Trip planning – London to reconnect and the gift of time

One of my dearest friends Sarah sent me a message a few days ago. “I am missing you like crazy right now. I wish we were closer 😥 x” I know she meant closer distance wise but the truth is since she moved back to the south of England and closer to home 9 years ago a lot has happened. We have both gotten married, had a child each, developed careers and have whole and entirely separate lives from the lazy university days when we met. We simply don’t get much time or spare budget to arrange cross border trips to see one another and the message above was a bit of a shake-up. I need to put more effort into the relationships I cherish outside of my family.

Rather send back a non-committal and empty promise of meeting up soon, I got on sky scanner and checked for flights. Shockingly it looked like over the festive period the flights were very reasonable: £56 return Glasgow to London. Husband has been nagging at me for Christmas gift ideas, which is a whole post in its own right, he is infuriated that I never ask for anything, but I have been working long and hard to get to a place where I don’t want for thigs anymore and trying to balance people wanting to gift things to me with my desire to not receive anything that doesn’t add value to my life is causing some friction; first world problems eh?. So I presented the flights to him as a gift option and he agreed. Within 12 hours we were all booked up for a day trip to London together, I had a happy friend and a relieved husband who now no longer had to panic about what to get me for Christmas.

Now I’ve mentioned several times before just how much I enjoy pre trip planning and I have been to London multiple times, I always have to look and see what’s new, because such a large castling city is always changing and to visit old favourites, namely Chinatown. This trip will cover a bit of both, as it’s the tail end of the festive period there are still some Christmas themed events on and two caught my eye, Matthew Bourne’s adaptation of the 1948 movie The Red Shoes which is an absolute favourite of mine and a candlelight tour of the Charles Dickens museum, all decked out for a Victorian Christmas with special readings from A Christmas Carol. Thankfully the Red Shoes is going on Tour and will be coming to Edinburgh next summer so I could scratch that off the list and catch it closer to home so we are free to indulge in a bit of extra Christmas cheer.

Next on the list is an oldie but a favourite, a trip to Chinatown. Despite the name it is much more like Asiantown and has everything from Thai to tandoori within a few street blocks and much to my delight more Japanese food is creeping in, including a street food favourite of mine; Taiyaki. Taiyaki is best described as a fish shaped waffle, wither closed like a toastie/jaffle with a custard or red bean filling or open to be stuffed with cream and fruit or in this case ice cream!. I’ve had it both ways, stuffed with cream and fruit in Kyoto and filled with chocolate custard in Sendai, I still dream of the chocolate filled Taiyaki and I live in hope I can have another on this next trip.

Me x

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Finding the time for Me time; the amazing results.

Intro: This post has sat in draft for over 6 months. I have struggled to post it, in part I think, due to some kind of internal guilt that I am still trying to overcome. So at the end of this post you will find a bit of an update on how I feel now after implementing some of my me time plans. I hope it helps some of you see why it is so essential to have some Me time.  

Me x

As a busy working mum, I can’t afford to waste any time I get for myself, its precious, It’s time stolen during naps or Daddy time and most importantly its time I am stealing from myself!

Trying to multi task at every opportunity is preventing me from focussing on what’s important at that point in time. ME! It doesn’t matter what I want to do with my Me time, what is important is that I am dedicated to it, focused on it and present. If I decide I want to run a bath with a Lush bath bomb and watch the great British bake off then so be it. If I want to spend that time window shopping with a friend or researching a blog post so be it.

I’ve really felt a loss of identity since becoming a mum and all of the activities above are part of the journey I need to take to find Me, and I am not finding myself while sitting on the sofa watching re-runs on comedy central feeling exhausted and wishing I could be doing something more worthwhile or feeling guilty for not being more productive. I get 30 minutes when Husband bathes Little Boy and as soon as I sit down I get back up and start tidying!

I’ve been listen to Jess Lively from life with intention podcasts lately. A huge amount of the content is resonating with me particular intentional living based on core values! And I am seriously considering signing up for her class.

I have just finished listening to her podcasts with Alisa Vitti on how to make embodying pleasures a habit. I’ve always felt selfish for taking time for myself and have to almost force myself to enjoy any form of self care. Alisa said something during the podcast that finally hit home with me. “It’s only selfish if you have to deny someone something they need for you to have it”. Why do I feel guilty for enjoying a little time to myself? My Little Boy is in bed my Husband is enjoying some Him time, probably gaming. Who is being hurt while I am tucked in bed reading a book? No-one!

I have to make time for me now. To be a better Mum, Wife, Employee and person in general. Taking time for me isn’t selfish if it benefits the people around me!

So at least for a little while, until the little pleasures become a habit, I need to make myself a priority, to carve out some time to pamper myself or to indulge a hobby. I need to look after myself properly, not only the “should’s” but the “would like to’s”. I also need to make time for a self-care routine.

So I am planning to indulge myself a little and pick an activity from the list below, at least once a week, and dedicate myself to it and to me.

  • Food – eating, cooking, reading recipes, I have a real passion for patisserie
  • Reading – on my list is the fringe hours, the war of art and better than before and the Harry Potter saga, I read the first book in Paris.
  • Pampering myself – a new body mist or lotion, a Lush bubble bath, an at home facial.
  • Being Creative – cake decorating, home décor.
  • Physical activity – Horse riding, climbing, skating, joining a meditation class.
  • Researching – I love a good Google. Pouring myself into research really makes me happy.
  • Adventure -close to home or abroad; visit somewhere new and try some new things.

Me x

6 months on: when I read this back I can feel the anxiety pouring out of it and I feel for the Me that wrote it. What I can tell you 6 months on however is that I no longer have that constant feeling of anxiety. Did I do everything listed above, hell no, I probably never will but I have implemented a few changes that I really think have helped a lot.

Food – my diet has improved immensely, I no longer have a nightly pattern of comfort eating once my son is in bed. On the whole I snack far less.

Reading – I did read the Harry Potter saga, then the cursed child, then the his dark materials trilogy and now I am re-reading a Christmas carol. More importantly I spend less time glued to my phone.

Pampering myself – I am still failing on this point

Being creative – I have been making more things for Little Boy, slime, pipe cleaner animals, more adventurous meals and I even attended a bread making class.

Physical activity – I haven’t joined any of the classes above, I probably won’t its just not been feasible to fit them in and I value my time with my Son more right now. We do make sure to get out at a family for an outdoor activity onece a week which is really lovely. Little boy gets to discover and Husband and I get a chance to talk.

Adventure – since starting this blog, defining my values and deciding to pursue a more intentional life, I have been to Paris, Berlin and Turkey with a trip to London on the horizon.

As an bonus I am also free of debt! What a lovely side effect of minimalism that is as it affords me the privilege of choosing how I live my life. My family as a whole are happier, I AM happier, I am healthier too. Take care of yourselves, mums or not, please.

Me x

Living my values. Laugh together whatever the weather

I had a wonderful trip out with my Little Boy yesterday. A last minute dash to the shops for essentials for Grandads Sunday lunch (onion, peppers and  coconut milk… seriously) turned into an slalom race up and down grassy slopes blanketed with autumn leaves. 

My son loves racing in his buggy and giggles wildly at the sound of crunching leaves, so our short trip out was full of the sound of laughter. 

It’s important to embrace an opportunity to have a little fun with your child. I am now on my way to work with fond memories to keep me cosy on a cold autumn morning. 

Me x

Berlin; come for business, stay for the food

Travelling for work is a double edged sword. On one hand it is rushed and exhausting and on the other it is a great chance to get a sneak peek at a city essentially for free. Who doesn’t love free travel?!

So this business trip left me with 2 evenings to explore Berlin, where I have never been before, in fact this was my first trip to Germany.  My first night anywhere I tend not to make plans and instead use the time to explore and get my bearings. This trip was no different. My hotel, The Ramada, was in the Alexanderplatz area of Mitte, a short walk from a central transport hub which I love. I don’t feel any need to be right in a city centre as long as I have a decent transport link near me. Berlin FYI has an incredible transport system; cheap, clean, punctual and very joined up. You can get a transferable ticket for €3.30 which takes you from the airport across Berlin by Bus, Train or tram, you can switch between them to get where you need to go.

On my first evening I spent the time wandering around the station area, getting to know what’s nearby and trying to get to grips with the many exits of the station (a lesson I learned in Tokyo!) I hit the jackpot as right next to my exit was a health food shop with the biggest selection of gluten free foods I’ve seen in a long time. The next time I go to Berlin I want to do an air b’n’b type accommodation so I can really sample the gluten free goods.

After getting my bearings I headed to a nearby brauhaus that was recommended by a colleague for their crispy pork knuckle. This is a great example of the value for money you get in this are of Berlin. My whole meal came to €20 and as tasty as it was there was just too much of it. I did get to enjoy a little alfresco dining, just me, my pork knuckle and half a dozen persistent wasps which weren’t encouraging me to savour my dinner.

Crispy pork knuckle, sautéed potatoes, saurkraut and gravy.

After dinner I did a little more wandering, picked up some gluten free fig bars (bleh) and some pistachio ice cream which I ended up with in a cone, a pigeon German and pointing fail. But it was absolutely delicious.

Pistachio ice cream

The next night I headed to Markthalle Neun for Street Food Thursday. The venue was a leisurely 30 minute walk from my hotel and I love getting the oppertunity to explore a new city on foot. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this event and when I rounded into the hall I was delighted at how bustling it all was.

No not being made of money, nor being able to tuck away the same quantity of food I used to, I started with a lap of the hall to check out what gluten free goodies they had on offer. The last thing I want is to be full and poor and left pining for the dish that got away. The variety of food is incredible, trully international, from bao buns to charcuterie, bbq to sushi, there is something for everyone and so reasonable priced. I am in danger of sounding repetitive by having visited many european cities I was blown away by the value for money in the Mitte region of Berlin.

My first flutter of excitement came from the Tapiocaria stand. This was a first for me, I’d seen these crepes while doing my pre trip research (Oh how I love travel planning) and I was dying to try them. So when I rounded a narrow lane of the hall to see them I may have executed an involuntary air punch! So the first purchase of the evening was this barbacoa beef, mozerella and corriander tapioca crepe. Half of the pleasure of this crepe came from watching it be made, a totally alien process starting with a box of moistened tapioca flour which was sprinkled into a lightly oiled non-stick frying pan before being topped with grated mozerella cheese. The crepe is only cooked on one side so was covered with a cloche to allow the heat from the grill to melt the cheese on top. Once melted, as thats what i’d say the tapoica does rather than fry, the beef and sticky onion mixture was added, folded and given a sprinking of corriander. There was an array of sauces on the side to add to taste, but I wanted to try the crepe as is, plus walking around a hall with something saucy is a recipe for disaster, I am quite clumsy by nature.

The texture of the crepe was unique, it was somewhere between a pancake and deep dish pizza dough. It had a stretchy chewy texture like a lighter mochi, but savoury from the cheese and melted in the mouth. The beef was well seasoned and lightly spiced, I almost turned straight back around and got another but there were more goodies on my radar.

Now that I’d been good and had a savoury start to my meal I lapped back ruond to Zwei Dicke Baren, two young english gents right at the door selling icecream cookie sandwiches including a gluten free chocolate nut version. The easiest way to describe this for the brits was a thick gluten free hob noc with nutella icecream sandwiched in the middle. I loved the packaging on these cookies, so sweet and 100% recyclable and the fact it was made with Mos Eisley ice cream was a bonus for me because i hadnt managedto squeeze in a visit. The cookie was lovely if a little difficult to eat due its thickness and the fact it was frozen solid, but rest assured that didnt stop me from scoffing the whole thing, even if i did walk around with some of my fuscia pink lipstick on my chin for the rest of the evening following my snake like attempt to get my jaws around it. It was €4.50 which was fair for what i got, a handmade, handpackaged and lovingly sold sweet treet.

Now as sweet toothed as I am and I generally let it run rampant on holiday. I cannot survive on sugar alone, and if there is one thing that will tempt me from the sweet side it is japanese food. Tucked away in the far right corner of the hall was a tiny stall from Kame Bakery serving onigirazu a sort on onigiri samdwich hybrid where a filling is wrapped in season japanese rice and wrapped in nori. They were selling a few flavours icluding salmon, vegan tempei and sukiyaki beef. I’m not fan of cooked salmon and tempei is out for dietary reasons so more beef for me! I was not in any way put out, this was one of the best things I had all night, saltly sweet beef with crispy lettuce wrapped in light fluffy rice and what was now soft steamed nori. It was all washed down with a large cup of iced tea from a neaby stall. As delicious as it was I was running out of room and had to rewrap the second half of it to eat as a midnight snack back in my hotel room while googling how to make them at home. Great value for €5, they even had shots of sake at €1 but as i was working the following day I left them well alone.

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While milling around I couldnt help but notice that out of the three places selling ice cream that this place had, by far, the longest queue, and it stayed around this length all night. Any icecreamery with a queue twenty people deep is something I need to try out. Jones icecream is 100% natural ingredients and small batch made in Berlin and sold out of a sweet little sage green truck. Gabrielle the head chef at Jones’ has a passion ofr icecream and cookies and this is clearly on display in the truck. The cookied looked incredibly, soft and chewy but alas I couldnt see any gluten free optins which is a shame because the matcha white chocolate chip one was screaming at me.

Thankfully for me there was a matcha green tea ice cream option which was generously scooped into a cup for me. They has perhaps 12 flavours to choose from but perhaps suffering from decision fatigue I asked the friendly bloke on the truck to recommend a flavour pairing for me and he chose the passion fruit and yoghurt which I was delighted with. Matcha is a beautiful rich, earthy and somewhat savoury flavour and having a light fruity flavour is perfect to cut through it and cleanse the palatte. The ice cream was super smooth and creamy, the flavours well balanced and as it was my last purchase of the night it was a delicious companion on the s-bahn journey home.

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Me x

Giving up on sugar; set backs

After doing really well with my healthy eating for months. I well and truly fell off the wagon. I was consumed by cravings for sugar and as hard as I tried to make healthier choices, I couldn’t switch off the part of my brain screaming for sugar. The desserts plus little nibbles here and there culminated when I are a sharing (ha!) bag of white chocolate buttons. The kind made famous by a small blonde cowboy!

I scoffed them down like a staving animal. You know that self satisfied peaceful pleasure you get when you finally scratch and itch or give into a craving? It didn’t come. What came instead was a wave of oppressive guilt. I felt weak for giving in and not having the self restraint to moderate my sugar intake. I made a lot of mistakes to get to that point. I decided to buy chocolate. I decided to buy white chocolate (not chocolate at all). I decided to buy a bulk packet. Worst of all I decided to eat the entire thing. 

I could have wallowed in my own self pity but instead I chose to hit the Internet and arm myself with a bit more knowledge. I am determined to make it work this time. So far I have found out through Gretchen Rubin that I am a questioner and an abstainer by nature. This means that I need to be able to justify my actions and have the answers to the internal challenges my detox would raise like “just a little bit won’t hurt will it?” It also means I can’t try and wean myself off sugar slowly. I simply won’t eat a few squares of high quality dark chocolate and put the rest away. I will eat it all. Even if I feel ill. I will just wait until it passes and then eat some more. How sad is that?

So I have just completed a 7 day, zero refined sugar detox. The only sweeteners I ate during the time was a spoonful of honey on my porridge each morning. On day 8 I attended a wedding and ate dessert, this was my reward for the detox week. I enjoyed it, a spin on cranachan with a flapjack, raspberries and cream and gratuitous chunks of honeycomb. I gave away the shortbread round and a few prices of honeycomb, and ate the rest. I ate, probably for the first time in a long while, for pleasure. 

The following days I didn’t reach for the sweet stuff and was rewarded with a migraine. There are awful side effects to sugar withdrawal but you have to ride them out. Unfortunately for me I left for Berlin on business where my melt choices were limited and I fell back on my usual crutch for exhaustion: sugar. 

This is where things changed for me. I felt awful. I didn’t enjoy what I was eating, it was all too sweet and not at all pleasurable. And that, for me, was a first. I have never felt anything but sweet relief on previous attempts to cut out sugar. 

I’m a fortnight further on now and I am still getting headaches but nowhere near as severe, and for the most part I don’t seem to be bothered with sugar cravings. If you are looking to give up sugar push through!

I hope this sticks!

Me X

Living my values series. Family; why I leave my smartphone at the door.

My Little Boy is now 17 months old and full of beans. He is inquisitive, loving and mischievous and without a doubt the most joyful thing in my world. I will not sit here and tell you that parenthood is all giggles and play. I feel it’s damaging to perpetuate the rose tinted image of life as it leaves any normal, fallible human being feeling like a failure for not relishing those extra hours a 4am wake up gives you, or being unable to admire the creativeness in the tomato ketchup mural that adorns your (now ruined) living room. Raising a child is joyful but it is also all consuming and in the early days of toddlerhood especially I often felt overwhelmed and craved just 5 minutes peace to scroll through Facebook.

The problem was it didn’t work. Just 5 minutes peace didn’t come, or didn’t have the desired miraculous soothing effect I was hoping for, leaving me more exhausted than before. Worse still I started noticing negative repetitive behaviour in Little Boy as he tried to block my view of the phone or take it off of me entirely, only to either throw it away or hit it. The message was received loud and clear, I was paying too much attention to my phone and not enough attention to him and that was causing him distress. There is one thing above all others your child wants from you, or your spouse for that matter, and that’s your attention. Our busy multitasking first-world lifestyles mean that most of us have a smartphone or tablet on us most of the time. It’s become almost like an addiction to be plugged in at all times. Ask yourself honestly, have you ever scrolled through Facebook until you tired of it and put your phone down only to pick it straight back up again and open Facebook? I’ve done this far more times than I want to admit.

What it really comes down to is I desperately don’t want my Little Boy to think his Mum looks like she has a phone stick to her face.

I want to be present with him, I want to take part in his life and not just have him take part in mine. So now when I come home my phone stays in my bag. From the second I walk through the door and get that welcome home cuddle my focus is on family time. Most of my evenings are now spent pretending to be a dinosaur monster that chases Little Boys and steals their socks before bath time, eating imaginary food discovered between the sofa cushions and fostering tribal relations between the woodland creatures and the safari animals.

The new routine has worked marvellously, I no longer feel conflicted, and my frustration levels have dropped. My little boy is flourishing, his attention seeking naughty behaviours have reduced (he’s still a boundary testing toddler) and his play is so much more imaginative and social. Our time together is far more pleasurable than it was and I am confident that although he won’t remember this time together he will grow up with an internal confidence that his Mum wants to be with him, not because she has to, but because she wants to, because it’s fun. I tell him every day when I get home just how much I was looking forward to seeing him.

I’ve found myself less inclined to reach for tech to fill (waste) my time and I am spending my time reading more; more of other blogs and of real books. I had forgotten just how pleasurable it is to read a paper book and I hope that during quiet time when I am reading that Little Boy will follow suit and pick up his own books too. After all it is not enough to tell Little Boy how he should behave; I have to live by example for him to see the true value of it.

Me x