Everything up until Christmas…so very, very overdue!!

Ok… so I well and truly failed at my 2013 new year’s resolution to keep in touch and blog monthly. I thought it was an easy task but clearly I need to work on this goal. For those of you who know me, you’re aware that I’m not so great on the resolution front considering I’ve had ‘stop biting my nails’ on the list ever since I start making resolutions which I think dates back to 1994. I’m still going to add both to my list for 2014, I don’t see why I should break from tradition now!

But moving on, let’s start fresh and get in one epic post before 2013 ends.

Life


What a year it’s been! I sometimes have to pinch myself to really stop and appreciate what an amazing life I’ve got because I often get so caught up in wanting what I don’t have or wishing for something bigger and better. Sometimes it’s hard to do and makes me feel so selfish with my first world problems but I do often just sit back and thank my lucky stars to where I am and what I’ve got.

Work. Oh joyful work! I recently(ish) started a new role within the same company with a promotion and have moved into a new team. It’s a huge role with a scary amount of responsibility but something I see as a personal challenge. The hours are long and I’ve been told I’m extremely bossy but hey, someone’s gotta be, right?!


On a more fun note, I was lucky enough to win five sets of tickets to the iTunes Festival in London. Rizzle Kicks, Ellie Golding, Bastille, Avicii and Katy Perry. I know I’m old but I knew I wouldn’t make it to every single concert. The ones I didn’t use didn’t go to waste, there were dedicated fans who queued up outside every night, hoping people like me wouldn’t show up! Ben and I went to Avicii one Friday night and my friend R and I went to see my girl-crush, Katy Perry, who closed the iTunes festival. She was awesome and now I love her even more than I did before. Yep, still a total teeny-bopper.

Katy Perry at iTunes Festival 2013


After a trip back to Aus (I’ll come to that later in what will probably be an epic ‘travel’ part of my blog) I realised as much as I love London, Australia is where my heart is. I’m trying to fall back in love with London but when you leave 30° heat and return to grey skies, cold weather and the sun (if you get any that is) going down at 4pm, it can be a little tough. Having said that, as I write this draft of my blog, I’m on a flight to Finland where we’re spending Christmas with a fantastic group of friends (an orphan Christmas!) so life really is pretty sweet. I know it must annoy people to hear me whine about stuff like this but when you’re away from family, it makes you realise how incredibly important they are. I would never have survived life in London without my big sister J or living in Canberra without my girls Val, Mai, Kim, Mel, Rach and all our other wonderful friends. You know who you are… so thank you! x

Love


We made it! We made it through our first year of marriage! We can no longer milk the ‘newlyweds’ card but it was fun while it lasted! I’ve finally sorted out changing my name (although I have discovered more than a few places where I haven’t yet – arrrrgh!!) finally used to calling B my husband without giggling every time, and it’s just as much fun as it’s ever been. One year and three months on, marriage is the best! Love you B!

There is another man in my life. Not B, who I obviously adore, but a little man who I’ve only met twice and who lights up my life. I can’t believe that I could love someone so much as I do my nephew K. He is just the coolest little guy I know! I won’t be an Aunty-bore by going on about how I have the coolest nephew in the world but just know that I do and L&G… you did good! I can’t wait to see what baby #2 is like! If he/she is anything like K, we’re on to a winner!


My two favourite boys
Perth, Australia
November 2013

I’m trying to keep these first few sections short cause I’m months behind my travel and as many of you know, this means the food section will be even bigger!

Travel


Hooray! My favourite section! Or is it food… it’s a toss up between the two…

Considering how crazy our first year in London was travel-wise, 2013 has been relatively quiet. I can just picture some of you cursing me right now or rolling your eyes!


For a nice long weekend away, we went up north to the Peaks District, Chatsworth House, Leeds and York. It’s so beautiful up there but if I’m completely honest, the whole reason we went there was because there was a restaurant I wanted to try! Talbot Hotel in the teensy town of Malton with Executive Chef James Martin (he’s on tv in the UK) and it did NOT disappoint. Totally worth the drive, it was simply divine!

Beautiful York Minster
September 2013


So in my epic quest to make it to 50 countries visited, we saw 41 and 42 (our first holiday since our honeymoon) in an incredible trip to Jordan and Israel. And yes, for all you haters out there, I realise a weekend to Luxembourg or Ireland or Germany are ‘holidays’ but I’m talking about proper time off work here! We jetted off to Amman, Jordan and joined a small tour group to visit Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum desert, Aquaba, the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. Amazing… what an incredible country! The locals were lovely, our tour guide spoke impeccable English and the sights… wow. Petra has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of those places that just takes your breath away. When we arrived at The Treasury I just stood and stared. I took a thousand photos and still wasn’t sick of the sight of it. The photos don’t do it justice. Top five places in the world to visit in my book and wholeheartedly deserves its spot in the Seven Wonders of the World.

The ancient city of Jerash, Jordan
October 2013
 


The Treasury
Petra, Jordan
October 2013


The Treasury
Petra, Jordan
October 2013


We also spent time at the Red Sea. Our time slightly spoilt by the fact that B stood on a sea urchin and had about 20 spikes stuck in his foot. I now regret not taking a photo but at the time it wasn’t exactly a photo op and also, it made me feel queasy just looking at it. All fine though, the spines stayed in there and just absorbed themselves into his foot as time went on. Ugh, my stomach just flipped as I wrote that!

The Dead Sea was as cool as you would imagine it to be. A very odd sensation to wade out, go to sit in the water and have your legs pop up from under you! My skin began to get really slimy after a while because of the salt but it was such a cool experience.

A night camping in the Wadi Rum desert was another highlight. A 4WD trip through the quiet, still desert was like looking at a fake country and western movie set. It was so incredibly beautiful. We had tea in a traditional Bedlam camp in quite literally the middle of nowhere before returning to our camp for a traditional Jordanian meal by the campfire with shisha and dancing. Our tent was more like a mud hut complete with a working toilet and shower. You could almost have called it glamping! As for our magnet update, Jordan didn’t have the greatest selection. Ours is just one with camels and men in traditional dress (photo below!) Not bad, but not in my top five most-impressive-magnet countries. I have very high standards you see.


Picture perfect Wadi Rum desert
Jordan
October 2013


Wadi Rum campsite – look at
that background! Perfection.
Jordan
October 2013


From Jordan, we went across the land border to Israel. A very tense experience to say the least! In Israel we visited Jerusalem, a city that really surprised me. The Holocaust museum was an amazing, emotional place which is where we began our first day. The old city was so full of history and we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus was supposedly crucified and where his tomb lies), Via Dolorosa (the path that Jesus walked on his way to his crucifixion), the wailing wall, the dome of the rock, the agony church, the sight of the last supper. So many religious sights! And it’s official. The more religious the site, the ruder the visitors. Seriously, the tourists who were there were so pushy, impatient, loud, did not understand personal space and were just plain rude.

Dome of the rock and the wailing wall
Jerusalem, Israel
October 2013

Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Jerusalem, Israel
October 2013


Even though I’m not a religious person I still found Jerusalem a fascinating place. We ended our tour with a day trip to Bethlehem. Not quite what I expected, it was a fairly plain little town with crazy security – you weren’t allowed in unless you had a Palestinian guide. In Bethlehem, we visited the Church of Nativity, where Jesus is said to have been born. With a two hour wait to get down to the manger, our group wasn’t overly interested in lining up. We told our local guide this so he knew the tricks and got us exclusive access to the manger by joining in the religious procession that happens every day at 12noon. We were given candles and lined up behind priests and nuns to go down to the manger, skipping the two hour line for a private religious blessing. The people in the queue were stopped from entering while this went on and it was a once in a lifetime experience. We had the right guide, arrived at the right time with the right amount of people. Amazing!!

In the manger, during the procession
Church of Nativity
Bethlehem, Israel
October 2013

To top it all off, we got a brilliant magnet in Israel. It’s a falafel! A proper pita bread with falafel balls, tomato wedges and cucumber pieces… in a magnet! Genius! We were the envy of the tour group. No, really! Everyone was jealous of our falafel magnet, that’s how good it was. I love a good food magnet.

More magnets!


To continue our excess of holidays – this is a view I know many of you have but just for the record, I get four weeks a year, just like everyone else!! Our big trip of the year was two and a bit weeks where we went to Dubai, Perth and back home to the sunshine state. We loved the surreal, hustle and bustle of modern Dubai and were lucky to meet up with friends of ours, J&D while we were there. Our magnet from Dubai was pretty disappointing. Just a 3D one with the Burj Al Khalifa (tallest building in the world) and Burj Al Arab (the sailboat hotel) landmarks. Pretty unimpressive selection to be honest. 

Spice souks in Dubai
November 2013

Burj Al Khalifa by night
Dubai, UAE
November 2013

Fun in Dubai
November 2013

Enjoying sunshine in Dubai
November 2013

Next stop was my much anticipated stop off in Perth where I got to see my beautiful middle-big sister L, my awesome brother-in-law G and little K, my nephew who was only 9mths old the last time I saw him at our wedding. We had perfect weather, saw family I’d not seen in over ten years, went to the most picture perfect beaches, Swan Valley and Fremantle to visit brew pubs and Little Creatures. That place is awesome! Child friendly with a big sandpit out the back with time for the big kids to drink great beer by the water. Perfection. L&G were the perfect hosts and we were so spoilt by them! Must remember to ask J to pick me up the tackiest Perth magnet as I forgot to buy one. J, this is me asking you to! Thanks!

At the dog beach with Skittles
Perth, Australia
November 2013

Beach perfection
Perth, Australia
November 2013

Fun at Little Creatures
Fremantle, Australia
November 2013


Brisbane, Toowoomba and a trip to Mooloolaba were next on the cards. Brisbane has loads of family and our friends who we caught up with at a bbq at Mum and Dad’s place. It was so cool to see everyone and it was so relaxed, we had the best time! Quite selfishly, we took a few days out to go to the Sunshine Coast staying in Mooloolaba. Quite funny that we ended up staying in the exact same apartment block that we went to ten years earlier on our first ever holiday together! We ate a ridiculous amount of seafood and B was in heaven! We caught up with more family and friends in Toowoomba and yes, we most definitely had Super Rooster while we were there. I think if B had his way, it would be our very first stop when we got to town, even before we saw family! I hate to admit it but the chips are fricken awesome! We did wonder if you could get a Super Rooster magnet. That would be pretty cool. But no, you can’t.


With Mumzie and Dad
Brisbane, Australia
November 2013

Beautiful Mooloolaba
Sunshine Coast, Australia
November 2013

SO much seafood!
Mooloolaba, Australia
November 2013

Dry tracks at the farm
Clifton, Australia
November 2013

Beautiful day at the farm
Clifton, Australia
November 2013


Back in the northern hemisphere, we took a weekend trip to Birmingham where my Grandad on my Mum’s side was born. We soaked up the festive spirit with their German Christmas markets and I went a little crazy buying a few too many decorations! No magnet was purchased here. The rule is we only buy one in places we’ve already been if they’re seriously awesome!

Pretty German markets in Brummy
Birmingham, UK
December 2013

VIPiggy at the Orchard Pig cider tent
Birmingham, UK
December 2013


Next was the much anticipated trip to Finland for Christmas. The cruise-crew is getting back together with two new additions for a proper cold, snowy, winter wonderland Christmas in Saariselkä, Finland. It was one heck of a Christmas and it certainly deserves it’s own blog post so I’ll come back to this one in the new year!


Food


Oh where to begin. My life is a constant battle between wanting to eat and not wanting to get fat. I’m still off wheat, only eating it when I really crave it or there’s really no other option.


Sums me up perfectly
Image from juxtapost.com


From hot dogs at the German Christmas markets in Birmingham, to a raw, clean chocolate and raspberry cake I made (which I thought was delicious and B thought was rubbish), my life is full of food.

In Jordan and Israel I fell in love with hummus – the smoothest most wonderful hummus in the world; and Arabic salad which was simply chopped tomatoes, onion and cucumber in fresh lemon juice. Yum. And usually about £1 (50c) a serve. Felafels were divine – my favourite was in a tiny off the beaten track shop in Madaba where they were about 30p (maybe 20c)! Amazing. Fresh lemon and mint juice was so refreshing and ‘shish tawook’ (chicken kebabs) were tender, juicy and charred to deliciousness. I must admit, I couldn’t ever face garlicky falafel for breakfast as is traditional in Middle Eastern countries and I found it near impossible to avoid bread. The other obsession, mostly on B’s part, was a nightly serve of sweet, syrupy balaclava. When it’s made right, it’s amazing. When it’s old and processed, it’s revolting! Luckily we mostly ate the former and B has since asked if I might like to attempt to make it myself one day. Knowing how much sugar it contains, I’m not sure I can bring myself to make it!


Arabic salad, lemon & mint juice; shish tawook
on the bbq; and hummus in Petra – yuuuum!
Petra, Jordan
October 2013

Fresh pomegranate juice – delicious!
Jerusalem, Israel
October 2013


My other foodie adventures haven’t been overly exciting of late to be honest. I loved the pub we went to for Christmas Book Club where the only thing they served was good old English pies. To cheer ourselves up for being back from sunny Australia, B and I paid a visit to our favourite pub in England (there, I said it again J. That means it must be true!) The Sussex Arms. A few ales later, we decided to try the pork pies with piccalilli and pork crackling with apple sauce. There’s a reason I say it’s the best pub ever and its not just cause there’s always cute puppies inside or great ales on tap. The food rocks. Can’t wait to go back!


Book club chicken and broccoli pie
London, UK
December 2013

Pub snacks at their best
The Sussex Arms
Twickenham, UK
December 2013

One of the locals at The Sussex Arms
Twickenham, UK
December 2013


A few more places worth a mention were Sushi Nara, a surprising hidden gem serving Japanese food in Staines (yes, where Ali G is from!) We had edamame, all kinds of sushi and then for me, soba noodles with teriyaki salmon. Healthy and SO good. After our Japanese feast, we went to a cocktail bar where I tried an espresso martini. Oh my gosh, where have you BEEN all my life?! New favourite dessert!

Japanese at Sushi Nara
Staines, UK
November 2013

Espresso Martini – I’m in love!
November 2013


For Ben’s birthday, family and friends gathered for two things that B loves most. Bbq and beer at Duke’s Brew & Cue. Ribs, meat platters, bbq, smoked meats all served with beer brewed onsite. Instead of a dessert, in true B style, he ordered a beer and it came out with a candle attached. Perfect birthday!

Happy Birthday B!
Duke’s Brew & Cue
London, UK
October 2013

Continuing on with the birthday spirit, I asked B what cake he wanted for his birthday and he said, “I don’t mind. You pick.” This turned out to be a HUGE mistake on his part as I decided to try something a bit different and made a raw chocolate and raspberry birthday cake. Paleo friendly with no refined sugar, no wheat, no dairy. Needless to say, B was NOT impressed. I still think it tasted really good and I will definitely make it again (shhh, don’t tell B!) but as it was a bit of a birthday-fail, I re-made his cake and this time, it was his choice of white chocolate honeycomb mudcake. This time, he was very happy!

Raw chocolate and raspberry cake – honestly,
it was really good! Recipe courtesy of
http://www.themerrymakersisters.com


I also got more brownie points when I made slow roasted bbq maple pulled pork tacos for B and L. It was a mission and a half for L to trek all the way over to our place but I’m told that he will always travel for my food, especially when it’s pulled pork. So easy and SO incredibly tasty.

Pulled pork deliciousness


Just one more food bit – I still haven’t had a better value or better tasting steak anywhere in the world compared to the lunch steak special at The Caxton in Brisbane. Sure, I’ve had other amazing steaks but they usually cost two to three times the price. Seriously, you can’t beat The Cakko, it’s awesome!

If I went into any more detail about all the delights I’ve eaten, I’m sure I’d attract many messages of concern for my health, weight and heart. I love food and until I’m told otherwise, I will continue to love it in moderation. Yes, it’s all in moderation despite what many of you may think. I even have a reputation of being known as ‘ridiculously healthy’ at work.

And so concludes another blog post. Very overdue I admit! I resolve to have ‘post regular blog updates’ as my number one resolution for 2014. It will even go before ‘Stop biting my nails’. I’ve failed on that one for almost 19 years but who knows, maybe 20 is my new lucky number. I’ll keep you posted. Promise!!

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4 thoughts on “Everything up until Christmas…so very, very overdue!!

  1. Love it D… It's only taken nearly 2 month to read but loved it as always. I'll try to post my well overdue blog this week too ha ha. Ok off I go and will read the Chrissy one hopefully later xo

    Like

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