Thursday, 31 December 2009

End of a decade

This time ten years ago I was in Benidorm counting down to the year 2K. It was the most expensive holiday I have taken - I flew to Austrailia and back for near enough the same cost of a week on the Costa Blanca. It may have been all inclusive but that just meant that half the group (including myself) got food poisoning. I remember all the hype about the 2K bug and how computers over the world would crash and how it was so important to be doing something amazing to see in the New Year.

Although it seems like yesterday, scrambling onto Benidorm beach with my family, boyfriend and friends to watch the most awesome fireworks; it also seems like an eternity ago. And how different am I now! Ten years of learning, heartache, growing, love and new confidence.

All of these things sum up the last year alone. 2009 has been the year for me getting myself together, being brave and starting to put things in place for my future. Instead of bumbling along, often unhappy and too scared to make a point.

2009 didn't start in the best manner, I smashed a glass apparently very close to midnight which is meant to be VERY bad luck. I wasn't with the person or people I wanted to be with and saw the year in stupidly drunk with my brother. I was off alcohol for months I was so poorly.

There has been a lot of change at work with a Director leaving, new staff starting and myself becoming a Director. Financially, it has been a tough year and I am still owed for October's pay. 2009 was the year of change at work and the coming year will determine it's success or failure. Scary but hopeful times.

I broke a heart which was the hardest thing to do, but I wasn't happy; the relationship wasn't what I wanted and it was changing me as a person. I needed to take time out and to just be with me. But it demonstrated a new strength and confidence, one I wish I had found in 2006.

I turned 30 in 2009 and after all the drama and worries, I can honestly say, so far, my thirties have been the very best times. I have made many new friends through the world of Twitter - some of which I have met and some I hope to in 2010. Twitterland is always so hard to describe to those who are not involved, you can see it in people's expressions that they think of you as a sad muppet who does nothing more than chat nonsense to strangers- what can be more desperate than that! It isn't like that at all. For me Twitter is a community of friends who help, support and listen, friends who make you smile and giggle whatever the time of day, friends who take an interest, like-minded people who share experiences. It has given me confidence in over the last few months and would have been a little lost without it.

2009 has been all about experiences and pushing my boundaries. I skydived, snorkeled, rode a scooter in Greece speeding around the mountains, I travelled places on my own and challenged my confidence. 2010 is going to see more of this. More living and fun, more smiles and challenges. Work is going to be a huge challenge and I already have some difficult decisions to make, decisions that relate to my future and what I want out of it. There are things that I crave - to be in love and to be loved, settling down, a family, stability and security. But I am not rushing to find these, they will come when ready, I am learning to be patient and to trust what will be, will be.

Bring it on I say! I am going to have a bloody good time in 2010... whose with me?!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Come Dine With Me


Every year, my best friends and I have a girlie Christmas dinner which we have been doing this since we were old enough to drink in pubs.... which makes twelve years of Christmas girlie dinner hangovers! We always used to go out for a meal and then as we all started to get our own places we took to cooking Christmas dinners ourselves, but the saying 'too many cooks' springs to mind and too many times we ended up being very tipsy very quickly and dinner being forgotten.

This year we decided upon something different. We are all fans of Come Dine With Me so thought that we would have our own CDWM style Christmas dinner. We couldn't do it the same as the TV series with going to each others house for 5 nights so we opted for cooking a course each.

We were due to pick the courses from a hat, but in true 'us' fashion, we left it too late so it was a scramble over email as to who wanted to do what. I ended up dessert which suited me as I figured most would be drunk by the time we get to eating it and my score would be higher thus, I would win. But it isn't about the winning - it was the taking part that counts!

The menu was as follows:

Canapes: Caramelised onions and mozzarella puff pastries, brie and cranberry filo parcels, smoked salmon and prawns with cream cheese bites, roasted tomatoes and cream cheese bites, prawns with Thai green curry dip and pitta bread with homous

Verdict: All were very very yummy! A lot of effort went into the preparation and there were plenty of options. I gave Peta a score of 8

Starter: Laura went the extra mile and presented the starter on a scroll, complete with coffee stains! There was even a bottle of Chianti to complement the very tasty bruschetta.

Verdict: Delicious! The home-made pesto was mouth watering. I rated this course a 9 due to the amount of effort and the nice little touches.




Main Course: Chicken Thai Green Curry and Tofu Thai Green Curry with sticky jasmine rice and noodles

Verdict: Very impressive home-made Thai paste, clearly a lot of effort (which we were reminded about by Jade and Anna with stories of their exhausting shopping trip and hunt for green chillies!) The curry flavour was as good as any I have eaten in restaurants. However, I did score them at a 7, my reasoning being because I felt they could have impressed more with the presentation (oooh get me and my opinions!) I also commented that I thought the rice was 'too sticky', clearly the 3 bottles of wine were beginning to show they pointed out that it was meant to be sticky jasmine rice!


Dessert: Christmas Sticky Toffee Pudding with chocolate toffee sauce (courtesy of twitter friend @scooby867)

Verdict: Well, I won with a score of 25/30. I impressed with my presentation - a light dusting of icing sugar and a decoration grabbed off my tree. I also got higher scores due to the chocolate sauce; not being able to eat chocolate myself I made two versions which meant everyone was happy! Thankfully, Jade who is 4 months pregnant has a very sweet tooth and is craving puddings.. I knew I was onto a winner!

Me and my pudding!

It was a great evening and everyone put a lot of thought and effort into their courses. The videoing of our comments and scoring was hilarious, particularly as the bottles of red disappeared. We never got to see Peta's score for the main course, she turned the video 'off' to record her score then on again as she left the room, so there was twenty minutes of a mattress. Great viewing! But not as good or as funny as the other tape I found in my camcorder case. Rewind back to 2004 to another girlie night in and a very drunken one at that. We laughed so hard at how young we looked, how I seemed to be dressed in men's clothes, our attitudes and our dancing skills: Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace - eat your heart out! There were a few parts that pulled my heart strings, the fact that I claimed that I was going to get married in 2006; I remember feeling that my life was so planned out. I am now thankful that it didn't turn that way.

Saturday night was fantastic, not only was the food amazing but the nicest part was all being together and being able to catch up over several bottles of wine. Getting together like last night proves more and more challenging as we get older due to our work commitments, lack of time and everyone busy with partners and moving on to the next stage of their lives.

Good times.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Home-made Christmas

I think this is the first Christmas in quite a few years that I am full into the festive swing and feeling excited about the season to be jolly. This is partly to do with being on my own and not having to run here there and everywhere trying to fit everyone in. My parents divorced many moons ago and every year it is a battle trying to appease everyone, dividing my time equally between both parents as well as fitting in seeing my nans. This year, with being on my own I also don't have another family to fit in so it all will feel a little easier and more relaxed.

Although being on my own has meant doing things like picking and putting up the Christmas tree; every year I tell myself that I will not have a real tree the following year. I don't think there is anything else in the world that could induce such rage within me than the struggle to get a (wonky) tree into a bucket where the screws are bent and broken. It turns out, that the trunk on this year's treet, is nicely bent, which means it will never be straight no matter the stand or bucket. This is according to my mum and stepdad who saved the day by sorting out the tree for me whilst I was at work. I don't think it looks too bad, the eclectic range of decorations take your eyes away from how much it leans!

This Christmas is very much a home-made Christmas for me; I generally make my cards each year, which I always think should be a cost saving exercise, but it never is. I seem to spend a fortune on card, ribbon, buttons and card decorations and in terms of the time it takes, well, I started making my cards about 5 weeks ago! I enjoy it and it keeps me out of mischief (as my nan would say) so I guess it doesn't matter. I like to be individual. This year my cards have taken more or a textile theme - I even did some sewing!
Then there is the chutney, a scrumptious Christmas Chutney courtesy of Domestic Sluttery of which I have made two batches to give as presents to friends and family and of course, some for myself!
For something a little different, I made some Bath Fizzes, or Bath Bombs as I have been calling them! Again, so simple but really effective as a Christmas present. My first attempt was, what can I say; Interesting. You have to mix bicarbonate of soda, cornflour and citric acid together (I know! the ingredients do sound like they will burn your skin off - but they don't - it is all safe), adding in any food colouring or glitter and some essential oil for fragrance. I not only added too much lavender oil that I felt a little high but I also added too much when spraying with water - I let it get too damp and started the chemical reaction and it all started to fizz. How I thought I was able to stop this is beyond me, but I did try. Batch two worked and actually look pretty good if I do say so myself!

I think the chutney and bath fizzes make a nice little pressie... and anyway, it is the thought that counts!
Isn't it?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Riding determination

Ambition, clarity, understanding, success and achievement are all emotions I have been contemplating this week. Not necessary for myself but in view of how others handle them (or not) and how important they are in moving forward in life.

With ambition, surely we need to have it in order to gain success and achievement. I have a situation at work where a potential life line has been given away due to the lack of ambition and desire to earn a lot of money. I can’t help feeling that if someone had more drive for wealth and success then the company would be ok. Surely, in business if you own a company then idea is to make money from it and lots of it? Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means materialistic and totally money driven, but I want to make money and I want the company to do well – to succeed and yes, to earn more money so I can live a better lifestyle - it is what motivates me to do my job and gives me the determination to make the company successful. I love my work and the company but that isn’t in itself going to save us. The top isn’t motivated by money, he isn’t after the flash cars, yachts, nice houses etc and even if the business was turning over millions, it wouldn’t change him. He has been truthful to himself but I fear that that, in itself has left us on the edge of what could potentially be, a very big drop.

I think I need to up my influence and up my game. I know I can turn things around I just need the support of the others. It isn’t all nice and fluffy in business, we are there for one thing and that is to make money, yes a legacy is good but that for the rest of us doesn’t pay the bills.
I am a determined soul and generally with hard work I get what I want, nothing has ever been handed to me. I know what I want and I will get it. Move over buster! Let me sort it.
This applies to all areas of my life; I don’t need to tell others about everything, I don’t need to have clarification of the black and white options, I am happy to be working up the gray area until I know which side I want to lay.

Ride the wave and dream
It may take its time
But sooner or later
It will wash upon your shore.

And talking of achievements, I can tick something else from my Things to do before I am 30 list, I know I was 30 in October but I am still planning to get all items completed.

Yesterday, my lovely friend, her partner and I ran a market stall in Salisbury for our charity Zimele UK. We had a good laugh and surprisingly the time flew by despite the bitter coldness, I don’t think I have ever worn so many layers! It was great talking to people about the charity and raising awareness of the fantastic work that Zimele does in South Africa. Some people understood and praised us on the work of the projects; others had very different views which I won’t go into.

We were selling the handmade crafts from South Africa that the women make. They learn new skills such as sowing and beading and then make the crafts, often employing family members. The whole community gets involved and Zimele teaches them the business skills to help them sell and make a profit which then provides support for the families and often money to medicine for the children who have HIV. Zimele teaches communities to be self sufficient. We buy the crafts from them, which have been marked up for their profit and then we sell them and send the money back.

We sold £385 worth of crafts which means that Zimele UK has reached the target of £5000 for the year, and now allows us apply to be a registered charity and the hard work and fundraising can really start. Getting Zimele UK registered was on my list and we have successfully achieved it. Feeling very proud!
The CEO of Zimele was over from South Africa in October and she gave us this video.... it sums up theirs and our work http://www.vimeo.com/7386903 Just watching it again brings a lump to my throat as I know that I have a part to play.