Dinner at The Urban Fox, Edinburgh

Sunday, 16 December 2018

A few weeks ago, I was invited down to The Urban Fox in Edinburgh to try out their festive menu. The set menu had lots of great options and I had some fantastic company with some other bloggers (Lorna, Charlene and Beth) so I was certainly set for a good night. The Urban Fox is relatively new on Edinburgh's restaurant scene and is located in Newington. On arrival, we started with a lovely mulled wine which helped me warm up as it blowing an absolute gale outside.  


A No Knead Bread Recipe For Beginner Bakers

Sunday, 16 September 2018
We all know by now that I'm a girl that loves her bread. For the last few weeks, I've tried to make bread on a weekly basis. I've been trying out various 'easy' bread recipes after a burned challah incident that I do not want to talk about. I've adjusted a few and found what I think really works for me. For this recipe, you'll need a big casserole dish with a lid that can go in an oven. Regular ovens don't get as hot as a bread oven would. By preheating the covered dish in a regular oven, the higher temperature can be reached and this gives the bread a really nice crust. 

This bread is no-knead so is perfect for those that would maybe shy away from bread baking because they don't think that they can do it. It does require at least 12 hours of proving time but this means that it can be prepped well in advance. I usually mix the dough together on a Saturday night and bake the loaf first thing on a Sunday morning. There's nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread to start off a lazy Sunday!


Underwater Exploring at Deep Sea World

Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Recently I was invited along to Deep Sea World for their media evening alongside lots of other bloggers and journalists. Deep Sea World is an aquarium located in North Queensferry, about 20 minutes from the city centre of Edinburgh by train. I had visited several times before as a child, but this was my first time visiting as an adult. So I was very excited to see what had changed.

I got the train and it was about a 5 minutes walk to the aquarium. By car, there's a large car park and it is right across the bridges. Very accessible. On arrival, we were taken on a tour of the aquarium. As it was after the regular closing time, it was very quiet and we had the chance to ask the keeps any questions etc. The aquarium has lots of different exhibits with fish from lots of different countries.


July and August Reading Wrap Up

Wednesday, 5 September 2018
This has not been a summer full of books for me. But that's ok because life gets in the way sometimes. However, But... I have read some really good books over the past few months. And I'm finally trying to get through all of the books that are on my Kindle. I swear I think I've been reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post for about 3 years that book is so damn long...

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
Everyone and their dog was reading this book so who was I to not join in? In this memoir, journalist Dolly Alderton tells us little anecdotes about romantic, friendly and familial love. It was really enjoyable and felt more like a collection of blog posts than a heavy read. It was also broken up by little chapters of lists or recipes. I liked it in that it felt like a book that I could pick up if I had 5 minutes or 30 minutes to spare and still get a little chunk out of it. That being said. I did find Dolly's stories to be a little unrelatble at times but however, I'm probably not the target audience. I gave it 3/5 stars. Did I find it as amazing as everyone has been saying? No. But did I enjoy reading it? Yes. Am I writing my blog posts now like Josh from Love Island?  You betcha. 


The Aperitivi Menu at Mono, Edinburgh

Sunday, 2 September 2018
I've been back in Edinburgh for about three months now and it's been great being able to visit my favourite old Edinburgh food haunts. But that being said, Edinburgh has gotten some new kids on the block. I was kindly invited down to Mono to try out their aperitivi menu with some other bloggers recently. Mono is an Italian fine dining restaurant located on South Bridge, a stone throw away from the Royal Mile and a great number of Edinburgh's museums and hotels.

The aperitivi menu is served between 5-6:30 pm and consists of a 3 course set menu, canapes and a spritz. The menu is £35 which I'm sure you can agree is fantastic value for money. The spritz is served on arrival and was absolutely delicious. We were all so impressed with the metal, reusable straws that they were served with. Very on trend with all the focus on reducing plastic waste at the moment. We tried of a selection of 3 little canapes. My favourite was the tiny caprese mouthful served on a cracker. I could have had about 30 of these!


Baba, Ediburgh

Wednesday, 22 August 2018
I've got a never ending list of foodie spots in Edinburgh that I want to try out. And Baba has been at the top of said list since it opened a few months ago. 

Kirsty ordered the cauliflower fritters which were absolutely phenomenal. Cauliflower is a seriously underrated vegetable, isn't it! If I were to go back I would definitely order them. The batter was light and crispy and the sauce was really refreshing. Definitely one of those veggie dishes that doesn't feel like eating vegetables!

We ordered a hummus for the table and despite not being a massive hummus fan, I thought that it was delicious. Topped with lovely crunchy pine nuts and a zingy pesto-like sauce. We made fast work of it. Any of the tips come with a pitta bread and this pitta was the best I have ever tasted. Soft, fluffy and served still warm in a brown paper bag. Perfect for tearing into and dipping into all their lovely dishes. 

The highlight of the whole meal for me was the whipped goat's cheese with pistachio, lemon and courgette. It had the perfect balance of tangy citrus and rich, indulgent creaminess. I shared one with Charlotte but I'd have happily stuffed a whole one into my face. And I haven't stopped thinking about it since. 

I love it when foreign food restaurants in Scotland incorporate haggis into the menu. And so when I see it, I kind of have to order it. Haggis and harissa kibbeh, therefore, really caught my eye. They were little kofta style fritters. Haggis is relatively spicy to begin so works really well with harissa. They were very rich, so four little ones as a nibbling dish is the perfect portion.  Thumbs up from me. 

The only part of the meal that I didn't really enjoy was the scallop. They sell their scallops individually and they come served on a shell with tzatziki and another pesto-style sauce called chermoula which is coriander based. I love scallops so I ordered one anyway despite it being £5 because I thought 'treat yourself!'. The sauces were so strong in flavour that the flavour of the scallop was totally masked. So it wasn't actually that enjoyable and certainly not worth £5 in my opinion. 

I also ordered the baked sweet potato side which came with creme fraiche and zhug, the spicy coriander sauce that was served with the fritters. This was lovely. The potato was baked perfectly and really went well with the sauces. It was nice in that it felt very carby after we had just eaten a lot of dips! This is something I could definitely see myself trying to recreate at home. 

Baba is located at 130 George Street and its full menu is available here

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

Prague Travel Diary

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Prague. The Czech Republic's beautiful capital. It's always been on my radar, however, it was never really near the top of my list. But when Becky and I were looking for somewhere to visit, the flights were cheap and conveniently timed. And so I found myself jetting off for two-day mini break. I went to Prague knowing two things: beautiful architecture and cheap booze. We picked a hotel and booked the trip. Becky arrived about 2 hours before me so she was waiting at the hotel by the time I arrived. 

My plane landed at around 5pm and then I got the airport express bus to the city centre. This was really easy, I bought a ticket from the information desk inside the arrivals department. It's 44 CZK if you busy inside the airport or 60 CZK if you buy it from the bus driver. They give change. From there, it took about half an hour to drive to Prague's large train station. This location was perfect for me, as it was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel, the EA Hotel Julis.


Flinder's Lane, Stamford

Sunday, 15 July 2018
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. 


June Edit

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

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.


June Reading Wrap Up

Wednesday, 4 July 2018
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.


10 Books I Want To Read This Summer

Sunday, 1 July 2018
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. 


May Reading Wrap Up

Sunday, 24 June 2018
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.


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

Sunday, 6 May 2018
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. 


The April Edit

Wednesday, 2 May 2018
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. 

April Reading Wrap Up

Sunday, 29 April 2018
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. 


Giving Thanks

Wednesday, 25 April 2018
  • 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

Postcards from Maine

Sunday, 22 April 2018
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.

NYC's Tartan Week Parade

Wednesday, 18 April 2018
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. 


You Must Be Very Intelligent

Sunday, 15 April 2018
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. 


50 Lists to Include in Your Bullet Journal

Wednesday, 11 April 2018
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

Anecdotes of Appetites

Sunday, 8 April 2018
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. 


My Ultimate Guide to Graphic Novels

Wednesday, 4 April 2018
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.


March Reading Wrap Up

Sunday, 1 April 2018
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.


The March Edit

Wednesday, 28 March 2018
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.


Recipe: Rosemary and Cheddar Soda Bread

Sunday, 25 March 2018
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

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

Wednesday, 21 March 2018
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. 


Savannah, Georgia

Wednesday, 14 March 2018
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. 


For The Love of Bread

Saturday, 10 March 2018
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. 


Charleston Travel Diary

Wednesday, 7 March 2018
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.


The February Edit

Sunday, 4 March 2018
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...


February Reading Wrap Up

Wednesday, 28 February 2018
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.


Butcher & Bee, Charleston

Sunday, 25 February 2018
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.

Moving to the United States Q&A

Wednesday, 21 February 2018
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 Spiel #4

Sunday, 18 February 2018
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.


The Best Things to Do in New York City

Wednesday, 14 February 2018
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.

Is Ellen's Stardust Diner Worth a Visit?

Sunday, 11 February 2018
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).