2017 - A Year of Plans

by Stephanie Gilmartin

I'm not going to write about how rubbish 2016 was for the world in general, because for us it was pretty good (aside from the tragic deaths of David Bowie and AA Gill, among others - AA Gill's passing was a particular shock and Sunday mornings will be the poorer for it).

In part, I think it was a good year because we got back to using a year planner - not a calendar, oh no, a year planner is so much more than that. We didn't have one in 2015 because planning our wedding got in the way, with the result that when the wedding was over we didn't really get a lot done for the rest of the year. This year we started as we meant to continue, and made a list of things we wanted to achieve, places we wanted to go and fun things to do on those days off where you really feel that you've done everything in the immediate vicinity and want something a bit more inspirational.  We stuck it up in the kitchen  by our dining table so that we would see it all the time and be motivated to stick to it. It gained some admiration and some quizzical looks from our friends ("Are you really going to get up at 6am every day in June?" - the answer to that one was a resounding no.) We try not to be self-limiting so some things we put on there seemed pretty mental last January, especially since I had just quit my job (for example, get a dog, buy a second flat, go to Kenya). However, I am pleased to report that we managed all three - albeit that the dog only stayed with us for three months while we had some temporary flatmates, we still had a dog for a while!

We got a lot of help with the flat but it was a good lesson that, if you do have a plan or a goal and you share it with people, then you are far more likely to get the help you need to make it happen. I also had "pass driving test" and "get into Art School" on my list, and what do you know, those happened too! 

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I love planning so I'm happy to spend a fair bit of time on making a year planner because it always seems to pay off - I've been making them since 2012 for myself, and since 2014 for both of us. I'm trying to make them a bit more sophisticated as time goes on, which is why this year's has not been made yet - as a challenge to myself, I'm going to make it on Illustrator and have it professionally printed. We have been using an app called Trello to make notes of things as we hear about them/think of them, and have lists with titles like Learning, Restaurants to Try, Podcasts, TV series, Cooking, Holidays, Books, Events, Things to Do and Goals for the Year. Generally we plot things throughout the year to space them out and give us time to get them done, but also so that we have things to look forward to. When my holidays were limited it was always comforting to see when the next one was coming up, usually marked in a different colour. For boring, skint months like January, you can plan to Marie Kondo your house, finish off all those craft projects that you've been meaning to get done (any fabric that doesn't have a project attached to it is off out of my house now) and break some bad habits if you need to. For me, that is getting back to eating properly and exercising and also getting rid of the Facebook app. It's very easy to lose half an hour every morning mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and then complain that you don't have time to go for a run, or write that novel you've always been meaning to write - I reckoned I was losing about two hours a day to it, so I have decided to consume content more mindfully. I will sign up to mailing lists for the websites I actually read, and check my email once a day. I'm still conflicted about Instagram - I do like it for inspiration, but I get bored of people's constant parroting of hashtags made up by twelve-year-old girls and envy-mongering. Comparison is the thief of joy and I do feel better since stopping looking at Facebook - I also feel like I've gotten a lot more done. The content I have consumed (Homeland, a podcast about some murders) has been way more interesting and engaging. 

Last year we started having Huel for lunch - it's a vegan powdered meal substitute that contains a lot of protein, as well as everything else you need (meaning you could eat it for every meal and be perfectly healthy). If you're time-poor and find lunch a nuisance, it's a good saviour from all the crappy cheap fast food and expensive salads on the high street. Once you get used to its slightly odd, chalky vanilla taste that is.  In reality though, it's fine blended with a banana and water, saves us tons of time and costs about £1.50 for lunch, so it's going to be a keep-doing for this year. 

I've managed to read two books already this year (something I always complain I don't have time for, because I mostly commute by cycling) and have already been inspired by The Little Book of Hygge to make my house more hygglig and Danish - first to go will be the living room curtains, to be replaced by blinds, then I imagine we will be painting the spare bedroom and the kitchen and re-doing the bathroom - the House list on Trello never gets shorter, sorry James. 

We've started keeping a present list on Trello too, so that when great birthday present ideas pop up for people we have somewhere to note them down and can buy things for our friends and family that they really love.

Last year I decided to improve my baking skills and did a course at City of Glasgow College where I learned to make the best scones ever (recipe carefully guarded and only given to close friends and the occasional Airbnb guest - but seriously, if you like baking, it was a great fun course to do and only cost £110 for 9 weeks of 3-hour classes - great value).

This year I bought a dear friend this book for her birthday and thought it was so beautiful that I decided to get one too. We're going to aim to have Patisserie Club on Sundays so that even though I'm here and she's in Kenya, we can make the same things and compare notes.  

The same dear friend has helped a lot with my list of podcast/TV recommendations - Death, Sex and Money (the podcast) is apparently great and I have to watch Fleabag too. My own personal recent recommendation is The OA - an utterly amazing, mystical, creepy, emotional drama from Netflix about a girl who has disappeared seven years ago. When she disappeared, she was blind, and on her return she can see - I can't say more without ruining the story but it's the best thing I've seen on TV in years.

James' mum sent us this article full of restaurant recommendations for Glasgow, and I normally like to think I'm quite up on the Glasgow food scene but there were plenty I hadn't heard of, including Alchemilla (went on New Year's Eve, the sea bass ceviche is amazing, as was everything else we ate - but the boys did complain about the tiny chairs) and we are going to try A'Challtainn when we go and see Trainspotting 2 with the sibling gang at the end of January. 

What about the harder stuff though? James got an Amazon Echo for Christmas so we're thinking of using it to learn Italian, and I am taking an elective in starting a creative business this coming term, so I am hoping to write a business proposal and maybe even secure some funding this year, alongside starting my first novel. James has started pulling together his research to write a book on Shetland's political history and might use it as part of a PhD. The possibilities are pretty endless - I just need to hurry up and get my planner made so we can plot things out. 

We decided, after experiencing Storm Barbara this year in Shetland,  that we would quite like to go to Hawaii next Christmas (I mostly blame the Andrews sisters and their song Mele Kalikimaka for this decision). It might not be practical, or achievable, but you've gotta have dreams right? If we decide to go travelling after I finish my Masters degree, then you know, it might not be impossible... 

I'd like to hear about everyone else's plans for the year - please fill me in on what you're planning to get done this year in the comments! Happy new year everyone! 

A week full of surprise and delight

by Stephanie Gilmartin

This past week has been full of fun and treats, which is really just as well because I've had a horrible cold and was getting over a brutal Black Friday nightshift in Gap which has left me with a heap of work to catch up on. 

This week has been very much a be-kind-to-yourself week, so naturally I don't feel bad about our exorbitant adult's advent calendar that we get to start eating TOMORROW! But we bought it nearly two weeks ago, so it doesn't really count as part of this week...

What does count though? Well, 4D cinema! Basically the best thing ever! I didn't think it was a real thing, or that we even had it in Glasgow, but it's brilliant - you go to the pictures, stick on your 3D glasses and prepare to be underwhelmed and then... your chair moves, there's wind, and rain, and scents, and wee puffs of air - it's basically like being on a fairground ride, but for two hours. We went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and it was so much fun that now we really want to go again! I don't think I've ever smiled so much in the cinema! Well worth the £15 admission price. Hurrah for being in a class with younger people who persuade you that 4D is not just something made to extort old people like us who don't go to the cinema very often. 

Last week I got to walk home under skies as pretty as this before Thanksgiving dinner with our neighbours Jeff and Nicole. They made the most delicious feast ever and had some amazing pecan-y things I'd never tried before, like pecans tossed in butter, sugar, cinnamon and clove and a dip with cranberries, herbs and pecans and cream cheese that I could have eaten for the entire meal. Seriously so good. It's lovely to have neighbours that you actually want to hang out with - makes a big difference from when we lived in the nicer part of Pollokshields and all our neighbours were terrific douchebags. 

When I woke up on Saturday after sleeping til 2pm James had bought me breakfast from Bakery47 and was out doing my job for me, cleaning the flat! :-) The croissaint was a Copenhagen croissaint (cinnamon, chocolate and marzipan) - it doesn't sound like it would work, but it was ah-mazing.  The millionaire's shortbread was pretty great too.

The best thing about breakfast was having the new Gilmore Girls revival to watch with it (after watching the first three on Friday evening). I feel quite ambivalent about it, as a whole - I didn't think Rory's character was unrealistic, I just found her utterly unlikeable - it seems like sponging off her family/boyfriends for so long has made her lazy and complacent. Some sequences were frankly annoying (like the dreadful musical) but all in all it was nice to have some new episodes to watch. I've also been getting right into The Crown this week - totally worth sticking with, though the first episode doesn't seem altogether promising.Looking for more Netflix recommendations so please send them my way!  

Sunday was my big sister's 30th so I got her these cakes from a company called Wee Cakes.  The lady who makes them, Jane, tailors them to the individual so they're all topped with Lindsay's favourite things. I can't vouch for how they tasted because Lindsay quickly snaffled them away...

Then there was the rosebud tea my lovely classmate Xiao gave me to help with my sore throat - I can honestly say, it felt a lot better afterwards. She's a wee treasure! It's also the prettiest tea I've ever seen. My other classmate Dominika also gave me some special 18-herb Polish tea (and some hazelnut vodka that tastes like Ferrero Rocher when you mix it with milk!) a few weeks ago - I'm pretty spoilt with my little team :-) We've had a strong snack-sharing ethic since our first week together which has led to some interesting lunchtimes (salty plum sweets? non merci) but also some excellent dinners together (dinosaur rice, pierogi and eight different Thai dishes whose names I can't remember but they were amazing).

We have also pretty much finalised our group project today so we went out for a celebratory Chinese hot pot at Xiangbala in Union Street, which is one of those restaurants that Chinese people know about but we westerners would never find on our own. It's a pretty unique experience and I was very glad to have Xiao there to teach us what to do! (Thanks Seunghee, I stole your picture! ;-) Basically you order a flavour of broth (we had Tom Yum Kung, Curry, Tomato and Hot and Spicy) and then a load of raw meat and vegetables and noodles which you cook in the broth then fish it out with a ladle and eat it. It's a really fun, sociable way to dine and means you get to have a big variety - there's also a little sauce bar with all the usual delicious Asian sauces (satay, hoisin etc) and free drinks refills on soft drinks. It's certainly worth a visit if you want to try something different! Certainly better than the time Nat made us try durian (it literally smells like bin juice. And tastes like bin juice).

I'll leave you with this, from a new subreddit called "Scottish People Twitter" - no wonder it's so hard to explain our sense of humour to the rest of the world. If you need me, I'll be snickering away at this for at least a week.