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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Food: Gluten-Free Toad-in-the-Hole

The weather has been absolutely foul over the past week and late-autumn in Scotland means that the days are incredibly dark at the moment. At the moment I've been wanting to eat comfort food all the time, and Toad-in-the-Hole seemed an obvious choice after I purchased some delicious pork sausages.

Gluten-Free Toad-in-the-Hole

Gluten-Free Toad in the Hole Dove Farm Flour

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Beauty: My Budget Bath Time Favourites

Bath time is a bit of a luxury for me as I often lack the time to wallow in the bath. I used to spend a bit more on bath time products to indulge myself a bit more, but have realised recently that a higher product price tag doesn't really affect the enjoyment of the act of bathing and for the past few months I've been discovering a few budget bath time options which all work really well for me.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Travel: Bodnant Gardens, North Wales

We visited North Wales a few weeks ago during the October mid-term break and stayed in a lovely cottage on the Bodnant Estate in Conwy. We'd booked this through an agency and had no idea about the beauty of the Bodnant Estate but were in for a treat. After a particularly wet morning on our first day we decided to take a trip to the nearby Bodnant Garden which we realised latterly was world famous. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Food: Aubergine Rarebit

On a recent visit to North Wales, I picked up some delicious Welsh Ale mustard and chutney at a delicatessen and couldn't get enough of the stuff.  The ale imparts a lovely sweetness which really enhanced the flavour. Upon my return I was happy to find an online stockist which pleased me greatly. I've been eating a version of Welsh Rarebit since I was tiny and decided to experiment on the theme for a more substantial lunch-time meal, though my Aubergine Rarebit would be great for brunch too.

Aubergine Rarebit

Aubergine with Ale Rarebit and Poached Egg

Friday, 6 November 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 10

October was a month devoted to family and as a result the focus was less on me and more on others, which is usually the way, but I felt it even more so this month. The kids were off school for the half-term break which was a bit tiring, but we also managed a wee trip to Wales, which we all enjoyed. This was our first family holiday with the dog and she had a whale of a time chasing after pheasants. After the success of car-trip with the dog, we're definitely planning some more trips with her.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Food: Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Pecans

Our week day desserts are normally pretty simple, with the kids generally opting for fromage frais and fruit. As the nights start drawing in, though, our dinners have generally comprised of comfort food and I've had a fair few requests for warming puddings. My latest offering was a baked apple dessert with maple syrup and pecans, which I served with custard. Empty plates all round and lots of suggestions for variations on the theme.

Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Pecans

Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Pecans Recipe

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Food: Fragrant Banana Bread

The kids are banana fiends and we always seem to have bananas languishing in our fruit bowl. I usually freeze the bananas that are starting to brown and use them up in smoothies, but of late I've been experimenting with some banana tea-time treats. We've had a few disasters like banana-pancakes sans flour, which no one liked but finally, after some trial and error I  came up with something which we all enjoyed. This fragrant banana bread contains cinnamon and cardamon, which makes it very warming and perfect for autumn.

Fragrant Banana Bread

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Travel: A Trip to Coastal Maine

After spending a few days in Maine over the summer last year, we decided to return this year and decided travel east from Portland, onward to Camden and finally settle in Acadia National Park. Apart from eating as much seafood as we could, we also spent quite a bit of time hiking and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 9

The start of October has come as a bit of a surprise. We're officially in the final quarter of the year and autumn is truly here. Despite the weather being surprisingly balmy this week, the leaves are changing and I've been greeted with some beautiful vistas on my daily walk with the dog. At the start of every season, I always find myself feeling very excited, for what the next few months will bring, and this month is no exception.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Food:Portland, Maine - Where to Eat with Kids

Eating out with kids always seems to be hit or miss with us and more often than not we find ourselves comprising on quality just to keep the kids happy. On our recent trip to Portland, ME we stumbled across a few gems that I thought I'd recommend as we found ourselves enjoying really good food, which the kids also enjoyed. All of these restaurants centred on the Old Port area of Maine, an upbeat area filled with independent shops, which buzzes all day. I'd really recommend staying here if you have a short break to this vibey little city.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Life: Planner Haul #3

I've been using my diary more and more as a life planner and I am still finding that using stickers makes planning my weeks more enjoyable and also more effective. My daily plans are generally very ornate to-do lists. Even so, they have made me more productive, so after cancelling my My Little Box subscription, I decided to use the money saved to fuel my new planner-decorating addiction. I favour UK Etsy shops and others that have reasonable shipping costs to the UK. This does, however, rule out vast swathes of the more popular Etsy shops. That said, I'm very happy with the shops I've used thus far.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 8

I love that I constantly learn new things about myself. It reminds me of when someone I know very well still manages to surprise me. I love these little moments and I guess that since I've been more open to the idea of self-discovery this year, I've been around to notice them when they've happened inside me. The purpose of these monthly updates  was to track my progress over the course of the year so that I could track the little changes I'd made, from month to month, in my goal to make 2015 a healthier and happier year. Somewhere along the way, I slipped into the bad habit I have of competing with myself, which is not what I'd planned in the first place. I need to learn to dial back the pressure I place on myself.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Food: My Lobster Shack Recommendations in Maine

After last year's trip to Cape Cod, we decided to spend more time exploring New England this summer and decided on Maine and were so glad we did. The natural beauty of the state is astounding and made us determined to return at some point in the future. It also afforded us the opportunity to eat as much lobster as we could! Read on for my lobster shack recommendations.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Life: Planner Haul - USA Edition

I'm still on my YouTube planner video kick, and I've been lusting after all the planner supplies that the American planners can so easily pick up in stores over there. My recent trip to the USA therefore had to include some quick trips to Target, Michaels and Walmart. I say quick, because my husband elected to take one for the team and stay in the car with the kids (who hate shopping) while I did a quick dash inside. My hauls were therefore pretty small from each store, but I'm pretty happy with what I was able to pick up in the space of 10 minutes.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Travel: Two Days in New York City with the Kids

We haven't done too many city breaks since the kids came along  but decided to brave it this year with a 2 day trip to New York City. The kids were quite confused as to where they were going, and  decided that we were probably going to "Na-York-a" (Majorca) just like their friends were doing over the summer. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Food: Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Quesadillas

Summer lunches have taken quite a bit of thought over the past month. The kids would be quite happy munching on avocado or cheese sandwiches every day but I find that if I let them restrict their diets like that, they become less open to trying new things, which means that more and more of my offerings run the risk of being rejected.

Quesadillas are something that they love to make. We use  corn tortillas to keep them gluten-free and the kids get to assemble their own, generally from whatever we have in the fridge. This time, after roasting some vegetables with some Italian sausages the night before, we had this for lunch the next day.

Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Quesadillas

Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Quesadillas

Friday, 31 July 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 7

July has been a month of organisation and list making and getting things done which means that I now find myself feeling a wonderful sense of accomplishment! Despite all this, my priority over the month of July has been the kids, so apologies if you've found my blog updates a bit erratic this month. It's been lovely seeing the world through the kids' eyes. It's something I need to remind myself to do in the coming months.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Food: Spaghetti Bolegnese

Sometimes I yearn for comfort food. Food that fills me up, tastes delicious and can be popped in the freezer, ready for my next fix. The recipes I turn to at these times are usually tried and tested (and trusted) favourites, generally from the Jamie Oliver cookbooks I first used when I first discovered that I liked cooking. These are generally meals that the kids like eating too, because when I'm in a comfort food sort of mood, the last thing I want to hear is "I don't like it? When are you going to make something we like?"!

This time I opted for Jamie Oliver's delicious Spaghetti Bolognese from Happy Days with the Naked Chef.  You have to try it! The rosemary, smoked bacon and sundried tomatoes bring a wonderfully earthy depth to the sauce. I always enjoy this with a glass of red. Amazing!


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Life: Planner Haul #2

My obsession with all things planner related continues and I've been busily browsing Etsy shops to see what catches my eye. Pickings are quite slim when it comes to stickers designed specifically for planners in the UK who don't want to pay costly postage costs for stickers coming from abroad. I am still planning to buy some stickers from some USA sellers in the future, but for now, while the Planner Bug is still fresh, I'd thought I'd try some UK shops and I've been very happy with my selections thus far.

My first port of call was Michelle and Patch, based in Scotland and offering the most whimsical sticker designs I've seen. I bought a huge selection including Grocery Bags, Notebook/Planners, Period TrackersPolaroid CamerasPopcorn/Movie, Laptops, Cleaning Sampler, Stationery Love, Getting Pretty and A Day in the Park.  The little samples Michelle included in the pack were lovely and I've already got my eye on a few more designs.

I've found that little stickers depicting an activity are the ones that are most useful to me, so from OodlemaDoodles I purchased her Little Cleaning Prompts, Watering Cans (because I always forget to water my plants), Fuel/Gas Pump Stickers and a decorative Strawberry and Lemon set. This order  also came with a little celebration sampler set which was very cute and of excellent quality.

My final order came from StickelCo where I decided upon her Red and Orange Weekly Planner Kit (which I'm saving for a Superhero planning week), Purple and Orange Weekly Planner Kit and 180 Coloured Dots, which I find handy for creating tick boxes for To-Do lists.

I'm having great fun building my sticker collection so would love to hear of your favourite suppliers.

My previous planner sticker haul can be found here.


Monday, 27 July 2015

Food: Raspberry Jam

The summer berry harvest in my garden is late this year, compared to last, which has meant that we’ve had to visit the local pick-your-own farm to stock up on raspberries and the like. Late July in our household always means berry picking and jam making.  Dissappointingly, our strawberries have not thrived at all this year, which has been a bit of a shame as the kids love seeing them grow. Our favourite is indisputably raspberry jam, and this year, after a particularly successful raspberry picking exercise where we picked upwards of 4kg of berries and saw cherries growing for the first time, we set to work immediately on our return.

Raspberry Jam

Raspberry Jam Recipe

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Life: My Summer 2015 Reading List

Reading was my first true love. I read vociferously but when life becomes hectic, this pastime becomes sadly neglected. However, this changes as soon as I set off on my summer holidays. I take along quite a few books, as I read a book, on average, over 24 hours. I'm one of those readers who'd rather finish a book than sleep. Afternoon naps are therefore compulsory!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Food: Fast Apricot and Almond Flapjacks (Gluten-Free)

My half-marathon training is going very well thus far, but I'm still finding it hard to work out what I need to eat (and when) to keep my body well-fuelled. I've found that eating something small just before a morning run means that I prevent the inevitable energy slump midway through. Peanut butter toast works really well for me, as do these apricot and almond flapjacks which really give me an energy boost. The problem is that they're so good that I have to fight the temptation of consuming all the calories I've just burned, when I return from my run.

Apricot and Almond Flapjacks (Gluten-Free)

Fast Apricot and Almond Flapjacks

Friday, 10 July 2015

Life: Planner Haul #1

I've spent the month getting slowly hooked on Plan with Me videos on YouTube and after initially scoffing at the idea of wasting time decorating my diary, have now succumbed to the dark side. Once the initial decorating had begun, I decided to purchase a new 18 month diary (mid-August start) too and then I started browsing on Etsy and discovered a whole new world of planner supplies. I'm finding this new hobby of mine very relaxing and  am really enjoying the act of decorating my diary alongside the kids, while they do their own crafting.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Food: Black Forest Berry Smoothie (for my Impatient Kids)

When the kids ask if they can cook something, they invariably mean that they want to eat what ever they've made in about 5 minutes. They like baking but lose interest while the cakes or biscuits are in the oven, and then I end up doing the decorating while they're playing. This week they asked whether they could make smoothies, which I thought was perfect for their limited attention span in the kitchen. This proved a great way for them to eat some red fruits they wouldn't generally eat, but obviously they were long gone by the time it came for clean up!

Black Forest Berry Smoothie

Black Forest Berry Smoothie

Friday, 3 July 2015

Food: Red, White and Blue (Fourth of July) Crumble with Strawberries, White Peaches and Blueberries - Gluten-Free

As a nod to the Fourth of July celebrations this weekend in the USA, I decided to whip up a summer fruit crumble in the American colours. Blueberries,  red strawberries and flat, white peaches create a deliciously seasonal trio. While our Scottish strawberries are in season, we've been enjoying them in any guise we can. The Fourth of July provided the perfect excuse.

Red, White and Blue (Fourth of July) Crumble with Strawberries, White Peaches and Blueberries - Gluten-Free

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 6

I feel incredibly relaxed right now, a bit like the calm after the storm, after a very busy end of June. I've been pretty active this month which has done wonders for my mood. I always find that regular exercise generally means a happier and more relaxed me. Hopefully spending time outside with the kids during our unusually hot summer (thus far) will make me feel even better!

Friday, 26 June 2015

Travel: Pisa - Babymooning in Tuscany Part 2

Florence and Pisa are separated by an hour long train journey, so after a few days appreciating the breath-taking art in Florence (last week's post), we decided to take a short trip to Pisa to look at some incredible architecture.  The yummy gelato, particularly Tiramisu and Pistachio-flavoured, was a definite draw too.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Food: Light and Fluffy Tiramisu Dessert

With my thoughts happily floating through my lovely memories of Tuscany, I decided to carry on with the Italian theme this week and made a Tiramisu, using a family recipe I received from a lab mate I met while studying for my PhD. I've spent this week thinking rather a lot of my own lab experiences (following the Tim Hunt furore) and realised that in my own experience, labs were quite social places.  Yes, there was the odd lab relationship, but workplace romances happen in other places too, not just in science!

Light and Fluffy Tiramisu Dessert

Friday, 19 June 2015

Travel: Our Last Hurrah in Florence - Babymooning in Firenze

This week I came across a bag from a nearly forgotten trip from our life before kids. It's a cloth bag from the beautiful indoor food market (Mercato Centrale) in Florence and since the bag is quite fragile it had hardly been used. I've used it today, while running errands in town, and it brought back so many lovely memories of our trip to Florence, when I was heavily pregnant with our first-born. Before having kids we were adamant, naively so,  that our lives wouldn't change too much post-pregnancy and within months we'd be hauling baby up mountains and the like. I guess we figured that a little baby was very portable, but a small part of us must have realised that this was rubbish and so we booked  a week-long trip to Tuscany to indulge in an arty final hurrah.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Food: Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto

I try to have at least two vege only days per week, and usually opt for a risotto for dinner as they're so easy to make and also pretty filling. While asparagus is still in season I decided to make a Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto. The asparagus is roasted with sliced garlic and dressed with lemon, which is a delicious way to serve it, not only in a risotto. 

Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto

Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto

Friday, 12 June 2015

Life: What's Blooming in My Garden - June 2015

We're currently enjoying superb weather in Scotland and I've been spending a lot of time enjoying our little garden. The garden is really a work in progress and even though we've been gardening for a few years now, we still know so little. Our aim is to have splashes of colour throughout the year, but for the past few years, June has been the month when the garden comes alive and butterflies, bees and birds pay a visit.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Food: Mocktail #1 - Virgin (Bloody) Mary

The weather has been lovely over the past few days, which roughly translates into Gin & Tonic weather for me. However, during this self-imposed dry month, I've been experimenting with various mocktails, which has made me realise that if all my soft drinks tasted as good as my Virgin Mary, I probably wouldn't drink any alcohol at all!

Mocktail Virgin Mary

Friday, 5 June 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 5

Goodness me, May has been a very busy month! As the school year draws to a close (term ends at the end of June here in Scotland), the kids  have had so much going on and I've been ferrying them here, there and everywhere and trying not to run around like a headless chicken the rest of the time. My tried and tested ways of keeping things organised are working though, so there is that and despite being busy, I've still managed to carve out a bit of me-time everyday through meditation and yoga.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Food: My Herbal Tea Recommendations

I love, love, love the smell of freshly brewed coffee but unfortunately coffee and caffeine really do not agree with me. I generally allow myself one cup of builder's tea in the morning and then enjoy some herbal tea throughout the day to keep myself hydrated. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Life: My Current Youtube Favourites

I only really discovered YouTube as a platform for watching specific channels about three years ago. It's probably how I gained enough knowledge to actually enjoy wearing makeup. Initially I binge-watched Pixiwoo and Lisa Eldridge videos and then later I discovered the VlogBrothers and the Pemberley Digital storytelling channel which introduced me to the Lizzy Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved (both modern re-tellings of Jane Austen classics). I still watch these types of videos but I no longer spend as much time on YouTube. My subscription list is quite long but there are only a few channels that I watch compulsively, just as soon as they upload a new video.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Food: Beef Burgers with Gruyere and Caramelised Onions

Occasionally I'll suggest dinner options to my husband and the kids and nothing interests them - very frustrating - and then I'll suggest beef burgers and am greeted with instant smiles!  I like using Aberdeen Angus steak mince for making my beef burgers but any good quality steak mince will do.  I also opt for parmesan, rather than breadcrumbs, for binding the burgers, so as to keep them gluten-free. I've experimented with loads of toppings but my favourite at the moment is definitely anything containing caramelised onions, deliciously sweet and rich, the perfect complement to the gutsy beef.

Beef Burgers with Gruyere and Caramelised Onions

Beef Burgers with Gruyere and Caramelised Onions

Friday, 22 May 2015

Travel: A Day Trip to Traquair House, Innerleithen, Scotland

One of my favourite stately homes to visit with the kids is Traquair House, in the Borders region of Scotland. It lies near Innerleithen, about 1hr away from Edinburgh by car, so is easily accessible for a day trip.  Traquair has been lived in for over 900 years and was first used as a hunting lodge by the old kings and queens of Scotland.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Food: Mexican Bean Stew with Green Rice

I make chilli con carne pretty often and it always proves to be very popular. The kids always ask me to pile on the beans which inspired me to make this bean stew as an alternative. The sauce has a lovely smokiness from the chipotles and goes very well with green rice. It tastes fantastic in a burrito  or enchilada and is even better the next day.

Mexican Bean Stew with Green Rice Gluten-Free

Friday, 15 May 2015

Travel: A Short Trip to Switzerland with Baby

We travelled extensively before having children and were determined that this would not change once  be became parents. We planned our first trip just as our baby turned 6 months, which made baby a bit more portable and gave us well-deserved rest after a six month campaign of sleep deprivation. We chose Switzerland, as we both love being in the mountains but also because the flight time to Switzerland from Scotland is relatively short.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Running: My Running Gear Wishlist

Now that I'm getting back into running, I'm pretty keen to sort out my running gear. I find that certain brands work best for me. Comfort and practicality supersedes all else when it comes to running gear. I love a good zipped pocket for keys and mobile phone and clothes with air vents and wicking properties incorporated into them to keep me feeling comfortable.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Food: Couscous Salad with Falafel and Pomegranate

I love a salad for lunch as they're usually very fast to make, give me free reign to experiment with flavours and also contribute to my 5-a-day tally. Couscous is a great vehicle for Middle Eastern flavours. Here I've tarted it up with lemon, coriander, mint, olives and pomegranate. The falafel, which I made from a kit, provides a bit of substance and the avocado provides a lovely creaminess.

Couscous  Salad with Falafel and Pomegranate

Friday, 1 May 2015

Life: A Healthy and Happy 2015 - Update 4

April has been a healthier month, compared to last month. The days leading up to our family vacation were a bit fraught but thankfully our time away on Islay was incredibly relaxing. As usual a break in my routine did lead to some things slipping, but I'm okay with that, as I've had some great successes this month as well. Swings and roundabouts, I guess!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Food: Sticky Chicken Drumsticks with Honey and Mustard

The kids love chicken, and as we eat it at least twice a week, I'm having to come up with new recipes to keep them interested and at the same time allow them to try new flavours. Presenting them with something new is always a bit nerve-wracking. They're usually look at the plate sceptically, take a surreptitious sniff and then ask, "What's the dinner called?" (I kid you not!) This is usually followed by the tiniest nibble and then I patiently await their verdict (Believe me, my eyes are rolling on the inside!). 

My latest chicken recipe uses drumsticks as I remember loving to eat these as a child. The kids loved them as they were allowed to use their fingers to hold the chicken, a bit like the cave men in The Croods. I used some manuka honey and grain mustard and the result was an absolute hit! These taste fantastic either hot or cold, so are perfect for picnics.

Sticky Chicken Drumsticks with Honey and Mustard

Sticky Chicken  with Honey and Mustard

Friday, 24 April 2015

Travel: Islay - Scotland's Whisky Isle

We've just returned from a week away in Islay (pronounced eye-lah), the Scottish island most famous for its peaty single malt whiskies. The island is reached by ferry from either Oban or Kennacraig on the mainland and has beautiful beaches and numerous whisky distilleries. The island is very friendly, with everyone saying hello to you or waving as they passed in their cars. The littlies loved this.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Food: Poached Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

I mentioned my Eggs Benedict obsession previously on this blog (here)  and since then I've been experimenting a bit more in an attempt to find my favourite variation on the theme. I love asparagus and since its short season is finally upon us and I decided to marry the two and came up with Poached Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. I served this with a toasted English muffin and avocado which made it perfect for brunch, though I'd also serve it as is, without the muffin as a small starter portion.

Poached Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Friday, 17 April 2015

Life: What I've Been Reading in 2015 Part 1

The combination of an addiction to Pride and Prejudice fanfiction and a lack of time has meant that I've read fewer and fewer books over the past few years. I'm keen to change that this year and have been trying to squeeze in a bit of reading whenever I can, especially before bed or when the kids are at extramural classes. So far so good. I've certainly noticed that eschewing technology before bedtime helps me to sleep a bit better at night. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Food: Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce with Roasted Vegetables

I often find myself planning meals that the littlies are sure to like, rather than ones that I enjoy eating. As they get older, though, I'm keen to introduce them to new flavours and re-try foods that they previously loathed. My roasted cherry tomato pasta is one that the littlies loved from when they first started eating, but it's a recipe that lends itself quite nicely to tarting up. Roasting the tomatoes beforehand, ensures that the sauce is never too sharp. I add some roasted vegetables into the mix to make my own palate happier, which gives the kids the opportunity to at least try something new. 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce with Roasted Vegetables

Friday, 10 April 2015

Life: My South African Wine Recommendations

I've become nearly teetotal since having the littlies. Who wants a hangover when you've got to be up by 7am? Not me. The by-product of this is that I've become very picky about the wines I consume when I do enjoy a glass of wine and while I do experiment from wines particularly from France and Argentina, I always come back to the South African wineries that I love so much.

Wine-tasting in the Winelands near Cape Town taught me a lot about the wines I like but my recommendations are also wrapped up in wonderful memories of when my husband and I first started dating The romance of a wine-tasting date at a beautiful vineyard is hard to beat. While I have used specialist wine importers to buy South African wines in the past, all my recommendations have the added bonus of being available at Majestic Wine, which makes them easily available in the UK. My recommendations are all vineyards that I discovered years ago and have visited a few times. 

All Images Copyright Clementine Buttercup 2016