Starbucks vs. Costa – a dairy-free battle (Spoiler: Costa win)

Our daughter can’t have dairy. She’s not vegan – she’ll plough through her weight in spicy chicken wings or my weight in bacon rolls – but milk and milk products make ill. She’s only six so we try hard to make sure that she doesn’t get treated differently and still gets a choice of things to eat. Life’s hard enough without having a food complex. Most places this is fine – whether we’re at home or travelling we’ve found great food and lots of good choices for an adventurous young foodie. That is until we get to chain coffee shops.

The mini one’s swimming lessons happen near a Starbucks and last weekend we popped in for a rare post-swimming treat. I was disappointed to hear from the Starbucks staff that there’s not a single Starbucks sweet, cakey foodstuff of any kind which doesn’t contain dairy. The six-year-old wasn’t surprised and told me Costa was better (known from her elephant-like memory, not her frequent visits).

Here’s the breakdown of all dairy-free food available according to the current Christmas Starbucks allergen menu (available here):

  • Breakfast products
    • Luxury Fruit Toast
    • Soy porridge
    • Dried fruit mix
  • Snack bags
    • Almonds, Cashews, Cranberries & Raisins
    • Smoked Almonds
  • Impulse range
    • Raw Raspberry & Nut Bar
    • Peanut and Cashew Bar
    • Sugar-Free Peppermints
    • Sugar-Free Spearmints
    • Sugar-Free Gum
    • Sweeties
    • Dark Chocolate Bar

That list seems long but the store didn’t have the full Impulse range so didn’t have any cereal bars, it wasn’t breakfast time and a bag of nuts isn’t going to cut it when everyone else wants to eat a bit of cake.

Here’s Costa‘s menu (found here and here):

  • Christmas
    • Vegan Christmas Cake Slice
    • Gingerbread Biscuit (Jumper)
  • Blueberry Muffin
  • Impulse
    • Fruity Crumble
    • Chilli And Lime Mix
    • Fruit And Nut Mix
    • Dried Mango
    • Gingerbread Biscuit (Lion and Elephant)
    • Mini Pecan Pie
    • Mini Bakewell Tarts

Seven decent, kid-approved cakey choices from Costa vs. a big, round zero from Starbucks. The ball’s in your court Starbucks – how’s your 2017 spring menu going to look for six-year-old cake lovers?

The art of the recut

Sometimes the version of a movie that you watch isn’t quite what other people want to watch. Directors cuts have been around since the 1980’s (Blade Runner being a pretty important film where director Ridley Scott had a very different idea of what should be released when compared to the original final cut). Similarly there are a few amazing amateur film editors out there who re-cut or piece together parts of films, tv shows and music videos to create their own preferred version.

Amateur edits of movies have probably always been out there but Baader-Meinhof phenomenon kicked in recently and I started spotting recut versions of films EVERYWHERE so I thought that I’d share some of my favourites.

To fans of the Harry Potter series Severus Snape is a very important character – this recut takes only Severus’ story and puts his most important scenes into chronological order. It may seem whimsical but this makes Snape’s story seem so much sadder than it seemed when told as only a part of the bigger saga.

There is an amazing cut of Pulp Fiction which has the entire film put back into chronological order – unfortunately it looks like it’s been removed from YouTube but it’s worth doing a bit of a google to see if it’s out there somewhere. Something really interesting here is that you don’t need to pay anywhere near as much attention – much of Tarantino’s art as a storyteller has been removed as the interesting leaps are all gone. It feels weird to me – dumbed down without making any changes to the content, just how it’s ordered – but that makes it all the more worthy of a watch. [There’s also a chronological cut of the entirety of the Lost tv series – I’ve not watched it but I’ve heard that it totally wipes out the mystery!]

Star Wars VI:Return of the Jedi featured the epic space battle… but it was muddled up with the Ewok battle and also Han and Darth duelling it out – this video is all pew-pew, no Ewokese. If you’d asked me how long the space battle lasted in ROTJ I’d probably have said 2-3 mins, not the eight and a half that it actually has. Putting it all together totally changes my impression of the film and, in fact, puts the star wars back into Star Wars.

To finish off… there’s Marvel. The Marvel universe is truly massive and the film series is expanding at an insane rate to try to catch up. This summary is 13 minutes of awesome, really giving you the history of the Avengers and all the other characters. But there’s something else out there – all of the movies with all the segments recut into the correct order! I love the idea of this project so much. Needless to say there’s nowhere available for you to download this, you’re going to have to do the epic work yourself

Tea-Stained Map Making

Staining paper with tea bags
Improvised drying line
Drawing the maps… X marks the spot!
Drawing the maps… sunbathing on the beach
Drawing the maps… a mermaid!
Drawing the maps… my attempt!
Drawing the maps… my attempt at a tea-stained map.

2014 End Of The Year Roundup

Happy Hogmanay!

I’ve made it my tradition to look back over the year come December 31st and it seems to me that this year has been seriously busy and, as a result has flown by. As well as much great music, film and tv which I’ve mostly enjoyed alone (all below) as a family we’ve had great food, great holidays (Durham, Braehead, Norfolk, Hawick, Berwick, camping and Ardnamurchan), great gigs (God Help The Girl and Penguin Cafe), great day-trips (falconry, the Highland Show, the Kelpies and the wildlife park) and so many great Martha moments (the Nativity and the Ryder Cup photoshoot to name just two!). Ruth did the Moonwalk, made cakes for Cakes For Kids and joined a choir – all great to be involved in with her. We also fitted in a fab wedding (and Stag Doo), the Book Festival, Fringe and Festival Fireworks, I went to Rome with work and I brewed approximately once every month… what a crazy year!

Music – My Favourite Music From 2014

Aside from the Disney Princesses playlist, Nick Cope and the Frozen soundtrack here’s what I was listening to:

  • Nine Inch Nails – saw them again and listen to them loads at work
  • Foo Fighters – loving the new album and the documentary that went with it
  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Gone Girl awesomeness
  • Muse – loving the Live in Rome performance
  • Royal Blood – so much noise from a 2 piece!
  • Ленинград – some crazy Russian-ness
  • God Help The Girl – a real labour of love
  • King Creosote  – From Scotland With Love is a pretty impressive album
  • Machine Head – the heavier end of my year’s listening
  • Chvrches – saw them… it was great

Films – My Favourite Films From 2014

  • Argo
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Contagion
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Safety Not Guaranteed
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • God Help the Girl
  • Where Eagles Dare
  • Gone Girl

Films – My Least Favourite Films From 2014

Nothing could beat “Plan 9 From Outer Space” from last year… but I have seen several films that I gave less than 40% to

  • Priest
  • Godzilla
  • Bullet To The Head
  • Cleanskin
  • Green Lantern
  • Rock Of Ages
  • Now You See Me
  • Riddick
  • Oldboy

TV – My Favourite TV From 2014

  • The Walking Dead
  • Twin Peaks
  • Agents Of Shield
  • Under The Dome
  • The 100
  • Game Of Thrones
  • House of Cards

Books – My Favourite Reads Of 2014

I’ve done even less reading than last year 🙁 but here are the highlights:

  • Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl
  • Neal Stephenson – Snow Crash
  • Tom Acitelli – The Audacity Of Hops
  • Dave Eggers – The Circle
  • Andrew Davidson – The Gargoyle

2015 Resolutions

There are so many things that it would be awesome to achieve and I’m not so sure that resolutions help… instead I’m going to try to just keep aiming for awesome in everything that I do!

2013 End Of The Year Roundup

Happy Hogmanay!
It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to round off the year with a post reminding myself of some of the good things in the year. Having a toddler makes life mega busy and we’ve some had some great days and holidays this year, including our roadtrip to France, a holiday with friends and various other little weekends away. The year has involved a birth, a wedding and lots of birthday parties – all very exciting in different ways. Blogging-wise I listened to every album on Kurt Cobain’s top 50 – an achievement of endurance I feel. I completed my 30 challenges before my 30th birthday – great fun. We’ve started a little Tuesday film club and we’ve watched some great films so far. I’ve also done quite a bit of brewing, learning loads in the process – I just need to drink them more quickly!

Music – My Favourite Music From 2013

My top 3 last year were Trent Reznor, Chvrches and Frightened Rabbit… and Last FM tells me that nothing has changed this year.

  • Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks: Awesome album #1 (I’ve also continued to listen to Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Ghosts I-IV and Year Zero… and am seeing NIN live again next year)
  • Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse: Awesome album #2 (I’ve intentionally not listened to it too much so I don’t spoil it!)
  • Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe: Awesome album #3 (everything I’d hoped for and more)
  • Dum Dum Girls – End Of Daze: I don’t know why I love this EP so much but I really really really do!
  • SONOIO – RED: old music recently discovered
  • Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City: a really good album that easily blasts their older stuff out of the water… instant classic!
  • The “Oh, Pioneer!” mixtapes – well worthy of a listen

Films – My Favourite Films From 2013

  • Trollhunter
  • Skyfall
  • Cockneys Vs Zombies
  • 30 Minutes Or Less
  • Perks Of Being A Wallflower
  • Source Code
  • Iron Man 3
  • Searching For Sugar Man
  • Taken 2
  • Robot & Frank

Films – My Least Favourite Films From 2013

  • Plan 9 from Outer Space
  • Shock Treatment
  • My Sassy Girl (Korean)
  • Idiocracy (Overall winner)
  • Skyline
  • Twilight Eclipse

Books – My Favourite Reads Of 2013

I’ve done so little reading this year but here are some highlights:

  • Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter – The Long Earth
  • Warren Ellis – Iron Man: Extremis
  • Len Deighton – Berlin Game
  • Neal Stephenson – Anathem (part of the reason I’ve not read as much… it’s epic!)
  • Joe Sacco – Safe Area Gorazde
  • Rob Gifford – China Road
  • Neil Gaiman – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

2014 Resolutions

  • Get away on more family holidays
  • Go camping more often
  • Get fitter
  • Make the house feel more organised

Happy Birthday Craig

Happy birthday Craig – here’s a playlist of some of the bands I know that you like. (Sorry if the track choice is odd… tracks were mostly chosen from ones I like!)

C   Chvrches – Recover
R   Radiohead – Just
A   Alabama Shakes – Hold On
I   Idlewild – American English
G   Come On Gang! – Start The Sound

H   Withered Hand – Religious Songs
P   Prince – Purple Rain

N   Nina Nesbitt – Stay Out
E   Elliot Smith – Between The Bars
I   Interpol – Slow Hands
L   Lidh – Rockpool Hospital
S   Bruce Springsteen – Devils & Dust
O   Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
N   New Order – World In Motion

A Treasure Hunt In Leith












2013-07-20 20.20.19

For Martha and Ruth’s birthday I planned a treasure hunt around Leith. It took a while to draw the images, make the QR codes, layout the text, plan the locations, get the stickers printed, bury the treasure and stick up the stickers… but it was well worth it! Here’s how it works:

  • Scan a QR code, get a picture map (for Ruth)
  • Get a photo of the location (for Martha)
  • Go to the location
  • Find the next sticker… and repeat
  • Follow the clues until you reach our friend’s garden…
  • And dig where X marks the spot
  • Eat a Dirty Pirate Popsicle to celebrate

Worth doing – Martha and Ruth seemed to enjoy it.