Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Wanderings in 2015

You know, this year was hard. It was full of hurdles and roadblocks. But in addition to these, I have also filled this year with fabulous memories. This post takes a look back at them, month by month. It's quite easy to dwell on difficulties and get bogged down with feeling that things are on top of you. But reflecting back, I can see that at times when I had problems or life had taken an unexpected turn, sitting alongside these were times of friendship and excitement; seeing something/somewhere new, or spending time with people who made me laugh and these are the things that I want to dwell on. 

2015 you were wonderful, and I hope 2016 ends up with just as many beautiful memories and adventures.

January


I started the year finally doing full time hours at work, and commuting from Essex to Canada Water every day, whilst doing the rounds of house viewings in the evenings, and attempting to finish an assignment for my MA. So, not in the most spectacular fashion, but by the end of the month I had found somewhere in London to live, and only a little way from this fabulous view!




February


My birthday month was full of parties and presents and turning 30 wasn't nearly as bad as I had thought.

I didn't manage to fulfil my 30 before 30 list, but I am still committed to completing everything on it (except maybe War and Peace...) although it's now just a normal list.









March


Anna bought a selfie stick for work, and we spend many an afternoon taking silly photos and videos with the students in the afternoons.

March was otherwise a quiet month, the last one of stability at work before they started slashing the work force and we all started to worry about our jobs!



April


This was my third time visiting Chelsea, in Spring this time - as I vowed to do after my previous trip - and we raved it up on King's night, took far too many photos of flowers at the Keukenhof, and braved the crowds in Amsterdam on King's day.






May


This month a took a couple of trips in my car, giving it a much needed spin, to discover a couple of places on my door-step. Jas, Sio, Felix and I went to see the Sussex Heritage Coast which was really fun if a little windy. I also saw Blenheim Palace, and stayed over in the lovely village of Woodstock. The palace was spectacular, a good weekend day trip and there was an extra little perk from a small farmer's food market on site as well. The weather wasn't great, but it was nice to visit and cross another 30 before 30 off!

In May, the Tate Britain was reexhibiting Tracey Emin's controversial and career altering art work 'My Bed', which I vaguely remember causing big stir when it was first exhibited in 1999. I was really intrigued to see what the real piece looked like, so I went to check it out. Much smaller than I had imagined, I can definitely see why it caused so much of a fuss. As an art piece, I think it is still fairly provocative but much less shocking than when it was created. I can see why traditionalists wouldn't like it, why you might say 'I could make that'. But the point really is that; you didn't, so perhaps the skill isn't always in how well something may be drawn or painted or built, but the intention and meaning behind it.







June


My friend Jasmin (who I met through Macey), is from Jersey and in the summer a few of us decided to head over to see the island - we timed our trip to coincide with the Island Games and were planning to catch some sport whilst we were there. Unfortunately the most we saw of the games were some athletes eating in the same restaurant as us, but the weekend was lovely nonetheless! We were blessed with glorious weather (where I got sunburnt - standard), we sat on the beach, explored the town and wandered around the zoo!




July


I am yet to finish writing about the trip I took to New York and Philadelphia this summer. I really want to though, because it was such a fantastic trip! Samantha was working out there for the month, and I got to experience the wonder that is NY and visit Sam's hometown of Philly, meet her mum and friends, pretend to run up the Rocky steps (!) and burn my mouth of a Philly cheese steak (opps)! I packed a lot into a week and definitely need to get back over stateside soon!










August


In August, the first of my friends from University, Anita, got married to her lovely man Andy. They've been together for quite a while and they are a lovely couple. I was honoured to join them for their wonderful and special day.

August was also the month I went to the theatre every week for the whole month! I went to see Adventures in Wonderland for a second time which was a fantastic immersive theatre experience that was just as good second time around!

I saw a play located on London City Island, which didn't actually live up to expectations. We found out on the day which play we were going to watch - Romeo and Juliet. The weather was not on our side, and we were watching the action under umbrellas in the pouring rain; outside, in and around an empty show flat. It was supposed to be an immersive experience, like Wonderland, but it was more just a play without a theatre. We weren't included in any of the play, and found ourselves just traipsing around following the action. The acting wasn't the best, and we left slightly disappointed as a result.

I also saw 'Motherf**ker with a Hat' at the National Theatre and 'Invisible' at the Bush Theatre. Both really powerful plays.

At the end of August, Jasmin and I went exploring on the bank holiday to see Charles P├ętillon's Balloon exhibit. 100,000 balloons filled Covent Garden market. Quite a sight to see! The same day we ticked something off my 30 before 30 list, to see the Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge, although the museum was small (and up a ridiculously small and scary spiral staircase) it was really interesting and jam packed with exhibits!













September


In September I carried on my theatre visits with a trip to the Old Vic to watch Rob Brydon in Future Conditional which was excellent! I made a cake to celebrate my Brother and Nan's birthdays (which we were able to catch some of the last of the year's nice weather outside in the garden!)

I was made redundant which wasn't the best - but during my few weeks without work I took a trip to The Hague for Chelsea's birthday celebrations, ate Bitterballen for the first time and had fish and chips by the beach in the sunshine.









Don't be fooled by this photo, she was HUNGOVER and moany despite the smile!


October


I took a trip on the Emirates Airline after gorging on cakes at the Cake and Bake show, tried to learn about making chocolate and declared my love for Canada Water!












November


In November, I got myself to a Firework display again, the first time for a few years, started my new job and spent a day exploring museums with my new colleagues. As the year started to wind down, I found the pieces started to click into place and all the difficulties of the year seemed to be fading.













December


I finally made it to Istanbul, a place I've been itching to go for ages, and have planned on at least 3 other occasions to travel to without success. My diary got incredibly full this month, and I was out with friends almost every day of the week - something I am loathed to complain about as who can be annoyed that they have friends to socialise with and the means to do so? but am equally EXHAUSTED by all of the socialising and am looking forward to doing not much over the festive period.

Christmas is looking great - I have an extra long holiday as I have booked a couple of extra days after Christmas weekend off. I'll be sitting around my brother's house, stuffing my face with a deliciously cooked meals from my sister-in-law and my very own home made Christmas pud!

This year has had its ups and downs, but thankfully it seems to have all fallen into place in time for 2016!


 




Monday, 28 December 2015

What I want to do more in 2016

I've never really been one for new year's resolutions, but I've decided this year to commit to some things I'd like to work on doing more this coming year. I'm a bit of a list-aholic, and I love noting down thoughts and ideas in lists or spider-diagrams. Whilst I was teaching, many a class starting with a brain storming vocabulary session! I've becoming a bit obsessed with Christine's blog recently, and have manically read back through her archive posts, completely enthralled by her writing style, musing on life and inspirational posts. As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I was motivated to publish my own 'things I want to do more' post with my hopes for 2016.

If I could choose a word to sum up my hopes for 2016, it would be appreciation. This year I really want to be more settled, 2015 started with much promise but ended up being extremely unsettling. I moved three time, was made redundant and put my MA on the back burner. Thankfully I've ended it much better; finding my home in London, starting an exciting and promising job and gaining an extension for my MA dissertation. I've also re-discovered my creative drive for writing down my musing on here, which I'm really happy about.

So, thanks to 2015 for kicking me up the bum, although it could have been better, it wasn't all bad and things have worked out in the end! Onwards to 2016, here are a few things that I'd like to bring into my life a little more.





Appreciation

To make sure I really take time to acknowledge and remember good things that happen in my life, I've decided to start a good things jar. I decided that I wanted to start doing this a month or so ago, which is why there are actually a couple of memories already in here. I had particular things that I realised I wanted to include and so why wait until January to start? This is a great way to stay present and grateful! 

Health

My 6 weeks without working were some of the most unhealthy of my life. Which was a bit of a shame as I had been eating quite well just before I was made redundant. Since getting back into full time work, I've begun my 5:2 journey once again. In addition to trying to fast for a couple of days a week, I want to make sure that I eat enough fruit. Given a choice I will take a biscuit, chocolate bar or bag of popcorn over an apple or banana, and it doesn't take a genius to work out that that's not the best for your body. So number one here is: eat more fruit. There's a fruit and veg stall right outside the tube station where I get off for work, so it will be extremely easy to stop off there to buy a punnet of cherries or a banana in the morning!

I'm also TERRIBLE at drinking enough water. I can go almost an entire day without drinking any water at all - my hydration comes from tea. So this year, I want to make sure I drink more water.




Communication

Although I still love to send people handwritten letters & cards through the post, and I'm not bad at initiating texts or emails to arrange days out or seeing friends. I'm less proactive about replying to people. I don't really know why this happens - I'll often read an email and think 'I'll reply to that later'. Why later? Why not straight away?! What tends to happen is that I lose track of what needs replying to and as times goes by I either have to start my reply with 'so sorry, I've been really busy' which is a terrible excuse and not really even true, or the message goes without a reply at all. I think this is a bad trait, and it's not representative of who I am. So in 2016, I'm going to try to reply more quickly to emails and texts. I don't generally read messages on the go, which means that I should have plenty of time to reply as soon as I read them.


Friends

My friendships are very important to me, and I feel very lucky to have amazing groups of friends in London (and elsewhere). I see them all quite regularly, but not consistently. Sometimes I'll see friends two months in a row and then two months will whizz past when we realised it's been ages since we were all together. As we grow up and into fuller and fuller lives, it then becomes difficult to organise a time when everyone is free again. So what I'd like to do more in 2016, is to arrange our next get-together before we say goodbye to each other the same day/night. This way everyone can coordinate their diaries in person and even if it ends up being arranged for 2 months time, it's already booked in and we can organise our other activities around it.


Spare Time

A few things I want to do more in my spare time: read more books, take more walks (I live near the river I should walk along it more!) and do more yoga & cycle classes.


Here's a Happy New Year to anyone reading this, I hope 2016 is a healthy happy year!



::Have you made any resolutions or intentions for the new year? Let me know in the comments!::

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Thoughts on buying nothing for a whole year

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I wasn't going to buy any new clothing for the whole of 2015. There were a few reasons for this; I had at one time been inspired by this blog, although I didn't act on it at the time. Secondly, each and every time I have moved house (or country) I have been amazed at how much stuff I have. Even in China, when I barely made enough money to see me through each month, and spent what I did have on travel, I managed to leave there having shipped a box of stuff in the post and abandoned a significant amount in my apartment. I was also thinking about how much money I could save if I wasn't buying unnecessary clothes.

So I've made it, and it's not been nearly as difficult as I had anticipated! I have to confess I have bought one thing this year; an orange dress that I needed to wear for King's day in the Netherlands. 

It struck me the other month, as I was in my local Tesco, that although I have tried my best to avoid being in situations where I might be tempted to buy something, even when I am surrounded by clothes, I can't find a passion to even want to look. As I walked through the rails of clothing, much of which was on sale, it all felt really cheap and uninspiring. I didn't even feel an urge to browse, as none of what I could see looked even vaguely appealing. Is it only when we step away from our almost daily need to buy things, that we see how little we actually need stuff.

I've been spurred on in this challenge by reading this blog. Which although not directly about buying less clothing, does question our fascination with belongings. Whilst I don't think I could ever really be waste free, and I have always been fairly anti-plastic bags anyway (thanks to my Mum), since reading about Lauren's journey I have definitely been far more mindful of my waste. I pick up a lunchtime roll in Sainsburys and forego the flimsy plastic bag (that is going to be used only to carry this roll about 100 metres!) I've started to buy Ecover cleaning products, I've made my own body lotion and toothpaste. I've started using my tea flask much more often to carry water around - someone stole my bobble, but never mind as that was plastic anyway!

Completely zero waste is a massive lifestyle choice and an incredibly difficult thing to achieve. But little by little I am making small changes to consider the waste I am leaving on this planet.

Since I've gone a whole year without buying anything new, some of the things I wear all the time have started to wear out. But by not buying unnecessary things, has helped me to see what I actually need to buy - what do I wear all the time? What things have now got holes in? I realised that I needed to buy a new pair of Winter boots, because the lining of my three year old pair was worn out and I can't wear them without them ripping apart my ankles! I managed to actually not spend money on this, as I had John Lewis vouchers I'd been holding onto all year (thanks Dad!), and I was glad to have them saved for a big, worthwhile purchase.

My converse trainers have no inside around the heels and are starting to show a little hold in the seam... so they will be one of my first purchases in 2016. I have also managed to wear holes in a pair of jeans and two different pairs of leggings. No thigh gap over here! :-/

I will start to buy things again next year, but I know that when I do I'll be a lot more mindful of what I'm spending money on. They'll be things that I am going to wear regularly, that either complement what I already own, or will be things that I don't already own. I will buy the couple of things mentioned here, and I know now, that I will be looking for quality replacements; which I suppose may cost more at the outset but having spent a year spending nothing on clothes, I've realised the benefit of buying things that will stand the test of time and wear. This isn't to say that I'll suddenly be splashing the cash, but just that I now, more than previously, will be considering whether what I buy could last me a year (or more).


The only thing I've bought this year


:: How about you, would you ever try and take on a challenge like this? Are you an avid shopper or do you like to keep your wardrobe minimalist? ::

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Wanderings Lately :: December

Well... turns out it's been more than a fortnight since my last update so I wasn't able to keep it up every long! This month has been packed full of wanderings. I completed a challenge of mine to make a two tiered cake, decorated with roses and biscuits for my friend Macey's 30th birthday, zipped away to Istanbul for the weekend, had many, many dinners with friends, celebrated St Nicholas and my first Christmas lunch at my new job!

I read recently that British people cram 44% more social occasions into December. I have certainly managed to do that myself this year. Although it's absolutely wonderful to be busy and to have many people to socialise with, it has also left me feeling quite worn out! I'm definitely looking forward to Christmas and spending a few days just watching all the Christmas shows that I'll be recording at my parents'!




Baking 

I've never decorated a cake any further than buttercream icing, or stacked two tiers together, so I was very proud of this creation. I based the cake on this one by Juliet Sear, but as Macey likes yellow and Snoopy I changed the decorations accordingly. I actually wish I had followed my own normal sponge cake recipe, because although the one from this recipe tasted fine, it took a couple of hours (!) to bake which is ridiculous for a plain sponge! Her cookie recipe was a little weird as well, so I probably would stick to one I have tested before if I were to do this again, but I have to say her directions for making the roses was fab and very simple to follow.

Below is May attempting to cut through both tiers, and failing because the top one is sitting on a cake board!





Travel

I nipped off for a weekend in Istanbul at the beginning of December to take in the delights of the city, and all the sugar I could manage from the food! More to come on that!


Working

I had an end of training day, exploring two of London's museums (Museum of London and Imperial War Museum) with a couple of my London based colleagues, which was wonderful!




Dinner

During the season of crackers and decorations, I've been stuffing my face full of delicious food. Highlights have been this warm punch and beef pie from Mr Fogg's Tavern - even though it came on a very small plate and looked rather stingy for £12! The place was cool, very busy last Thursday evening! The waitresses were dressed in old 'wench' outfits - long skirts and corsets, which was a little bit strange but I think I would go back to the pub again.

I also attended the AIFS Christmas lunch this week, which was good fun. I got to meet a few people who work in other departments and buildings to me which was really nice and we are set to head off for departmental drinks and nibbles tomorrow as well!





A few of the girls from the team. This is Debbie's I don't like selfies but I'm pretending smile! 
AIFS Customised faculty-led team (and Sir Cyril Taylor)!

Christmas

When I got back from my Istanbul adventure, I had two lots of chocolate gifts waiting for my in my kitchen. As two of my housemates are from Europe (Netherlands and Germany) they were celebrating St Nicholas and so I got a chocolate R (Dutch present) and a chocolate Santa (German)! Very welcome and greatly appreciated (Thanks girls!)

I also bought and read Giovanna Fletcher's Christmas offering - 'Dream a little Christmas Dream'. I read the main novel earlier in the year, and although it was no work of literary genius, it was a nice easy read. This one wasn't quite a good as 'Christmas with Billy and Me' from last year, but I enjoyed a little Christmas story one evening to add to my excitement!




::We're in the party season, are you still enjoying them all, or are you ready for a lie down in a dark room? ::