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Top 5: Ideal Home Show 2016 stalls to visit

While saying this might make me sound 45 rather than 25, the Ideal Home Show is one of my favourite yearly events. I've made it along for the last two years and I have a brilliant relationship with their PR team so I'm always able to get a press pass and ahead along to a few blogger exclusive talks beforehand. I always love trying products in person that I've been eyeing up online, finding new design talent and picking out extravagant purchases for that big house with the big garden that I plan to own (one day). This event almost always runs over the bank holiday weekend so there's plenty of time to head along if you're not working. But for now, here are my top 5 picks from the stalls that are the current show happening at the SECC right now (with a wee look in my goody bag and what I decided to purchase). 

Most of the designers you'll find at the Ideal Home Show are established brands - or at least newer brands created by experienced talent. But you'll always find the odd graduate showcase among the crowd and this time that was Kelly MacKay who graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design last year. While I love some commercialised art as much as the next blogger, what made Kelly's designs stand out was how unique they were sitting next to a lot of the brands that were designing great stuff - but nothing you couldn't find in your local Primark home section. If you're homewear style is country cottage chic, check out her stuff for a lovely new addition to your scatter cushion collection.

While I was up in the press room I was flicking through the official showguide and came across what is called a pizza maker. If you know me, you know I love pizza so this was a moment where I was like a magpie looking in on a glitzy necklace. The actual stall had signs up stating that all their pizza bases contained milk so I wasn't able to taste test but the pizza bases were thin and Michelle who I was wondering around with confirmed that the slice she had was delicious. My family of kitchen gadgetry might be getting a new addition soon. 

If there's any rich suitors eyeing me up, let it be known that it's not fancy diamonds I want but a giant wood-fired oven in the backgarden. The cheapest model is priced at £1,200 so this is perhaps a bit of a pipe dream (as I'll also need a garden to put it in). But if I had triple the salary (and a garden, or a penthouse) I'd definitely be outside making pizza (all about the pizza). 

Something else to put on my very-far-into-the-future purchase list is something from the Pooch Pantry because, you know, I'll need a dog first (or I could eat one of their many dog treats myself, but that might get me some weird looks, and make me ill). On their stall you'll find beer for dogs and popcorn for dogs, as well as the standard doggie treats such as biscuits and sausages. Go on, spoil that pooch. 

Everytime I've been to the Ideal Home Show there's always been something vegan. The Punjabi sauces that I purchased at my first show two years ago  were there again and I noticed that the Daffy Gin stall had a sign up declaring their spirit collection is vegan suitable - however, my top vegan find of the event is Raven Chocolate. They're an Aberdeenshire maker of artisan chocolate that is dairy-free. As you might know I'm not much of a chocolate person and love savoury junk when I'm wanting to treat myself (which is why two of the recommendations in this blog post have been pizza related) so I personally didn't buy myself anything, however if you're a vegan chocolate lover you should definitely pop along and get yourself a bar. 

So what did you buy? 

So I didn't actually buy much the aforementioned products, mainly because I lack a dog, an opulent bank balance, a back garden and a sweet tooth. So I bought - hold onto your seats guys - cloudy apple juice and a rum infusion. The Cloudy Apple juice was from the Cloudy Apple stall who grow their own apples in Worcestershire and the rum infusion was from Island Slice. I also bought lunch from the The Jingle Bus: an Indian streetfood truck you can rent for events. 

Aside from what I bought I was also gifted a very generous goody bag from the press team. You can see a small hint of what was in it above, but my favourite items are the French's Crunchy Onions (which have been my snack while writing this blog post), the Darcy's diffuser and wax melt and Yushoi snapea rice sticks

As always I had a great time at the Ideal Home Show. If you're still to head along it will be open tomorrow and bank holiday Monday at the SECC. Have fun and let me know your top picks! 

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Top 5: dishes to order at Stereo

As a foodie I always love trying new restaurants. The downside to this is I sometimes end up going to a restaurant only once and trying just the one dish. There's very few places in Glasgow I've actually been to enough times that I've sampled a large portion of the menu.

One of the exceptions to this rule is the vegan cafe Stereo located in the centre of Glasgow down Renfield Lane. Being only 5 minutes from my work has meant that since my start date in December I've had many a lunch break spent here.

So many lunch breaks that I've now finished the menu. Okay, I've never had the tapas because I'm there myself on my lunch break. But I've eaten everything else on the menu and I've decided it's time I put together a top 5 of my favourite dishes to order from Sereo (at least from the main menu, they put on daily specials - some of which are delicious and have included deep friend tofu and vegan black pudding salad). I'll be honest though Stereo is somewhere you go for a quick lunch - the food is good, but simple. If you're looking to wine and dine someone or impress your new boyfriend's parents I'd maybe recommend somewhere else. But a catch-up with your friend? Aye, go on then. 

1. A sandwich

Let's start off with the humble sandwich because I don't know about you but I love a sandwich, though I struggle to find good vegan options. Enter Stereo. They have four sandwiches on the menu: hummus, falafel, sausage and TLT (that's tempeh, lettuce and tomato) and I can't pick a favourite 'cause they're all SO GOOD. You can order one by itself, or with soup or chips. I usually opt for chips because I'm a #junkfoodvegan. 

2. Sanmuchan

This is what I ordered the very first time I went to Stereo and boy, was it a good choice. The menu says it's a Turkish pizza wrap and I'm not entirely sure that's actually a thing but I'm also not sure I care. Stuffed with vegan haggis it's the most filling item on the menu - perfect if you're really hungry! 

3. Mezze

I feel a bit unoriginal listing the mezze here as it contains a lot of the foods vegans regularly get 'stuck with' while eating out. But I love me some Mediterranean food so I've never complained and lapped up this dish. Olives? Love it. Falafel? Gimme. Hummus? Nom nom nom.

4. Burger

I'm actually on a little bit of a mission to try every vegan burger in Glasgow (for the purposes of a blog post, obviously). I've got a few more to tick off my list but the Stereo burger might just sneak itself in there. I know some people disagree, but mushroom burgers are my favourite of the traditional vegan burger options so this is right up my street (even if it's not up the street of other people). It also comes with some of the best chunky chips I've ever tried. 

5. Gnocchi

Do you want to know something about my culinary preferences that proves just how delicious the gnocchi is? I don't usually like gnocchi (it's the texture that I've always found funny). You can order it with two sauces: sausage and tomato or artichoke. Both are fantastic and I recommend them whole-heartedly. 

P.S. I'm insanely behind on my restaurant reviews (Bread Meats Bread, 13th Note, Paesano, Novapizza, Zizzis) but follow me on Instagram to keep up with everything in real time (and not three months later). 
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Cashew cheese and crackers with Gozo

Early 2015 I shared with you my vegan cheeseboard....that didn't actually have that much cheese on it. 

You see, decent vegan cheese is very hard to come by. In fact, the lack of good dairy free cheese was why it took me two years to transition to veganism - I'm a lifelong cheese lover (still waiting that decent Brie substitute). Not that long ago I got an e-mail from Gozo Deli who noticed the lack of vegan cheese on my vegan cheese board and offered to send me across a few of their cream cheeses created from chashew nuts to add to the collection.

Cream cheese is exactly the kind of cheese that is required on a cheese board, especially cream cheese with random flavours. Gozo have handcrafted four flavours of their chasheese: pesto, smoked parprika, French herb and chive. As you can see my cheese board contains three of the varieties (the crackers are Tesco own brand if anyone is wondering, which is probably nobody) and I am very happy to report that they are all delicious.

Soya makes me feel funky, so the fact that Gozo use cashew nuts as their base is a major plus point for me (and my digestive system). I also just think chashew nuts just taste better than soya. The texture is very creamy, but easy to spread all the same. On top of that the flavours are just at that perfect balance and honestly I think these are better than some of the dairy cream cheeses I used to eat. The cheeses all have a very strong savoury palate to them - which I love 'cause I'm a massive savoury girl - bring me some crisps and chashew cheese over a chocolate bar any day - and it makes a massive difference from the cream cheeses on the market with sweeteners (I haven't had Philadelphia in a long time - shockingly enough - but I seem to remember it having a very sweet taste? These chashew cheeses taste a world apart). 

Gozo Cheese was founded in 2014 by Lydia Davidson who, like me, wasn't really feeling the soya-based cheeses on the market and decided to #girlboss it up and create her own. Also passionate about plant-based living and sustainability, all these cheeses are organic, additive-free, natural, dairy and gluten-free. Also aiming for a high-quality product, her range falls into the gourmet category and is available in Harrods, and health-food stores across London (if you live outside of London you can still order the cheeses off their website). 

Aside from eating them on crackers I also used then pesto tub to create a pesto and spinach pasta dish, which was just as lovely.

Versatile, savoury and high-quality: if you're not feeling a lot of the cheaper soya cheese on the market and you're looking to impress with your cheese board, you should definitely
 pick up some Gozo Deli cheeses. 

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I analysed the Scottish Election results, because I'm fun

It has been two days since the Scottish Elections. Now that I've had time to let my anger of the Tory's success settle, recovered from staying up late to watch the results come through (yes, I am that much of a nerd), bury my head in the data available on the BBC website and read other people's thoughts, it's time for me to eloquently string my thoughts together in the form of the written word (sort of, I am writing this on a Saturday morning with CHRVCHES playing in the background to relieve the groggyness - and it might result in a mini-dance party from time-to-time). Originally I was just going to hit up Twitter or Facebook with some screenshots of data but my thoughts are certainly longer than 140 characters (and I hate linked-up Twitter essays) and while I could write an essay on Facebook, I know people don't particularly like them. So I decided it was time for an actual blog post. 

Anyway, time for the actual meaty (I'm still vegan, I promise) part of what might become an essay with diagrams (read: screenshots off the BBC website) and some analysis of what the heck actually happened. I'm mainly going to be running commentary on what allowed the Tories to do so well, the Greens performance, how the Additional Member System of voting actually works (because this still needs to be explained to a lot of people) and why - despite warnings - the #BothVotesSNP campaign backfired. 

So, the Tories did well...

The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party are now the main opposition party in Scotland - the best they've performed in any election in Scotland (both UK and Scottish) within my living memory (they used to hoover up the rural farmer vote extremely well back in the day). They won the constituencies in the South of Scotland, which was expected. What did shock was their wins in Edinburgh Central (where their leader Ruth Davidson was elected - she had previously been relying on the list vote for her seat) and Aberdeenshire West.

As somebody who grew up in Aberdeenshire (albeit the Aberdeenshire East constituency) I found it disheartening, but I'm not even entirely sure I'm surprised. Aberdeenshire has always been a Lib Dem/SNP area, and with the downfall of the Lib Dems it put the Tories who traditionally came third in a much better position to come first. The Aberdeenshire Council also has several Conservative councillors, and when you break it down by wards you can see a slight increase in Tory representatives in the west (East Aberdeenshire has a lot of Aligned Independents, but aligned to what I'm not sure and the two Democratic Independent and Green councillors are in the eastern wards). While it's also an obvious point: Aberdeenshire has a lot of farmers, landowners and wealth. While people on average incomes and those living below average also live in Aberdeenshire it's been known that wealthy people are more likely to always go out and vote than the working-class. (Across Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City the Tories came second in all wards aside from Aberdeen Central - the location of a lot of working-class and deprived areas). 

Edinburgh Central, I have less of an analysis to provide as I have never lived there. Something that has been noted by other bloggers and journalists was the candidacy of Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone, and how she 'split' the vote. Looking at the numbers, if you were to assume (an important word) that all those who voted for Alison would have voted for the SNP candidate has she be absent from the ballot, then yes, Ruth wouldn't have been elected. Read: assume. 

On the whole, the Conservative and Unionist party (to give them their full name) has benefited from the shambles that has become both Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats, to stand up as the only credible pro-Union party in Scotland. Labour's 'move to the left' and election of an actual socialist as the head of the UK party has been blamed as the reason for Labour's failure, but really it's just that the Red Tories are now voting for actual Tories. So Tories win. 

And the Scottish Greens did well too.

The Green's now have six MSPs - up from two in the previous parliament. Obviously I am upset that some of my favourite candidates (such as Zara Kitson, Sarah Beattie-Smith and Maggie Chapman) didn't get through, but I'm overjoyed at the thought of having a stronger Green voice in Holyrood. I'm am however disheartened - despite the gender balanced lists - that five of these six MSPs are men. I'd like to think it's not true - and I really hope that it's not true - but I'm scared that - even in 2016 (#alltheparenthesis) - that voters are still more likely to vote for a male candidate and that's why the Greens did well in regions where a man was the first candidate on the list (and you know, less likely to take maternity leave #fatherscantakepaternityleaveandnotallwomenwantkids). 

There is one region that I do want to draw attention to and that is South Scotland. I'm going to pre-face this by saying that I truly believe that Sarah Beattie-Smith was an excellent candidate and would have made an unbelievably talented MSP. But I always knew this would be a tough one to pull off. The south of Scotland is home to a few Tory heartlands that voted Blue even at times when the Tories performed badly across the country, and was the one region where the SNP were going to have to rely on the list vote (and did gain three MSPs thanks to the regional vote - the highest they achieved in all of Scotland because there's regions in Scotland where they can't actually win on the list because they do so well in the constituency vote - if you're lost I'll explain this in the next section). 

As for the standing of Patrick Harvie in Kelvin and Alison Johnson in Edinburgh Central, well, I'm also not surprised they weren't elected. I remember the internal debate taking place in early 2015 and I abstained. I actually abstained in a lot of votes that day, because I had just joined and lacked the political fluency and understanding I now have. These days, I'd vote no and will vote no until the day comes when the Scottish Greens are large enough and a constituency appears where we could actually win. Until then I feel as if the money and energy that went into Kelvin and Edinburgh Central could have been better diverted elsewhere. 

But #BothVotesSNP backfired a wee bit

In the Additional Member System of voting you get two votes: a constituency vote and a regional vote. The constituency vote is a smaller area and is decided on a First Past The Post basis (the same voting system used at Westminster). It puts forward one person, such as Ruth Davidson for Edinburgh Central (imagine you had a problem with you're local hospital and had to go to Ruth Davidson?). The list vote is where the parties compile a list of candidates in an order of preference, and if they get enough votes the first person on the list will become an MSP and if they get a lot of votes the second person will become an MSP, and so on. 

What I didn't know until about two years ago (and from the 'success' of the #BothVotesSNP campaign I think a lot of people still don't know) is that there is a bit of maths in place to avoid really popular parties getting outright majorities because their members ran out and voted for them on both ballots. I don't have a full understanding of what this maths is and how it works (because, maths) but I know that if a party wins several of the constituencies in a region, maths will stand up and be like "Sorry pal, nae regional votes for you". 

For a visual representation of this, let's look at the regional list results from Central Scotland: 

Check how many votes the SNP received through the regional ballot. It's almost 50% and 60,000 votes ahead of Labour (if my mental arithmetic is correct, I'm writing in this in bed and can't be bothered getting up to find a calculator or even use the one on my laptop). But but but, where are their seats? They're not allowed any that's what! They won all nine constituencies in the region so to balance things out maths has given the seats to other parties who didn't win any constituencies.

And because I mentioned South Scotland above, here's a screenshot of their results:

Here the SNP returned three MSPs through the list vote, while Conservative got two and Labour got two. SNP won three constituencies, Conservatives won three constituencies and Labour won one so maths was a bit more flexible in who was allowed regional seats.

The Scottish voting system is designed to not allow a majority government. The SNP pulled it off last time, but not this time because it's so damn hard. And that's a good thing. Oppositions are essential for democracy. Oppositions hold governments accountable. Oppositions means ruling parties can't just do whatever they want. Power goes to people's heads and only Hufflepuffs can rule while keeping a democratic head on their shoulders (yes, I just snuck a Harry Potter reference into a political analysis 'cause that's how I roll).

So that #BothVotesSNP thing? Aye, pile of pish and it was irresponsible of the SNP to be promoting it themselves and I'm not even sure why they did (if you're not Scottish and you're wondering what pish means, it means pee because we like to insult things by referring to it as urine). It was never going to gain them much, aside from in the South of Scotland and in the Highlands and Islands because Orkney and Shetland still like a bit of those Lib Dems. Apparently it was designed to increase the amount of pro-independence MSPs at Holyrood but if you really wanted to promote that it would have been constituency vote SNP and regional vote for another party that supports independence such as the Greens or RISE (not that one with the convicted perjurer, however).

This is the second Scottish Election I've taken part in and I didn't realise what maths was up to the first time: I seem to remember I crazily gave the Liberal Democrats both my votes in 2011 thinking it would turn Holyrood orange and Nick Clegg would come here and be king (which, thankfully, did not happen because of maths and the more sensible voting habits of other people). But I know now and if I do feel like a bit of cheeky tactical voting I realise that the regional list vote should go to a party who aren't predicted to win all the constituencies.

And now you know too. So next time no #BothVotesSNP (and a bit less Tory voting would be grand too). 

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The Linkables

A proper catch-up is probably in order before I start this post. Since my last Linkables I have changed flatmates and left my bar job, which are two major changes in my life. Both are for the better and even though I'm going to miss my bar job, I was exhausted and couldn't keep up the night shifts on top of my 'main' job. Everything is going well in my main job and it's time I concentrated fully on it. It also means I have a bit more time to focus on my blog and reviews for the Big Glasgow Comic Page, as both had been getting a bit neglected. 

Big changes, but hopefully two very positive changes. I also had planned to put this months links into groups as I usually do, but most of them are pop culture based this month. Nerds unite! 

Remember that time The Shimmy Club had two-way mirrors between the bathrooms? There's going to be a play based on at The Fringe

Christy wrote the perfect blog post as to why she's giving up clean eating.   

Seen the latest Suicide Squad trailers? I'm sure you've noticed just how much screen time Harley Quinn is getting (it's a lot more than her fellow female superheroes). 

The amazing Gemima wrote a really heartfelt piece on her struggles with anxiety and depression, and how it's effected her blog. 

Another fantastic human, Dani, filmed a vlog about her autism

A Tinder for female friendships? I wouldn't say no. 

Helen has a fantastic outfit (as usual) but also a few even for Dundee based babes

Remember I used to live in Dundee and after I moved took regular trips back? Lauren took her first trip through and has positive things to say (and even ate at one of my favourite places). 

A bar cart is something I'm beginning to think my flat needs, so naturally I loved Kate's video on hers

Bar Soba is one of my favourite places in Glasgow, and I'm not the only blogger who agrees

I'm getting a bit bored of my hair, and rose gold is a look I'm seriously considering

If you're in Edinburgh or Glasgow you might just see some production crews filming for Trainspotting

I've worked with quite a few brands now and like to feel I have it down, but even Amber's blog taught me quite a lot

Pick your house plants by how much air they filter. This is according NASA, don't you know

Who is Game of Thrones main character? Maths has the answer

If you can, you know, afford high-end fashion: Armani have went fur-free

Like me, Cat is pretty new to reading comics and I agree with her attitude to them

I can write for days, but ask me to speak all day? Get out of here. When Communication Isn't Your Forte

Did you fall for any of these April Fools jokes from brands

I've only ever used AiBnB once, but I agree with these 15 tips for being a great Couchsurfing guest (I actually have a spare room where friends stay a lot, and these are great tips for even staying at a friends house). 

I've not long finished watching Jessica Jones and reckon it's one of the best TV shows I've watched in a long time. Here's 12 great things about it

I didn't quite get into Once Upon a Time but feel I should give it another chance now they've introduced their first LGBT couple

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