Sunday, 27 April 2014

Checking in on those New Years resolutions


On 1 January 2014, like many people, I set my New Years resolutions. I've had resolutions since I was about 8 years old and don't think I've ever achieved any of them. Still, I quite like the idea of starting fresh so continue to write them down each year and promptly forget about them a few days into the month. But to me, 2014 felt different. I can see some of you rolling your eyes at this but it just did for me. So I tried to be a bit more realistic and set goals that I thought would actually be achievable.

1) Update my blog monthly
2) Eat cleaner
3) Move more
4) Stop biting my nails

So here's my quarterly update on my progress so far.

1) I think you all know the answer to this one. Yessss!!! Although before I get too cocky, I remember starting 2012 and 2013 off well for the first few months so I won't count this as a great success just yet.

2) This one has been the surprise for me. Eating healthy and cutting out the junk has always been something I thought was unachievable, boring and highly unlikely for me to pursue. Whereas in reality, I think this has been the most fun for me! Creativity is key, don't count calories (count nutrients) and be organised. I used to dread the thought of cutting out sugar and while I haven't done it completely, I've taken out most refined sugars from my diet and am quite happy with my substitutes. Don't worry, wine is still on the menu as is chocolate. Just not as much as I used to have and this just suits me fine.

Don't pretend you don't think these look
delicious! Paleo Anzac biscuits

3) Rather than my usual unrealistic 'exercise daily' or 'run four times a week' when I know I won't be able to keep that up (and running actually doesn't suit my body and I really struggle to do it regularly) I decided that 'move more' would be much more achievable. Move. Whether it be yoga, swimming, a session at the gym or simply walking lots when we're away travelling this one has become quite important to my day now.

In March, I completed 31 days of yoga. A challenge I set myself just because I wanted to see if I could do it (and was always in awe of my gorgeous yogi friend M who used to tell me she'd just completed yet another 30 day challenge - again?! Even the weekends?! Impressive!) I decided March was a good month because we weren't travelling too much so I wouldn't have to move hotel furniture around all that often! Long story short, I did it and loved it and my reward for achieving my mini goal is a lovely long massage. I can't wait! I think mini goals with little rewards are so important. If you're anything like me, a reward gives you something to re-focus your thoughts on when you feel like giving up.

I heart yoga! My favourite pose,
headstand. And I'm not leaning against
the wall in case you're wondering!

4) Funnily enough, I think my most challenging resolution is to stop biting my nails. In case you're wondering,  haven't started biting them again, I promise! It's just with 20 something years of this habit, they're not as strong as they should be and break easily which really frustrates me and sometimes makes me wonder why I bother! I'm being patient and I think if I make it to six months without any relapses, I'm going to buy myself something gorgeous from Lorna Jane because this is one that really does need a reward. And I would much rather new gym clothes than a manicure cause a top will last much longer and any excuse to buy LJ is good in my eyes!


I'm on the countdown to a few things at the moment - not wishing my life away, I just find I work better when I have something to look forward to.

Just having a good day - sunshine
in the park! It's what you do
when you don't have a garden!

A new niece/nephew will arrive in June to join the incredibly squishy and chubby delight that is my niece R and the ever so cute, stylish, cool chatterbox of a nephew K. They bring me so much happiness, I can't even begin to describe it. Even J's bump, I just love it! Expect a lot more Aunty bragging to come.

My little R's footprint. Isn't it
just the sweetest?!

Spring is here! What a wonderful time of year! The clocks go forward so when I leave work, it's still light and means I can enjoy more of the night before it gets cold and dark. It's almost no tights season! My favourite!! I'm desperate for some sun as my fabulous tan (quiet Miss B, I know you never think I've been tanned in my life!!) has completely disappeared and I'm so incredibly pasty and craving sunshine. This is also the longest time until winter is back and means summer is on the way, yippee!!

Stunning! A beautiful Spring afternoon in
Brockley, East London

Spring in St James's Park, London

Call me a geek but I'm really excited about going to the Chelsea Flower Show this year. Ever since I saw it on Better Homes and Gardens, I've always wanted to go. J and I are going together and have booked a posh lunch at Gordon Ramsay's that day too. I can't wait! 

Then there's Wimbledon. On our first Summer in London, it was at the time when we were unemployed. This allowed us to be able to spend the day queuing for ticket to spend the afternoon in the outside courts. We didn't see any huge games but we had a ball (pun totally intended). This year, we were lucky enough to win the chance to buy tickets for Centre Court! I am SO excited and absolutely can't wait to rub shoulders with the other posh people who are there. I will definitely be on celebrity-spotting patrol and also plan on having a glass of champagne and eating strawberries and cream like all the rich people do. It will definitely be a different experience to last time when we didn't buy any food because it was too expensive and drank pint cans of Carling that we'd brought into the grounds (you're allowed to take in alcohol before you think we smuggled it in). We were so classy... 

And one last thing I'm looking forward to... Holidays! Yes, more holidays! Lithuania in May (country number 44 or 45, I've actually lost count and need to check on the accuracy of this!) and Cyprus (45/46!) for nine nights in June. Hot, summer, beach, sun, pool, BBQ, another magnet to buy. What more could you want?!

Gelato in Sicily - holidays are awesome!


Speaking of travel, what a month April has been! First, we took a trip to the stunning country of Iceland. We stayed at the Hilton and thanks to B's frequent travel and gold card membership status, were treated to a room upgrade, free breakfast, spa access and executive lounge passes which included free drinks each night. Dangerous! We explored Reykjavik on the Friday and to be honest, there's not a lot there. We took full advantage of the hotel that night, I went to the gym and spa (complete with a free shoulder massage) and enjoyed (perhaps a little too much) the drinks that night. Needless to say, thanks to the first night, I didn't get my money's worth any other night after that! It was too painful!

Reykjavik, Iceland
April 2014

On the Saturday we took a tour of the Golden Circle. We saw the impressive Geysir, stunning Golden Waterfall, stood on two tectonic plates at the one time (Dad, you'd have been very jealous!) saw how they make rye bread by burying the mixture in the steaming mud, and spent time in the natural thermal baths. Can't say I enjoyed what they call an Icelandic sauna, the sulfur just smelt SO disgusting and it really burnt the inside of your nose!!

The view from the bus window on
our Golden Circle tour
Iceland, April 2014

The Geysir going off
Golden Circle, Iceland
April 2014

Golden Waterfall - stunning
Golden Circle, Iceland
April 2014

That same night we took a Northern Lights tour by boat. It was pretty freezing and as we were the last two people to get our thermal overalls, I ended up with XXL with the crotch coming to below my knees. It was a good look! 

We did technically see the lights and even saw a glimmer of green for a brief moment but as the night was extremely cloudy, it wasn't the greatest of sightings. Still, we DID see them so I guess it's one more thing ticked off my to do list.

In magnet news, like the other Scandinavian countries, Iceland's selection was very disappointing. We got one with puffins on it, cause they're cute and the only others were ugly troll Viking-like magnets which I couldn't bring myself to pretend to like. Iceland was beautiful and I wish we could have spent more time exploring the incredible countryside. Well worth a visit.

And then there was Easter in Sicily. We flew in to Catania late Thursday night and drove straight to the sweet little town of Cefalù. On Good Friday, we drove along the coast to the town of Mondello for stunning beaches, warm blue skies and the most beautifully clear water. 

Utter perfection.
Mondello, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

The locals found it quite amusing that we were dressed in shorts and singlets because at 18°, it was freezing to them as they wore turtleneck jumpers and big winter coats. If it's sunny, I will always assume it's warm and sitting in the sun, sipping beautiful Italian white wine and eating freshly caught seafood, I'm allowed to have thought it was 'hot'.

Catania, with a tiny view of
Mt Etna in the background
Catania, Italy - April 2014

We stayed in Cefalù for three nights and it was the most beautiful town. We did a hike on Saturday to see stunning views across the town and sea. The town is formed of tiny cobblestone streets with amazing restaurants, bars, bakeries and shops. We ate VERY well (but I'll save that for the next section) and really just spent our time wandering around and planning our next meal. The perfect kind of holiday if you ask me! Despite having been to Italy twice already, I still wanted to buy a magnet, mostly because they have such good food ones! Keeping it local, I ended up buying a cannoli magnet - a traditional Sicilian biscuit filled with sweet ricotta. Yummmmm!! Oh, and it makes a pretty cool magnet too!

The view from the top
Cefalù, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

View from the top over Cefalù
Sicily, Italy
April 2014


I think this section needs to be hijacked with everything we ate in Sicily cause it was just so good! Pizza, pasta, gelato, wine and seafood were the main stars of the show. Pizza seems simple but the number of bad pizzas I've had is a little sad but Sicily didn't disappoint. The best of the weekend was my Rustica pizza - spicy salami, mushrooms, tomato and blue cheese. What a combination! It even won Ben's vote, even when he was eating his usual favourite, seafood marinara pizza.

Pizzas with our lunchtime view.
Mine was the one on the right - best
pizza everrrrrr!
Cefalù, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

Another favourite was ricotta. On one day, I actually ate it for three courses AND a snack during the day. It's nothing like the basic stuff we get at the supermarket and I'm officially sold - salted ricotta, sweet ricotta, what a wonderful food! A giant donut filled with sweet ricotta was one of my favourite things and if I'd had my way, I'd have eaten one every day.

Ricotta stuff donut and a ricotta
stuffed cannoli. Along with an iced coffee
and an espresso - this is what dreams
are made of!
Cefalù, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

Ricotta overload - deeelish!
Cefalù, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

One of the things I adore about Italian food is the simplicity of it. Fresh, handmade pasta with just a few ingredients - the best being ravioli stuffed with artichoke and topped with squid and cherry tomatoes. That's it. Nothing more, no sauce, nothing fancy. Wonderful. And the simplest salad was one of the best dishes of my weekend. Tomato, basil, olive oil and buffalo mozzarella. An entire mozzarella ball just sitting in the middle of my plate. It was SO simple, fresh and just beyond delicious!Just thinking about it makes me happy!

Incredible tastes including the BEST pasta
and BEST salad. Sigh... take me back!
Cefalù, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

One of many, many, MANY gelato cups! This one
was death by chocolate and coconut - heaven!
Catania, Sicily, Italy
April 2014

I think I need to move on from Italy because I could be here all day, telling you about every single thing I ate! Time to get back to the food I love to make at home. Clean and healthy.

One of the best clean recipes so far is my coconut rough chocolates. Raw, clean, and free from dairy, gluten and refined sugar. SO good and not only approved by B, but also my even fussier anti-clean brother-in-law, L. A few more delicious recipes I've tried include coconut flour pancakes (YUM!), burgers with a mushroom bun, paleo spiced nuts, carrot cake with cashew cream icing (free from refined sugar, gluten and dairy - don't screw your nose up at it, it was YUM!) and a smoked salmon and avocado toad-in-the-hole breakfast sandwich.

Smoked salmon and avocado toad-in-the-hole
on gluten free bread. Mmm!

Clean, raw coconut rough - SO good!

Coconut flour pancakes (gluten free) with
crispy bacon and fresh homemade juice -
best Sunday breakfast ever

Clean and healthy carrot cake. One half with
cashew cream icing (girl) the other with
'proper' cream cheese icing (boy)

I am spending a lot more time reading the list of ingredients in foods lately. I find it fascinating how much 'stuff' is in our food! Something as simple as dried dates have SO much extra stuff in there - why? What's the point (I know it's so food has a longer shelf life) and what is it doing to our insides? I love being able to make better foods with fresh ingredients and knowing exactly what's in there. Food is still my greatest love, it's just my recipes now contain less nasties and that can ONLY be a good thing.


  1. Oh D, how I miss you... Italy looks superb and I'm so glad you tried as much, pizza, pasta, canolli as you possibly could fit - I would have done it no differently. I've started a yoga session on Friday's after work in our building yayyy can't wait. I'll think of you tomorrow night. PS: The pics of spring made me reminisce about how much I loved seeing the flowers and trees bloom across London. Big kisses xo

  2. You are so funny, " dried dates have SO much extra stuff in there". So on point!! I checked the back of a bag of PLAIN frozen mango ..... I'll tell you that mango was not the only ingredient - can you believe that!! Sure what ever chemical was in there prob wasn't any extra calories but why put it in your body. grrrr

    1. TELL me about it! I just don't get it! Grocery shopping takes me waaay longer than it ever used to now cause I read the back of everything! Trying to find tinned tomatoes with nothing added... tomato paste too. Crazy! If you can recommend any brands, let me know!!

    2. For tinned Tuna the only one I can find without salt etc. is a brand called Safcol. Only some shops have it

    3. Oh great, thanks, I'll look out for it. Been baking up a storm (do you still call it baking when they're raw!?) lately cause I refuse to buy muesli and sweet treats ready made which are full of rubbish!!