Mixtape: November

28.11.13


November Mixtape · via Spotify

There's something about winter that just makes me want to listen to sad, solemn, sleepy songs. You can't beat a little bit of something acoustic whilst you're tucked up in bed, watching a storm brewing outside. Most of this month's songs are old favourites which seem to get more than their fair share of plays during the winter months.

Elvis Perkins · While You Were Sleeping
Paulo Nutini · Candy
Ben Howard · Gracious
Radical Face · Welcome Home, Son
Rhye · Open
Eddie Vedder · Society
The Blue Nile · Let's Go Out Tonight
Brian Eno · By This River
Counting Crows · Colorblind
Bon Iver · Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Listen to "November" here.

What's on your playlist this month?

Gillian x

Top 5: Winter Beauty Essentials

25.11.13

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1. Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask
For me, the colder weather almost always brings with it a bout of dry skin. Regular exfoliating helps to keep this at bay, but on days when I'm in need of something extra the Drink Up Intensive mask from Origins is a bit of a saviour. It's a thick, moisturising cream which not only smells amazing (apricot Petit Filous, pretty much), but also does exactly what it says on the tin: "quenches skin's thirst". A little goes a long way and, despite being quite thick and intensive, it doesn't feel too heavy on the skin. In the moring you'll wake up with plump, smooth skin and not a dry patch in sight.

2. Betty & Walter Elderflower and Lemon Hand Cream*
Next up is another dry skin helper, this time for hands. This Handsomely Hydrating Hand Cream from Betty and Walter is the perfect addition to my winter beauty routine to keep my hands nice and soft. It has a really nice non-greasy formula which quickly sinks into the skin, leaving it smooth and feeling lovely. I really like the Elderflower and Lemon scent too; it's fresh and slightly sweet without being too overpowering. Betty and Walter products are part of the Boots 3 for 2 promotion, so you can treat yourself to a little something whilst doing your Christmas shopping!

3. Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner in Baked
It would practically be a crime to do a winter beauty post without including something sparkly, right? I never really wear eyeshadow, but glitter eyeliner is something I can definitely get on board with. This Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner has been a favourite of mine for years. The shade Baked is the perfect warm gold colour, fit for any Christmas party. I'm also partial to a little bit of Pyrotechnics (a frosty white-silver) and Stage Dive (an emerald green). These liners are packed full of glitter so you don't need to spend ages trying to build up the colour.

4. MAC Lipstick in Rebel
The cold, dark nights are the perfect excuse to dig out all your deep red, pink and purple lipsticks which have been relegated to the back of the drawer during the summer months. Rebel by MAC is one of my all-time favourites; it manages to look both dark and bright at the same time and can be built up or tamed down for either day or night wear. It's a Satin finish which makes it a bit more forgiving than some lipsticks, and the deep pinky-purple shade is just b-e-a-utiful. See my full review of MAC Rebel here.

5. Leighton Denny Be My Berry Nail Varnish*
Although I'm not a big nail polish fan (a mix of laziness and a long-standing nail biting habit, I think), I find myself digging out the nail varnish much more during the winter. I got this teeny wee sample sized bottle of the Leighton Denny Be My Berry nail varnish in a goody bag from Pure Spa recently and I love it. It's the perfect Christmassy shade, a vampy, metallic true-red shade which looks super shiny when applied. This is definitely going to be my winter nail polish of choice this year!

What are your favourite winter beauty essentials?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #100

24.11.13

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1.Making cocktails at our masterclass 2.Christmas Market Throwback Thursday 3.Long Island Iced Teapot 4.Night out 5.Pulled Pork Denver Fries

100 Sunday Summaries, can you believe it? That's nearly 2 years! Sometimes it can feel like a bit of an effort to make sure I've got my post written up on time, but I'm glad I've stuck with it as it's nice to be able to look back and see what I was doing this time last year.

One of my friends is moving down to England to start a new job, so on Tuesday we went out for lunch for a little catch up before she goes. We went to Candy Bar for some burgers (which were goooood) and then had a wander along Princes Street to do some shopping. I was looking for a dress to wear to my graduation and we'd been in and out of just about every shop before Marks & Spencers finally came up trumps. All I wanted was a nice black dress which wasn't too casual or too going out-ish, but there was nothing. My graduation is on Tuesday so I'm looking forward to that - although, if it's anything like the last one, it'll probably be pretty boring! My parents are coming down for the week so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for lots of nice meals out!

On Friday it was Laura's birthday night out and the first stop of the night was Revolution for a cocktail masterclass. I'd never been to a cocktail masterclass before but we all had so much fun, would definitely recommend if you're looking for something to do for a birthday/party etc. We each got to go behind the bar and make some cocktails (a Strawberry and Passion Fruit Mojito for me, yummmm) and there were lots of other cocktails and shots on offer. We even had to do a little challenge to see which team could make a Strawberry Woo Woo the fastest - I'm not usually a very competitive person, but I was determined to win... and we did! After some more cocktails and food at Vodka Rev (those pulled pork fries were ommmmgggg the best), we headed to a couple more bars before making our way to - where else - The Hive for lots of dancing. Iona and Roisin were staying at mine, and we all spent most of Saturday lounging around on the sofa watching endless episodes of Friends. Perfect way to spend a hungover day!

Today I've been trying to get myself organised as next week is going to be pretty busy with graduation, parents visiting, trying to sort out my broken boiler (no heating or hot water, WEEP), yet more job applications, and then a wee trip away to the Highlands with some of my faves next weekend.

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Benefit Boutique Glasgow

22.11.13

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Last week I headed through to Glasgow for the launch of Benefit's very first Scottish Boutique. The brand new Benefit Boutique is located within House of Fraser on Buchanan Street, and is a treasure trove of beauty products and treatments. As well as all the usual Benefit products, the Boutique also has a Brow Bar and two separate treatment rooms for tanning and waxing. The Glasgow Boutique uses Vita Liberata for their spray tans which gives a lovely golden glow and comes in a range of shades suitable for all skin tones. I've used the Vita Liberata pHenomenal tan before and I was really impressed with it, so if I was ever in need of a spray tan I'd definitely head to the Benefit Boutique!

Whilst at the launch event, I was treated to a brow wax. I've never had my brows waxed before (and was pretty happy with the shape of them anyway) but thought I might as well give it a go! I was really impressed with the results; my brows looked really defined and neat. Along with the brow shaping and wax, I also got a brow tint. This was definitely my favourite bit as it means I don't need to bother filling them in for everyday makeup. As well as brow waxing, the Benefit Boutique also offers a range of other facial and body waxes including leg, bikini line, underarm, lip and chin.

If it's makeup you're after, the Boutique's got you covered for that too. If you fancy booking in for a Deluxe Makeup Lesson, you'll get a full lesson including a skincare consultation and brow mapping session, plus a glass of prosecco for only £5.50. Or if you fancy trying out the VIP Exclusive package for £12, you'll get your makeup lesson along with a mini bottle of Moet champagne and a Benefit product to take home with you too! The Makeup Lessons are available in the Boutique, or upstairs in the VIP section, a mini Benefit counter nestled in among the clothing concessions, complete with a little champagne bar and all the Benefit products you could need. If you had a big night out with your friends, you could book out the VIP section to get your makeup done, have some drinks and even try on a new outfit to go along with your makeover! I had a mini makeover whilst at the event and tried out a few products I hadn't used before; I particularly liked the new blusher Rockateur and the beautiful highlighter Watt's Up.

The Boutique was lovely and bright with all the usual girly Benefit touches. I particularly loved the vintage style pink counters. The treatment rooms felt nice and private as they were tucked away from the main Boutique, and the rest of the space was nicely laid out so it felt separate from the rest of the shop but was still within easy reach if you fancied browsing the other makeup counters in House of Fraser too. You can find out more about the Benefit Boutiques here and see a full list of services.

Have you ever been to a Benefit Boutique?

Gillian x

Watching Lately #5

20.11.13


1. The Walking Dead
If you haven't heard of The Walking Dead before, then you really must have been living under a rock for the past two or three years. The fourth series of the zombie apocalypse drama started a few weeks ago, and once again I've been reeled in. Quite a lot of this show tends to be slow moving with not a lot happening, then it'll suddenly hit you with something massively intense and dramatic, and you've just got to keep watching to find out what happens. This season seems to be a bit more "bitty" than previous ones as there are a few different storylines running parallel to each other, but I quite like that (even though it does mean not so much screen time for my bby Daryl). One thing The Walking Dead is really good at is creating characters which you feel attached to in one way or another; there have been numerous characters which I've started off loving and ended up hating, or vice versa. I do wish they'd get rid of Carl though, he is the WORST.

2. The Raven
The Raven is a semi-factual (although, largely fictional) film which sees Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) working together with the Baltimore Police to catch a serial killer who is basing his murders on Poe's poems and stories. The film isn't intended to be biographical, so as long as you go into it knowing that it's almost entirely made up, you'll probably enjoy it. It takes known facts from the last few weeks of Poe's life and weaves them into a sort of action/horror/mystery tale which sees Poe, arguably the creator of the modern detective story, involved in one himself. I love a good period murder mystery, and this one had the added bonus of some literary references. I loved the setting and how it was shot too, very Sleepy Hollow-esque. It's not the best movie I've ever seen, but I certainly enjoyed watching it and would recommend it if you like this sort of thing.

3. The Carrie Diaries
I was never really a big Sex and The City fan, but I thought I'd give The Carrie Diaries a go and, erm, I kind of love it. The show follows the adventures of a teenage Carrie Bradshaw, mostly at high school in the suburbs and at her internship in Manhattan. The AnnaSophia Robb incarnation of Carrie is infinitely less annoying than the Sarah Jessica Parker version, and you don't require any previous knowledge of SATC to understand and enjoy The Carrie Diaries (although there are some obvious nods, like drinking Cosmos and using her oven for shoe-storage, which even I picked up on). It's pretty much a straightforward teen comedy drama, with plenty of dilemmas about friends, boys, parties and the like - not the most high-brow genre, but I must admit I have a huge soft spot for it. I also love that it's set in the 80s and features lots of 80s music (and modernised 80s fashions); definitely my favourite era.

4. Filth
And now, on a completely different note, we have Filth. I finally managed to see this on the very last day it was on at the cinema and I'm so glad I got round to it. I hadn't read the novel before so wasn't really familiar with the story, but was expecting it, for obvious reasons, to be pretty similar to Trainspotting. Whilst there are definitely comparisons between the two, I think I liked Filth a lot more (soz Trainspotting, I love you too). It's much more of a comedy, albeit a dark one, and I found myself laughing out loud in the cinema quite a few times throughout the film. It had a very "Scottish" sense of humour; I'm not sure if non-Scots would find it quite so hilarious? Either way, James McAvoy was fantastic as the morally questionable and mentally unstable policeman, Bruce Robertson.

What have you been watching lately?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #99

17.11.13

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1.Poppy 2.Pizza at Bier Halle 3.Cosy corner 4.In Forever 21 5.Benefit Boutique Glasgow 6.Getting ready for Saturday night

I can't believe it's already over half way through November, where is the time going?! I seem to be really busy at the moment what with volunteering for Doors Open Days, blog stuff, applying for jobs, organising everything for my graduation, and - of course - plenty of socialising inbetween. This is the third Sunday in a row that I've spent 90% of the day curled up on the sofa watching back-to-back TV and sipping some Lucozade. Last weekend I was through in Glasgow for Morag's birthday and before getting the train home in the evening, we stopped off at Bier Halle for some pizza (couldn't stomach the beers though!). Nothing quite so exciting for tea tonight though, currently waiting for the oven to heat up so I can make some oven chips - height of culinary sophistication.

On Friday I was back through in Glasgow for the launch of the Benefit Boutique in House of Fraser. I'll be doing a full post on this soon so won't give too much away, but it was a lovely setup and great to catch up with the Benefit girls as always! I also got my brows done whilst I was there (first time I've had them done by anyone but me, apart from one foray into HD brows a few months ago!) so they're looking ship-shape just now. I had some time to kill before the event so had a wander round some of the shops on Buchanan Street to have a look for a dress for my graduation. Sadly I couldn't find anything, will have to have a look in Edinburgh some time next week. All I want is a nice black skater dress that's not too short or too low-cut, and has sleeves - why is this so impossible to find?!

Earlier in the week I also went along to a Christmas shopping event at Oliver Bonas in Edinburgh, and treated myself to a lovely new necklace whilst I was there. I love everything in Oliver Bonas, too many pretty homewares, jewellery, books, bath & body stuff, furniture and clothes. Could quite happily live in there, I think!

Aside from that, most of this week has been spent at home catching up on emails and blog designs. I've also been sending off lots of job applications, which seems to take up a lot of time! I've got an interview for one on Friday, and am hoping to hear back from a couple of others pretty soon. Job hunting is RUBBISH but ach well, hopefully it won't be too long until someone wants to employ me.

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Home Sweet Home: Kitchen Tour

15.11.13

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When I first started planning some room tour posts, I was intending to do just the living room and my bedroom. The kitchen is, let's face it, not the most photogenic place in the world. My kitchen is small, has no windows, is always dark and never very tidy and I would like to give whoever designed the layout/storage a swift kick up the bum. But I've got a few nice new kitchen-related things lately so I thought I'd do a mini-tour for this post; more of a "kitchen snippets", if you will.

A few weeks ago I decided it was finally time to invest in some Instagram magnets for the fridge, which I ordered from Stickygram. They cost around £10 for a sheet of 9 magnets, I managed to find a discount code though so three sheets cost me about £25. (If you enter the code FRIENDPUAD it'll get you a couple of pounds off!). All the prices are in dollars which confused me slightly, but it is a UK company and the shipping was nice and quick. I'm really impressed with the way these look and they're pretty decent quality too. It's really easy to scroll through your Instagram photos and select the ones you want too, I went for a mix of puppy photos, food/drink, Edinburgh and my pals. I like the idea of being able to update your magnets whenever you take some new fridge-worthy Instagram snaps - definitely pleased with this purchase!

Next to the fridge, there's a corner of worktop which is home to things like the kettle, salt & pepper, assorted condiments and cooking oil etc. I've also discovered this space is a handy little place for my tablet which I use to look up recipes or browse through Pinterest for some recipe inspiration. I bought the tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, as a present to myself for finishing my dissertation. I used to think tablets/ipads were a bit pointless if you already had a phone and a laptop, but I've actually used this quite a lot since I bought it. It's really handy for looking up recipes as it doesn't take up as much counter space as a laptop and you can prop it up in the corner for easy reading. I bought this cover to go along with it which is great as it acts as a stand too.

Next to this is the cooker which is pretty boring, although it is being brightened up at the moment with a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer Tea Towel* by Gillian Kyle from Made From Scotland. I could spend hours browsing through this site, there are so many lovely homewares, as well as fashion, jewellery and gifts, all of which (as the name suggests) are made by Scottish designers and producers. Think of it as a Scottish version of Not On The Highstreet or Etsy. I love that everything has a definite Scottishy feel without being kitsch mass-produced tat like you find in the tourist shops. I love all of Gillian Kyle's illustrations; quite fancy a Teacake Apron to go with my tea towel! Made From Scotland would be a great place to look for some unique Christmas gifts (or presents for yourself!).

I've been meaning to buy some sort of trolley/shelving to go in the kitchen for yeeears, and finally got round to ordering this one from Ikea a couple of weeks ago. There's an entire wall in the kitchen that doesn't have any cupboards/worksurface on it (whyyyyyy would you design a kitchen like this?!) - having this trolley is great as it frees up some space elsewhere. I'm still kind of working out what's best to put where, but at the moment the top shelf has some glasses, cocktail equipment and fresh herbs (in some super cute tin buckets from Ebay); the middle shelf has the fruit bowl and some random things that don't fit elsewhere like a cheese grater and some kitchen roll; and the bottom shelf is home to some vegetables that don't need kept in the fridge like tatties and onions. I love the turquoise colour of the trolley, it adds some much needed brightness to the otherwise pretty dull and generic looking kitchen.

And finally, over in the corner next to the sink there's another area of worksurface which isn't really big enough to 'work' on, but it's handy for keeping some bits and bobs. I've got an elephant print tray from Ikea that I've had for years, and on top of it are some of my baking supplies. The Matryoshka Measuring Cups are not only cuuuuute but pretty handy too if I have an American recipe and can't be bothered working out how to convert it into grams. There's also some silicon cupcake cases which were a gift, assorted decorations and gel food colouring, plus in the background there are some more measuring spoons and kitchen scales. Oh, and can't forget the heart shaped chopping board!

Have you bought any nice kitchen accessories lately?

Gillian x

Review: Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser

13.11.13

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A couple of months ago a lovely little parcel from Antipodes dropped through my letter box, and I couldn't wait to try out the Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser. I'd had my eye on some Antipodes products for ages, and Juliet was top of my list as I had heard lots of good things about both the product and the brand. I like that Antipodes use lots of natural ingredients and plant extracts; when it comes to skincare, I definitely think it's a case of the simpler the better.

Juliet is a light, gel-based cleanser which can be used morning and night to keep skin clean, healthy and glowing. It's best for normal and oily skin types, so it's perfect for my combination skin. I don't like using cleansers which feel too heavy or creamy (especially in the mornings when I don't have any makeup to remove), so this gel formula is exactly the sort of cleanser I like best. It also smells amaaaazing - pretty much exactly like those Swizzels Matlow Double Lollies! It's packed full of ingredients like manuka honey, kiwi, vinanza grape and hibiscus extract which not only smell great, but help to look after your skin too. Juliet contains mild exfoliating extracts to make skin look clean and clear, and the manuka honey acts as an antibacterial ingredient which keeps skin blemish-free. I wouldn't say my skin has been completely blemish-free since using this, but it definitely has been much more under control lately and when I do get break outs they don't seem to hang around as long as they used to.

It does remove makeup, but it's not amazing at doing so - however, I much prefer to remove my makeup first (usually with a micellar water or Estee Lauder Take It Away Makeup Remover) and then use my cleanser to actually cleanse. After removing my makeup, I dampen my face with warm water and then massage Juliet (ha) onto my skin in circular motions. The cleanser lathers up nicely, but doesn't get super foamy which makes it nice and easy to work with. Antipodes suggest using a damp cloth to remove the cleanser, but as I'm super lazy I usually just use a couple of splashes of warm water which does the trick. Afterwards, my skin feels nice and refreshed, and not at all tight or "squeaky clean" which I hate. I usually follow it up with a toner and moisturiser, and sometimes also use a serum or overnight mask. My routine in the morning is basically the exact same, but without having to remove my makeup first. I love that the Juliet Cleanser is light enough to use in the mornings, but still heavy-duty enough to make you feel refreshed at the end of the day - definitely makes life easier being able to use the same products for both daily routines.

At £24.99 for 200ml, Juliet is definitely within the high end rather than the high street price bracket, but I think it's pretty good value. I've been using it almost exclusively as both my morning and evening cleanser for nearly 3 months now, and I've only just reached the top of the label. Due to the natural active ingredients, it's recommended that you use the bottle within 6 months but I think this bottle would definitely last me another couple of months after that - although it might not be as potent as it originally was. Either way, it's long-lasting, good value and the positive results definitely seem worth the money.

I really love the Antipodes Juliet Cleanser and I think it's a great everyday product. It helps to keep my skin in check and whilst I do still get some pesky spots, overall my skin seems brighter and clearer since I've been using this.

Have you tried the Antipodes Juliet Cleanser?

Gillian x

Sunday Summary #98

10.11.13

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1.Grand piano at Urban Bar & Brasserie 2.Happy birthday from Google 3.Wayfarers

Happy Sunday! How has your week been? Mine's been fairly uneventful - although I am cheating slightly and writing this on Friday night instead of Sunday! I'll be through in Glasgow for Morag's birthday celebrations this weekend and won't get home until quite late on Sunday so thought I'd get my post written up now - I'm soooo close to having done 100 Sunday Summaries in a row, didn't want to fall at the last hurdle!

Speaking of birthdays, it was my birthday on Thursday. I didn't really do anything, but it was actually quite nice just having a quiet day - especially as I had my Halloween party last weekend, an evening out on Wednesday, and then more partying this weekend. I think it's definitely a sign I'm getting old that I don't really care about birthdays any more! I am, however, determined to spend my birthday money on something nice for myself rather than rent or food. It's been quite a while since I bought any new makeup or skincare so I think I'll treat myself to some of that; any suggestions of what I should get?

On Wednesday I got the train through to Glasgow with some blogger chums to go to a menu launch at Urban Bar and Brasserie. We were treated to some food and cocktails whilst we chatted away and listened to the swing band playing some tunes. I'd never been to Urban before but it was nice and close to Queen Street Station which was pretty handy, especially when it came to getting the train home at the end of the night! Being an Edinburgh girl, I'm not really very familiar with many Glasgow restaurants, but I think Morag has plans to take us all somewhere this evening so I'm looking forward to trying out another Glasgow eatery!

What have you been up to this week?

Gillian x

Recipe: Monterey Cheeseburger with Sweet Potato Fries

8.11.13

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Burgers are often a top choice when I'm out for lunch or dinner, but I hardly ever make them at home. But I recently made this creation which was amaaazing, and it didn't actually take that long to make, so I think I'll definitely be making homemade burgers more often. This is like a classic cheeseburger with a twist; I've used Monterey Jack cheese which is super-melty and topped it with pico de gallo salsa for a little bit of spice.

Ingredients (Serves 2)
For the Burger and Fillings:
250g beef mince
Salt and pepper
2 slices Monterey Jack cheese
1 large onion
1 tsp light brown sugar
Iceberg lettuce
A few jalapeno slices

For the Sweet Potato Fries:
2 medium sweet potatoes
2-3 tsp olive oil
Seasoning (salt, black pepper, chilli powder etc.)
For the Pico de Gallo Salsa:
200g cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
1 red chilli
1 lime
Large bunch of coriander
Pinch of salt


Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Begin by making the Pico de Gallo (if you can, give it at least an hour or so for the flavours to combine, or you could even make it the day before to save time). Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds, then finely chop and add to a bowl. Finely chop the red onion, chilli and coriander and add those in too. Squeeze in the juice of one lime, and sprinkle in a large pinch of salt. Mix it all together (add more salt if necessary) and set to one side.
2. Add the beef mince to a bowl. Use the best quality of mince you can get your hands on - definitely worth going to your local butchers rather than the supermarket. Add in a generous helping of salt and black pepper, then smoosh the mince together with your hands to mix it all together. Form into burger-shaped patties (try to make them around the same width as your bun, mine ended up a bit small!) and set to one side.
3. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut lengthwise into chips. Add the sweet potatoes to a baking tray (use more than one if you need to, make sure they're spread out so they go crispy) and drizzle with olive oil. Add whatever seasoning you like, I'd suggest salt, black pepper and some chilli flakes. Mix everything together to get the sweet potatoes evenly coated. Put them in the oven and after 10 minutes, give them a shake/turn them over. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on these to make sure the don't burn, you might need to remove them from the oven slightly before the burger is ready.
4. Thinly slice the onion and add to a pan with a knob of butter. Fry over a medium heat for around 5-10 minutes until the onions begin to brown, stirring all the time to make sure they don't burn. Add in a teaspoon of brown sugar and continue frying for another 5-10 minutes until the onions are caramelised. Turn the heat off and set to one side.
5. In a separate frying pan, add a splash of oil and heat up the pan. Add the burgers and cook for around 4-5 minutes. Flip the burgers over once they're nice and browned, then add a slice of Monterey Jack cheese to the top of each burger. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until the burger is cooked through and the cheese has melted.
6. Now, time for assembly! Slice the bun in half and lightly butter (or add mayonnaise, ketchup etc.) to each half. Add some lettuce to the bottom of the bun, and top with the caramelised onions. Then add the burger with the cheese on top and a couple of spoonfuls of the Pico de Gallo salsa. Finally, add a few jalapeno slices and put the top of the bun back on - use a cocktail stick to hold it all together if necessary!
7. Plate up the burger and sweet potato fries, and add any other accompaniments you'd like - I've gone for some salad. Serve and enjoy!

Not bad for a homemade effort! I'd definitely suggest using Monterey Jack rather than cheddar if you can, it has a really nice mild flavour and goes all gooey and melty which is exactly what you want with a burger. It's definitely a good idea to make your burger the same size as your bun, mine ended up being a bit too small and all my toppings fell out the side, nooooo. It's really easy to customise this recipe too; just leave out the jalapenos if you're not a fan of spice, or if you can't be bothered making the salsa (but you should, it's good!) just top with soured cream or your favourite sauce.

Have you had a go at making your own burgers?

Gillian x

Insider's Guide to Edinburgh

5.11.13

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At The Dragonfly. Cocktails include the Raspberry Berry, El Diablo, Up the Apples and Pears, and Patna Daiquiri. And look at those chandeliers!

As I'm sure you all know by now, I love Edinburgh and all the lovely things it has to offer. So as part of the Hertz Big Travel List, I've put together a few of my very favourite Edinburgh places which might not be tourist hot-spots, but are definitely worth a visit. Remember to check out my City Guides and Edinburgh posts for more inspiration!

Drinking: The Dragonfly, West Port
As cocktail bars go, The Dragonfly is pretty dreamy. I've definitely professed my love for The Dragonfly once or twice on here before, but I shall do it again, just in case you needed any persuading. Tourists usually flock to the overpriced pubs in the Grassmarket, but if you venture another 30 seconds up the road you'll come to The Dragonfly which is infinitely better. They make all sorts of cocktails, many of which are original Dragonfly mixes, including just about every ingredient you could think of. I love that The Dragonfly is pretty relaxed and a wee bit fancy without being pretentious - I've been here for many occasions, from pre-dinner cocktails with my parents, to birthday drinks with friends, to a few quick ones before heading to a club. The cocktail menu has something to suit everyone, but my personal favourites include the Joe Le Taxi, Up the Apples and Pears, and Raspberry Ripple. It's a fairly small bar, and can get really busy on weekend evenings, so I'd definitely recommend coming here for a late-afternoon cocktail to make sure you can grab one of the comfy sofas up on the mezzanine level and soak up the atmosphere (and booze). I came here last Friday evening whilst my friend was up visiting, and we enjoyed a couple of cocktails courtesy of Hertz before heading off for dinner elsewhere.

Eating: Passorn, Tollcross
I love trying out new eateries, but one I always come back to year after year is Passorn. If I had to choose (don't make me!), I think this would be my number one favourite restaurant in Edinburgh, yet it's still relatively unknown and I wish more people knew how amazing it is. Passorn do authentic Thai food with a bit of a modern Scottish twist. They have lots of traditional recipes as well as some more contemporary ones, all cooked to order by talented Thai chefs, using fresh Scottish ingredients. The spicy tenderloin beef salad is always my starter of choice, and then I usually have a bit of a difficult decision narrowing down my choice for a main! There are lots of different curries, soups, stir fried dishes and noodles to choose from and they're all equally delicious - even the side orders like coconut rice with crispy onions are mouthwatering. The food is really what makes Passorn stand out for me, but it also helps that the staff are all friendly and attentive, plus I love their choice of indie background music (I've heard everything from The Smiths to The Shins!).

Shopping: Lupe Pinto's, Tollcross
Edinburgh has lots of nice wee boutiques and vintage shops, but if I'm being totally honest I think my favourite Edinburgh shop would have to be a food-related one - Lupe Pinto's. Specialising in Mexican food and also stocking lots of other world foods, Lupe Pinto's has all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients that you can't get in the average British supermarket. The shop is tiny (and I mean really tiny, more than 3 or 4 people and you can barely move!) but I could happily spend ages browsing to find new spicy things to try. It's worth going for their fresh flour tortillas alone - puts the packets you get in Tesco to shame! There's every type of hot sauce and tequila you could image, plus cooking sauces, tinned goods, baking ingredients and even a little deli counter. They also stock a good range of American groceries and candy, so if you fancy getting your hands on some Marshmallow Fluff, Jell-o or Frank's RedHot Sauce, Lupe's is definitely the place to go. They also have a couple of Lupe Pinto's cookbooks if you need some recipe inspiration, plus there's another branch in Glasgow for those of you over in the west.

Snacking: S. Luca's, Morningside
The weather might be a bit miserable just now, but no matter the season, you can't beat a nice big ice cream sundae. S. Luca's is a family-run business who have been making their own ice cream for over 100 years. During the summer, it's nice to have a wander along to Luca's for a cone of ice cream and then go sit out on the nearby Bruntsfield Links, but if the weather's not so nice it's definitely worth going upstairs for a seat in the cafe. Plus you'll get to indulge in an ice cream sundae instead of just a cone! I'm a big fan of the classic hot fudge sundae, but there are lots of options on the menu - and be sure to check if there are any special flavours on the menu that day so you can ask for a scoop of that in place of vanilla or strawberry. The Irn Bru sorbet is a must if it's on the menu, can't beat it! Luca's feels like a lovely cross between a 50's diner and an old-fashioned ice cream parlour, plus there are lots of retro sweeties to purchase too if you can fight past the swarms of hyper children!

What are your favourite places to visit in Edinburgh? Any insider tips to share?

Gillian x

I was provided with £50 to spend at an Edinburgh venue of my choice by Hertz. All opinions are my own.

Sunday Summary #97

3.11.13

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1.Halloween cakes 2.More Halloween cakes 3.Me and Morag 4.Kate Rowland Breaking Bad brooch 5.Halloween decorations 6.Throwback Thursday, Snow White 7.Cocktails 8.More cocktails 9.Breaking Bad Costume

This post is going to be a fairly quick one as all I'm fit for right now is curling up into a ball and sleeping for as long as possible. I had a Halloween party at my flat last night followed by a night out, so it's safe to say I'm feeling a little bit fragile. I had a great night catching up with some pals I hadn't seen in ages, as well as some of my blogger chums. As usual, I went way overboard with themed food and drinks; there were Halloween red velvet cake pops, coffin-shaped brownies, toffee apple cupcakes, rice krispie pumpkins, graveyard cupcakes and, of course, lots of sweeties. We also resurrected the cauldrons to make punch in - one was "green flavour" and one was "red flavour", not entirely sure what was in either one though! (P.S. have a little look at last year's party here!) I had such a good night and the hangover today was made slightly better by watching back-to-back episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

For my costume, I decided to go as Walt from Breaking Bad - definitely one of the most flattering outfits I've ever worn. I got a yellow boiler suit type thing from Ebay, and added a gas mask thing, some blue rubber gloves, a pair of glasses and a Breaking Bad brooch from Kate Rowland. I even got a couple of little bags of blue sweeties for my "meth" - wasn't quite dedicated enough to don a bald cap and a beard though!

This week has mostly been filled with Halloween party prep, so I'm afraid I don't have a lot else to report. Think I'm going to have to spend quite a lot of tomorrow doing clearing up and putting away all the decorations, then that'll be Halloween over for another year. It's my birthday on Thursday but I haven't got much planned as I'm going out for dinner and drinks on Wednesday for a blogger event at Urban, and then will be heading to Glasgow for Morag's birthday night out at the weekend. The thought of spending my birthday curled up in bed and watching films is actually pretty appealing - definitely a sign I'm getting old!

Did you dress up for Halloween this year?

Gillian x