Friday, 2 October 2015

End of the old, flat hunting, airbnbs and pizza making

The last few days have been a blur. I can't actually believe all that's happened in less than a week.
I finished work on Friday the 25th which was actually really nice - I got presents and everyone was genuinely lovely and it feels quite strange to think it's all still going on there without me. Thank god I no longer have access to my emails because I'm too much of a control freak to not read and reply to them in my free time when I'm not even being paid for it.

So after all the WOOO I'M FREE celebrations featuring prosecco, port, and Indian food, Monday came, and me and Sarah booked in a zillion house viewings and drove down to London. I say a zillion - it was 5. But that's a lot when you completely forget to assess how far apart they all are and have to squeeze it all into one day. We also managed to sing along to Lily Allen for a solid 3 hours and eat mac n cheese and jelly snakes on the way down. So as car journeys go, I've had worse.

I wish I could say flat hunting was a fun whirl of 'OOH i'll put the lamp here, and the budgie here' but it really fucking is not. We knew renting out a full 2 bed flat rather than a room wasn't going to be super easy (and sadly a lot more expensive) but it is quite difficult to find a flat within a reasonable price range where one room isn't palatial with an ensuite, and the other a box. That was an issue for several. That, and the locations. The commute wasn't a huge issue for me, but my housemate is a nurse who works 12 hour days, and stretching it out to 14 including travel would just be horrific. But yeh, it would seem cheap flats are usually in horrific locations. Not even far away; just grim af. By the 3rd viewing we were feeling pretty disheartened, but it turned out to be really nice. Sadly the woman was a little ott and we had to fill in 8 million forms with details of every single aspect of our lives (including how much we owe on credit cards.. I think i'd have failed us on that alone) so she could make a decision. So there wasn't really a guarantee that if we chose her, she'd choose us. But it was an option. Luckily number 4 was fab. It has a smallish living/kitchen area but huge bedrooms, we both have our own bathrooms, and the location is FAB. 2 mins from Canary walk, 2 mins from Stratford and Westfield, and 15-20 mins from both our works. PERF. And it's on. IT. IS. ON. After a stressful few days of us both manically securing references, begging our parents for loans and my frigging megabus breaking down while I was already hysterical turning my 4 hour journey into an 8 hour journey, we're all ready to move in on MONDAY. I'm staying at Sarah's sister's on Sunday night because she is a number 1 babe and leaving all my stuff there when I go to work, then going straight from training to PICK UP THE KEYS. I do have the additional stress of getting and transferring the money in time - i need a card reader ASAP - but.., should finally all be ok. PHEW.

On Wednesday my new work had arranged a 'pizza making' session and I didn't really know what to expect, but it was actually loads of fun. And I feel so much better about Monday now, knowing the people I'm due to start with are fun and normal. The pizza making was a competition where we split into teams and had to first create a traditional one and then, while that was cooking, a 'creative' one. We took a little chance wit creative - I attempted a red wine and summer fruit jus by mushing fruit into my wine for the base, before rolling it into a swiss roll shape - and it did not pay off. But we one traditional. Clearly because I come from a family of pizza making champs.
The cooked creative is really not worth seeing - it was a pile of raw goo. However I obviously still ate it. Then me and another guy mineswept the other tables. Pizza 4 lyf.

Also, our training is in Chicago in two weeks time, so we had the chance to discuss that, too. And it sounds like it's going to be incredible. Way too much free booze (essentially a test) and limos and trips to college homecoming games.

Anyway, now to nap away all worries of how I can carry a giant suitcase and a handbag on the tube on my own. Hopefully some nice stranger will help me. And it's physically impossible for them to run away with it because it weighs about the same as a grown man.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

In Which I Take a Trip to Ireland

So I'm in Ireland. Currently. My mum lives here. With a full time job I don't get to come anywhere near as much as I like but I reached the stage where I just needed a break. And then I got my new job so it's broken up my notice period nicely.

Where my mum lives is dreamy. It's so nice having the option to hop on a bus to Dublin but also just wander off into the countryside and stroke donkeys and spot hares.

Anyway, here are some activity and food highlights in photo form.

Firstly, the most important. The delicious. See photos above.

1. Froyo at Yogism. Lunch was far too long away, so our Dublin day involved brunch in Froyo form. Mine was pb, chocolate and plain, with an absolute array of amazing toppings. I think there were peanut butter cups, little bits of mint aero, sprinkles, white chocolate, bueno sauce.. and more. I just can't remember. I only went with a small and ran out of room which was probably for the best. You're charged based on weight and if you guess correctly, you get it free. A cute concept but tbh, probably impossible.

2. Chocolate flapjack. My mum is the best baker ever. And bakes cakes etc for a local coffee shop. This batch included a mixed seed flapjack, and this chocolate one. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was one of the best things I've ever tried. I have a bit of an obsession with flapjack anyway atm, but wow. Just wow. Sadly it was to sell so I didn't get anywhere near enough. Again though, probably for the best.

3. Double chocolate cheesecake at Avoca. I had planned to be healthy on our shopping trip since we have plenty of cake at home. I failed when I saw the options. We technically got 3 things to share between us, but each picked one and mainly ate our own. I'm such a fail.

4. Homemade brownies. My step dad makes the best brownies I have ever tasted in my entire life ever. I've been here 5 days and I think I've had 7. I ate a whole tub. They are INCREDIBLE. And I have an awful habit of feeling like I need to make the most of every opportunity of cake. I couldn't possibly leave without eating it all. Knowing it could have been in my mouth. So I have gone slightly wild on the home baking front. But oh my god, those brownies. You just don't understand. Words can't do them justice. JUST LOOK.

I actually want to get another one out but only because I'm a fat pig. I'm actually so full it hurts.

5. Millionaire's shortbread at KC Peaches. The food there was incredible; it really was. My sister said when she lived there they only had one store and that in the last year another 2 have popped up. Which says it all. It's basically just 'hiya, serve yourself'. But there was hot food, pasta, just every kind of salad in the world. It was dreamy. And oh my god, their cake. I managed to resist buying any because it wasn't long since the froyo, and I had a wildly large plate of carbs masquerading as salad but they were giving out samples of this millionaire's shortbread and I had 4 little pieces. It was dreamy. The girl at the counter was like 'please take more' so I guess they weren't selling because they were actually the size of my head. All of their cake options were, which definitely isn't a bad thing. The only bad thing about the place was that it was pretty busy, and the staff SWOOPED down on our table and cleared my plate the second I put my fork down, and while my sister was still eating. Which was a tad uncomfortable. Katy then bent down to pick her phone up that she'd dropped and they cleared her plate while we both had our eyes off the table for about 8 seconds. She hadn't finished, and they were too quick for us to object. But it was pretty great food, anyway.

6. My mum's jam sponge. Again, another beautiful and homemade delight. I've just a slice in fact, as they are quite small. Today I've only had a scone, a slice of that and a brownie. I've practically starved myself, cake wise. But look how beautiful it is. And the sponge is so firm yet simultaneously soft. I don't even know how that's possible, but it is. And it works oh so well.

I had every intention of being healthy today. Ergh, oh well.

2 week detox time. Kinda. I do have a lot of friends to see and alcohol to drink..

Now, activity highlights:-

1. The cute little post box at the end of our lane. I've fallen in love with what my mum calls 'the round walk', which is basically a 4 mile loop which involves walking down our lane, down through the village, and then back to meet the lane again at the other end. I've eaten so much cake that I'm having to desperately up my exercising. I did try the gym on my first day here but.. yeh. The less we say about that, the better. Let's just say it wasn't particularly well equipped. Or maintained. But I have resigned myself to a slight weight gain this week. I just fucking love cake.

2. Hippity's in Temple Bar. Me and my sister took a little outing to Dublin on Wednesday, just to wander round and drink a lot of coffee. This was one of the spots we settled at. The buses aren't exactly ideal when you live in the middle of nowhere, so we had a lot of time to kill. And that involved a lot of caffeine fuel.

3. Avoca, in Rathcoole. This place is a middle class shopper's DREAM. Fresh food, pies, mohair and lambs wool throws, every kind of bizarre & obscure health food/baking ingredient imaginable - it was dreamy. My mum had been looking for beetroot powder. I found cheesecake.

4. The Christmas display in Brown Thomas. I'm so glad summer is over. Autumn and Winter are everything, and Brown Thomas now have the majority of a whole floor dedicated to glittery and beautiful decorations. I CANT WAIT FOR CAROLS AND CANDLES AND LIGHTS.

5. Colourful buildings in Temple Bar. All of Dublin is beautiful, and one of my favourite places, but Temple Bar is definitely the most photo worthy. It's the kind of the vintage, quirky quarter. Lots of typically Irish bars, cute caf├ęs and antiquey, trinket shops.

6. 'The View'. The view of the valley down from our house and what's known to everyone as 'the view'. It's also one the round walk route. Ah, the Wicklow Mountains.

And there we have it. We're up bright and early in the morning to fly to Newcastle for a couple of days on a routine family visit. I feel like I should do the round walk again and punish myself for my cake sins but meh, it's getting dark. Might just pop the kettle down and watch Bake Off.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Office Politics: In Which I Learn a Valuable Life Lesson

"A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” 

- Roald Dahl, The Twits.

The above is one my favourite quotes. And I think it's true in reverse, too. It's not just something your mum says to make you feel better when people are mean; the people who make the petty, bitchy comments are the ones who look like the arseholes.

Nobody's perfect, obviously. And I'm definitely not. I've done and said stupid things in the heat of the moment/in arguments that I didn't mean and hated myself afterwards but, in general, I do really try my hardest to consider other people's feelings and just be NICE. So, when other people don't, it does catch me kinda off guard.

Without going into the ins and outs of it, on Monday one of my colleagues sent a really bitchy email about me to someone else in the company, and then forwarded it to the other 2 people in our department. There's only 4 of us. Unbeknownst to her, clearly, I have access to one of their emails from when I used to assist her on her days off and saw it come up. And was able to read it.

This woman is twice my age, and I have genuinely been nothing but nice to her. I talk to her all the time, we laugh, we get on etc etc. I actually thought we got on really well. But what she said was completely unnecessary and completely pointless. And from how the message was phrased, it really made me feel like people had been discussing me behind my back. And who knows, maybe they have.

I was actually pretty upset, but managed to hold it together until after 5 when I swiftly rang my dad to wail and explain the story. "She's jealous," was his simple response. "You're young and you're about to leave for an amazing new job. And she's staying there."

Whether that's true or not, and at the risk of sounding all 'holier than thou', I really just can't get my head around what would drive someone to do something so petty and pathetic just for the pure sake of it. Like, how can you be so friendly to someone's face and then turn on them in a heartbeat to score some bff points with someone else? I just don't get it. And, consequently, haven't really known how to act. Luckily, I have this week and I'm currently sat in a warm woolly fleece, drinking coffee in Ireland as I type. But for the rest of week, everything just felt so fake. I can't really hold grudges and, tbf, I'd only suffer myself if I sulked had noone to talk to. So I just got on with my work and chatted back merrily when anyone made conversation. Although no more of my cereal bars for you, mate.

But it's just really sad that this sort of thing still happens. And that I genuinely had no idea. I know other people who have had pretty negative experiences at work, especially with middle aged women. Who've been blanked, and literally spat at over nothing. So in comparison, I haven't had it too bad. But I really thought bitchiness and kinda, well, bullying, was something people grew out of. You're meant to hit 25 and be a total proper grown up; with all the maturity and all the answers. Right? But I'm 25 in about 6 weeks, and still feel like a kid whose managed to blag her way into a super cool grown up party and any minute now, someone is going to march over, snatch the beer out of my hand and shout NO, YOU, GET OUT. 

I suppose that's what being a grown up is. Everyone eventually reaches an age where they're like "right, time to be an adult now", and acts accordingly. Not doing all the things that are 'too young' etc etc are conscious, and reluctant, choices. Thinking everyone has it so sorted, when actually everyone else is doing exactly the same. Everyone is just playing at being a grown up, pretending we've got it down, and wearing the odd pair of sensible shoes because well, that's what people our age DO. And, occasionally, people slip up and their inner 14 year old comes out to play.

Anyway, I could confront it and maybe if I didn't only have 2 weeks left there, I would. But for now, I'm simply going to rise above it. I spent about 24 hours feelings shitty and incredulous, then suddenly woke up thinking "Hey, I've got something that someone else is actually envious of. I've got it pretty good." And instead of feeling sad and jaded, I felt positive. Yeh, I'm really happy and I'd like to share that happiness with the people around me, but we can't have it all. I feel a little bit worried that maybe my innocent excitement might have been wrongly interpreted as me rubbing it in people's faces and thinking I'm oh-so-superior, but all it was was just that - me being excited and not being able to keep it to myself. I know I haven't done anything wrong. And this lesson really, really makes me want to check my behaviour, read into everyone's actions, and start questioning whether any office friendships I have or am ever likely to make will be genuine.

But why the fuck should I??! If people want to gang up on the youngest and snipe behind her back, fucking let them. I'll be nice, and I'll be me. And people who make unwarranted and unnecessary comments can be the ones who need to questions their actions. And be left looking stupid.

CHIN UP. The end is nigh. Not everyone's going to have something nice to say, no matter how nice you are to them. It happens. It's probably going to happen again. But as long as I'm happy who I am and how I treat people, who the fuck cares. I'm going to eat a cheese scone now. [[insert blonde hand-waving emoji here]]

Sunday, 30 August 2015

In Which I Try My Hand at.. Spiralising

I want to eat healthily, I really do. I enjoy healthy food, but I also enjoy.. everything else. All the time.
I'll paint you a little picture; last night (well, last night as I write this, probably 10 years ago by the time it finally gets posted), there was an incident. Just as I was settling down to sleep, I heard a flutter. From years of living in the countryside, I've developed a pretty incredible skill. It's an in-built daddy long legs radar. So I turned on the light and, lo and behold, there he was. The evil bailiff come to kick me out of my room. And he succeeded. I ran. And spent the night in the spare room. I'm not even ashamed, it's a super comfy bed. But anyway the point is, I was awake in the middle of the night. As I made the trip from room to room it suddenly struck me that I wanted a mugcake. And that I deserved a mugcake after being so rudely evicted. So I had a casual bed mugcake. At 2am.

It's that sorta thing.

I'd been meaning to invest in a spiraliser for so long. I'm not at all an advocate for cutting carbs - if I don't eat carbs I'm tired and hungry and just binge. So I love spaghetti and quite frankly, anything in moderation is fine. But I just found the idea intriguing. And I like gadgets. But like most things, it was added to the list of  'one day I will..' and forgotten about. And then my friend got one. A real life person I know, and not just through Instagram. So I journeyed to her house to sample. We had zoodles with a mascarpone and tomato sauce, and I bought one from Amazon there and then.

This is the model I opted for:

I can't take credit for any part of that decision making; it was as a result of Sophie's thorough research. And I'd seen it in action. It did the job. She assured me she'd read zillions of reviews and it came out on top. So yup, decision made.

My first take was a mild disaster. Whilst just peeling off the protective sticky plastic from my chosen blade, I sliced a huge chunk out of my finger. It hurt, and then I was at a disadvantage having to do everything one handed from then on. I then, in an unrelated accident, tripped over a step as the zoodles were boiling and pulled off my toenail, so it really was just a disastrous half hour of blood and plasters and kitchen roll. I'll spare you the photos.

So, let's move onto take two.

I bought fresh courgettes for this one, which did seem to help. The thing itself is pretty easy to use, the only frustration being that as well as spirals, the blades simultaneously produce little crescent moon shapes as well, like so:

The setting options are either crescent moons, crescent moons and large spirals, or crescent moons and thinner spirals. Tbf it really doesn't make a difference. It just looks slightly less pretty.

It's still not really as easily as the tutorials make it look, because I did find you have to push quite hard to stop whatever you're slicing from dislodging, but eventually you're left with:

at which point it's easy, just whack it in a pan with some boiling water and leave for a while. They do actually cook pretty quickly, and I guess it's personal preference as to how hard you want them, but they do get kind of watery and soggy, so less boiled is a bit better. This time, after they'd simmered, I put them into a frying pan to dry them out slightly, and added some olives, tomatoes and pesto. During my previous, less successful attempt, I added mushrooms too. I'm obviously still at the experimental stage, but anything that expels water as it cooks isn't particularly helpful. Unless you're adding a lot of sauce.

One of my jobs at the moment whilst my dad is away is to water the greenhouse and pick and eat all the ripe tomatoes as they appear. The fact that I get to eat them all is probably the only reason I remember to it, but the ones that are ripening at the moment are really cute and miniature, and made the overall dish look really pretty.

So there we have it.

Overall verdict; much better and will definitely make again. I devoured this in about 2 seconds. It was completely amazing.

A spaghetti alternative is really is not. It's just a completely different experience. In the above form anyway. But eat it simply for what it is, and it's pretty darn good.

For take three, I was slightly more ambitious and opted for sweet potato fries. I was a little dubious that the contraption could even handle cutting it but, it just about did. It was a bit of a faff because it mangled a lot at the end and kept dislodging and I eventually gave up and just roasted the second half of the potato. It was a pretty large one, though. And I was hungry and impatient.

Anyway, what it did yield I sprayed with some low cal mock oil spray, doused in a teeny bit of actual oil, sprinkled with paprika, salt and pepper, and threw in the oven.

They cooked a lot more quickly than I was expecting and did end up a liiittle burned, however, were really good. I mean really.

I am so good at this cooking lark.

Friday, 28 August 2015

In Which I Start Breaking the News

So, picture the scene.

It's a Monday evening. I'm still at work. Yes, until 9pm. After arriving at 9am. Things are bleak.

Then *ping* (not really, my phone is permanently on silent, more like *flash*) and up pops an email.

Oh, it's from my new job people.

They want me to start on the 5th of October.


So, the rest of this week has been a bit of a blur of 'omg how do I sort everything out in 5 weeks? I need a FLAT. I need to hand my notice in. Oh God I need to get those boots fixed that I pulled the zip off about 18 months ago'.

5 weeks might seem like a long time, but oh my god it is not.

And my dad clearly sent a group text out within about 12 seconds of me telling him the news, because I received a sudden surge of 'wooo well done' texts from family members. Thanks, Dad.

So, in no particular order, I have begun tacking -

  • Throwing out clothes that I don't wear. To make room for new ones obv. This is deciding whether they're ebay-able, charity shopable, clothes bankable, binable etc etc.
  • Buying the new clothes. Cue trip to Meadowhall in T-12 hours. I need a coat. I need shoes. I need some smart trousers. And just new everything in general.
  • Getting my tablet screen fixed. I stood on it about 2 years ago. It's time. £67 pounds down and the UPS guy came and collected it from my office. My colleague asked what I was doing, I explained, 'Oh, but couldn't you have just bought a new one off eBay for that?!' Shh. No.
  • Getting my KG boots fixed. They were probably under warranty when I first ripped the zip off. That was again, about a year ago. Now it means asking round cobblers' to see whether that's something they do. (Is it??)
  • FINDING A FLAT. This is taking up far too much of my time at the moment. I'm sending Sarah 800 links a minute which she definitely doesn't have time to click on. But frustratingly, they're all either available right now, or they get let before I could ever get there to view them. I called about one today that had been up for 54 MINUTES. Nope. Gone. And then the guy went on a 14 minute sales pitch without taking a single breath about every single other property they have on offer before I could get a word in to be like 'yeh.. thanks.. I'm at work so.. bye'. Current plan is to drive down the weekend before, schedule 7 million viewings. And pounce.
  • Trying to shop myself buying homewear. This is by far the most difficult task. WORLD MAP PRINT BUNTING!! No. You don't even have walls yet. Stop it.
  • Getting my roots done. Oh god, when am I even free to fit that 10 hour trip in.
  • Seeing all my favourites before I leave. This sucks. Two of my best friends in the world are here and I am going to miss them so so so so much. This is soppy and silly but WAAAAH. 
  • Trying not to be a fat whale. 'Treat yoself/new job' chocolate is acceptable ONCE. Not every day. I don't really need the extra expense of having to buy new clothes AGAIN in two weeks when I go back up a clothing size. Take me back to the motivated me of two months ago, plz.
  • Handing in my notice. That one's been done. It's not something I've ever done before, and it's actually pretty nerve wracking. I hate letting people down and all my files will have to be reallocated to other members of the team, which makes me feel bad. Does everyone feel like this when quitting a job, or am I just ridiculous? Like 'ooh, I don't want to put them out, I'd better just stay here forever and rot in misery so that other people stay happy'. But it's done. Noone seems to have taken it personally. And I'm now on the wind down. 4 weeks to go, and one of those I'd already booked annual leave in for anyway.
  • Packing. I need boxes. Where do you get boxes from? EBay? Your dad? My dad can source me some boxes. That's dad work.
So. That's all the word vomit I have right now.

It's going to take a lot of coffee, and a lot of office cake. But the end is in sight.
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Friday, 24 July 2015

Blogspot Beginnings

I just want to write something down. Mainly because a good once a month, I fly home with all the intentions of starting a fabulous new 'grown up'* blog and then accidentally click on my ever-open Devious Maids tab and the rest is history. So it may not be interesting, but I'm officially making a start.

* ie one that doesn't cause me to reach for the ice cream/vodka/duvet when I see graduate recruitment teams have been reading for weeks (this happened.)

So, things are now different for the following reasons:-

1. I have a job now. Ok, I always had a job. And ok, I could still lose it for horrific and irresponsible social media postings. But, let's face it, I'm pretty tame. I think we're good on that front.

2. My life will soon be actually worth writing about. I can now stop obsessively researching companies and LEAVE THE HOUSE. I know, right?

Also, when I say 'worth writing about' I mean less 'today I ate a KitKat, read The Economist and cried' and more actual accounts of interactions with real humans.

Tonight, as my cousin is getting married tomorrow and we have family already up in preparation, we're going out for a meal to celebrate my dad and step mum's 6th wedding anniversary. But I will be thoroughly stealing their thunder and drinking 10 bottles of wine paid for by anyone but myself. They've celebrated 5 already, they're milking it now. It's my turn.

Is it ok to order pizza when you've already had it twice this week?