23 May 2018

Hold On To What is Good

I have always lived a rich life. I don't mean in terms of money, but the people I know and the experiences I have had. Every day I get to spend time with great people and it is just the best.

I realised recently that, so far, my twenties have been all about building relationships that will have a positive impact on others and, of course, myself. I wrote about this more in Lessons of 2017 and its something I've been thinking about well into 2018. Perhaps it wasn't just a realisation for last year, but for life. The morning coffee catch ups before work, walks across Clifton suspension bridge, sitting cross-legged on my bed drinking cups of tea, smiling at strangers, helping those less fortunate than me – filling every moment of my life with things that either help others or make me happy is a wonderful mantra by which to live.

Towards the end of April I spent three consecutive weekends celebrating my oldest friend's hen do and wedding and my brother's 30th birthday. They were some of the best days of my life and it's all because of the thought, love and care between the people behind it all. I want to remind you (and myself, for the days when I'm not feeling so positive), with some photos of these bigger moments, that life really is good and should be celebrated at every possible opportunity.

Jess's hen do

Craig's 30th

Jess & Ethan's Wedding

Hold on to what is good - 1 Thessalonians 5:21

What are your favourite moments of the year so far? Little or big, I'd love to know! Leave me a comment below or tweet me @wnwrote. 

8 May 2018

Making and Breaking Habits

Do you ever wonder how many habits you have made and broken in your life? It's in our nature to cling to the familiar – we are wired to move towards a more rhythmic way of life, like the magnetism of a catchy song or a perfectly paced novel. We might like to think we are whimsical and spontaneous all the time, perhaps in an attempt to make ourselves seem more interesting and attractive, but we all have our routines and we all fall into habits.

Most of the time I am unaware of my utter compliance with the routines I follow day to day, but it does crop up now and again. A morning without my phone, an uninterrupted encounter with nature, an inspiring film, a conversation with my niece or an old lady at church - they cause me to question why I do mostly the same things every day. We can blame other factors for lots of things in life, but when it comes to our habits, routines and happiness – these are things we have some power over.

A colleague shared an article with me last week about making healthy habits in your twenties. The idea, according to the NY Times, is that the patterns you establish right now will "impact your health, productivity, financial security and happiness for decades".

At work we talk a lot about exercise while scooping handfuls of custard creams out of the biscuit jar. This is normal for anyone who works in an office, (which, by the way, is a perfectly legitimate career path and is not included in the starter pack for the boring millennial who decided to work in marketing), but I haven't been to the gym in nearly 8 months, despite a deep desire to do so. Why? I've fallen out of the habit, and while that was so easy to do, getting back into it is not.

Reading that article, however, helped me figure out a way to do get back into the habit of going to the gym. It was the trigger I needed. I like the gym, I like working out, I like that sense of achievement when I finish a class or a good run, I like ticking it off 'worked out' in my bullet journal habit tracker, I like how good I feel afterwards, I like how it keeps me in shape. But I don't like the change of routine, I don't like getting up early, I don't like joining new gyms, I don't like being the most out of shape person in class, I don't like being the new person and everyone somehow knowing it.

But the pros outweigh the cons, and when I gave myself a reward to look forward to, I had another reason to kickstart that habit again. I didn't want to miss out on fresh bread from Bakesmiths, toasted and smothered in peanut butter and jam! So I put all the cons of going back to the gym out of my mind and put all of my effort into focusing on the reward. It worked.

You might hate peanut butter and jam, cringe when people give you compliments, have no inclination to join a gym, but maybe there is another habit you want to break, or pick up again, because you know the long-term gratification is better than the instant. Naturally, we are lazy. But there is no time like the present and no one but you who can make the change. Don't put it off til tomorrow. Choose your path, live mindfully, and eat as many biscuits are you want.


21 March 2018

Lemon & Blackcurrant Stripe Cake

If there were ever a cake that embodied my mum, it would be Ottolenghi's lemon and blackcurrant stripe cake. Bright, striking, curious, bold and beautiful – inside and out. I had to make it for her.

I knew this was my mum's cake the moment I saw it – about six months ago when I left my last job and my colleagues gifted me Ottolenghi's Sweet. It's a book that evokes joy in me through the simple flicking of its pages, catches of colour and thoughts of who I'd bake for popping into my head.

I went back to Abergavenny in Wales last weekend to celebrate Mum's 62nd birthday (I know, wow). After an evening stuffing my face with chilli cheese fries and drinking prosecco with my eldest sister, Sarah, I woke up early on Saturday – something I like to do on weekends to warrant the pursuit of a nap later on in the day – and spent the morning working through this recipe

The result: a punchy pink cake! As I rolled, iced, poured and sprinkled, I thought about my mum, how she loves blackcurrant and lemon, and how pleased I was for creating this cake without making a single mistake (seriously, how?) I couldn't wait to serve it for her birthday lunch the next day – mainly because I wanted to see the stripes on the inside – but also to taste it, and see what everyone else thought.

It was worth the wait, basically.

This cake reminded me of rhubarb and custard sweets – fruity, sugary deliciousness. Its appearance in Sweet is apt, but with the blackcurrant puree poured over the top (and some extra left over) the balance of sweet and tart balances nicely. Serve with tea, coffee, whatever you like, but – and this is important – serve only to your very favourite people. 
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