Going to see a ballet has become a winter staple for me as festivities approach. The Nutcracker is a classic and with music that is so iconic, it was a must see!
The Russian State Ballet has established itself as one of Russia’s leading ballet companies and first visit to Dundee was met with high excitement. This was to the extent where little girls were dressed up as ballerinas, the sense of an enjoyable family gathering was evident.
Their performance upheld their international reputation of of outstanding quality and unusual depth. Both the soloists and the corps de ballet have been highly praised by critics throughout the tour. The soloists demonstrated grace, strength and power as they leapt across the stage. The attention to detail with the choreography was great where the dancers were jumping and being lifted to the exact same height. Their serene faces made the whole production look effortless.
The portable and simplistic set was elegant and added just the right touch of wintry magic. The costume design was bright an colourful, with the sugar plum fairy’s tutu adorned with sequins and did not disappoint!
Yes there were some tongue-in-cheek stereotypes when it came to Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, Russian Dancers as well as the Danish Shepherdesses but what can you expect from a 125 year old opus?
The orchestra’s support to the dancers was met by rapturous applause. Their expressive tone made sure the audience heard the famous themes with clarity and authenticity at which Tchaikovsky intended.
Having seen numerous ballets, this truly captured the magic of Christmas without feeling like you were celebrating too early!
Autumn is finally here! As September draws to an end, the nights are getting longer and that nip in the Scottish air is upon us. The perfect sweater weather!
I was fortunate enough for one of the neighbours to drop off some lovely apples and pears growing in his garden this afternoon so I instantly thought of coming up with the perfect comfort food recipe to make the most of them and celebrate the autumnal season being upon us once again!
Method 1) Place your sliced apples into a saucepan of boiling water, cook until soft.
2) Once soft, drain the water from the pan and add the jam and pears and cinnamon, stirring on a low heat until all fruit is soft.
3) Take pan off the heat and mash fruit with a fork until in a lumpy, incorporated consistency. Set aside to cool.
4) Add sugar, flour and butter into a cold bowl and rub together to form breadcrumbs. Alternatively if you are lazy (like me), add ingredients into a food processor and blitz until breadcrumbs.
5) Place silicon cupcake moulds into a cupcake pan and measure 1 generous tbsp of fruit mixture into each mould. Then top with 1 level tbsp of crumble mixture or enough to evenly cover over the fruit mix.
6) Place in a preheated oven at 160 degrees for 15 minutes.
ENJOY WITH HOT VANILLA CUSTARD!
Have you tried this recipe? Let me know your thoughts.
Share it on Instagram and don’t forget to tag me @teaandbake
As a lover of a gin or two, I was excited when it was announced that Dundee was hosting its first gin fayre, showcasing predominantly Scotland’s finest gins. The tickets flew thick and fast and I was lucky to obtain a ticket for their late afternoon session.
Originally meant to be hosted at Dundee University’s Bonar Hall, it was changed last minute to a canteen in a building behind the University’s art school, Duncan of Jordanstone. This sadly resulted in poor signage and a collection of confused ticket holders congregating on the Perth Road with no assistance as to where the venue was located. But we all eventually managed to find our destination through what appeared to be a service entrance. The chaos, however didn’t end there, the stalls were squeezed into a small space with couches from the Student’s Union, making it look more like a jumbled car boot sale than an exclusive event and made what should’ve been a relaxed movement of people into a chaotic mash.
Despite the poor infrastructure of the event, the spirits (no pun intended) were high. We were greeted with an ice cold glass of Gin & Tonic with lemon syrup a slice of lemon garnish. An easy drink to start the afternoon. We were all given a Gin Handbook, detailing the vendors present and 10 tokens to obtain samples. There were over 20 vendors to chose from, most of them in gin samples, so I had to be savvy in my selections.
My first go to was my favourite Gin Distillery, Eden Mill. They have recently released a new range of Gin Liqueurs. I sampled the Pear and Cassia which was sweet enough not to taste syrupy. It will definitely be on my list to be picked up on Pay day!
My next stop was to visit The Gin Bothy. I was instantly drawn to the unusually named gin called ‘Gunshot’. Hunters in the Angus Glens where the distillery is based nicknamed the company’s seasonal Mulled gin ‘Gunshot’ as is it was the chosen tipple in their hipflasks to warm them up in the winter. Thus the name was born to sell the gin all year round. What a great story behind a warm gin laced with cinnamon, cloves & mixed spices.
With it being the Dundee Gin Fayre, a must on the list was to try something from the Dundee Gin Company. The bubbly staff were keen for me to try their Marmalade Gin Liqueur and were full of facts. One fact of note is that is only has 10% sugar, reasonably lower compared to its competitors. It tasted quite similar to Cointreau, with rich warm orange notes. As a lover of Cointreau, this would definitely hold up as a just as refreshing alternative.
Through the throngs of people, I was drawn to the beautiful bottle of the Wild Island Gin. Crafted around their native growing botanicals, this Colonsay based distillery prides itself on being smooth and an easy drink. The best ‘classic’ tasting gin I have ever had.
My favourite gin of the afternoon was the Orkney Gin Company’s Rhubarb Old Tom. The company uses a bathtub style method to produce small batches and is distilled seven times. This flavour in particular has a variety of notes which includes rose, cinnamon and Seville orange peel to compliment the seasonal local rhubarb.
It wasn’t all about the drinks however. There was a plethora of gin accessories for any gin lover. Scottish Borders distillery Lilliard had a wonderful selection of Gin scented candles. Maxwell’s Desserts also sold a variety of baked goods containing Persie’s gin, from Gin Chocolate Mousse Cups to Gin infused Marshmallows. Naturally I picked up some goodies to enjoy when I got home and they most certainly did not disappoint!
I hope No 18 (the event organisers) learn from their mistakes in how they exectuded Dundee’s first ever Gin Fayre. I look forward to them touring again and seeing their improvements.
Were you at the Dundee Gin Fayre? What were your thoughts?
As part of my Hometown Tourist adventures, I wanted to go see some local sport. Having a family who is very fond of football and avid Dundee FC supporters, I have spent countless moments of my early childhood at Dens Park supporting the Dark Blues. So I wanted to avoid such a sport for now and do something different.
Having racked my brain about what else there is in Dundee to spectate, it suddenly came to me. Ice Hockey! Upon further research, I found they actually weren’t half bad having won several titles since its foundation in 2001 including the ‘British National League Playoff Championships’ twice and the ‘Gardiner Conference Championship’. Upon doing more research, I was shocked at the diversity of the team which is made up of Korean-Americans, Swedes and Canadians as well as people from Scotland.
How have I never looked into this before?!
My only understanding of ice hockey comes from watching ‘The Mighty Ducks’ as a kid, so I entered the ice arena with very little knowledge and expectations of what my evening’s experience would be.
The first thing about my evening I noticed was the support. There was over 1,000 spectators that night, with a large majority wearing their team’s ice hockey merchandise. The atmosphere was very family oriented and full of excitement with lots of small children present. Some spectators brought drums to beat whilst the crowds were chanting for their teams.
The second thing of note is that the game is fast. The puck is constantly whizzing around the rink and in the air. Thankfully they have nets in place to catch most of the stray pucks! One lucky young boy managed to even catch a puck that went rogue in one of the stands. The players are skating around at lightening speed, you never know where to look!
The game is played in 3 sections of 20 minutes and there was a lot of pauses for team players to come on/off the rink. I never realised how high impact the game was so that the players can only be on the ice for short bursts of time.
The third thing of note about my first experience of ice hockey is that it is violent. Especially towards the end of the games when every second is crucial to getting that final goal. Sticks were flying, players were crashing into eachother and throwing themselves down onto the ice to make a shot… there was never a dull moment!
The Dundee Stars stormed the first third, having a healthy lead against the Fife Flyers at 5 – 1. The second part of the match was quite subdued with a finishing score of 7 – 2. Then finally Fife came clawing back in a heart-in-mouth final, putting the score to 7 – 5.
So for the perfect entertaining family full of excitement and fast-paced action, check out some ice hockey at your local rink! It’s definitely an experience you will thoroughly enjoy!
Reader, I have lived in a few places in my life so far and was lucky enough with a former employer, to be based in two of the UK’s best cities, London and Edinburgh. I lived in London for 18 months between 2013 and 2014, moving to Edinburgh which I left in March 2017. This is my personal experience and thoughts of living in both these incredible places and which is the best city to live in overall.
Public Transport London- The sacred Oyster Card. Who is a Londoner without it? It doesn’t matter where you’re going in the city or at what time, you will most certainly get there without needing a taxi. The well connected Underground have trains getting you to your desired destination every 2-5 minutes. Let’s not even start talking about 24hour buses! Your 3am flight from Stanstead will be a walk in the park.
Edinburgh – Now with the Trams, Edinburgh transport has gotten considerably better however there are still problems with Edinburgh’s transport system. Trains are always late and buses are nowhere near as frequent as London. If you’re enjoying a night out, bus timetables need to be watched or a taxi might need to be called.
WINNER – LONDON
Night Out London – London can give you the ultimate night out. Be it partying on the roof tops of Shoreditch or be tucked away at a cocktail bar near Holborn, London has the surprise of secret bars galore, so party until dawn with the confidence a night bus can get you to your door! The only downside is due to London’s size, it can take some time to bar hop from your favourite spots. (I used to sometimes travel between Angel and Liverpool Street and I found it quite tiresome). Also prepare to have very deep pockets as drinks do not come cheap!
Edinburgh – Edinburgh nights out are definitely filled with fun. You are within easy walking distance from the chic George Street to the bouncing hot spot of the Grassmarket. From personal experience, I have found Edinburgh has everything to offer and a much safer place to party without clock watching for last orders like in other towns of this size. Let’s not even start to talk about the spectacle of the Fringe Festival in the evenings! It just had to be experienced!!!
WINNER – EDINBURGH
Food London – New foodie phase? London will have it 3 months before you knew it even existed. Breast milk ice cream, Rainbow Bagels and Cereal Cafés, You name it! You are always within an arms reach of the latest flavours. My time eating through the capital had me picking off menus of countries my Dundonian mind could only dream of. You want Filipino fusion food at 3am? London is your city!
Edinburgh – Edinburgh has an array of bespoke bakeries to satisfy any sweet tooth (Stockbridge Market is a must), but sitting down to a meal requires some research if you want to go the extra mile. There are a handful of Michelin star restaurants but be prepared to have deep pockets! For you average grub, George Street is littered with flavours but somewhat lacking versus Glasgow.
WINNER – LONDON
Work Life Balance London – London is the city that never sleeps and from my personal experience, working your standard 40hour weeks is non-existent. Expect late nights and heavily socialising with work colleagues vs friends. To London’s credit, I found it did give me a multitude of skills in a shorter space of time versus other cities but came at a hefty price of 11pm finishes and 6/7 day working weeks.
Edinburgh – Edinburgh’s work life balance for me was much more relaxed. Your shift finishes at 6pm? You’re walking out of the door at 6.01pm. Even when I was promoted to a more senior position, my work life balance only altered by a few grains of rice. I wish I could say it was due to better time management versus my career in London but it is definitely not the case!
WINNER – EDINBURGH
Things to do London – London is full of sites to see. The centre itself is a hub of history and culture where you can happily stay a full day in just one museum. However most of these I have found come with a hefty price tag attached to it. I was shocked to pay £25 to visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum. As well as this cost, you are battling your way through the hoards of tourists which can be very frustrating. I saw a lot of shows in London and was more impressed at the work on the off-Theatreland circuit rather than the tackiness of the larger theatres, once again just catering to the tourists.
Edinburgh – Edinburgh is oozing with culture at every time of year. There are several castles within either walking distance or a short bus ride away. As well as this, the amount and quality of the free museums is phenomenal. Start up at the top of the Royal Mile at the Writer’s Museum and snake your way down the cobbled side streets to the bottom of Greyfriars and you will be overwhelmed at the knowledge you can accrue. The live music scene is Edinburgh is also buzzing, from the talented buskers in the streets to sell out shows at the Playhouse and The Usher Hall, the opportunities are endless. Did someone mention the Fringe Festival…..?
WINNER – EDINBURGH
So the overall winner goes to Edinburgh!
I love both cities and you never know, I might move back to them one day. It was such an experience to immerse myself in the ‘big city’ life for just over 4 years of my life and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Have you visited or lived in London or Edinburgh? Do you agree with my thoughts? Let me know.
Are burgers your thing? The Boozy Cow in Roseangle is a vibrant student hideout for all things burger. Greeted by a Dundonian icon of Oor Wullie that was acquired from ‘The Bucket Trail’ auction, you know you’re in for a treat when you enter inside! Firstly, I love the decor with its the neon signs and graffitied doors. It really gives this place a shabby industrial feel. There is also a lovely beer garden at the bottom of the restaurant to enjoy for the two days of summer Scotland has!
The philosophy of The Boozy Cow is to definitely get stuck in! You are encouraged to eat with with hands but can ask for cutlery if needed. Don’t worry! For messy moments, There is a huge roll of kitchen towel at your table and get moist napkins to wipe your hands and face after to leave you refreshed.
There are no plates and you share a tray with your lunch date. It must save the kitchen staff a lot of washing up and resources. It’s a great approach to adopt to invest easy money back into your business.
The menu is varied with hot dogs and chicken if you don’t fancy a burger. The burgers are reasonably sized and one portion of fries are definitely more than enough to share.
Aside from food. They are famed for their freakshakes and cocktails. Served with sheer creativity, the cocktail menu is full of surprises. You could be presented with anything from a milk carton, tin can or even a glass in the shape of a skull, adorned with sweets.
The relaxed vibe and bubbly staff, it is hard not to keep coming back to this place at any time of day.
As one of Dundee’s best secrets, the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum is a great visit for anyone interested in animals! Only open for 2 hours when the University is not teaching in the summer, this tiny one roomed museum is full of wonders.
Located in the university’s Carnelly building, I had to buzz to specifically gain access to the building and wander the corridors and staircases to get to the building’s basement. I was greeted at the bottom of the stairs to a large Japanese Spider Crab. I was quite startling at it’s size and made me wonder how it was transported such a distance in such pristine condition!
D’Arcy Thompson, the University College Dundee’s first Head of Biology was an active scientist and worked on many projects including his work with the HMS Challenger. Combined with his own personal collection and teaching tools, the museum is now over 130 years old and housing over 30,000 specimens and artwork with only a fraction of these on show to the public.
I was oustanded at the museum’s collection of birds, fish, insects, mammals and reptiles from all corners of the globe, it is truly exceptional for such a small research museum. Tucked behind a computer, I saw a friendly face supervising the room who during my visit, was happily giving stories and context about the artefacts at hand to curious visitors.
Have you visited the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum?
Let me know your thoughts.
The D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum is open every Friday afternoon between 2pm – 4.30pm when University has ceased teaching in the summer.
Watch out on the Dundee University website for upcoming special events hosted in the museum and ad hoc opening hours!