30 November 2014

2015, what's your plan?

As we reaching the end of another year, I've been thinking a lot recently about what I hope to achieve in 2015, both personally and for my blog. 

Firstly, the easy stuff - the blog

Engage more with other bloggers
I'm terrible for following a blog, reading, never commenting or interacting with the blogger. I work better with Twitter but I'm determined to get back into commenting, sharing etc.

Set up a paid URL
I've looked into this recently and it's not all that expensive, £10 for 3 years or such for a basic one. It's definitely something I want to do, now just to think of a name. Maybe just Edinburgh Girl? I've check and it's available, although I'm not too sure what kind of 'hits' I may get... 

Set weekly goals
How many times a week to blog? 
Weekly set posts? 'Wednesday Wants!', 'Silent Sunday' 

Work on my photography
We were kindly given a brilliant (and pricey) Canon from Jamie's dad which I would love to get out and use more. I've also go my own Nikon and older digital camera to use. And what's the point in have these if you aren't making the most of them? Also I must buy a photo cube, they aren't exactly expensive. 
I'd also like to find a good location to do 'WIW' or general clothes pics. I live in Edinburgh where there are hundreds of beautiful locations so it shouldn't be too hard. 

Personally it's the same old stuff cropping up with a few new ones. 

Read more
I actually love nothing more than getting into a good book, at last count I had 6 on the go. But that last count was about 8 month ago and since then I've read one full book and that was on holiday. I admit I spend way to much time in the evenings checking my phone, tweeting etc. So I'm going to set aside at least one evening a week where I just sit with my book and co

Driving lessons
We have a nice wee Ford Fiesta sitting outside and when Jamie's away with work it would be nice to have the freedom to just jump in the car and go somewhere. I don't mind public transport or walking but it would be a good perk. Plus I'm sure Jamie wouldn't mind the idea of being picked up from the pub! 

Become a 'qualified' Project Manager
I've been in my job for a few years now Project Manager, Account Manager, call it what you will but I kind of fell into this role and have zero qualifications for it. A few weeks ago I bought an online course for PRINCE2 Foundation (PRojects IN Controlled Environments v2). At the end of my studying I have a two hour exam, passing this won't make me qualified but it does give me what I need to progress to the Practitioner course, after which I would be qualified and have the transposable skills to do contacted work etc, always good practice for the future. 

General fitness & well-being 
In recent months my fitness has been lacking and I'm feeling it in a lot of ways, slight weight gain, lethargic, complete cba attitude and all-in-all it's not good for me, and it's not good for those around me. So, in a bit to be generally more happy, energetic etc it's time to get back to the gym full time, it's time to make programmes fun again not just hours on the treadmill. It's time to get back to weekly PT on a Friday or Saturday, check out Jamie's classes here (not my BF Jamie) and it's time to put back into practice what I used to love, running. And potentially take part in the Skye half marathon. I need to make more time for me. And try not to drop anymore 20kg barbells on my face! 

So that's my 2015 goals & plans, what are yours? Either for your self or for your blog.

28 November 2014

A Personal Post: The Story of Us

So I'm about to get a little soppy here:

Today marks two years since Jamie & I had our first proper date. Well as 'proper' as watching Hearts getting beat 4-1 by Celtic on a cold November Wednesday night can get.

Our first proper meeting (17 November), again at a football game where Jamie have 'conventionally' bought tickets next to my friend Charlene and I, in fairness it was a sold out game but it doesn't stop a lot of people winding him up about it. This meeting went less than smoothly though.

Jamie turned up right at kick-off, with a pretty girl (who now laughs a lot at this story) and I said about two words to him, it didn't really go the way I expected and the next day I gave him a 'get out of jail card' with a text saying if he didn't fancy a drink sometime it was totally cool - no reply, oh dear. I won't lie, I was gutted. Truth was Jamie had spent the night with a bunch of Irish mates downing shots of wine and was barely surviving the Sunday. The next day I did get a text along the lines of 'OMG. This weeks Walking Dead btw!' - I don't think something so simple has made me smile to much. So we spent a few days texting back and forth, and my boss asked me if I fancied his season tickets for the next game as he couldn't make it - free football, yes please. 
So I invited Jamie along.

We met the following Wednesday in the Rutland for a couple of drinks and I'm not ashamed to admit I was nervous as heck. Not as nervous as Jamie who'd already had his first pint before I arrived. The chat came pretty easy, as we walked along to Tynecastle we talked about anything and everything, thankfully there was no awkward weather chat. The game itself, well a 4-1 defeat isn't great, when your freezing cold it's even worse.

After the game we bumped into my friend Claire who'd been there too, now that was a bit weird 'Oh hi Claire, this is Jamie.....'. So we walked from Tynecastle to Elm Row ready to part ways, Jamie said he'd text me, I wasn't sure he would, and then he leaned in for a kiss (soppy I know!). Then I uttered those three little words that Jamie will always remember as he walked away 'Is that it?' 
  Classy Susan, Classy! 
So we had another cheeky little kiss and both went on our ways.

After that there was a lot of evenings of pizza and beer, a steak dinner, Christmas market, introducing Jamie to Illegal Jacks, and on Christmas Day it became 'Facebook official'. Second best present after my Hello Kitty onsie. Four months later Jamie moved in to what is now our flat. Was it too soon? Maybe for some people but for two years it's worked, very well. 
Now we have our little addition Rudi (the cat) who is 8 months old and in the next 6 months we hope to have bought our first place together (or at least before Summer, BBQ anyone!?)

And if I now told you that all this came from one little message Jamie sent me via an online dating site what would you say? It's never been something I've been ashamed or embarrassed about. 
It's given me someone I love madly, who makes me so happy and who I want to share my life with, how can that be frowned upon?

Online dating has become one of the most popular ways to meet someone, it gives you a chance to get to know someone before you meet. No drunken chat in a noisy club, no awkward silences as you already know what to chat about, things you have in common. We spent about a month chatting on POF, Facebook and text so when we meet it wasn't weird (still nerve-racking though), but for me it was one of the most natural "first" meetings I've ever had. 
 We tend to just laugh about the very first one now.

Amongst Jamies' message I did put up with the usual rubbish. The multiple messages from the same guy using a different sign-off name, the downright creepy 'You look like my sister?' as well as finding boys I knew fine well weren't even single. 
There was a brief relationship that almost put me off online dating for life, actually it almost put me off men for a while but giving it 'one more bash' resulted in this.
Jamie's message however, it did stand out, he'd made an effort. It wasn't just a 'Hey, how are you?'. He introduced himself, he chatted about our shared interest in The Walking Dead (& other TV shows), he told me about his latest holiday in the Alps and asked how my holiday in Turkey had been. He'd taken time to actually read my profile and put together a message and that intrigued me, it made me want to get to know him. As well as the fact I was extremely attracted to his cheeky face!

In truth this picture had also made him message me: 

 I guess in a way I'm trying to relay a little message without sounding up my own backside - never give up. Take a chance, not everyone online dating is a complete fruit-loop (there are some though), take the time to get to know someone before meeting. 

If there's a *spark* go for it, you just never know.

10 November 2014

Part 3: Kruger National Park - Mopani, Satara and Pretoriuskop


Tuesday 16 – Sunday 21 September

Tuesday 16 September - Madi a Thava to Mopani Camp
We drove from Madi a Thava to the Punda Maria gate of the Kruger, it took us about 2 hours which was great as I was expecting it to take us A LOT longer. We drove from there down to our first camp, Mopani, which took us to 3.30pm ish (about 6 hours driving).

On our first drive through we saw:
Baboon, Elephants, Water Buffalo, Zebra, Giraffe, Water-buck, Harte-beast, Impala (hundreds), Tsessebe, Blue Wildebeest, Nyala, Warthog, Yellow Billed horn-bill and Cape Glossy starling. Not bad for a first game drive.

For dinner we popped to the local cafĂ© and I had deep friend Camembert in filo pastry and a cheeseburger. Four people each having a starter and main plus two bottles of wine - £35.

Wednesday 17 September
Today we got up at 6am for a game drive. Yesterdays temperature peaked at 39c so 14c this morning seemed chilly – but so nice. The drive wasn't hugely successful – LOTS of elephant – which oddly enough camouflage very well into the bush. However we did see: Hippo, male Kudu, which are very rare, Springbok, which are very cute, Klipspringer, Crocodile, Africa fish eagle and a few other birds.

We're off out again this evening so lets see what we get.

Lunch was pizza & a chicken pancake thingy. The views were spectacular though and we seen massive 10ft crocs.

Tonight Jamie is cooking on the braai – our first one since we arrived – the meat looks AMAZING.

Tomorrow we drive to Satara camp with a few stops on the way. Hopefully we see a lion. Would LOVE to see a wildcat but doubtful.

So our evening drive got pretty exciting! We got a little surrounded by elephants and had to wait for them to make their way up. Once we drove down Jamie's mum spotted something moving and it was lion!! We had heard there were three in the area. I think I MAY have spotted two in the morning but I hadn't realised how camouflaged they could be so just thought it was nothing.
The one we did see was purposely strolling up to a heard of zebra, not set to attack but spooking them into running into some nearby bushes. We think the others may have been waiting there but we couldn't see. Hopefully tomorrow is ever more/just as exciting.

Thursday 18 September
Where were you when the vote for Scottish Independence took place?”

Well we were driving from Mopani to Satara through the Kruger National Park with a stop off at Olifants.

We left Mopani at 6am and drove South to Lataba. Once we reached here we started some game viewing. We seen mostly 'everyday stuff' (elephant, zebra etc). We stopped off at Olifants Park which has the most amazing views of the river. There are literally no words to describe it and even pictures haven't done it justice. We saw hippos, baboons, and elephants. Including baby ellies playing in the water, so cute. It was just super.
We left Olifants to drive 52km to Satara and view some antelope and buffalo on the way. We were almost at the camp when we noticed folk had stopped and that's when we saw a cheetah just chilling under a tree. It was pretty far away so pictures were out of the question but we could see with binoculars.

We arrived at Satara camp around lunch time. This time we had a separate hut each, 2 beds and a bathroom. Plus a fridge outside and communal cooking facilities, although one hot plate, an urn and a sink between 30 huts was a bit insane.

We went to their 'restaurant' for lunch – which was basically a 'spoons. So we opted for a braai for dinner. The place had no cutlery, plates or utensils so it was paper plates and plastic cutlery. Not ideal but it did the job and the braai was brilliant.

Jamie & I were booked to go out on a Sunset Drive with one of the park guides and I'm so glad we did.
Firstly we saw:
Black-backed Jackal, Side-Stripped Jackal, Genet (which looked a bit like Rudi cat), a HUGE heard of buffalo – about a hundred plus baby buffalo which didn't look as angry as the adults.
And the biggie – two lions stalking a buffalo then one chasing it down (it got away), it was amazing to watch.
We also seen a whole pride of lion, they couldn't have been closer, we could have literally reached out and touched them. I got to hold the back search light which was pretty cool.

I'm sure there's loads more but it's 10.10pm and after being up at 5.30am I'm a bit tired.

Gutted we didn't see wild cat after they were spotted two days in a row but never mind – there's still 3-4 days viewing left.

Friday 19 September
We were out about 6.30am today, and by 7.30am we were tracking leopard! Exciting! On our way out we were overtaken by some guy doing well above the 40kpm speed limit, only to come across him a bit further up the road almost crashing into a heard of elephant. Main thing I learned was never split a heard, this was what we had done, and I think he had separated a baby and mother – dangerous!!

Jamie then spotted some leopard tracks and we followed them along the road. It HAD been up a tree with its breakfast but some folk were hanging out their vehicle, spoiling the skyline and scared it off. We sat for a while and went back later but no luck. On our evening drive we saw some monkeys playing, hyena, crocs, two different lizards and sadly a tortoise which had died. We had another braai and tried wildebeest, it was fab.
Jamie and I sat up till 10.20 playing cards and having a few beers, scandal!!

Saturday 20 September
Today we traveled from Satara to Pretoriuskop (140km), we stopped off at Skukuza on the way which was very much a 'tourist' camp and very busy.

On our drive this morning we were very lucky to see another pride of lion just at the side of the road , a baby hyena and my first white rhino. Each camp has a map you can mark where you've seen certain animals, because of poaching Rhino aren't marked. So 4 out of 5 of the 'Big 5' with just leopard to go.

We're in little huts again here but each one has an outdoor kitchen, kettles, toasters, cutlery, crockery and a massive bedroom, decent bathroom and huge bay doors. Really cute and nice.

Totally missing Rudi cat now and looking forward to getting home to seeing him. Not wishing our holiday away.

Our evening drive was good, we saw a family of Rhino, mum, dad and baby, very nice to see that in the wild. We tried to track a lion but no luck. We had another braai tonight, besbok skewers, some kind of sausage and Impala steak. Jamies mum made some stirfry veggies which made a difference to just BBQ'd veg.

Sunday 21 September
Unfortunately we haven't seen any bush babies yet – gutted.
Up at 5.30am and out by 6.30am.
Our morning drive was pretty good, some hyena, rhino and Sable antelope. Beautiful creatures.
Tomorrow we head home, one last drive on the way down then 426km to the airport.

Tonight we have an evening drive with a guide. Still leopard left to complete the Big 5, and I'm holding out for wild cat but I doubt it. Our drive left at 6pm and it was already getting dark.

In all honesty I didn't like our guide, he went speeding about, almost crashing into Rhino, shinning lights into elephants eyes (which unless an animal is member of the cat family you should never do), scaring Rhino, wakening them up – he just wasn't great and I felt a bit uneasy when he parked beside an elephant which was clearly pissed off.

However we did manage to see, white mongoose, scrubhare, duiker, Genet, baby rhino, reedbuck, more hyena and lastly, we saw leopard! Just casually strolling down the side of the road as you do!

Big 5 - African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White rhinoceros
Tomorrow we leave at 6am and drive to Berg-en-Dal for breakfast. From there it's 393km to Pretora and then onto Johannesburg. Our flight isn't until 9.50pm and we arrive in London at 7am and from there it's back to Edinburgh. So we should be back to Rudi cat about 1pm, if he's still speaking to us that is.

Our journey back was an interesting one. Jamie did a lot of the driving down and boy are they crazy!!! It was a little ropey at times. We stopped half way at a Wimpy to have some lunch, kind of miss Wimpy here it was the first that I remember here.
Once we reached Johannesburg airport we dropped off the car and our luggage and headed to the Inter Contiental where Jamie's dad treated us to lunch. It was nice to have fresh fruit and veg, plus two bottles of prosecco went down well. After that we went back to the airport to spend the rest of our spending money. Jamie got himself a Springbok t-shirt and I picked up the standard tea towel.

Home time
Our flight back was pretty decent, it was almost empty so we moved and had a row of 4 seats between the two of us. Both being short had it's advantage here and we were able to lay down for a bit and get a few hours sleep. I watched 'The Other Woman' with Cameron Diaz which was quite good.
Getting back into London took AGES. We'd just come off a flight into security but still had to go through three different check points and it took about an hour. Where as on the way down we didn't have to go through anything between Edinburgh and Johannesburg. Anyway, we got back into London to learn Alex Salmon had resigned and then got our flight to Edinburgh. I felt terrible for the business man sitting next to us, after a 10 hour flight at about 8 hours driving I'm sure we weren't the nicest folk to sit next too. I was glad to get back to Jamie's' parents and pick up the car though, it was worth it but it was a lot of traveling too.

I would absolutely love to go back at some point, and for future I would love to take our kids when their old enough to appreciate it. I think personally I'd go back to Cape Town first as there was so much we didn't get to see and do. Plus to have some more of their mussels in garlic & white wine sauce, yum!

Now how on earth do we top a holiday like that next year??

If you'd like to see more pictures from our holiday you can check them out on Flickr

04 November 2014

Marcos Returns

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Lucy at Hot Tin Roof, a PR agency in Edinburgh, to see if I fancied popping along to the reopening of Marcos Pizza & Pool Hall (previously Marcos Leisure) on Grove Street. I immediately jumped at the chance!

You see, back when I was 19 I worked in the old Marcos part-time and loved it so much I quit my government job a year later to work in Marcos full-time. I was mainly on reception or bar and eventually I ended up doing Little Marcos too, dressing up as Marco Bear and doing the hokey cokey. But it was by far the most fun job I've ever had. Marcos used to host 2 pool rooms (31 tables), a full-size competition snooker table, 2 private snooker rooms. Fitness classes, squash courts, a sports bar, a cafe, Little Marcos and the first free weight gym of it's kind in Edinburgh. I remember one night we had Snow Patrol playing downstairs, KT Tunstall playing upstairs and XFM DJs Paul and Fraser playing in the main bar - not too shabby. 

I was absolutely gutted when the main building was demolished and student accommodation built, I had long since left to pastures new but it was a huge part of my life (cheesy I know) so hearing it was returning was just fantastic news.

So yesterday whilst standing in what was the old kitchen looking into the new bar it was quite surreal. The new bar is nice, clean, fresh, and a decent selection of beer starting from £3 a pint which isn't bad at all for being in town. There's even Goose! 
There's also a good selection of bar food, pizza, nachos, chips, again all reasonably priced. Although I did miss the mini TVs on the bar taps that the old place had, those were ingenious. 

The new pool hall is situation downstairs underneath the bar, make sure you stop for a 'selfie' with Marco Bear on your way down.

And also check out the history of Marcos on the walls. 
Did you know Bruce 'The Boss' Springsteen trained in the gym at once!? 

The new hall is hugely different from the old ones, and hugely different from any pool hall I've been in before. 
We had a few games, ending  in a 2-1 victory to Jamie, was pretty cool being the first people to ever play on table #1 though. I think there are about 17 pool tables and prices start at just £5 an hour. So in all honesty, get yourself and your mates along for some eats, drinks and pool stat! 
The official opening is Wednesday 5th November.

One of my favorite parts of the night - this picture. 

I would honestly have a copy in my flat if I knew who the illustrator was.