New Year, New Start: an End, a Beginning

It’s hard to know how to start this, but let’s go for it anyway. If you’re a regular reader/viewer of Contemplating the Clouds, have you noticed that the frequency of posts has dropped substantially over the last month or two? Well, there are at least three of you that probably have, but then agian that’s because you already know.

Know what? I hear you ask. Well, to put none-too-subtle a point to it, Contemplating the Clouds is coming to an end. In fact, this is the final post.

Bratislava at sunset

The final sunset of my three-city holiday in 2012: Bratislava Castle

After two and a bit years of blogging away, it is time to move on and move up. From my perspective, Contemplating has reached a natural point at which to stop and I’d like to take the opportunity to thank each and every one of you for reading. Whether you read virtually every post or just one or two, I do appreciate the fact that it is being read.

In the last 26 and a half months the blog has come quite a long way – and I hope very much for the better. From simple photos with barely even a title that no one really saw to certain posts which get traffic almost every single day, and from silence to long wordy rambles; it has, above all, been one gigantic learning curve. One that has made me realise some things I absolutely love doing, helped me to get and understand my job, and one that has allowed me to share my passion for various things in a way that people seem to quite enjoy.

The Giraffe, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The Giraffe in the NMS

Some of the most popular things that I’ve done are probably not too surprising: posts on the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the National Museum of Scotland and The Water of Leith all rank in the top 10 posts, in terms of visitors (with reviews on the NMS’s exhibitions on Mummies and Catherine the Great also featuring in the top 20). The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee gin-fest, the Olympics and my trip to Moscow are also up there, along with a couple of posts about St Andrews and Graduation (the latter two get visited almost every time either of them is in the news). All in all, I think I can say with some confidence that the blog that started out as a good way to procrastinate that looked more studious that staring out the window, contemplating the clouds, has morphed into something a whole lot more.

Tower bridge and the Olympic Rings

Tower Bridge, during the Olympic Games

There are definitely some things I’ve really enjoyed: going on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Virgin Money Festival Fireworks in 2011 was a treat, so was writing about the Olympics and my little holiday to Moscow, Vienna and Bratislava last year. The two blog-birthday ‘Year in Photos‘ series also rank in my highlights, as do the G&T cheesecake and the Chilli and Lime gin.  The entire premise behind Instagrammers Anonymous has been great fun, and that’s without even mentioning St Andrews and some of the heartfelt posts about it.

A year in photos, st andrews, sunlight

St Andrews: Where it all began

But in this world all good things must come to an end. It is not without sadness that I’m hanging up my boots for Contemplating – and don’t worry, it will still be here if you want to read it, there just won’t be any updates – in fact, it was not an easy decision at all, but it’s time to move on to something more.

Chocolate and Ginger cake with Orange butter icing

The Chocolate and Ginger cake – the most viewed post

In the round up of popular posts above I ommited an entire category of posts: food. Food and drink is, as is probably fairly obvious to regular readers/people that know me, a big part of my life. I absolutely love it. I love making it, I love sharing it, I love tasting it, I love talking about it and I love writing about it. Of the top twenty posts on this blog, 10 of the top 20 are based around food or drink. And if you look at the search terms the blog gets found for then 14 of the top 30 relate either to food or drink. Can you spot where this is going?

If you’re curious, then the top two search terms, and the most read post relate to this: the chocolate and ginger cake with orange icing that I made for my Mum’s birthday back in 2011. The searches in positions four and five relate to the second most popular page – the Gin and Tonic Cheesecake. Thinking about it, there’s a fairly obvious direction that we’re heading in.

Sure, I could have just continued on Contemplating and just altered the blog’s theme to be more foodie-orientated, but I took the difficult decision to start over a little while back. Since late November I’ve been writing a few posts and getting a few things sorted out elsewhere on the big bad world-wide web and now seems like the right time to take it to the rest of the world. Please let me introduce you to The Usual Saucepans. Here you will find my latest kitchen adventures, my successes, my ‘must do better next time’ dishes, my love for all things local, and many other things besides. Over the next twleve months I hope to add more and more to this little recipe list and maybe throw in a few exciting twists here and there. So why don’t you pull up a stool, grab a plate and a glass and join me?

I’ve had a lot of fun writing Contemplating the Clouds, and have learnt many valuable leasons from it. But with a new year comes new priorities, new opportunities and so much more. I hope you will come over to The Usual Saucepans and join me there, but first and foremost let me say thank you for reading Contemplating the Clouds and making it such a pleasure to write.

Until the next time,

Craig

The first photo to ever appear on the blog

The first (and last) photo to ever appear on the blog

Advertisements

Instagrammers Anonymous: Hello 2013

So, uhm, it’s 2013. Anyone know what happened to 2012? It seemed to pass quite quickly…

2013 may be set to be a slightly quieter year than 2012 – although that said I’ve a couple of exciting things lined up, including a little trip to the States in September for a good friend’s wedding – but I think we can all agree that’s probably because 2012 was something of a vintage year.

Here to see out the old, and usher in the new is the New Year edition of Instagrammers Anonymous:

Edinburgh is quite big in the New Year (or Hogmanay) stakes, and this year was to be extra special because it was the 20th anniversary of the first major street party. I’m not entirely sure what happened in 92/3 to warrant such a party, but 20 years on it’s still going strong. One of the big highlights each year is the torchlight procession that weaves its fiery way through  the streets of the Old Town ending in a light show and firework display on Calton Hill. I’d realised that I’d never actually been before, so this year I made a last-minute decision to go along and see what all the fuss was about.20130103-114830.jpg

Being the hard-working individual that I am I was in the office in between Christmas and New Year [insert noises of pity here]. One of the upsides to this – aside from the cake – was that I got to see the spectacular sunset on the 31st from one of the highest points in the New Town. This was what we saw looking out over Charlotte Square.20130103-114823.jpg

And finally, New Year just wouldn’t be the same without a healthy does of fireworks. We quite like firing rockets and the like off historic monuments in this town, and New Year is no different. After Sunday night’s show on Calton Hill it was the turn of the Castle to bring in 2013 with a big bang.20130103-114838.jpg

All the best for the coming year, and here’s hoping it’s everything you wish it to be and more.

Cr

A Weekend of Frozen Adventures

I think we can all agree that winter is now well and truly with us. But, on the plus side, it’s now CHRISTMAS TIME!!!!!!!!!

I’ve ditched my “It’s not even sodding December yet!” hat and replaced it with one of festive excitement and (bad) singing.

This weekend I definitely got well and truly into the festive spirit, and then promptly got back out of it by attempting to do some Christmas shopping. However, with a mince pie in hand and the Michael Bublé Christmas album on in the background I’m getting back into the mood.

Frosty leaves on atree trunkI went on a bit of an adventure on Saturday up to Perthshire, to go visit my great uncle. I don’t get up nearly as often as I’d like, but when I get the chance, I don’t hesitate on breaking free of the city and head of to more rural lands; so with the dog in the backseat we headed up the A9 for a day out. This is where most of my festive spirit came through – it was beautifully crisp and clear day, and the hills were all dusted with frost and snow. With the Christmas music drowning out my tuneless singing it was hard not to wish it was the 25th already.dog looking at river

To give her Majesty a bit of a walk I stopped off at The Hermitage, near Dunkeld. This turned out to be both a lot of fun and a bit precarious as it was, for the most part, a large ice rink. Keira had a whale of a time, of course, and I only had one unscheduled sit down, so I would definitely call the walk a success. It also gave me plenty of opportunity to take photos of frosty things. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated by them, but each time I’m out and about I end up taking more photos of them.

Once I’d ditched the boots we headed off to the village of Blair Atholl for a few hours of coffee, cake and chat (he still thinks I’m slightly nuts for going to Moscow, but we put pretty much everything else in the world to rights and I learnt a lot about Burma during the second world war). By the time we got round to leaving it was pitch black, but we were just in time to make a quick visit to one of my favourite shops – The House of Bruar. Whilst I would love many of the jackets and boots they sell there my salary doesn’t quite cover it, so I made do with a visit to the foodhall. On the somewhat transparent excuse of ‘looking for Christmas presents’ I managed to come out with some roast duck pâté, claret-infused cheddar and some honey and whisky smoked salmon. Definitely the best shopping I’ve managed so far, and definintely not one I’m keen on sharing. Our drive home was pretty uneventful, but I can confirm that my singing abilities did not improve.

Front of Edinburgh CastleSunday was another bright and early start, but this time to make use of my free Historic Scotland weekend pass and go have an up-close look at Edinburgh Castle. I only discovered last year that Historic Scotland do this pass each year on a weekend around St Andrews day, but some friends and I decided to monopolise on their good will and take a look at the most famous landmark in Edinburgh. Very little has changed since I went last year, which I guess isn’t hugely surprising but it was a lovely morning to stare at every horizon. One thing I did observe though, is that people are rather dim and were definitely waiting for the One O’Clock Gun to be fired, despite the large sign that says that it isn’t fired on a Sunday.

After our trip to the Castle I went on an unsuccessful attempt to buy others presents and have established that I am not a fan of festive shoppers. I am also very disappointed in the selection of Christmas jumpers on offer! Even the Jeremy Kyle recruitment centre (aka Primark), which has many in its window, couldn’t provide me with something for the office party. And even more upsetting, Whittards had sold out of Mulled Wine tea! I did get an orange and cinnamon rooibos, but it was the icing on the cake of a spectacularly bad (even by my standards) shipping trip. Time for mulled wine and Amazon shopping, I think.

Click on one of the photos below to see the slide show.

Cr

Instagrammers Anonymous: Preparing to Light the Lights and a Sunrise

The sun is shining, the sky is a bright blue. And it feels about -5 degrees outside. Uh huh, that proverbial goose is definitely getting fat again as the festive season draws near. But not quite yet, in my books. Today is the 30th November, which means that I am still in Bah-Humbug-Scrooge mode – it is not time for Christmas quite yet. All that will change tomorrow, of course, as the 1st of December is the time for singing Christmas songs, wearing Christmas jumpers (the more horrific the better!) and, of course, having as much mulled wine as I can without falling over.

Someone asked me other day if I was writing a special post to celebrate the fact that today is St Andrews Day, and the short answer is no. I don’t subscribe to hand-on-where-your-heart-is-not patriotism, I prefer the British reserve for such occasions  so I will not indulge in public consumption of whisky or Irn Bru (partially because they’re both horrible) nor will I be eating haggis or be wearing tartan. Hopefully we’ll not be treated to too much pro-independence bullsh*t and can all get on with our lives. Perhaps we won’t be so lucky, but at least we have Instagrammers Anonymous!

Ahead of all the Christmas lights being turned on in the centre of Edinburgh, there has been a flurry of pre-Christmas decorating going on. With the wheel up, the tree here from Norway and in place on the Mound, the only real thing left was to string the lights across George Street. I was beginning to wonder if they’d forgotten about them, but in the time between me leaving work on Monday evening and coming in on Tuesday morning, the street was festooned with snowflakes and icicles.The Christmas Lights on George Street before the big switch on

The other addition to our little part of town this week was the annual St Columba’s Hospice Christmas tree In Charlotte Square. The hospice are running the campaign again this year where you can ‘Light a Light’ in honour of someone close to you who is no longer with us; all donations, of course, go to helping the hospice care for those who are soon to join the people who have had lights named after them. If you want to get involved, here is the Light a Light page.The St Columba's Hospice Tree in Charlotte Square

Finally this week, I – for some unknown reason – was exceptionally organised and in town half an hour before I needed to be this morning. Coupled with the crippling temperatures, we had a beautiful fire-y sunrise, which lit up West Register House like, well, a Christmas tree. This definitely put a smile on my face this morning and reminded me just how amazing a city Edinburgh really is.West Register House in the sunrise

I have a very busy (and exciting) weekend lined up, which I’ll no doubt share next week. It will also be December, so expect many pictures of lights, trees and the occasional Christmas jumper.

Have a great weekend.

Cr

Instagrammers Anonymous: A Busy Week In Edinburgh

Friday has come round again, which thankfully means it’s an end to a really busy week in the office. It also means it’s time for Instagrammers Anonymous!

The Instagramming week started on Saturday, when a friend and I decided at the last-minute to get tickets for the rugby. Whilst neither South Africa nor Scotland can really call it a triumph of a match, it was still a fun afternoon. Given that this week’s match is up in Aberdeen, I think we’ll just have to watch it on TV.Scotland Vs South Africa at Murrayfield

Charlotte Square seems to be going through another run of appearances on the blog (it seems to do this every so often, and not just because I work nearby), so here’s this week’s lunchtime wander photo.Sunlight in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh

Much as I think Christmas should be kept firmly to December – I heard Christmas music blaring from someone’s car yesterday evening and immediately turned into Scrooge – there are certain things that I realise need to be prepared for in advance. Edinburgh launches its Christmas markets and associated frivolities at the end of November (just in time for proper Christmas shopping to begin), one of the most famous parts of this being the giant ferris wheel that sits beside the Scott Monument in East Princes Street Gardens. Obviously a giant wheel is quite hard to miss, so when I was wandering about town at lunchtime the other day I decided to ditch the Scrooge hat for a couple of minutes to acknowledge that it looks quite good set against blue skies and Thunderbird 3 (aka the Scott Monument).The Christmas Wheel and the Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Christmas

Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you can resist the Yuletide lure – just one more week then we can all be so excited we’re bored of it by the 15th!

Cr