Sunday, 28 December 2014


I like maps. All maps generally. But especially road maps and ordnance survey. After the Christmas festivities and Christmas travel, I can't wait to get back home to dig out the 1984 version of the tourist map of Southern scotland we have to start planning a road trip for early summer. This map will obviously be out of date, but major roads will still be there, as will the lochs and mountains. It is also  interesting to look at as most of my childhood holidays were spent in Scotland, not just in one place but travelling all over.

Maybe that's where I get my love of maps and sense of direction from. There was a running joke that my Dad would go to sleep reading road maps, and there has been a few times when I've done the same, maybe not road maps but certainly various ordnance survey maps. My Dad loved driving and would know how to get anywhere in Britain by road, without reference to a map (back in the day before sat navs and google), and it was because of this we spent many summers based near St Andrews but pretty much touring east Scotland.

This year we're planning to go further than I have ever been and take a trip over to the Outer Hebrides. As a child we didn't really get up to the highlands as such. We did get up to Aberdeen and Inverness and obviously the Grampian region. There was a brief day trip to Skye as I do remember the historic pedal steamer crossing and Portree, but we didn't really spend much time in the Highlands and Islands. 
So far plans are hazy. We'd like to make the ferry cross from Ullapool to Stornoway, and we'd need a stop over on the way. Maybe in the Loch Lomond area, or perhaps stick to the coast. We're open to suggestions and inspiration no doubt provided by maps. 

The reason for this post is that hopefully this Scotland trip will tick off a few things off my list. Ullapool and Luskyntyre are specifically on my list. Mainly because of the stunning photos I've seen, but also because I wanted to get up to the northern Highlands and Islands sooner rather than later. Another on my list is to try and visit all the places on the 'Scotland from the Roadside' calendar which was a birthday present this year.  Not sure if this is a bit too much to try and do as I haven't plotted them on a map yet. 
So, best get planning. Where's that map?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Small beginnings

One of the things on my list is a bit of an epic one. I have a problem with recipe books. We have a lot. Shelves full. And this is not good when the majority of what I cook is from my head, sometimes from the internet, and quite rarely from an actual recipe in an actual book.

This is not to say I don't read them. I particularly like Rick Stein's books from his many travel adventures for his narrative and the stunning photography. I like Nigella's books for the layout and variation. I like the look and feel of the Jamie Oliver books, the simplicity of matter-of-fact-ness of Delia's books, and the sheer madness and detail of The Fat Duck recipe book. I tend to read recipe books for interest and inspiration. There are regulars that I keep referring back to: Delia's bread sauce recipe, Nigella's Chardonnay jelly, Jamie's monkfish, and the golden crunches from my ladybird "We Can Cook" book. 

I would guess that I have made a recipe from maybe a third of the cook books on the shelf, or maybe even a half, and this needs to be rectified. So therefore on my list is to cook something from all our recipe books before I'm 40. That does include something from The Fat Duck and Michel Roux Jnr's The French Kitchen.

Yesterday, as is the time of year for homemade gifts, I made the Slow Roast Tomatoes in Oil from The River Cottage Preserves book. Whether this actually counts towards this goal or not is a different matter, as we've already used several recipes in this book. But the tomatoes are lovely and the recipe is quite easy. 
At the moment I'm not sure if I should set out to cook something from all the books we own, or just the ones we've not used yet. Maybe as time goes on, it will become clearer as to which option is best pursued. I have to say at this point I have just counted 118 books. And one which was loaned to my brother maybe 8 years ago. I think the latter option is perhaps wise. 

Also, a point to note is that this is from today, and does not include any books we may receive for Christmas etc! And another note, I have recently tried to curb this habit. I have resisted the urge to buy new books, and have discovered that the local library is a great resource if I ever feel the need for new inspiration.

This also links into another thing on my list. Get back to writing the food blog. So the tomato recipe may end up on there shortly. We shall see. Small beginnings.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

So it begins

Here's the mission. It's nothing too fancy, just want to get round to a few things rather than just wondering, dreaming or saying "maybe one day". Life is too short.
My list of things to do before I'm 40 isn't so much of a bucket list, or a list of big things to see and do. More of a list of things I have fancied doing/wanted to do for a while, but not actually got round to them, or had the motivation. There's no "see Niagra Falls", or "Trek the Inca Trail", which, of course, I'd love to do, but in reality these things will not happen in the next 3 years. Neither funds or small children will really allow. 
There's a few cooking things, a few travel things, a few physical challenges, and a few randoms. The physical things are perhaps the hardest - for me anyway, and will need much preparation. For example, I have a half marathon on there. At the time, this seemed a good idea, with most people around me being into running, and doing many motivational things to do with running, but now I am not too sure. Another is to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. I have attempted this twice before, and failed on both occasions. But combining this with getting fit enough for a half marathon, hopefully I will be able to achieve this. 
The cooking things are perhaps not too hard in comparison. I'd like to cook venison steak - my favourite meat. I'd like to get over my fear of ruining shellfish in the cooking process and have a go at Coquilles Saint-Jacques, or another scallop recipe. Also poaching pears should be simple enough (I hope) but I've never done it. The thing of cooking something from all the recipe books we own may prove a little more difficult though. But pears, scallops, and venison probably all feature in there somewhere.
The travel ones will need some planning, but most are within reach. Going to Venice is the most extravagant thing on my list, and maybe Paris. But then again, Paris is only a train ride away.... Others include several places in Scotland (possibly our favourite holiday destination of the moment) and places around Yorkshire, where I grew up. You never actually act like a tourist in your home town. But why not?
The randoms include reading Lord of The Rings. Never did it. Think I should. Especially before watching any of the films. Also to give blood. Again, never done it. But really there's no reason not to (at least I think that is the case).

The full list is on my pinterest, and as soon as I figure out how to link there from here I will!

I thought about blogging about the list and what it takes to do it, mainly as a diary, but also to keep things focused. So here is my first post on my 37th birthday. 

Currently there are 39 things on my list, and I was aiming for 40. But let's see what the next few years bring.

Best get started.....