29 May 2008

10 optical illusions

Another great video courtesy of Marko

10 optical illusions in 2 minutes....

27 May 2008

Our first anniversary celebrations

I've been really bad and not blogged this sooner, but I hope you'll forgive me for the tardiness of this!

It all kind of started on the 19th April (day before our anniversary) when we took a bit of a road trip with Stewie and his belongings up to Conlig because he was going to stay with friends for the weekend.

We traveled home via Belfast and decided to stop into the Odyssey to get some food from the Indian Ocean. It was delicious (as usual) but the dish I ordered reminded me more of Chinese than Indian food, besides the point though, because we had a lovely meal then headed home to get tucked up in bed to watch a movie and eventually fell asleep.

We got up the next morning after a long lie in, which is very strange for me seeing as it was a Sunday and that's usually the busiest day in my week. We got up and packed our overnight bag and headed down to Newcastle for our overnight stay in the Slieve Donard Hotel. Neither of us had been before (at least as far as we can remember) and as we drove towards the building I think both our jaws dropped. It's a stunning hotel built right beside the sea with a beautiful view of the Slieve Donard, so it was a great place to go away to and relax.

The Slieve Donard Hotel

We walked up to the door and were greeted by a doorman holding open the door for us... I felt all posh already! We walked in and I was breathless at the beautiful reception hall. We got all checked in and headed to our room - we dumped our bags and headed straight for the spa to enjoy the swimming pool with an incredible view and the heat experiences. This was sooooo relaxing! We hadn't booked any treatments but this seemed to be enough on its own.

When you visit Newcastle, it seems like a law that you have to get some ice cream - after all you are beside the sea! So we headed into Newcastle to get some Maud's and couldn't help but get their top selling flavour known as "poor bear" but used to be (and still is in my eyes) "Pooh Bear" because it's ice cream with honeycomb through it. It's such a delicious treat and something we try to make ourselves at home but it's never as good as Maud's version.

We walked back to the hotel and up to our room, then watched a little tv while we waited for the time to head downstairs for our evening meal. A very posh affair indeed!!! As soon as we were seated the wine waiter introduced himself and took our order, as soon as he left a waitress offered us some bread rolls, then shortly after that we were asked for our order from the menu. And what a menu it was!

I ordered the barberry duck with rhubarb chutney and potato gratin and Rob ordered the fillet of beef. Both very delicious dishes! And came to the table looking rather classy too....

Then for dessert I went for the hot dessert of the day - sponge pudding with custard.

We had brought our top tier of wedding cake with us so Rob skipped dessert and had some of the cake where as I was a pie and had both!

I can't believe it has been a year where we've gone from this:

to this:

And it's a shame we didn't get to have any of the cake a year ago at the wedding because I would imagine (well I hope so anyway) that it was tastier than the top tier was after being frozen for a year and defrosted. The marzipan kind of "sweated" through the cake making it all taste of marzipan and it was also quite a hard cake (and yes it was defrosted fully!) so we didn't eat very much of it at all. Still we had a beautiful meal and were well looked after.

After what I thought was a great night's sleep on a really comfy bed (Rob wasn't fond of it and thought he was getting a sore back) we woke up and headed for breakfast with almost everything you could want for breakfast, the option of a cooked one, cereals, fruit, cheeses, hams, toast, bagels, croissants... and much more. It was a lovely relaxing breakfast in a dining room while some guests read the morning paper and sipped their tea.

I was sad to be going home so soon after this but we had an incredible time there and I'm pretty sure we'll be back, if not for the night at least for the spa!!!! We had a fantastic time celebrating our first full year of marriage and we had a fantastic first year together. I'm excited to see what the future will bring for us and what other things we will be celebrating together.

20 May 2008

Free Youth Bible Study 2 - Clay Pot

As we're coming into the summer and the tone and speed of youth group slows down due to the warmer weather, exams, families going caravaning etc I decided to take an idea that Duffy Robbins had shared at summer school last August. He spoke about a youth worker (whose name escapes me but if anyone knows please fill me in!!!) who took a large clay pot and broke it into lots of pieces, gave a piece to each of the young people in his group to decorate then glued it all together again.

When I handed out the pieces they were rather confused but loved the idea of expressing themselves also once we'd finished decorating we got to play some rounders outside in the sun.

I took all the pieces home and spent all of the following week gluing it all back together again but it turned out real well -

The following week we had a relaxed casual Bible Study and used the pot as a prop.

Click here to download the Bible Study

If you're using this please get in touch. I'd love to know where and how it's being used - just because I'm curious.

A song and dance over crisps

HT to Alan in Belfast for this video. I absolutely love these videos with the element of surprise, and the fact the are filled with the unexpected. Simple and extraordinary.

13 May 2008

Backstreet's back

OK, I know I'm not a tweenager anymore, but when my friend texted me a few months ago and asked if I wanted to go to the Back Street Boys concert I thought why not? Now I'm not a big fan of them... in fact I don't even own any of their albums or singles etc so when I said yes and told some family and friends they were quite surprised.

Well last night was the night and I have to say it was great fun. I haven't been at a concert in ages, so that was part of the fun too I suppose. The warm up act was a guy called George, who was being managed by one of the Backstreet Boys, who was really quite annoying. To start with he came out and the music started and he did this Justin Timberlake type dance thing for a few minutes then sang along with his own voice on the track for a bit before going back to the weird dancing. Then he really made me unhappy and completely massacred a classic: Eric Clapton's "Tears in heaven". He sang some more songs which were his own - "Lie to me" and "Talk to me" I was waiting for "Run to me" or something similar to be the next song. Then he went on to take off his shirt, which made me wanna barf because I just hate stars who flaunt their bodies to get more of a response and they usually do it to cover up for a lack of talent anyways (which I thought was obvious). All in all I really didn't like him as an entertainer, he may well be a lovely bloke though so I'll hope that maybe he is.

He cleared off and about 15 minutes later the main act came on stage. It seemed a little tacky to start with being that they'd dressed in boxer's gowns and were coming on to the stage on a boxing ring "fighting each other along to the "Eye of the Tiger" tune, then they started singing one of their own songs to the tune which sounded really good! They sang some of their older stuff and also some of their new album, as well as some of each of their own solo work. Nick got on a drum kit and did some great drumming to a dance track. Near the end of the show a couple of them went to the crowd so the crazed fans people at the front could see them up close - the guys just looked to be having so much fun which makes it fun to watch too I suppose. There was loads of variety in the music so a lot of different people would have enjoyed the show. It was a great night, and I even woke up this morning singing one of the songs! It's gone now though.

I didn't really get any photos cos I've only got my camera phone which didn't work so good, but when my friend puts her pics online I'll add them here.

11 May 2008

Milky fun

What a cool video!!!! I'm still thinking through how I can use this in youth or children's work sometime.... it's too cool to not use it!!!

HT to Marko

09 May 2008


I've posted before about having a random dog start to follow me round the park but it has happened again, and with a labrador again too!!!!

Stewie and I were enjoying a walk round Lurgan Park this week and loving the short heatwave we've had here the past few days when a labrador started walking along with us. To start I just ignored it thinking it's owner was somewhere near by, but after a while I looked around and saw no one. He started lifting sticks and trying to play with me, I tried to look at his tags to see his name or get a number but he kept growling at me so I left it.

Eventually though he stopped the growling when he didn't have a stick in his mouth so I got the number and called the owner, who told me that "Digger" just likes to take off sometimes for a wander round the park by himself and once he's done he makes his own way home.

How cool is that?!?!?!? I'd love it if Stewie was able to take himself for a walk when I've got really busy days but then again we do have great fun on our walks together.

07 May 2008

Sun shiny shine

It's May and the sun is splitting out of the skies and forced us to have a mini BBQ last night which was fantastic. I also had Stewie out for a longer walk yesterday as well as him wanting to keep playing fetch with the ball. He was having so much fun playing fetch and his eyes were all sparkly watching the ball anytime I lifted it:

But there came a point when he kept coming back with the ball and collapsing on the ground like this:

That didn't stop him jumping up again ready to go everytime I lifted the ball again. but we headed home for fear he'd die of thirst, heat or exhaustion. He ended up trying to find nice cool spots to lie down round the house for most of the rest of the evening.

I love the sunnier weather too because it marks a big change in wardrobe -

I read a few blogs recently from California saying it was in the 60s (fahrenheit) and they were freezing! Well it's about the 60s here at the minute and we're loving it!!!!! I am at least anyways!

03 May 2008

Yay Marko!!!

Congrats Marko on the results of his recent "Are you a bigger looser than Marko?" contest loosing a total of 60lb over 12 weeks!!!!! Check out the difference!

And while you're at it check out this hilarious video....

02 May 2008

George Street

I was emailed this YouTube video for some encouragement - just in the middle of a time when I really need it - but I was just in awe of this story. I suppose we may never know the impact we've made on others but this man was very fortunate.

01 May 2008

Enjoy Taste of Scotland Review

Well Enjoy a taste of Scotland was last Friday and only now have I had time to stop and write a report on how it all went.

It all started at 5.30am on Friday when I woke up and got ready for the day then started the drive up to the airport for my flight on sleazy jet. As I arrived in the queue for check in I turned around to see who was behind me and to my surprise there stood an old school friend. We ended up chatting all the way to Glasgow - in the departure lounge, on the plane, waiting for luggage and on the bus into Glasgow, then we went our separate ways but I really enjoyed our chat and it did keep me awake seeing as I'm not used to being awake at that time of day!

I arrived in Glasgow about 9.30am and the event wasn't starting until around midday so off I went for a walk down Sauchiehall Street - this street became famous for me when I was working in WHSmith because we were almost always in tight competition with the Sauchiehall Street store for all sorts of things. Anyways, I had a walk round and decided that although I'd be spending all my afternoon eating and nibbling that I was rather hungry. I had to laugh at myself because I had travelled to Glasgow to try some new and different food and I end up going into McDonalds for a Sausage McMuffin and OJ - yes I'm ashamed but I far prefer the breakfast menu in McD's to it's main menu.

Noon rolled round and I had just arrived at the big white tent in George Square.

There were lots of people running around like mad trying to set up last minute bits and pieces and me standing wondering where on earth I'm supposed to go or who I'm supposed to see. I end up grabbing someone who was trying to rush past me holding a radio (that must mean they're important right?) and asking where the press go, I was pointed in the direction of "Reception" while the girl rushed on to her emergency. I walked up to the desk feeling a little out of my depth and said who I was and that I was looking for Craig (my contact). Craig turned round to greet me, he handed me a press pack, a press USB pen and a press badge.

I was sent off to play round the various stalls and taste lots of different samples. I first arrived at Kingsmill and despite having a big bag for collecting samples and info was given another bag full of loaves and baps - a very generous gift and gesture but unfortunately I had to give the bag away because there was no way I would be able to get it on the place home. Warburtons tried to do the same but I had to refuse.

I went on and chatted more with lots of other food companies and brands including Border biscuits who sent me home with some lovely butterscotch crunch and chocolate chip shortbread (they went down well with a cup of tea!).

I got chatting to Greenvale - a potato producer - who mentioned knowing Wilsons Potatoes here in NI to which I replied "oh you know Angus? He's a good guy" and the guy looked at me blankly leaving me thinking that either my friend Angus Wilson is a liar (highly unlikely) or that this guy was just clueless.

Patterson Arran have also sent me home with enough oatcakes to last a life time! May need to use them to cater for youth group a few times.

I was still walking round nibbling almost anything people were offering and ended up feeling like something a little fresher than Mrs Tilly's Butter Tablet or Dean's Shortbread or some First Milk cheese - don't get me wrong I loved all of these tasty treats but my mouth was just a little dry and in need of something a little sweeter. I stumbled across Good Natured Fruit with some tasty strawberries - they're a pesticide free strawberries and raspberries. I got talking to a girl about how they go along the rows placing ladybirds on each of the plants to get rid of nasty bugs out to destroy. You could really taste the difference!

I also stopped by Oleifera who apparently are posting out a complimentary bottle of rapeseed oil, which I'm quite excited about. It has half the saturated fat that olive oil has, can help to lower cholesterol, has your essential omega 3 and omega 6, and even has a high smoke point. I'm really looking forward to getting to use this in a few recipes.

I went into the kid's zone for a nosy and got talking to a girl about an education scheme by the Royal Highland Education Trust for schools that is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of red meat in a healthy balanced diet and teaches children about the journey of cattle, sheep and pigs from farm to plate including animal husbandry, basic nutrition and what various world religions believe about red meat. Being the nerd that I am I was quite excited about this scheme.

I came across R & K Drysdale who were giving away a sample of peeled swede in a plastic bag that can be microwaved in the bag then mashed or sliced or whatever. So expect a blog post shortly about the results!

I decided after all that walking around Sauchiehall Street and then all around the exhibits that I needed to take a seat and the only seats I could find was the rowed seating for the cookery theatre so I got comfy and rested my feet for a bit. I had a look around and spotted Nick Nairn, who had almost run me over a few minutes earlier by running around the place pushing a trolley and being followed by a camera crew, getting set up to film a cookery demonstration.

It was also at this stage that I had spotted the walking Macsween haggii looking like happy chappys but I'm sure the people inside the costume were melting with the heat. (I also spotted a Baxter's soup man walking around waving and skipping too).

As I was sitting resting weary bones I also spotted someone sitting on her own also chilling out a bit. I decided to go over and introduce myself and it turns out I'd just met Lynn from Lynn's Cooking Blog! We ended up being buddies for the rest of the day. We hung around for the opening speeches then headed out for some tea and came back to do a little more browsing of the displays again.

This time round I got talking to a guy in a kilt giving out flyers on how to cook steak to perfection - I'll be sticking that up in my kitchen for future reference! I tried some Mackays marmalades and preserves and really enjoyed the variety of flavour and the natural flavours that came through in them. And also got talking to a girl from the Really Garlicky company who gave me a great press pack that included a bulb of smoked garlic (again expect to see some blog posts including this!). Then stopped by the Tunnocks stand to get some tea cakes for Rob who I had left at home alone with Stewie for the day.

Not all of the food on display has originated in Scotland - but then I suppose that's a difficult thing to do anywhere now. I came across Monaghan Mushrooms, who have some farms in Scotland too apparently. I also was given a packet of Yeungs chinese curry mix which I'm pretty sure isn't traditionally Scottish, but they are Scottish based and have been for over 18 years! There was also a stall for Edinburgh Tea and Coffee which prompted us to ask exactly where in Scotland they were growing the coffee beans and tea leaves.

There were also some cookery demonstrations on in the "Cookery theatre". I sat, watched, listened and even smelt my way through one by Joe Queen from Macdonald Hotels which I really enjoyed. I would have loved to have seen more cookery demos and in particular by some of the exhibitors themselves to show the versatility of their product and also introduce new ideas for using their product.

It was an interesting day, particularly when exhibitors asked "Which publication are you from?" - I eventually learned that saying I was 'freelance' was much less complicated than saying 'I'm a blogger' (which the writer for Farmer's Weekly who I got chatting to for a while at the airport on the way home told me was much easier than saying any publication sometimes). All in all I really enjoyed my day, despite my flight home being delayed a few hours and making my day that little bit longer. I enjoyed talking with food producers and cooks and bakers about food and learned quite a bit about the Scottish food scene, however I really would have liked to see more primary produce instead of the sweets companies, bottled water companies, and a few other random companies. And as I said earlier in this post I really would have liked to see more cookery demos and things from the actual exhibitors themselves as well as the scheduled cookery theatre program.

It really was quite an adventure for me trying out some products that are either hard or impossible to obtain in Northern Ireland. There were so many other companies there that I could talk about but this post is already long enough, so check out the Enjoy the taste of Scotland website for more details on that.

I really hope something like this can happen over here sometime! It would be great to see some more of our local produce getting a plug.

Thank you to Craig from Denvir Marketing for helping me work out how to get over to Glasgow and also for making me feel all privileged as "Press" for the day.