Darling December: A Picture a Day

If I had to pick my favourite moments of time in December, I would struggle immensely. For me, December was how life should be: filled with adventure, precious time with family and friends and feelings of such happiness you feel thankful to be alive.

Only having to work for three days in December was an amazing way to round off the year and flying out of Sydney for a month in the UK, with a family mini-break to Vienna, was the best Christmas gift a girl could ask for. It was without doubt, the best month of the year.

Unlike the other months in 2014 when I reflected on the highlights, it is impossible for me to pinpoint my favourite moments in December because December itself was a highlight. It was the ray of light in a year of change and transition. It was a month of gratitude.

December was a fitting end to a year of learning about myself and about life. It was the perfect close to a year of understanding that things do get better when at first they suck; it was the grand finale to a year that made me understand that life is too short to think but not do.

December was about adventure and discovery, it was about family and friends, it was about good wine, great food and fantastic company. It was about London, it was about England and it was about love.

I cannot pick one special moment, or five special moments in my December to write about, because there were no special moments. It was all special. It confirmed to me that no matter how far you roam, or in what direction life takes you, home is where the heart is, and mine is in England.

This was my December.

London bound

London bound

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle

Hearty English grub

Hearty English grub

Oh! Vienna!

Oh! Vienna!

Scrumptious goulash

Scrumptious goulash

An evening of culture

An evening of culture

Family fun

Family fun

London at its very best

London at its very best

Fun times with Daddy

Fun times with Daddy

Celebratory November: A Picture a Day

The month of November is a month of celebration in Sydney. The days are longer, the weather is heating up and the countdown to Christmas is well and truly underway.

This November was no different, except that it was my last full month of work for 2014 and signalled the start of the four-week countdown to my first visit back to the UK for two years.

To say I was excited was an understatement. I don’t care what anyone says, it doesn’t matter how long you live here, Christmas just ain’t Christmas without cold weather, mulled wine, woolly jumpers and a roaring fire. Most importantly, it will never be a proper Christmas without my wonderfully mad family and our special Christmas rituals.

Typically in Sydney, the Christmas countdown usually begins with the Melbourne Cup, which occurs on the first Tuesday in November. This horseracing event “that stops a nation” is a big deal in Australia and this year I treated myself to a new frock and fascinator for a day of celebration with my new work colleagues at the GPO.

A suited and booted Mr B joined us later and we entered an Instagram competition to win a $100 dining voucher by posting a selfie of our dressed up selves on the GPO page. Amazingly we won, which was a fantastic way of covering the cost of said new frock as well as make up for the lack of success in the actual race itself. 

My obsession with Instagram also paid off when Not the Daily Grind was featured in GoodHealth magazine. I was so chuffed to see my photo and blog mentioned in print that I proceeded to re-post the original image alongside the image featured in the magazine. I think I have a serious problem.

November also marked four fabulous years with my darling Mr B, which we celebrated with an evening of fine dining at the amazing Argentinian restaurant Porteno. Not only is the food in this place absolutely delicious, the ambiance, setting and atmosphere are incredibly unique and the wine and cocktails are to die for, as are the brussels sprouts. Yes, you read that correctly. Brussels Sprouts. 

As a lover (read: weirdo) of brussels sprouts anyway, I can honestly say that these do not actually taste like the usual “boiled to death” grandma style sprouts. So if you are ever in Sydney, give them a try. They truly are a revelation.

Before heading back to the cold European winter, our final weekend saw Mr B and I go on a spectacular scenic tour of Sydney harbour on a seaplane. I am not much of a sea baby, nor am I a massive lover of planes, so I was a tad on edge, but Mr B was in his element.

However, as soon as we were airborne, I absolutely loved it. Seeing Sydney from above reminded me of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful city, and despite my initial anxiety, our whistle stop tour of the skies was over way before I was ready for it to end. 

This was my November.

London Calling

London Calling

Cup Day Winners

Cup Day Winners

Four years and counting

Four years and counting

Fame for Not the Daily Grind

Fame for Not the Daily Grind

Sydney from the skies

Sydney from the skies

Outstanding October: A Picture a Day

The month of October was one of exploration and travel. Looking back, I think it was one of my favourite months of the year.

The first weekend in October marks the Labor Day public holiday in New South Wales and as annual leave is often limited, Mr B and I decided to make the most of the long weekend by heading off to South Australia for three days of indulgence in the Barossa Valley.

The Barossa Valley is simply breathtaking. I cannot tell you enough how stunning this part of the world actually is. Rolling hills, quaint villages and some of the world’s finest shiraz can be found only a short drive from the city of Adelaide.

I got my first real wine tasting experience in 2009 when I left the UK to travel around South America, where I ended up cycling through the vineyards of Mendoza in Argentina. Since then, I have been lucky enough to visit a few more.

One of the great things about living in Australia is going on a classic road trip through the local wine regions. There is just something so fabulously exhilarating about driving through spectacular countryside, stopping for lunch at quaint little cellar doors and stocking up on fine wines, cheeses and ports for an evening of pure indulgence. Especially in an age when carbs, sugar, dairy, wheat and everything edible is supposedly bad for you.

So Mr B and I made the most of it by hiring a car, hitting up the cellar doors and having a damn good time in one of the most picturesque places on earth. We saw fields of lavender and deadly brown snakes, we ate cheese, bread AND chocolate and drank plenty of red wine. We didn’t want to leave.

Back in Sydney, the rest of the month saw further adventures. There was a girls’ camping trip to Putty Beach on the Central Coast; nights out with friends on the harbour and my ‘appearance’ in Katie Quinn Davies’ second cookbook, What Katie Ate at the Weekend, which I wrote about back in April. Okay, so you can only see the top of my head and my right cheek, but it is a claim to fame I am taking, especially as it topped off an utterly fabulous month.

This was my October.

The best lunch EVER

The best lunch EVER

A drink with a view

A drink with a view

Breathtaking scenery

Breathtaking scenery

Fields of lavender

Fields of lavender

Fame at last

Fame at last

Subdued September: A Picture a Day

September marked the first day of spring in Sydney, a month I truly love. The mornings are crisp and fresh, the sky is blue and the days seem to last just that little bit longer. It is a time when everyone starts to emerge from their self-imposed winter cocoons in search of some vitamin d.

This September was a month of reflection for me. It was all about happy memories; plans to create new ones and treasured moments with the people I love. Some sad news about a dear friend of mine meant I took a few weeks off social media in early September, and therefore, my cherished moments were few and far between.

But the beauty of my picture a day challenge meant that after some time out, I could once again embrace the reason I started to post a daily picture in the first place. This helped me to remain positive and search for those moments of beauty in every day life, those moments of true happiness, those slivers of contentedness, where if time stood still, I could happily stay there forever.

Moments like walking along the beach on a strangely warm spring day; the feeling of excitement and anticipation at seeing Mr B’s face when he returned from a five-day work excursion to the Australian bush; and the simple pleasure of a glass of wine, a good read and great conversation.

In the past, I have been guilty of letting life’s shitty moments weigh me down, sometimes, even life’s run-of-the-mill mundane moments. But if September taught me anything, it is that life is too short to dwell on what could have been; it is too short to harbour grudges and it is too short to waste time on being unhappy.

Life is precious. It is for loving and it is for living. Fill it with people you love; live it doing the things you love and look back only ever to laugh and smile. No regrets.

This was my September.

Remembering the good times

Remembering the good times

Quiet time

Quiet time

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Spring has sprung

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I see people

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Back with my boy

All about August: A Picture a Day

August has always been my favourite month of the year. Firstly, because it is the month of my birthday, (and who doesn’t love birthdays?) but also because as a child growing up in London, it always meant school holidays, exciting adventures and long glorious summers spent with my family in Ireland. Even as an adult it meant long summer days spent drinking with friends in beer gardens, something that London excels at. There is no place like London in the summer.

Living in Sydney means my birthday is now in winter, which despite what everyone back in the UK thinks, can actually get quite cold. But this actually makes it more exciting. Every year, I usually take the opportunity to escape Sydney’s winter and head to the sun, but this year, I embraced it.

Mr B planned a gorgeous surprise weekend away in the Kangaroo Valley – a breathtaking part of NSW that reminds me of home. We stayed at Broger’s End, a fabulous eco-eclectic luxury establishment, complete with chickens, log fires and wombats. It was truly fabulous, the perfect antidote to a rather hectic start to the year, where we talked, played games, drank fine wine and ate far too much cheese – a common theme for the rest of the month.

August also ushered in a job change, Australian citizenship and lots of down time with friends. In Sydney, everyone hibernates in the winter – it is the perfect time to make the most of being inside and catching up with friends. For some reason, summer flies by in a haze of barbecues, parties and outdoor activities, and while I enjoy those to the max, I cherish the bright, crisp winter months. It must be the Irish in me.

This was my August.

Broger's End

Birthday luxury



Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea

Hunter Valley

A vineyard with a view

Horsey

A friendly neigh-bour

Stormy Coogee

Stormy Coogee

Fearless July: A Picture a Day

July saw my life take a significant shift in direction, which is probably why it has taken me so long to complete this blog entry. Admittedly, three months is pretty slack, but it has been a roller coaster few months and I have only just had time to stop and catch my breath.

For me, July was a month of discoveries and new beginnings. I decided to leave my old job after a very long period of uncertainty and subsequent buyout of the business. It was a very easy decision to make and one that forced my hand after feeling undervalued for far too long.

It was a big decision, but I knew it was the right one. For the first time in three years I felt confident of my own achievements and truly believed the world was my oyster. Then, before I had time to panic about the direction in which my life was heading, I was headhunted for a job that I love and have been doing for almost two months now.

It’s funny how things turn out. The timing of that phone call could not have been more perfect. After years of feeling disillusioned, lost and completely and utterly exhausted by my ‘career’, I finally feel rejuvenated and have rediscovered my passion for writing, editing and all things creative.

While leaving my old job was the most significant change in my life in July, and probably the most significant of the year, the month itself was a great period of reflection and discovery for me.

I had time off in between jobs to ‘sort things out’ and while I had grand plans to ‘get stuff done’, I didn’t even make a dent in my to-do list. Instead, I enjoyed it for what it was – time to breathe.

It is so rare in today’s hectic world that you find yourself with time to simply just enjoy all the day has to offer. Rising early, going for a run, walking by the beach, cooking, reading good books, the sound of birds, catching up with friends and spending quality time doing what you love with the people you love the most.

Sydney can be utterly exhausting, and the weight of that exhaustion has overwhelmed me these past three years, but July signalled the start of a new chapter for me. I feel happier, more confident and more positive about all aspects of my life, and for that I am extremely grateful.

This was my July.

Cabbage roses

Beautiful cabbage roses

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Gorgeous Samantha Wills earrings

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A reminder of home in Sydney

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The ocean pool in my front yard

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The new local hotspot – Coogee Pavilion

Cosy June: A Picture a Day

June marked the start of winter here in Sydney, and that means wholesome food, creature comforts and the overwhelming urge to hibernate. That, my friends, pretty much sums up my entire month.

When I tell people back home in the UK that it gets cold in Australia, they simply do not understand. Or rather, they simply don’t believe it. To them, Australia is all about the sunshine and beaches seen in Home & Away, the fact that there is a winter here at all seems unfathomable.

Admittedly, winter in Sydney is never as cold as London in the depths of January, but the colder months do bring an unfamiliar chill to the bones that make me yearn for nourishing soups, roast dinners and log fires. Admittedly, I don’t have a log fire, just a rather rubbish electric heater that makes me faint and curse when the bill arrives in the springtime, but that’s another story.

I was also a bit under the weather in June, you know the way – scratchy throat, itchy eyes, the imminent threat of a full blown cold – but it simply didn’t materialise. This meant that I was more than happy to stay inside, embrace my Nigella-esque skills and cook to my heart’s content, which is why food is a key theme in this month’s blog.

On the one night I did venture out, it was with relish. Some dear friends, Mr B and myself all hit a Mexican restaurant in Crows Nest on Sydney’s North Shore for a night full of laughter,  Coronas and super sized burritos. The food was great – top notch Mexican cuisine in this city is hard to find – and of course, it tasted a whole lot better sporting a giant sombrero. That makes it really authentic…right?

Here is June.

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Mayhem in little Mexico

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My first attempt at pumpkin bread

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Beautiful sunflowers from my gorgeous man

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Blustery Sydney

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Baked Eggs – Turkish Style

Marvellous May: A Picture a Day

I have been thinking about this blog post for a few weeks now, but for some reason, the creative juices were just not flowing. Maybe it was the fact that May was a bit of a mixed bag for me or maybe it is because I am going through something of a ”shift’ in the direction I want my life to take. Either way, the words just weren’t happening.

To be honest, I am not entirely sure they are ready to flow now, but the end of June is fast approaching and I haven’t even written my Picture a Month update for May yet. My sister Fiona is going to kill me.

Before you stop reading, don’t worry, this isn’t a post about how shit my life is, far from it. I know I am very fortunate indeed, but I have reached a certain level of dissatisfaction in my current job that I have not experienced before, and it has really got my thinking about my next career move.

Is it post-holiday blues? Who knows. Either way, no one wants to read about employment woes when there are so many other wonderful life experiences to cherish.

One of those was welcoming the month of May in the glorious Pacific Ocean paradise of Vanuatu. We went for Mr B’s birthday, and got to appreciate 10 days of pure unadulterated blissful pleasure. I cannot tell you enough about this little known country. It is breathtakingly beautiful and so untouched. A real gem. And what’s more, only THREE hours from Sydney, a rarity in itself.

The fact that we stayed in the most remote of locations, with limited (read: none) access to the internet and no television meant I had time to think, relax and truly enjoy life’s precious moments with Mr B. You know, the ones that often get swallowed up in the mayhem of everyday life – the sound of his voice, the colour of the sky, the smell of the ocean. It was a feeling of complete and utter happiness.

Needless to say, coming back to a cold and busy Sydney was a shock to the system, but there is only one thing to do when you have post-holiday blues. Book another one. Yes, that’s right, within two weeks of landing back on Australian soil, we had already booked our return flight to London for Christmas.

Boy am I excited. Not only do I get to see my beautiful family and friends at the most amazing time of year, but I also get to go to spend a WHOLE MONTH with them. Even more exciting is the trip I am taking with my Mum and sisters to visit the Christmas markets and beautiful European city of Vienna. I am literally counting down the days.

Obviously, returning from one expensive holiday to immediately book another means the rest of May was relatively quiet. Winter in Sydney is coming, in fact, it is already here, and this means evenings snuggled on the sofa, with a good book and a glass of red, another one of life’s most treasured moments.

This was my May.

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Tanna Island, Vanuatu

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A room with a view

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One final sunset in paradise

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A misty morning

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Winter in Sydney

Awesome April: A Picture A Day

I don’t mean to be repetitive, but I really don’t know where time is going. We are already almost half way through 2014, and I feel like I have done so much and have done nothing much at all – all at the same time.

But looking back at the month of April, I can see that I have been pretty busy. It kicked off with a delightful and surprise luncheon with one of my all time favourite food bloggers and awe-inspiring photographer, Katie Quinn Davies.

As an avid follower of Katie’s food blog, What Katie Ate, I entered a competition to be part of a ‘Girlie Lunch Shoot’ for her second cookbook, due out later this year. I was totally shocked but over the moon to be selected along with a bunch of other fabulous WKA fans, some of whom had travelled interstate to spend the day eating, drinking and sharing stories while being photographed by this incredibly talented woman. Yes, I am a bit of a fan.

Inspired by a day of meeting wonderfully creative women and making new Instagram friends at the WKA lunch shoot, I spent the weekend trying to recreate some of Katie’s recipes, namely her fantastic Italian sausage, bacon, roasted tomato and egg pizza, which quite frankly, was an absolute REVELATION.

I’m telling you, I can no longer eat take away pizza again. Well maybe I can, but this was so good I just want to make it all the time. Since then I have made a few pizzas with ingredients left over in the fridge and not only is it tasty, cheap and a good way to use up leftover pesto, turning tomatoes and a couple of bocconcini balls, IT IS FUN!

Obviously all this pizza eating meant that I have savoured my morning ritual – a slice of lemon and warm water. I have been doing this for quite a number of years now and I find there is no better way to start the morning. I just don’t feel right without it. It was recommended to me by a nutritionist to help aid digestion and cleanse my system and has become part of my daily routine. There is never a shortage of lemons in my house.

April was also the month that I got to catch up with my beautiful Swedish friend, Adam, and his gorgeous Finnish girlfriend, Terhi. Adam was one of the first friends I made when I moved to Cairns after arriving in Australia in 2009, and I have nothing but happy memories of the six months I spent living up in this beautiful part of the country.

I hadn’t seen Adam for four years, as he now lives back in Sweden, but he and his lady were in Sydney for his sister’s wedding, so a traditional Aussie barbecue and a few beers were in order to honour this reunion. The photo of the three of us together marked the start of a fantastic day that involved great company, fantastic dance moves and far too much alcohol.

And if that wasn’t enough, a hectic and fun filled month ended with a 10 day trip to the glorious Pacific Island country of Vanuatu to mark Mr B’s 30th birthday. It was our second visit to the so-called ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ and once again, this country and its people did not disappoint. Private islands, amazing snorkelling, dangerous boat trips, an active volcano, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake and some of the finest lobster I have eaten were just some of the memories we took with us back to Sydney. I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

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Ladies that lunch.

 

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The best pizza EVER.

 

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My morning ritual.

 

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Old friends are the best friends.

 

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South Pacific Paradise.

 

The Month of March: A Picture a Day

Is it mid April already? Time is flying by. I apologise for being rather tardy of late, but there have been so many things going on outside the blog that I have had little time to sit down and think, let alone actually write something. Still, that is no excuse.

March was a fabulous, if busy month, and choosing my top five moments has been very hard. The month was dominated by food, weather and glorious downtime, which I have been relishing with every inch of my being. You can never have enough down time, I feel.

The month kicked off with a fabulous breakfast at a new Coogee eatery called The Little Kitchen. Breakfast is my favourite meal, I LOVE it and rushing to eat in the morning puts me in a foul mood for the rest of the day. I just love that moment of solitude when I enjoy my first meal of the day and there is nothing more disappointing than a bad breakfast. Of course, at the weekend I like to be more sociable and venture out to enjoy the culinary delights of Coogee and the little beauty below more than exceeded my expectations.

Mr B was away for three days at a conference in March which meant three whole days of me-time. While I relished evenings of Downton Abbey catch ups, Sex and the City re-runs, and PLENTY of glossy mags, I also felt like I was missing a limb, especially when I seemed to revert back to my bachelorette ways in the kitchen. I’m talking solitary dinners of eggs on toast, eggs without toast, eggs with leftover vegetables and eggs in every God damn form known to man. That said, I did manage to sex it up with a fancy rye sunflower loaf that cost the earth and weighed a ton, so maybe I’ve stepped up in the world. Downton is clearly rubbing off.

March was also the setting of some CRAZY weather in Sydney. Rain has been rather plentiful since February unfortunately, but there was one storm that was out of this world. It loomed over Coogee like a massive spaceship and really was quite spectacular. I have never seen anything like it in my life, until the following week when it happened again. A sign of global warming apparently.

Of course, I cannot mention the month of March without a nod to St Patrick’s Day, when everyone wears green and everyone drinks black. It would have been rude to not raise a toast to my Irish heritage, but as I am no longer a spring chicken and struggle with drinking on a school night, I had to reign it in after two pints of Guinness – very sad. Even sadder was how rough I felt the next day, after only two pints. I should be disowned by my family.

And finally, March saw me tick off a visit to the final state/territory on my Australian mainland adventure – the Australian Capital Territory. Mr B and I went on a three day road trip to Canberra and were pleasantly surprised by the capital city. Canberra gets a raw deal sometimes, and while it may not have the beautiful beaches of Sydney, or the earthy culture of Melbourne, there is a fabulous community feel about the city. Everyone is friendly, the food is fab, and there are some cracking little bars hidden away if you know where to look, and the hotel we stayed in was utterly amazing. But more on that later.

Here was my March.

Amazing breakfast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avocado on toast with roasted tomatoes, poached eggs and buttermilk curd.

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One of life’s simple pleasures.

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The mother of all storms hits Coogee.

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A pint of the black stuff.

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The final piece of my Australian mainland adventure.