As I mentioned in my recent travel posts D and I are engaged and planning our wedding. Full disclosure; there hasn’t been any major stresses and we have disagreed on approximately 3 things. These were centred around the usual minor things; the food, the music etc etc.
I have a very helpful fiance who has done a lot of work organising. With music being a major influence in his life he was never going to let me organise wedding entertainment (although I have input) just like I was never going to let him have the final say on the flowers.
I have to say, I haven’t found the initial stages of wedding planning particularly stressful, when you plan a wedding in 11 months its more efficient to be decisive and do your homework. We had already planned and discussed what we wanted while we were away and as such it has been relatively straightforward to put everything into place.
So far the venue is organised, the registrar is booked, we have one band booked (with a few more to consider) and we have a guest list. D is doing a lot of homework with his photographer and music contacts (what a love!) We have a cake organised. I am wedding dress shopping in a few weeks with my mum, although I have absolutely no idea what type of dress I want.
I am by no means a wedding planning expert. I feel like we’re sort of making it up as we go but in a good way. My only tips so far are:
- Wedding planning doesn’t have to take over, our way of tackling it is to have regular check ins but not have it all consuming.
- On the back of this is is important to make time to be a couple. It doesn’t have to be expensive, a movie night at home or a gig won’t set you back much. Having fun together sets some good foundations for your marriage (or so I’m told).
- Work out what (if anything) you want to DIY. Price it up, eBay is your friend, but also consider how much you’re prepared to do. Do you actually enjoy crafting? How will you feel having to tie 100 ribbons and just how handy are you with a glue gun? If you like arts and crafts this is your time to shine, but don’t feel like you have to make anything if its not your bag.
Its all getting very exciting! I might even try to get D to write some tips on picking a wedding band.
After more than a week of city breaks we were so ready for some time outdoors and we couldn’t have picked a better location than Shenandoah National Park. Situated in Virginia, we were both blown away with the scale of it and its beauty.
We had picked up a hire car in Washington DC and headed for the park, only stopping for walking snacks at Walmart. We stayed in a cabin at Skylands, one of the resorts in the National Park. The whole park had a lovely relaxed feeling and we spent a lot of time recharging our batteries outdoors.
We climbed Stony Mountain and did several waterfall walks further up the Skyline drive. The best thing we did, however, was going horse riding on part of the Appalachian trail. No pictures exist of this event, but poor D was at the back with the slowest horse. If you’re new to horse riding rest assured we are pretty inexperienced riders and it was not a problem. It was incredible cool to be experiencing something relatively new to us in such a scenic place and I’m glad we took the opportunity to do it.
We were both sad to leave such a tranquil place, in a way it was when we first started feeling like we were on holiday after such a busy few days. For any people from outside the USA looking to travel in the USA I would totally recommend taking time out to visit one of the spectacular National parks.
Following New York we had a day each in Philadelphia in the city; however due to having limited time we made the most of our trip by only having a day each in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
There is so much history in the older American cities. To us Philadelphia felt like a cross between New York and Amsterdam. There’s something very laid back about the city. We started our visit by eating cheese steaks in one of the parks before taking in some of the historical building and seeing the Liberty Bell. We learned something about the early days of American independence, went to an exhibit in the Peale house and toasted our engagement in City Tavern. I’m not 100% sure that everyone in the Tavern really understood our Northern English accents though but we both had some Olde Fashionde drinks which were welcome on such a hot day.
For a slice of foodie heaven we stepped into the Reading Terminal Market. Which made us extremely hungry and would make the biggest foodie excited. The range of food inside that market was exciting and mouthwatering. If you’re in the area is it well worth a visit and it was extremely tempting to fill our suitcases with salami, pasta sauces and cheesecake.
In a total change of scene, we were told of the NFL draft and we followed the hoards of football fans. Although neither of us have any idea about American football the excitement was infectious. We had fun perusing all of the stands and watching the commentary in the sunset. Although it was unplanned to be in Philadelphia for the event it really felt like we were getting a taste of the USA.
In Philadelphia we stayed in an Airbnb, it felt like such luxury to 1. spread out our possessions and properly repack our cases. 2. Have a bath instead of a shower. We barely spent any money once we were actually in Philadelphia as so many of the places to visit are free or very inexpensive. My one regret about the visit was that we couldn’t get a picture near the infamous Rocky steps due to the Football draft, but it was such an experience we couldn’t complain too much.
Hello! Its been so long! I must apologise for not filling you in sooner on life, our travels to America and what I’ve been up to lately. The two biggest bits of news:
- D and I went on an amazing trip to the USA covering New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Shenendoah, Northern Florida and Orlando.
- We got engaged in New York.
New York really lived up to the hype. Growing up the media and friends and family talk about how amazing New York was and truly we had a fantastic time. There’s so much to see and experience, I feel like I could go back and still not do everything I’d love to do.
We stayed in a tiny hotel room in a hotel off 8th Avenue. Apart from the fact that we could only open the cases on the bed, it didn’t really matter as with only 5 days and the whole of New York to explore it was really more of a base to sleep and for that we really only needed somewhere safe with a comfy bed!
We walked about 15 miles each day around the city (pack comfy shoes) and did a lot of the iconic things but I think my favourites were:
- Watching not one but two musicals on Broadway – we got to see Josh Grobin in Natasha and the Great Comet and we saw the opening night of Bandstand. We actually got engaged on the stage at the Imperial Theatre after watching the Great Comet.
- Going to Central Park and seeing iconic places from films and tv programmes.
- Seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (we love a bit of History).
- The shopping. Need I say more?
- Watching Twin Forks in Chinatown.
- Watching Wrestling in a Catholic School Gym in Brooklyn – although I was so jet lagged I fell asleep for a chunk of the match.
- Randomly happening upon Katz’s deli from “When Harry Met Sally”.
- The food! Although we didn’t really actively seek out trendy places to eat we certainly ate really well. We ate in a lovely diner, had some wonderful Chinese Food, ate a lot of pizza and had some delicious pizza in a local deli.
In summary, a trip to New York really doesn’t have to break the bank. We saved a lot before our trip but some of our top tips for keeping costs down were:
- Use the Subway. You can get weekly Subway tickets for about $37 which makes it so much easier to get across the city.
- Food needn’t break the bank. We ate in diners, pizza shops, delis and fast food restaurants. We ate hot dogs from a hot dog stand and we ate a lot of fast food. We found that if you eat in the more residential areas of Manhattan or Brooklyn there is a lot of great food. Notably when we went to the Railroad Diner in the East Village the food was fantastic, the staff were so lovely and the portions were so ridiculous we ate at 10am and didn’t need to eat until the evening.
- If you want to watch something on Broadway – Google Rush Tickets. We got amazing seats to see Natasha and the Great Comet for under $40 (I forget the actual amounts). I actually cried during the final song, something I had wanted to do since I got into theatre was to see a musical on Broadway. You can usually get Rush Tickets for certain musicals if you buy tickets when theatres open at 10am.
- You don’t have to pay the full admission price for the Natural History Museum – it is a suggested donation only.
- Plan ahead, we looked a lot of ticket prices before we went and D put together a vague itinerary so we knew what we were likely to be spending that day and took advice from friends and online reviews to determine what we wanted to do.
- Don’t feel like you have to have a whole new fashionable wardrobe to fit in with the locals! This won’t apply to a lot of readers but it will apply to some. It is really worth noting that although there are some truly stylish people in New York; Sex and the City is a myth. Being on the Subway a lot we noticed we didn’t really stand out as tourists for dressing how we usually do and like everywhere there is a huge variety in how people dress.
If we had just done New York as a short break we would still have had one of the most memorable trips of our lives. I feel like New York was kind to us and we left in a happy bubble, engaged and excited for the rest of our trip.
At New Year I think we can all confidently say that we are inundated with two opposing forces in both mainstream and social media. These being the concept of “New Year New You” or the alternate view of “making resolutions is pointless as you never stick to them anyway”.
While for most of us a complete lifestyle overhaul is unobtainable and daunting there are so many small steps you can do to make yourself feel better. It often seems to me that the whole wellness thing that really exploded between 2016 was difficult for us to stick to, expensive to obtain ingredients and often impractical for fitting into a family routine. Just ask me about the time I tried a kale smoothie and thought I was eating grass; or the time I tried the paleo diet and it was the best thing ever until the day I started crying because I was hormonal and desperately wanted some oven chips.
However, I am as guilty as anyone for letting myself think that means I can lose sight of healthier living altogether. I noticed my face becoming increasingly moon like in November and took myself in hand for the 6 weeks prior to Christmas. Here were my smallest changes, but I actually enjoyed the little challenges posed and I got a bit of a spring in my step.
So here are a few suggestions to help you along with a healthier year:
- If possible take advantage of your local parkrun. This is a fantastic event run solely by volunteers. Basically its a weekly Saturday morning 5k run. There’s runners of all abilities and its so well run and everyone is really encouraging, even when you’re just starting out. To be honest I am a terrible runner. My gait is like that of Kermit the frog, but the fresh air and actually doing the 5k gives me such a sense of achievement whenever I attend and you can see how you’re improving from your time each week. Its completely free and you can sign up here.
- Just try and do more active things at the weekend. Swim, go to a trampoline park, ride your bikes. D and I did a walk around Ripley today and it blew away the cobwebs away and we saw some beautiful countryside.
- Stop with the fizzy drinks, especially diet drinks. Full sugar fizzy drinks have so much sugar and you probably don’t really notice you’re drinking empty calories. Diet drinks seem like a sensible alternative but they’re still pretty acidic and the sweeteners can actually contribute towards you putting on weight. I have basically cut put my fizzy drink vice in favour or tea, coffee and water and I think this contributed to weight loss more than anything else and since I stopped having fizzy drinks I noticed I enjoy sweet treats way more.
- Identify when you eat the worst. I am a great boredom eater at the weekend and tended to snack after we did our food shop. I also always used to get to lunchtime at work and convince myself I had worked hard enough to justify caramel shortbread from the canteen. Breaking the caramel shortbread habit was straightforward enough as it because something of an ongoing gag between myself and my friends at work but the boredom eating was a challenge. We ended up food shopping at a different time of day to avoid this habit (we also saved money buying fewer sweeties).
- On prepackaged food look at the traffic lights. When you’re out and want a snack this is a great way to grab a snack without it disrupting a basic healthy lifestyle.
- Don’t be hard on yourself all the time. Life is to be enjoyed and enjoying good food and wine with family and friends is part of this. Give yourself time to relax and stress less about what you’re eating and just enjoy being with people you care about and have a good time.
Have a happy new year.
You may have noticed a period of quiet, perhaps some tumbleweed blowing through my little slice of the internet. Its been far from intentional, I still enjoy cooking and finding new spots of food, but I find lately my quest for a full stomach is not as all consuming. When I first started this blog, I was almost a different person. Almost a shadow of who I am now, having just moved to a new place, starting to make friends and not really wanting to admit that my university relationship was nearly over. Not as confident to pursue hobbies and ambitions and to be honest not really knowing what I wanted.
Anyway, time heals many things and having some stability at home (thanks boyfriend! thanks parents!) and more disposable income (thank you work!) made it easier to pursue more interests. But I found I was posting less on here and I don’t want to neglect what was perhaps my first adult passion. Blogging and writing in general. I do still love writing about food, writing new recipes and taking restaurant recommendations. In some ways I actually prefer writing about food now; I feel like I found my rhythm as a writer, quick and (usually) healthy recipes for people pushed for time, with the occasional longer recipe to enjoy over a weekend. Crowd pleasing recipes when you have larger groups to entertain. Stuff I as a woman approaching 30 would want to read myself.
However, life is so much more than food. I want to wax lyrical about the books I read, about the raw elegance of music on vinyl, why you should consider taking part in a Park Run, fashion preferences. Life through the eyes of a food lover, rather than a life led entirely by food.
D and I have discussed remastering some of the older favourites and starting some sort of youtube channel based on this blog. Simple recipes to appeal to cooks of all abilities. So the food writing and learning how to cook with more skill and precision won’t really be going anywhere, I just want this venture to keep growing and developing the same way I have over the years.
Plus, you know, food always did taste better when life was lived enough to work up an appetite.
This is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a while but I could never quite articulate my feelings on it. Even now its a struggle. But I know there are even now people fighting blood cancers and lymphatic cancers who are desperately hoping for a tissue match and realistically the more people who are eligible to join the register that do drastically improves both the quality of life and survival of patients.
I consider myself extremely fortunate, neither myself or anyone I have been close to in real life has been so poorly to require a bone marrow transplant. However, D has, and when he was interviewing Andrew McMahon in 2014 (of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate) it made me fully appreciate how important it is to get involved when you can. Here was a man who had nearly 10 years previously received a stem cell transplant from his sister following treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and was in great health and had just become a parent. As there was somebody at the gig from the Dear Jack Foundation we both joined the register that evening.
Considering I actually did my Masters in Cancer Biology and Therapy, I am as squeamish as a lot of people can be when discussing medical treatments, needles etc. One of the questions I got asked around the time I spoke to my friends and work colleagues about this was “won’t it hurt a lot if you have to actually make a donation”. The answer is yes and no, if you have to make a peripheral donation (which is most common) it will be similar to a blood donation. The actual bone marrow transplant is done under general anaesthetic and donors typically do experience bruising and side effects. However, I think its worth rationalising by remembering I’ve probably injured myself more when I’ve been drunk and fallen off bar stools. Also, that chemotherapy itself is pretty gruelling both physically and emotionally for the patient and their families; so if it helps someone out for the rest of their life, I can probably cope with some bruises (possibly with some moaning, I might be happy to donate but I’m not a saint).
Its worth noting that whether you join the Bone Marrow Regiaster through the Dear Jack Foundation or the Anthony Nolan Trust you end up on the same register so you don’t have to do it through both charities. Its your choice who you support or whether you wish to support another charity entirely).
I know this is more serious than most of my blog posts, but this is something I feel is important and I have been thinking about how to phrase this for a while. But the bottom line you will potentially be doing something wonderful and saving a life – basically the best gift you can ever give.
Information on who is eligible to join the register.
More on why your should join
Oh and in case I was a bit too serious, here is Andrew McMahon’s new single.