Home for Christmas

20161220_102744We hadn’t been home for two years and 10 months when we touched down in Wellington on a gorgeous sunny Friday afternoon. One week before Christmas and the start of a four-week holiday. I felt so many things getting off the plane and hugging my mum, dad younger sister and best friend who had all come to the airport to meet us. Tired being the number one thing after a gruelling 26 hours in the air and 6 hours waiting at airports in Dubai and then Sydney. I also felt relieved, happy, nervous, excited, sadness and so, so, so much love.

It was all going on at once and I probably came across as quite shell-shocked, it was overwhelming. But as we got in our old family car, drove the familiar roads to my mum’s place, the conversations picked up where we left off from our last Skype calls and I felt comforted and home.20170107_114343Home was a funny word while I was at home. People were careful about how they used it around me. I was careful about how I used it, too. When I was discussing London I would say “going back to London” not the more natural, “going home to London”. I felt that I was home in Wellington, but I was also going home to London.

After living in London for almost five years, it would be weird if I didn’t think of it as home. It’s where my life is now, my friends, my things, my routines all my habits are formed from living in the crazy, busy, vibrant and beautiful city. London is my normal now.

I’m so proud of how Ben and I have made our lives in London, the experiences we’re having are so different from what we would have had, had we spent our twenties in New Zealand. I never thought big city life would suit me, I was actually very scared moving to London as I was worried I would hate it. Now I worry that I will never be able to leave this big city, how will I ever manage waiting longer than three minutes for public transport? Where will I get my Pret A Manger sandwich fix?

But then I spend time in New Zealand and see photos like these and realise I won’t care. I  loved the lifestyle in NZ. Being invited in to people’s houses, the ease of getting around and the ability to just roll up anywhere without encountering queues or missing out entirely. I know that eventually NZ will be my forever home. Not quite yet, but when the time is right.20161228_161231Also, how could we forego these views!?!

Here are a few things we got up to while home…

A quick mission up to the Belmont trig for views over Wellington harbour.

Hiking Karangahake Gorge near Waihi and spotting fantails in the trees.

Many days on the beach in Waihi. Exploring, swimming, sunbathing and Ben even learned to surf!

So many cuddles with this beauty. She wasn’t that into my selfie taking though!

I had better mention the food, too. Pavlova on Christmas day, ice creams as we road-tripped around the country and so much caramel slice. For Christmas I was given a recipe book called Treats from Little & Friday with what looks like a cracking caramel slice recipe, I can’t wait to try it out.

There was cards on New Years Eve in Auckland and Scrabble at Dad’s. I even managed to win a few 😉20170107_104645So many hours chatting in cars…20161228_150623And so many beautiful views. This is Maraetai Beach on the outskirts of Auckland City.

I love being able to feel like a tourist in a country that is also so familiar. There is always so much to discover. 20161228_150357I hope you enjoyed my photo round-up of our New Zealand trip. I have a few more photos to come of two really special days out. A day out at the zoo with my dad which was my Christmas present and as my birthday present, day out at Zealandia, a bird sanctuary, with my mum and sisters. I was really spoilt, so blogs on those days to follow.

I am enjoying going through these photos so much. The weather was pretty patchy when we were home and we got lots of spring rain, but when the sun shone we definitely got out and made the most of it.

What do you get up to while visiting friends and family at home? I love having lots of chilled days, but also recognise that this is my holiday time so make an effort to explore as well.

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2017 Resolutions

20170110_175912.jpgThere is nothing like the start of a new year to make you re-evaluate your situation and inevitably, set some lofty goals. Ben and I have been having some big adult discussions lately about what we’re aiming for in life. It’s exciting. 2017 is also the year that we both turn 30 and we will have our 10 year anniversary so there will be lots to celebrate over the summer.

My resolutions are pretty simple this year and I’m thinking they will stick. I’m optimistic mostly because I’m so excited about them. So here goes…20170204_resolutions_blog_0065My 2017 Resolutions

  • Read!

With the change to my commute this year my reading has slowed down dramatically. I miss churning through the books on my long commute, it was the perfect, distraction free reading time. Now that my commute involves more exercise (and sometimes photography) I need to carve out some reading time while at home. So that’s what this goal is about. I have set up a Goodreads account to track my reading this year and set a goal of 25 books.

I have possibly bitten off more than I can chew here but I signed up to run this 10-12 mile obstacle assault course with Ben. The website says “You can expect undulating hills, thick mud and a range of mind-bending challenges to test your mental grit.” Yikes! We started (sort of) training in New Zealand and now that we’re back in London we have committed to this in earnest. There is a lot of ab crunches and pull ups (when I can do them) in my future.

  • Use what we have + only buy essentials
  • Save to buy a house

These two resolutions go together. This year is the year of saving for Ben and I, we really want to put in a big effort to save on the little things, like takeaways, buying coffees, and make the most of the stuff we have. We’re not going completely frugal but just trying to get smarter, I would much rather my money went on holidays and our futures than Uber rides.

  • Learn to code in Visual Basic

This will be a huge step for my Excel skills and will help me streamline the work I do so much. I wish I had thought of it sooner. I have a few projects at work that I’m going to attempt this year.

  • Refresh my blog

It’s nearly two and a half years since I started this blog on my 27th birthday and it still looks pretty much exactly the same. I think it’s about time to refresh, I love writing this little online diary so I want it to keep growing with me. 20170204_resolutions_blog_0055What are your resolutions for this year? Did you make any? Oh and does anyone want to train for Tough Mudder with me? I’m going to need so much support to get through that. .

2016 Resolutions: How did I do?

20170204_resolutions_blog_0066I feel a bit different coming into this year, so much of my focus in 2016 had been on our month long New Zealand holiday over Christmas that I really hadn’t thought much about afterwards. But we’re just into February now and already so much has happened and changed. I’m really excited about what this year has in store.

I have a post coming really soon on resolutions I am adding for 2017 but for now I want to look at my 2016.

2016 Resolutions

  • No More Snoozing! I want to wake up and get up in 2016.

I’m starting off with a bit of a failure, I definitely haven’t shaken my snoozing habit. I used this progress checker by Elise Joy to help me stay on track, you can get a 2017 one here. It was stuck to the wall beside my bed in our Tottenham flat, and then by my mirror in our current flat. It’s a really good way of seeing how far you have come and tracking that daily effort. But as you can see, I started strong then I completely drop off over the period where we were looking for and then moving flats. There were a couple more flurried of activity during the year when I thought, yes! I’m getting back on track, but ultimately I’m still not jumping out of bed. 20170204_resolutions_blog_0043

  • Complete 10 full press-ups.

A bit like my snoozing, I had periods of really good effort during the year, but ultimately they didn’t stick. I still can’t do one press-up, let alone 10!

  • Make cards and use a bit more of the paper scraps that I am always collecting (hoarding).

Yes! I’m pretty proud of this resolution, I think 90% of the cards I gave this year were home-made or cards that I’ve collected over the years. I used home-made gift tags at Christmas time and used home made birthday cards. This is something that I’m sure I’ll probably continue doing forever. It’s creative, personal, eco-friendly (I really only recycle or re-purpose), cheap and I love doing it. I do sometimes worry that it’s a bit childish to be making cards but I remind myself that a card is really about the message and as long as it’s thoughtful it doesn’t really matter how professional it looks.

  • Say Yes! more and be an available and willing friend in 2016.

I’ve had so many good times with friends in 2016. I made some new friends through netball, I got to know my new flat-mates and we mesh really well and I got to catch up with family and friends back home, some who I don’t keep in regular contact with while over here.

I also had it on my mind to see more gigs in 2016. Here are some of my ticket stubs from events I’ve seen in the year. There is comedy, theatre, travel and sport in the mix but most excitingly is all the cool music acts I managed to see Mumford and Sons at British Summertime festival; a solo show from Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls; Birdy who was a new find for me in 2016 and a bit of NZ sound with Fat Freddies Drop. The stubs aren’t in my pile but I saw Newton Faulkner in the Union Chapel which is an amazing venue in a church and at the Hoxton Hall I saw The Head and The Heart.

The biggest gigs I saw this year were Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen at Wembley Stadium. Two very very different gigs but both so memorable. 20170204_resolutions_blog_0059

I have finally sorted myself out with a SongKick account too. I can’t beleive I missed this for so long. For those that don’t know it’s an app that tracks bands and lets you know when they’re touring and reminds you when the tickets go onsale. So essential if you’re going to try and beat all the touts before they sell out.

I also managed to keep at my 2015 resolutions which were to

  • continue working through my 27 Lista couple more were completed in 2016 but there is still 9 to go
  • save for a house – still going strong and will be ramping it up for 2017.
  • print photos – Yes, lots went on in 2016.

I hope you’re all looking forward to 2017. Thanks for reading xx

26. Print a photo book

20170129_photo_book_0003For something so easy, that I really wanted to do, it’s taken me an awful long time to finally tick this off my 27 List. I think what held me back was the sheer volume of photos we take. It was hard to know where to start, so I didn’t.

Lately I have been thinking about how we document our lives. I take so many photos and save so many memory trinkets (hello every single ticket stub ever..oh and birthday cards, letters and travel brouchures… just me?). It kind of makes me ask what is the point? Why am I taking photos I never look at? Why am I keeping all these ticket stubs? Are they eventually destined for the bin anyway?

I have recently been inspired by some really cool projects – this blog post, using movie ticket stubs as art and a Kickstarter project I came across randomly. The Kickstarter project is a guy creating a photobook from a collection of notes his mother has left his father over the years. They are notes about what is in the fridge for dinner and when she will be home and they’re all handwritten on paper scraps. The project caught my attention in its celebration of the mundane. It shows how those little unsung parts of life can tell a really interesting story. I have funded the book and can’t wait to flick through the pages and delve into the story.

I’m mulling over similar ideas for my collection of ticket stubs so watch this space. But what I could make a start on is our photos, so in the last few months I have taken some action. I have created my first, of what I hope is many, photobooks and I have also started a gallery wall of some selected prints and photos.20170129_photo_book_0017Probably some of my favourite photos of our travels are the ones we took in Jordan. I really love the light and colours in Jordan. It helped that the country is packed with amazing sights too. So my first photo book is of Jordan.

I used Photobox for printing and I’m really happy with it, good price, good quality and something that we’ll keep forever. I hope to have a whole collection of these albums one day. I think my next one will be Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt, one of the few pictures we have up on our gallery wall so far, isof Ben and I fiding camels to the pyramids in Egypt. That was a total pinch myself moment so it’s nice to be reminded daily. 20170128_photo_gallery_0002I do want to have a few more actual photos in it, but I’m very happy for it to grow organically as and when I have the time and inclination. It makes me really happy to see it.

The newest edition is the cross-stitch mix tape my friend made me for my birthday. It’s so new it’s not even in some of these pics. The little fox is called Huckle, I bought it off my friend who illustrates prints and cards to sell, you can get your own Huckle, too. Find @mbmillustrations on Instagram.

My sisters and I are up the top, this is my favourite picture of us together and of course, images and trinkets from my favourite placeses New Zealand, Japan and Italy feature too.

What do you have on your walls? And what do you do with all the little keepsakes from travels and life?