Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Banchory Beer Festival: Beer @ the Barn

After working alongside a craft beer festival last year you'd think my tatsebuds would have succumbed to enjoying a beer on the odd occasion. Unfortunately not. So when I was invited along to review the Winter Banchory Beer Festival at Woodend Barn in Banchory of all places (how would you have guessed!?) to enjoy some beery banter, I decided it would only be fair to drag my beer-loving boyfriend along to ensure I could give a honest, well-rounded view on the festival's offering.

Running over Friday and Saturday (12-13 Feb), we decided to attend the Saturday evening session which kicked off around 6.30pm, although, we didn't arrive until nearer 8pm. Met by two friendly door staff who quickly explained the token system and handed over our festival programme, we immediately set off on a hunt to purchase our tokens and get stuck into the shenanigans. Already pretty busy - with no seats available - we were off to a good start attendance wise. Now, to find the bar...
Of course my first tipple was going to be gin, and who other than local gin distillery, Porter's Gin. Accompanied with an artisan lemonade, the drinks offering was something I was very much looking forward to indulging in heavily. My date for the night opted for Cromarty Brewing Co's Brewed Awakening 4.7% ABV coffee stout, a very positive start from the drinks game.

Local band, The Funcy Pieces, played some pretty soulful and chilled out music, consisting of a number of different covers which the crowds seemed to enjoy.

On to the next brew...Isle of Harris gin accompanied by Walter Gregor Tonic (Scotland's first ever tonic) with pieces of grapefruit to garnish. Sweet yet crisp, this delicious gin was a major highlight of my evening, and a gin I will most definitely be purchasing in the very near future.
A major foodie, I was expecting a little more variety for the food offering. Although I love a curry, well I'm a korma gal actually, I've started to become accustomed to adding hot sauce to my homemade dishes. However, when drinking gin, cider and rum, I'm unsure if it was just me, but curry was not on my mind...

A few hours later, with rumbling bellies, we decided to take the plunge and ordered some chicken pakora as it was as close to something stodgy, (which I was craving badly) that I was going to get. The pakora was nice, and the mint and lime dip, as well the hot sauces on the side were also pretty tasty, however, sadly the same couldn't be said for the naan. Stale and a little too dry for my liking, we decided to leave the naan to drown in its saucy sorrows. Sorry naan!
Back to the important stuff, the drinks. I've been a big fan of the lads at Dark Matter and everything they've achieved over the past year. Scotland's only rum distillery, the spicy liquid gold Dark Matter produces consists of a little bit of spice and all things nice. This stuff is definitely worth a try if you haven't got your lips around it yet. My date decided to opt for a number of different stouts and beers consisting of Six Degrees North's Honey Bee Good 6% ABV belgian style brew, Alchemy's 4% ABV IPA, Citra Burst, Cromarty Brewing Co's  4% ABV blonde, Happy Chappy, and many other delicious tipples.
Oh, and we can't forget Farmer Jim's Rootin Tootin 4% ABV raspberry and ginger cider. Beer fanatic I am not, however, this flavoured cider was right up my street. A grand winter warmer, and the perfect fit for the beer festival. I also rated their cute branding with Farmer Jim and his pig, adorable.
Spotted: We even made a guest appearance in the festival programme from the Inverurie Beer Festival, which we attended back in September last year!

The set up in the main room, where the live acts were performing, was decorated well with hay bales and fairy lights adding to the festival's ambiance. All of the bars were well staffed and we didn't have to wait long for a drink, which I think a lot of individuals appreciated greatly. The only thing I would say is that the second room, which is usually used as an art gallery throughout the day, was a little too clinical for me, making me feel like I was in some sort of wacky hospital room with hay bales as beds, and a gin and beer bar to keep you sane. To be honest, that doesn't sound so bad...However, with regards to the second room I think it may have been difficult for the guys to do much more with it due to its original purpose at the venue, who knows, just some food for thought I guess...
Taking refuge from the busy dance floor in the main room, we sat in the moment jiving away to the final act of the evening, The Mad Ferret Band, before our taxi whisked us away from the Beer @ the Barn madness. And what beery Banchory madness it was.

All in all the festival was a great success and I've heard many a good review from others who attended. I've also heard the Summer festival is AWESOME and a must attend.

Big thanks to the festival organisers, Mungo and Guy Finlayson for their hospitality at the festival and for inviting me along. A grand festival showcasing some great Scottish and international produce.  Looking forward to the summer festival and some serious out-doors fun. Keep an eye on the festival website for updates on future events.

  For Now...

Just Julia

Monday, 22 February 2016

James Dun's House Aveda Lifestyle Salon: Aveda body massage

Luxurious back massages, manicures, pedicures and fabulous facials are every girls dream. Well, for those who are into spoiling themselves in their spare time, which traditionally isn't me at all.

Looking back, I've never really been one to visit spa's, not because I don't like them, but purely because I never seem to have  time, sorry, make time to spoil myself, and more importantly, spoil my body. My job in PR can be pretty stressful and getting a good night's sleep is pretty rare for me, especially during the week. So when Anna from James Dun's House invited me to try out their new bespoke Aveda body treatments, my body screamed yes. A spa virgin, this was set to be an exciting new experience...

Arriving at the Aberdeen city centre salon on Schoolhill, (they also have a salon in Glasgow) I was surprised at the size of the establishment, which consists of four floors and boasts an open-plan set up. The interiors of the salon are very soothing welcoming you with open arms, and I instantaneously felt at ease with myself. With natural, earthy tones throughout, it was clear that nature had been a big inspiration for the salons decor. After registering at reception I was left to chill out in the lounge, eagerly awaiting my spa treatment.
Lizette, one of the salon therapists and quite frankly miracle worker in my opinion, greeted me and instantly made me feel relaxed - she could probably see the fear in my eyes of not having a clue what I was doing. She led me down the grand staircase to the spa where I was left to change into a luxuriously soft, cotton robe in the serene, private spa treatment room. Lizette had urged me to take my time and really enjoy the experience. Feet placed in the warm foot bath, I patiently awaited Lizette's return. As she caressed my exhausted feet, with foot reflexology,  she explained the ethos of the salon and the purpose of the customised massage menu. Everyone's bodies react differently to stress and individuals experience stress in different ways. For me it was my upper body and my shoulders, as well as my neck which seemed to be the problem areas. Lizette was great at recommending which massage would be best for me, and felt the de-stressed therapy exactly what I needed. It's not very often I think about the effects stress has on my body, so it was extremely interesting to learn about it in such a chilled out environment.

Self-care and relaxation is important, and looking after our bodies can really influence how you feel about yourself, and how your body copes with stress.

The room smelled beautiful and was tranquil, exactly what I needed after a busy day at work. The music was soothing,  almost rocking me slowly to sleep. Lizette softly talked me through everything she was doing, ensuring not to disturb me too much. Holding a lavender scent in front of my face (which at this point I was face down on the bed) and guiding my breathing, she then got to work on my back. Now my treatment was in full swing...
After a good 45 minute stress-fix body massage, I definitely could have fallen asleep on that bed. Lizette performed a Swedish and deep tissue massage on my arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders, and even concentrated on acupressure points, guiding me through a calm meditation in rejuvenating my body. The massage itself was heavenly. Accompanied by the smells and the music, it truly was a magical experience. The serene ambiance of the room took me back to a beach somewhere nice and warm, and if I could have, I wouldn't have left.
Obviously I couldn't leave without taking a #robeselfie now could I!?

The new Aveda Body Wise treatments truly do leave you feeling divine and with a bespoke range tailored to your body's needs, the therapists can ensure you get the most out of your massage. The experience is a personal sensory journey, and is completely unique to everyone's individual tastes.

The spa aims to focus on recovery of the body, mind, and skin from negative stress, and all of the spa treatments at James Dun's House incorporate aroma, breath, and touch which Lizette mentioned had been proven to lower stress levels and place the body in a state where it is relaxed so it can repair is itself. The products Lizette used were beautiful, and left my skin feeling very fresh, not oily as I had originally imagined.

There are four Aveda Aromas to choose from including; Stress-Fix, infused with lavender, lavender and clary sage, Beautifying, infused with lavender, rosemary, and bergamot, Shampure, infused with a unique blend of 25 pure plant and flower essences, and Rosemary Mint, infused with essences of organic peppermint, rosemary, lavender and marjoram.
After my treatment, Lizette advised me how to continue to look after myself, reiterating about my stressed upper body she told me the products and treatments which would be best suited to my body if I wanted to return. Mental stress is something I can relate to a lot, however, physical stress isn't something I would say I had ever really considered thinking about until now. I'm much more educated on how to take care of my body and I now know that I enjoy a medium-strong massage pressure. As they learn something new everyday!

If you're looking to book yourself in for a bespoke body treatment (which I highly recommend) then visit A huge thank you to the team at James Dun's House in Aberdeen for this amazing experience, Aveda's new body wise treatments really do deliver, especially when you're in the right hands!

For Now...

Just Julia


Friday, 19 February 2016

SPECTRA: The festival of light

Last week saw the city of Aberdeen transform into a stunning array of lighting exhibitions, showcasing some incredibly talented artists and our beautiful city in a completely new light. With the launch evening of SPECTRA, Aberdeen's very own festival of light, welcoming over 4,000 visitors on its opening night, it was clear the city had welcomed this innovatively mesmerising showcase with open arms.

With over 20 exhibitions, the city centre came to life, brightening up some of Aberdeen's well-known landmarks including Marischal College, Union Terrace Gardens (UTG), and St Nicholas Kirk. The enchanting set-up, which was jointly organised by Aberdeen City Council, and arts production company, Curated Place, took place from 11 - 14 February. The festival, which is in its second year, has grown exceptionally in size, boasting three new exhibition spaces out-with UTG.

So, on a cold and frosty February evening last week, we decided to meander down to see what all the fuss was about...

To begin, we ventured around Union Terrace Gardens due to the fact that we arrived too late to experience the Seventeen exhibition on Belmont Street - apologies folks. Not to fret, the talent and precision of design, and utilising different crafting techniques was in abundance in the gardens. Not somewhere one would usually be found galavanting around on a dark, cold winter's evening, I seemed to completely forget that I was in Aberdeen. With rainbow tributes, to fire breathing sculptures, to the impressive 'The Pool' installation, which compromised of  40,000 LED lights and computerised pads created by renowned light and interactive sculptor, Jen Lewin, SPECTRA was glowing.
After indulging in the dazzling displays in UTG, we wondered down to St Nicholas Kirk, somewhere I must admit, I've never visited. With an eerie, ghoulish, yet playful atmosphere, the Kirk and the graveyard were transformed into a playground of soul-searching lighting exhibitions. One of my favourite exhibitions was the skipping rope lighting installation. Reminding me of the creation of the Frankenstein monster/a science project gone wrong, I was sure the creature himself would appear during this electrifying performance. Alas, no Frankenstein, only a beautiful feature which I took great pleasure in filming in slow motion (check out my Instagram for more pictures).
Our last stop of the evening (and the part where I started to lose the feeling in my fingers and my toes), was the breathtaking Marischal College. What I loved about this festival was that it played on a number of senses, including sound. Not only were these pieces visually appealing to the eye, they were transformed into something much more when music was added. An element of the festival I very much enjoyed.

For me, the pièce de résistance was the feature inside Marischal College on one of the main building faces in its courtyard. Created by artist Double Take the artwork 'Face of Innovation' was truly something special. Aberdeen is home to a number of stunning buildings and impressive architecture, and seeing one of the buildings light up with a moving light show being projected on to it was something rather special.
I'm hopeful that this mysterious, yet charming festival of art returns next year, bigger and better than before. I would love to see the festival run for a little longer to give individuals who don't live in the city, the chance to get down to possibly visit on numerous occasions. However, if you missed out this time round, make sure you don't next time.

For Now...

Just Julia

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Mozzarella Meatballs

In the mood for something a little different this weekend? Well why not try making your very own mozzarella meatballs! Paired with spaghetti, courgetti, some sweet potato wedges, or even a mixed salad, these babies can be devoured with a number of different sides. Brought to my attention by my boyfriend, we put our meatball making skills to the test last weekend. Due to tasting so good, we had to share!

Recipe: Mozzarella Meatballs

Ingredients (serves four):
  • 500g ground minced beef (I recommend you use lean mice)
  • 500g hot Italian sausage (de-skin individual spicy sausages if you can't find hot Italian sausage meat)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp salt to season
  • 1 tsp black pepper to season
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (shavings or grated works best)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion 
  • Mozzarella cheese (we used a medium sized ball of Mozzarella)
  • Italian herbs (I added Italian herbs into the mixture too)
  • A large jar of tomato sauce (or two medium sized jars  - depending on how many meatballs you're making. We used two medium jars and made about 14 meatballs in total.)

What you'll need:
  • A slow cooker (set to high)
  • A large bowl

  1. Cut low moisture mozzarella cheese into 3/4 inch cubes (a little bigger than the size of a dice) and set to the side, or place in the fridge out of the way.
  2. Prep the meat: In a large mixing bowl add the ground beef, hot Italian sausage, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, eggs, whole milk, chopped parsley, chopped onion, and the Italian herbs all together. Toss the meat around, mixing the ingredients with your hands creating a meaty mixture which stays together when pressed into one big lump.
  3. Roll golf ball sized balls with the meat mixture. Push the mozzarella cube/s into the centre of the ball and pull the edges of the meat ball (shaping it into a new ball again) with the cheese tucked away inside. Be as generous as you like with the cheese, but don't over do it as the meatball may open up whilst cooking if too much cheese is inside.
  4. Put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker and arrange the meatballs then cover in tomato sauce. We had two layers of meatballs in the slow cooker and they were all consistent so don't be afraid of layering up.
  5. Cook on high for 2 to 2.5 hours, then serve with your preferred side dish, garnishing with a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley.

Fast forward two and a half hours later...

Voila! Mozarella meatballs. Fun and very easy to make, and they don't only look delicious, they taste extraordinarily scrumptious too. An ideal dish if you're treating friends to a hearty home-cooked meal, or if you're looking to impress the family with something a little different.

  For Now...

Just Julia


Thursday, 11 February 2016

The long dog's a dog's life

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter and haven't already figured it out, I am a massive fan of dogs, especially my gorgeous short-haired collie, Bailey. Yes I'm biased I know, but if you've ever met him then you'll definitely agree that he's an interesting wee character.

Being an enthusiastic, energetic, hyper breed, collies are a lot of work. So taking Bailey to a dog cafe seemed almost one of the worst ideas I'd ever had. But there's a first time for everything...right?

After falling in love with the Long Dog Cafe at my first ever Aberdeen Bloggers meet up a few weeks ago, I decided this would be the first cafe my four-leagged friend would venture to. Walking into the eatery on a busy Saturday afternoon after a good hour long walk around Duthie Park, I was extremely nervous how Bailey would react, never mind be greeted by those at the cafe. I'd only ever  seen smaller breeds in the cafe, so taking a medium sized dog inside had me in a slightly anxious state.

Welcomed with open arms, my hyperactive rascal sat patiently at the door, unfamiliar with this  whole 'dining in' concept. He was a little all over the place initially, but as he got more used to people coming and going, I could sit back, relax, and enjoy my milk chocolate hot chocolate with toasted marshmallows. 
As well as being nutty about dogs, I am also crazy about hot chocolate and when I find a good one, boy do I scream and shout about it. (I hate coffee and I'm not that mad about breakfast tea, so my hot beverage of choice is always a hot chocolate). Presented with the option of white, milk, and dark chocolate (very fancy, I know!), I immediately opted for the creamy milk chocolate flavour.

I think in the history of my hot chocolate-loving coffee-hating life, the only hot chocolate's that could rival this one were consumed in Paris and Poland. Unbelievably tasty, with perfectly toasted marshmallows slowly melting away on top, this hot chocolate is what dreams are made of. 10/10.
With an abundance of hearty and healthy home bakes, a range of tasty lunchtime and evening delights, and an ice cream cabinet filled with a number of traditional and quirky flavours, I urge you to pay this fabulous wee eatery a visit. If for anything, it has to be the hot chocolate and the adorable pooches! The resident Long Dog Cafe pup, Gavin, a beautiful black and tan dachshund, can sometimes be found hanging out at his new digs or sleeping in the back of the cafe. A handsome wee guy for sure.

A huge thank you to the staff and the owners of the Long Dog Cafe, you made my four-legged friend extremely welcome, even when he was a little bit of a handful at times! Will definitely be returning to try out the evening menu, and to sample more of Aberdeen's finest hot chocolates of course!
  For Now...

Just Julia

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