So you’ll probably have seen that Erica and I have updated the positive life plan for 2018. I do hope you’ve decided to join in, whether throwing yourself in wholeheartedly, or just jotting down a few things that you want to change this year or some goals that you might have. It did make me smile that after promising myself a healthy, alcohol free New Year, my Dad went and tested me by popping his clogs on New Year’s Day. Many of you knew what he was like and will know that he’d have laughed heartily to himself about that. So, on to my plans for 2018, then.
I adore Christmas. I’m a planner and a note-maker, and always need to have something to look forward to, so for me, the build up is one of my favourite parts: choosing and wrapping special gifts, planning and buying all the food, decorating the house with scented candles and twinkling lights… it all makes me really happy . We had a gorgeous Christmas this year, and rounded off the season with a small New Year’s Eve gathering with some of our favourite people. Now, though, I’m already wanting the decorations down, the house clean and tidy again, and I’ll be raring to dive headfirst into this squeaky clean, fresh and sparkly New Year. One of the first things I’ll be doing is opening a lovely new notebook and creating my positive life plan for 2018.
2016 has been wonderful and awful all at once. For us as a family, the beginning of 2016 was really just spent thanking our lucky stars that Mr E finally got a job after quite a few months of being unemployed, and was also the year we finally started to get things finished around the house. We’ve had the usual teenage ups and downs: a (minor) car accident, drunken evenings, arguments and girl troubles… but nothing too terrible, thank goodness. In the big wide world, however, and outside of my lovely family, 2016 has been a year of tragedy, sadness and some shocking moments, culminating in the death of the voice of my teenage years, George Michael, and the fabulous Carrie Fisher, making us all pretty keen to wave it goodbye. It has, though, as this fabulous article in The Pool recently pointed out, had the strange side effect of making us all care a little more; it made us a bit more aware of the suffering of others and increased our capacity for empathy. And for that, I guess, we have to be grateful.
So my lovely friend KJL did this awesome end of year roundup thing on Facebook, and it was so interesting to read, I thought I’d ask if I could do something similar. And because she is a very lovely friend, of course she said yes. So here, just for you, are the winners of 2014…
I love the time after Christmas when we have a few lazy days before everyone goes back to school and work. We had a quiet New Year with Gary Barlow (not literally, I’m not THAT lucky). Sam’s girlfriend has American parents and had us popping a piece of fruit into our mouths on every bong on the countdown to midnight – I think it’s a Spanish tradition, but it’s hilarious and by the last bong everyone’s cheeks were bulging and we were all drooling and laughing.
We’ve opened some really lovely wine over the festive period. At midnight, we toasted 2014 a delicious Wolf Blass Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir (on spesh at Asda at £5.75 at the moment I notice – SNAP IT UP!). We also opened the front door to let the old year out and the new year in – think that one’s Irish. My own favourite wine of the season was the Cune Crianza Rioja 2010 – an absolute beaut with that hint of vanilla that I seem really drawn to. Again, on spesh at the moment I think.
Mr English is very keen on Pinot Noir. His favourite of the season was the Californian Clos du Bois Pinot Noir (Majestic, £9.99 if you buy two American wines). There’s something herbal about it (which doesn’t sound nice, but is) but it’s still full of really ripe fruit. Yum.
The Big Bro recommended a splash-out Amarone, perfect for Christmas. I’ve got this one on my wish list from Majestic: Amarone Classico ‘Vigneti di Roccolo’ 2010 Cantina Negrar. It’s a pricey one at £23 but comes down to £18 if you buy two fine wines. One for when the coffers have been replenished.
Baking-wise, I’m loving Nigel Slater’s wonderful lazy loaf. It’s a soda bread, but because it’s baked in a cast iron casserole, it develops a wonderful chewy crust. Delicious, and barely 30 minutes to make – with no kneading. I also used up the last of the Christmas clementines with a clementine drizzle cake. Exactly the same as lemon drizzle cake:
Clementine Drizzle Cake
Same weight (about 175g) of caster sugar, butter and self raising flour
Juice and zest of a couple of clementines.
So just weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the rest of the ingredients to the same weight.
Beat the butter until soft, then add in the sugar and beat until light coloured and creamy. Add the zest and juice of the clementines to the eggs and give them a quick whisk with a fork. Add them a dribble at a time to the butter/sugar mix.
Stir in the flour, then dollop the mixture into a buttered cake tin and bake at 180 degrees/gas 4 for about 30 minutes until springy to the touch or until a knife point comes out clean.
Mix the juice of a final clementine with a couple of teaspoons of sugar and drizzle over the warm cake. Delicious.
In pupster news, she’s settling in really well, has made a best friend at puppy classes (a cute and ridiculously soft Vizsla called Ellie) and thinks having everyone at home over Christmas is wonderful!
We had a such a lovely new year. Turtle, my gorgeous niece, made the most amazing cocktails, we had a scrummy dinner cooked by my very clever sister in law (the sweet potato and chorizo was a revelation), and then Sam, Charlie, Jackson and even, hilariously, my brother IJ and I had a mad dancing competition on the Wii. A fab time. It ended with champagne and cuddles with velvet nosed doggies on squishy sofas watching the New Year fireworks on the telly. I couldn’t have been happier.
Last year at this time I vowed to be completely alcohol free in January. I’ve got to be honest, it was tough, but I DID end January feeling amazing (and a whole 8lb lighter – without even trying!). I also said I’d never do it again (and I got a special edition bottle of Bombay Sapphire for Christmas – sob…), but here we are again after two back to back holidays during which I overindulged in both the food AND the booze, and then Christmas and its associated gluttony. And frankly, after my disgusting behaviour on Christmas Eve (there was singing. And I don’t even remember going to bed), I probably owe it to my liver to give it a holiday.
Sometimes an intervention needs to be take place for anyone whose drinking has got out of control before it’s too late.
Bring it on, then, 2013, I’m ready and raring to go!
So how was your Christmas? Mine was, well, interesting. A rather over-exuberant Christmas eve, during which we stayed up singing, dancing and drinking until 2am made for a hideously hungover Christmas morning, in which I kept having to abandon my turkey duties to revisit my breakfast (thank goodness for my Mum). Still, self to blame, and I felt better by the time dinner was on the table. I got some lovely pressies: loads of scented candles, my favourite Redken shampoo and conditioner, books, DVDs, CDs (ONE DIRECTION, oh yes I did), and a pasta machine from my Mum. I feel really blessed.
So this time last year I was talking about how 2012 was going to be about building memories… snapshots, and not stuff… and I think I managed it. Oh, there was stuff as well, there’s no doubt, but my year was full of amazing experiences.. plenty of snapshots to add to my collection:
January was the month I gave up booze and took up healthy eating. For a whole month. Never again. In February, I got together with my wonderful friends for Bloggers on Tour: the West Yorkshire leg, and visited Yeo Valley’s wonderful Holt Farm too. In March, we were lucky enough to attend the opening of the new Legoland Hotel and meet one of our heroes, Tim Minchin, who turned out to be even lovelier and funnier in person. I also attended the very glam Tesco Mum of the Year Awards along with several of my friends. A fabulous day.
In April, the Death Wish Dude and I spent the weekend in Paris, celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Disneyland, and hobnobbing with the likes of, well, Mickey, obviously… and in May I jetted off to both Tenerife, where we joined in with the May festivities and were gobsmacked by the firework wars AND Florida, where my friend Laura and I toured Clearwater, St Pete’s and Florida’s gorgeous space coast, as well as visiting Universal Studios and drinking butter beer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
In June, we celebrated the Jubilee in grand style, and in July I looked after my Dad’s gorgeous garden (and made some lovely raspberry sorbet too). I grew sweet peas and filled the house with scented blooms. I’ll definitely be doing it again next year. In August we went Olympic and Paralympic mad – we stayed up until silly o’clock waiting for the Paralympic flame to come through our town, and we cheered on our amazing athletes at the Olympic Stadium. Amazing memories. English Mum also turned six.
In September, we got a visit from my cousin Moon (and helped him smuggle sausages through customs), and the Mad Professor started sixth form over again. October saw us visit Guernsey and beautiful Herm Island, and in November we spent a lovely week in Gran Canaria. I also had laser eye treatment, something that’s changed my life forever. Finally in December I was back in Florida for the launch of Walt Disney World’s New Fantasyland… an experience I’ll never forget (more of this very soon) and my little kickboxing Death Wish Dude passed his grading and got his orange belt.
I’ve learned a lot this year too (proving that you’re never too old). I’ve learned that some people – people that you might have known and looked up to your whole life – are actually not worth looking up to. This was a shock. But hey – people should EARN respect, right?
I’ve continued to believe that you should really try not to judge other people. I’m often saying to the boys that there are maybe things going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about, but hey, even if it’s just as simple as people doing things differently to you, that’s fine. This goes both ways, what you do is YOUR business. Do what YOU feel right doing, and don’t listen to anyone else if you don’t want to.
I’ve also learned that it feels fabulous to pay it forward. I’ve learned that my friends, my true friends, are always there for me (you know who you are) and I’ve learned that all relationships take a bit of effort.
The nicest things this year have been really small, but very important: someone saying ‘thanks so much for that recipe’, or ‘your children are a credit to you’, so I’m definitely going to be going out of my way to give credit where it’s due in 2013.
So that’s it, then. No resolutions, but in 2013, I’ll be having fun, paying compliments, adding to those precious snapshots and looking up to people who deserve it – like, for example, my wonderful Disreputable Dad who is perpetually kind, funny, a wonderful Grandad, and a tiny bit naughty, who got engaged on Christmas Day. *cough BRIDESMAID cough*. Congratulations Dad and my soon to be stepmum (she hates that, sorry)! xx
So after all my moany, whiny protestations, English Dad actually DID buy me underwear for Christmas (sorry, lonnnnjjjjherrrieeee, you have to say it right). It was very pretty, not too thongy, and actually really nice.
I tried it on.
In front of him.
There was some levering. Actually, there was quite a lot of levering. And a bit of sweating. And a bit of unsightly overspill. Quite a lot, if I’m honest.
Hubby: ‘They don’t fit? *panicked expression*, but they’re a size 12! You’re a size 12! You’ve always been a size 12!’
Me: ‘They don’t. I am. I have.’
And lo, the dawning was slow and painful.
I’ve got a bit porky.
It’s not my fault. I like a gin, admittedly. A gin or three. And fizz! Who doesn’t, right? And a restaurant. Oh I love a restaurant. And I like a cake. And a pie. Oh and those crispy covered peanut things. And a Topic. And I’m an advocate of any problem being solved with a big stew and lots of mashed potato…
Okay so wait. It IS my fault.
And so I decided, rather than take the rather lush underwear back, I would embark on a small period of healthy eating and gin avoidance thus rendering me back in a size 12 and able to wear my new pants.
Well, no. But I thought I’d help out by publishing a few healthy recipes over the next few days to start us off in the right direction. Then we can get back on the gin and forget this ever happened.
So here’s a question for you: what did you get for Christmas last year? Go on, think hard. And your birthday? Hmm, thought not. I can’t remember either. And that’s not to belittle my beloved and family, who obviously shopped mindfully and thoughtfully and bought me gifts they knew I’d love. I just honestly can’t remember.
Now I’ll ask you another question: where did you GO last year? What did you experience? What memory makes your heart soar? Yup, now I bet you can remember. Me? I stood on the observation deck of the world’s tallest building in Dubai. I had lunch with Jimmy Doherty, walked in the footsteps of the Mayans at Chichen Itza and shared amazing tapas and cocktails in a bar in London with some of my closest, dearest friends. Oh, and I stood on the bow of a beautiful cruise ship as it docked in the Bahamas, gasped as the Red Arrows whooshed over my head at Goodwood and got my apron on at Leith’s (among other things).
So, beginning to see my point? We (and I’m one of the biggest culprits here) are all about stuff: buying stuff to wear, buying stuff for our homes, a new handbag here, a new face cream there. I wonder how much money I spent on STUFF last year. Actually, it’s probably best that I don’t wonder. I’d be horrified.
What will my teenagers remember when they look back on their ever-decreasing childhood years? Will it be the HMV vouchers and the trainers? Maybe. But I’m also hoping it will be the amazing adventures that we’ve shared: watching pelicans fishing on the Riviera Maya, playing Xbox games with their creators in Cologne and whizzing about a skate park under the Westway flyover.
So this year (and this is my resolution, if I dare call it that) will be all about experiences. And not about stuff. I will step away from the Buy It Now button and stash my cash for that city break… that coveted wander around Borough Market… maybe even a holiday. All those memories, ready and waiting to be made. And cherished. Snapshots of a life lived well, ready to be brought out on a gloomy November day, and many November days to come, and replayed for my enjoyment.
So here’s wishing you a very happy New Year. May you create many new snapshots for your own collection x
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