21 February 2018

The Joy of Sunday

When I was little Sundays were much the same every week: church in the morning, then the six of us gathering round the dining room table for a roast, followed by my mum's apple crumble or magic chocolate pudding. Once lunch had settled it was quiet time for an hour with our 20p mix-up sweets while my parents read the newspaper. My brother, sisters and I twiddled our thumbs, waiting for play-time to resume. Not that there was ever much play on a Sunday, anyway. Sometimes we'd go to the beach for a walk, but usually it was Songs of Praise and a slow evening with eggy bread for tea, a bath and watching Ballykissangel on the telly. Sundays used to be very... Sunday. But despite their monotony, Sundays were always comfortable and focused heavily on food, which can only be a good thing.

Before you get married and have children you have your twenties – a period of time I never anticipated until I was in the middle of it. Now, at 25, my friends are my family and these Sundays are the best ones I've had since I was six, sitting cross-legged in the fire-lit living room with a glass of milk and a biscuit while my sister plaited my hair.

There is something different about every Sunday now, but my favourites are those spent with my closest friends, catching up on each other's weeks and what we hope for the next one over baked goods.

Last Sunday's spread – brown butter banana muffins, chocolate chip cookies and blackberry and plum crumble cake – was enough to stir up all the memories of Sundays past. Balancing moments of reflection and being present helps me to be thankful for everything I have right here, right now.

Sunday food is indulgent and filling, particularly in winter but other seasons enjoy the abundance of it, too. While we warm up with cups of coffee and tea in February, ice cold glasses of milk and iced tea keep us cool in June. Baked goods work all year round, and so does great company. How do you like to spend your Sundays?

14 February 2018

Lent – What's the Point?

Mid-February is a good time to give something up; we're past the hopelessness of January and spring is in sight, but there's still a few dark mornings to wake up to before it's warm and we're all happy again. So, why not distract yourself from the misery of British weather and the winter-blues culture we have ingrained in ourselves and give up something you love? It makes total sense!

Cynicism aside, I actually love lent. For me, it's all about having a focus. I visited my good friend Jess last weekend, and while I was telling her about my plan to give up TV for lent, she pointed out that I always have to have a 'thing'. She's right. I'm a list-maker, a task-ticker. I like it. I don't know why - probably something a psychologist could figure out - but I know I'm not the only one.

It's easier to give something up when you know everyone else is doing it, too. I've got colleagues ditching the chocolate and friends taking up new fitness challenges. The solidarity is enough to make sure I stick to my TV ban.

Forty days and forty nights without Netflix, HayU (I cancelled my subscription, bye bye KUWTK), YouTube and, obviously, regular TV.

Why? The main reason is I hope to have more time to clear my mind and refocus on what I believe is important:

  • Being more mindful.
  • Nourishing my mind with literature - reading is so much better for your brain than TV.
  • Writing - in my diary, to my family, on this blog. I know it makes me happy so I'm making more time for it.
  • Exercising - namely running and yoga.
  • Morning/evening devotionals - last year my friend Emily told me about She Reads Truth, a Bible study app aimed at women who want to equip themselves with the word of God. I have tried and tried to get into a routine of spending time working through the studies available on the app but it's so much easier to eat breakfast in bed with the news on! I'm hoping to kick the habit once and for all and spend time with God instead.

Somehow, over time, TV has become more important than all of the above, and I'm worried it's turning me into a vapid, boring person I know I'm not. I dread to think how many hours I spend watching TV. Granted, it's mostly Netflix for an hour or so before bed, but when whole series are available to binge it's dangerous. So I've taken this challenge upon myself – no TV is my next 'thing'.

What are your thoughts on lent? Have you given up anything? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @wnwrote

7 February 2018

A Grown Up Trip to London

For country bumpkins (read: small-town-turned-small-city gals who like to be in bed by 10pm on a weeknight) London is another world. The New York of England, my big sister's best friend, a pre-teen sleepover – this place is exciting. 

While living in London is unimaginable, a day trip is thrilling. And spent with one of my best friends, it's even better. The best part is that we got to go on our own and do whatever the heck we wanted because we are grown ups.

Grown ups! Did you realise when you became one? Because I didn't, but one day I was, and whatever all those articles you read on Vice say, it's not all bad. In fact, it's mostly really great. 

My favourite part of being a grown up is getting paid a load of money* at the end of each month for going to an office near my house and doing some writing and chatting to nice people and drinking coffee and eating sweets. Imagine telling your teenage self all about your life in ten years time. If that doesn't make you love being a grown up I don't know what will. 

I like to spend my money on experiences, rather than things, so that's what Emily and I did, and with said payday cash we made Monmouth our first stop in London.

This place is a fave of mine and Em's. Monmouth is always busy, but the staff keep smiling, tapping away at coffee grinders and steaming gold-cap milk, their chunky knits and round glasses only adding to the wholesome aesthetic of the place. There's a blend of the day here and you get what you're given - it's always delicious. Check out my full review of Monmouth here

Next stop: across the road to Borough Market - the reason for this trip, really. Colour, character and wafts of various cuisines are enough to lure you in and keep you there for the day. Blood oranges come by the boxful and the sheer variety of mushrooms, lettuce and beetroot stirs a dream of doing my weekly fruit and veg shop here.

As it was Veganuary I was on the hunt for a vegan-friendly breakfast. I found a place making onion bhajis and I wish I had made a note of the name of it because it was the BEST one I have ever had. The perfect balance of flavour and spice, although it could have been crispier. 

I have a question: Why hasn't anywhere outside of the capital made cupcakes a staple yet? It's 2018 for goodness sake! I can't go to London every time I want a Lola's/Crumbs and Doilies/Hummingbird Bakery cupcake. Do they exist in Bristol and I'm just not aware of them? Seeing as there's a Lola's on every street corner in London I'm thinking they'd do just as well here. I got a vegan raspberry and lemon cupcake in the Oxford St Topshop branch, walked around with it all day and only ate it when I got back to Bristol, in a pub in Stokes Croft waiting for a Muncle gig to start. It was the most delicious vegan dinner I ate all month.

For lunch Em and I booked a table at Pizza East in Shoreditch. Not too fancy, not too laid back - think a mix of families and friends catching up pizza you can eat with your hands or cutlery - no judging. The space is undeniably Shoreditch with bare-brick walls and exposed pipework, but it suits the place and the kind of food on offer: unpretentious but spot on flavours, and the pizza crust is excellent on its own, which is always a good sign. Em ordered a truffle pizza and I had a mushroom and aubergine pizza with no cheese – the waiter was happy to guide me through the menu to find something vegan. Our olives and almonds were forgotten but we got them in the end and they weren't charged to our bill, so for a carafe of red and two pizzas we paid just £22 each, including service charge.

Say what you want about Shoreditch but the 60p rainbow bagels from Brick Lane's Beigel Shop are 100%. I bought two to take home, froze one for one of an inevitable late-for-work breakfast – and subsequently got accused of eating plasticine by colleagues while chowing down on my peanut butter and jam filled bagel. I may be an independent, fully functioning adult but my inner five year old lives on. My motto in life: embrace both.

*Not that much really but more than the pocket money I got as a kid

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