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Goodbye 2016

I just don't know about this year.  I wouldn't pick it out, you know, if all of the years were spread in front of me and I could choose them, relive them, one by one.  I would go back further, before I chose this one.  But then, wouldn't everyone? Being 17 was always going to be better than being 32.  Most people are wistful for their early 20s long into their 30s and 40s.  The endless stretching years of abdication of responsibility laying out in front of you like a lifetime of indifference - interrupted briefly by wild nights, lost memories, fleeting loves and long lie-ins.

I know that it is 'de rigeuer' to hate 2016 anyway, but I never cried any tears for Bowie or Prince (sorry).  I cried salty, ugly tears for rainy holidays and suffocating overwhelm and torn muscles and missing people and injuring innocent things but I did not weep for fallen heroes (I'm far too self-centred, I think).  So if my year wasn't punctuated by their losses, then why am I watching the last dying embers of 2016 with a cautious eye ensuring they fully extinguish, rather than a feeling of fleeting loss?

Every year for the last few years has had a milestone moment.  Buying a house, getting engaged, moving workplaces and changing jobs, getting married, and this year another house move and another new job.  Changechangechangechange.  I'm kind of longing for a nothing year now, you know? I need some time to decompress.  I need some time to sleep.  This year we went to Mexico, France and New York.  I got a promotion and a job I have real passion for.  We bought a house with a roll top bath, tiled hallway and a brass door-knocker.  I love Bodhi dog more than I thought it was possible to love another thing.  I am so, so lucky that sometimes I just walk around my house and worry it will be taken away from me.  But.  But.  (Always with the but).

But 2016 has been filled with lots of days (and nights) when I have felt sad or lost.  It has been a year when I haven't felt truly myself and it's made me feel confused and stressed.  I've filled this year with either seeking out experiences and engagements to try and find what fits, or seeking out total solitude and looking inward.  I feel either exhausted, or bored.  I find myself constantly looking at other people's lives and wondering, is that what I should be doing? Is that the life I should have? I haven't written the novel yet, started the podcast, lived in a foreign country or run a half-marathon.  I haven't got a Master's Degree, learnt reflexology or seen the Northern Lights.  I've got a great job that's stable, flexible and uncomplicated but should I be doing something creative, pushing myself out of my comfort zone? I can't help but feel like 2016 wasn't the greatest because I fell a little behind. Got a little more lost. Spent too much time on the go, or mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and shopping for trainers.  Not enough time 'chasing my dreams'. (Or maybe that only exists on instagram, and why are they running away from me anyway?)

Ugh, instagram.  Okay, here is a thing.  Everyone's photos of babies in reindeer outfits and toddlers unwrapping presents is making me wonder if I want tiny people in my life.  But I don't know for sure about that either.  There's just so much I don't know, and that's been a theme for 2016.  I sought out some advice recently to help with this, and one of the things I took away is that sometimes I need to be more at peace with the 'not knowing'.  To get comfortable and sit in the indecision of not having the answers as to what I should be doing with my life - whether I should be I travelling, whether we should be starting a family, whether I should write the novel, keep the blog, join the football team, get the management qualification (etc).  I realised that some periods are about just 'being' rather than feeling the pressure of making decisions.  And I think that's my plan for 2017.  Not to beat myself up about knowing what the next steps are for me, but just to take my hands off the wheel a little and just 'be'.  I incite my own stress by telling myself to make more decisions, but maybe it's enough for now just to take more baths, get more sleep, smell more flowers and read more books.  Maybe 2017 will be a nothing year, and that is what I need.  Or maybe it will be a something year.  But for now, I'm just going to sit.  Bath running, fire roaring, an overflowing to-read pile and a snoozing dog.  Life is hidden in the small things.


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Christmas Day Brunch

This year, for the first time ever, we will be hosting Christmas at our house rather than going to one of our parents’ houses. Ever since I moved out of my parents house I’ve always tried to go there every Christmas with the exception of years when we’ve visited Tom’s parents. I absolutely love being at home (I probably shouldn’t still call my parents’ house home still after 14 years of living elsewhere!) as it just feels so cosy and happy, but it does always feel like a shame to pack up our things a few days before Christmas and not come back until New Year’s.

So this year my parents and brother will be coming to us (our tiny, two-bedroom cottage will never have been so full!) and we will be cooking Christmas dinner. I actually don’t love roast dinners but of course there will always be a special place in my heart for a Christmas lunch (eaten at 5pm of course). However, the one meal I do love at Christmas, is breakfast (or brunch by the time you’ve opened presents and stuffed yourself full of chocolate). We’ve had a tradition since I was young of having croissants, pastries and Bucks Fizz for brunch on Christmas Day and this year will be no exception. Tom is off work this week and is in charge of the Christmas food shop (eek!) so I’ve already asked him to stock up on Brioche Pasquiercroissants au buerre’ as they are my absolute favourite.




For our Christmas brunch we’ll be having croissants (we also often have croissants with bacon and cheese – yum yum!), pain au chocolat, toast piled high with jam, steaming cups of coffee (green tea for me!) and plenty of glasses of Bucks Fizz! This is always enjoyed with Christmas songs playing in the background and usually the dogs running around and frantically tearing up wrapping paper. I love that moment when I can smell the croissants baking in the oven and I know I can just relax and get into the Christmas spirit.


We usually save a few presents until after breakfast too so we can make the present-opening last a little longer (though the temptation is to tear open everything immediately, I always feel a little sad when everything is opened by 9am!) What are your Christmas Day breakfast routines?

*Post in collaboration with Brioche Pasquier
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Festive mocktail making


Today's blog post was planned to be about some winter cocktails you could make if you're planning on having any guests over during the Christmas period.  But after spending my Friday night out at my Christmas party, drinking somewhat too many j√§gerbombs and feeling slightly sensitive yesterday, I thought I'd switch it up a bit and instead share some 'mocktails'.  These mocktails still look fab served to friends but have the advantage of not meaning that Christmas morning is ruined with a sore head! (Of course, if you're feeling devilish you could still add something alcoholic - I've added my recommendations next to the recipes).




I'm trying not to get too sucked into mid-week drinking or going completely crazy with food and drink in December, so to make things a bit more interesting I've been drinking these Feel Good drinks, which are either still and blended with water or a bit bubbly.  They're also really good to keep in the cupboard for friends who don't drink.  I've been adding fruit or other drinks to them to make evenings drinks a bit more interesting, or serve to friends when they visit.  (They're also 100% natural so you don't have to worry about added sugar or any other nasties).

I love making warm drinks during the winter - it's so fun to whip something up when friends pop over and come in from the cold.  The 'hand warmer' is the perfect mocktail to hand to friends as they're taking off their gloves! If you want to make it even more 'warming' you could add spiced rum or amaretto.


It's really easy to make non-alcoholic mojitos as they're so tasty anyway - the cranberry and lime Feel Good drinks are perfect to adding with mint, lime and crushed ice for a really refreshing drink.  To make it a little more devilish you can of course also add brown sugar and white rum.


What are your favourite winter cocktails or mocktails?

*Post is a collaboration with Feel Good Drinks
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On hiding

It feels like so long since I sat at the computer and drafted a blog post.  Actually it seems like a long time since I wrote with any sense of intention or impunity.  Oh god, it seems like a long time since I did anything with any sense of intention or impunity.  That's the truth of it I think.  For someone who is 'known' for flying from one plan to another, for being that person that says 'sure, I'm free in, say, two months time?', I've sure had a lot of 8pm bedtimes recently.  And not so many plans.  At the moment I go to work, come home, slope around in my pyjamas and then make an excuse to go to bed early, only to scroll through my phone or try and read a book but get distracted and fall asleep (and then wake a few hours later and stare at the ceiling).

I am known for being that person who loves Christmas.  Most years I am begging Tom to put the tree up in the last weekend of November, playing the Michael Bubl√© Christmas album weeks in advance of the big day and having all of my shopping done, wrapped and under the tree in a sickeningly keen timescale.  This year I have zero interest in Christmas.  I'm sort of hoping it's something that just goes away, something I can maybe just opt out of.  I'm trying to brush it under the carpet, but it's ubiquitous at this time of year.  I have no enthusiasm for really anything, except for early nights, long soaks in the bath, burning candles and lolling around in my PJs.  I keep coming back to that fantasy I mentioned before, of living in the woods in a log cabin, with fires burning and nothing to do but wrap up in a blanket and read (or maybe mull some cider and make stews).  When I feel like this, I long for total solitude.  I don't really like to talk all that much, I like to go inward and fix (fix with baths and candles, fix with large glasses of wine, fix with sleep).


I've been keeping away from social media a little lately.  There's something about seeing decorated Christmas trees, happy families baking gingerbread, perfectly adorned mantelpieces, winter holidays and couples hugging mulled cider at Christmas Markets that is making me feel very sad.  I know there is that saying 'never compare your outtakes to someone else's highlights reel', but it just feels like another world to me at the moment.  Like everyone else is nailing stuff I cannot seem to get right.       And then I think, is the window closing to have the children huddled around the Christmas tree, to learn how to style the mantelpiece, to want to buy the practical shoes instead of the comfy joggers? Hide under the duvet, pretend that time isn't whooshing by like a train (a train I don't have a ticket for - fumble in my pockets, root through my wallet, check down the back of the sofa - definitely no ticket).

Please know I am not ungrateful.  I accept that I have no reason to be sad or feel bored or listless.
I have all of the ingredients that should mix and bake and make a person full of joy and vigour, all warm and toasty from the oven.  I am endlessly grateful for my beautiful house, amazing friends, wonderful family, loving dog, engaging job - etc etc.  I write in my gratitude journal and sit in the quiet and am thankful for every cup of tea and every hot bath and every nuzzle from the dog.  And I am hopeful that this feeling will pass.  It doesn't always feel right to share the down days on here (and I have been criticised for doing so in the past) but I feel like it's important to mix a little mopey pajama days in with the perfect mantelpieces now and then.  It's all about balance.

In the meantime I have become a little obsessed with this poem from Rilke.  There's something about that line "I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone" that is just everything for me right now.  Onto brighter days soon...

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