It’s good to talk.

2018 was a rollercoaster.

For some reason I decided to spend 2018 punishing myself for not being where I had pre-determined a 31 year old should be. I don’t have any children, nor do I have a ring on my finger. I don’t earn much money, and I’m still in an entry level job. I let my anxiety get the better of me on more than one occasion, which resulted in arguments and upsets. I like to be in control, but I felt like I had no control over where I was going or who I should be. I spent way too much time comparing my life to others via social media.

On paper I had a nice year. I made it to Budapest, Madrid, and Andalucia. I wrote about Budapest here. Then in the summer we went to Mad Cool Festival in Madrid. I’ve never been abroad to a music festival before, it was a far cry from a rainy Leeds Festival circa 2006. Saw loads of amazing bands – in no particular order, QOTSA, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Depeche Mode, Tame Impala, NIN, Underworld, Justice, James Bay, to name a few! A vast amount of gin and Fanta lemon was consumed, all in 30 degree heat!

I started a new job in February. Marketing. An area I’d been looking to get into for a while, and working at Bupa I was able to move sideways, but only on a seconded basis, which meant no pay-rise. But it did enable me to escape the bear trap of my previous manager. It wasn’t until I moved that I realised just how difficult she was making my life. My IBS settled down, and my work life became a much simpler place. However there was a continual underlying anxiety about the secondment coming to an end and the fear of not being able to secure a permanent role in the department, and having to go backwards, and back into the bear trap.

I rejoined the gym in May – a birthday present to myself. I turned 31 and the wobbly bits just don’t go away on their own anymore. I needed to exercise more seriously.

The summer was all a bit of a blur, anxiety took over and I found it all really really stressful. Looking back I tried to cram too much in and put too much pressure on myself. We drove to London for British Summertime in Hyde Park for Interpol and The Cure. And then drove all the way up to Cumbria to surprise my Dad for his 60th birthday, and then down to Clacton-on-Sea for a long weekend. I was exhausted. I sat in my parents garden on my own with a glass of wine wondering why I was so stressed – not able to put my finger on what was causing it – I should’ve been having a nice time?! I cried over stupid things, like a belated birthday present failing to arrive, and receiving a hug.

Come late August and my gorgeous boyfriend got a promotion at work. Something he’d been working towards for the last year and a half and absolutely thoroughly deserved. All I did with the great news was punish myself some more. A Harriet-pity-parade coming right towards me, and plowing right through our relationship. Why was I not earning as much as he was? I’m 5 years older than he is, so I should be doing better than this? How is he doing this? Why is he doing this to me? Why could I not be happy for him?

The following week we went to the villa, somewhere we have been together twice before, so a nice, no-pressure break. I wasn’t in the mood for a holiday, but I assured myself a week in the sun would fix everything. It didn’t. I was an anxious wreck. It made me never want to get on a plane again, or go somewhere remote again. We got home, had no hot water, the sky box wasn’t working, and my car had a flat tyre. I cried, a lot. I took myself to the doctors and the doctor diagnosed me with depression. 2 days later my boyfriend moved out, and my heart fell out of my arse.

Depression was a diagnosis I never ever thought I would ever get. I’ve had a lot of friends deal with depression, but I’ve always ignorantly thought that I wouldn’t be affected. That whole “oh it won’t happen to me” card. At this stage given that I was already gymming it, already seeing a therapist, already walking lots, the only option was medication. I’ve always seen anti-depressants as a slippery slope, so I was nervous to take medication, but at this point it was my last resort. The chemical imbalance in my body needed correcting. By talking to quite a few friends, I begin to learn that anti-depressants seem to be almost the norm. A couple of my close friends take them, their boyfriends take them, a friend’s girlfriend takes them, a friend’s Dad takes them. Is this the world we’re living in now, that we need medication to just survive?

In hindsight my boyfriend moving out was probably a good thing. I was able to find myself again. Discover who I was and what I enjoyed doing. We worked on our relationship, I started seeing my friends again, I had my own plans, the pills were dramatically helping my mood and life started to become a better place again. I needed to teach myself the importance of doing things for me. Doing things I wanted to do, instead of permanently compromising to make others happy. Being selfish.

Fast forward to the new year, and I’ve been made permanent in my marketing job. There’s no longer that fear of heading backwards. I should’ve had more confidence in myself. My boyfriend and I are in the best place we’ve ever been. We laugh, we joke, we smile. Our home is my happy place, and my therapist signed me off.

This year we don’t have any plans. We now both have jobs that allow us to be able to take last minute holiday instead of having to request it 6 months in advance, so we’re going to live more day-to-day. It’s unusual for me to not have any holidays booked or in the pipeline but I’m looking forward to 2019. My best friend is getting married in June, followed by another close friend in August. I’m looking forward to crying happy tears.

And I’m looking forward to multiple impromptu pints with these two. The man on the left has listened to me moan all year, listened to my problems, offered advice, and amazingly still wants to hang out with me! The man in the middle is my world.

Onwards and upwards. Happy New Year. xoxo

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A tapas feast.

Since buying our own home, my kitchen is now my best friend.

Living in rented places previously I never felt like I could really be myself in the kitchen. When you share that space with another person (not your other half) you feel an obligation to just cook and be quick and tidy and move on. At least I did anyway!

This kitchen however, is mine. My boyfriend knows how to cook, and does like to be involved, but he claims “but it tastes so much better when you make it…”.

Luckily for him I love to cook.

Another perk of having our own place is being able to throw dinner parties. Something I dreamed of doing since I was old enough to be left alone in the kitchen. I can remember planning dinner parties for my mum and dad when I was just knee high to a grasshopper, locking them out of the kitchen while I made a mess, mainly, and a 3 course dinner for them.

The satisfaction of cooking a great meal and people enjoying it is something I just love.

So, on to the dinner party. Tapas. I love tapas. I love Spain. Last year I went 3 times, this year I’m going twice. I love everything about it. I love going to tapas restaurants here in Manchester. But strangely enough it’s not something I ever cook at home. I spent some time researching recipes and came up with the following menu:

  • Chicken and Chorizo Stew
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Garlic Mushrooms
  • and “something with aubergine”
  • Flatbreads

I started with the chicken and chorizo stew in my slow cooker in the morning. I found the recipe on BBC Good Food. It’s quite often my first port of call for recipes, it’s really reliable. I fried off the chorizo and chicken thighs first to get a bit of colour and then just threw it all in! Recipe is here. The only thing I changed was that I used boneless chicken thighs (I hate taking meat off the bone on my plate!!) and I only put in 6 as the slow cooker was pretty full! 8 hours later, and it smelt absolutely delicious.

The Patatas Bravas was another BBC Good Food recipe. Amazingly I’ve never made this before, but it was so simple. Even greater that I could make the sauce the night before – a dinner party advantage!

The garlic mushrooms were my own creation. Simply a whole loads of mushrooms, a combination of white and chestnut mushrooms in a pan with some Frylight (not sure why I’ve only just discovered this!), garlic, and garlic salt, lid on and just simmered them down til they were soft, then chucked a load of chopped fresh parsley on top.

The “something with aubergines” turned into simply just roasted aubergine. I cut them into 2 inch strips, coated with some olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper and whacked them in the over for 30-40 mins. Perfection.

Finally, flatbreads. These are actually from a greek recipe I discovered a few months back. They are DELICIOUS. I’ve made them several times now for a few different people and the response has been unanimous. I added them to my tapas menu as I needed something for people to mop up the stew with. The recipe is on this page here. (Incidentally if you want a Greek feast over a Spanish feast I’ve previously made the Greek Chicken off the same page which was also delish.) You simply mix together flour, yeast, olive oil, warm water and warm milk until a smooth ball is formed. I obviously use my stand mixer so it’s done in minutes. You then leave to stand for an hour or so. Then divide the mixture, roll out into rough circles, and cook in a dry pan til coloured on each side. The only slightly tedious thing is that you can only do one at a time (unless of course you have multiple pans!!) and the recipe makes 8, so takes a little while, but if you do it whilst sipping Prosecco I find you barely notice the time…

A last minute addition to my menu was a butterbean mash. I needed some sort of starter, and found a recipe in my Nopi cookbook. The recipe is actually on his website here. A friend of mine kindly gave me some fresh rosemary from his garden and I served it on toasted slices of a Co-op Mediterranean Bloomer. (The Co-op have a surprisingly great selection of fresh breads!)

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And there we go, a table filled and ready to go. What pleases me most about the photo below is the table. The table belonged to my Grandma, I inherited it when she passed away a couple of years ago. I love that the table is marked, and scratched, and faded, and uneven. Every blemish on this table is an enjoyed moment at my Grandma’s house. It’s a family Christmas dinner, or a birthday celebration, or just a cup of tea looking out of the window. Some people might see it as scruffy table that needs a good up cycling, but to me it’s beautiful memories.

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My various tapas dishes I have accumulated from markets in Spain. There’s a gorgeous market in Frigiliana every week, and my traditional tapas dishes and my green salad bowl were all about 3 or 4 euros each!  I try to sneak a few into my luggage each time I go.

So there we have it, my tapas feast was a success. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, and hope I’ve inspired you in some way to recreate some of the recipes, or to just take a trip to Spain to try the food! Happy eating! xoxo

 

 

 

 

31

The fact that I’ve been 30 for over a year now and have just turned 31 is slightly alarming.  The year seems to have completely flown by but on reflection, a whole lot of stuff has happened.

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Sadly there’s been some lows. A close friend has been poorly, and of course my beautiful home town was the victim of a terrorist attack – the Manchester bombing. The combination of these events triggered several panic attacks, they just make you realise how precious life and health is.

Fortunately the lows have been outweighed with some highs! Lets talk holidays. My 30th year was kicked off in Barcelona, an absolutely brilliant birthday present from my very kind and generous boyfriend.

We booked a last minute trip to my parent’s Andalucian Villa in July, and then again in September accompanied with some friends.

We also then made it to Budapest in March. So definitely can’t complain with the travelling involved in my 30th year.

Other highlights include…

Buying a flat! On the 12th May 2017 the purchase of our flat completed. I’ve spent the last year putting our stamp on it, and genuinely look forward to coming home every day. Still a few things to do; one day I’ll be able to afford wardrobe doors, and you can never have too many house plants.

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I got a new job! After years of working in Customer Service and then in numbers and spreadsheets, I’m finally able to put my creative background into use in the marketing department. Am I earning the salary I thought I would be on at 31 – no. But am I going in the right direction – hopefully yes. Swings and roundabouts.

Went to some great gigs, Queens of the Stone Age, Mastadon, Deftones.

Also, in my education as a Manchester United fan, I made it to Wembley for the FA Cup Semi Final. A very entertaining day out!

So to summarise, it’s been a good year all in all.

What’s strange about being over 30 is that the things your mum told you you wouldn’t care about when you’re older are so true. Things I no longer care about are as follows:

  • What people think about me – if people don’t like me that’s fine, I probably don’t like them either 🙂
  • Conforming – don’t get me wrong, I like to follow the fashions etc, but it will always be my own version of them. I also wonder at what age I will stop dying my hair blue, or pink, or purple, but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.
  • Gossip – most gossip I hear now my response tends to be an eye roll followed by a muttering of “grow up”.
  • Friendships dying out – my mum always told me friendships would grow apart, and I used to be so worried by it, but the friends you need stick around, I promise, don’t worry about the others.
  • Nights out – I’m all for a few pints, but if I’m not in bed by 12 I will turn into a pumpkin.
  • Fear of missing out – nope, just don’t get it anymore.

Things I do care about:

  • Honesty – deceitfulness and lying is just unacceptable.
  • Being happy – genuinely the overriding factor in anything, if it doesn’t make you happy don’t do it.
  • Cosy nights in – netflix and chill. G&T, duvet, sofa.
  • Having a handful of close, reliable friends – they’re the best.

So there we go. Cheers to being 31, and here’s to the next 12 months. xoxo

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A City Break.

I always seem to be having a bit of a competition with myself to squeeze in more holidays in the year than I did the previous year. Last year I managed a fair amount (New York, Curacao, Barcelona, Andalusia, and then Andalusia again!) so when Ryanair cancelled my boyfriends flight for a lads holiday he had in October, and gave him £80 compensation in vouchers, I was well on the way to booking our first holiday for this year!

In 2007, I went interrailing, an amazing experience, which I urge anyone and everyone to do! 6 weeks, several trains, and 10 different European destinations. After a whistle stop tour of the various cities, there’s always been a few I’ve wanted to go back to. Budapest was one of those. Here’s a flashback to 2007. And here’s a quick delve into our first 2018 adventure.

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We arrived late on Sunday evening, and got a taxi straight to our apartment, taxi cost a whopping 6900HUF, seems a phenomenal amount, but it’s actually only 20 quid, the currency is bonkers. We stayed in an apartment in Buda, which we found through booking.com. A really nice, spacious, modern flat, situated just at the bottom of Castle Hill, and a stones throw from the Chain Bridge that takes you over the Danube into Pest.

Day 1. 

Some friends were coincidentally in Budapest at the same time, so we arranged to meet up and head to the Szechenyi Spa, you know, the big famous yellow building you see on all the postcards. Interestingly it has about 5 different entrances, and they are not universal! After doing a 360° tour of the building we finally found an entrance that would accept our online booking and we went straight for the outdoor thermal baths.

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We’d also booked their Thermal Beer Spa. Ultimately, it’s 45 minutes with a beer tap, some Hungarian snacks, and a hot bath. Brilliant. The bath water actually includes malt, hops and yeast; so the water mixture helps to rejuvenate your skin, reduce the appearence of acne and cellulite, and cleans your pores supposedly. It was good fun anyway!

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Now that we’d had the taste of beer the obvious choice was to head here for some wine, and here for some dinner, and then onto the Ruin Pubs. If you drink the local sparkling wine (closest thing to prosecco) it will set you back around £1.50 a glass! Beers and ciders are around £2.50 a pint, so you can imagine how sore our heads were the next morning.

 

Day 2. 

Brunch. I am a brunch fan if you didn’t already know. Brunch > everything. Obviously I had researched the best place for brunch in Budapest and it told me it was Cirkusz. The reviews were spot on, and it sorted us right out.

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Next, to the Great Market Hall. I remember going here all those 11 years ago, and being slightly overwhelmed by the amount of salami on offer. A really impressive building and an even more impressive amount of paprika available to buy! Naturally I bought a tin.

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Onto St Stephen’s Basilica, a gorgeous building – you get neck ache in there! Goes without saying that it’s worth a visit!

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I’d been dying to try one of the local delicacies – Kürtőskalács – AKA the Chimney Cake. It was huge, quite sickly, a bit tough, and quite expensive. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have bothered. You can see the size of it in this pic!

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Day 2 was finished off with an amazing meal at KonvyBar & Restaurant. A small, quaint, friendly restaurant in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest. The interior is like a library, and they base their menu off a book each month (KonvyBar is translated to Book Bar). The thought and dedication that goes into each course is amazing, and their service is everything you could want. I would happily give it 10/10 and would recommend anyone planning to visit Budapest to go there. Reasonably priced as well – £75 for the two of us to have 3 courses and wine, given the standard of the food!

 

Day 3.

The sun was shining!!! So to the top of a hill we went! Castle Hill, right behind our apartment. We lined our stomachs with Langos, a traditional Hungarian cuisine, it’s leavened dough fried in oil, basically like a big flat donut. So feeling slightly sick, we sauntered up the hill. The views were amazing.

The hill features Matthias Church, and we splashed out 3000HUF (£8.50…!) to go to the top of the tower. 194 steps up, and very narrow and steep. But 100% worth the panoramic views from the top. Fun fact: One of the bells in the tower weighs over 4 tonnes (4 tonnes!!!) so they only ring it 4 times a year!

Now the next place had been recommended to me by everyone I spoke to about Budapest. New York Cafe at Boscolo. It’s dubbed the most beautiful cafe in the world, and it is just breathtaking. It wasn’t cheap – £30 for two drinks and two cakes, but it was definitely worth the trip. Entertainment in there alternated between a pianist, and a small group of musicians, playing the violin, harp, piano and double bass, creating a fantastic atmosphere. Definite thumbs up from me, patisserie cakes to die for.

And as if we’d not had enough food for one day, we needed to have some goulash. Can’t go to Hungary and not have some goulash!! At a cool little street food place – Karavan – we spotted a bloke serving goulash in a loaf of bread. Yum. Goulash = ✔. Washed down with a quick pint in a bath tub back at Szimpla Kert, one of the amazing ruin pubs.

Day 4.

The weather turned on us on day 4, must’ve known it was home time. Fortunately we found a cute little coffee shop to sit in, really hipster little joint, hidden away in a courtyard behind a main road – Fekete Brew Bar – really nice coffee, and we chilled in there for ages without feeling any pressure to buy anything else.

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As the rain was preventing us from doing any more exploring there was only one other thing to do – eat. And our final meal was a big one. Mazel Tov, part of the whole ruin pub scene in the Jewish quarter, a beautiful place, and the food was just great. It more than filled us up for the rest of the day, for our flight home.

It was a great little holiday, Budapest is a great place, as great as I remember, a lot of historic and beautiful buildings, some great restaurants, and some awesome views. View pictured below is from the Szechenyi Chain Bridge looking over to Buda.

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xoxo.

Why do we have two bottles of soy sauce?

One of life’s great questions. Or just something that has bothered me for a few days. In a life so strictly organised I can’t understand how this has passed me by. But the evidence is there loud and clear for all to see; in the cupboard above the kettle, there are two open bottles of soy sauce.

I should introduce myself. I’m Harriet, and this year I’ve turned 30, and become a homeowner, and my organisational skills have peaked. I’m inquisitive (not nosey!), and I’m interested in everything. By day I’m trapped in a corporate world of spreadsheets and numbers and by night I’m counting the bottles of soy sauce in the cupboard.

In all seriousness, when I’m not re-organising the cupboards (something my boyfriend tells me I do way too much), I’m busy planning our next adventure. Whether it be to a new brunch spot in town, to a new European city, or just a night out with friends, I like to have an agenda.

I’m not very good at doing my make-up or doing my hair, but I absolutely love life. I’m not 100% sure what this blog will bring, but hopefully a bit of entertainment, inspiration and general nice-ness.

xoxo