Getting Engaged

One more update on life events this summer, after my birthday and celebrating our 10 year anniversary, is that on Thursday, 30th August 2017, Ben and I got engaged!

So let me tell you the story, as it was lovely and romantic and so perfect for us. 20170827_Cornwall_Camping_Day6_0128_v2We were in Cornwall, on a camping trip with Ben’s older brother Jake and his girlfriend Giorgia. We travel with them often and were having a great holiday exploring during the day, eating good food and finishing the night drinking around our campfire under the stars.

On this particular day we found ourselves at St Michael’s Mount. The island is accessed by a causeway across the beach that can only be used at low tide. Arriving at high tide, we caught a boat out in to the island and  spent the afternoon exploring the island. 20170827_Cornwall_Camping_Day6_0074Coming back we took our shoes off and walked barefoot through the receding water along the cobbled causeway.  I had already decided this was a pretty cool place and the others seemed to think so, too. We all agreed to fish’n’chips on the beach for dinner.

We sat in our picnic chairs overlooking the island as the sunset in pink and orange over the town of Penzance in the distance. Once the causeway was fully exposed the boys went down to take photos in the last of the light, calling Giorgia and I down to get some couple shots.

They posed for a few pics, then Ben and I got in front of the camera although Ben was constantly running back to the tri-pod to reset the camera. After a couple of shots he suggested we do one posing with our backs to the camera, so I turned and stood with my back to the camera as he did the camera reset. As he ran back to me I went to take his hand and then realised he was down on one knee.

Jake took a film and on it all you can hear is me emitting a very guttural and shocked “Ooooohhhhhhhh” at this moment. Ben said lots of nice things and then asked me if I would marry him. EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I was crying by this point and he was a bit choked up himself. The ring box was opened upside down but eventually as the last of the light disappeared I was wearing a beautiful engagement ring and hugging the guy I love. 20170827_Cornwall_Camping_Day7_0059Eventually we re-joined Jake and Giorgia for more hugs and (well planned) bubbles on the beach. It couldn’t have been a more perfect night under the stars.

So now we are engaged and talking about weddings. I’m excited about the next chapter in our lives and making more plans with my favourite guy.

Ben – thanks for making me feel so special on this night and always.

Photo credits: Ben took the one of St Michael’s Mount and me and my ring, Jake took the one of us together on the causeway.

 

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27. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant

Number 27 from my 27 list and our first ever Michelin starred restaurant. I’m so excited to tell you this story as it was so special for so many reasons. Ben and I are both total foodies and love trying out nice restaurants. Usually for our birthdays and anniversaries we book a fancy meal somewhere, it’s just not usually this fancy.

Ben and I both turned 30 this year, Ben in June and me two months later in August. A group of friends pitched in together to get us both a voucher for Umu restaurant as a gift. I had been talking about going to a fancy Japanese restaurant for years, so they were right on point with this present.

Umu restaurant in Mayfair has two Michelin stars and is led by chef Yoshinori Ishii. It’s a pretty big deal, and way far and above anything Ben and I would usually be able to afford, so we knew we had to use the voucher to mark a special occasion. It just so happens that our 10 year anniversary also coincides with our birthdays so as soon as I got the voucher I emailed Umu to see if we could possibly get a table for that evening. I wasn’t holding my breath as places like this in London can sometimes be booked out 6 months in advance, but happily on this occasion we got in with just 3 weeks notice for Friday the 18th, the exact date of our big anniversary.  Wow!

Firstly, we had to look the part. With blazers and bling at the ready we walked through the streets of Mayfair..

Ben’s jacket is his 30th birthday present from me and my earings are Ben’s 10 year anniversary present to me. 20170818_192931We were greeted and seated with a sweet sparking sake aperitif. We had the choice of two brands and one happened to be Dewazakura, made in Tendo, Yamagata, the town where we lived in Northern Honshu, Japan. Yamagata is a rural area known for producing rice, fruit and other produce. I used to walk through rice fields daily to get to my schools and when Ben was living over there with me, he actually got a job driving from farm to farm picking up cherries that were packed daily and taking them to the export depot.

The region is known for producing one of the highest grade rice in Japan, Tsuyahime literally meaning ‘lustrous princess’ and high-grade rice means high-grade sake. We were both so excited to be able to make such an instant connection to the restaurant and it started us reminiscing about the amazing experiences we had living in Tendo. Sparkling sake is delicious too, it’s made like champagne and tasted crisp and sweet. I’m on the look out to buy some more.

As we perused the menu I tuned in to the Japanese business men sitting beside us. They were speaking ridiculously formally to each other and my waning Japanese skills were not up to the task of eavesdropping on that convo.  There were a few other Japanese families, too and also a few westerners. It was humming but not busy. As you can see from the pictures, the lights were low.20170818_195730Umu is famous for kaiseke, a traditional Japanese multi-course meal usually with a number of different cooking techniques used. It turns out we were eating on the last day of the summer menu here. I’m glad we did because it was beautiful and fresh.

We also opted to go all in and do an alcohol pairing, I did wine and Ben chose a sake pairing.

So let me talk you through the menu..

We started with fresh salmon sashimi, cucumber and the most generous mound of truffle I have ever experienced. Then followed by lotus root soup. Hiding under that lotus are great chunks of lobster. Yum! Oh and we had a different drink to go with each, both fresh and light like the food.

We then got beautiful trays of paper-thin white fish sashimi and the fish of the day selection. The fish of the day selection featured lobster again, this time raw as sashimi, I’ve never had it like that before but I definitely wish I could have had more than one piece as it was that good. Ben and I lingered over the tuna chunks, too. One lean and one fatty piece, both the most tender we had ever experienced. I think this was my favourite course of the whole meal.

Next was the vegetable course. This was presented like a garden with miso sesame soil to be sprinkled on and a watering can dressing. Ben got a little too excited over the tiny radishes, bear in mind we are four drinks in by this point.  I think this was about the time when Ben came back from the bathroom (which were very swanky) saying “How does the concierge know to open the door for me?” Ah… she hears you stomping up the stairs…. 20170818_215857Next drink for Ben is warm sake served in crockery handmade by the chef himself.  Ben definitely got the more interesting vessels from the pairing.

The next course is the meat, Ben’s favourite. This course gets paired with a red wine so I’m struggling as I’m not a fan of red. I definitely wished I knew more about wine while having this meal as the waiting staff were diligently explaining each specially selected wine to me before each pairing and I was just smiling and nodding at all the words and references I didn’t understand.

This is the rice course, definitely needed to soak up the alcohol. You can see we’re quite squiffy by now. That’s Ben’s “act sober” gaze.

Dessert! I was so excited about my cherry shaved ice that I have only managed to snap a picture of the empty bowl. Oh and the amuse bouche! I was on a desert wine for this one and Ben is back on the sweet, sparkling sake. We have forgotten the flavours of the sweets now but I remember the chocolate being my favourite.

Last thing to do was to finish off all the drinks I had backed up and settle the bill. We were one of the last parties to leave at around 11.30pm. We spilled out into the night and sensibly made our way to the bus stop, the 390 bus was the only option home after that splurge.

A once in a lifetime experience to mark our 10 years together. Worth it in every way. Thank you to our lovely friends for making it happen and thank you to Ben for 10 awesome years together. Here’s to many more!

I turned 30!

20170916_142111Eeeek, I can’t believe it’s been four months since I last posted! How did that happen? This year is absolutely flying by with so much going on and so much change, but all good stuff. Now that the days are getting cooler and things are calming down a bit, I’m hoping to catch up and get some of the very exciting stories of my summer up onto the blog. Starting with the big birthday milestone!

I tuned 30 in August and nearly a month in, I feel like I have definitely done a lot of celebrating. I feel seriously fortunate to have so many awesome people in my life, thank you to all those who made my big birthday so special!

If you can’t spend weeks celebrating your 30th when can you? Here is what I got up to…21414668_10155674625242118_687928567844152297_oMy actual birthday was a Tuesday and pretty much business as usual; I made porridge for breakfast, worked, went to the usual meetings and played netball in the evening. I squeezed some special moments in too though. I opened pressies in the morning and Skyped my family, then got spoiled with gifts from my colleagues and had a nice lunch at work. I met Ben and friends for a quick bite of pizza after work before heading off to my netball game, although a little too full. We didn’t win the game but I have to let it slide, my pizza belly didn’t help.

Ben and I usually use our birthdays to take each other out for a fancy dinner, but this year with a few fancy dinners on the horizon for us we decided to go low-key and have an Italian meal around the corner from us on the Wednesday. After hectic days at work for both of us we relaxed over a bottle of wine and discussed how we would slowly reduce our meat consumption in the coming months (I’ll write more about this soon).

On Thursday I did my birthday shout at work with another colleague who was celebrating a couple of days after me. I was obsessed with having an American Birthday Cake from Costco after discovering it a few months earlier. So we got this sugary beast to share. I enjoyed it a lot! I would love to be able to make a cake like that.

Thursday night was spent with friends at a Thai restaurant Champor-Champor. Ben surprised me with a beautiful salted caramel & chocolate cake too. Two cakes in one day? I was in heaven.. and a sugar coma.

We then headed off to Cornwall for a week and I was again surprised with a little camp celebration. We popped champagne (thanks to my workmates) out of the chilly bin and had a lamington ice cream cake by the camp fire. This was also a pretty special holiday as Ben and I got engaged! More on that to come in another post. 20170827_Cornwall_Camping_Day1_0131We also dined out on my birthday celebrations at Rick Stein’s Seafood Resturant with some complimentary after dinner treats. I wouldn’t let anyone dip their fingers in the chocolate sauce as how good is that lettering?

I booked this meal three months in advance as we’re all big fans of Rick Stein and I would highly recommend it. The seafood is, of course, on point – I had a monkfish ceviche to start and an Indonesian seafood curry which was so good I didn’t want it to end. The staff were really friendly too and well versed, everyone we spoke to wished me Happy Birthday.  All in all a really nice meal.

Just before the celebrations were over we slipped in a visit to the theatre as Ben got me tickets for my birthday. We saw Aladdin, the new West End musical, which was fantastic. The genie is amazing and it is so true to the Disney animation. I was singing “I can show you the world…” all the way home…20170908_220639

Finally, 3 weeks after my actual birthday we went out and celebrated with friends. I booked a rooftop bar called Skylight which looked relaxed and fun and had gorgeous views. Last September it had been super warm and summery and I had been banking on weather like that this year too, but you always fail when you try to predict the weather right? We were pretty cold up on the roof but Pimms kept us warm as did the many blankets we scrounged from around the bar. It was such a fun venue; they taught us how to play croquet too.

So, how does it feel to be 30? My only answer to this is “Great!”. Really, I’m excited about what my thirties has in store for me. I keep telling people that I think I suit getting older. I have always been an old soul, my age is just starting to catch up with me.  20170916_141943

The purple card at the start of this post was made by my talented friend Keryn, and this blue one comes from Ange & Paul – thanks guys.

Tough Mudder Review

Hi guys, just wanted to check in with you as a wrote about Tough Mudder as one of my goals for 2017.

This is what I wrote in February when publishing that post:

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.

Well now it’s done! It’s been a couple of weeks since we ran it and my muscles have recovered but I am still sporting bruises and scratches all over my limbs. Although the bruises have started changing from deep purples to yellow-brown so it’s about the right time to gather my thoughts about the experience. My experience is as a first time mudder-er with reasonable fitness and very little strength.wp-image-775792269Firstly, the “undulating hills” mentioned in the website blurb was, of course, an understatement. The West London course out in Henley-on-Thames was beautiful, and on any other day a casual observer may describe the landscape as undulating. But for a runner, caked in mud, dunked in ice and still on the first mile, they were more like Everest.  All my muscles screamed at me whenever I attempted to run uphill. More than any obstacle, the uphill sections of the course were the biggest challenge for me.IMG-20170506-WA0006IMG-20170507-WA0002Tough Mudder was much more about team work than I realised. Happily for me, someone who can’t lift their own body weight, the majority of obstacles were about coming together as a team to climb a wall, wade through mud pits and scale slippery slopes. I am so grateful to the team for helping make the day so enjoyable. I can’t deny that I was the weakest link on the team but the rest of the guys were patient with me and Ben was a trooper and stuck with me while I battled up the hills to meet the others at the next obstacle. Secretly, I think he was grateful to take it easier with me.

We both did train for the three months leading up to the event but with both of us having a lot going on with work and suffering quite bad colds in the lead up, the training wasn’t what it could have been. I had to take tissues with me around the course! But sickness aside, I do think I was in a much better place than I could have been and mentally I was unapologetic. I knew I had done my best in training and did my best on the day. I fronted up to every hurdle and moved the whole time so I had little stress about being the slowest in the team, something I know I would have stressed about if I hadn’t trained. For me too, going from zero, as in having very little upper body strength, to the kind of condition you would need to be in to complete some of the tasks was unrealistic in three months. But I will keep trying, one day I will be able to complete a press-up.

The other thing that helped me a lot was having great kit, something that I was moaning about beforehand. The event is expensive enough as it is, I really didn’t want to sink any more money into kit for something that I may not even enjoy. But I must say, I had to take back all my moaning.

One of the most important things running in mud and water are your shoes. I’m no expert but I think if you really want to give this a proper go, you need some form of trail running shoe. Simply, a shoe with big ‘lugs’. Lugs are the spiky bits on the bottom of football boots for example. They allow you to run in mud without slipping over and, if they are spread far enough apart, allow the mud fall out rather than cake to the bottom of your shoe. We passed many people on the way shaking grit from their shoes, suffering blisters and slipping around on the running tracks. Of course we were all slipping in the mud pits, but I was grateful to not be slipping around while my team mates ran off ahead.

I got these Asics Gel-Fuji Runnegade for £60 and now far from resenting the cost, I am in awe of them. Firstly, how cool do they look?? Secondly, they did exactly what they needed to re: mud. They made me feel a hell of a lot more secure running downhill. They kept all grit and mud out and managed to keep me comfortable the whole time. Despite being wet in the first mile I never got a blister or even an inkling of one. All this in their first outing as I never managed to take them out of the box to train in them beforehand due to the cold. So I was impressed to say the least. I also wore ‘no blister’ socks that Ben loaned me which could have helped, but really, I like to think it was all the shoes.FB_IMG_1495387682026So there you have it, my review of Tough Mudder. Which really boils down to – get some trail running shoes and try your best to get as fit as possible to make it easier on the day, but whatever your ability it is a team race and in the end is all about having fun.

Have I convinced you to give it a go?

Photo credits to the Tough Mudder professionals and the team. The selfie was all me though.

 

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.

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