2015

Happy New Year everyone! We are about 40 hours in – how’s it treating you so far? I have spent it catching up with excellent friends, curling up on the sofa at my mum and dad’s, and making time to really think about the things I wanted to achieve this year.

I decided a couple of years ago not to do new year’s resolutions any more, and instead set myself goals, things to work for. Sometimes they’re small and seemingly silly (one of last year’s was “make a pie”…) but they’re all little achievements, things that make me smile, stand back and say, “I did that!”. And more often than not, post a picture of it on instagram.

My most recent stand back and smile moment? Having my family up for Christmas. And it being exactly the day I wanted – relaxed, fun and full of food.

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Drastic behavioural U-turns just don’t work; you just feel restricted, making you less likely to keep your good intentions up, and beat yourself up if you crack. Not a healthy way to be. And if there’s something the last couple of months have taught me, it’s not to take your health for granted.

And a big part of your health? Being happy. A few things happened in short succession at the end of 2014 that showed me just how important that is. Why waste your life on things that make you miserable? It’s way, way too short.

With that in mind, my aim for this year is to be the person I want to be. To do more of the things that make me happy, and that make me, me.

Firstly, writing. I am a writer at heart, but any actual writing seems to have gone out the window over the last few months. And I’ve barely picked up a book this past year. I haven’t finished one since August. What happened there? That isn’t me.

Secondly, nourishing myself, body and spirit. I started to get quite into nutrition while I was training for the Great South Run, and I’m hoping my new Christmas pressie (which I’ve finally had time to read!) will give me some more inspiration. And hopefully allow me to continue to capitalise on my 2014 avocado obsession.

Hemsley

I’ve also got a copy of I Quit Sugar in the post, and have developed something of a Deliciously Ella obsession in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, I still did a shedload of Christmas baking – and very much enjoyed eating it! But it’s about balance. The things we put into our bodies matter, and I want to fill up on things that make me feel good. Most days that will be a ginormous veg-packed salad, but hey, when did a gingerbread man ever make anyone sad? And when you mostly eat the former, there’s plenty of room for the latter. I’m already a pretty healthy eater, but could do with some new advice and ideas, so I’m going to try and make one new recipe each week… and see how different I feel.

It’s also partly running fuel. This is going to be the year that I finally do the half marathon that my back injury stopped me from doing in the summer. I’ve been back at spinning and have started circuit training – which I thought would be like a horrendous year 9 PE flashback but am in fact absolutely loving! – to make my back stronger. The Great North Run Ballot opens tomorrow morning. Eek.

Spending more time with friends is another important part of my new nourish-me plans. Time spent with the people we love is a powerful, restorative thing. It makes me happy. And stops me worrying that I haven’t seen someone, that something may have happened to them, that they may be going through something horrible and I Didn’t Know. Which will in turn make me happier. I’m going to plan more visits and make more time.

Time for myself is on there too. I feel like I am always on the go, always writing lists, making a plan, always on my phone. While Christmas was brilliant, it’s been so good to just r-e-l-a-x for a couple of days, take stock and clear my head a bit. How do you know what you want to do if you’re too busy doing things all the time? I like the idea of mindfulness. “Life gets so busy” and “life gets in the way” are two refrains I’ve heard a lot, and said a lot, this year. Sometimes I need to just… pause for a bit.

And just… be more me again. Sometimes we can get carried away with what we think we should be doing, now or next, and I feel like if I don’t make some changes, I could wake up in 20 years time and realise, that wasn’t what I wanted. I have a good feeling about 2015, though. This is going to be my year. I hope it’s yours too.

happynewyear

Time flies

This time last year (well, give or take a few hours – never did get my head around that time difference), I was here:

Not a bad view, I’ll think you’ll agree! And the number one thing ticked off my bucket list.

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Last weekend, I ticked off another – I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, on a long-planned long weekend with Mum.

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Mum didn’t make it quite to the top, but it does get pretty scrambly (I have no idea what route we took – we were just kind of following random trails. And joggers.) And she is 64.

Anyway, I guess the lesson is, a year makes a big difference – but not that much difference. A lot has changed since we got back, but not everything has. And some things have changed for the better. I definitely feel like I’ve moved onward and upward, even if by not quite as much as I thought I would have by now. The important thing is to just keep climbing.

Oh hi!

Oh hi!

Me again. Long time no see. How’s things?

I did warn you things might go a little quiet – but admittedly, it’s been too quiet for too long. Way too long. I’ve missed you.

So many times in the last few months I’ve started drafting my “first post back” in my head. But then I’d get caught up in something and it wouldn’t get written.

And then something else would happen, and I’d wish I’d have filled you in on the first thing first, because then everything would be written down. Then you’d know everything. Rather than me backtracking, giving an overview, filling you in on everything as if they’re just bullet points, when each thing was, at the time, A Thing.

Like how I started a new job, and my life got super busy. And Rob started a job too – The Job.

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And we moved into a gorgeous new flat, which I cannot tell you how much I love!

My best friend got married.

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(And I got serious wedding fatigue… when the only person actually putting any pressure on me was, er, myself).

We went on holiday to Cornwall. And stuffed ourselves silly at Rick Stein’s ❤

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I booked a holiday to Edinburgh with Mrs T – nearly five years after we first started talking about going.

I developed a small obsession with avocado on toast… With cherry toms, with lemon, with black pepper. Preferably on the toasted rye bread we bought from Riverside Market on Sunday. Nom.

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I signed up to, and pulled out of, the Great South Run. While I learnt that I could run five miles, I also learnt that that niggle in my back I’ve had for the last few months? It was a prolapsed disc. Yep. Ouch. But I’ve signed up for the Great North Run next year.

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It’s not all been jolly jolly. I’ve had some pretty low moments over the last few months, heck, even the last few weeks. Pulling out of the run left me really, really bummed – I was so enjoying the training, and how fit and strong I felt. Running a half marathon was one of my new year’s resolutions, but when I chickened out of that, and this 10-miler the day before my birthday popped up, I felt like it was a sign.

In the same day last week, I had some frankly horrible news, followed two hours later by some really exciting news. How do you process those extremes of emotion in such a short space of time!? (Answer – you don’t; you come home, eat cheerios for tea, and then duck out of your spin class the next morning to go back to bed.) And all the time at the back of my mind, I knew how much better I would feel if I just wrote it down.

So here I am! Back, writing it all down. Properly, again. Because I’m a big believer in doing the things that are good for you, be that going for a five mile run (seriously, I was so proud of myself), or booking that girly weekend with your mum. Or eating avocado on toast.

I’ve missed you 🙂

Cooking lessons

During my last ever term at school, it was decided that to fully prepare us girls for the trials of university, we should have…. a cooking lesson. So for two hours one afternoon us sixth formers duly filed off the the Food Tech classroom and learnt some “basics”. Which contributed absolutely nothing to my uni cooking repertoire (think pasta, bagels and jaffa cakes – mmmm, jaffa cakes) but led to an incident which has since become an urban legend amongst my friends.

I cannot chop carrots. And no matter how far I come in my culinary abilities – and I’m about to cook a roast for 4, so I’m pretty good these days! – to that lot, I will never be able to chop carrots.

In my defence, the carrots were in smaller pieces by the end of it than when I started…. So I don’t actually know what I did wrong. But it was the cause of much mirth that day, and ever more.

Signing off to my friend Fi – who just to show how far we’ve come these days, gets Actual Married next weekend – and remarking on my dinner plans, she said, “You OK chopping those carrots?”.

That’s why I love my friends. We may get old, but some things never do.

Chicken roasted with winter root vegetables

I realise I’ve been very sloppy here of late. And you’ll have to bear with me a couple of weeks – once aforementioned best-friend’s-wedding is sorted. Things are good though – very, very good, just very, very busy! So much for that peace and tranquility I was so sure I’d keep hold of post-Hong Kong. But fingers crossed it will all settle down soon. I miss this little writing and rambling space, so as soon as I can be I’ll be back with bells on, I promise!

Perfection

I have been in the garden in sunny sunny Bournemouth since 10.30 this morning, and this is the most obstructed view I have had since:

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I wandered through Bournemouth Gardens last night and remembered everything I love about summers at home – people-watching holidaymakers, pink from the beach, the smell of the sea breeze, the shadows lengthening as the sun sets… And hey, Murray might win Wimbledon later!

Heatwave, never leave us ❤

Mummy love

For everyone not in Holland (as Rob found out the hard way), today is Mother’s Day 🙂

We did a mini-Mother’s Day last weekend when Mum was here for the run. I gave her some daffodil tea lights from Laura Ashley, which I kind of hope she doesn’t actually light because they were super pretty… ! Just had a lovely long chat with her (and various other family members who happened to walk into the kitchen while I was on the phone). The boys didn’t forget – I did remind them twice – and all managed to get her the exact same chocolates without conferring. Great minds!

My mum is the best. I know everyone’s mum is the best, but I would honestly be lost without my Mummy T. She is absolutely always there for me, and as I’ve got older I like that I look after her a little bit too. She’s bloody hilarious as well, that helps.

As I get older, and have to start dealing with things like credit cards,and how on earth mortgages work, she’s still the only person I want to ask for advice. Even when I don’t even know what’s wrong she knows just what to say. If I can be a fraction of as good a mother, I’ll be happy!

Happy Mother’s Day Mrs T, you little legend 🙂

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I’ve spent this weekend with two of my besties, planning weddings, eating crisps, drinking cocktails, drinking tea… perfect stuff. And – this was the last weekend I have to spend sans Rob! I’m in Holland next weekend, and the one after that he comes home.

Now, is there such a thing as a “Welcome Home” cake?….

Movie night: Argo

argo-posterNow, I have sometimes been known to go and see a film more because I fancy a pick and mix, than fancy seeing it. But sometimes, a film comes along that I NEED to see, before it goes out of the cinemas. Argo was one of those films!

I saw the trailer a few times on previous cinema trips and thought ooh, I fancy seeing that, but never quite got round to it. Then it won about a hundred awards and I thought right… action is needed!

With BAFTAs, Golden Globes AND the biggie, Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, it came pretty well recommended – and it definitely didn’t disappoint. This film is so. Freaking. Good!

A quick precis – and I will warn you, I’m going to have to include some spoilers. The girls I saw it with had had it ruined for them by their housemate 5 minutes before they left the house… Nobody wants to be that guy, so consider yourself warned! It’s set in the 1970’s (so the hair alone is awesome), and centres on the mission to smuggle 6 American embassy employees out of Iran. Their cover? They’re a Canadian film crew on a location scout for a movie called Argo.

Thinking about it, I’m surprised at how much I did enjoy it, and how involved I got in it. I’ll give most things a go (except *cough* Jurassic Park) but I do kind of expect to zone out a bit in action-type “boy films”. There’s only so many things you can see blow up and be impressed by. And I think that’s what I was expecting with Argo. But not the case – there aren’t any explosions, no car chases, no boring political / military shpiels round boardroom tables that I don’t quite manage to follow… and I could not stop watching.

The pace is absolutely perfect – it neither rushes nor stalls you, leaving you both desperate and terrified to know what happens. You feel exactly how the hostages themselves must have – your life dictated by things completely out of your control. You haven’t got any freedom until the events play themselves out. And again like the hostages, even as the plane takes off… you don’t fully believe they’re away. Even as the credits rolled, I didn’t fully believe it! It’s almost like post traumatic stress disorder. It breaks over you in stages – I’m kind of only just believing it now.

It ramps up the tension without cliched music and stretched out pauses, punctuated by some real moments of humour (John Goodman in particular) – short little bursts that release some of that tension, blow off some steam. One section I particularly loved was when they’re in the van being slowly driven through a protesting crowd, banging on the vehicle and shouting. It’s slow, suffocating, like a tinder box waiting for a spark – the antithesis of a car chase, and painfully brilliant.

I also loved that it’s essentially all about acting. The actors are acting as people acting that they’re not acting… Brilliant. The Shakespeare student in me will always love the whole play-within-a-play, and I loved the chime of recognition here.

It’s touching, human and the effects are long-lasting. Even the potentially-cheesey absent father / cute son storyline works here. Everyone just wants to get home.

I was only marginally distracted by one of the hostages being Jimmy Cooper from the OC (who else loved that show!?) and loved Ben Affleck as a bit of a Seventies Jesus. Absolutely brilliant.

Music to my ears

On another note (pun genuinely not intended! ha), it occurred to me recently that I really do not post enough about music. I LOVE music. It’s punctuates pretty much everything I do… and I love how a song can instantly transport you back to an incredibly specific memory, a place, a person, a feeling. Never Forget You by The Noisettes starts playing and I am back on a jetty in Croatia, watching the boy attempting to snorkel. American Boy by Estelle and Kanye West is the song that broke the ice when we met – we had a rap battle (I won). And whenever I hear Teenage Dirtbag I HAVE to tell my best friend, after we rocked the house with it at our school leaver’s assembly. Nobody knew we could even play anything.

I’ve been to so many amazing gigs and tend to get a little bit overinvolved…  I have been known to have a little “moment” (aka, a little cry) at a gig. Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons, I’m looking at you. Some people might see it as overthinking the music, but I just get hooked in to some records… the only way I can explain it is by saying it feels like you’re inside the song. I genuinely don’t understand people who aren’t into music. How can it not affect you?

My song-of-the-moment changes pretty much every day but right now it is this: Pompeii by Bastille, a band I’ve heard snippets of in the past and been meaning to investigate. Love love love!

There’s also this, which I will admit isn’t exactly highbrow but…. that saxophone!! It makes me want to dance. And also rave in TK Maxx. I won’t tell you how many times I listened to this at the weekend. And 81 million views on Youtube can’t be wrong. Silly (and I should warn about explicit lyrics!) but it makes me happy – exactly what music is supposed to do.

 

Just Be

I am obsessed with this song.

 

I think I listened to this on repeat for about an hour on the drive back after Christmas, and every so often I wake up in the night with it in my head. It wasn’t the easiest Christmas at home for a lot of reasons. Families, relationships, they’re funny things. I was going over and over in my mind the whole difference between what you think your family are like and what you tell yourself your family are like… and what your family are like, and loving them anyway. I’d wanted this album for a little while and the first time this track played I was sat on my sofa in my bedroom, wondering how to – and whether I should –  make next Christmas different. The hairs-on-your-neck feeling where a song kind of speaks back to you and explains how you’re feeling is yes, corny, but at the same time incredibly powerful. It’s comforting to be told you’re not the first one to think that way, and sometimes it’s just the way things are. That in itself can also give you hope. Initially it made me sad to think that that is just inevitable, “how things are”. That after however many years, you’re bound to end up disliking the person you love the most. But I’ve decided after many listens to take it as a challenge. Yes, it happens to some people, and it’s not the end of the world. But it’s not the way things have to be.

 

❤ .

Waterworks

So… this is my bathroom.

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I’m having some plumbing issues.

*sigh*

It’s so frustrating when there are things wrong with your home. You want to come home and feel relaxed and cocooned. Not paranoid about what else has gone wrong each time you open the front door!

It started on Sunday with Toilet-gate, which I’m not going into as frankly, it was kind of gross. Monday an electrician came to fix the light (which had just been knocked out of place my Mr and Mrs Stomp-Around upstairs). Tuesday I had a phone call from the plumbers saying they were going to take me to court if I didn’t pay them (they came on Sunday, and had neither finished the job nor contacted me since – ringing from an unknown number that I can’t call back doesn’t count!). Tuesday evening they came back to fix the toilet and relieved my travelling savings fund of £150 for the pleasure (I’ll get it back from the landlord – well, most of it – but not til the end of the month). So, the toilet’s fixed, but the wall… looks like that.

I’m still not sure why he had to do that to the wall to fix the toilet… but anyway, while he was rummaging around in there he found a slow leak, which explains why there’s been damp on the wall and the carpet. And fair play, I guess I agree with him on the fact that there’s no point in putting the wall back over a damp patch, as it’ll only get worse. But in the mean time – there’s a hole in my wall!! A big, damp hole!! And a binbag-wrapped bit of wall (black with mould on the back, may I add) in my cupboard!! The damp’s making me paranoid. I’ve had a really dry, scratchy throat all week and I can’t help but think the two are related.

There’s someone on their way round at the moment to look at it. The plumber said the leak wouldn’t be difficult to fix, I’m just worried I’ve opened a can of worms, and am about to reveal a huge underlying problem. There’s a similar patch of damp on the ceiling, which I’d hate to find out is the same problem in the flat above me.

And I don’t want it to be decided it’s the responsibility of the people who built the block, and it end up just getting passed back and forth, ad infinitium. *sigh*. I just want my flat fixed.

It’s been a bit of a rough few days without all this, now Rob’s away. Even if it isn’t a huge deal, it just reinforces to me that I’m having to deal with it on my own. I can tell it bothers him that he’s not here to help sort it all out – it’s not like he could fix it if he was here, but at least we could be mutually pissed off!

I know this is just something you have to deal with when you have your own place, and I said I wanted to be treated like more of an adult… But I kind of meant as in having friends round for dinner. Or having my parents to me for Christmas. Not holes in walls.

Hopefully I’ll have some more positive New-Year-news soon!…