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.

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.

20161119_194828

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.

20161120_000716

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.

My London: My Perfect Day in London

What would I do to create a perfect day in London? What would be my dream day if I was well prepared with money to burn….?

I’ve put some thought into it, so come and join me for a day to remember.

20151025_Kew_Gardens_0015Well firstly, the weather gods would need to co-operate. I don’t want any pea soup fog. My favourite days in London are early autumn. When the mornings are just starting to get cooler and the nights are drawing in, but the days are still warm and the skies are the clearest blue with white fluffy clouds. We did have a few of these this year and I relished every second on my walk to work.

So, now that the weather is sorted get ready for a full day. I said it would be perfect, but that doesn’t necessarily mean realistic. We’re going to have to teleport everywhere if we want to keep up with my itinerary, I’m also moving Wimbledon to autumn to fit my schedule. Oh and bringing someone back from the dead…

First let’s wake up and wander down to the new Granary Square development in Kings Cross and park our bums at my favourite cafe, Caravan, for some avocado on toast. Yum! You need all that fuel for your next stop, St Pauls Cathedral.

20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_0222We’re up with the larks so we’ve bet all the tourists. You can marvel at the splendour to your hearts content before heading up the spiral staircase to the Whispering Gallery and higher to see the views of London from what was the highest point in London until 1967.

If you’re in need of more views from a higher vantage point, we can squeeze in a sky high view of the Thames from the Sky Garden. 20150705_walkietalkie_lookout_london_012120150705_WalkieTalkie_Lookout_London_0208.jpgWhile we’re in the east, a trip to Old Spitafields Market for a cupcake from Flavourtown Bakery is a must. Seriously they cannot be beaten!flavourtown-bakery-london-marketNext we need to hop, skip (or fly?) over to Richmond Park. We’ll rent a bike for the day (these guys are great) and pack a picnic lunch. We’re cycling around the park to the lake in the middle. It’s so secluded you will forget you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world for a moment. Be sure to make friends with the deer on your way.

Next up? Some world class sport. Yes! For once I won the ballot. Tickets to centre court in our hot little hands we’re off to one of the most quintessentially British events I know of. Be quiet as you go in, you don’t want to put Serena off.

You can’t spend a perfect day in London without catching some of the world class West End theatre. We have tickets to a matinee screening of my favourite musical Wicked. Enjoy!466516_10150800601007118_126440377_oPhew! You must be hungry. Time for a fancy dinner? My cuisine of choice is Japanese of course. I have always wanted to try out Roka, so guess where reservations are sorted..? We’ll be dining on sushi, prawn tempura and the Roka dessert platter tonight.p9040128-1024x745We’re finishing the day on my ultimate London high, a gig at Wembley! Because this is my perfect day, let’s see Bowie play Wembley. The gig of a lifetime, you must have sorted tickets out over a year ago for this…. You’re welcome.

It was lots of fun dreaming up ideas for this post. It’s a compilation of all the best things I have done in London, from the everyday to the fantastical, to those things that are still on my wish list. What would you do? What do you think I have missed?

The idea to talk about a perfect something came from the Travel Linkup bloggers. I’m too late to add my post to the link, but check out other bloggers ‘A perfect…’ interpretations through one of my favourite blogs Silverspoon London. Just scroll to the bottom of the post.

All pictures are my own aside from the below listed. Photo credits with thanks:

My London: My Commute

20160909_andiescommute_0015I said in an earlier post, that my lifestyle had changed heaps since moving from Tottenham to Tufnell Park, and one of the most awesome changes has been my commute.

I no longer battle the rush hour squeeze on the Victoria Line at 8am. Instead I leave the house and wander (or power walk if I’m late) for about 4k to get to Finchley Road station then catch a tube one stop north to Wembley Park.

It is bliss!

I listen to podcasts, random playlists from my Apple music subscription or go sans sound and get in touch with nature or what not. Nature? Who am I kidding? Cars, trucks, buses and trains are the soundtrack to my commute

When it’s raining or I’m late/lazy I swap the walk for a 10 minute over ground train ride. Easy as, except the train is really unreliable, which is what lead me to walking in the first place. Talk about turning a negative into a positive.

Anyway, enough of my smug commute loving, today I want to share my journey with you. Ben was doing lots of research on his next camera lens purchase and decided to do some experimenting with our 50mm lens by taking photos on his commute. I might share his effort with you next post. I thought it was a really good idea, so the next day I slung the camera around my neck and decided to get creative.

I need a lot more practice with the 50mm, but it was fun and taught me a lot about moving for the shot. I got so engrossed my 35minute walk doubled and I was quite late for work that morning, ooops!

So this is what my journey looked like in September 2016.

This was a bit of a moody morning, but we had been having really warm sunny days. I think it was said to be the warmest September on record? Or maybe it was that we hit a few of the highest temperatures for September? A quick google search hasn’t really helped me come up with any facts for you, so actually just know that we had a good summer. It was hot.

20160909_andiescommute_0050_1^^^ The most excited empty shop I’ve seen.

^^^ This is my favourite pair of pictures; walking past this pink flat makes me smile every time.

^^^ Empty train. This is such a rare sight in London. The other guy and I basically had the whole train to ourselves.

My commute ends at the iconic Wembley Stadium. As with all things you encounter daily it has become part of the furniture for me, but every once in a while an event will be on or it will be lit up on dark winter nights and I’ll get swept up in awe of it. It is always one of those moments I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe I’m actually living in London.

 

My London: My Netball Team

dani-backWhen I first arrived in London, I knew no-one. Well that’s how I tell the story at least, I did know a few people. I have extended family here, an uncle and cousins that live in and around London. There were also a few acquaintances from high school, and an Aussie couple we met while travelling in Japan. That couple turned out to be a big part of our London life, but we weren’t to know that at the time. So for all intents and purposes we had no-one but each other so I knew I had to get out there and make some friends fast. I love Ben, he’s really good company but my London life was definitely going to need some girlfriends to get me through it.

How do you make friends in a big city? How do you make friends as an adult? I had no idea really, so I just thought, let me try and fill my days. We joined expat groups, and tapped into all the contacts we had for weekend meetups. But what I now count as my best idea, was to join a netball team.

I hunted for social teams in my area and much to my luck, got placed in a cobbled together team of awesome ladies from all around the country and the world. The team was called The Venus Fly Traps and they had already played a season or two together when I joined. Little did I know that five years on these girls would form the biggest constant in my shambolic London life and we would still be sporting the bewildering name of a carnivorous plant.

The name, assigned to us by a rogue club manager, has never sat well with us, but every Tuesday rain or shine, in stifling humidity or biting cold, we turn up to the courts. We shimmy into our Lycra and pull our hair into ponytails as the sun goes down on another day at the office. We get out into the, usually brisk, air, chatting about life lately and sizing up the competition. We have been winners, losers, injured and angered on the courts, but more important to me is the memories we have made off court.

So here’s to the memories girls! Looking forward to many, many more..

Tournament days with One Netball club…

 ^^ Pink Ladies

We have travelled together, danced together, seen beautiful marriages and supported each other through painful breakups. We have celebrated so many milestones; birthdays, new jobs and study and must have collectively moved flats over 20 times. Which is great, because that means flat warmings.

My favourite times are always those drunken, messy, gossipy girls nights though!

roadie^^ Roadie

Eat your heart out Michael

So much gin ^^^

We have changed and grown so much in our five plus years together as a team. People have moved back home, or to Bermuda and others have arrived in London for new challenges and jobs and joined for new friendships fitness and fun.  I’ve been lucky to get to know such an awesome group of ladies..

Yay for The Venus Fly Traps, past present and future…!

Check out my other posts about London Life, getting a visa and where I’m living. More to follow soon.

Peanut Brownies for my Dad

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0700Today is my dad’s 60th birthday. Happy Birthday Dad!

Over the weekend I was messaging my two sisters who live at home in New Zealand as they were buying presents and getting ready to bake dad’s birthday cake. It’s always these times I find the hardest about living so far from home; the times when families and friends gather and celebrate. These are the times when I feel most homesick. Also when Whittakers releases new chocolate flavours and my Marmite supply runs out, but mostly on big occasions for the people I love and 60? Well that’s a big occasion!

So rather than wallow in my homesickness  I got up on Saturday morning and made my dad’s favourite biscuit, and of course it’s an Edmonds Cookbook recipe, Peanut Brownies. I haven’t made this recipe since I lived at home but luckily they turned out alright, a little less chocolatey than I remember them. But still sweet and nutty and good.

I don’t remember when I first learned to bake, but my sisters and I were always baking something in our house growing up. There can’t have been many weekends where someone didn’t make something and that would often be Peanut Brownies at dad’s request. Dad is a huge fan of peanuts so there would always be bags of them in the house ready for snacking on or baking with.

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0733The quality must have been hit or miss though, revisiting this recipe made me realise how far I had come with my baking. I’m sure I used to melt the butter for this recipe, although it calls for the butter and sugar to be creamed. I even remember accidentally cooking the egg in the mixture by adding it to the hot butter and sugar too early. The egg white whitened in the mixture and you could see flecks if it throughout like you do in egg friend rice. Mmmm.. eggy… I have always been weary of doing that since.

When baking these on Saturday all I could find were roasted salted nuts in the supermarket, I thought the salt would be too much so rather than being defeated, I bought them anyway and took them home to wash them. All I did was rinse all the salt off through a sieve then places the sieve in the pre-heating oven to dry off while I made the mixture. It worked a treat. I think at home we would quite often make this with peanuts with the husks on too, it gives them a bit more texture and the skin would go crunchy in the oven.

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0736Peanut Brownies

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 11/2 cups standard plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 1 cup peanuts, roasted and husked

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa together. Mix into creamed mixture. Add cold peanuts and mix well. Roll tablespoonsful of mixture into balls. Place on greased oven trays. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 180 degree Celsius for 15 minutes or until cooked. Makes 20.

20160814_Peanut_Brownies_0708Dad I wish I could just pop over there and share these with you and give you a big 60th birthday hug. But know that I’ll be thinking of you as you celebrate this huge milestone.

See you in four months, and if you’re lucky I’ll make you another batch then.

Love you xx