Tuesday, 24 December 2013

A Traveller's Christmas Tree

A couple of years back, I started collecting Christmas decorations on my travels. Pretty, small and easy to transport, they are the perfect memento.

The collection is still small, some of the ornaments are back in New Zealand, but I think they add a little something a little special alongside the more traditional lights and baubles.

Vernazza, Cinque Terra, Italy 

August 2012: It was a stinking hot day when we travelled from our apartment in Riomaggiore. Vernazza was my favourite of the 'five earths' that make up Cinque Terra. I would love to go back one day, but maybe not at the peak of summer.

Mykonos, Greece

October 2012: My second journey to Greece and my first visit to the famed island of Mykonos.
Travelling in the last week of the tourist season, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this wasn't the party-crazed island I'd always imaged, but a naturally beautiful place with friendly locals, pretty whitewashed towns and delicious food. When can I come back?

St Paul's, London, UK

April 2013: An overcast grey London Saturday found Nick and me atop my favourite building in London - St Paul's Cathedral.
I love everything about this place, the history, the calm, the beauty and the view - even the climb to get up there!

Dubrovnik, Croatia

June 2013: After escaping the heavy midday sun in my favourite place to sit and people watch in front of Town Hall and the Marin Držić Theatre, I bought this cute leather heart off a woman selling trinkets just outside Dubrovnik Cathedral. 

Belfast, Northern Ireland

July 2013: On what was one of the hottest days in Belfast ever, and on the weekend on the infamous Twelfth, we explored the incredible Titanic Belfast exhibit. 
It's everything a museum should be, informative yet very human and touching. It also manages to go beyond the Titanic and explore the impact shipbuilding had on Belfast as a whole.

Barcelona, Spain

November 2013: The newest addition to the collection, this little beauty was picked up at Casa Batlló. 
Is there anything more appropriate than a Gaudi-esque decoration from Barcelona?

Berlin, Germany

February 2013: The iconic traffic light men of East Berlin, I found these little Ampelmännchen after cycling through the snowy streets of Berlin and not being able to feel my fingers.

Reykjavík, Iceland 

December 2012: Though we spent most of our Icelandic Christmas in Akureyri, I had to buy this little guy in Reykjavik as there were no shops open in the north.
He reminds me of snow, thermal pools, huskies, snow and long nights.  

New York City, USA

August 2010: The classic Statue of Liberty. NYC was the last stop on our epic two month road trip from LA and this was the first official piece in my Christmas decoration collection. 

The Tree

Merry Christmas everyone reading this - I hope you have a wonderful time with your friends and family - or a relaxing day on your own is good too.

See you in the New Year.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Barcelona by Instagram

In November, Nick and I headed off for a nice little mini-break in Barcelona.

Our first time in Spain, and while the weather was certainly on the chilly side, we were greeted with brilliantly blue skies and a soft warm sun.

One bonus of travelling in the cooler months is you get to enjoy most of the famous sights in relative quiet.

Before I tell you more about our trip (I promise I will), here's a little pictorial roundup courtesy of my Instagram account...

Sunday, 1 December 2013

I think I finally love my hair

After two and a bit years in London I finally found a hairdresser I could work with.

Her name was Mel. She was lovely, she was Croatian, and unlike many a hair dresser in this city she was able to cope with my mane.

The problem I had with many British hairdressers is they seem reluctant to thin hair. It's as if they have never heard of the magic of thinning scissors.

But Mel did her best - she thinned, she layered and seemed to understand the needs of a my giant head of hair and I trusted her to do her work.

And then, a year into our relationship, she was gone. 

About three months ago, I headed back to the now Mel-less salon and placed my locks in the hands of another, surely equally talented, stylist, but it was not to be. Sure, she was nice enough, but it was back to a world where thinning scissors cease to exist and I left as big and bouffy as I went in - minus a few split ends.

For a first 20 or so years of my life I guess you could say I had a put-up-with-it/hate relationship with my hair.

Reddish brown (auburn I would remind anyone who suggested it was ginger) thick, unruly and slightly curly with a good dose of frizz. If I were a teen in the 80s I would have been at the forefront of fashion. 

As a child and a teenager the only people who had anything nice to say about it was hairdressers and old people. To this day every time I visit a new hairdresser they will say the same exact two things "you have such lovely hair" and "is that your natural colour?" occasionally followed by "some people pay a lot of money to have hair that colour" - oh really, then why don't I see more people with this colour hair then?

In my last year of high school I started dying it  - mainly dark brown, but I also experimented with jet black, pink and blue strips and blonde. After that I tried highlights, low lights and tinted shampoos.

It was around this time that I also stopped brushing my hair and what a difference that made! My frizzy red afro was gradually replaced with big waves. Still largely out-of-control, but at least if wasn't so terrible.

Add to this various experiments with hair straighteners (I'm far to lazy to commit the hours needed to make this a regular habit) and you have many years spent fighting nature.

However, somewhere during the last three years of living in London I have come to a place of acceptance. 

It's been nearly four years since a piece of foil or dye touched my head and in that time I think I've reached a place of acceptance.

Three months after my last disappointing hair appointment, I ventured out on Saturday to try a different neighbourhood salon on for size and what can I say, I think I've found a winner.

Layers, layers and more layers, plus she did this weird thing where she twisted my hair up and then made three little cuts along the strand and brushed it out. Instantly lighter. Bliss.

In conclusion, the secret to loving my hair: no brush, a spot of well placed thinning and embracing the ranga. 

What is your hair relationship?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Bosnia by Instagram

In October, I travelled through Bosnia with the crew at Balkan Road Trip on their 7 day Bosnia Adventure trip.

I have plenty of stories to share from my time in this most brilliant country (many will be published on my work blog), but thought a good place to start would be with the little bits and pieces I collected on the road and originally shared through Instagram.

NOTE: My camera phone images really don't do it justice.

Monday, 11 November 2013

#LDNBloggerTea: Mercer Street Hotel

On a wet and grey Saturday I found myself in London's West End off to meet with 19 women, 17 of which I had never met before.

The reason for this get together - a London Bloggers Afternoon Tea at the Mercer Street Hotel.

Kicking things off with a glass of champagne, introductions were made and names were finally placed with Twitter handles and blog titles.

Then it was on to the food.

One thing I have learned from my various afternoon tea experiences is that size is well and truly deceiving when it comes to those mini-sandwiches, cute cakes and scones - they're surprisingly filling - and the afternoon tea at Mercer Street Hotel was no different.

We were served a slight variation on the typical savoury afternoon tea fare - in place of sandwiches were chicken and pork baps,and salmon and vegetarian wraps - and the sweets certainly hit the spot. I will dream of the gooey caramel brownie.

Aside from catching up with my fellow kiwis Kelly and Emma it was wonderful to meet MandySarah, Gina and Sarah (the Texan variety) for the first time.

Sadly, there were many other faces I didn't get to chat with so I look forward to the next event.

I can't thank Selena and the ladies from AfternoonTea.co.uk for putting all this together. You are stars!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Bloggers Afternoon Tea in London

While blogging in itself is a lonely activity it does have some unexpected social benefits.

London can be a lonely place - especially when your friends leave you thanks to expired Youth Mobility Visas - but blogging and Tweeting helps make the city feel smaller as you connect with a random collection of souls online from across this fair land.

Tomorrow I shall meet a selection of these people in person - many for the first time.

The wonderful Selena from Oh, the place we will go! Has organised a Bloggers Afternoon Tea at the Mercer Street Hotel, Covent Garden - I love these organising types who make things happen.

My delightful companions will be...

Gina from Sweet Serenity

Mandy from Emm in London
Erin from Erin Out and About
Sarah from The Wanderblogger
Bonnie from A Compass Rose
Tina from Girl Meets Globe
Jacintha from Urban Pixxels
Anna from Eat, See, Do 
Janelle from The Halfpenny Diaries
Shobha from NYLon Living
Annie at Sew Graceful
Melanie from Melanie Fontaine
Samantha from To the Days Like This

Can't wait!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Confessions of an Editorial Assistant: Some Memorable Callers

It was 2006 and I, a very young 22-year-old university graduate, was responsible for answering all the calls to the newsdesk of New Zealand's largest newspaper.

The majority of the calls were news tips, complaints, people wanting a chat with the editor (politely directed to send a letter), and subscribers whose papers did arrive (politely put through to subs).

But every now and then I was on the receiving end of some rather more special calls. They shall be known as Nice Young Man, Kobe Beef Man, Microwave Lady, Microchip Guy, and Shouty Jerk.

Nice Young Man: I found out from another member of staff that Nice Young Man had Down's. He was a treat to talk to. NYM would ring every few weeks for a quick chat. Always impeccably polite, he just want to say how much the woman on breakfast tv looked lovely and maybe comment on a few stories before wishing me a good day. Why weren't more callers like him. 

Kobe Beef Man: A NZ farmer breeding wagyu cattle, he wanted to tell the country all about the benefits of this pricey meat. By the sound of his voice he was an older gentleman and by the way he spoke non-stop for 30 minutes the first time I spoke to him, seemingly without time to take a breath, suggested he wasn't calling for a discussion. He rang several times, each with the same long winded spiel. I quickly learned how to interrupt someone mid-rant.

Microwave Lady: She was quite a simple case. Several calls about how microwaves in the air were affecting her thoughts.

Microchip Guy: His calls always upset me as he clearly was a disturbed individual. He wanted to know why the Herald wasn't writing about him and the fact that director Peter Jackson and then prime minister Helen Clark had placed microchips in his fillings and were making a Truman Show-like movie about his life against his will. Most of the time he was calm, but sometimes he would get really upset.

Shouty Jerk: "Page three. Second story. Fifth paragraph. What's wrong with that sentence? You idiots have written 'a' instead of 'an'." Queue a barrage of insults, how shit the paper was, swear words and so on.
I really hated Shouty Jerk. He rang frequently, never a hello, how's your day, every call started with him shouting a page number down the phone at me. He tested my patience time after time until one day he heard an attitude in my voice (I wonder why) and demanded to speak to my boss. Thankfully my Chief wasn't going to take crap from an abusive douche like him and totally put the loser in his place. Result. 

Finally, one caller who I remember more often than the other. I don't have a nickname for him. 

He only rang once. 

From the beginning of the call he sounded horribly distressed, warning of a destruction that was coming to kill hundreds of people across the country that he was controlling. 

As he got more and more worked up I managed to get his address and phone number and instantly emailed his local mental health service - could they send someone to check on him and make sure he was okay? 

A representative from the mental health group called me back and asked for more detail. The rep kept asking the same questions over and over and I remember feeling frustrated and helpless - I'd never spoken to someone that manic before and was genuinely worried he would harm himself. I didn't want to do nothing. 

They left it at that and I never found out if they paid that poor man a visit or not.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Recipe: Raspberry & Chocolate Muffins

I was inspired to do a little baking this afternoon and whipped up a tasty batch of raspberry and chocolate muffins.

My creations are a twist on this Moist Chocolate Muffin recipe that is one of the best I've tasted - very rich, tasty and, of course, moist.


2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup plain yogurt (flavoured is nice too)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup canned or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease muffin tray or line with paper muffin liners.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, 3/4 cup chocolate chips, and baking soda in a large bowl. 
  3. Whisk egg, yogurt, milk, and vegetable oil in another bowl until smooth then add raspberries.
  4. Pour wet mix into dry mixture and stir until batter is just blended. 
  5. Fill prepared muffin cups 3/4 full and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Two Weeks Until My Bosnian Adventure

Sitting here with a slight case of the sniffles in grey London after three nights of roadworks right outside our house I have to tell myself it's only two weeks until I head out on my Bosnian Adventure.

On Saturday October 5, I hit the road with the guys at Balkan Road Trip for a week long tour of one of the most beautiful, and so often overlooked and misunderstood, countries on earth.

I've actually visited Bosnia and Herzegovina twice before, but both these times were flying visits. First, there was my trip to Sarajevo and Mostar in 2008, and this June I revisit Mostar on a day trip from Dubrovnik, but once you've experienced the beautiful countryside, the warm people and the delicious food you'll be hooked. 

Starting in Split, the Bosnian Adventure travels takes in Kravica Waterfall, Mostar, Konjic, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, and the Bosnian Mountains (Bjelasnica and Igman) before finishing in Dubrovnik.

I can't wait to get out there and meet the rest of my trip buddies.