Tag Archives: holiday

One’s Destination Is Never A Place…

9 Jul

…. but a new way of seeing things. Henry Miller.

It’s getting that way again, where my feet become restless and my heart hears the calling of the world around me, and yearns to get out there and do. Traveling is what soothes my soul and makes my heart happy, and I know there I have barely scratched the surface of what I need to explore, and the things I need to experience.

Last Christmas was rough on all of us, with having lost Granddad being so fresh in our minds, and I’ve been dreading the impending winter months, not wanting to feel the hollowness of our loss so strongly again.

So the boy and I are contemplating jetting off to see somewhere new and missing Christmas and New Year in the UK altogether. At first it was just a pipe dream (Imagine if we ditched it? Imagine if we ran away?) But the seed has been planted and I feel the roots taking hold and hopes growing from them.

So I’ve made a list (I’ve checked it twice) and I want your input.

Thailand

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Thailand has always been a place I need to see in my life, and the spark has been recently reignited by a number of friends having visited. Cheap accommodation, crystal clear seas and warm climes are some of the reasons it features so highly.

Costa Rica

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Another one that features highly on my list is Costa Rica. It’s a great place to trip to from the USA so a lot of my friends and family have been, but to me it just looks like paradise.

And also, sloths.

Venezuela

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Random choice for Christmas sun, but Venezuela comes up fairly cheap for flights in December, and sitting just south of the Caribbean, it obviously has its appeal. The angel falls sit inland, but they are a must see for the life bucket list. I must admit to not knowing too much about the area, but would love to explore.

Japan

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There is something mysterious about Japan, and it’s a place I would love to explore. Cherry blossom, snow-capped mountains and a culture like nothing I have ever experienced before.

Where is your favourite place in the world and where would you recommend to a traveller? I want all your tips!

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2014 Travel – The New York Edit: The Statue of Liberty

12 Jun

The Statue of Liberty has been on my bucket list for the longest of time. Its an iconic monument and ive always felt that it would be a really interesting place to visit. Imagine having left your life and spent months on a boat crossing the ocean; cramped conditions, poverty, sadness, and then out of nowhere, when you feel like you have finally lost the will to live, looms a statuesque woman, holding the torch of liberty and guiding you from the old world to the new. Does anything seem more magical?

I got to New York and booked the visit. Top Tip – and one I didn’t know about – if you want to visit the crown and take in the views from there, you need to book 4 months in advance. Cue huge sad faces from me, and a need to pull my socks up and go visit what I could see.

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The ferry trip was amazing. I was one of the smug few who had got on top of the ferry and headed for the side looking away from the statue, as opposed to the scores of people all hanging off the side where you could see her in the distance. I had actually thought about it, and figured that the boat would have to turn to head towards the island, and therefore I would eventually be on the right side for the money shot. Mwahahahaha. I was. Excellent.

When we got to the island, we were presented with free audio tours (take note, Harry Potter tour and your pricy, on-top-of-the-ticket-price audio tour) and I learnt some pretty amazing things about Lady Liberty herself, I was on statue geek cloud nine.

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I love this photo. It looks like she is presiding over Manhattan

Did you Know? Although she looks like a solid mass, the statue of liberty is actually constructed like a bridge? They built her frame and then cloaked it in large copper sheets, moulded to her shape. So she is actually only the thickness of two pennies. This is due to the speed of the winds in the bay, and to prevent her from cracking under the force.

She is made of copper, which is why she is green. For the first two years, she was the same colour as a penny.

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One of her designers was Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who later went on to lend his name to the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Have you ever been? What icon have you always wanted to visit?

Road Trippin

25 Jan

So I’ve been gone a while. And even when I was present for a bit, I kind of wasn’t, if you know what I mean. The kid in the corner with the vacant look and the wandering soul. That’s been me for a while.

Losing my grandfather was by far the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, but I feel like he would be so cross should he think that we were all moping around, mourning his life and chasing his shadow. So its time to pull my socks up, put clothes on other than pjs or joggers, and remember that there is a big world that hasn’t gone anywhere, and is waiting for me to explore it.

I suddenly realised that I have been hibernating and licking my wounds last week when my friend commented that we had to make some plans that involved leaving the house. It was true, and it dawned on me that I have been hiding from the world for far too long.

Behind the scenes, I have got back to living life with intention, a concept introduced to me last year that changed my outlook and caused me to think differently about the way I live my life.

So I have some things planned.

1) Road tripping round California.images

In 22 days (and counting) I leave for the other side of the world with the boy. We are, of course, headed for the place I love the most, San Diego, to visit my family. BUT, we have some fun plans. We intend to take a car and drive up the Route 101 to San Francisco, stopping all the way at fun little eateries and cool viewing points. We will spend a couple of days being tourists in San Fran (Return to Alcatraz and cycling the Golden Gate Bridge are on the list) and then take the south road inland down to Yosemite. I’m truly excited to be visiting such a natural wonder, and hoping that it will trip my mind more into thinking about what we are lucky to experience in this life, rather than the things that bring us down and try us.

2) Bergen, Norway.5767474-scenery-of-bryggen-in-bergen-norway

2 firsts for me. Norway has always seemed a little magical, so for a weekend in the end of March is dedicated to a trip to the gateway to the fjords, and a boat trip around them. It’s also the first time I will be using Air BnB (heard good things and bad) so I’ll keep you posted.

What do you have planned for 2014?

Ice, Ice, Baby

10 Dec

I feel like I have been living in the capital long enough now to not consider myself a tourist. I tut when people come off the tube and stop on the platform right in front of me, and I have a serious sense of urgency when someone is standing on the wrong side of the escalator. It’s totally ridiculous and unquantified, but just like black bogeys, London changes a person.

Every now and then however, I like to jump on the tourist bandwagon, grab my camera, and go loco. Especially this time of year when the twinkly lights sparkle above the streets and the smell of winter is in the air. I develop a sense of camaraderie unseen through the rest of the year, and happily bump shoulder to shoulder with the ten million other people in Covent Garden wanting to experience the Christmas cheer.

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Me hooded up and defended against the ice

The IceBar recently generated that kind of touristy wonder for me. I have heard people talking about it and visiting, but I have never made the time to go for a visit myself. After the skiing incident, I don’t particularly like the cold, but with London coming over all Christmassy I felt I should join in.

And what better way to do something you want to do than by buying it for someone else? (I joke, the boy did want to go, but I also had a vested interest myself 🙂 ) So I booked tickets.

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Team Ice Bar

Below Zero, London is fun, I’m not going to lie. The experience of queuing to get hooded up in a midnight blue hood with fur round the edge and mittens makes you very excited about the prospect, although the space is a bit small for the amount of people they try to cram in. The entire bar is made of ice, including the glass you get your cocktail in, which is included in the price. As I am super clumsy I had to be very careful about frisbee-ing my ice glass off the bar and losing my drink (I paid for that, goddamnit!) but on the whole its a one-off experience which would be great if you had visitors in town.

Have you been to an IceBar?

Walking in A Winter Wonderland

5 Dec

I love Christmas. I used to say I didn’t, but I was a teenager and didn’t like anything. Now I love when October comes and the air starts to crisp up  in anticipation, waiting for the onset of the cold snap and the prospect of all the festive fun to come.

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This year, Christmas feels to me to be tinged with a bitter sweetness, the first year I will wake in the morning and not see my Grandfather, dressed in his brushed cotton shirt with a cable knit jumper over. The first year I won’t hear the air peppered with swears when he realises he has cooked the goose upside down in the pan for the fourth year on the bounce, and the first year I won’t see the glee in his face as he shakes the presents and throws the wrapping paper over his shoulder.

Nonetheless, Christmas is exciting. My goddaughters are 6 and 2 respectively and still believe in the magic of the season (and so do I for that matter) so we will try to seek out father Christmas in the days before the main event, and make mince pies just in case he hasn’t had his fill by the time he gets to their house.

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And it’s a time for new traditions. This year, the boy and I exchanged advent calendars and Christmas jumpers on the first, when we also listened to Michael Buble (I love him and I don’t care who knows) and made the first round of mince pies. He was very thoughtful, so rather than getting chocolate in my calendar I got a Yankee Candle one (spot the diabetic). Most people forget so I was very touched!

Last night I came home and my housemate was making gifts; windfall chutney in cute little glass jars, and so I wrapped all the gifts I had bought and drank cups of tea with her. as soon as the tree comes we will adorn it with little toadstools and gingerbread lights to make it the pretties (and also fairly gargantuan for the size of our flat) tree in all the land.

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I’ve bought some silly napkins that look like Father Christmas’s suit when you tuck them in to your collar, and my family will be made to wear reindeer antlers or other silly headgear at the table.

It’s a time for being with the ones you love and celebrating the fact that there is a day when you can throw away the rest of the world and all congregate.

And I think that’s the magic of Christmas.

What are your traditions and rituals of the season?

“At First Cock Crow, The Ghosts Must Go, Back To Their Quiet Graves Below”

30 Oct

I have a confession.

Until this weekend, I had never carved a pumpkin. NEVER.

My Mum doesn’t believe in Halloween as a holiday, professing that it’s an American tradition (a theory that I disproved in a previous Halloween post) and deemed trick or treating as begging, so we weren’t allowed to go.

It didn’t bother me all that much, given that as a child, the 31st October was always pretty cold and rainy, so going out knocking on doors dressed as a cat didn’t have the thrill factor to me.

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my beautifully melty pumpkin creations

But over the past few years, Halloween has become a fun event. So this year, the boy and I dragged massive pumpkins home from the shops, and set about carving them.

The competition was fierce, and it was a messy duel. Bits of pumpkin goo adorned the walls of my flat, and brief tirades of swearing happened sporadically as one of us cut too far into the pumpkin, or alternatively, too far into one of our fingers.

The results were fantastic, and the pumpkins sat on my window sill, flickering eerily all weekend, until the heat from the candles turned them from scary idols to wizened old vegetables. Time for the bin.

We had so much fun, that this is now our new Halloween tradition. And I’m looking forward to a party in a cocktail bar tomorrow night – fancy dress and spookily themed cocktails. Watch this space!

Whats your favourite Halloween tradition?

Portugal: A Culinary Quest

31 Jul

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”J.R.R. Tolkien

There are 2 types of people in this world: the sort who eats to live, to give themselves enough energy to keep going. They don’t savour each bite, don’t look forward to eating their food and trying new things – they simply eat because they must.

“I am a better person when I have less on my plate.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Then you have the other sort. The people who dream in multi-coloured joy of foods that they cannot wait to eat; whose taste buds explode like fireworks to new foods and who relish going out into the big wide world and sampling lots of foods that they have never tried before – a bucket lists of tastes and flavours.

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Woolf

I’m type 2. And I would rather die than be type one. I am the sort of person that is constantly exploring new foods, new combinations and new recipes. The type of girl who bakes for fun (despite avoiding sugary treats and therefore feeding those around me) and who cooks to de-stress. I cook for happiness, I cook for sadness. When someone dies or something bad happens I can often be found with my music blaring, stirring furiously at the stove, because it’s my happy place. Food boosts my soul. (And also my waist line, goddamit!)

Yesterday I flew back from a stay in Portugal, and over the next couple of day’s I’ll share my highlights, with the important stuff first. THE FOOD.

I’m a big believer in the idea of eating tapas and small bits; that way the greedy pig in me doesn’t have to opt for one item on the menu, and can instead eat a little bit of everything. I also love to dine on seafood, and frequenting a house right by the sea means that you can eat the freshest seafood that you will ever eat, against a beautiful Mediterranean backdrop.

Some of the highlights of my visit were: white wine sangria, squid and prawn kebabs, ice-cream and mussels – in fact there were too many delicious delicacies to pick!

 Ice Cream

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Seafood Cataplana

ImageA cataplana is a bit like a Portuguese version of a Spanish paella, but minus the rice. It is cooked in a large bronze dish, but without the rice it becomes more of a fish stew; packed with prawns, mussels, clams, sliced pork, langoustines and plenty of peppers and tomatoes. It’s a really hearty dish and a little strange to eat in the heat, but it’s a must have when on the Algarve. We valiantly tried to defeat it but it won!

Squid and Prawn Kebabs

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Delicious squid and prawn kebabs in my favourite restaurant, Pedros

The clue is pretty much in the title with this one 🙂

Clams with Garlic

ImageClams with garlic is one of my favourite Portuguese dishes. Served with bread for dipping in the juices, you squeeze the lemon over and get stuck in.

What is your favourite holiday food?

Guest Post – The Old Christmas Ruse

7 Dec

There are some days when I feel like offering you guys a chance to read something that’s not my ranting for a change (and not, as Rob points out, that I ‘cant be arsed’!), and today I wanted to offer you lovely readers the chance to get festive with the writer of I’m On The Bandwagon. He is an amazing writer, and someone who brings much hilarity to my life, so over to him!

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Tink can’t be arsed to write her own post, so I am here to save her neglected blog while she is knee-deep in dough and shit (What he so eloquently means is while we are Tinkering in the Kitchen!).

 Okay then, it’s nearly Christmas time so I thought I would just take a look at certain aspects of it that we don’t really think about.

When you were little, Christmas was a bit like watching ‘Lost’. You stuck with it because you wanted to believe that it was real, you were massively confused on how it all worked and thought it was going somewhere, maybe even lying to yourself in the process, but in the end it all turned out to be rubbish.  Well when we were little, Santa Claus was real. We could wait for Christmas because we knew Santa would be coming to visit, via chimney or front door, to deliver presents. We know this because it’s what our parents told us and we believed it. I may just be speaking for myself but I never questioned it, because I loved the idea of it. My parents did their best for as long as possible to keep the pack of lies, which was Santa Claus, going. But as the years went by, I started seeing cracks in their fibs.

Now I’m not just on about the obvious ones, like flying Reindeer and delivering presents to every child in one night, no, it was little things that didn’t add up. Firstly I couldn’t understand why my mum and dad weren’t blown away by the whole idea of it, as I was! I mean I would marvel at the idea of Santa’s operation and my dad would say “Yeah….good isn’t he!”……..good!? GOOD!? You have to give the bloke a bit more credit! Every Christmas morning I would wake up and think “He’s only gone and done it AGAIN!” But my parents were not bothered. AND I thought, my rough-looking mate, Tim, wasn’t allowed in the house, but a bloke they have never met is given licence to break in and roam around our house!? Santa’s Dad could have been banged up too, Mum!

Another factor was that I wasn’t allowed to send off my own Christmas list. Why? I know where he lives, what’s the problem? Nope, I had to give it to my Mum and Dad. One year I put something on that list that I KNEW my parents wouldn’t let me have. They would say it was ‘Not suitable’, so I thought I would bypass them, cut out the middleman and send the letter to the fat man myself. That way, Santa wouldn’t know any better. When the time came around to giving the list to my Mum I thought “Pfft no chance, I’m not a mug! This is going straight to the North Pole!” I never got that unsuitable present…..which was a goat for an Africa family if they are reading this.

Eventually I came to the realisation that it was a web of lies. Everyone does. And you get on with it like adults, which means, almost despising it. With Christmas songs being played in NOVEMBER! Snow and shopping for presents, it just takes years off your life.

Secret Santa is a weird one. Not if you do it with your mates, but if you have to take part in it at work, you always have to end up buying presents for someone you have probably spoke to twice. Nobody wants this. Where did this idea even come from anyway? I don’t want to point fingers but….Santa’s name IS in the title.

SANTA: Right! I have rounded everyone up! It’s that time of year again! SECRET ME! (Smiles and nudges an elf).  So who wants to go first?

RUDOLF: I will! I love this! Such a great idea!

COMET: (Out the side of his mouth to Prancer) doesn’t help himself does he? Up his arse!

For the record, I don’t completely hate Christmas now. As a result of all this, I Just will make sure my children are lied too as well. I’m going to take it out on them because the only bit of magic I can shatter for my parents is revealing how Sky Plus works. Rubbish.

It’s The Hap – Happiest Season Of All!

5 Dec

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? Before I have quite got to grips with the idea of 2011, it is pretty much gone, soon to be a distant memory,

Which means now it’s time to do the Christmas shopping. I’m normally super-efficient with this; writing lists, budgeting costs and having most of the stuff at least on order by now, but this year has been a lot harder and it has rolled round to the first week of December and I only have a handful of presents purchased. I order things online as I hate shopping at the best of times and can think of nothing worse than spending three hours trying to find a parking space, being squashed in a lift full of over worked parents and cold ridden children, and then have to battle around the shopping centre to find those perfect presents for my loved ones, at the same time as the rest of the country.

The worst shop at this time of year is *shudder*…. HMV. Is like hell on earth. You manage to order all the CDs and DVDs that you need online, smugly joyous that you won’t need to make the wretched trip to the one stop shop for all your TV needs, and then, once most of your gifts are purchased you suddenly remember…. Your god mother. Someone’s child. A stocking filler for your other half. With weary legs and a mind that simply cannot handle it, you stumble, slightly frenzied, into HMV.

You are greeted by roughly ten million people, all swarming round the new Westlife Greatest Hits (there are potentially three ‘greatest hits’ in circulation, none all that great) and in a complete tizzy, you ask the store helper where you might find {insert choice here}. Last year I wanted to get hold of the DVD of all the Pixar short films that feature at the start of the movies, for my little sister. I knew they had it, this was where I had seen it.

I asked a man.

“That doesn’t exist love” he responded (ohpleasedontcallmelove when you are twelve). I told him it did, I had seen it the week before, and so he sighed as if I was a plague on his life, and took me to the Pixar section. It wasn’t there.

“Not there”. He said. I had chosen the Einstein of HMV. Oh lucky me. After telling him I could see that for myself he huffed off to the computer and replied “oh! We do have one! Don’t know where it is though and I’m needed on the till!” and off he went into the fifty strong queue forming at the till point.

I wish they wouldn’t let them wear ‘here to help’ t-shirts.

With that in mind, last night I had a go at making home-made truffles, in a bid to give my family something different this year. And they went so well!

I imagine they will all be consumed before they get remotely near my family, but ‘tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, nom nom nom nom. 🙂

Are you ready?

Thanks Be

25 Nov

There are times in your life when you feel the clear presence of a metaphorical crossroads. Whether you believe in destiny and fate or think that the path that you choose is your own and there are no external forces governing it is regardless; you still will have felt that you have reached a curve in the road or a sign post that allows you to sit back and take stock of your surroundings. It might be a point in your life with a friend; you stand there together hand in hand and they chose the other path. You watch them disappear off into the distance before taking those first baby steps into your future. I felt like that when my substitute older sister went home. To Australia.

I don’t know what I believe, but right now I feel that the events of the last few months can’t be just coincidence. I have always been a firm believer in the “what will be will be” mentality, and today I find myself standing at the junction ready to decide to take the high road or the low road. No one is there with me to hold my hand and reassure me, but there is a quiet calm in being able to make that decision and do what I feel is best for me.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in America. Millions of you gathered at your tables to tuck into turkey and all the other yummy goodies on offer, and I sat in my flat and pondered my surroundings.

Yesterday I lost my job. It’s a long story but the abridged version is that the contract I work on was not renewed, and therefore from New Year’s Eve I have no position at the company I have worked in for two years. There is a weird loophole in the law whereby I can start on the 1st of January with the new company in London, but essentially my day to day life will end from then.

Yet I feel a sense of serenity. Maybe I need a life break, or a career change, or both. What I do know is that I have a lot of decisions to make and I am lucky enough to have people in my life that will help me. My housemate and sister to pick me up like a small child who has grazed her knee, the lawyer to give me an emotional crutch and legal jargon and my parents to let me know that despite what I think, everything will be OK.

New Year’s Eve has always been my favourite night of the year; granted all the parties have so much hype and are never quite as exciting, but I have always thought it to be a mentally cleansing day; a time when you can rise like a phoenix from the flames into the New Year and start afresh. I love turning the pages in a new diary and feeling like the world is my oyster, and this year will be all the more poignant. 2011 has been a year of hospital visits, arguments and break ups, but 2012 will be my year. Forget the Chinese calendar; it’s the year of Belle.

So I might be a little late to the party, but a comment from a wise man yesterday gave me food for thought, and my reason to be thankful. OK so I may have reached a point of uncertainty in a lot of strands of my life (as John Mayer, life guru would say “might be a quarter life crisis, or just a stirring in my soul”. Profound 🙂 ) but I have had the chance to do what I love and meet people for it. I’m always overwhelmed by the little community of people I have here so I want to take the time to you all for reading, commenting and following. The stats are pretty impressive; seven hundred and ten slightly crazy people around the world get my posts in their reader as I post them, so special thanks to you lot!

With positivity and new beginnings in mind, I would love for you all to head on over to imcookingnolooking.wordpress.com this weekend. It’s our new project!! I will of course remain here on a daily basis (I wouldn’t abandon you!) but Jules and I are branching out in our quest for world domination. It’s currently a work in progress with a working title but I would love to hear your feedback. I can announce it will be called ‘Tinkering in the Kitchen’ and is intended to be a collaborative effort with some of my favourite blog friends from around the world.  If anyone wants to participate, drop me an email at laura.tinker@hotmail.co.uk. It’s going to be a whole heap of fun and with a bit of luck and a lot of graft we plan to change the face of the ‘quick’ ready meal for a healthier future.

And with that, fair reader, I bid you adieu (for today anyway!)

‘Belle xx