August – Gaining perspective

P1030479 (1)August gave this introvert a wonderful gift – time. We had time away from work, away from the small frustrations that build in everyday life and away from the distractions that cloud our perspective. We had time with family, with friends and with each other. That time reminded me how much I need to escape on a regular basis, it rekindled in me a desire to prioritise and balance flexibility, people and quiet time, it challenged me to focus on rebuilding my patience, it refocused my perspective and it refreshed me to pursue the things that I realised were still important to me.

Perspective is a curious beast. It is so easy to distort and takes conscious effort to regain. It demands distance from a situation in order that it can clear its vision and re-evaluate. Thankfully, that is just what this month allowed me to do. The smaller frustrations that begin to consume daily life seem trivial when set against a broader view and you begin to wonder whether you’ve really forgotten how to let inconsequential matters slide off your back. The stubbornness in my nature is quick to focus on trivial details that I needlessly grant permission to require all of my attention. I reward such matters with a status of importance, which in turn allows anger and impatience to rise within me. Away from the familiarity of routine, it seems absurd that I gave such small things such great value and bizarre that those areas were where I willingly chose to place my energy. Gaining perspective and rebalancing energy is a huge blessing when small things have become such unnecessary burdens.

Needless to say, we had a great time on holiday. We had a few days of glorious sunshine and curled up indoors when the mist closed in. We spent a weekend with good friends and their little one year old and I got to pamper both my friend and myself which was a real treat. We celebrated me turning another year older, saw an impressive airshow and throughout the month I got to spend some one on one time with my Daddy, my sister and some of my best friends, over breakfast, shopping, cinema and bowling.

All in all, August was just what my soul needed and for that I’m really very thankful.

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July reflections / August hopes

July reflections August hopesWhen I sat down to write this, I only planned to reflect on the goals I set for July. August was already looking busy and I wasn’t sure there were things I wanted to achieve. As I thought about it though, ideas crept through and I realised there are plenty of things I want to do or change in August! Why that surprises me, as a person who loves to set goals and try to improve how I live in the moment and be present in the present, I don’t know, but it did.

If I start with the 6 month ambition: creating a new meal without a recipe every month – we actually did this! Summer is particularly conducive to this aim as almost every meal is a guess as to how it will turn out because we’re just throwing salads together with whatever we have in the fridge. It was fun though – every salad turned out differently! Will probably have to be more intentional about doing this in August but it seems like a fun date night activity so I hope we’ll get a chance to continue this aim this month!

>Reflections<

Stargaze. Not this month, but we’ve put in place ways of doing this in August!! Our summer staycation accommodation has a skylight in the roof above the bed so you can watch the stars as you go to sleep. It’s also in the middle of nowhere so I’m hoping for some great stargazing!

Read the Bible in German more. ‘More’ seemed so vague when I wrote this a few weeks ago but ‘more’ is definitely what I have achieved. By putting my German Bible next to my bed, I’ve read it almost every night this month and it’s been great not only for keeping my mind in German mode but also for the words to come back to life, reading them in a different language and reminding me of what their true meaning and purpose is.

Re-visit my 2015 year aims. Haven’t actually managed this properly yet. I’ll put it on my August aims and hope I get the chance to do this while we’re on holiday and I actually find time to think!

Go to the cinema twice. Jurassic World and Theory of Everything! The latter we even saw at an outdoor cinema which was especially fun. The Theory of Everything is an absolutely superb movie – I would thoroughly recommend it! Hoping this continues next month as we now have 2 for 1 cinema deals and I really want to see Inside Out!

Go to a National Trust site. We managed this without trying in the end by going to Rhossili – voted the best beach in Britain! It is absolutely huge when the tide is out and we had such a wonderful afternoon there with friends.

>Hopes<

Stargaze and re-visit my 2015 year aims. Carrying these over from July…

Take time off! We’ve booked just over a week off work over my birthday to take some much needed time away. It’ll be my first ever staycation and I’m actually really looking forward to it!

Go on Facebook less. Facebook is less of an addiction and more of a habit. My fingers automatically open the app on my phone and I barely read what is in front of me before closing it again. All that it is serving to do at the moment is distract me and fill my mind with other people’s opinions and lives, drawing me away from my own. It is cluttering my mind and August is going to be all about clearing my mind, so I can do with less of the social media influence!

Go on more post-dinner walks. The evenings are already starting to get shorter and my favourite time of day in the summer is dusk so I want to cherish it while it’s still here!

Sort out my wardrobe. Whether that’s buying new clothes, getting rid of existing clothes or starting to save some money so that I can really fill my wardrobe only with clothes that fit me well, something needs to change so that I am more comfortable when I get dressed in the morning!

Pamper myself. I hope August will give me space to clear my thoughts and, as it’s also my birthday month, I figured I may as well give my body some TLC as well. I hope a massage, pedicure and haircut might be on the cards…

July – Indulging Summer

P1030196aFor the first time in many years, we have had consistently good weather in England. Most days can be relied upon to produce a climate that is suitable for shorts and a T-shirt and it has been wonderful that as a result, we’ve really been able to make the most of this stereotypically warm season. We’ve had many BBQs late into the evening, sipped cider outside a pub on a Sunday afternoon, delighted in salads that satisfy our dwindling summer hunger, sat on a beach in Wales and been slightly sunburnt a couple of times (not the highlight… we do try to be careful!), we have lain on rugs under fleece blankets at an outdoor cinema and we have generally made the most of what the long evenings have offered. Somewhere in amongst all the summer activities we also got to meet our friend’s kitten for the first time – so cute!!

Cider, outdoor cinema, BBQs and sitting outside, particularly in the evening, are great ways of genuinely feeling like time isn’t slipping by. By making the most of these opportunities I feel like, for the first time in a long time, I have really enjoyed this summer season at home. It wasn’t forced and I’m already wondering how I can make sure I do the same next year. Mid-week BBQs, sipping cider, going to an outdoor cinema, trying lots of new salads and generally seeing friends in the long evenings are such a good place to start.

June reflections

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Finding my feet in my new office has been a little more challenging than I had anticipated. It has, however, allowed for some routine to be restored in my ever-busy world. I am mostly home at a decent hour so fitness classes and baking have made a welcome return to my weekly activities. I’m also amazed, looking back, that I somehow managed to find time to squeeze in punting, a weekend with the in-laws, multiple BBQs, manicures with my mama and sister, the start of my skirt-making and a friend’s 30th in London. Not bad!

July brings with it holidays – a weekend in Glasgow with one of my closest friends, to meet her first little one and then two weeks in Florida and the Dominican Republic with family. I’m not sure there’s much purpose to planning goals these coming months. Making sure work is ready for me to go away will be challenge enough, so the rest of the time, I just want to relax, enjoy and see what these next two months bring on the summer breeze.

>Reflections<

Have drinks outside with friends – I had anticipated this to be at a pub, but as it turned out we had drinks and ice cream outside with friends many times, but in gardens and parks instead of buying drinks. Much cheaper and most definitely just as fun.

Send some postcards – I sent a small package to a friend in America as well as some postcards this month. I hope this continues but it sure is difficult to remember.

Make smoothies – I didn’t quite get around to smoothies, plural, but I did make one very yummy one with papaya, sharon fruit, raspberries and bananas – it was amazing!

Make ice cream – We made two flavours. The first was nutella & cream with chocolate chips but my new favourite ice cream flavour of all time has to be the Black Forest ice cream – so yum!

No >Hopes< this time, just a hope to relinquish a little control and see where summer takes me.

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

Smoothie collage

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!

May reflections / June hopes

May reflections - June hopesThis month has brought a welcome change in pace. We saw Pentatonix live, who were just amazing, had a photography day with friends, enjoyed a wonderful week away in Turkey and spent some quality time with some of our favourite people. The sunshine has tried to make an appearance among a host of heavy showers but the season is definitely drifting into summer. Sadly the job location move didn’t happen quite as planned but even with that, we’re certainly getting there.

I’ve done some thinking this month about why I’m setting monthly goals and what I hope to get out of them. I don’t want them to stop me from being spontaneous just because I want to make sure I achieve everything I set for myself. So for the summer months, while the days are longer, my goals are going to be a little more vague, hopefully allowing space to enjoy these days of sunshine, simplicity, warm breezes and lazy time lived with friends.

>Reflections<

Take a class at the leisure centre – I actually enjoyed it! Go figure. I went by myself just to try it out but I’m really glad I did. It was exactly the kind of class I was looking for and a great balance of cardio and weights. I only managed one class but I’ll definitely go back next month.

Don’t get sunburned in Turkey – hurrah! I’m not sunburned! I’m also not particularly tanned because I was wearing factor 50 sunscreen, but I’ve lost the blue-white glow that comes from living somewhere it rains a lot!

Pin down a date to make an item of clothing – Yes! June 14th is in the calendar. I even bought the fabric in Turkey so we’re all set to go.

Wash the car – May turned out to be more full of showers than sunshine but we still managed to wash the cars one evening. It’s less fun when you don’t have a hose but we did an ok job with a bucket, sponge and some car shampoo. Definitely one to do again when we have access to a hose!

Get some more dates in the diary for fun things – Less so than I had hoped but I have planned to go punting with a bunch of people next week so we’ll leave it at that for now. I’d still like to book in a cake decorating class…

>Hopes<

Have drinks outside with friends – I want to make the most of these long evenings in every way I can and being outside as dusk arrives is one of my favourite ways to enjoy this season.

Send some postcards – life is best when shared and I have some wonderful postcards with Puffin book covers from the last 100 years that are so fun to send. Snail mail is the best kind of mail.

Make smoothies – it’s summer, smoothies are definitely a requirement!

Make ice cream – same reason as above, it’s about time we got the ice cream maker out again!