming back to the US and I'm now 1/4 of the way through this semester. It's going fast and I'm sure I'll be back in Scotland before I know it. However, this is a prescheduled post and if everything goes to plan I'll be living it up in Charleston with Jess by the time this goes live. Hopefully, I'll be fannying about it some warmer weather. I may even be wearing a dress with NO TIGHTS.

1. Having friends visiting. 
Some of my friends were in New York at the end of January and I went to spend time with them, then last weekend my friends from UConn came down to visit and we just had a lazy weekend in Stamford. We went to the mall, shopped and went to go see The Post at the cinema. It's so nice to have weekends that feel 'normal'. I have friends in Stamford and don't get me wrong, I do love them, but it's nice to spend time with people I don't also work with.


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Best Things to Do in New York City

It's been about 8 months since I moved to Connecticut, and I live in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area. Which means that I have great access to the city by train and have visited quite a few times now. I've written before about why I don't love New York City but it's definitely grown on me now that I've adjusted a little more. Being able to come in for the day is much nicer, I find New York very overwhelming at times so it's been great to be able to take multiple, short trips.

Now that I've gotten more familiar with the city, I want to start sharing some guides to NY. Starting with this: my favourites. These are by no means original. If you're looking for a post about secret insider things to do in NYC, this is not the post for you. But these are the top things that I would do if I could only do 10 things in the city. Some of these are really famous, some not so much but all of them bring out the side of NYC that I love.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Is Ellen's Stardust Diner Worth a Visit?

When looking up places to eat in New York City, Ellen's Stardust Diner features on almost every list. This diner located in Times Square is famous for its singing servers, who are all auditioning for roles on Broadway. I'd been quite hesitant to visit as I'd heard that the food isn't great and I wasn't sure if it would actually be fun or a bit gimmicky. But when two of my friends were visiting NYC at the end of January and wanted to visit - I thought it was about time I tried it out for myself. 

Location and Wait
Ellen's Stardust Diner is located in Times Square at 1650 Broadway. It's a good location if you're right in the centre of New York and would be fantastic for those staying at hotels in the area. The B, C, D, E, F, N, R and W subway lines all run closeby too. We arrived around 6pm on a Saturday night so real prime time and waited around 40 minutes for a table. I don't think this is bad at all, it is not uncommon to wait at New York restaurants so it's actually a pretty short line for somewhere so famous. Although, do consider that larger groups will wait longer (we were a three).

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Hotel Review: The Embassy Row Hotel, Washington D.C.

The Embassy Row Hotel was where I stayed during my trip to Washington, D.C. and it was an amazing hotel. I love hotels but don't always have the biggest budget. However, my trip to D.C. was a little treat to myself after having a rough patch with my physical health and I wanted to treat myself. And that's where The Embassy Row Hotel came in. I use for all of my travel arrangements and it stood out because of its fantastic location, bright decor and price.

I stayed at the hotel for two nights during the last weekend of October. Upon arrival at the hotel, which is very close to the subway stop, I was really impressed by the decor and style of the reception area. The staff were super friendly and checked me in for my booking and gave me my room keys. Sometimes I find that hotel staff can be a bit snooty when staying in slightly fancier hotels but I didn't find that at all. 


Sunday, 4 February 2018

The January Edit

My blog turned 6 years old at the end of January, however, I've been feeling a bit of discontent with my content recently. I don't feel like there's enough about my everyday life on my blog and that I portray this idea that I just travel about all the time and read 24/7. Which is a big part of my life but more the exception than the rule. So I've decided that I want to write a blog post each month talking about some of the things that I've been up to that just don't justify their own post. How horribly self-indulgent. But hey, this is a 'lifestyle' blog!


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

January Reading Wrap Up

January is always a good month for me in terms of reading. There's something about that fresh start that motivates me to get reading. Plus it's been so cold in Stamford this month that I've honestly been avoiding going outside if I don't have to (-10 no thank you!) and it's been perfect for snuggling up and reading in the evenings. I've also gotten into the habit of eating my breakfast whilst reading in the morning and it's such a nice start to the day, even if it does make it a bit harder to leave for work! I've set my goal for 2018 to read a book a week which I'm glad to say I've stuck to in January.

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
I'm a big fan of Sarah Knight's books and this fun guide to getting more organised was no different. She has a fun writing style and perfectly nails writing a self-help book that isn't condescending or annoying. She also shares her own past mistakes etc which is really helpful. This book taught me some really good lessons but also made me realise that I'm not alone is the way that I've been feeling recently which was very reassuring. I gave it 5/5 stars and I'm happy it was my first read of the year. 


Sunday, 28 January 2018

2018 Travel Plans

We're only a few weeks into 2018 and I'm already booking some trips for myself and thinking about where I want to go this year. This year I'm focusing on making those last few American trips before moving back to Scotland in June. Then after that, I'd like to see a little bit more of Europe. I'm so much more confident in my abilities to conduct an excellent weekend break but I know this won't be as accesible whilst doing a masters year. Therefore, I think most of my travelling will occur in the first half of the year. Although a little Christmas trip would do me nicely too! 

South Carolina and Georgia Road Trip
My first trip of the year (excluding my flight from Edinburgh back to the states) is a road trip through the American south with the one and only Jess! We're taking advantage of the President's Day long weekend and taking a little bloggers trip to Charleston and Savannah. I'm flying into Myrtle Beach SC, Jess is picking me up and we are driving the two hours to Charleston. We're spending three nights there and will be taking a day trip to Savannah which is just over the border with Georgia. I'm excited to spend time with Jess, experience Southern hospitality and escape the cold of the North East for a while!


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Return To Edinburgh

Before I went home for Christmas, I had all of these ideas in my head about the day trips that I was going to take into Edinburgh and all the things I was going to do there and well, that didn't exactly go to plan. I shrugged off chances to go for spending time with my family, my dogs and avoiding the rain. But I did make it through for one day and it was perfect just the right reminder of how much I love the city and enough to fill up my heart with its charm to tide me over the coming months. 

I'd made plans with my friends Kathryn and Imogen, to meet for dinner at 6pm after Imogen had finished work. Kathryn and I went in a little earlier to spend some time in the city. It was brilliant to see her again but she's actually doing her year abroad at the University of Connecticut so I've actually seen her a few times since we moved across (Rhode Island, Vermont). Our first port of call was the National Museum of Scotland. 


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Blogging is Not a Crime

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about being silent about things that matter. And to stay true to my word about trying to be more vocal about injustices I am writing today about a man's story that is very close to my heart. 

Raif Badawi is a 33-year-old writer and activist from Saudi Arabia. He was arrested in 2012 for being the owner of a blog called 'Free Saudi Liberals' that called for free speech in the extremely conservative country. He was convicted of several charges and sentenced to 600 lashes and 7 years in prison. This has since been increased to 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes. 


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Meet Stan & Ollie

A few months ago, my family adopted two black labrador puppies: Stan & Ollie. Much to my amazement and also disappointment. Amazement because my mum had previously said 'we are never getting another dog' and now we had two. And disappointing because I was approximately 3'600 miles away and knew I wouldn't be home until Christmas. So after months of asking for photos and talking to the dogs on Facetime, I finally got to meet them myself on Christmas eve. And they are wonderful. So full of energy, love and personality. They are brothers and it's so nice to watch them playing with each other (and also fighting with each other because, boys). 


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Pizza Posto, Edinburgh

After 6 months of living in the states, I was itching to get back to the Edinburgh restaurant scene and get writing some reviews. So when I went through for the day to visit my friends and one of them recommended Pizza Posto I was more than happy to try it out. My favourite pizza of all time comes from a place called Paesano in Glasgow and a quick glance at Instagram showed that these pizzas looked very similar so I had very high hopes for this place!

The restaurant is located on the edge of Newington and the Old Town, right next to Surgeon's Hall. Despite having a pretty small front, the restaurant has lots of space on the inside and plenty of tables. We made a reservation for our Friday night 6pm dinner in case it was busy but we would easily have gotten seated without it. We sat in the window and caught up with what's been happening over the course of the last sixth months.

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