Monday, 27 July 2015

Film Review: The True Cost

Earlier in the week, I tweeted that I'd managed to buy a maxi dress at a high street 'fast fashion' store for £1. Yes, ONE singular pound. While part of me congratulated myself on scoring a great bargain, another part of me thought, that's barely worth the piece of cardboard the price tag's printed on. HOW is it possible that I'm able to buy this for a pound?!?

On Saturday, I saw "The True Cost" at the National Museum as part of Edinburgh Fashion Festival and was blown away by how little I knew and how little I'd thought about where my clothing comes from. I've always been aware of the social/ethical aspect of clothing with regard to sweatshops and cheap labour but I really had limited knowledge about the environmental impact.

I was aware that we throw away a lot of textiles from conversations with my friend Yaz, who has started up Awkward Chat in Australia and is all about up-cycling and getting people to initiate conversations and start thinking about where their clothing comes from, the people who have made it and where it ends up when we're done with things. But I was still surprised to see it in visual terms. The sheer amount of textiles that are sitting in landfills... slowly releasing toxic chemicals into the air over the 200 years it takes to break down and 'biodegrade'.

The most surprisingly thing for me was the cotton farms and growers. This is a part of the manufacturing process I think very few people think about. Where the fibres actually come from that make our clothing. Many of us are all very aware of buying organic fruit and veg and locally sourced meat etc. and we feel these things are important because we're physically putting these things into our bodies. But how have none of us thought about the origins of the things we put ON our bodies? I'm sure most of us have seen 'Organic Cotton' tags on clothes in certain shops, but like me, you've probably never stopped to think about what that actually means.

I never realised that cotton farms are blanket sprayed with pesticides from airplanes in many parts of Texas (and one has to assume it's the same the world over). Which may not mean a lot but when you think of all those chemicals being absorbed by the soil which grows food and leeching into the water supply, it starts to get a bit scary. That so many people are getting sick in those areas cannot be unrelated.

Another shocking thing for me was the statistic about the suicide rate of cotton farmers in India. It's absolutely staggering that no one knows this is going on. The health issues of people who live close to the tanneries in India where there is just no regulation about the chemicals which are dumped into the water is heart-breaking.

Of course there was also talk about the tragedy at Rana Plaza and the abysmal conditions that people are forced to work in, with argument on the other side that 'if these people didn't work in these factories, they could be doing a lot worse things'. Well, although that may be true, is that really good enough?

How do we hold these large corporations accountable? Is the solution to just boycott these stores? Does losing one customer or one hundred customers even make a difference to their bottom line? How do we tell them that it's time to start making some changes because how things are today is not acceptable?

I was in the throws of discussing the above and how helpless I felt about the whole thing and that my only course of action was to go home and feel like a bad human being for fallen victim to fast fashion and my love of a bargain when someone joined the conversation and said, at least now you're thinking about it and talking about it, and that's the first step to making a change.

I sincerely hope so and I really hope I can seek out alternative places to shop and support businesses like People Tree who are really doing their part to pay proper living wages, trade ethically and giving back to these communities.
xx Caz

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Review: Usquabae, West End, Edinburgh

Whisky lovers, there's a new playground in town!

Usquabae is underneath Ryan's Bar in the West End. The door is on Hope Street, across from the Angel's Share if you don't want to walk through Ryan's.

I'd heard about this new whisky bar last year and had been eagerly awaiting its arrival. After having drinks in the West End with friends, I thought I'd pop down and see if it might have opened while I was away. I was glad to discover they'd been open a week already.

At 9ish on a Friday night, there were a couple of groups in already. We sat at the bar and I found it a little noisy and hard to have a quiet conversation. 
There are plenty of low tables as well as little booths to sit in which might have been a better choice.
They also have two whisky rooms which would be quite fun for an intimate tasting or just hanging out for a couple of drinks.
The main draw is the 400 whiskies they have. There's also a few gins and a selection of beers on tap and in bottles.

I can see this place being popular with the after work crowd in the West End. They also have a menu full of Scottish food, from cullen skink, to Balmoral chicken and cranachan. 

I look forward to coming back at some stage soon for a meal and to try some more of the whiskies on offer.

xx Caz

Review: Ox184, Cowgate, Edinburgh

Already a fan of Holyrood 9A and The Southern, I was excited to hear Fuller Thomson had opened a new venue in the Cowgate. I had been warned that it was 'very red'. It did not disappoint!
I was surprised there were only a couple of people there when I arrived at 7pm on a Thursday. The large cavernous room felt empty and I was worried it would lack atmosphere. I needn't have worried; it steadily filled up with a good mix of big and small groups. The vibe was very laid back and the volume stayed at a low hum, so while it got busy, it never got too loud to have a conversation.

Service was polite and attentive. We were seated by the window which seemed like a great idea, but made me feel a bit like an animal at the zoo with lots of Cowgate's foot traffic peering in.
We ate bacon and corn muffins and pork cheek nuggets from the bites menu, the muffins were mini morsels of fluffy, bacon'y deliciousness. I felt the coating on the nuggets were a little too hard but the pork cheek filling was tasty and my dining companion had no complaints.
Next came lobster and pork belly burger along with the smoked chicken waffle sandwich from the mains menu. I prefer my waffles with a bit of crunch but otherwise couldn't fault the light airy batter. The sweetness of the dough worked well with the slightly spicy sauce and I got my crunch from the fried chicken which I felt was a little dry. No complaints about the lobster and pork belly burger though and the brioche bun really stepped it up a notch.
Due to a slight error, I also ended up with the vege option of the waffle sandwich which has a mushroom and spinach filling. I'd let it get a bit cold before I got to trying it so I'm surely not doing it justice, but I thought it needed added texture.
Our mains were accompanied by cheese fries and charred corn. The corn was done to perfection and the home made cheese sauce on the mountain of fries had a nice spiced kick. We also tried the burnt end beans which I found too salty but can see them doing well with big flavour drinks.

Draft beers come in 1/3, 2/3, pint and demijohns (8 pints). I took full advantage of the mini servings and tried three different beers from Tempest brewery. The companion had a Bristol Vice then a New Zealand sour wheat beer. Draft beers are rotating and are accompanied by a large selection of canned beers as well as a spirit list that spans two pages. They also offer a selection of whisky flights which I'd love to try.
The meal was concluded with the Smoked Banoffee, I was absolutely full to the brim but too intrigued not to order it. I have no regrets. The bruleed banana slices on top were revolutionary. I only want to eat my bananas bruleed from now on! The homemade gingerbread is soaked in house made toffee to absorb lots of caramel'y goodness before being popped in a jam jar with smoked banana which is puréed. It's rich, it's decadent and it absolutely defeated me.
The bathrooms are upstairs and you get to walk past the open fire pit and grill where a lot of the food is cooked. It's definitely worth checking out and stop for a chat with Greg the sous chef if there's anything you want to know about the food. There's also little nooks and booth seating upstairs which would be great for small and large groups.
We had a fantastic time and look forward to returning with a group so we can try the rest of the menu and order demijohns of beer! They're open until 3am and serve food until 2.30am. Which I'll be taking full advantage of at some stage!!

Overall, I feel like there's still a few things still to tweak and the menu is ever evolving, so I look forward to many trips back and having new things to try all the time.
xx Caz

[On this occasion we were guests of Ox184. Many thanks for their hospitality. All opinions are my own.]

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Aqua Spinning

Earlier this year, I was invited to try Aqua Spinning. My initial reaction was, what the blimmin EFF is AQUA spinning????!!??

I'd tried spinning.. Once... Years ago... It was only a 30 minute class and I almost hacked my legs off after to avoid ever having to go through that torture ever again.. The only thing that stopped me was the small inconvenience of never walking again, and the fact the spinning class was followed by a 30 minute yoga class. So a) I didn't have time to stop and hack my legs off and b) savasana solves the majority of life's problems.. FACT.

Though, being someone who prides myself on having an open mind and being willing to try (just about) anything once, I thought I'd give it a go. I'd recently survived Metafit, what's the worst that could happen??

Luckily Unfortunately, both the dates on offer were while I was out of town. So I passed my spot on to Dave, resident PT. Below are his thoughts..

I was unsure what to expect when I was given the chance to try out this new health and fitness craze. Organised by Simply Health, who teamed up with the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh. 
I attended regular spin classes a few years ago to prepare for a cycling challenge for charity, so I had some ideas of what to expect. However, Aqua spinning although similar creates an overall experience that is very different. 
Obviously the first and major difference is the fact there is water involved. Before you ask, the bikes are submerged in water which straight away creates a very different environment to train in. 
The bikes are raised up out of the water to allow bikes to be adjusted in the same way you would for a regular spin class. I will admit this was very cool process to watch, almost mesmerising as you watch the water disappear. 
The set up process has one major difference, this is in relation to the set up process for the resistance on the bike. That you have set for the entire session.  
This is either, easy, medium or hard. Although this does not mean the resistance will remain constant throughout, because when you pedal faster the water causes extra resistance. So this meant every time we did tabata style interval sprints (as fast as possible for set times starting with 30secs on 30secs off) the resistance considerably increases.
We were all kitted out with special aqua shoes and we also had the option of webbed gloves (which we were told was to add extra resistance at the end of the class).
This may sound daft, but the first technique we had to master was to pedal smoothly. The bikes don't have a flywheel to assist, so you have to apply equal force with each foot to allow for a smoother ride. This was fairly straightforward, just requires a little extra thought. 
As soon as we got started you can feel the difference and one of the major differences between this and regular spin sessions is the fact we can work the upper body as well as the legs. This adds an extra dimension, especially as this is achieved by becoming a child again, only difference is that you are actually encouraged to splash each other.
This added dimension means that you almost forget you are working out.The added resistance with the webbed gloves does make a difference with the upper body training in particular through the shoulder joint, and utilising both chest and back muscles. 
The smooth consistent resistance caused with the water means it is low impact so would benefit anyone.I would definitely recommend this as a great way to workout for all the usual benefits associated with exercise but this is also great fun too. I think its important to keep variety and enjoyment in any training plan, so why not give this a shot and see what you think?

So there you have it folks..
To be honest, I'm now quite keen to give it a go!! Will have to look into getting along to a class when I'm back in Edinburgh.

Many thanks go to Simply Health for the invitation and the chance to try Aqua Spinning!

Check out their blog post here.

xx Caz

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Happiness is...

a leisurely lie in on a Saturday but still getting up at a reasonable hour...

getting my passport back after 6 months & having visa SORTED!
a restorative yoga class to lengthen and stretch out all the tired aching muscles from gymming and trampolining...

followed by an aerial yoga class which really worked out all the kinks, and getting to hang upside down!

delicious coffee from a local independent coffee shop..

a great photo viewing session from a fun photoshoot..
fab pub dinner with a delectable craft brewed wheat beer..
finished off with apple and blackberry crumble with custard in pjs on the couch!

I wouldn't complain if Saturdays for the rest of the year went something like today!

Today was absolute BLISS!!

Hope you're having a great weekend!!

xx Caz

Monday, 1 December 2014

Passenger at Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Passenger put on an absolutely cracking show on Wednesday night. I had been slightly worried about going to see "just one guy with a guitar" and also not knowing too many of his songs. I'd listened to his new album Whispers a couple of times and knew the tunes but none of the lyrics. I really needn't have worried, I had a brilliant time!
The support act was a three piece group called 'the once', hailing from Newfoundland, Canada who were fantastic. Gerry has an amazing voice and Phil's banter was priceless! Funny how sexy voice and creepy voice are the same.. just depends on what you're saying!! Andrew must have played three different instruments in the half hour they were on stage, so kudos!
Not only was Passenger fantastic but the entire crowd were great as well. The atmosphere was electric! Everyone just really got into it, singing, clapping, holding up their phone torches and most importantly, being quiet when asked. So if you are reading this and you were in the audience that night. THANK YOU!! You were part of what made the night so fabulous!
Passenger, or Mike.. Was just so personable, it's always great to get a bit of banter and to hear the stories behind some of the songs. Apparently 'Let Her Go' was written in 45mins as he sat in a dressing room before a gig.. Whaaat?!?

He has a long history with Edinburgh, as a busker on the Royal Mile to playing gigs at The Caves and he seemed genuinely happy to be in the city & glad to be playing The Usher Hall.
 Not only did he play and sing, he had such energy, it was infectious and at one point the entire crowd was up on their (our?) feet. The illustrations on the backdrop were adorable and showed a couple meeting, dating, having a family and getting old together.
It was my first visit to the Usher Hall and it did not disappoint! The building is just as gorgeous and intricate on the inside as it is outside, if not more so. The seats were comfy and roomy enough for those with long legs. The levels were tiered sufficiently so there was no peering through heads and no fear of being stuck behind a tall person.
Passenger & the once on stage together for the encore
All in all, it was a fantastic evening in a stunning venue!! Wish I could do it all again!! Ben Howard has some big shoes to fill on Saturday!!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Quick Update after my visit to The Salt Cave

I was quite skeptical whether I would feel any effects after only one visit to the Salt Cave but I must admit that I have noticed a few things. I can often feel a bit congested when I go to bed at night but last night I felt my airways were really clear and I could breathe very easily. I was rather phlem'y today, which is a part of the detox process but my nose was definitely a lot less runny. Normally in the colder months, I always need to have a tissue in my pocket to chase after my runny nose but I noticed I needed it much less today. I did feel more thirsty than usual and tried to make sure I drank lots of water and avoided caffeine & had no alcohol.

I also felt like my muscles were less achey, but not sure if that's just my body getting used to being back at the gym or if it has any correlation to the salt therapy.

I will see if things improve more tomorrow as the effects should be most evident in the first 24-48 hours, but I am looking forward to my second session on Tuesday to see if these changes continue!