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

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Winter Chills: Impromptu Rugby, Winter Wanders and Mince Pies

As Monday, once again, rears its gruesome head it doesn’t feel so long ago that it was Friday morning and I was struggling to haul myself to work. Doesn’t time fly when you’re busy and having fun? But then again, I don’t think I actually did much. In many ways, actually, it was pretty much the reverse of last weekend (except I think I’m just about over the fact that there’s no Downton).

I was chatting to a friend on Friday afternoon – uhm… I mean I was really working very, very, very hard – deciding which pub we were going to watch the rugby in on Saturday afternoon when we had a much better idea – why didn’t we just go? Scotland versus the Springboks (A.K.A. South Africa) doesn’t come up all that often, and at £20 the tickets weren’t hugely expensive. An almost impromptu trip to Murrayfield it was.Scotland, South Africa and a spot of smoke and fire

Well, apart from the fact that it was a very underwhelming match – there were so many penalties it was stop-start-stop from pretty much the first whistle – and that we lost when there were more opportunities to score, it was a fun afternoon out. Whilst the crowd wasn’t quite to so fun as when the All Blacks were here last weekend, they weren’t exactly without the odd laugh in them. For all our flaws, however, at least we’re not Fiji. Once we navigated the pedestrian detour to get back into the city centre – bloody tramworks – we accidentally-on-purpose found ourselves in the pub watching Ireland walk all over the Fijians as though their line was a welcome mat. Even with a few sliced kicks our emerald friends found themselves 53 points the better of their Pacific opponents. As I said, at least we did better than Fiji; it’s just a pity that we had to beat the South Africans for any chance of a decent way into the next World Cup.

Autumnal Trees, EdinburghAfter a leisurely evening in the pub and an equally laid-back approach to Sunday morning, I decided to do some boring domestic things (READ: I had nothing to wear to work today, so thought I should probably do a little ironing), but I was thankfully interrupted by a friend coming over to walk her majesty, Queen Keira. With light fading earlier and earlier we opted for a stroll up Costorphine Hill. Crisp air and winter-esque sun being the order of the afternoon we pretty soon discovered that the bright colours of autumn are well and truly fading to that dull inter-season carpet of mushy-brown, but thankfully they’ve not all gone quite yet. What was going though, was that much-needed daylight. We were fine on the way up to the top of the hill, and were indeed treated to the bright glow as we crossed the fields on the far side; but as we came back down the eastward-facing side of the hill it was becoming ever more obvious that the sun’s time was pretty limited.Looking out from Costorphine Hill, Edinburgh

This weekend whilst in many ways mirrored last it differed in one key way: whilst The previous weekend was very distinct in its Autumnal-ness (totally a word), this week very much announced that winter is here. With that thought very much in our heads we hurried back to mine for a cup of tea and a discussion about the optimum amount of filling in mince pies (I kid you not).Sun and aircraft cloud, Costorphine Hill, Edinburgh

It seemed little more than a hop, skip and a jump around Brazil with Michael Palin later that it was indeed time to brace myself for Monday morning, but it’s not all bad, because I’ve been informed that I have this week to re-watch the first series of Spooks (the amazing BBC MI5 drama) before we will be watching the second series – with perfectly filled mince pies, presumably.

Cr

Instagrammers Anonymous: Winter Appears to Have Begun

Yes, today it is the highlight – I think I can safely say – of everyone’s week: Friday. For millions around the world this is – obviously – because it’s Instagrammers Anonymous day, and for a select few it is because it marks the start of a couple of days of being even busier than you are the rest of the week. At least I think that’s the way it works.

It’s been another busy week, last weekend vanished into the kitchen and dog walking, whilst Monday involved a game of Scrabble that got too competitive (can you use a French word if it’s one we would use in cooking here? It was quite a close game), Tuesday a wine and food tasting at Valvona and Crolla (it was a charity thing my parents were going to, but I managed to wrangle a ticket), I was going to write a post about it, but I completely forgot to take any photos – I may or may not have taken advantage of lots of the good wine and port that was on offer. Wednesday saw another trip to see Skyfall – it’s still incredible, can’t wait for the DVD to come out – and Thursday, well Thursday I decided it was time for a little exercise and TV watching. Emphasis on the TV watching.

Of all last weekend’s exploits, I managed to take photos of none (perhaps I’m losing my addiction to Instagram? But I very much doubt it), I did however, take photos whilst out walking the dog. The sunset was pretty amazing on Saturday down by the shore, so naturally the addiction kicked in.Sunset, firth of forth, instagram

Apart from that, the only other photo I’ve taken this week was one snapped on a lunchtime stroll through Princes Street Gardens. You can tell that winter appears to have begun, there are fewer and fewer people out and about, and (shockingly) barely anyone sitting on the benches to eat their lunch.Benches and bare trees in Princes Street Gardens

I’ve less of a kitchen-dwelling weekend planned for the next few days – I’m off to the Scotland Vs All Blacks match at Murrayfield on Sunday, so so so excited – so who knows how it’ll all end up (well, I’ve a pretty good idea of what’ll happen on Sunday, but team spirit is a wonderful thing). Hope you have a great weekend.

Cr

PS. On a completely arbitrary note, does anyone know where I can buy roll-out brown icing in the Edinburgh area/the internet?

“Isn’t it Getting Dark Early?”

It was a busy old weekend, not quite sure where it went, but then again do I ever? Sure, losing Saturday morning because of Friday evening was pretty much all of my own making, but it sure did shorten the weekend.Bike going along a track

Water of leith and Murrayfield stadiumNot that I spent it all sleeping – far from it. Since Thursday’s jam making session, I’ve spent the evening in the pub, a morning feeling ever-so-slightly sorry for myself, made a Christmas cake, taken the dog for three walks, made a risotto, been out for a cycle (and somehow ended up buying a bottle of wine and a jumper, as you do), made a ham, chicken and leek pie, and labelled the jams. All of this has kind of limited my time for writing blog posts.Clouds at sunset

As luck would have it though, walking the dog was later on Saturday (delayed due to Christmas cake creation) which meant that the sun was setting when we got down to the shore – I do like sunsets, not sure if I’ve mentioned it before – and it was also wonderfully crisp [read: bloody freezing] on Sunday when I went for a ride on my new bike, both of which led to some photo taking. Combined with the phrase I’ve heard so many times in the last week – you’d think with the clocks going back at this time every year we’d realise it got dark earlier, but seemingly not, I’m as guilty as everyone for saying it – I think they sum up the non-food part of my weekend quite well. Hope you enjoy.Sunset at Granton, firth of forthReflection of trees in the water, at sunset

Cr