Friday, 25 July 2014

Best of Scotland: Bloggers | #Glasgow2014

As part of my series #Glasgow2014 celebrating what's great about Glasgow and Scotland I will today be bringing you a selection of my favourite Scottish based bloggers and why I love them. If you have any favourites I've left off be sure to leave a comment letting me know! In no particular order...

Gillian at elevatormusik

Based in Edinburgh Gillian ticks all the lifestyle blog boxes: beauty posts, days out, recipes, stunning photography. Her Edinburgh city guide posts always make me wonder why I haven't spent more time there while I've been living up here, and her Cocktail Hour series makes me want to be a proper grownup who knows about cocktails and doesn't just stop at spirit+mixer. Her recent video featuring footage from a family trip to the Scottish highlands makes me want to buy tickets and sit on trains all day.

Ayden has been strugling with blogger's block recently but is getting back into the swing of things. She works in TV as a set designer/Art Director and definitely puts in the hours, but it's great to hear about something I've never had any experiences of. In between jobs she never seems to stop, every other post is about a night out with friends, attending concerts or a new workout regieme. I don't know where she gets the energy. Ayden also has a really fun personal style, think Adventure Time wannabe, with plenty of room for colour and comfort- be still my beating heart!

Now I haven't actually given her an IQ test but I'm pretty sure Hayley is a genius. She's starting university soon and since finishing her exams seems to be trying to read every book ever written. She's read 68 so far this year according to GoodReads and many of them have featured in book review blog posts. Hayley reads everything, classics we've all heard of to SciFi I've never heard of. As well as books there's fashion, days out, beauty, how to's and tips, as well as her lovely Things That Make Me Happy series.

Claire at Bee Waits for No One
So I already said in my What to Wear post that I couldn't have done it without Claire, she tracks down the most amazing Scottish Designers that I then wish I was cool enough to pull off. With bright blue hair, nearly as many tattoos as Ayden and what I think you'd call a goth-chic-grunge look, she's not some one that my mum would pick out as being one of my fashion idols. But Claire- in true Wegie style- wears what she wants and pulls it off, that's something everyone can look up to. Besides, I can't be the only one who gets bored of clicking through blog after blog of Breton stripes and skinny jeans can I? Bee is anything but boring.

Kirsty at A Safe Mooring
Another Edinburgh dweller, Kirsty has had a shit year so far. She's lost a baby, her mum and then her appendix. So saying it was shit might be the biggest understatement of the year, and if she ever sees this I hope she won't be offended by it. She's taken some time away from blogging while all that's going on (she also works as a lawyer, so that probably takes up a none zero amount of time) she is one of the best writers I've come across. Even her shortest posts give me an emotional rise, she has boundless personality that comes through in every comma. Her sarcasm makes me snort and her sorrow makes me sob. Check her out, she's one of those people who bridge the gap of having their shit together enough to impress you while still remaining beautifully human. Oh, and she has a dog who wears knitted hats.
I can't remember if I found Kirsty through Cara or Cara through Kirsty. Whatever. They're both on the far side of that "proper grown up" life scale to me. Husbands, jobs, book club attendees. Cara has just moved to London (boo!) but she's Scottish and blogged for ages in Scotland and attending the Glasgow School of Art and she's one of my very favourite bloggers ever so I'm putting her on this list. When I get married, Cara and her husband Nye will be taking the photographs, every shot on their wedding blog is a little work of art. P&P is her personal blog where she recounts her experiences with IVF, raising twin girls, gardening. The pictures are (obviously) exquisite, she studied photography and fine art at university and it shows. Her personality of just a little too sarcastic is perfectly pitched and there's talk of a book being written, which would be excellent.

Joy xx

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

#Glasgow2014 | Accessories Edition

*Part two in my #Glasgow2014 series celebrating the marvellous host city of this years Commonwealth Games*

If you already have enough clothes (said no one ever) then that's fine because as we all know, the real way to make an outfit pop is with the accessories and Scotland has you sorted.

Bonnie Bling
Bonnie makes the most incredible laser cut acrylic jewellery, the current Mr Harpy is already drowning under hints that owning the Highland Cow brooch would make me a very happy girlfriend, but if you want to show off your Wegie pride then it would have to be the Duke of Wellington necklace commemorating the Conegate incident that took place in Glasgow earlier this year. (PS, Mum if you're reading this, Christmas is coming up and the Duke is already in the sale...)
Clockwise from top: Highland Cow, Ladybird & Bluebell, Rubber Duck, Duke of Wellington Conegate Tribute, Pair of Puffins.

I am in love with Ness clothing, their colours are unashamedly in your face and I've had to stop letting myself try their coats on because taking them off makes me want to cry. See previous post for one of the pretty dresses they do as well. This overnight bag looks perfect for a city break, the zip pocket on the side is perfect for keeping your train tickets or hotel reservation handy and it has the most amazing lining. Seriously, go and check it out.

Karen Mabon
Karen's designs make me ooo and ahhh and sigh over the lack of digits in my bank balance. When I started thinking of pieces to include in this post I realised Karen had a few designs that are perfect for celebrating Scottish design and the Commonwealth Games. These enamel jewellery pieces for instance:


Or these scarves featuring Gymnasts and Swimmers:
Isolated Heroes
This is another Glaswegian brand that I think it's fair to say are a bit out there, a lot of their stuff isn't for the shy retiring type but there are some gems in there that will appeal to everyone. Currently Scotland is experiencing a heat wave (it got up to 24ºC today!) so you won't want to be wearing anything too heavy, this silk kimono is perfect for a bit of lightweight sun protection and brightening up any outfit.

Now we can't talk Scottish accessories without mentioning Harris tweed, famous the world over you can get everything from shoes to deerstalkers made up in this fabric. The honourable mention of this post though is going to Doreen MacRae of Ten10Creations for her Saltire Tweed hip flask, just the thing to celebrate your nations medal haul with! Made on the Isle of Skye, this is a limited edition hip flask in celebration of the Commonwealth Games.


Joy xx

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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What to Wear #Glasgow2014

*Part one in a series showcasing what's great about Glasgow for the 2014 Commonwealth Games*

When it comes to fashion Glasgow punches above it's weight long gone are the days where you had a choice between tartan or argyle. That said, have you seen the latest Pringle of Scotland collection? If anybody wants to buy me a present I'll take this. This post is dedicated to celebrating the wonderful variety that Scottish designers are offering, many of whom are based in Glasgow itself.

If you like standing out check out the amazing dresses offered by Chouchou, I'm particularly fond of their stunning Amalfi dress. Or this skirt by Joanne Mcgillivray is making me consider how important it really is to pay my rent on time. Surely my landlord would understand, I mean it's in the sale, it's a bargain.
Another firm favourite of mine is Obscure Couture, everything they make is a limited run of just 250 pieces each tagged with their individual number, which I think is a lovely touch. Their design ethos is "Every season we bring you new pieces to express yourself, be girlie, be fun, be sexy, be slouchy, be crazy, but always be hardcore"and I have to agree, a lot of the clothes they make are not for wall flowers. Which is fine because they're based in Glasgow and as we've already established Glasgow is not a wallflower city. For a night out I'd be torn between the Alabama Star Dress and the polka dot Bane Skirt.

If you prefer your outfits a little more traditional and less skin tight or see through can I point you towards Ness? I love Ness, I love how unashamedly bright and in your face their colour schemes are and how they use classic fabrics and shapes but always manage to make them feel fresh. I no longer allow myself to try their coats on because taking them off kept making me want to cry.

Their Gwyneth dress would be perfect for floating around in and although we are currently experiencing a beautiful heatwave it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry a showerproof jacket in case of rain. This one has such a beautiful print I think it would cheer me up to put it on even if it did mean bad weather.

Lastly, it wouldn't be a outfit post without shoes would it? Did you know that Schuh are a Scottish company? They are, they won the Scottish Fashion Awards Scottish Retailer of the Year prize last year. For running about in the city, as well as standing to cheer your favourite sports stars, you'll want flat shoes. This mint green leather loafers not only look perfect for summer dresses, they're also less than half price right now!

*This is not a sponsored post, these really are just things I like. Although I am indebted to the wonderful Claire AKA Bee for her ongoing endeavours to showcase all that's wonderful about Scottish design, and forever being so much cooler than me*

Joy xx
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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chefchaouen - An African Amsterdam?

When locals asked where else we were planning to visit in Morocco they'd nod politely at our list Meknes, Fez, Chefchauen, Tangier 

"Chefchauen? Ahhh." 

There would be nods and knowing smiles, and then the universal hand signal of a pinched finger and thumb being raised to pursed lips as the gesturer inhales. It got old pretty quickly, especially when our insistence that we weren't visiting with the intention of getting stoned out of our eyeballs was met with sheer disbelief. At one point I was informed visiting Chefchauen and not getting high is like going to Amsterdam and not trying a spliff, what else is there to do? (My response of "the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank house" was met with blank stares.)

The attitude wasn't entirely unexplainable, Chefchauen is in the heart of the Rif Mountains and smack bang in the middle of the cannabis growing capital of North Africa. At some point one of Morocco's kings (depending on who's telling the story it was King Mohammad V, Sultan Moulay Hassen or King Moulay II) granted Chefchauen permission to grow and sell cannabis, as the Moroccan Royal family trace their ancestry directly back to the Prophet their permission is not only gilt edged but a holy law which  cannot be revoked. So although marijuana is technically illegal to grow, sell or smoke in Chefchauen saying that it is tolerated is an understatement.
The green things at the back are trees. Probably.
*Let's all bear in mind I'm not a solicitor, have no expertise in international or Moroccan law and I'm only talking about my own experiences in which I was offered weed every time I spoke to anyone and observed a cloud of fumes around every hostel in the city. If you go, get stoned, get arrested and end up in a squalid Moroccan jail on drug related offences don't come crying to me*

I've said all this because everything we read about Chefchauen mentioned cannabis stimulated the local economy, but as an afterthought. In Morocco it is not an afterthought you say "Chefchauen" and they think "stoner". Which isn't why we were visiting at all, the current Mr Harpy is asthmatic and I hardly even drink, if it had been pitched to us as a weed capital we'd have probably avoided it and missed out on a great time in the mountains.
If you think I look terrified, you'd be right, I'm clinging to the edge here.

To get there you have to take a CTM bus through the mountains, if you're prone to travel sickness you will not enjoy this journey but the destination is worth it. Everyone was  really friendly, the entire place was laid back and relaxed (gee, I wonder why?) we had some great food, went on some wonderful hikes and bought some beautiful wool jumpers. The only fly in the ointment was how the natural amphitheatre shape of the valley amplified the calls to prayer from the mosques, particularly the 4am call. It did force us out of bed while the sun was still down and let us star gaze though. Also I'm not sure how much of a problem this would be if you just picked a hostel (and there are plenty to choose from) that was not right next door to a mosque.

Rooftop rooms have the best views.

We never did get a straight answer about why the village was painted blue, perhaps to reflect how close it is to the sky or maybe symbolic of the waterfall they built it next to, in the end it doesn't really matter I'm just glad they did.

Joy xx 
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Monday, 14 July 2014

Lost Dogs and Happy Endings

I've written before about our family dogs, Lily who has had two litters of puppies (and won't be having any more!) from the first litter we kept Angel and Blossom, and from the most recent litter we kept Dita. There's been a bit of radio silence on my blog and if you follow me on Twitter you might know why, last weekend we got a terrible phone call from the owner of one of the puppies we'd sold that she had gone missing. After twelves days Hattie was reunited with her owner and I sobbed with relief when I heard she was home and safe. 

Hattie (originally introduced as Echo on this blog) had been out for a walk and vanished, that had been Thursday. Her owner, who my mum has become very good friends with since they bonded over the joys of owning Long Haired Miniature Dachshunds, was utterly distraught- she had hoped that Hattie had just caught a scent and gotten lost in the park but would be home within a day or two so although she had contacted local rescue centres and vets she had put off telephoning my mum.

Hattie had gone missing near a river and although we were sick with worry that she might have drowned, that might not have been the worst thing that could have happened to her. Hattie is a long haired miniature dachshund: adorable, bursting with personality, and very on trend at the moment. She is also a very particular colour, shaded cream. This unusual colour makes her stand out even more, especially to thieves.

Puppy farm is the expression used to describe despicable pond scum who aim to breed and sell as many puppies as they can in as short a time as possible and for as little money as possible. The dogs can be kept in cages for their entire life and if they need medical attention they are often abandoned or killed to save any awkward questions being asked. One way to cut down your initial investment when setting up a puppy farm is to steal dogs to breed from. They don't care about the dogs, they don't care about the breed, they often don't even bother to try and learn anything about the problems specific to a particular breed. Dachshunds, for example, are often carriers of gene mutation known as PRA, if a dog is a carrier of this mutated gene it can develop problems with it's eyesight and eventually go blind. If you breed two PRA carriers then the puppies have a much higher chance of being born blind, even if a dog isn't born blind it can rapidly lose it's sight at any age. (All my mums dogs are hereditary PRA clear, that means their parents weren't carriers of the gene and neither are they.)

That's Hattie looking at you.

Bitches come on heat twice a year. Theoretically they can have a litter after each time they come on heat, but having puppies is exhausting- how many women would want to get pregnant straight away after their first child is weaned?  The Kennel Club only allow breeders to register one litter per bitch a year, she must be over a year old when the first litter is registered and no litter can be registered if she is over the age of six. These rules only apply to those who want to register litters, and you can only register pedigree breeds. Puppy farms can simply sell the pups as non-KC registered, and for people looking for a family pet rather than a dog to show or breed from buying non-KC can be an easy way to save some money. There are still things you should bear in mind to make sure you aren't accidentally funding a puppy farm though, the UK Dachshund Club has a very help list HERE of what to bear in mind when considering buying a puppy.

We were terrified that Hattie might be taken to a puppy farm, but we told ourselves that it was more likely someone would see the value in her and not use her in a dog fight. Dog fights are cruel and barbaric, like puppy farms they are also illegal and so are often operated by people who don't pay much attention to the law- that is they wouldn't care about snatching a dog while it was out on a walk or not returning one they find. If you've ever met a dachshund then you'll know they might be noisy little dogs but they aren't aggressive, so they seem an odd choice for dog fights. (Those easily upset just skip this next bit) Small dogs are often used by the societal dregs to 'blood' their real fighters. They take small dogs or puppies, who are not likely to cause much damage if it does try and fight back, and they train the fighting dog to attack and kill them. Typing this has made me feel naseous, the thought of somebody deliberately destroying lives like that is awful but the idea that whole gangs of people find dogs- sometimes half starved and beaten ones- fighting to death a form of entertainment horrifies me. The thought of it happening to one of the puppies I'd stayed up through the night with to make sure they fed every two hours made my blood run cold.

Hattie and her owner live in Worcester, many miles away from where I was in Liverpool when we heard, so I couldn't go out looking for Hattie directly and had to content myself with tweeting and posting on facebook in the hopes that #HelpFindHattie might make a difference. Another resource I didn't know existed until this happened was a free to use online service that allows you to register your missing pet's details and get in contact with people across the country who can help you look. 30 dogs were registered as having gone missing just yesterday. You can register on the site and if you let them know where you live should a dog go missing in your post code area they'll send an email alert, it's a really simple thing to do that could make such a difference to someones life if you help reunite them and their pet.

What brought Hattie home was one of her owner's friends saw a man going into local shops around Worcester and telling them to take down the missing dog posters as she had been found. The friend then followed him home, called Hattie's owner to give her the address and told her what had happened. Hattie's owner first went to the police station to see if she could have some support when calling at the suspicious house, the police refused saying they would only get involved if there was proof somebody had stolen the dog. So Hattie's owner went by herself, although she spoke to the occupiers they denied any knowledge of a missing dog, and so Hattie's owner went home. The very next day however she received a call from one of the fishermen she'd befriended while searching along the river bank. They had found Hattie, alone and shivering near the car park, but very much alive. A bit too much a conincidence for me, but nothing strong enough to take to police and press charges on. The vet, whose known her since she moved to Worcester four months ago, said it was a good thing she's always been such a dominant personailty a quieter pup might have just died from shock or exposure at being away from home for nearly two weeks in who knows what circumstances.

She's lost a fair bit of weight and is very subdued following her twelve days away from home, but she is home, she's safe and touch wood there's no lasting damage that plenty of hugs and kisses won't heal. 

If you have a dog that goes missing, notify everyone you can as soon as possible. Local vets, animal rescues,, newspapers and radio stations, if they've just got lost then the more people looking the better and if they've been stolen then you can make them "too hot to handle" by publicising the fact your dog is lost on websites where people might try to resell them. If you have a praticular breed of dog reach out to the breeders in the area as they often have more contacts to help with the search.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The Unnecessary Red Dress

We were meant to be packing light, the Boy did and then ended up carrying my excess baggage. Whoops. I used everything I packed though, which is my benchmark for successful packing. When I was packing there was only one item that I put in knowing in full that I didn't need and packed anyway. The Red Dress. The (unnecessary) Red Dress.

Originally this had been bought for a Christmas do, it's long and flowy and enabled me to wear thermal leggings underneath which was a definite benefit when the temperatures were dropping to -2ºC.
The Madrasa Bou Inania in Fez

Oddly enough, I didn't need thermals in Morocco but the floaty quality meant it felt very light and airy while keeping me shielded from the harsh sun.
The Madrasa Bou Inania in Fez

I had a vision of myself floating around Casablanca in this dress, but we never made it (next time!)

Big floppy hat, long red dress and it doesn't matter if you've only had cold showers for a week you feel a million dollars.

Dress: H&M (old, similar)
Hat: H&M
Sunglasses: Primark
Joy xx
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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Barbary Macaques | Moroccan Wildlife

When I think of African wildlife I think of the Big 5, of lions and giraffes, elephants and hippopotamuses (or is it hippopotami?). I knew I wasn't going to see any of these amazing creatures, Morocco is simply too far north but that didn't stop me having my own David Attenborough moment while staying in Ouzoud.
This would be a far more effective picture if their camouflage was worse.

Best know for it's waterfalls (see my post here) Ouzoud is also one of the few remaining havens for Barbary Macaque monkeys, found only in the Atlas Mountains, the El-Kouf National park in Libya and a very small population on the island of Gibraltar. These endangered creatures are very social, living in groups of up to 100 Macaques, and unaggressive- fitting in perfectly with the laid back attitude of Ouzoud.

Barbary's reach maturity at 3 or 4 years old and can live for as long as 30 years. I was fortunate enough to see some brand new Macaques who were still clinging to their mother's backs.

Raising young is an important role in the life of a Macaque, regardless of parentage everyone joins in to help with the children- males and females. Barbarys have a matriarchal social order and the higher up the chain a female is the more contact time she has with the offspring.

Grooming is an important daily activity for these monkeys, helping to reinforce social bonds and lower stress levels.

Unfortunately deforestation of cedar forests in the Atlas Mountains has been reducing their habitat. Another problem these monkeys face is unscrupulous tour guides and visitors who exploit the Macaques love of sweet things by giving them packets of processed sugar so they can pose for photographs. There are signs all over the place telling people in all languages how bad human food is for Macaques so hopefully this practice will end soon. Unfortunately the monkeys, not being able to read, are unawre how bad for their health human food is and have taken to raiding bins.

Sugar? No, this isn't sugar, it's erm... Crack!
Joy x
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