Winter wanderings

Winter WanderingsWinter is a strange season as it bridges the gap between the year’s polar opposites. While spring, summer and autumn all have a unique flavour that is usually predictable from beginning to end, winter embraces many emotions and characters. It is the only season where the mood and mindset change dramatically in the middle. At the beginning, the warmth, hope and joy of Christmas are all-consuming and they wrap up the year, offering time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 12 months. But the season’s end welcomes in a New Year which, although cold and often marked by post-Christmas blues, is also ripe with possibility. For me, January often ends up as a strange month without any discernable purpose, so if you’re like me, here are some ways to stay in the moment through the whole of this coming winter.

  • Food & Drink: Toffee nut latte with chocolate hazelnut loaf
  • Bake: Snickerdoodles & Pflaumenkuchen
  • Places to visit: Germany
  • Play in the snow (if we get any!)
  • Do some Christmas crafts – most of mine involve Cinnamon sticks!
  • Watch lots of movies: The Holiday, Miracle on 34th Street, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Love Actually
  • Experience a Christmas market – Köln Weihnachtsmarkt is just perfect
  • Buy a calendar for the New Year
  • Start on some New Year goals – make plans for the year, book tickets to shows and search out new restaurants
  • Go to a museum – it’s low season in January so much quieter and you can take your time
  • Go to coffee shops and watch the world go by
  • Have a long hot bath with candles and a good book
  • Prepare for spring – get ahead of the game with a pre-spring clearout
  • Make the most of the slower pace of life by sipping wine (or, my preference, G&T) late into the night with friends, dreaming about what the year ahead might bring

Winter may be the odd season out, but it can still bring joy if you live it in the moment!

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Autumn jaunts

IMGP0491bMy favourite season of all is fast approaching. For me, Autumn (September to November) is the perfect temperature, the perfect speed of life and the anniversary of me meeting my hubby. For me, Autumn is synonymous with joy. If you’ve lived life in the moment in spring and summer, here are a few ways to make sure the delight of this new season doesn’t pass you by.

  • Food & Drink: Pumpkin spiced lattes & Butternut squash… everything!
  • Bake: Chocolate torte with autumn leaves
  • Places to visit: New England
  • Walks, walks, walks
  • Splash in puddles (who says this has to be confined to spring?)
  • Wake up early and go for a sunrise walk
  • Drink Baileys hot chocolate while watching November 5th fireworks
  • Make S’mores
  • Gather acorns and pine cones ready for Christmas decorations
  • Take a photo surrounded by Autumn leaves – or throw them in the air!

Probably because a school calendar is hardwired in my brain, Autumn for me is still a time for new beginnings, a hopeful fresh start as the temperature too becomes fresher. We’ll see if any new challenges or opportunities arise for this favoured season.

Cake, ice cream and more cake

I’ve been fairly slack in keeping this blog updated with my cooking exploits so I thought I’d bring things up to date in one go. The last 2 months have seen my kitchen pretty lively…

A Sacher Torte for my mama’s birthday

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Black Forest ice cream – my favourite flavour of all time. Ever.

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Nutella ice cream

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Papaya, sharon fruit, raspberry and banana smoothie

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The incredibly bizarre combination of a dark chocolate and avocado cake in honour of the great British sporting tournament that officially marks summer, Wimbledon. I’ll admit, this one was a little strange so I’m not sure I’ll be making it again…! I might have to bake something else that’s green for the Wimbledon final at the weekend!

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Baking wheat-free is definitely getting easier and it’s so much more fun than just buying ready-made GF cakes at the store. A little kitchen creativity is definitely good for my soul.

Soaking up summer

summerThe air is changing again, this time to a hopefully warmer climate with long days of sunshine and seemingly endless hours to relax and soak up some much needed Vitamin D. Just like spring, there are ways to enjoy this season (which I consider as June to August) that are unique to the characteristics it brings on its breeze, so even if you’re not off on a summer holiday, here are some ways you can make the most of this summer.

  • Food & Drink: Pimms, cider, salads and BBQs of course!
  • Bake: Grasshopper pie for Wimbledon or an avocado chocolate cake
  • Places to visit: Colorado
  • Go for a long walk at dusk
  • Make Sprite floats… or Coca-Cola floats if you prefer
  • Go on a road trip in the sunshine
  • Pick fruit! Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries…
  • Find a waterfall and watch the sunlight make a rainbow
  • Watch a movie outdoors (local venues often have a temporary outdoor theatre in the summer – worth watching out for!)
  • Paint in the park
  • Have an evening picnic in the park after dinner, just for drinks and dessert
  • Sat outside at a pub with friends in the evening with a cold drink
  • Make ice cream and smoothies
  • Eat breakfast outside – only in the summer months are those early hours warm enough for this. Make the most of it!
  • Go punting (my favourite is to go from the Cherwell Boathouse in Oxford)
  • Listen to the dawn chorus. It’s light and warm when the birds start their singing and it’s quite something to hear them!

Turkey

IMGP0070aWe spent a wonderful week at the end of May in the Turkish cities of Adana and Istanbul. A good friend is teaching English out there and she gave us a fantastic introduction to the country’s culture. We tried Shalgam and Bici Bici – two Turkish delicacies I would be happy not to try again! – and spent many hours in the sunshine with friends.

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We sat through a lightning storm, paddle-boarded on a lake, pedalled a pedalo on a river, visited multiple mosques and ate an incredible number of kebabs.

We explored palaces and cobbled streets, took a boat tour and inhaled Istanbul at night.

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For those visiting this intoxicating city, I would suggest a visit to the Dolmabahce Palace and dinner at Sarnic restaurant – an old Roman cistern on the walk up to Ayasofia and the Blue Mosque. If you would like to see Topkapi Palace, be sure to see it before Dolmabahce, or it may be a disappointment after the latter.

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Istanbul is a remarkable mix of middle east and europe, old and new. Its culture changes, dependent on east or west and the less touristy areas are by far the most interesting.

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The Blue Mosque is one certainly worth seeing at night. Istanbul is quite a city. One to discover for yourself and I’d strongly encourage you to!

Spring photography day

As a professional photographer, my husband is great at capturing what he sees, in a way that also captures its inherent beauty. He’s also a natural teacher and loves to show others how to get the best out of their cameras. With that in mind, every now and then, he organises a photography day for friends to get together, wander around a town or particular site and make art from what they see. It’s pretty laid-back and people take their time over photographing what is beautiful to them. Everyone usually ends up with a very unique set of images from one another because we all see the world differently.

Our spring photography day last weekend was less than kind with the weather. It appears the April showers skipped their traditional month and made an overdue appearance in May and boy did it rain! The upside was that they were just showers, heavy as they were, and in between, the sun shone beautifully.

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The incredible looking hot chocolate was ordered by a friend when we were sheltering from a particularly torrential downpour. I opted for a Bailey’s hot chocolate (yum!) but his was pretty awesome – popping candy on top of the cream, jelly babies and candy cane!

We finished the day with about 12 people over at ours watching Eurovision. Madness ensued, unsurprisingly with Eurovision, but it was a really great night with some of my favourite people and the whole day made me realise yet again that we have some very very lovely friends.

Paris

Our third wedding anniversary happened to fall on Easter Monday this year, so we escaped for a long weekend in Paris. It was so wonderfully relaxing. We stayed with friends and I fell in love with the four-hour meals, aperitifs and slow-moving time. It was perfect. Great food, wonderful company and a magical city.

There is something about the combination of Parisian architecture, food, coffee, wine and even the smell that makes it quite enchanting and four days was an ideal amount of time to forget the rest of the world.

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If you’re a chocoholic in Paris, visit the Lindt café. We devoured a hot chocolate and mousse. It was basically melted chocolate in a cup, amazing!

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I developed a love of night photography when we were on holiday in Malta a few years ago and our hosts willingly played chauffeur for the evening tour of their home city. We set out about 9pm when the sun had set and spent about 3 hours driving around Paris taking photos of the city, alive at night. It was one of my favourite evenings.

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Such a fantastic way to celebrate our anniversary 🙂

Baby shower – Twinkle, Twinkle theme

One of my closest friends is expecting her first little one. She lives pretty far away so she and her husband took a road trip – a ‘Big Bump Tour’ if you will – to see friends and family before baby arrives. While she was here, we took the opportunity to throw her a baby shower and I had the joy of planning it.

As they’ve chosen not to find out the gender of their baby, we wanted to keep colours and the theme neutral. So, with help from friends and Pinterest (of course!) we decided on yellow and white with a ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’ theme. We joined up with the boys for the second half of the shower so that we could all celebrate their anticipated new addition together.

It was such a fun afternoon getting to spend time with this precious couple, soon-to-be a little family!

Invitation – designed by the creatively wonderful Leah Eli

Cake!

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Food

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Stationery – all designed by Leah Eli

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Decorations

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Games – a nursery rhyme quiz, memory game with baby clothes, plus a couple of other games without photos – Fifty Shades of Lullaby and getting a baby’s bathwater to within 2 degrees of the recommended 37 degrees in the time it takes to play ‘Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot!’

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Gifts – as well as the traditional gifts, each of the girls bought their favourite childhood book and wrote a little message for the Mama-to-be inside.

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Hastings weekend

Collage 3My Christmas present for my sister was a joint present with three of her closest friends. The aim was to whisk her away for a weekend to relax and, most importantly, stop working! We booked a cottage for the five of us and enjoyed an incredibly sunny couple of days along the coast in Hastings, Sussex. The cottage was just delightful, the location was amazing and the company was perfect for light-hearted laughter as well as deep and challenging late-night conversation.Collage 1We even managed to sneak in a few extra surprises at every mealtime just so that my sister knew we had thought of her!

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I love that I get on so well with my sister’s friends as well as my own. It makes weekends like this all the more sweet.

We’re going to the zoo, zoo, zoo

collage3We spent the last Saturday before my new job started, at Marwell Zoo. The day ended up being really blue and bright and we took our time strolling around – avoiding the enclosures where the animals just have no space. Even taking our time, we still made it all the way around long before the estimated four hours that had been suggested. Clearly with no children in tow, things go much faster!

I love being out and about as the weather starts to clear and it’s so fun to go on day trips together. I start to feel like I’m making the most of being in the moment and spending quality time with the people I love – it makes my heart happy.