Wednesday, 30 December 2009


The inner goal setter in me goes crazy when the new year comes around. And this year it's a new decade no less. A complete blank slate! So much to resolve! So many goals to set!

To prevent myself from committing to a ridiculous scroll of self-improvements, I have to remember something I heard this year. Apparently, the average human learns approximately two life lessons per year - so no point trying to cram in more than that. I try to bear this in mind when I'm attempting to prioritise more than two things at a time and find it difficult. For example, when I'm in the 'going-to-the-gym-zone' it's hard to be also in the 'writing-every-day-zone' as well as the 'win-the-damn-cupcake-competition-zone' at the same time.

I don't have enough bandwidth. I just have to choose two priorities and stick with them.

In 2009 my two overarching life priorities (resolutions if you'd be so kind) were writing and holistic health. I set these in January and decided that every activity I took on should feed into one of these. I'm not talking hour by hour scrutiny here, I'm talking about just thinking through bigger projects and making sure I was spending my time on what I really wanted to be focusing on. Like going to Pilates class (yes!),  writing every morning (yes!), learning to sew (interesting, but no), baking (depends), getting an organic box (yes!), painting (tempting, but no), etc...

Naturally, God, Dan and friends are already set priorities that I don't need to include into my two rotating ones. And I'm not really as militaristic about these priorities as I sound, I just like to whip myself into a frenzy for motivation. In reality they're just always in the back of my head, keeping me in check. If I really was inspired to paint, I'd freaking paint.

So, new year, new priorities...

I think that since we're going to be in New Zealand until June and I can't really think beyond that, I'll stick with 1/2 year resolutions if that's OK.

The first one is easy. I'll keep writing up there. I've had a great run with it this year {thanks to Writing Down the Bones, The Artist's Way and my morning pages} and this period without a job is like a writer's paradise so I can't turn it down really.

The second one is a bit harder, but I think I'm going to have to go with simplicity. Not in an Amish way, but in a taking-each-day-as-it-comes way. Since we don't know exactly what we're doing with our lives after June it's harder than it sounds. So instead of spending all this amazing time we have in paradise planning the next steps, I want to, simply: eat good food, drink good coffee and good wine, read good books, watch good films, go to the beach, write and enjoy any other of life's many simple pleasures rather than complicating things.

So, those are my priorities for the year so far. Feel free to hold me accountable. :) What are your priorities for 2010?

{Photos: Picnic by Ellie, danagraves}

Monday, 21 December 2009

Afghans and Flat Whites

For the past month my only mission has been to get on the freaking plane to New Zealand. There was so much to do that I couldn't even think about all that awaited us in Auckland, I just had to get there.

So now I'm here. But like any human, without a pressing narrative (ie trying to leave England), my mind starts to wander into worry territory. Yesterday I was caught trying to plan too much into the future (How long will we stay in NZ?! What will the next step look like?! What are we doing with our lives?!) and it freaked me out. Having a completely open slate is exciting but stressful.

To combat the stress of having too many options and the luxury of time, I decided to enjoy each day as it comes. It's strange that this is something I have to tell myself to do, but that's just the way it is. 

So here's what I enjoyed this weekend...

La Cigale French Market in Parnell

Cookie Party - Dan's mum had me baking 6 dozen cookies on Friday to prep for the cookie party on Saturday. I was naturally happy to oblige as cookie parties remind me of growing up and all the cookies that used to fill our house (and probably still do) around Christmas. This one was thrown by an American ex-pat living out here and the result was some sweet cookies, including my flavour of the month and Antipodean fave, the Afghan...


Cops and Robbers party - Saturday we were partying hard because, after the mid-day cookie party, Dan's bro Justin lined up a Cops and Robbers themed party. Great costume effort on everyone's part as well as a steady supply of donuts.

Flat Whites at Kohi -After a beachside curry lunch Dan and I fell into a cafe at Kohimarama for a lazy Sunday sidewalk cafe Flat White and paper reading session. The highlight was possibly the drive-by egging, which caught us by surprise, but, since it didn't injure us, was funny. Plus it greased the wheels for some banter with the ladies drinking wine at the next table. I loved one reaction: 'What a waste of an egg.'

(Great view, ay?)

As you can see, all the essentials are here with a vengeance: sun, coffee, fresh fruit and farmers markets. I'm happy to report that the stress was just a blip...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Kia Ora! {LON - TYO - AKL}

 Ahh... after almost three days of travel we finally touched down in Auckland last night. As you can imagine our last few weeks in the UK were pretty manic, so it feels nice to be here with Dan's parents. And be warm. I love being warm. 

(Last minute pics from Heathrow airport.)

We had a great stopover in Tokyo on the way to NZ. It was just over a day, but we still managed to check out some favourite haunts in Harajuku and test out the new branch of Zoka's, a Seattle coffee shop that's just opened in Tokyo.

Our jet lag cure has been baths and coffee. At our Japanese style inn (think tatami mats and roll out futon) there was an outdoor hot spring (onsen), so we went for a plunge just before midnight and slept like babies.

Even after a day, being in New Zealand feels amazing. For me, it's the perfect antidote to London: warm, spacious, good coffee. Today our itinerary included going for coffee with Dan's parents at a beach side cafe. I ordered a latte and a muffin and check it out (top left)! It was massive and came with a fresh fruit salad! Absolute awe. I'm not saying that all British food is awful (there's some good stuff), but when you go to a restaurant in London it's like Russian roulette - you have not idea what to expect except for an outrageous bill at the end. I think New Zealand may do a lot to revive my faith in eating out.

Well, much more to come from NZ in the weeks to come. Just want to say that we made it!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Good-bye England

So much for doing a proper 10 day countdown.

We've been packing like mad men and haven't had a chance to think about the 9 more things I'll miss about this I'll save that for a sunny day in Auckland. I can assure you however that the weather will never make the 'things I miss about England list'.'s been a good run. I gave you four years but it's time to move on.

We're literally putting our lives into 2 suitcases each (plus bulging carry-ons and snowboard and guitar that Vanessa and Tim are graciously taking over to LA for us). We packed everything up last night and had 3 boxes we wanted to ship, then looked into prices and decided against it. It's like £100/ box even to send it by land! Our stuff isn't worth that much, so tonight the challenge is to go through one more time, with a ruthless and fine-toothed comb, and whittle our wares down to all we can carry.

It is hard to get rid of some things, but I think it's a good discipline not to be too attached to 'stuff'. Not that 'stuff' is bad - I can't wait to move in somewhere and accumulate some more - but I like to not hold on too tight. It's also fun to give it away (to good homes). We've had many people be generous to us, so it's satisfying to be generous back.

I don't know that I'll get a chance to do another blog post before we're in New

Good-bye England!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

10 things I'll miss about you, England

Ten more days to go and my challenge is to list one thing I'll miss about England every day. Today, I must admit, it's certain foods. By no means will I miss 'British food' in the broader sense, but there is a sub-section of items here I've grown a real appetite for.

I'm not sure what genre Marmite on toast, yorkshire pudding with gravy and beans on toast (with Marmite under the beans, naturally) is considered, but I think there must be some intensely-salty-savoury thing going on that binds them all together. Whatever it is, I like.

I'm also going to be interactive, so... if you were leaving where you're at now, what foods would you miss the most? Or...what foods are you craving that you can't get now? Go on...

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Greencard approval and 11 day countdown

Hooray for Old Glory waving over the shores of Malibu! Dan went for his interview today and they approved it - phew. I had the arduous duty of holding his stuff (no mobiles allowed) and waiting in a cafe in Mayfair for him to finish. {This cafe, Allan's, is OUT OF CONTROL. I highly recommend spending a morning there.  Latte + honey and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toast was a great way to kill time.}.

So...the countdown begins...Or at least now I start making a big deal of the countdown. I like making a big deal of things, so I think for the next eleven days I'll try and post one thing I'll miss about England. {I'll save things I won't miss about England for later!}

Thanks to everyone for your prayer and support.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Belated thanksgiving

For some reason my camera is not wanting to give me its pictures - I have a whole host of great shots from our Thanksgiving celebration last week that it's greedily holding onto. Either it's greedy, or there's something amiss with the USB cord. You'll have to settle for these fab vintage pics from macy's parades of old.

Even without photographic evidence, I can testify that I had a great Thanksgiving. Dan and I had our new friends Ian and Monica over for an England-accented-after-work feast (M&I whipped up TWO amazing pumpkin pies!) that left me uncomfortably full for days. In a good way.

Aside from turkey (or a pepper and pine nut quiche in my case), I have SO much to be thankful for. Here goes...

{i have a soft spot for kermit}

  1. Flights are booked for L.A.
  2. Flights go through Tokyo so we'll get to spend two days there!
  3. Flights go via New Zealand where we'll spend 6 weeks+ with Dan's family who we haven't seen in three years. 
  4. It's summer in New Zealand!
  5. We leave in less than 2 weeks (yikes).

Also, it's hard to put into words how it feels to tie up the last 4 years of my life - my English Season. I can't yet. But I do have a sense of satisfaction - that even though I've felt incredibly stretched in more ways than I'd originally thought necessary, I've made it out the other end (almost). And I have a lot of really good, beautiful things/ relationships to show for it.

So...I'll be in Tokyo in 2 weeks. Anyone got any hidden gems for me to hit up? I'm all ears!

Monday, 23 November 2009

London scenes

Just thought I'd post some recent scenes from London. Here's some shop fronts from near my house...

Double dose of Dan's profile at the British Museum. He's memorising he Rosetta stone and checking translations at the manga exhibit. Our museum policy is to go an hour before it closes. This forces us to move quickly and only see the things we really want to, not linger for hours in the boring Tudor sections.


Sweet drawers from the Transport Museum. We didn't actually go inside the museum (not for £7 we didn't!), but the shop was worth a peek. They sell some great vintage posters from the underground that I think we might stock up on before we leave. (They're lightweight and I would consider beautiful so it's not a problem).

And... the happy couple in Covent Garden. Only a few more weeks to go in London so we're really making the most of it!

Sunday, 22 November 2009



Here's some babygami for all my pregnant friends and those with little creatures crying out to be wrapped up like a giraffe. (I love babies dressed as animals!). This fold is the 'after bath cuddle wrap', is marked moderately difficult and comes with a warning that babies are slippery when wet. Too cute.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Exclamation overload

Yay! Dan and I got the letter in the post yesterday from the US Embassy telling us our interview date: 2 December! We're really excited, because it means we'll be able to be in New Zealand for Christmas!

Next step: book flights for Auckland and LA that don't break our budget!

Next, next (crucial) step: pass interview with flying colours!!

Thanks for everyone's prayers and thoughts of goodwill. Now, does anyone have any tips for finding the cheapest flights? I'm all up on and Any other tips??

Monday, 16 November 2009

Beautiful, useful and lightweight

'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.' - William Morris

I agree with Mr.Morris and will raise him with 'lightweight'.

As Dan and I prepare for the big trans-Oceanic move (again), we've begun mercilessly whittling our wares. By nature I'm a sentimental hoarder, but after packing and unpacking all my possessions so many times in the last 5 years that I've lost count, I've learned the art of minimalism. Not only is minimalism a nice aesthetic and simple way of life, but when you have to pay by weight to ship something across the world, it makes you really rethink the value of the object. I still have visions of a post office in Japan shipping four huge boxes of (probably hardback) books back home and getting the bill of $400. I almost fainted and learned  a valuable lesson.

This weekend the stormy weather brought us indoors on Saturday for a cozy day of going through and sorting all the crap I've accumulated since the last sort. It was a therapeutic binge of a clean. I tore through my 'creative corner' and rid myself of ribbons and paper that I've had for years and will probably never use. I'm nowhere near done but I have started throwing out a lot and have a growing pile of things to sell and give away. My next step will be to learn to sell stuff on ebay - I'm a bit behind on those skills but figured now's the time to learn.

Sunday we ticked more things off the London list and photos will follow. We got the Transport Museum shop (that's all I need) and the British Museum done and I also bought a nice sage and cinnamon candle to get us through the next month with holiday cheer. And figured now is the time for the Alisha-in-a-phone-booth shot I've always been embarrassed to take, so enjoy...

What was everyone else up to this weekend?

Wednesday, 11 November 2009


So, these are the things I'm thinking about at the moment...

Leaving England and getting Dan's freaking green card
Six weeks to go until we say farewell to this (increasingly cold) city/ country/ era/ season of our lives. Dan and I like to live by the seat of our pants, so haven't bought airline tickets or anything like that yet. We don't even have Dan's green card! We live in faith. So, if you're the praying type, we would appreciate your fervent prayers. That we'd get an interview date for Dan sorted soon and that he would indeed be accepted into the US of A.

People always wonder what immigration will ask at the green card interview. I don't know how to prepare but will do my best to vouch for him and swear that he'll be a good, hard-working American. And that he hasn't been corrupted by any silly ideas of socialism while in the UK.

Please please pray! (Even if you aren't the praying type actually).

This eggnog
Nothing like a good nog to get you through the winter. I'm having some serious eggnog cravings of late - probably because it's a mission to get your paws on the delicious tonic this side of the Atlantic. I'll try Whole Foods tomorrow, but if they can't hook me up I'm going to have to resort to making some of my own homemade brew. When I went home a few years ago I was so desperate for a eggnog latte I ordered a venti straight off the plane - bad idea. Please remember that with eggnog (and most egg based products) a little goes a long way.

Chocolate chips
Oh yeah! I forgot how delicious these bad boys are. I went to Marks and Spencers last night to grab dinner and saw a petite bag of 'plain chocolate drops' and dropped them in the basket with extreme satisfaction. They were a great pre-dinner snack and have sustained me throughout this evening as well. I think when I move back to America I'll keep a bag (not petite, but king-size) in my fridge for all occasions, like my grandma - the perfecter of the chocolate chip cookie - does.

This lust-worthy room I saw on Monday's daily dose of design*sponge.

Competitive baking
Last week I entered my red hot velvet cupcakes into the iron cupcake london competition. I didn't win, but still had a good time (winning isn't everything, right?) and paced myself so I didn't get sick, an accomplishment in itself. My cupcakes were massive compared to all the other dainty little cupcakes. The reason is that I use muffin tins and liners for cupcake purposes and overfill them at that. I think the purchase of the muffin tins at Target two years ago was a sub-conscious act of rebellion against small, delicate things in England. Sometimes I just get sick of being subtle and understated and want a dessert that is decidedly over the top and that makes people gasp at the sheer size and lavishness, rather than coo a polite 'they're lovely'. I did admit last Monday though that I perhaps went over the top...
I decided yesterday that since I'm moving country in six weeks and have quite a bit on my plate, November is possibly not the best time to try and write a novel in a month, no matter how crap the output can be. So apologies to Jenny and Jane for luring you into this and then quitting halfway through. It's like when my friend Katrine convinced me and Ali to run a half-marathon with her and then got an ankle injury. So there we were at the start line wondering how we got there. I will still blog regularly and offer you moral support!

Zimbabwe blood diamonds: we don't want our gifts to finance hate

And finally...I haven't done any advocacy promotion lately, but this is a really good on-line action, so please consider taking it.

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has sent his brutal army to seize control of his country's diamond fields. 200 civilians have been murdered and profits from our wedding rings are used to fuel violent political conflict.

Official diamond regulators meeting in Namibia this week will decide whether to suspend Zimbabwe and stop Mugabe selling his blood diamonds on the world market.

We have must persuade these countries to act - let's get a massive petition together and deliver it directly to the meeting in Namibia. Sign the petition below and then spread the word to anyone who doesn't want our gifts of love to finance hate.

Now, if that's not a comprehensive round-up, I don't know what is. Hope you all have good Wednesdays! I better get to work...

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