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I don’t know about you but when you need to buy presents, I’m fresh out of ideas on what to buy for those special in my life. There are only so many boxes of chocolate, jumpers and socks you can buy before it becomes very monotonous.

So what do you buy for the people in your life that have everything? The ones who tell you they don’t need anything but you still want to get them something? I’m looking at you Dad! For me, this is where Red Letter Days comes to the rescue and perfect for last minute gifts for procrastinators like myself.

Red Letter Days was the first of its kind, pioneering the concept of experience day vouchers way back in 1989. Over the years it has transformed and now, you can choose from 6000+ variations of amazing gifts. Now surely you’d be able to find a special gift for that person in your life?

I tested out one of Red Letter Days more popular experiences, Boutique Escape for Two recently and transported myself to the Lake District for the weekend before Christmas season was upon me. Years ago, I actually went to Boarding School for two years near the Lake District. I visited Kendall and Windermere a good few times but had never been back since the early 00’s. At just under 3 hours drive, I forgot just how accessible it is from Glasgow. The Lakes are a beautiful part of England and the perfect place for some relaxation and exploration. Its been rather stressful the past few months and I desperately needed a break.

On Christmas Day while we’re all gorging on our dinner with family and/or friends, what will your pets be eating this festive season? My 11-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, Bobby, is spoilt beyond belief but with a liver condition from birth, we have to be careful with the foods we feed him. I’ve teamed up with More Th>n to highlight what you can and can’t feed your dog from your Christmas dinner and other dangers to watch out for around the house.

With a new festive jumper and some carrot batons to line his belly, Bobby would quite happily devour anything in sight. We joke that he’s our little kitchen hoover or our sous chef because he never leaves your side if you’re in the kitchen. From a rogue tomato falling on the ground and trying to prise it out of his mouth to his attempt to steal a whole onion. He sure is one to watch when food is around. Trouble is, while this may all seem funny, some of these foods are toxic to our furry friends and with his liver condition, these can be rather deadly. 

For Christmas, we usually spoil Bobby more than we usually do, its Christmas after all. He gets his own pet-friendly three course Christmas dinner. Want the run down?

2017 is the year of firsts for me.

In September, I said goodbye to the Suburban Wilderness I called home since my grandfather passed away in 2008 and started living with my boyfriend in our own apartment in the West End of Glasgow. Ross & I have also decided to cook Christmas Dinner for my parents (and dog), giving my mom a well deserved break from all the stress and panic that always seems inevitable.

Seeing the amount of stress for perfection on my moms face every year, I want to try to mitigate any arguments with Ross over who’s in charge of what, who didn’t check on the food before it burnt and who didn’t turn on the hob to boil water for the vegetables. Not that those scenarios have occurred in the past. Cough.

When Harrods sent me one of their luxury Christmas hampers as an early gift, I knew that the contents would be put to good use on the run up to Christmas and on the day itself making us the perfect hosts.

Brushing the cobwebs off my blog, today marks 2 months that I’ve been gone.

2 months. Sigh.

I never expected to vanish for this long. Sure I’ve had hiatuses before but this time it wasn’t of my choosing. My blog was hacked a few months ago without any inkling and then one day, my web host disabled it. Cue a few days of freaking out, wondering how they managed to hack it and then a few weeks of searching through hundreds of files, years worth of content for any suspicious code. 

When I was younger, my mom attempted to teach me how to cook. She’d try to show me how to do certain things, try to get me to recreate them and generally just involve me as much as possible. I was having none of it. I wasn’t interested in the slightest.

This clearly disappointed the Home Economics teacher side of her. Her own daughter didn’t want to learn from her.

I remember my first kitchen disaster when I was around 10 years old, I wanted cake but there was none at home. My mom was out (I wasn’t home alone- our maid at the time was with me) so I thought I’d make a chocolate cake using a box mix that I found. How hard could it be? Very. I didn’t know how long to cook the cake for… this resulted in a very gooey uncooked sunken cake but it was mine. My first creation.

Don’t get me wrong, there were times where I helped my mom. Jam thumb cookies were my favourite, a recipe from my middle school cookbook. Favourite in the sense that I got to eat them all afterwards!

When I moved away to boarding school age 17, I shocked my mom by revealing that I willingly decided to enrol myself into a Home Economics class for some extra credit. Her response? “I’ve been trying to teach you to cook for years and you were never interested!”

I did an entire two-year course in less than 9 months, whizzing through all the set cooking assignments. From making Eve’s pudding to the more savoury feta cheese sambousek, which made me pass my exams with flying colours. A flame was slowly lit.

As I write this, I’m currently shivering on the sofa, clutching a blanket & sipping on some peppermint tea after a mammoth session of playing in the snow with my nephew. Oh hai snow, thanks for blessing us with your presence! 

Now as much as I love looking at snow, I absolutely hate driving in it, especially when the slush starts appearing. There is nothing worse than skidding on black ice and praying that you don’t end up crashing into something.

When I was first learning to drive, I started in the winter, on the advice of my friend from http://gearheads.org. Some may think I was crazy but if you manage to master winter driving, you can master any scenario (well… maybe not the flash floods that we’ve seen this winter!). One driving lesson, I was travelling through a rather rough suburb and my car was hit by snowballs courtesy of a rowdy gang. I had to do an emergency stop in black ice, control the car without crashing and deal with my driving instructor screaming abuse at the gang. Oh the joys! 

Fast forward 4 years and earning the nickname Penelope Pitstop by my boyfriend, LV= got in touch to highlight 9 Winter Car Tips to ensure my car is ready for the winter season and I’m sharing them with you. 

In Scotland, we need to make the most of a sunny day. As my dad is currently over from Paris for a few weeks, we thought that we would make the most of the giant shiny thing in the sky and go on a little road trip along with the dog, Bobby (the dog formerly known by the code name Doggy Dog).

When we set off on Sunday morning, we weren’t 100% sure where we’d end up as we had no set plans. As my mom was driving, we left it up to her to decide. Ayr Beach it was. Located on the western coastline of Ayrshire in the south-west of Scotland, it has been recognized as one of the best beaches in Scotland. Yes, we have beaches here. Sadly, we rarely have hot sunny days. 

Ananyah- Road Trip Adventures- Bobby at Ayr Beach

& to make it even better, it’s a dog friendly beach. Clearly it got a paw of approval from Bobby himself!

I’ve loved going to the zoo ever since I was a little kid. I can’t get enough of the animals, in particular, flamingos, lions, chimps, koalas, giraffes and orangutans. One of my most memorable trips was visiting Singapore Zoo with my grandparents when they came to visit. I had a python wrapped around my arms, rode an elephant and joined an orangutan family (I fitted right in with my red hair!). It was fun!

I had never been to a zoo in the UK until I visited Edinburgh Zoo last month for one of their Edinburgh Zoo Nights. This is an adult-only event where you can enjoy street food in a relaxed atmosphere, wander round and see the animals in the early evening along with some life-sized animatronic dinosaurs in their own lost world enclosure. Snazzy! 

Sometimes, all you really need is a little break away from the reality of your daily life. Ross & I did just that by recently spending 72 hours in London. We both went to London last summer and spent 3 great days exploring the city, seeing a musical, touring coffee shops, discovering new restaurants and shopping. This time around, we pretty much did the same.

Monday

We flew down to London City Airport with British Airways. This is definitely the best way to get to London and also so much handier than dealing with Gatwick or Heathrow Airport, not to mention the dreaded rail services. Oh and children. Screaming children.

72 hours in London- Glasgow Airport

Our first port of call after hopping on the DLR and Underground? Kings Cross Station to drop our baggage in the left luggage area so we could roam around before checking into our apartment at 3pm for the night. We fought our way through Norwich and Middlesbrough fans then headed straight for the closest Honest Burgers. Thanks to prior research and Google Maps, it was only a 5 minute walk away, in basking sunshine. I’m going to be posting up a separate review of Honest Burgers so keep a look out for that in the next few days.

72 hours in London- Honest Burgers

As we still had a few hours to go before checking into the apartment, Ross dragged took me to a few coffee shops that he had previously been to during the London Coffee Festival and his subsequent coffee tour. My favourite place? Shoreditch Grind, just outside of Old Street Station. We visited this place several times in the space of 24 hours and we couldn’t get enough of their espresso, iced coffee and cold brew on tap. It’s definitely a must visit if you are nearby.

I was lucky enough to book a Smart City Apartment on City Road (Islington) during their annual flash sale. Instead of around £230 a night, we got a two bedroom apartment for £1. Yes, just £1. Bargain. You could only get the apartment at a reduced rate for one night so for the next night, we booked into the Lancaster London right next to Hyde Park.

After a much-needed dog cat nap, it was time to make our way to the Apollo Theatre to see Wicked. I’ve been dying to see Wicked for years and missed out getting tickets for the Glasgow tour. As a lovely gesture, Ross’s dad bought us two tickets as my birthday present. I’ve never been so excited! The show was mesmerizing. I loved every part of it. The singing was sensational. If you’ve never seen it, you definitely should!

72 hours in London- Wicked Apollo Theatre

Tuesday

We checked out of the apartment and made our way to Shoreditch to explore the area, check out Brooklyn Coffee on Commercial Street and then grab some lunch at Old Spitalfields Market. We had a Turkish lamb wrap from an unknown stall, Roast Chicken with a mix of salads from Le Camion Gourmand, an amazing green grass-covered food truck and mixed fries from Bleecker Street. There was so much food to choose from and so little time. I really need to go back again to try more of the stalls!

72 hours in London- Shoreditch Street Art

Afterwards, we made our way to our new hotel, Lancaster London, before heading to do some shopping on Oxford Street. We made a bee line for Selfridges Food Hall. Forget clothes shopping, London is all about food for me. We picked up lots of pistachio chocolate, chilli marinades and other little gifts amongst other things. After a little wonder on Oxford Street picking up bits & bobs, we returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner.

72 hours in London- Oxford Street

We were dining at Noura, a Lebanese restaurant in Belgravia. I adore Lebanese food and in Glasgow, it’s rather hard to find an authentic restaurant that does the food justice. A separate review of Noura will be up on my blog rather soon, full of photographs, taken by an Architectural Photographer, that will make you want to reach in and grab the food from our plates. It was delicious and I could eat everything we had ordered all over again, right now.

72 hours in London- Noura Lebanese Belgravia

Wednesday

It was time for us to get ready to leave our surroundings, check out the hotel and leave our bags for the day until we headed back to London City Airport that evening. Lancaster London is situated right on the doorstep of Hyde Park and next to Lancaster Gate Underground Station on the Central line. Apart from its amazing location, sadly there wasn’t much else that was positive.

72 hours in London- Lancaster London Hotel

The hotel room we were given was very outdated and tired. The upholstery was torn on the chair and curtains ripped. Don’t get me started on the elevators. Out of four elevators in the hotel, only one was working. The others were out-of-order or used by room service. After almost 15 minutes waiting for an elevator with room on it, a staff member appeared and took us to the back of the hotel down the service elevator that staff members use. Not very customer friendly but definitely appreciate the staff member who helped us! Sadly, I doubt I will ever stay at this hotel again. If you class yourself as a 4 star hotel, the rooms and facilities should mirror that.

Our last day was spent around South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Covent Garden and Soho. To start our day, I dragged Ross to the Natural History Museum. I adore looking at Dinosaurs and other Mammals. We had to wait over 45 minutes just to enter the museum and then another 20 minutes to get close to the Dinosaur exhibition. I wasn’t very impressed with the exhibits though. The museum was so busy that you couldn’t get a great view, people were shoving you and almost everything is behind glass which makes all your photographs terrible. A very big let down.

72 hours in London- Natural History Museum

To cheer me up, we went to Maître Choux who make faboulous éclairs, choux and chouquettes. I discovered them via twitter and were on my must visit list, especially after discovering they have a line up of Pistachio choux. I loved the little shop and bought a box full of Ã©clairs to take with me back to Glasgow (the first time their products have been on a plane as well!). I’m glad to say they arrived in one piece, they weren’t squashed and tasted sensational. Well worth the price!

After a little pit stop for coffee and a much-needed trip to Harrods Food Hall, buying lots of things we didn’t really need, we headed for lunch to one of our favourite places, Homeslice in Neals Yard, Covent Garden. We first came here last year, waiting almost 30 minutes for a table for one of their infamous 20″ pizzas for £20. Luckily, as we were grabbing lunch, there were a few free tables. Instead of getting the Salami pizza again, we decided to change things up and get a half & half. Half Salami and Half Beef Brisket. We adored the pizza last year, proclaimed it as the best pizza in the UK. This year? Well, the base of the pizza was extremely salty, I actually had to brush salt off of the base to eat it. The flavours of the toppings as per usual were great. It’s a shame because when they get it right, they are amazing. Is it still the best pizza in the UK? I’ll hold off answering that until the next time I’m in London.

72 hours in London- Homeslice Neals Yard

We crammed a lot into our 72 hours in London but even then, it didn’t seem enough. I try to plan as much as possible so we can optimise our time. My legs and feet were well and truly damaged and after returning to Glasgow, I felt like I needed another little staycation to get over London!

Until next time though, my must visit list is ever-growing….

Dinosaurs. I don’t know about you but ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by these creatures. I remember my first dinosaur exhibition, I was 8 years old and we popped over to Edinburgh for the day so I could see all the giants in “real life”. I was mesmerized and 25 years later, I’m still in awe. 

Ananyah- Hatching the Patch- Kelvingrove- Dinosaur Skeleton

So when this new touring exhibition from New Zealand popped up at Kelvingrove Museum here in Glasgow, I knew I had to check it out. Luckily, I’m not the only one in my family who loves dinosaurs. My little nephew Oliver, who is 3, is currently fascinated with them. He watches cartoons, collects little figurines and books all about the creatures. He also loves trying to scare you with his rawr. He can be scary when he wants to be!

Ananyah- Hatching the Patch- Kelvingrove- Dinosaur Family

Hatching The Past: Dinosaur Eggs & Babies toured the world before debuting in the UK at Kelvingrove Museum. While making your way through the exhibition, you can learn about dinosaur families, how they lived and cared for the young, excavate your own dinosaur eggs and fossils, see skeletons of a Tarbosaurus and Probactrosaurus and also get up close to two dinosaur models which look so realistic, you don’t know whether you should run away!

I loved how family friendly Hatching The Past exhibition was, children could touch near enough every exhibit, get their hands dirty and educate themselves at the same time. Oliver certainly loved being able to stick his head in the mouth of one of the dinosaurs and had the fright of his life when my dad, who popped over from Paris, came up behind him and screamed rawr. The poor little boy jumped for his life! It was hilarious. Yes, we are evil, but Oliver was laughing his head off a few seconds later then tried to scared the dinosaur himself. It’s all good.  

I look a lot of photographs on Sunday, the Hatching The Past exhibition is in Glasgow until 16th August 2015 so make sure you check it out! It’s a fun afternoon out for everyone and if you are really evil, why don’t you try scare someone yourself? 

Tickets:

  • Adult- £5/£3
  • Age 5-15 years- £2
  • Under 5s- Free
  • Family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children- £10

Whilst the majority of people like their homes to be highly personal places, locations where one can hide away and relax, far from the hustle and bustle of the outside work, there will often come a time when old friends, family members or even well-meaning strangers will come into your home, demanding a place to stay! If you’re not sure how to cope with this new found intrusion, or want to make your guests’ stay all the more amazing, here are a few top tips to make their stay all the merrier!

The Bed

If you went to stay in another person’s spare room and were presented with a lumpy, creaky, worn and stained bed, how would you feel? Would you sleep soundly? We’re guessing that the answers to both of those questions are “no”, so make sure that the guest bed is up to scratch before letting someone stay. Space saving divans can be a great choice for guest rooms; they’re compact and can act as a form of storage; and can be bought for a surprisingly low price at online bedroom furniture retailers such as Bedstar. So much better than that old worn out piece of junk…

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Make Their Room Welcoming

Walking in to a bare, unwelcoming room (much like the one pictured above!) is not a sight guests are going to be enamored with. The solution? Spice up the guest room with patchwork or woollen throws, rugs, interesting reading material and art. Even if your spare room is never used for any specific purpose 99% of the year, you should still put your artistic mark on it in tune with the design of the rest of the home.

The Finishing Touches

This tip is definitely for the hosts that want to impress their guests, since through adding a number of fun, useful little things, one can recreate a near hotel-like feeling in their home. Think about providing towels and mini toiletries – laid out at the end of the bed, naturally – and adding things like fresh flowers to brighten up the space. If your guest is staying for a while, think about popping a television in the room, especially if they’re going to be inhabiting the house whilst you’re out or at work. Finally – and this is the most important thing for you to make sure you do – clean the room! Thoroughly. Waking up in a room only to notice damp, spiders’ webs, grime etc will only make your guest want to leave!

Got any other hot guest room tips? Comment below!

Note: In collaboration with Olivia Prat

Tomorrow is one of the most stressful days of the year for those in relationships. To help combat the stress, Tennent’s Lager have come to the rescue and set up â€˜Emergency PresenT’ throughout Scotland to aid the forgetful, confused or undecided. Not in a relationship? Well why not try and win yourself an awesome treat?

According to research carried out, 74% of people are unhappy at the prospect of receiving only a card, 16% of single people are planning to lie about getting a gift and apparently 40% of men forget the date entirely. Do you fit into one of these categories?

Today, 100 ready-made presents will be available across bars throughout Scotland (mentioned below) as well as online. From gig tickets and flowers, to dinner out or a few drinks in the pub, ‘Emergency PresenTs’ will be given to those with the best reasons for needing one.

emergency present tennents

Stories can be shared with bartenders in each pub, or on Tennent’s Facebook and Twitter pages, using the hashtag #pleasebeermine

What do you have to lose? You may end up with an awesome gift and be the best partner ever! In fact, I may even try win a present myself… for my boyfriend of course!

 â€˜Emergency PresenTs’ Bars

Glasgow: The Howlin’ Wolf, 100 Bath Street Glasgow G2 2EN

Edinburgh: Wash Bar, 11-13 North Bank Street Edinburgh EH1 2LP

Stirling: Katie’s Bar, 3 Barnton Street Stirling FK8 1HF

Dundee: Clarks on Lindsay Street 80 North Lindsay Street Dundee DD1 1PS

Aberdeen: Korova, 18 bridge Street Aberdeen AB11 6JL