Rest and Invest

It’s been a year since I last wrote anything here. I guess I just ran out of things to say, or I became too busy, or too self conscious to put my thoughts and the small glimpse of my life out into the public domain.

Maybe I didn’t see the point in keeping this blog anymore as it originally began as a breast cancer blog and I have well and truly finished that chapter and have moved on to life after… But more of that to come in due time.

 

A lot has changed since this time last year. We bought a house, well actually, our offer was accepted and the mortgage was all in place at the beginning of August last year, it just took some time to actually move into the house.

We’ve been kept busy renovating and decorating the house, ripping out kitchens and digging up floors, knocking down bricks and fireplaces and creating a home that is truly ours and reflects our personalities.

We’re only halfway finished… It’s bloody hard work, not too mention expensive, so although I had this grand idea that our home would be complete within four months of moving in, it’s not quite worked out that way! But, it’s okay. It feels like home now and I still walk around the rooms that we have finished and take great pleasure in knowing that this is all ours.

In other news, work has been…extremely engaging. I didn’t want to use the work ‘manic’ which is a word I’m conscious that I throw around often. Maybe if I stop using negative words to describe how busy we are, I won’t feel so anxious about the whole thing. It’s justifiable I suppose, as we’re diversifying the brand in the UK, *and* have set up a company in Barcelona. Yep, as in Spain. As in 1,051.1 miles away from Birmingham.

Myself and my business partner are there every other week at the moment. I’m so over flying. I hate airports. I detest the queue’s and the bag checks and the plastic socks. I love the sunshine though and the mountain views, and the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Due to the packed schedule this year, and due to the fact that I have deprived myself of annual leave that lasts any longer than a week since I got married over four years ago – I am feeling super run down, frazzled and in desperate need of a break.

We’re off to New York next month, but before that, I desperately require some down time, which is exactly what I have planned for the next few weeks.

I haven’t made plans as such, only to allow myself time to embrace the season, take walks, meditate, lose myself in cooking and baking, connect with creativity and really give myself some care. After all, the business and our home are important, but the biggest investment I have is in myself.

 

 

 

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To The Mountains And Back

If you’re a regular reader of ALE, you’d have seen that every year, FT and I like to get away to Nant Yr Onnen – a little cabin in the lush Llandovery mountains.

We’ve already been this year – August to be exact, to celebrate FT’s birthday – but we decided that once wasn’t enough – and booked for a second time. This time round, we stayed at the barn, and we didn’t go alone – we decided to share our special sanctuary with my sister Jay and our friend, Glover.

I love this place, and was so excited to share it with Jay and Glover. They both instantly fell in love with it too and vowed to return again in the near future.

Our weekend was spent walking, eating lots and lots of carbs and cheese, midnight rope swing sessions in our swimwear, being left dehydrated from spending too long in the hot tub drinking beers, playing board games and  watching horror films.

I wanted to share a photo diary with you so you could see why I love Nant Yr Onnen so much.

 

 




The One Where We Went To Friendsfest

Last week, FT and I was lucky enough to spend the evening at Friendsfest in the grounds of Oxford’s Blenheim Palace.

We’re both massive Friends fans, and like a lot of people, still love a good Friends quote – I mean, do they ever get old? No. No, they don’t.

FT and I would religiously watch Friends in my bedroom on Friday nights when we were sixteen but unfortunately, didn’t get to watch the finale together because WE WERE ON A BREAK!  True story. Anyway…

We’ve watched the re-runs together ever since.If they’re on the television, you just have to watch them. I don’t know what it is that keeps me loving it, but I still do, and probably always will.

When I heard about Friendsfest last year, it was too late, and all of the tickets were sold out. Absolutely gutted. So, when I learned it was happening this year, I put a reminder in my phone for the day the tickets went on sale and was fortunate enough to grab my first choice location and timeslot. OH. MY. GOD!

Highlights included Central Perk and the Smelly Cat Karaoke. Burgers and fries at Monica’s Moondance diner, here come the meat sweats, and of course, Monica’s apartment. It was a surreal experience walking around the set, and it seemed smaller than what it looks like on tv, although just as colourful and gorgeous!







The staff were brilliant too, everyone so happy and cheery, but what I really liked, was that there was always someone there willing to take your camera and get a picture of you, so you didn’t even need to take selfies! The staff were the selfie takers! Brilliant!!

 

If you’re a Friends fiend and Comedy Central do Friendsfest again next year, I highly recommend you go.

And, Just Like That, Summer Fell Into Fall

Or Autumn, should I say, you know, being British and all.

So, last night was the first night in months that I had slept without the fan on, and when I woke this morning, I’m regretful to say that I was actually a bit chilly.

Autumn is around the corner, and as much as I love it and am looking forward to wearing boots and coats and crunching leaves with each step I take,  I’m actually quite sad to see the end of Summer.

This year has been jam packed and fun filled, and I wanted to share some of my adventures with you as I’ve not really been keeping up to date on the blog due to a super busy schedule this year, and to be totally honest, a bit of writers block too.

 

There are far too many pictures to share so I’ve made a collage to save you scrolling with the homies.

My Summer started off quite creatively, with me attending a food photography course in Dulwich with Makelight and Borrowed Light. My friend Christina is a teacher/baker extraordinaire, and suggested I take a look at the Makelight Facebook page for inspiration as we had both agreed that I should take the next set of photographs for her Cakes By Chrissie website.
It was a great day and I learned so much about styling; turning a boring food pic into something quite beautiful, and about finding the right light in which to take the photographs.

An added bonus was meeting new friends who shared the same interests as I did, you see, FT thinks that it can get a bit tiresome when he’s waiting for me to take the perfect picture of our pancakes before he can eat it. He just doesn’t get it!

Emily Quinton, the amazing lady behind Makelight, and Catherine Frawley of Borrowed Light were the perfect teachers – always patient, on hand with lots of thoughtful advice and more importantly, they gave us freedom to create our own designs with whatever we could find in the workshop – and let me tell ya, I WANT that workshop. Ah, that light.

I met some great ladies on the course, some very talented bakers, bloggers and deli owners, who all took amazing photographs and were kick ass inspirational girl bosses.

We keep in touch via Instagram, mainly,  it’s great to keep in touch and see what gorgeous captures they’ve created. I’m hoping we’ll get the chance to meet again on another Makelight course, or something as equally creative, because creative magic is my new jam. Work is so stressful and hard, it’s a relief to find solace in the beauty of creation. You have to find that balance.

PS-I’ve not managed to take the photographs for Christina’s website yet, but will let you know when I do!

I did a quick trip to Milan and Turin as I’m in the middle of setting up a second business in Italy (humblebrag) and I only managed to catch a few hours to myself as it was all work. What I saw of the city was breathtaking though and I’m sure I’ll be returning more often than not over the next few months, so I’m confident that I’ll get to discover more of the city.

FT and I managed to steal a weekend away at the cabin, but you guys have read the post on that I bet, so I’m not going to bore you with the details again. BUT I’m excited to say that we’ll be back there in a few weeks with my sister and our good friend, G Dawg. I just can’t stay away – I just love the outdoors and want to share our special place.

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Myself, FT and G Dawg spent the last bank holiday weekend of the year in Brighton. It was my first ever visit, in fact, it was the first visit for all three of us – so we ran around town like excitable puppies, wowed by everything Brighton had to offer.

We were fortunate enough to have gorgeous weather on the Saturday; it was absolutely boiling, so we took full advantage and spent the day on the beach, chatting, napping and drinking beer, before going into town for the night and making friends with the locals.

 
I’m sure you don’t want to hear about New York and Boston again…So, I’ll shut up now.

 

There have been romantic walks, picnics, forest days, Goonie nights out, family get togethers, BBQ’s, girly lunches AND my third Rocky Horror Picture Show experience, but the best day of the Summer for me was a few weeks ago, when I got scan results and was told I was cancer free for a second year running. Unless you’ve been through it, you’ll have no idea what those days/weeks feel like, leading up to the scan and waiting for the results.

It’s like the world stops whilst you basically wait to see if the cancer has returned. Getting the all clear is like winning the lottery, and you feel like you have another chance at life again – until a few weeks before next years scan, when you go back into depression and panic mode…

It’s getting easier – but it will always be a constant fear. I’m just learning how to manage it.

New York trips, visiting new cities, opening a second business… My scan results top all of that, and although I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to do the things that I do, I will be eternally grateful for my renewed health and am thankful every day.

So, thanks Summer 2016. You’ve been a beaut. Autumn – what you got for me? I’m ready.

 

 

 

 

New York Is Always A Good Idea

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen that I’ve just returned from New York City – my favourite place in the world.

Last year, we stayed at The Plaza on Fifth Avenue and it was wonderfully luxurious. This year, we decided to go a little grittier and stay in Hell’s Kitchen at Cassa Times Square. It was a lot less touristy and a little more stabby. No, really, it was.


A homeless guy actually offered me protection for payment outside one of the Irish bars opposite our hotel ‘You look after me, I’ll look after you.’ he bargained. I stood there in bewilderment. Did I look like I needed protecting? Was I about to get kidnapped? ‘I go places even the cops don’t go.’ he continued. ‘I’ll watch your back if you watch mine. These (insert extremely racist, non pc word here) will kill you.’

I smiled politely, trying my hardest not to appear knee knockingly terrified, and swiftly walked back into the bar, leaving Batman to offer his services to another unsuspecting dude.

I took my seat next to FT who was chatting animatedly to our new friends Tiara, from the woods (Connecticut) John, from New Jersey and Hector, a local guy who interrupted FT with ‘I’m sorry, but can I say, you sound like Monty Python.’

Tiara then proceeded to tell FT and I that our teeth were far too perfect for us to be British, and then told me seventy five times how much she loved FT and how perfect he was.  Get in line, babe.


But lets rewind back to the beginning. When we got there, we were tired, hungry, tired, ratty and did I mention – super tired?

We dropped off our bags at the hotel and went out straight away in search of food. It was night time and within our first few yards we encountered three homeless people. I know the city is rife with homelessness but I can’t remember seeing it to such an extent last year. I can only put it down to our location.

At first, I was a little freaked out, especially when one lady with obvious mental health issues started screaming on the corner of 42nd and 9th as I walked past her ‘You’re all fuckers. You’re a fuck and you’re a fuck.’ followed by manic laughter.

Oh, crap. I’d made a mistake booking a room in Hell’s Kitchen. Fifth Avenue was so much prettier, well mannered and reserved…

But…after a day of getting familiar with the place, it’s resident homeless people, getting to know which convenience store sold the best tea and which pizza places sold the cheapest slices, I actually warmed to the place. It felt real and the residents and store owners were so polite and welcoming.

Hell’s Kitchen is up and coming, so I keep being told, but I think it’s already up there. Yeah, the homelessness is an issue there, but it’s an issue in the whole of New York, and one that I’m glad I got to witness first hand. You can’t love the city if you don’t see it’s true colours.

 

New York is the city of dreams, but for a city where people have the legal right to shelter, the number of people sleeping rough; old, young, of all races – it’s hard not to think that this is an epidemic and one that desperately needs addressing.

Despite the sadness of the homeless issue, Hell’s Kitchen is home to lots of amazing restaurants of all cuisines and tastes, and there seems to be an Irish bar on every corner.



Rudy’s was a favourite of mine. It was a little dive bar that seated about thirty people at a squeeze and sold the cheapest beer I found. You can get a pitcher for $8 and a hotdog for $2. It was friendly, extremely busy and filled with locals and tourists. I suggest you get there around 7pm to avoid standing all night.

As we’d been to NYC the year before and did a lot of the touristy things like Top of the Rock etc, we decided this trip would be a lot more relaxed and that we’d spend our days wandering around without a plan, taking whatever took our fancy at that moment.

We got the subway to Tribeca and found the Hook and Ladder – the legendary Ghostbusters building. Sadly for FT, who was desperate to visit the location of one of his favourite films, the building was under construction and hidden by scaffolding.


We met up with Jordan, a friend we met last year during our twenty six hour delay at the airport. He took us round some spots last year but this year we met up with him at the tackiest karaoke bar in Times Square ‘Tonic’ (our choice) where we drank Sam Adams and ate burgers – taken care of by Jordan. He’s genuinely the nicest, most generous guy ever.


It was great meeting up with him again, hopefully we’ll meet up again somewhere next year – he’s a super smart, genius nomad type, in a good way! Rumour has it, he may be visiting the UK pretty soon. Lets hope so, so we can re-pay the favour.

During our trip, we drove to Boston, stopping off at Cambridge to visit Harvard along the way.


Boston, one of the oldest cities in the U.S, is brimming with charm and history – I was fascinated to learn more about the place.

We visited Copley Square, Boston Common, walked the Freedom Trail and stopped off at Quincey Market where I sampled some genuine, New England Clam Chowder.


A longer, more in depth Boston trip is on the cards soon. I couldn’t get enough of the place and there is a lot to get. Did I mention it’s home to Hotty McHotty’s such as Tom Hardy and Marky Mark (hey, I’m a 90’s kid – those Calvin ads, schwiiiiing)

Highlights of Boston included visiting the site of the first gay marriage ceremony in the US and rubbing the (wee eroded) shoe of John Harvard (although it’s not really him, just someone pretending to be him – read up on it)

Back in New York, we did Staten Island Ferry again, and walked over the bridge to Brooklyn where we drank cold IPA under the Manhattan bridge to cool off from the heat.  We walked around the stores, picked out furniture in West Elm (that we couldn’t afford) and feasted on the best pizza ever (and I’ve been to Rome and Milan) in ‘Love and Dough’


I had the Four Kings whilst FT opted for a healthier option – the kale salad. The staff were so friendly and attentive and the food was insanely good.


Other highlights included walking The High Line and visiting Chelsea market as recommended by my gorgeous girl, @jenninscotland followed by a stroll around the gorgeous streets of the Meatpacking District and Tribeca.


It was an awesome trip, and despite my initial reservations, I actually enjoyed it more than last year.

Hell’s Kitchen is amazing, as is the entire city. Although I’ve only been twice, it feels good to have that familiar feeling, knowing the subway stops and where to go for a cold craft beer and decent hotdog. I’m sure I’ll be returning there soon enough.



New York, I loved you. I still love you.

 

 

The Mountains Are Calling…

Last weekend, FT and I spent our time at our favourite cabin in the woods – Nant Yr Onnen in Llandovery, Wales.

It was FT’s birthday weekend and I wanted to do something special where it was just the two of us. No phone service or wifi connection; just us and our books…Hours of conversation around the fire whilst sipping on ales, telling stories and reminiscing over past adventures.

We’ve been to Nant Yr Onnen a few times before so we know the place well, and driving up the little pathway to the cabin almost felt like returning home. It feels so familiar and welcoming and as soon as we get there, the anxiety from everyday life just floats away and is replaced with a dreamy feeling of contentment.

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I think everyone has a soul place; somewhere where they feel more in tune with themselves than anywhere else, and this is mine. I feel at peace in the woods;  the vast landscape enveloping me, allowing me to lose my mind and find my heart again.

My internal ‘To Do List’ melts away and I’m focused and free to get my thoughts and ideas in order; responsibilities set aside to allow creativity to flow.

 

It gives me urges to write, to paint and to take beautiful photographs of nature in all it’s glory.

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Although we were here to celebrate FT’s birthday, for me personally, the digital detox was very much needed and I relished every moment.

As soon as we arrived, we unpacked the car and ran over to the tree swing; our little playground where we can act silly and laugh at ourselves. We spend hours on that thing – although I’m pretty sure it’s only suitable for children, but we don’t care.

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A stroll to the bottom of the road leads to an old pub, The Towy Inn. This year would be the first time we have ventured inside, usually choosing to take our own beers and wine and drink them on the veranda of the cabin (or on the swing to make us feel drunk more quickly)

We sampled the ales and the wonderful food and sat overlooking the stream. This was FT’s birthday meal and we whiled away the hours talking about our future, making plans and laughing at ourselves as we got tipsier by the hour.

After a few drinks, we decided to retire back to the cabin, light the chimnea and open another beer whilst listening to old records. Then I gave him his birthday present – but to be honest, I think he was a bit too drunk to appreciate it fully. Okay, I just read that back – can I clear something up? His birthday present was a watch!! That’s totally what I meant!

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The following day, we hiked up Mynnydd Mallaen, the mountain that cast shadows over the cabin, and back down again along the river. We sunbathed for a while on the rocks before heading back to the Towy Inn for an afternoon refreshment, then back to the cabin for a well deserved nap (me) and to read our books (FT) followed by a BBQ and more ales.

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We ended the evening relaxing in the outdoor hot tub whilst the rain beat down on us. It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend.

On our final day, I managed to steal ten minutes on the tree swing before we left and promised myself we’d return again next year.

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We both left feeling happy, rejuvinated, and sad to leave but with a reminder that we’re blessed to have found a place that brings out the child in us, the human in us, and the heart in us.

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