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. .

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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?

Pikelets

20161228_161237I have so much to share about our Christmas holiday in New Zealand and so many photos that I love of my friends, family and home. I will get all the stories uploaded in the next few weeks while they’re still fresh in my brain. We’re starting at the end though, with baking.

There was a lot going on, during the last morning of our New Zealand holiday. We were repacking our suitcases, this time fuller, with all the goodies we had picked up to take home, and getting ready for friends to come over to say goodbye before we went out to Wellington to catch our long flights home.

I was trying to hydrate lots as I thought that might help me during the flight and soaking up the last few hours with my mum and sister. We were meeting dad for lunch.img-1484428431624-vSo of course, I baked. Baking is always my stress relief, it’s good to keep my hands busy. I made pikelets. Probably one of the first recipes I ever learned and one that I hadn’t made since leaving NZ over 9 years ago.  Although I needed the recipe book for quantities, I definitely didn’t need the method. I still know that like the back of my hand.

I think there must have been a couple of years of my life when I made these weekly. Me and my friend used to bake these or chocolate fudge every time we met up. Then we would go on missions around the neighbourhood. We must have driven our parents crazy as I never remember doing any dishes…

As I was making the batter I found out that my best friend wouldn’t be joining us as she was in labour! She wasn’t due for a few weeks yet, so hope crept in that I might meet the little man. I told you, it was an eventful morning making these pikelets.

They tasted just as I remember them too. I ate a few straight off the pan like my friend and I did as teenagers. Hot and doughy and oh so good.

Pikelets are pretty retro now and I mostly only see them as dinky canapés with smoked salmon and cream cheese on top. This morning we served them with whipped cream, garden strawberries and jams. Granny chic for sure.20170115_104621I won’t share the recipe with you here as it’s pretty standard. But next time you’re thinking of having people over for morning tea, think of pikelets. I think we usually made a double batch to share as the mixture is pretty small.

As we tucked into our pikelets, my friend was going through labour. We got news of the arrival of her baby boy and a very cute pic just before we got on the plane bound for Melbourne. A very nice send off to a great holiday in NZ.

Gifting Christmas Brownies

It can come as no surprise that I love baking. It is without a doubt my number one hobby. But as much as a love it, it does come with its downfalls; what is made has to be eaten and it usually doesn’t last. I know what you’re thinking – that doesn’t sound like a downfall at all..? But when people are on diets around you and you know you should be eating healthy yourself it can be very hard to justify baking so much.

So I always try to make the most of special occasions, whether that’s making Banoffee Cake for Thanks Giving, Chocolate Nut Bars as a house warming gift or a three tiered Baby Shower Cake! The best kind of baking is baking to share.

Last weekend we had our annual Christmas dinner gathering with what Ben and I dub the ‘Aussie Crew’. An affectionate name for the first group of friends we made when moving to London nearly five years ago. They’re mainly Aussies but of course there is us and some locals too. Every year we celebrate with a boozy pub dinner before people start flying out for summer Christmases (there is always someone in a big group of expats).

This year I took the chance to make everyone little parcels of brownies. I made the tags from Christmas themed images I have collected over the years. I struggle to throw anything remotely reusable away, so it’s always good to be able to make use of the little bits I’ve kept.20161126_friends_christmas_lunch_0040The brownie recipe I used was, of course, Edmond’s. There are two recipes for brownies in the Edmonds Cookbook; Chocolate Brownie which uses cooking chocolate and Coconut Chocolate Brownies which uses cocoa. As I didn’t have enough cooking chocolate I decided to make the coconut ones and sprinkle chocolate chips on top. The universe had other ideas though and I burned my first batch to a crisp, so I still don’t know what the Chocolate Coconut Brownies taste like. As I had used the last of my coconut, I remade the recipe without it and luckily, they still turned out well.

^^^ I asked Ben to try and capture the icing sugar dusting as I thought it would make a nice photo. I should have thought more about the background though.. oops!

Here is the recipe:

Coconut Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

125g of butter

1/4 cup cocoa

1 cup icing sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1/2 cup coconut

1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Method

Melt butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add cocoa. Stir over a low heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and coconut. Sift flour and baking powder. Stir into mixture. Pour into a greased and lined shallow 20 cm tin. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 30 – 35 minutes. Leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Cut into bars and dust with icing sugar.

Note – It definitely did not need 30 minutes in my oven. We are slowly learning that our new oven is on the hot side though and especially on a fan bake option that is going to be a lot hotter than the oven that this recipe was written for. I would check after 15 minutes to avoid disaster – an overcooked brownie is the worst!

Oh and here is us in our festive hats and jumpers…

I can highly recommend these Racing Santa Christmas Crackers from Sainsbury’s too.

^^^ It all got quite competitive

I hope you all enjoyed your brownies guys. See you in the New Year!

Getting Festive

20161203_christmas_wrapping_0013Today things really started to feel Christmassy for me. I have had a day indoors wrapping presents, writing cards and drinking tea. It’s been bliss. I’m wearing my (non-brand) Ugg boots and my thickest woollen jersey and have been watching the winter sun’s slow decent through the sky out the window.

Oh… and did I mention the Christmas carols? I have had them on repeat all day. My new favourite is The Greatest Gift by James Corden and (I’ve only just found this out) NZ’s own, Bret McKenzie. It’s the song from the Sainsbury’s Christmas ad. So cute!

Christmas to me really is all about the people you spend it with and for the first time in four years, it will be with my family this time. Our Christmas trip has been one and a half years in the making and I’m so excited that it’s finally time. We fly out to Wellington in just over a week and a half now. Eeeek!20161203_christmas_wrapping_0023_1^^^ Ben bought me an advent calendar this year so I can count down the days…20161203_christmas_wrapping_001720161203_christmas_wrapping_0018It’s going to be nice to be there for the present opening in the morning and just be on the same time zone in general for the holidays. I always find it funny over New Year’s when I suddenly get bombarded with all these (usually drunken) messages midday on New Year’s Eve. I’m sometimes still at work and not even in party mode yet.

It looks like I may have gone slightly overboard with the present buying this year, but I can blame it on the excitement.. Plus, I have had a year and a half to collect these up.

Can’t wait to see you NZ xxx

 

6. Host friends for a grown up dinner party

20161119_195309Winner, winner, chicken (curry) dinner!

It has taken me a while to tick this item off my 27 List, after setting the goal in 2014, but last month I finally took the opportunity to make it happen. I chose a date, put out a Facebook invite to my netball mates and luckily some were free.

I cook dinner for friends quite often, and have done so many times in between 2014 and now but for this to feature on my goal list I decided it had to be planned, at a table and at least two courses.

I made three courses in the end, one main and two desserts! Desserts is always the easy part for me and as it was around Thanks Giving time I made two American desserts, Banoffee Pie which is possible my second favourite dessert (Pavlova is always first) and homemade peanut butter cups. I didn’t manage to take a pic of these, but they were so sweet and delicious.

I’m most proud of the curry I made for dinner though. It’s a recipe from Rick Stein’s India Cookbook. My friend bought this for me for Christmas one year when we were planning an epic trip to India* and it is one of my most used cookbooks. This is saying something because as you know, my baking books get a fair bit of use.

I made butter chicken with rice, naan and coriander, there was supposed to be beans too, but I forgot them. It got a thumbs up all round and filled us so completely we struggled to get a buzz on to go out dancing afterwards.

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20161119_210425Of course though, enough gin and prosecco will get you there eventually. We danced all night at Monarch in Camden. Saturday nights is ‘Songs from the movies’ themed so we were in our cheesy element.

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20161120_012110^^^ dancing to the Frozen anthem.. Let it go… Let it go…………………… !

Was a great night, thanks for joining me girls xx

*Note: We never went to India, it’s still on the travel wishlist… maybe one day.