A Fun & Easy Date Night In (+ Cookbook Giveaway!)

While I do love discovering new restaurants around Edinburgh, Ben and I are definitely the kind of couple that prefer cooking together far more than going out. And while we tend to cook with each other almost every night of the week, having the same sort of one-pot meals can become a bit boring and lose that "special feeling." Having a designated "date night in", however, is the perfect in-between of spending time together in a way that's not too extravagant, but still special.

When I first found Ashley Rodriquez's book Date Night In while browsing the tables at Anthropologie, I knew that it was the type of book I would love. I scanned the pages of her book, pouring over the beautiful images and scrumptious looking recipes, but unfortunately didn't buy it. But today I'm offering all of you readers out there the special opportunity to get your hands on a book I've personally been dying to have!

 At the end of this post, I'll spell out just how you can go about entering for your chance to win the book, but for now, I thought I'd share our own Date Night In inspired dinner.

While we didn't have a copy of the book to refer to while planning our meal, we took to different reviews of Date Night In to see what reader's favorite dishes were! Our first item on the menu was roasted sweet potatoes with bacon and thyme. Working off of this simple Martha Stewart Recipe we crossed our fingers that we would finally get it right and end up with crispy sweet potatoes. Unfortunately, this wasn't the case- but if anyone knows how to make them crispy instead of soggy please tell me your secret! Despite the off texture of our sweet potatoes, the flavors from the bacon and thyme made for exactly the sort of autumn comfort food we were after. 

What I think is most important for having a date-night in is that the meal must fall into one of two categories: 

1.) Elegant, sophisticated (and, dare I say sexy?) dishes. 
2.) Fun, exciting food that you would normally eat in a restaurant. 

For our meal we went with the "fun" aspect, which was perfectly epitomized in Ben's genius idea to make onion rings as a sort of pre-dinner snack. We had all the ingredients we needed already, so it was a no-brainer. Inspired by this easy-to-follow recipe we set about filling a pot with loads of vegetable oil as a make-shift deep frier. I was skeptical at first, but the results were incredible. Warm, but still slightly crisp, onions surrounded by a fluffy, crunchy batter- we were in heaven.  

For the main event, we were inspired by Date Night In's well-regarded honey siracha chicken wings recipe, improvising a bit on the glaze. Still in line with our "fun" theme, this addictive food was not for the type of couple that's just starting out- you'll want to know each other pretty well before you witness your partner licking sauce off their fingers. While not the most aesthetically pleasing of dishes, I promise you they were good. 

For dessert, which as you probably already know is my personal strong-suit, we kept things light and fruity with a classically British dessert, Eton Mess. Initially, we thought we would buy the meringues, but after we couldn't find them in Tesco, I settled on making them. While the might look finnicky, meringues are actually incredibly easy to make by just whipping egg whites and sugar together before baking them at a low heat for just under two hours. Plus, with a dish like Eton Mess, your meringues can be as lopsided as you want- it all ends up being crushed anyway! (though I think mine do look pretty good)

Just layer the crushed meringues with whipped cream and tart strawberries, top with some mint, and you have a beautiful and romantic dessert. The perfect way to finish off your date night in! 

Now that you're inspired to have your own date-night in, why not enter for a chance to win the whole cookbook? 

*No purchase necessary, US residents only*

 I'll be thoroughly jealous of whoever wins! 


36 Hours in Dublin

Sometimes 36 hours is all you've got for a weekend break. Is it difficult? Maybe a little bit. Is it doable? Definitely!

I've always been a big fan of condensed travel-guides- from the "New York Times 36 Hours In..." series to Anthony Bourdain's TV Show "The Layover." Something about the challenge of fitting all of your sightseeing into a short period of time has always been attractive to me.

And maybe that's because weekend trips are really what's most realistic for me. Time-wise, weekends away are best because I don't have to sacrifice any lectures, tutorials, or meetings. And money-wise, taking two days for a trip means you only have to pay for one night in a hotel! I'd say it's a win-win.

Over the summer, Ryanair was having a very premature sale that was meant to celebrate the UK staying in the EU. Of course we all know how that went, but Ben and I were still able to reap the rewards of their sale, picking up some dirt cheap flights to Dublin. Fast forward to October, and we were zooming off to the airport early on a Saturday morning to start our mini-holiday. 

As far as accommodation in Dublin goes, it was not nearly as cheap as we thought it would be. They have a wide range of hostels and hotels available, but if you're used to the hostel prices on continental Europe, then you're in for a rude awakening. A standard hostel in a dorm will probably put you back about 25-30 per night. If you stay on the North side, you might be able to get a better deal (as it's less central to the main sights). 

We stayed at the MEC hostel on the North side of Dublin. Once a large townhouse, the MEC hostel is located on a quaint, residential street that is almost always quiet despite it being around the corner from the main road. Upon arriving in Dublin (we took the airport bus for 10 return), we dumped our bags at the hostel- that is, after I had properly marveled at the beautiful foliage surrounding the nearby buildings #instagramgoals. 

Eager to explore the city, we wandered around the North Side before meeting our guide at the Spire to start on a free walking tour. It's easy to get caught up in the hordes of tour-guides offering tours (usually for money but sometimes free of charge), but do your research beforehand to find one that's right for you. I'm a strong supporter of free walking tours because they're largely tips-based meaning the guides work really hard to give you a good experience. Plus, the guides are usually locals themselves who truly love their city (I did one in Venice as well as Barcelona and have never been disappointed!). 

Our guide, James, was everything you could ever want in a tour guide- witty, friendly, and hugely knowledgeable. While 3 hours might seem like a long time, the tour flies by as James takes you around the sights. From the Trinity College Campus to Dublin Castle to St. Patrick's Cathedral, James kept us engaged and entertained with his many tongue-in-cheek Irish accents. He also provided us with some helpful tips on where to go and where to avoid (long story short: avoid Temple Bar at night- they'll charge you €9 for a pint!) 

After hours on our feet, Ben and I were starving and ready to eat just about anything in sight. On this trip, we weren't too concerned with seeking out "authentic" Irish pubs and restaurants, as the cuisine is quite similar to that in Edinburgh. Instead, we were on the hunt for cheap, student-friendly food. We found just that at Pablo Picante in Temple Bar, which serves up hefty burritos that will fill you up for just €6.50 with a student card. You'll find a smattering of these burrito bars around Dublin, so keep your eyes peeled. Though you won't be able to miss it with signage like this: 

Fueled by the power of Mexican food, we sauntered down the River Liffey (taking a few quick snaps by the iconic ha'Penny bridge) and made our way towards our next stop: the Guinness Factory. We were a bit early for our 5PM time slot, so we found a nearby pub to warm up in, where I immediately experienced the consequences of ordering any drink that isn't Guinness. Pro tip: if it isn't Guinness (or another Irish beer) it's not worth the price tag. This was probably the first time in my life I ever regretted ordering a gin and tonic. 

After our cheeky afternoon drink, we were ready to find out the nitty gritty details of how Ireland's most popular beer is made. We were pleased with our decision to book our tickets in advance online, that way we didn't have to brace ourselves for the long lines to come. 

The first bit of our self-guided tour was a bit of a disappointment- it was crowded, and it felt like we were being shepherded along from floor to floor without having enough time to absorb the information. Luckily, the further we went up, the less crowded it became. The Guinness Storehouse has a lot to offer, using the latest technology to explain how Guinness is made. Even if you aren't a big beer drinker you'll find it hard to resist a pint (or at least a sip in the tasting room). The best part of the tour is arguably the views from the top. But don't expect an unobstructed view- it gets crowded.

Full of booze and in need of some dinner, we set off toward the more student-centric part of Dublin. We had two restaurants in mind down on Camden Street, but unfortunately one was just too busy for us to feasibly eat at before closing. Luckily, we found that Green Nineteen served food late, and we'd have to wait just 45 minutes. A perfect excuse to duck into a nearby bar, grab a pint (cider for me), and listen to some live music with a group of rowdy pub-goers. 

We found that Green Nineteen was exactly what we were looking for that night- a casual atmosphere, local food, and a reasonable price. I was keen to have a burger no matter where we went, and at just €10 I couldn't say no to this organic Irish patty doused in homemade ketchup. Ben ordered the pork belly with savoy cabbage and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit jealous. Since we nixed drinks with dinner (it had been a pretty boozy day) we splurged on dessert instead- a fudgy brownie for me and a zingy lemon tart for Ben. Talk about perfection. 

The next morning we decided to keep things close to home and opted for the €2 breakfast at the hostel. It did the trick, offering up toast, cereal, and juice among other things. We kept our second day relatively chill compared to the first, strolling around St. Stephen's Green before popping into the Dubarry store for some wishful thinking. We even took in some (free!) culture at the National Gallery which, while small, housed some pretty significant works by the likes of Picasso and Monet. 

What had to be the highlight of our stay was seeing my Grandparents whose Dublin trip just happened to overlap with ours! We booked a roast lunch at the Exchequer and all of us were thoroughly impressed by the sheer size of the meal. Tender beef, honeyed carrots, fluffy potatoes, and garlicky stuffing all made for the perfect meal to catch up over before parting ways. 

We still had one more stop to make before heading back to Edinburgh, and that was the Natural History Museum. Another of Dublin's many free museums, the Natural History Museum looked straight out of an old-fashioned storybook with "stuffed" animals every way you look in displays that seemed as though they had not been touched since 1900.

It felt as though we had left as soon as we had arrived, but we had truly packed so much into our mini-stay in Dublin. And with what seemed like a snap of our fingers, our 36 hours in Dublin had ended and it was back to uni we went. 


Get Your Street Food Fix: Tuk Tuk Edinburgh's New Tiffin Lunch

Street food is all the rage right now. But you won't find hordes of food trucks parked around Edinburgh. Instead, you'll find these quick and budget-friendly meals at any number of brick-and-mortar restaurants dotted around town.

A pioneer in establishing Edinburgh's newfound authority in the street food scene, Tuk Tuk aims to reinvent Indian food's (unjustified) reputation as "just curry and rice," while still maintaining traditional flavors. The brightly-colored eatery located in Tollcross is known for its Indian-style tapas; small plates of vegetable samosas and single-portion bowls of addictive butter chicken let you have a little bit of everything.

My personal relationship with Indian food is a bit, well, complicated. Boston doesn't really have a strong Indian restaurant scene, and I wasn't too keen on spice a few years ago. Luckily, my best friend and neighbor from home (who happens to be Indian) educated me on the cuisine, leaving me with a more authentic sense of Indian food. Fast forward to now, and I can guarantee you that at least three Indian restaurants top my "favorite places to eat" list.

And Tuk Tuk certainly falls on that list. But I'm not writing here to tell you about Tuk Tuk's regular menu. I'm writing to introduce you to their new lunch concept that takes the best of Tuk Tuk's standby dishes, and combines it with an incredible value for money.

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have a sneak preview of Tuk Tuk's new lunch menu, along with a few other Edinburgh Bloggers. We chatted, exchanged instagram handles, and indulged in the warm and homey spices of Tuk Tuk's tiffin special.

Here's how it works: For just £12 you can treat yourself to a starter, two mains (one meat, one vegetarian) and a side of either rice or naan. In true Tuk Tuk style, the portion sizes are on the smaller side- but I promise you'll be fuller than you expected by the end of it.  

If you're not familiar with the concept of tiffins, here's the lowdown: Tiffins are traditionally used in India to transport packed lunches for workers and students, and are usually delivered to offices by either on foot or by bike. Think of it as the Deliveroo of India- but better.

For my tiffin, I started with the mixed pakora- an assortment of fresh vegetables fried to perfection. When I've had pakora before, it's always been in the form of vegetables mixed into a ball of sorts and fried together. These ones were especially tasty because they were individual slices of veggies, coated in a thick (but not too thick!) batter.

Always one to opt for other kinds of meat over chicken, I chose the lamb curry. The succulent lamb was drenched in a rich, peppery sauce with just enough heat to pack a manageable punch. My vegetarian choice, saag paneer, ticked all the boxes- creamy spinach and mild cheese with just a touch of crispiness on the outside.

Faced with a number of naan choices to pair with my meal, I went for a personal favorite, peshwari naan. The perfect sweet complement to a spicy meal, peshwari naan should be at the top of your list if you haven't tried it before.

An authentic way to explore India's diverse cuisine at a reasonable price, Tuk Tuk's Tiffin lunch menu is the perfect antidote for you rainy-day essay slump. While it hasn't been offered up in the restaurant quite yet, look out for the new menu to launch at the end of the month or beginning of November. You can check out Tuk Tuk's daily menu here.

And if that isn't enough to be excited about, Tuk Tuk is growing! Expanding its reach to neighboring Glasgow, Tuk Tuk will be opening up on Sauchiehall Street. The exact opening date is currently on the DL, but rumor has it, it will be opening sometime in November!

Happy eating :)

Thank you to Tuk Tuk for hosting us at their Edinburgh Restaurant! 


Am I Doing Enough?

Am I doing enough? 

That's the question that kept me up one night. The question that had me checking my CV at some ungodly hour thinking maybe there's something I can add here.

At 20 years old, am I doing enough?

Maybe it's when I finally bit the bullet and signed up for LinkedIn a few months ago that got me into this mindset. LinkedIn: the manifestation of the competitive and comparative culture that has been engrained into my mind since the start of my public (yes- public, not private) high school.

Want to know what sort of professional experience your closest friends, or most distant acquaintances have? LinkedIn is your place. You can browse the resumes of millions on one website, and see how many "connections" they have. It's social media stalking to the extreme. But instead of comparing boyfriends and family vacations, you're measuring yourself up to see who's really "ahead" in the game.

Suddenly, having a little blog where I write about my weekly happenings doesn't seem so impressive. In fact, I've heard from some that it can count against you in a job interview. My "special skills?" Well, I can use Microsoft Word as well as any other average Joe so writing that out on a resume seems redundant. I use Twitter too, like most any other millennial. But you won't see thousands of retweets on mine.

And with all the time I spend involving myself in societies, what's really going to "look good" to employers, as they say? Certainly not running club, nor choir, nor reeling.

And so I add and subtract and multiply the factors which will eventually equal some form of employment. The type of employment that will hopefully impress my friends, family-members, and long-forgotten classmates. But it doesn't seem to add up.

The sugar-coated saying of "do what you love and it will all work out!" does not seem to align with a world that values a status-driven version of success more than anything else. But even though it's been drilled into my head that I need to bulk-out my CV to reach that point, I can't bear to subscribe to this dismal request. That everything I do is for a piece of paper that an employer can take or leave. Because I would rather do the things I do for the sake of loving them.

And that's not to say I'm the kind of person who has the means to throw caution to the wind and not do anything to further my career. I'm far too practical (and financially unstable) to pack up and leave to "find myself" in a far away land because I refuse to give into this crazy notion of "adult life."

But for what it's worth, I think it's far too much to ask of a 20 year old to have the work experience expected of a 30 year old just a generation before. It's a competitive world- I know it, I've lived it- but at this point I think we're making it too competitive for ourselves. In which case, we are our own worst enemies- raising the expectations by offering more and more of ourselves until there's nothing left to give.

And while I know that graduation is looming (in two years- but it might as well be next week the way my classmates and professors talk about it), I know that I will be fine. Of course, I can always do more. But am I doing enough?

Well, I guess that's up to me to decide.


13 Things I Learned from Racing 13 (.1) Miles

This weekend was one for the books. I ran my first half marathon ever at the Great Scottish Run in Glasgow. And to be honest, I think I'm still on a runners high from it.

Now, I'm gonna be real with you here for a second. I'm not sitting here thinking "Wow, I never thought I could run that far!" I 100% knew that I could. I'm one of those crazy people who thinks that running for hours is fun. So I'm not about to go on to you about how this was some amazing feat of human strength from an unassuming girl who didn't believe in herself. No, no- this is not one of those posts.

Instead, I thought I'd share just a few fun (and maybe even ~wise~) tidbits about what I learned from racing (and training for) my first half marathon. In the form of a list of 13 of course- because I'm just cute like that.

1.) Proper training is important. Like, really important. I know that if I hadn't spent a few months training in advance, I would've seriously injured myself (more than just the general soreness/fatigue I'm feeling at the moment). Whether this means training 4, 5, or 6 days per week at low or high mileage, you can't just go from 0 to 13.1 and expect to be okay.

2.) Having a training plan makes things a whole lot easier. I was living and dying by my planner this summer. I found a training plan online (which you can read about here), adjusted it to fit my needs, and wrote down my desired mileage for every. single. day. leading up to the race. Without a plan, I probably would've run just a few miles here and there and called it quits.

3.) Having an off day (or week) doesn't mean you're doomed to fail. I was a bit bummed these past few weeks because I felt like I was barely meeting my mileage quota (and sometimes shorted my runs by a few miles because of time constraints). But in the end, it really didn't affect my race because I knew that I had put in the work long term.

4.) You need a lot of time to train. I honestly don't think I would've been able to train for this without having the time during the summer. Almost all of my friends were away for the majority of the summer, so I had tons of time to devote to running after work. If I were to do a half marathon during term time I think I would stress myself out way to much.

5.) #RaceDayGoals don't have to be big and scary. I set myself a very general goal of running under 2 hours, and just having a good time. I did just that and more! Especially if its your first time racing a half, I wouldn't put too much pressure on yourself.

6.) Big group warmups might seem silly, but they're super fun. I came up to the starting line and found that the group warmup consisted of a hyped-up guy on a microphone leading everyone in synchronized dance moves. I cringed at first, but finally gave into the simultaneous squatting. I didn't know anyone around me, so why not?

7.) Crowds can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Crowded races are fun because the atmosphere is contagious and you feel like you're all in this together. But when the crowds are big, the start can be particularly slow. So don't judge your race on your first mile.

8.) Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. Whether it's doing race-math as you pass each mile or counting how many people you can pass in a certain span of time, there are lots of ways to keep mentally sane during the race. More than anything though, you have to stay positive the whole time- or else it's really an uphill battle.

9.) I don't understand people who race with headphones. Okay, this isn't exactly something I learned, per se, but it's valid nonetheless. If you're racing with headphones in and your own music blasting, you might as well be running by yourself. The loud and crazy atmosphere is half of the fun anyway!

10.) Racing is an incredible way to explore a new city. Prior to this race, I had never been to Glasgow. Hard to believe considering I've lived in Scotland for two years now, right? Being able to race through the city (and even the suburbs and parks!) of Glasgow was a great way to experience a new place.

11.) It's important to have someone there to watch you. Especially if you're running alone like I was. I don't know what I would've done without Ben being there to cheer me on. Granted, I only saw him at the start and finish (the middle section of the race was a bit inaccessible), but it was nice to know I had someone there to support me.

12.) There's nothing better than post-race food. I mean, just look at how happy I am to be digging into this ice cream from Paesano? Utter bliss.

13.) I am 100% a long distance runner at heart. I've honestly never been happier during a race. While I normally feel happy once I've completed a race, this time I felt absolutely giddy throughout. Each mile I completed was a mini-accomplishment and I felt like I was flying the entire time. Call me crazy, but I think these longer-distance races are kinda my thing.

So what's next now that I've run my first half marathon? Well, I guess I'll just have to sign up for another! Or maybe even a full marathon is on the cards...
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