12. Run a 10k Cancer Research Race

20150627_Race_For_Life_0006 Our group was called the Star Sisters (that was my uncreative name) which was myself, my sister, my sister’s friend Adamina and her sister Olivia (hence the name). However this story is less about the group and more about my sister, Claire, and her first 10k race.

Claire has been along with me pretty much every step of this 27 List challenge. She’s suggested ideas for the list; helped me complete some of the goals, most importantly making macarons; and has been in the background going through ideas; pushing me through my indecision about blanket colours and reading through first drafts of this blog and telling me what’s weird. So when I came to looking for charity races to join, I just naturally booked her in with me. She didn’t have much choice in the matter and although she had just begun doing a bit of running herself, this would be her first long distance in a very long while, as long ago as primary school cross-country races in fact. So she kept at her running, every other week doing a Saturday morning run and sometimes after work. Two weeks out from race day, she confessed her longest distance so far was 3k.

20150627_Race_For_Life_0049I had not been doing much better. I have run intermittently for the past two or three years and completeled 10k races before, but my training for this race had been minimal, a few Saturday runs of about 6k and boot camps every now and again. I knew I would have a bit of base fitness to get me through, I hoped at least.

Claire and I ran together the week before the race, aiming for 6k, we struggled to get to 4k without stopping. Claire’s athsma flared up and we bickered with each other about strategies to keep going and silly things that only siblings bother each other about. I wasn’t feeling too hopeful about what was to come for the next weekend.

Race day came up quickly and we woke to the sunniest Saturday of the year so far. It was warm by 8am and by midday it would be baking hot. Luckily we had a 9am start and after a quick and quiet warm up (they weren’t allowed to use the sound system until after 9am) we lined up with the throng of ladies dressed in pink to start the race.

20150627_Race_For_Life_0110I’m proud to say we started together and finished together, one hour and seven minutes later. It was a great run, better than I could have hoped for. We started well, spured on by the crowd running with us and supporters calling out at us “Go tutu girls!”. We faltered a little around the 4k mark and nearly stopped but Claire had it in her head though that she wasn’t stopping until 5k and in the end pushed through all the way to the 6k mark where we took a brief tactical walk. Claire got her breathing under control and I geared up mentally for the next stretch.

We started running again, legs aching and faces flushed with the exertion but drawing inspiration from the statements pinned to our fellow runners backs “I race for life for ……”. The statements are such a great idea and people’s messages were so encouraging, this is one aspect of the race I will definitely get involved in next time.

We didn’t talk much in the last 3k or so and the photos Ben got show tired and pained faces, dragging our bodies along with us. I just kept thinking, if Claire can keep going then I have to keep up, I really wanted us to finish together. Turns out she was thinking the same thing and we both pushed through to the finish line.

20150627_Race_For_Life_026920150627_Race_For_Life_0288 (1)Crossing the finish line was such a special moment, I was so proud of us, and so proud of Claire for not giving up and not giving in. We threw up our arms and celebrated with hugs and much needed water. This was one of the last weekends Claire has in London before heading back home to NZ. I’m really sad she won’t be around anymore, but I’m really glad you were at my side for this one Claire, it felt good.

20150627_Race_For_Life_0294Thanks to Adamina and Olivia for joining us and Ben for supporting and chasing us around with the camera xx

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8. Plan Travel Trip: Egypt and Jordan Tour

6174710534_dd3c915d85_zMy original goal was to get to Morocco this year. Morocco is one of the places my mum travelled to when she was living in the UK on her “OE”, or overseas experience for those not brought up in NZ. I grew up listening to stories of her travels, through Europe, Russia and Morocco and have always wanted to visit these places for myself.

So, Morocco is definitely still on the travel wish list, however when the chance came up to travel to Egypt with a friend this year, we couldn’t pass it up.

While studying for Prince2, the material called on me to create my own business case for a project. At the time I had only one thing on my mind.. So here is my business case for travel to Egypt and Jordan – probably not what the tutors had in mind but it kept me interested.

6174762160_e37cdeed99_zThe Egypt and Jordan Holiday Project Business Case

Executive Summary:

A two-week tour of Egypt and Jordan with a friend in November 2015.

Reasons:

  • The pyramids of Egypt are one of the 7 wonders of the world and are something that Ben and I both want to see.
  • I want to experience swimming in the Dead Sea in Jordan.
  • We have a good friend travelling at this time and she is interested in doing the same tour.
  • November is a good time to visit both countries as the temperature is milder and it is not high tourist season.
  • Friends of ours did a similar tour two years ago and highly recommended it.

Business options:

  1. Join on the Ancient Encounters 2 week tour of Egypt and Jordan with our friend. Our chosen option.
  2. Go for only 1 week- cost savings are minimal as we still have the same flight costs and only slightly reduced tour costs. We would save on leave. However we would only be able to see one country on that part of the tour.
  3. Go to Egypt and Jordan but don’t join on the tour. This would involve a lot of extra planning in preparation and mean a lot of unknowns when we get there. By joining a tour we gain the experience of professional guides and tried and tested activities and routes.
  4. Go somewhere else on our travel wish list. This means we could tailor our holiday to suit any cost or time restrictions, however our friend won’t be with us.
  5. Don’t go anywhere: We save the money we would have spent on flights and the tour and could put it towards house savings. We would also save 10 days of leave that could be used for other holidays or periods off.

6174710416_7e2f549d55_zExpected Benefits:

  • New experiences and our first taste of Africa
  • Relaxing and refreshing holiday away from work. Lots of down time and opportunities to explore
  • New friendships we can make on the tour within the tour group
  • Well organised and comprehensive travel plans prepared for us.
  • We can tick Egypt and Jordan off our travel wish list
  • Pictures and stories of our trip can be shared with friends

Expected Dis-benefits:

  • Disruption to our work schedule
  • Uses up remaining leave allocation for the year, so we have to forgo all other holiday options
  • Spending money on holiday, takes away from our house saving priorities

6175040766_16e0cda33b_zTime Scale:

  • The holiday will take 16 days, which means 10 days of leave
  • The expected benefits will be experienced during and soon after the holiday

Costs:

  • Flights are £900 for both of us
  • The tour is £1149 each at face value however we hope to get a discount at the TNT Travel Show
  • Insurance will be £100
  • Spending on the trip is estimated to be £400 each for tips and excursions
  • The cost of travel vaccinations (unknown)

Major Risks:

  • The political climate in Egypt and Jordan may make things dangerous for tourists and the tour might be cancelled
  • The foreign food and unclean water could make us sick
  • We may not enjoy the tour activities, it may not be what we were expecting

6174234713_c8df14587a_z Investment Appraisal:

We’re going to go for it!!

It is a lot of money but we think the experiences we will gain and the enjoyment we get out of it will far out way the costs. The Ancient Encounters tour is good value for money and they have a good reputation.

All photos are from the Encounters Travel website

Afghans: NZ Chocolate Cornflake Biscuits

_MG_1300The biscuits are soft, chocolatey, crunch and all things delicious rolled into one. I do think they are the perfect home-made biscuit. If I said things like “my signature bake” then these would be it.

I bake quite a bit for my workmates, when I’m practicing baby shower cakes, trying out new recipes and using up all the bananas in my freezer, but Afghans are what I get the most requests for. I definitely don’t mind obliging either, these are my favourite biscuits to make. They are so simple and quick and it’s one of the few recipes that I have committed to memory, so I don’t even need to hunt through the cookbook any more.

Almost as much as I get requests for the biscuits though, I get questions about the name. Why is it called an Afghan? The simple answer from me is that I have no idea. Neither does Wikipedia. An interesting but very long blog post has been written on the subject and in the end the writer calls on re-naming them. If it ever comes to that I hope we give them a quintessentially New Zealand name as they are a great part of our very limited culinary history. Especially when Australia keeps trying to claim the Pavlova.

_MG_1315For me, the Afghan biscuit is a huge part of my childhood. My nana used to have them in her biscuit tin often. When I was young the whole family used to pile into the car on Sunday afternoons and make the 30 minute drive from Petone to Island Bay to visit nana and granddad. My two sisters, cousins and I would be placated with board games or sent to the park while nana would set up afternoon tea. There would be a spread of what she had in her tins for that week, usually scones or pikelets, Neenish tarts, lemon or orange cake, Tan Square (a caramel biscuit slice), ginger slice and always, always a sponge with cream and jam. The adults would have tea in nana’s dainty cups and saucers and us kids would have homemade lemonade.

So many of my baking memories come from afternoon tea at nana and granddad’s place, my nana was such a committed baker and used to make so much from scratch. Not only sweets and lemonade but tomato sauce, preserves, pastries, crackers and even home-made chocolate eggs at Easter. Not to mention the evening meals and lunches. She was an impressive lady and has inspired me more than she could ever know.

So here is the recipe, give it a try. Let me know how you get on.

Edmonds Afghans

Ingredients:

200g butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups plain flour

1/4 cup cocoa

2 cups cornflakes

Optional:

chocolate icing

walnuts to decorate

Method:

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour and cocoa into creamed mixture. Fold in cornflakes. Spoon mounds of mixture onto a greased oven tray, gently pressing into a ball. (I then flatten these slightly with a fork). Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 15 minutes or until set. When cold, ice with chocolate icing and decorate with a walnut if wished.

Tip: The mixture should be firm and sticky like below. If you find it’s getting too soft and the butter is melting, then once you have spooned the mixture onto the trays put them in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes before baking.

_MG_1242Here I’ve used silver balls on the icing to make them a bit special. I am donating this batch for my work bake sale on Tuesday.

May Update

Hello! Hello!

I have spent the weekend celebrating a good friends wedding out in Kent. The sun was shining, the alcohol was flowing and we couldn’t have been in better company.

Here’s us showing the kids the Nutbush…

20150606_Leanne_and_Mark's_Wedding_0069I also made the cake, which was a lot of fun, I now have a Pinterest page filled with ‘modern Victoria Sponge’ ideas and wedding cake toppers. Thankfully it tasted good and, save a few pieces squirreled away by the bride’s sister, was all gone before the night was through. Can we do it all again next weekend?

Here is my May update, and I’m not sure if I have crossed anything off the list this month, but there are lots of plans brewing, so more to come soon.

With the sun finally out I definitely need to pay attention to my work wardrobe, I’ll be updating that in the next few months. I also have a few craft things there which I have finally sourced all the materials for, so I’ll get started on those.

There is also a few travel destinations left to go…

1. Make a 3 tiered cake a la Sweetapolita Complete! Check out my practice run and the final baby shower cake.

2. Watch the entire series of Sex and the City  – Maybe I’ll be more productive with my evenings now that I have finished this. You can read my review here, spoiler – I loved it!

3. Write at least 27 more blog entries – Since writing the list, I have completed 17 posts so far… many more to come.

4. See The Book of Mormon theatre show – This is booked! I’m so excited to see this in July… AND I will get to share the experience with two very good friends who are visiting over summer. Can’t wait!

5. Create a star constellation scarfI have all the materials now, I just need to get started.

6. Host friends for a grown up dinner party

7. Make French macaronsDone!They were delicious. Here are my macarons and my Paris research.

8. Plan a travel trip to Morocco –

9. Make lolly infused vodka See my colourful attempt here.

10. Knit a peggy square blanket, maybe like thisBlanket = Stalled in favour of tennis in the sunshine.

11. Try out dance classes – Life got in the way and I stopped going to classes, I keep telling myself I’ll go back to it, but it has been a couple of months now…

12. Run a 10K cancer research race – Claire and I will be racing for life on June 27th at Victoria Park. Please help support this good cause by donating through our Just Giving Page. We’re the Star Sisters, we’re running in a group with two other sisters too. Must get training!

13. Make salted caramel as gifts

14. Develop a uniform work wardrobe of at least 8 outfits

15. Go to see an inspirational speaker (like a Ted Talk) –  I was inspired by many speakers at the Women of the World Festival.  An unexpected talk about The Myth of Talent really resonated with me too.

16. Take a DSLR camera course – I have bought the ABM DSLR Basics course and have been reading through the lessons slowly. I am waiting for some more sunlight to truly start practicing.

17. Read these books –  The Robber BrideFinished 13/03/2015, see my first attempt at a book review here. The Colour Purple – Finished 20/03/2015, see my purple post here. The Kite Runner – I have this on reserve at my local library, so hopefully a copy gets returned soon and I can get started on it. 

18. Make gimmick tea bag craft idea for friends

19. Hike along the White Cliffs of Dover

20. Move into a 1 bed flat with Ben

21. Stay at/visit a National Trust site

22. See a netball match, hopefully to support New Zealand. – It doesn’t look like NZ is touring England this year, booo! But England will be playing a few World Cup warm up matches in the next few months.

23. Have a cocktail at the Ritz – I have been doing some research on the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz, and the more I read, the more I’m not so keen on going anymore. It just sounds too stuffy and uptight for me to enjoy.

Instead I have been researching awesome London cocktails bars for somewhere else I would rather spend my money in. These are the candidates so far: Nola, a New Orleans style cocktail bar in Shoreditch; Mr Foggs, a Mayfair bar decorated in Victorian Explorer trinkets and trifles and Original Sin, this place looks incredible and is within stumbling distance from home.

If you have any more recommendations please let me know.

24. Climb Snowdon Mountain, Wales

25. Do some study through work. Hopefully a Prince2 Project Management qualification. – I completed a 1 week intensive course mid-May, and will get my results back shortly, fingers crossed.

26. Print a photo book

27. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant – Booked! Ben and I are going to have lunch at Galvin at Windows for our anniversary. I think it’s the worst name for a restaurant I have heard, but the food looks delicious.

Paris Winter Weekend

_MG_0526My sister and I both have a bit of a city crush on Paris. Claire for the many galleries; me for the gorgeous food. So when we booked a winter weekend there in February, we knew we would have to make plenty of time for both, as well as sightseeing and general hanging out.

Here is what we got up to. If you have any tips for my next trip please share them.

_MG_0250We stayed in Monmartre, so our first stop after dropping off our bags at the hostel was a walk up to Sacre-Coeur, the famous basilica of Monmartre. Claire is shielding her eyes from the sun, which was a lovely surprise after leaving a grey London that morning.

_MG_0284_MG_0297We paid to go up in to the dome and the views were spectacular. I must have taken hundreds of photos of the Eifel Tower in the distance, much to Claire’s dismay as she can’t stand heights and was edging her way around the dome sticking as close to the building as possible. I will admit, it is a long way up, but even Claire admitted once safely on solid ground, it is well worth doing.

_MG_0256 We then wandered around, fantasizing about what it would be like to live as a Parisian in a lovely apartment like the one above, overlooked only by the basilica…..

Our next stop was the Pompidou Centre, which is a surprising building that kind of looks like a swimming pool with lots of tunnel slides around the outside. On the inside you walk into a huge atrium, flanked by six floors of galleries and cultural spaces. There is a library, cinema and cafe, among exhibition spaces and public performance areas. 20150405 March iphone Bristol 022The highlight for me was the Jeff Koons: A Retrospective exhibition. The huge collection of works from Koons was fascinating and impressive. I loved the balloon dog, pictured. Claire had hoped to see the modern art collection which has works from Matisse (her favourite artist) Picasso and Duchamp to name a few. However, when we got there we found that this particular gallery was closed for refurbishment. Noooo! This is not the first time Claire has been caught out by refurbishment . We also travelled to Antwerp last year, mainly to see MOMU, the famous fashion museum where works from the Antwerp 6 designers are displayed, only to find out that was closed in between exhibitions.

Although it wasn’t all bad, we spent the next day in Musee Picasso, a lovely sleek and modern gallery that is hugely popular. We definitely recommend booking in advance as you skip the long queues, we pretty much walked straight in._MG_0356 _MG_0371Last time I was in Paris we discovered this company, Fat Tyre, running bike tours of Paris. I had been on the day tour, which was brilliant, and so this time we opted for a night tour which included a boat ride on the river Seine. After meeting and picking up our nice comfy bikes, we cycled off to see all the main tourist spots at night, Notre Dame, the latin quarter and the Louvre before getting on a boat and being whisked down the river while drinking wine and watching the lights go by.

_MG_0445 _MG_0475 _MG_0482 _MG_0498I would highly recommend these tours, just rug up if you’re doing the night tour in winter. It was freezing!

We spent our last day wandering around the Notre Dame. It was so beautiful inside, and I got to practice my night-time photography.

_MG_0609 _MG_0628 _MG_0633 _MG_0636

_MG_0677This bridge is nicknamed the “Love Lock bridge” and it is heaving with the weight of millions of padlocks. A romantic tradition or thoughtless vandalism, it definitely is a beautiful site. Notre Dame rises in the distance and when we were there we were serenaded by an enthusiastic accordion player.

As you already know, we did eat our fair share of macarons on this trip. We also had our first savoury crepes, or galletes as I now know they’re called.

20150405 March iphone Bristol 027 20150405 March iphone Bristol 046Finally after a weekend of indulgence, I thought I would go for a healthy option and have a salad. Luckily this salad came with a whole round of camembert.. mmmm…

I can’t wait to go back to Paris, I have vowed that the next time I go it will be in summer. My next must see will be the Palace of Versailles.