2018 Resolutions

I really love goal setting and list making. Can you tell?

I just really enjoy the feeling of achievement that comes with crossing something off of a list or taking something off a to do pile. I know it’s not to everyone’s taste but you do you and I’ll do me.20160723_Saturday_BBQ_0633This year I have been thinking a lot about my priorities and goals and I have been getting much more organised these last few weeks. I’ve had a bit of a ‘Just do it’ (thank you Nike!) attitude that has seen me getting a lot of stuff done lately. I even managed to complete three photo heavy blog posts last weekend (1, 2, 3!) that I had put off for months and thought I was going to give up on. I still have a few more to go but it feels like progress is being made. 20160723_Saturday_BBQ_06502018 Resolutions

  • Read 30 books this year

This is 5 more than my goal last year. I love getting lost in a new book and I’m sure that adding 5 books will only make me happier. You can follow my progress by becoming my friend on Goodreads.

  • Letting go of things

Ben and I live in a room in London. Space is a privilege here and I don’t want to be clogging it up with unnecessary things. I have been watching heaps of tiny house and minimalist YouTube videos lately and I think I’m being drawn to them as I’m feeling a bit cramped in my space. It’s definitely time for a clear out and in the long-term, a habit change.

This one is a hard one to measure but I think I will know I have done it when:

  1. My paper pile is down to only things necessary for my visa application in 2019 and very little more than that.
  2. My wardrobe is no longer bursting at the seams
  3. The desk is no longer piled with stuff that doesn’t fit into our shelves. It is a very rare day that we can actually use our desk space.
  •  Take a short course

I haven’t yet decided whether I want this to be hobby based or a work based course but I want to do some learning in 2018. There are a few people around me who have inspired this decision and its great to watch them progress. I want a bit of that this year.

  • Make my lunch 4 days a week

Things got a bit out of hand last year and my colleagues and I were eating out at restaurants near our office 2-3 times a week some weeks. I’ve got to reign that in, for my bank balance and my waistline.

  • Stick at exercise for the whole year

I’m terrible at doing things in fits and starts with exercise. I will very easily let myself get out of a habit. This year my biggest goal is consistency. I want to be exercising the whole year with something other than netball. I have started a 10 week yoga course which I plan to continue with throughout the year as it is just around the corner from my house. I am also looking at joining the 9am Parkrun on Hampstead Heath when I can (read: when I’m not hung over).20160723_Saturday_BBQ_0646So, here we go 2018. Lets make it a good one!

The pictures are from summer 2016 when Ben and I stumbled upon a wildflower field on the way to a friend’s place right at magic hour. It was such a beautiful night, I can’t wait for more of these in 2018.

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Banoffee Cake

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I can’t believe it has taken me this long to share this with you guys. I wrote this post after first making this cake back in November for Thanksgiving. I didn’t get any pictures at the time though so I held the post. I have since made this three times and the latest creation, which is the one I got pictures of, was for our friend’s 1st year wedding anniversary celebration.

Here are my post-Thanksgiving ramblings:_MG_0006

Guys, I think this is an amazing idea! I’m not claiming it’s very original, but I haven’t seen it done before and man it is so good you have to try it.

I was invited to my first Thanksgiving dinner this year and told simply to bring dessert. Our hosts were going full American with a huge turkey and all the trimmings. So I got thinking about American desserts.

When I think of American dessert I always think of pie. Pecan pie, pumpkin pie, key lime pie and of course banoffee pie. To me these are quintessentially American desserts and are a must for the Thanksgiving table. My problem with this was though, I have never made any of them before. In fact, until Thanksgiving I had only ever tried a banoffee pie so although I am very keen to try them all, to make something for a big group of people without even being able to be sure if it was vaguely right was too much of a challenge.

As Thanksgiving got closer and closer and I was still toying with the pie idea I hit on a compromise I thought might work and save me the pressure of feeding pie to Americans. Feed them cake!

So, I pimped out a banana cake, American style. Banana and caramel always go awesome together so why not in a cake? And guys – it totally worked and tasted pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

I make banana loaf all the time. I’m obsessed, I wrote about my love affair with the loaf in one of my first blog posts. I make banana cake very rarely so it was a nice change for me. My banana cake recipe is an Edmonds Classic too and it is a nice change for the loaf as it’s a much lighter and sweeter texture. Mmm sweeter is always good.

Here is the recipe for those following at home:

NZ Banana Cake

  • 125g softened butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons hot milk
  • 2 cups standard plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add mashed banana and mix thoroughly. Stir soda into hot milk and add to creamed mixture. Sift flour and baking powder. Fold into mixture. Turn into greased and lined 20cm round cake tin. Bake at 180°⊂ for 50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Leave in tin for 10 minutes before turning on to wire rack.

I made 2 layers by splitting the mixture evenly between two 20cm round tins. Bake at 180°⊂ but reduce baking time to 25 minutes.

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How to pimp it: The Banoffee Makeover

Now for the fun part!

As I had two layers I started by layering salted caramel on the base layer. I used store bought but I’m sure homemade caramel would be next level awesome. Then dollop whipped cream on top. Don’t be tempted to add any sugar to the cream as this cake seriously doesn’t need any more sugar. Add the next layer on top and then drizzle over chocolate icing.

I have also done this with one layer of cake by topping with whipped cream, drizzling caramel sauce over the top then sprinkling with dark chocolate shavings.

Delicious.. I’m taking birthday cake orders…

 

 

 

Deliciously Ella – Recipe Book Review

20160206_Deliciously_Ella_Energy_Bites_0024For my birthday last year a good friend bought us tickets to see Ella Woodward talk at the Kew Gardens Write on Kew festival. It was a week of literary talks hosted at Kew Gardens and Ella Woodward, of Deliciously Ella blog fame was one of them.

We didn’t really know what to expect of the talk, was it going to be a clean eating preach? Was it going to be insights into creating a successful blog? In the end it was a bit of both with a lot of questions and interaction with the (mostly female) crowd.

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My biggest take away from the talk was Ella’s response to a question from the crowd about how to make this lifestyle change. I think she said something like how would you recommend making the transition into clean eating? The answer from Ella was not what I expected, but something that really resonated with my friend and I and something we talked about on our walk to the train station afterwards.

She said take a number of small steps towards the big change you want to make. That at the end of the year it’s better to be look back and say I made these changes for good. Rather than I attempted an extreme diet and failed after two weeks and feel like you have made no progress. Of course she is not the first person to say this, nor was the concept new to me, but something crystallised for me from that talk and it is something I have kept in my mind ever since. I am using the small steps philosophy to help me carry out my new year’s resolutions.

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The other thing I took away from the talk was her recipe book. I was already familiar with her recipes from her blog, which I still follow, but now I have this lovely, homely recipe book to pore over too. I eat a pretty healthy diet, but where I always slip up is snacking. So I’m using Ella’s book to make some small changes to my baking and snacking habits this year.

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Of course, the first thing I tried was the baked porridge. I have porridge every morning cooked as quickly as possible on the stovetop. Very little care is given to the seasoning and soaking of the oats, so it was nice to slow things down for this recipe. The baked banana and berries in here made it extra special too.

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I use the Cinnamon + Pecan Granola recipe regularly too. I make the big batch and then have it daily on my porridge. I leave out the oats from the mixture though so I don’t double up. I always seem to slightly overcook it though. You really need to keep a constant eye on the nuts while cooking as they quickly turn black. Opps! I still eat them though, I don’t mind the extra flavour. I do hope I can get it right next time though for a nice toasting rather than charred flavour.

I made some delicious banana-y Flapjacks for a pre / post gym snack a couple of weeks ago which worked really well. After finally finding some medjool dates recently I thought I would try the Energy Bites recipe as my next ‘healthy’ snack. These are raw nutty chocolatey delights and work really well with the coconut coating. They totally fooled my boyfriend too. He thought they were the very unhealthy snowballs, but wasn’t too disappointed after he tasted them.

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What small changes are you making this year? Have you tried out clean eating or in my case, clean baking? Let me know if you have any other recipes to recommend.

 

 

Swimming every ocean: On ‘Life Lists’

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimWhile on holiday in Denmark recently, my friends and I swam in the frigid North Sea at Lokken Beach on the north-west coast of Denmark. These photos are all taken in the space of about five minutes as we dashed in and out of the icy water. Other much hardier souls around us stayed in longer, but not much longer. Although Lokken is a place of summer houses and seaside holidays for Danish locals, a dip in the ocean here is a more than refreshing experience.

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimLokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimSo why did we do it?

To say we had. While my friend Keryn was visiting in the summer, it became a running joke that rather than racking up countries visited as we traveled the world, we would instead try swim in every ocean. So when the chance presented itself to swim in an ocean neither of us had, we gamely slipped into our togs and squealed as we hugged our exposed bodies against the wind while running across the beach and finally plunging into the water.

So, that’s the Atlantic Ocean ticked off, what’s next on the list? Kidding! To complete that list you would have to swim in the Arctic or Southern Oceans and hypothermia is not a price I would pay to complete a challenge.

It got me thinking though, about the ‘life lists’ we make for ourselves and the sometimes arbitrary challenges we take up, just to say we did it; just to tick a box. We’re living in a goal orientated world, full of to do lists, bucket-lists, career goals and travel wish lists. We walk through life racking up experiences like it’s our job. Travel the world; write a book; finish a marathon; visit the latest pop-up event; climb the highest mountain; bike the length of the country. Not to mention the ultimate life-box trifecta of house, marriage and baby.

Although I do love lists and I’m not about to stop making goals for myself, I have come to realise that the goals I make need to be thoughtful, and relevant for me.  I know I’m the kind of person who likes completion, who likes to tick things off and get things done. But I need to make sure that the goals I make are for the right reasons.

I’m keeping this in mind as I start to think about the next steps I want to take both on this blog and for my next year or few years. What do I want my late 20’s to be? What will I look back on and be proud of? What do I want to try out? Whatever my goals end up being, I am going to make sure they are tailored to me and something I can enjoy for the journey as well as the satisfaction of completing them.

Lokken Beach Denmark - North Sea swimAnd, just for the record, I have swum in the Pacific and Indian Oceans already, so if I were to take on the challenge of swimming every ocean, I can already post a solid 3/5….

27 List: August Update

20150725_Borough_Market_0107The finish line has passed and I’ve managed to cross 14 things off my list and made a start at 6 more. I’m pretty stoaked with the things I’ve managed to tick off so far and I still plan on doing most of the things on this list, so I’ll keep updating as I get through them.

I spent August catching up on work, spending time with friends I hadn’t seen much of over the summer and wondering if the sun would come back one last time – it did for my birthday, yay!

I’ve got a huge backlog of photos to edit from the summer and prep to do for my Egypt trip which is keeping me busy in September. I’m also excited to do a few more London things this autumn which, knowing me, I’ll update you with over winter.

Here how the list is looking at the moment:

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 entriesCompleted! I’m really enjoying the online diary I have got going here.

4. See The Book of Mormon theatre showI highly reccomend this, here is my take on all things Mormon.

5. Create a star constellation scarf One craft goal I can tick off, see my effort here.

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 – It’s going to be Egypt and Jordan now!! We have our flights booked and the tour almost paid for. Bring it on! See my travel planning business case here.

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

10. Knit a peggy square blanket, maybe like thisBlanket = Stalled indefinitely.

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 while now…

12. Run a 10K cancer research raceThis was a real sister challenge and you can see how we did here.

13. Make salted caramel as gifts

14. Develop a uniform work wardrobe of at least 8 outfits – This is my starting point, my first 5 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 used the travel techniques on my most recent holiday, photos to come.

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 RunnerAnother great book – Here is my review.

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 – We’re staying in Tottenham! Here is why.

21. Stay at/visit a National Trust site

22. See a netball match, hopefully to support New Zealand. – Some friends from my netball team and I have just got tickets to see England play Australia in January. I’m still hanging out to see NZ play over here, but for now this will do.

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 passed!

26. Print a photo book – This will be a photo book of Croatia. I have some ideas of what I want it to be already. Croatia was soooo photogenic. We have come back with more than 2,500 after a week. Of course not all of these will be winners.

27. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant – We were booked for lunch at Galvin at Windows for our anniversary, however we cancelled the booking recently as we have other priorities for the money. We still celebrated though, more on this to come.

5. Create a Star Constellation Scarf

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I read a fair few blogs, mostly on travel, quite a few on baking and a lot in between. I use the Bloglovin’ app to keep up to date with all the new writers, crafters and travellers I discover, and as I discover more and more awesome content I have started un-following blogs that I just don’t read anymore, as you do with Facebook – there are some random acquaintances you just have to expunge from your daily feed to keep your sanity.

There are two blogs that I always, always come back to though, A Beautiful Mess (ABM) and EnJOY It. They are both written by awesome women who produce intelligent and creative content and although they are both multi-channel lifestyle businesses now, at their heart, they are crafters and post almost daily DIY inspiration. I’m not really a crafter myself, I’m just not set up for it, but when I came to writing my 27 List, I knew I would have to challenge myself to try out a few things.

20150815_Constellation_scarf_0032 I spotted this DIY Constellations Scarf in the ABM archives one day and I was inspired to give it a go myself. I knew I had an old scarf I could use, and I can sew. How hard could it be? So I gave it a go. After a month or so searching for paint and embroidery thread I liked I got started drawing star templates and making stamps.

20150815_Constellation_scarf_0062I enjoyed chosing out the constellations a lot, that is the idea that attracted me to this activity the most, I thought it was an awesome way of personalising something. Above, I’m showing off the Southern Cross constellation, the cross which features on the New Zealand (and Australian) flag.

20150815_Constellation_scarf_PSD_0042I have also managed to put in myself and my sisters’ start signs Leo, Gemini and Aries and two Harry Potter references Sirius and Bellatrix. Although Bellatrix is missing the arrow part, oops.

When I first started making this I had imagined I would give it as a present, but after a few too many sloppy stars and uneven embroidery I think I better keep it for myself. On the surface this is a very simple craft, but like everything it is in the execution and without practice, mine was just not up to it. I am happy with my little effort though and I will wear it over winter, once it’s layered up all the imperfections are hidden.

20150815_Constellation_scarf_0063 So, that’s my first ‘as seen on’ blog attempt. I always wonder how many people reading these two blogs actually try any of what they read about. Have you ever tried any ‘as seen on’ blog crafts?

Photos thanks to Ben xx

27 List: June Update with Croatia pics

20150711_Sail_Croatia_Day4_0439 I have just spent an awesome week sailing with friends in Croatia which is why this June update is coming late. It was a fantastic week of sunning, swimming, reading and most of all relaxing. Here’s a few pics.. Take me back…..

20150711_Sail_Croatia_Day4_057220150711_Sail_Croatia_Day4_093020150711_Sail_Croatia_Day1_0188And here is where I’m at with the list at the moment. There are lots of write ups in the pipe-line.. July will be a post heavy month.

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 26 posts just about to tick this off.

4. See The Book of Mormon theatre show – Saw it just before the Croatia trip and have been quoting it ever since, review to come.

5. Create a star constellation scarfI’m halfway done on this, it has been harder to motivate myself to find the time to do this than I expected it would be.

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 – It’s going to be Egypt and Jordan now!! See my travel planning business case here.

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

10. Knit a peggy square blanket, maybe like thisBlanket = Stalled indefinitely.

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 raceThis was a real sister challenge and you can see how we did here.

13. Make salted caramel as gifts

14. Develop a uniform work wardrobe of at least 8 outfits – This is my starting point, my first 5 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 used the travel techniques on my most recent holiday, photos to come.

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’m nearly finished and I’m so happy to report it was worth the wait! review to come soon.

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 – We’re staying in Tottenham! Here is why.

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 passed!

26. Print a photo book – This will be a photo book of Croatia. I have some ideas of what I want it to be already. Croatia was soooo photo genic. We have come back with more than 2,500 after a week. Of course not all of these will be winners.

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.