Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Set Up

My stress level is at an all-time high
there's a million and one things going through my mind at the moment...
You see, in a couple of days from now
 I will be playing host to A DOZEN PEOPLE
Yes, that's a football team plus one mascot!

First off...
Preparing the bedrooms.
Some say cleaning bedrooms is akin to going to war.
If it is, call me Napoleon
'cos I just won a battle!

Room #1
The bedroom with a view

Room #2
The bedroom with the TV - especially for that someone who is known to be glued to one most of the time!

Room #3
The Annexe


All happiness depends on a full stomach, that's what I say....

Okay, some homemades

 leg of lamb, marinated and ready for the barbecue

beef rendang simmering in the slow cooker

chorus line of chicken drumstick thai-style

candy-coated chocolate buttons in cookie dough batons, for those sugar-craving moments

and some not-so-homemades, for those lazy days ~ in which I foresee, will be many-a-days!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Garden Updates

The weather has turned nasty on us.
There's winter-like situation happening up north in the Scottish Highlands with sleet and snow added to the mix.
You'd think at this time of the year, we'd be basking in sunshine wearing flip-flops and sunnies.
Eh, not on your nelly!
We may not get snow at where we are but with blustery showers and howling wind gusts at 25 mph, it is easy to overlook that we're actually at the tail-end of spring! It feels like winter is squeezing us from all sides!!

Amidst all this, I managed to do a bit of work around the garden.
Last weekend was spent mostly at the garden centre.
I always wanted to turn the south-facing corner at the back of the house into a cottage garden.

These are some of the plants I chose to achieve the look...





Bergenia cordifolia 'Purpurea'

Hardy geranium


Added some finishing touches

Bought some fruit trees too

I also bought some old whisky barrels of various sizes as planters.
Thankfully they came empty - otherwise, I'll just have to throw a whisky party and have my neighbours finish 'em...
I'm sure they won't mind.

creeping blueblossom Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens

A weeping willow and a weeping beech by the pond

Finally, the rhododendrons are starting to produce masses of vibrantly coloured blooms much to my delight

Rhododendron 'Dreamland'

Rhododendron 'Dreamland'

Rhododendron 'Nancy Evans'

Rhododendron 'Nancy Evans'

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Rock The Casbah

A Moroccan Experience - part 1
Journey to my ancestral homeland
by Elsa

So I just got home from a weeklong school trip to Morocco, and I’m back with stories, a semi-tan (that will 100% be guaranteed to fade by the middle of the week), and Moroccan souvenirs to remind me of how much I need to go back and visit.

SATURDAY, May 11th 2013

I had to wake up bright and early in order to arrive at the Aberdeen Airport on time – to be specific, 3 in the morning. Now, everyone who knows me also knows that I’m not a morning person.
Meaning: I’m like the she-devil.
The minute my alarm went off, so did my good humor. It literally vanished and I was basically doing my last-minute packing and clearing up like a zombie. I don’t like talking. I don’t like smiling. I don’t like interaction.
Fast-forward to the airport; I could’ve sworn I’d be the first one there since we arrived exactly at 4:30am, as we were supposed to, but in actual fact … I was the last. After waiting in line and checking my duffel bag all the way to Casablanca, I bid my parents farewell and made the long trip to Morocco, stopping by a 3-hour layover in Paris.
Once we reached Casablanca, my excitement began starting up again. The airplane journey definitely wore me out a little bit, but being hit by sunshine and warm weather lifted my spirits by a lot, and I was eager to start going around markets and hiking up mountains.

However, the 3-hour long bus ride wore me out again and all I wanted was to fall asleep by the time we reached Hotel Foucauld in Marrakech. Our tour guide for the trip, the lovely Ali, had other ideas though. He wanted us to go change into something more suited for the climate before going around the souk, or market place.
The sites were incredible – the whole thing is like a labyrinth and you could easily get lost if you weren’t familiar with the place. We had to go in groups of five or less, each with a teacher in charge, just so that we wouldn’t get lost. There would be spices in one place, antiques in another, and fabrics in another; it was literally the most exhilarating experience.
Then of course, we got to the food stalls and got hunted down by a bunch of different stall vendors trying to convince us to eat – that was definitely an experience.
Let’s just say they wanted to trade a bunch of us and give our teacher camels in return.
(Just for the record, he turned that offer down)

SUNDAY, May 12th 2013

We began the hiking part of our trip up the Atlas Mountains, and this part always feels a little bit blurry for me.
Just so you know, exercise has never been my strong point. Neither have heights. I’ve always suffered a little bit from vertigo and being in high altitudes – they always make me dizzy. But on a positive note, the uphill walks for this day weren’t very scary to begin with; they were just tiring and long.

I did get to ride a mule however, along with two other classmates, and that was a bonus!
I felt lazy, I admit.
But still.
I can’t just turn that kind of offer down, let’s just be honest here.

After riding the mule and walking uphill for about two hours, Ali introduced us to our next tour guide, someone who would be joining us for the remainder of the trip. His name was Abdul and he lived high up on the mountain, near to the village of Imlil.

I adored the head covering he wore, and he was incredibly friendly. He spoke both English and French, as well as Arabic, and he would always inform us of landmarks we passed. He offered us water along the way and would always ask if any of us had any questions for him. Then he led us to this grassy area under the trees and the shade, before setting down mats for us to eat lunch.


It was basically a huge platter of different vegetables, tuna, and couscous, with fish on the side and glasses of water and Moroccan mint tea. That was the highlight of course – the tea.
It was amazing. I probably had about three or four cups of it, that’s how much I enjoyed it.

After we rested fully for about an hour, we continued the uphill trek until we reached this little house where we would spend the night in. 

All the girls stayed in one room with mattresses lying on the floor, while the boys slept in a separate room. The teachers would sleep in the hallway between the two rooms – acting as the guards to make sure we wouldn’t sneak out in the middle of the night, I assumed.
Now normally, I really don’t like sharing a room with a lot of other people, but there was this sense of coziness to the whole thing, so I actually didn’t mind so much!
Plus it was only for one night, so I survived.