For seven days in a row I have found something new to try, and it hasn’t been too difficult. This has been a fun challenge because it’s just made me a lot more mindful of what I’m doing with my time, and made me think about how easy it is to fall into ruts and routines. I also discovered that trying new things doesn’t necessarily cost any money, and you can have a lot of fun for free.
Today’s ‘something new’ was a new recipe, because I had the day off and felt like baking. I have lots of recipe books, but I decided to search online for something new, and I found this wonderful Hairy Bikers recipe for Skinny lemon cupcakes with drizzly icing on the BBC website.
My oven is playing up a bit at the moment, so these cupcakes are far from perfect, but they taste GOOD! They have blueberries in them, and lemon icing, which makes them fresh and fruity, and I’m sure they make some small contribution to my ‘five a day’.
Today’s ‘something new’ was something which I’m sure a lot of people find very easy, but it’s something I find very hard:
I like plans and organisation, and I’m really bad at being spontaneous, as all of my friends will testify. When I wake up in the morning, I like to have a fair idea of how my day will go and what time it will end. I like to know if I’m dressed appropriately for the activities that might crop up, and have planned my meals and the contents of my handbag accordingly. I know that might all sound very boring, but I just don’t gel with spontaneity.
Now, to some, what I did today might not seem all that spontaneous, but believe me it was…
At lunch time today I suddenly decided it would be nice to meet my mum after work and treat her to a coffee. It’s my first full pay day of my new job, and I wanted to mark the occasion. My mum was working in London today, so it seemed like a good chance for a catch up. A few short emails later and it was arranged.
When it came to leaving work on time to go and meet her, naturally, sudden issues came up and I was delayed. Then I had to wait ages for a Circle Line train to come at Liverpool Street Station, but in the end I got to Embankment and we went to Starbucks for a chai latte and a bit of cake.
It was really nice.
Today is a rainy, cold, miserable day, and it would be easy to say that it is impossible to try something new on a day like this. After all, I have stayed home in my pyjamas all day with no intention of going out, so how could I possibly try something new?
However, not wanting to be thwarted so early on in the game, I was determined to find some new things to do today.
So, for breakfast I had a toasted cinnamon and raisin bagel with Cadbury’s chocolate Philadelphia for the first time. Yum. The Philly melted and it was better than any chocolate spread I’ve ever tried. Healthier too, I think.
Then, I decided to post this blog entirely with my iPad. I’ve written blogs on my iPad before, but usually use photos I have already uploaded to Flickr. This time I took the photo above with my iPad, edited the photo with the Photoshop Express app, and then wrote this post using the iPad WordPress app. It takes a while to get used to what you can and can’t do when blogging with an iPad, but overall I’m still marvelling at the technology!
Today’s new things are little things, but I feel good for being able to try something new today without leaving the house or spending any money.
I hope I can mange to keep this up during the week!
My friend Gwynnie over at Make Life Magic has started a challenge today, and I couldn’t possibly not take part – it’s the ‘Something New Every Day Challenge‘. Gwynnie says:
Do you ever feel just bored of life? When every day is the same, nothing really surprises you, you drag yourself out of bed to face another predictable day?
What about those things that you’d like to do? Some of us are ashamed of our dreams. You might want to start your own business, quit your job and travel around the world for a year, change your image so drastically that it terrifies you. But something in your head tells you “You can’t… not you. You’re too young/old/poor/dull”. Perhaps you secretly believe that excitement and success are for other people, but not you.
If you’re happy living in an unhappy, limited world, then don’t read any further. Go back to denying yourself the things that you deserve, and feeling bitter when you see people who aren’t afraid to go and get them. But if you want to feel more confident in everything you do, more excited about waking up every day, then read on. Those big changes won’t seem so scary when you’ve been making little changes every day for the last few months.
One of my oldest pieces of advice to friends who feel stuck in a rut, unsure about their own abilities or about what they want to do in life, is this – try something new every day.
Life is so full of possibilities. Why limit yourself to doing the same things forever?
I’m not talking about massive, world-shaking things every day, unless that’s your thing. You don’t have to climb Everest, join a new class every day, cut off all your hair or go sky-diving, although you might enjoy those things. I’m talking about even tiny new things – trying a flavour of tea that you’ve never had before, painting your nails a new colour, sitting in a different seat in your usual restaurant or classroom.
Gwynnie will be posting her own new somethings over on her blog, and I decided to accept the challenge and post mine here.
So, Day #1…
I actually did a couple of new things today, so I’m off to a good start!
First, I went to the British Music Experience at the O2, which was really fab! I probably wouldn’t have gone there if I had had to buy a ticket, but because I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar last night at the O2 I was given a free ticket to the exhibition. Bonus! (Jesus Christ Superstar was A-MAZING, by the way.)
Whilst at the British Music Experience my mum and I had a go at dancing in this dance booth thing, and I think it was probably the first time I ever ‘rave danced’ and ‘ska danced’ with my mum! We also sung Bohemian Rhapsody together – but that wasn’t a first!
Later in the day we went to Wagamama, where I tend to order the same thing off the menu (yasai yaki soba), but today, for the first time, I ordered saien soba – and it was delicious!
Let’s see what I can think of tomorrow, and how long I can keep this challenge going! Wish me luck…
It was with this in mind that I allowed myself to be persuaded to attend the Saint George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square today.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy myself. When I had gone down to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year it had been very crowded and uncomfortable, and I basically ran away (well, shuffled – it was impossible to run anywhere). However, what I found today was very different. The Saint George’s Day celebrations weren’t very well advertised, and so it wasn’t hugely crowded down at Trafalgar Square. The space did fill it, but it never became impossible to move, and I always felt like I had enough space.
My friend and I were met with a very quaint, English country garden atmosphere, complete with temporary flowers, fake grass, and plastic ducks and swans swimming in the fountains.
The event consisted of music…
Pearly Kings and Queens…
And, of course, tea and scones…
I almost forgot I was in central London while I was in the tea tent, as it felt very Sussex-y, like I was in some country park somewhere.
I really enjoyed the music, especially ZeTrio:
And the Robbie Boyd Band:
The music hall performances from the Brick Lane Music Hall were fun, too.
The whole event got me thinking about how patriotic (or not) we Brit’s are. There was a smattering of red and white flag-clad, Stella-swilling football fans, and a few people dressed in red and white getting pretty into it, like these sweet ladies who let me take their picture:
But overall it wasn’t too nationalistic. However, whenever there’s a chance to be proud to be British, there is always this slight feeling that “British pride = not open to other cultures”, which simply shouldn’t be the case. As a Londoner, I feel privileged to be able to enjoy the St George’s Day celebrations just as much as the Chinese New Year, Japanese Matsuri, or any other festival.
I’m no royalist or nationalist, but I did really enjoy indulging in a little British culture today. It’s so easy to forget where you come from when you live in such a multicultural city. I spend so much of my time submerged in Japanese culture, even though I live in England, that I sometimes forget to enjoy my own country’s culture.
I think the Londoners and Brits at the event enjoyed it, and I do hope the tourists and people from other countries also enjoyed the taste of British culture displayed in London today. I’ve realised that British culture is perhaps not as sophisticated or mystical as some other cultures, but we certainly do know how to have a good knees up!
I hate Valentine’s Day. Besides my personal reasons and the ghosts of Valentines past, the main reason I hate Valentine’s Day is because it’s just SO commercial.
I know, every holiday and special occasion is commercial these days, but if I see one more fluffy pink heart I might scream. Who actually buys that rubbish? What kind of girl is actually happy to receive a giant stuffed bear on Valentine’s Day? And don’t even get me started on the chocolates. It must be a minefield for the guys – buying chocolates is traditional, but what if she says she’s on a diet? If you buy the chocolates you’re not being very supportive of the diet, if you don’t, you’re berated for not celebrating Valentine’s Day properly and not caring enough. Dammed if you do, damned if you don’t.
As a singleton on Valentine’s Day it’s easy to come across as cynical and bitter. I’ve decided to focus on the positives: money saving and dieting!
Let’s start with money saving:
Participating in Valentine’s Day is expensive. Not only are you supposed to buy a card and present for your loved one, you’re supposed to go out somewhere special, and you’re supposed to look nice. It’s the looking nice that can get really expensive, can’t it ladies? New shoes, dress, frilly undies… Easily £100 or more spent on an outfit for one night. Of course, you might let him pay for the meal, but when you’ve spent so much on looking nice, it’s hardly a saving.
And then there’s the diet:
You go to a nice, fancy Italian restaurant… Imagine all that pasta dripping with creamy sauce, a dessert oozing with chocolate, a few glasses of vino… There are easily 1500 calories or more in the average restaurant meal. Then there’s the box of chocolates he gave you, which you start eating as soon as he’s gone. Diet fail.
As a singleton this Valentine’s Day, I feel quite satisfied in knowing that I haven’t had to shed out all that cash for one night of “romance”, and I can enjoy a nice healthy meal which I’ve cooked myself. I know what some people will say though – why not have the healthy, home-cooked meal with your loved one and save on the new dress too? Of course – but the rules of commercial society say that most people will feel obliged to go out on Valentine’s Day.
Next time I celebrate Valentine’s Day, I hope I can remain mindful of the meaning of the day rather than allowing myself to get caught up in the commercial aspects. Surely a handmade card and a cupcake baked at home says “I love you” just as well, if not better, than anything you could buy in a shop.
I looked into the options and soon discovered that the organised tours you could pay for were pretty expensive (around $50 per person). These tours also included a number of places that didn’t really interest me. (Rabbit hunting in the Pleasure Chest with my mum? I don’t think so!) When I thought about touring around New York City in a bus full of (most likely) women, trying to cram in all of the “memorable” places from Sex & the City, my skin began to crawl. The only option seemed to be to design my own tour, with just the places that I wanted to see!
Luckily, we were staying quite close to Greenwich Village, so we started the day by walking there. It was much more interesting to walk than it would have been to take the subway.
On the way, I saw this great shop:
As far as I know, this is not in Sex & the City, but with a name like “Shoegasm” it really should be!
We soon reached Bleeker Street.
I hadn’t planned to go to any of the fancy shops that Carrie likes to shop in (what’s the point if you can’t afford to buy anything?) but I passed a Jimmy Choo shop and did stop to have a peek through the window.
We got to the Magnolia Bakery nice and early, and I got a birthday cupcake.
One disappointment was that the bench where Carrie and Miranda sit in the TV show wasn’t actually there. I wonder if it was just for the show, or if they had it removed because too many people sat there?!
Just around the corner, was Perry Street.
Carrie’s house is obviously quite a big tourist attraction, but it is actually a privately owned house. The poor people who live there must get so annoyed with all the tourists coming by to take a photo. They’ve actually put a chain up now, and a sign asking you not to sit on the step, which is fair enough I think.
After a wander around Greenwich Village, we walked to Soho to find Onieal’s Restaurant and Bar (174 Grand Street), which is known as “Scout” in Sex & the City. Scout is the bar which Aidan and Steve opened together.
It was a nice bar, and very quiet when we arrived.
We decided to have a bit of lunch and, of course, a Cosmo.
Our timing was so good. Just as we were finishing our drinks, a tour group flooded in. I was so glad we could leave and not be a part of it!
Of course, there are many other locations around New York which are used in Sex & the City, but all of the above was enough for me! As a bonus, we also stopped by the HBO shop (1100 Avenue of the Americas), where I picked up this great book, Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell:
The book includes a Sex & the City map and list of places to visit. I was quite happy to see that there were no additional places I wanted to see. If you’re into brand shopping or bar-hopping there are a lot of other places which I haven’t mentioned. You might want to check out this list for more information. You might also want to read this great article about why organised Sex & the City bus tours suck.
I’m a big fan of seeing places that are used in movies and TV shows, but I’d highly recommend organising your own trips rather than taking a tour. There’s so much information on the Internet, that it’s easy to plan. And now, with this post, you know how to see the highlights from Sex & the City all by yourself.
It’s one thing to repeatedly tell yourself year after year that you need to lose a bit of weight, but it’s something else entirely to be told by a doctor.
I’m not obese. In fact, most people I know genuinely don’t think I need to lose much weight. I ‘m tall and I carry it pretty well, plus I know how to dress for my size. Most people would probably call me curvy or, shudder, cuddly.
But today I sat up and faced facts. I need to lose three stone, so I will. It’s not going to be as easy as that though, I know. Take today for example: my lovely colleague offered to make me tea (which I drink with sugar) a number of times. I politely declined, made myself a chamomile tea and drank loads of water. I was feeling very peckish in the afternoon, and I was offered some amazing smelling Fortnum and Mason biscuits which we had in the office. I wanted one, I really wanted one, so in the end I let myself have a tiny broken corner of one, smaller than a 5p piece. It was really good.
Serious willpower is what I need to accomplish my goal. I’m not going to sit here and say I won’t eat any more chocolate, biscuits or cake this year. We all know that’s not going to happen. I’ve abandoned my Marshmallow Experiment because it was simply too tempting to have chocolate sitting there in the fridge. So, I’m going to try not to buy any calorific food, and allow myself a few treats when I’m out. Let’s see how I do…
Incidentally, the phrase “to take the biscuit” (used in a situation where something is particularly bad or objectionable) is British English and our friends across the pond actually say “to take the cake”. Well, language differences aside, I won’t be taking any cakes or biscuits for quite a while, I think!
As I’ve mentioned before, this is my year of being frugal and trying to get as many freebies as possible. So, you can imagine my sheer happiness when I came across a voucher to get a free box of nibbles!
Graze is a funky little company which delivers slender boxes of yumminess right through your door, as often as you want them. Each box costs £3.49, but I got my first one for free. Here it is:
On their website, you can go through all of the different items they offer and rate them. If there’s something you don’t like, you simply mark it “bin” and they won’t send it to you. If you mark something as “like” or “love” you should get it more often.
Along with the little packs of food, there’s also a leaflet telling you the nutritional information (and calorie count) of everything, and also the ingredients. The boxes are delivered by Royal Mail, and they fit through your door, so you don’t even have to be home to receive them (although I did enjoy receiving mine at work today and having something to nibble on in the afternoon).
This is without a doubt one of the best freebies I’ve ever received. The only down-side is that now I’m tempted not to cancel my membership but to continue getting the boxes. For £3.49 a week I can enjoy a little surprise and something yummy, which has to be better than wasting my money on chocolate biscuits at the supermarket and eating them all in one go (not that I’d ever do that…).
Anyway, I have a special deal which means I get the next one half price (£1.75) and with £1 off (£0.75), so I think I might stay signed up for a while longer.
Oh, I also got a free copy of The Economist today. That’s in addition to my daily Metro and Evening Standard newspapers, and weekly Stylist and Shortlist magazine. Living in London, I certainly don’t need to buy any reading material!
Despite all the baking programmes I’ve been watching of late, and the picture below, this is not actually a post about cooking. There will, perhaps, be cake related posts on this blog in the future though.
Today I’m thinking about an interesting article I read on the way home in London’s free weekly magazine, Stylist. The article, “Just. One. More. Bite.” was encouraging readers to try investing in willpower instead of making New Year’s resolutions that will be abandoned before the end of January.
Personally, I’ve tried not to make specific resolutions this year. To be honest, they’re always the same anyway:
- Lose weight
- Save money
- Write more
The third, writing more, seems to be in hand. The other two seem to be horribly intertwined and unapproachable, like a drawer full of old necklaces that you’d like to wear but abandoned long ago because the effort of untangling them will just be too much.
But just think, if you did untangle all those old necklaces, you’d have loads more jewellery you could wear. Pretty, shiny jewellery. (Guys, if you’re reading this, think cables. Pretty, shiny cables that you keep in a drawer, even though you have no idea what they’re for.)
But what’s all this got to do with marshmallows? Well, according to the article, in 1972 (Stylist says ’68, but Wiki says ’72) a bloke called Walter Mischel of Stanford University conducted a test which is known as the Marshmallow Experiment. The test subjects were children (aged 4-6), and each child was taken into a room in which there was a plate with a single marshmallow on it. They were told that they could eat the marshmallow if they wanted to, but that if they waited 15 minutes they could have two. The child was then left alone to decide what to do. Some children simply ate the one marshmallow they were given, but some waited patiently (perhaps covering their eyes so they weren’t tempted or, according to Wiki, “stroking the marshmallow as if it were a tiny stuffed animal“).
The kids who waited got two marshmallows and learnt the lesson of delayed gratification. Follow-up research showed that those who had learnt the lesson went on to have higher academic achievement, and those who didn’t were more likely to have behavioural problems and trouble paying attention in class.
The Stylist article emphasised the importance of willpower; that rather than just denying ourselves the things we want (which will only make us want them more), we should learn to exercise our willpower a bit more, and resist the temptation of instant gratification. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too, it just means you ought to wait a while between the buying and eating (if you’re baking, I’m not sure where “licking the bowl” fits in to this test, but I’m pretty sure it’s ok).
I need to give myself a marshmallow test. As I mentioned in a previous post, this is my year of being frugal and learning to save up for the things that I want. It’s the first time I’ve ever really tried to save up, and I’m finding it hard already.
Losing weight and saving money may seem like two separate goals, but when I start trying to untangle that twisted mess of chains it becomes quite clear that they have huge impacts on each other. I tend to run in viscous circles: I try to go on a diet, but then I get hungry or something else stresses me out, so I ignore the fact that I have a whole bunch of tasty (not cheap!) fruit and other snacks at home and go on a Sainsbury’s rampage for chocolate and other naughties. I have a night of over-indulgence, spend too much and eat too much, and feel bad about it all in the morning.
If I planned out delicious, nutritious meals with a light sprinkling of yummy but healthy snacks, I could save money and, most likely, lose weight too.
So, how’s my marshmallow test going to work? Right now there is no chocolate in my house (except Options hot chocolate, which really doesn’t count). Next time I go to the supermarket for groceries (not mid-week in a crazy fit of hunger, but for a weekly shop with a sensibly prepared list), I shall buy one, reasonably priced bar of chocolate. The chocolate will sit in my fridge, where I will occasionally stroke it as if it were a tiny, hard, cold animal. Eventually, I will eat it – when I really, really want it.
I won’t cheat by buying extra chocolate along the way. That would bust my diet and budget in one swift punch.
Let’s see if this experiment works…