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Review: Alain de Botton – The Art of Travel

travel, philosophy

Preparations for Travel

In preparing for a journey, a large part is in the anticipation of the destination.  The choice seems endless, then you pick a spot somewhere on the globe and go through the process of working out the details – how you will get there, where you will stay, perhaps a short-list of restaurants to be sampled during your time there.  For me, there is also the anticipation brought about by reading around a place: finding out how place has influenced literature and art perhaps. [click to continue…]


Review: Ruth Reichl – Delicious!

Book group read January 2016

Our book group recommended read for January 2016: a pretty cupcake on the cover draws your attention.  Subtitled “A tale of love, war and cake”.

As I had hosted the book group at our house in November, I was searching frantically for books to recommend for reading over Christmas which would not leave our group struggling to finish, or unable to pick the book up at all.  We’ve got some members who struggle with horror and graphic descriptions, and for various reasons we don’t always all finish the book.  We’d had success (mostly) with Jessie Burton’s ‘The Miniaturist’ as all but one had finished it and we’d all enjoyed it for various reasons.

The theme behind the novel Delicious! is of the importance of correspondence and the ordinary everyday things undergone by those who are left coping on the home front while others go off to war.  The Delicious! of the title is a magazine of the recent past, and the central character, Billie works there as an assistant to the Editor, Jake Newberry.  The experiences Billie has and the people she meets in the close-knit gourmet circles of New York City benefit from the author’s experiences as a restaurant critic and magazine editor.  Descriptions of food discovered and consumed will certainly have you salivating.  But once the magazine is closed down, the discovery of war-time correspondence between one of the writers at the magazine and a young girl who is keen to discover ways of supplementing the rations and privations of the second World War give the twists and mysteries of the book which want to keep you reading.

I found the book immensely enjoyable as an immersive read, the food knowledge and relationships between the likeable characters kept me turning the pages and I hope that it will provide some hours of entertainment for our group over the festive season.

Ruth Reichl – Delicious published 2014 by Random House Group.

Book group read January 2016


History and Heritage – the next #ScotlandHour

The Twitter tourism chat, #ScotlandHour, takes place on the last Wednesday of each month, with a set topic and some questions to encourage participation from tourism people and visitors throughout the world.

As one of the founding hosts, I take my turn a couple of times a year to lead the chat and encourage people to join in by suggesting questions and working on answers.  You can read the schedule of chats for this year, and the current month’s set questions by visiting the website, scotlandhour.com.

In October 2014, our theme is history and heritage, which we’d promised to set as a theme when the team were invited to the Scottish Parliament back in March 2013 to be recognised for using new tools to promote tourism.

This week, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to several events which involve visiting some of the amazing buildings which form part of our built environment and indeed our history and heritage around Edinburgh.

First of all, the School of Marketing, Tourism and Languages at Napier University had been doing some analysis on blogging for festivals and events, and were presenting the results to a group of people who are involved in staging such entertainments throughout Scotland.  I’ll cover this in a later post, because for this topic I’m interested in the building in which the presentation was held.

Napier University Craiglockhart
I was delighted to meet Eleanor Livingstone of StAnza Poetry festival just as we entered the Craiglockhart building, as we realised at the same moment that the Rivers Suite towards which we were headed was named for the doctor who had treated patients including the War Poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, and we were both thinking about the Pat Barker Regeneration Trilogy which had covered this period so evocatively.  The Craiglockhart Campus, as it now is, is an interesting blend of the old and new.  There is a striking pod connecting the older parts of the building where conferences and meetings are held with the newer student quarters for teaching and study.  The views towards the city are tremendous, and particularly as autumn turns the leaves and the light is soft.  There’s a small museum area holding works by the poets as well as some artefacts which describe the former uses of the building including a silk banner printed with tourist information for residents of Edinburgh Hydropathic as the building was once known.

The following day I headed to another building with an interesting history, now known as the Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – Royal Terrace.  It was formerly 7 distinct townhouse residences.  The reason for visiting was that the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group (ETAG) was hosting a presentation by Edinburgh World Heritage to encourage tourism providers to make more of the status of Edinburgh as a World Heritage site.  ETAG was also launching the Business Guide to help businesses make the most of our World Heritage. Crowne Plaza had done just that – collaborating with Edinburgh World Heritage to produce a guide which their visitors could either download or purchase as a booklet to learn more about the history of the houses and the former residents.

Edinburgh World Heritage
After the short presentation about the project, we were given a tour of the hotel by the hotel manager, including visiting the gardens to the rear of the hotel which lead up to the Calton Hill private gardens shared by the nearby residents.  The garden is a lovely space which non-residents may use if they wish to take a drink outside, or perhaps afternoon tea.  I’ll be recommending it to guests at Craigwell Cottage!

Later the same day, I was invited to hear about a new project taking place within the bounds of Edinburgh’s Old Town, in Roxburgh’s Court, which is a small square between Roxburgh’s and Warriston’s Closes.  There has been a development going on in the area which now houses the Old Town Chambers luxury serviced apartments, new restaurants, bars and 3 offices.  The developers, The Chris Stewart Group, have worked with the Edinburgh College of Art and the City of Edinburgh Council to invite groups of students to participate in a project to create a destination within Roxburgh’s Court which would encourage visitors to explore the space and provide a reason to venture into the space.  On Wednesday 1 October 2014, the 9 entries go on public display at The Devil’s Advocate in Advocate’s Close and Zizzi in Roxburgh’s Court.  You can read more about this and vote on which entry you like best by visiting Roxburgh Court Art Project (http://www.lateralcity.com/roxburghcourtartproject).  Share the information about the project using the tag #roxcourtartproject too.

Roxburghs Close Art Project
All this activity (crammed into the last two days) gives me encouragement that the October #ScotlandHour  on the subject of History and Heritage is going to be a lively topic for discussion.  If you want to get involved, please head over to the Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/scotlandhour and add your suggestions for questions to the post at the top of the page. Or Tweet your questions to @ScotlandHour by 21 October for inclusion in our selection.  The final list of questions will be published on the site on 22 October to allow you time to prepare your answers. I look forward to chatting with you about the History and Heritage topic on Wednesday 29 October 2014 at 9 pm.


ScotFood 1Sep2014 – Scottish Food Fortnight special

A special edition of the #ScotFood chat is coming up on 1 September 2014 featuring Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight which runs from 6 – 21 September 2014.  Thanks to @Eat_Scottish for helping to suggest questions and co-host the chat.  You’re welcome to join us.  All that’s required is to include A1, A2 etc to answer the questions and the tag #ScotFood in your Tweet.  Find out more about joining in here.


The questions for 1 September 2014 at 9 pm #ScotFood are:

9:00 Introduce yourself: First Name, First part of postcode, why you’re joining #ScotFood chat

9:05 Q1 2014’s Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight kicks off on the 6th of September, how do you plan to celebrate? #ScotFood

9:15 Q2 Make Scottish food & drink central to your own #FortnightFoodAdventure. What food or drink adventures do you recommend? #ScotFood (More information available here – http://bit.ly/fortfoodadv)

9:25 Q3 What would your dream Scottish food or drink adventure be? #ScotFood

9:35 Q4 There are over a hundred events already registered on the Fortnight website! Which are you planning on attending? #ScotFood

9:55 Q5 Describe Scottish produce in five words or less. #ScotFood

10:00 #ScotFood ends for the time being.  Enjoy @Eat_Scottish and @ScotFoodDrink

This will also be the last #ScotFood chat for the moment.  I’ve decided to rest the chat for the time being, having run it for 16 months, and had lots of fun doing so.  We’ve showcased each area of the Scotland during this time, but having taken on some additional responsibilities recently, I need to devote attention to them at present.  In the meantime, there will still be #ScotlandHour which periodically features Food and Drink recommendations, and #EdinHour highlighting things to do in our capital city.


ScotFood 4 August 2014 Hosted by Edinburgh & Lothians

How fast are the summer months zooming past? It’s almost time for our next #ScotFood chat on Twitter.  Edinburgh and the Lothians are the hosts this time, and it’s an opportunity for all those involved in producing, preparing, and eating Scottish produce to meet via Twitter, promote their events and businesses, and talk about all things related to Scottish food and drink.  We are pleased to welcome new hosts this month @StockbridgeMark, and @edinburgh who’ll bring news of a food and drink focus throughout the city coming up in October.  We also have hosts who helped out first time round: @The_ElfHerself and @Pickled_in_Scot –  so make sure you’re following them all to be sure of seeing the questions.  Our friends at @hulajuicebar are very busy for the Edinburgh Festival season at the moment, and @edinburghfoody is involved in baking adventures, but they may pop in to say hello. Thanks to the lovely team at @ScranSalon who’ve been so kind to mention and publish details of the #ScotFood chat at the monthly Scran Salon meetings.  All are welcome to attend, and there’s a Scran Salon Glasgow starting in August 2014 too. ScotFood Twitter Chat If you’d like to prepare in advance, here are the questions and timings.  Publishing them in advance gives everyone time to look out those great photographs and think about what’s new, or good to recommend.

9:00 Q1 Introduce yourself, first part of your postcode, reason for joining #ScotFood chat

9:05 Q2 Name one restaurant in Edinburgh you haven’t yet eaten in, but would like to, and why? #ScotFood

9:15 Q3 There are lots of great food events during the summer in Scotland. Tell us about some you’ve visited. #ScotFood

9:25 Q4 Where would you suggest to someone looking for a Foodie Hidden Gem in Edinburgh? #ScotFood

9:35 Q5 Tell us about your favourite food market and what do you buy there? #ScotFood

9:45 Q6 Anything else about the Scottish Food & Drink scene you’d like to share this month? #ScotFood

10:00 #ScotFood ends for this month.  Next month Glasgow, Central Scotland & Clyde valley host on 1 September 2014 with @Eat_Scottish

Check out these pages if you’d like some more information about how to host or how to participate.

As the only permanent host of this chat, I’m looking for extra support from you to help make this a success.  So, please let me know if you’d like to help by being a regular host (either as a regional host once every 9 months, or a regular monthly host).  Hosts are responsible for spreading the word via Twitter (or other means if you’re well connected on other networks), helping set the questions and Tweeting the questions out at the relevant time on the night of the chat.  Can you donate a few Tweets each month to help out?

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Scotfood 7 July 2014 – Highlands, Argyll & Isles

Scotfood twitter chat

Scotfood twitter chat

As the north west of Scotland take their turn to host July’s ScotFood chat, make sure you’re following:  @albachick and @NorthHop who are co-hosts this month.  I’ll also Tweet out the questions @SusanMcNaughton.  At 9 pm on the 7th July we’ll be chatting on Twitter about the Scottish Food and Drink topics using the questions below.  The #ScotFood chat has been running on Twitter on the first Monday of each month for over a year now.  We move the hosting round the country, but topics are open to all for discussion, and we’ve had people join chats from all sorts of surprising places around the world.  It’s a great way to meet others who share your interests, find out about Scottish Food and Drink events, and locate small, local producers who are working hard to build their businesses.  Bloggers join to find new subjects, or to share links to articles they’ve written about aspects of food and drink around Scotland.

Questions for 7 July 2014 from 9:00 pm are:

Remember to include photographs throughout the hour of your favourite foods or recipes

9:00 Q1 Introduce yourself, first part of your postcode, reason for joining #ScotFood chat

9:05 Q2 What food experiences can we expect at events around Scotland this month? #ScotFood

9:15 Q3 Preserving – what’s your favourite fruit/veg to preserve, and how do you prepare? #ScotFood

9:30 Q4 Where’s the most scenic spot in Highlands, Argyll and Isles you have enjoyed fresh, local produce? #ScotFood

9:45 Q5 The Highlands & Scotland is full of great breweries, name your favourite beer style? #ScotFood

10:00 #ScotFood ends for this month.  Next month Edinburgh and the Lothians host on 4 August 2014.  Till then!

Follow these links you’d like some more information about how to host or how to participate.

As the only permanent host of this chat, I’m looking for extra support from you to help make this a success.  So, please let me know if you’d like to help by being a regular host (either as a regional host once every 9 months, or a regular monthly host).  Hosts are responsible for spreading the word via Twitter (or other means if you’re well connected on other networks), helping set the questions and Tweeting the questions out at the relevant time on the night of the chat.  Can you donate a few Tweets each month to help out?



ScotFood 2 June 2014 – Grampian Hosts

ScotFood chat Grampian

A change of some of our hosts for this month’s #ScotFood chat, so follow @BerrieClaire @AGCC_Mary and @psw1588 to be sure of catching the questions from 9 pm – 10 pm on the night of 2 June 2014.  Grampion Region are the hosts, but of course everyone’s welcome to join in to discuss our favourite Scottish food and drink topics.  As we start to harvest the new season’s produce, it’s sure to be a good time to join in and find out more about what’s good to eat and drink and where to find it.

To enable everyone to prepare and research answers, we publish the questions in advance which gives you time to find out more about the topics and generate lots of good information for the chat.  If you haven’t joined in before, or need a refresher on what to do, here are hints for hosts and tips for participants.  Remember to answer the questions using A1 to answer Q1 and so on.  This allows me to pull together all the answers you give into a feature story on Storify, enabling others to find out about what we’ve been discussing and a place to find businesses who are actively seeking customers, bloggers to find subjects and connections between people who join in.

Questions for 2 June 2014:

Remember to include photographs throughout the hour of your favourite foods or recipes

9:00 Q1 Introduce yourself, first part of your postcode, reason for joining #ScotFood chat

9:05 Q2 It’s @TasteofGrampian on 7 June – tell us about your favourite foods or producers from the area #ScotFood

9:15 Q3 Strawberries, asparagus – what food do you anticipate most at this time of year and how do you prepare? #ScotFood

9:30 Q4 Preserving fruits and veg – share a favourite recipe and tell us what you’ll be storing for later months? #ScotFood

9:45 Q5 Where should we send visitors to Grampian to visit to find the best food and drink of the area? #ScotFood

10:00 #ScotFood ends for this month.  Next month Highlands and Islands, Argyll host on 7 July 2014.  Till then!

ScotFood chat Grampian



It’s the 17th May today, and the postman arrived early with a carefully wrapped bottle-shaped box this morning.  In my role as social media manager for Crail Food Festival, I’d volunteered to be one of the tasters for two whisky products – Glenfarclas 10-year old single malt, and Harviestoun Brewery’s Orach Slie, with the idea being that I would Tweet out some comments using the tag #caskaged.

Carefully unwrapping the box, I found inside a bottle of Orach Slie, a miniature of Glenfarclas 10-year old and some tasting notes.  The straw in which the precious contents were nestling proved to be a fine setting for an impromptu photography session to try to get just the right angles for the two bottles.

#caskaged 10 year old Glenfarclas and Harviestoun Orach Slie

The tasting notes supplied by Scotland Food and Drink suggested that the two should be compared as the sherry casks in which the Harviestoun Brewery’s Orach Slie had been aged were those which had been used make Glenfarclas 10 year old. A novice whisky taster, I searched out reasons for the use of sherry casks, and found that bourbon casks are also popular for aging Scotch, which must be aged for a minimum of 3 years.

So to the tasting.  I’ve written before about my inexperience in the quaffing of our national drink.  I was therefore relieved to discover that Glenfarclas Distillery is located in Speyside, meaning that the whisky was likely to be mellow, sweet and fruity rather than peaty, which I’ve found I don’t really enjoy.  We read in the notes the Glenfarclas 10 year old single malt is “a wonderfully sherried whisky, and an excellent aperitif”.  Good! That meant we could start the whisky tasting before dinner took the edge off our palates.  I enlisted the assistance of my husband, who has much more experience of drinking whisky than I, and was eager to be involved.  We poured equal measures into some fine Edinburgh Crystal whisky glasses to take a look at the colour and appreciate the “nose” of the whisky.  Pale straw-coloured, the whisky had a delicate and distinctly honeyed nose.  On tasting, neither of us recognised any maltiness, or smokiness, but more buttery and raisin flavours. Very easy drinking, and definitely a single malt which both of us enjoyed.

Before we started our evening meal, we poured the Harviestoun Brewery Orach Slie, and proceeded to taste it at room temperature, as suggested.  I really enjoyed drinking the “Golden Nectar” at room temperature instead of from the fridge, it seemed to make the flavours more rounded.  We both agreed that we were enjoying the sweetness of the brew, and finding it neither bitter nor drying, although perhaps our lack of appreciation was more due to our limited beer-describing vocabulary.  We’d started the tasting of the beer before eating a Chinese meal, but this was where it really started to come into it’s own.  It was the perfect accompaniment to our duck spring roll starters, with all the sweet notes really bringing out the flavour of the food.  Before we’d finished the bottle, my other half was already putting this on his list of beers to take to a barbecue we’re going to in a few weeks time, for a friend who is a beer connoisseur (or at least drinks a lot of it!).

Thank you so much to @Eat_Scottish for the opportunity to try these two different, but related Scottish delights. You can find out more about the distiller and brewer here:

Distillery: Glenfarclas Distillery Twitter: @glenfarclas
Brewery: Harviestoun Brewery Twitter: @HarviestounBrew



ScotFood Ayrshire & Arran 5 May 2014

We return to Ayrshire and Arran this month for the #ScotFood Twitter chat at 9 pm on Monday 5 May 2014.  Our hosts on Twitter are: @HowardFarm @TasteAyrshsire @BarwheysDairy and @PierslandHouse.  If you’d like to help host future chats, do let me know in the comments below.

Questions are set out below, and will be Tweeted out on the evening by our hosts, and by me, @SusanMcNaughton.  Join in the discussion by answering questions starting A1 for the answer to Q1 etc, and including #ScotFood in your answer.  If you miss the chat, you’ll be able to find summaries of each of the discussions on Storify.  If you’re still unsure why you should be joining in Twitter Chats, try this article.

5 May 2014 ScotFood Chat

9:00pm Q1 Introduce yourself, first part of your postcode, reason for joining #ScotFood chat

9:05pm Q2 What are you most looking forward to coming in to season from Ayrshire & Arran? #ScotFood

9:20pm Q3 Share a tip to help local food producers get more from Twitter? #ScotFood

9:35pm Q4 What is the most interesting food and drink combination you have had recently? #ScotFood

9:50pm Q5 Nominate a new innovative food or drink business or product. #ScotFood

10:00 pm #ScotFood chat ends

Tips for Participants here.

Tips for Hosts here.



Building a social media strategy from Twitter Chats

You’ll know from my participation and co-hosting of Twitter chats, ScotlandHour, ScotFood and EdinHour that I’m an enthusiast for Twitter chats.  If structured so that people who follow them get value from the chat, then they can be a useful tool as part of your social media strategy.  Having hosted and participated over the last 3 years, it’s a delight to be asked for help from businesses who might want to join in, but haven’t yet worked out how best to do so.

A cup of coffee at the Scottish Storytelling Centre recently was the way Beth Edberg and I chose to discuss why joining Twitter chats might work for her business.  Beth is one of the co-owners of Cranachan and Crowdie in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh and she and her partner Fiona McEwan are enthusiasts for the wide range of food produced here in Scotland.  We ‘met’ on Twitter several years ago when I joined with my @2edinburgh account for Craigwell Cottage talking about things of interest to Edinburgh visitors, and Beth was similarly promoting her Edinburgh Storytelling Apartment.

Over the years, our interests coincided again when Beth and Fiona launched Cranachan and Crowdie and I helped launch the Crail Food Festival.

Beth and I met to discuss how Cranachan and Crowdie could join in with the ScotFood chat.

cranachan and crowdie

Tips for joining ScotFood

  1. Put the regular dates for #ScotFood (first Monday of every Month) in your diary.
  2. Put a reminder in your diary a few days before to check what the questions for discussion will be.
  3. Prepare some material for the chat to support your answers.  Photographs are particularly useful, or a blog post with your answers.
  4. Use a scheduling tool for Twitter to prepare your answers so that your business will participate at the right times with helpful answers. We discussed using Hootsuite which has a free option for a small number of social media profiles, or a paid option for businesses which may have a number of different profiles.
  5. Use the tag #ScotFood in your answers, and start your answer with A1 for the answer to Q1, A2 for Q2 and so on.
  6. Join in the #ScotFood chat on the day and engage with others who are there, knowing that your answers are scheduled to go out too.
  7. If you have lots of photographs to share, have them in an easily accessible place to attach to your Tweets during the hour – it can go very fast when lots of people join in, and you don’t want to miss your chance to show your knowledge.

Business Strategy for joining Twitter Chats

The #ScotFood chat moves hosting round Scotland, to ensure every area has a turn to host.  But everyone can join in each month – some questions are general and some are more specific to the area.  This gives foodies, food businesses, chefs, restaurants, cafés and potential visitors around the country a chance to find out more about what’s special in the area, as well as being able to talk about what they’re cooking, eating or drinking which is in season.  For Beth at Cranachan and Crowdie, her store stocks food and drink as well as craft and gift items from around Scotland.  She also regularly hosts events at her store, which others might like to know about.

Joining in a Twitter chat like ScotFood gives Beth’s business the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge (by answering the set questions); interact with others during the chat; be found by others who might want to buy from her store and possibly connect with visitors to Scotland.  She doesn’t need to be directly ‘selling’ all the time the chat is happening – people will naturally take a look at her Twitter profile and find out more about her business that way.

Over the first series of ScotFood chats, we had  an average of 140 people join each chat, contributing over 950 Tweets during each chat, with an average number of impressions in excess of 1,500,000 (a measure of the number of Tweets and the number of followers of each participant – the higher the number, the higher the reach of the chat).

But a Twitter chat is just one part of a strategy for a business, and Beth and I went on to discuss how creating a content calendar would be a good idea for her business, as she is already active in several social media channels, and amongst the demands of running a busy shop, it’s necessary to make time for each of them to ensure that she gets results.  Although Twitter might be a starting point, creating a calendar for content for all of her channels might come from using ScotFood as a starting point.  Here’s how:

Cranachan and Crowdie

Cranachan and Crowdie have a website, on which visitors can see that they also have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.  As Beth knows that the ScotFood chat is on regularly, and it features different areas of Scotland each time, she could use this to inspire her content strategy for other social media sites.  So, for example, knowing that Perthshire, Dundee and Angus is coming up next, she could:

  1. Write a blog post for her website, which has a news section, featuring a producer from Perthshire, Dundee or Angus
  2. Share some pictures of the area or foods which she sources from there on Facebook
  3. Join in the ScotFood chat on Twitter (that’s where we started, remember?), remembering to follow those who join the chat, and to interact during the chat
  4. Take some pictures of food in her shop from the area and share them on Instagram, using the tagging feature there to allow more people to find Cranachan and Crowdie, and for her to find more people to follow too
  5. Make up pin boards on Pinterest of food from different geographic areas of Scotland – like this one for Orkney and Shetland I did for Crail Food Festival

We managed to discuss most of this in an hour or so.  I do hope that it will encourage more Scottish Food and Drink businesses to use social media tools to share their businesses on-line.  Thanks to Beth for agreeing that I could write about Cranachan and Crowdie as a great example of sharing.  If you’d like to discuss how I could help your business to get more from sharing, then get in touch.

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