Harlow everyone! I'M FINALLY ENGAGED TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, (ahem, the title also tells you so...)! Putting my excitement aside, this post was extremely backdated, but better be late than never right?
Last December was the best, and the most uplifting month of 2017. Where shall I begin?
1) After a year of juggling between my full time job as an educational media producer in a university (that was the place where Ryan, my fiancé, and I met) and food styling over weekends, I bit the bullet, and left the university. Sometimes it is hard to say goodbye, especially to a great bunch of people whom I've poured my hearts out like an open book, and to a my boss, May, who is incredibly supportive in chasing my wild dream as a food stylist and content creator. With their blessings, I am relieved and ready to begin this new chapter.
2) On 19 December 2017, the man of my dreams knelt on one knee, and popped the question. Honestly, I was perplexed, nervous and froze for a split second. Haha, actually I kind of knew he was going to propose because he said "Alicia" instead of the usual silly pet names we called each other. Now that I'm trying hard to recall the flashbacks, I couldn't! But there's one thing that was vivid to me; he repeated those phrases we said to each other from time to time, that we are a team, we will support each other, we are going to explore many adventures ahead together and he loves me. By the way, that was his proposal speech, despite having another speech he had prepared long ago, hehe. Also, it was such a precious and intimate moment for me and him. No hidden cameras, no photographers, no rehearsal and NGs. Just one take that belongs to both of us.
3) Spending Christmas and New Year in Aberdeenshire for the first time with the Kirwans was splendid and heartwarming. I count myself to be fortunate and thankful to call Aberdeenshire a second home. Every second of tranquility, breath of the wild, morning runs, sauna sessions in the bathroom, moments of family time watching The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, they brought simple, and pure joy.
Not only that, this trip back home has recharged my body, and mind after exerting to try bettering myself in 2017. It was the dream escapade to wake up to naked silver birch trees in the garden, a herd of deers, and a wholesome porridge everyday. Life was guudddd.....
So if you love long walks, and runs as much as we do for a slow holiday, here are the places we left our footprints on...
Behind the first eco house in UK that Vic and Teresa built for over a year, Bell Wood is situated just a minute away. Isn't it perfect?! This is a family friendly, pet friendly woods located in Aboyne where we went on 30 minute morning runs, and mid-day walks with friends and family who came bearing gifts during Christmas and New Year's Day. The enchanting silver birches accompanied by perpetual fresh Scottish air made the run stimulating, and worthwhile to kickstart the day. Also, running in the woods cleared up my sinus despite the winter climate throughout my stay.
With all that turkey, spirits, christmas pudding and half of that Marks and Spencer christmas food package left untouched in the garage, a long walk was much desired on Boxing Day for team SingLand (Singapore and Scotland, geddit?).
Daylight hours in Scotland was between 08:23am and 15:49pm in December. Hence to complete the walk before sun sets, we headed out at about 13:00pm just after lunch.
All of us wore four layers each. Sweater> Jacket> Coat> Scarf, that was the protocol. Don’t forget to complete the winter look wellington boots and beanie hat for the gentlemen and beanie hat with pom poms for the ladies! Better to look like a dumpling than freeze our asses off!
The Grand Glen Muick (pronounce as Mick) is about a 30 minute drive from Aboyne. It is highly recommended and commendable for its majestic view. The fairly manageable circuit was a breeze, and there were plentiful of stopping places to pause and admire the moment of beauty. Not to mention, the Glas-allt Sheil house built by Queen Victoria was in sight. This scottish architecture is limited to public access. Till today, the Royal Family frequent this holiday house! To begin, we parked the car at the car park and paid for a fee (I’m not sure how much it was, I reckon it was a small charge).
From there, we strolled along the Balmoral Estate visitor centre at the Spittal of Glenmuick, we walked straight ahead, instead of making a right turn that leads to Loch Lochnagar. Follow the path as dried heather and pine cones led you to sign saying “Public path to Glen Cova”, that goes left. However, we opted for the short completion time and continue to strolled straight up under the cold weather condition, and the sun was setting real soon.
The entire route was the most amazing two and a half hour we have had on Boxing Day. We munched on some celebratory Oreo chocolates at the Loch-end wood, surrounded by snowy steep hills, fresh water trickling under a layer of ice where we were standing!
RIVERSIDE AT ABOYNE
On one of Teresa's well deserved day off at the Raemoir Garden Centre, we went on a ladies only day out, while the men stayed home catching up on their brain-training with Lumosity. We drove down to the Aboyne Riverside, a picturesque walk, a hidden gem that we both enjoyed talking whilst strolling to the River end. Also, it was a day Teresa mentioned about picking up photography once she retires and I handed her my camera immediately. Check out her first portraiture of me!
The name is quite a mouthful and it took me five times to say over and over again till I got it right. I remembered stepping into this cosy, warm lighted, coffeeshop and the wooden floorings creaked with every step I walk. Rustic was the first word that sprung up my mind. An abundance of knick knacks, gifts, homeware handpicked by the owner were stacked in both corners at the doorstep. The imperfect mess of colour coordinated pieces somehow became a beautiful, country and homely scene.
We ordered our usual Earl Grey tea and a seafood platter. They were bomb! The platter consisted of fresh chilled prawns, chilled salmon slices, smoked salmon, pickles, a light salad, buns for two and a mustard mayo dip, Mm mm!
SPIDER ON THE BICYCLE , ABOYNE
Just around the other side of the corner in the Aboyne village sits another gem. Spider On The Bicycle looked and sounded unconvincing as a cafe, more like a toy store to me initially. Once we stepped in, I was utterly wrong. Brass framed mirror, antique Edison style lamps, and a window seat with foliages and classic novels of kindred subjects were nothing I imagined this place entails. I was dazzled by the dimmed, warm and busy vibes. Chatters of customers, cackling of the pans, whistling of the steam from coffee machines, and abrupt barks from dogs filled the room even it has past lunchtime.
We ordered their soup of the day (Apple and Carrot), freshly made each day, with handmade bread or oatcakes + butter. Their turmeric latte was honestly the best I’ve ever tried! Coffees are brewed at supernal quality from a single origin of beans that have been ethically and responsibly sourced. A handful of delicious vegetarian and gluten-free options are available for Ryan and I, so we really would come back again for another treat!
Also, my lens was foggy from the cold outside, but it did create a dreamy, vintage effect on the photos!
H M SHERIDAN LTD, BALLATER
About a 20 minute drive from Aboyne, the Victorian village of Ballater situates in the heart of the Royal Deeside. This quaint village houses a diversity of premises to shop for Scottish wines, locally produced fresh meats, coffeeshops, and holiday gifts. Despite the winter, it was energetic with people patronising from shop to shop for Christmas with just a few days left.
One of the busiest places is the H M Sheridan Ltd, the popular butchery supplies to a flock of people with locally produced meats and extensive range of barbecue goods, sausages and pies. Their award-winning Haggis and pies were trophies to them and they pride themselves on their creations. There were about 7 butchers in total, 3 at the front line, 4 at the back making pies to provide superb and efficient customer service to a disoriented mass in a small place.
To prepare for our Christmas dinner, we preordered a couple of cranberry and juniper venison burgers, venison wellingtons and chicken kababs from the butchery before we picked them up. This venison roams in the wild, it has a healthy lean meat and a palatable distinctive flavour which I indulged bit by bit with a glass of red! I would much prefer venison over beef after trying venison for the first time!
BRIDGE HOUSE CAFE, BALLATER
After we picked up our fresh meats from the butchery, Dad, Ryan and I settled down at the Warrandyte Bridgehouse cafe for lunch. A cozy atmosphere exudes the ambience of yesteryear , decorated with stags and tartan textiles.
Again, they have an extensive and impressive range of vegetarian paninis, brushetta, salads and platters. We each ordered a soup of the day with house bread, roasted peppers & pesto bruschetta!
The friendly service and cosy atmosphere complete with wood burning fireplace means that this small but kindred café outstrips the more traditional tea room offerings in Ballater.
Aberdeen has long prospered history of its marine industries, from the city's heyday in fishing industry in the early 20th century to its oil industry today. The museum exhibits extraordinary artefacts that illustrates a comprehensive overview of the city’s offshore oil and gas activities. Some of its interactive exhibits comprises of copious, intricate details of the oil rigs with commendable storytelling that never drown you to boredom!
After an approximate 2 hour walkabout, time to have some snacks and coffee in their cafe at the ground floor!
To end this post, I would like to wish YOU a fruitful 2018, may we can all enjoy the fruits we bear from our milestones this year and live more in the present, embrace them and breathe.