17 Jan 2015

Wanderlust Tag

Laura tagged me so I thought I'd give this tag a go. I don't normally do tag posts (although I have done in the past) but I quite like the idea of this one as I have done a lot of travelling, especially in the last few years. 
Up until I was 13 I didn't have a passport and then it was a South African passport which is a pain to travel on so it's only since I got my UK passport that I've done a bit of travelling at all.
So let's get on with the tag.

1// Where was your first plane to?
The first plane I can remember was our trip from Cape Town to London. It was a long haul flight, I'd never flown before (it doesn't count when you're so young you don't even get assigned your own seat) and it was a double storey plane which was pretty cool. We flew SAA and it was a really good.
It helped that we were emigrating and that I knew my dad was waiting for us on the other side of that solid 16 hour flight.

2// Where have you traveled to that you would love to visit again?
I love going to America and I'd definitely want to venture out to the West Coast.
But Italy is also somewhere I'd jump at the chance to visit again. I went to Tuscany for my bread course in 2010 and loved it but it wasn't quite long enough and I didn't travel around much. I did get to see Lucca and Pisa but I'd like to venture further South as well.

This was our second trip to Disneyworld Florida. My parents are awesome travel buddies.

3// You’re leaving tomorrow, money is no object, where are you going?
European trip.
I'd go to all the European countries I missed out on when we lived so close (the passport issue again) so I'd go to Spain and France and Greece and Turkey and back to Germany. If money was no object I'd probably spend around a year doing Europe. I feel like we lived so close and yet missed out on so much due to travel restrictions.

The Gelato in Italy was amazing. As was the vila we stayed in for our bread course (right).

4// Preferred method of travel; planes, trains or car?
Car first. It gives you a great chance to actually see the country you're in and you don't have to spend huge amounts of precious holiday time waiting for transportation. Saying that, I would never drive in Asia. Thai roads were incredibly scary.
Planes next. I love travelling by plane. I like the whole experience of the airport and I'm pretty good at it after so many trips in such a short period of time!
Trains last or never. I hate trains. I've never liked them very much and I think this comes from riding the train in Cape Town where it wasn't very safe but it was our only option for a long time.

Thailand is beautiful, like a lost world in some places.

5// Favourite travel website?
I'm not loyal to any travel websites. I prefer to go on the recommendation of friends and family. I'm lucky to have family and friends all over the world who have travelled a lot themselves and that means I'm generally able to find advice no matter where it is I'm venturing to.
Also, I don't think we've been to a country where we haven't already had family present so we've been lucky enough to meet up with them and make the most of the holiday. When we went to Thailand we met up with my dad's ex-brother-in-law who is now married to a Thai lady. She made us the best Thai BBQ I'd ever had and I still drool over that memory to this day.

Phuket is known for it's beaches but it was so hot that we mostly stayed by the pool.
 
6// Where would you travel to just eat the food?
Greece.
I am a lover of Greek food and I'd eat it all day long. I also feel like a Greek cooking course would go down really well so that I can take that knowledge of flavours and combinations and bring it into my own kitchen.

This was a ham and cheese calzone in Lucca with my friends Piya and Guarev. Not as good as the calzones in Ponte e Mariano but good nonetheless.

7// Is there a place you would never go again?
Yes and no.
I wouldn't go back to Pisa the same way again. I'd want to take someone with me and take longer exploring the city. I did a lot of walking while I was there and sometimes I just didn't feel safe as a single female.
I also found it to be a bit disappointing as far as food went. There was a McDonald's at the train station and at the Leaning Tower which is where most people chose to eat and the local eateries are obviously well kept secrets because the locals weren't telling. I had to follow a young family as they got out of church to find a decent sandwich place. Also, I am not a stalker but I do seriously love sandwiches and it was worth the potential risk of being called a weirdo.

The Leaning Tower is on a large piece of land with other monuments. I think this was far more beautiful than the tower itself.

8// Can you recite your passport number from memory if asked?
Yes.
This is not from travelling but because lately I have applied for my Permanent Residence Visa here in NZ and it has to be included an estimated 2 000 000 times on the form. True story.

9// Do you prefer the Window, Aisle, or Middle seat?
Aisle seat.
I am the worst when it comes to going to the bathroom on planes. I need to go often as I drink a lot while on board and I tend not to nap or sleep very often. Also, no one likes those awkward conversations with near strangers about moving because you're about to wet yourself or even worse trying to wake someone up so you can pee.

10// How do you pass the time on the air plane?
I read a lot but I also like to people watch. It's amazing what people do on planes.
If you watch carefully you'll see the oddest routines and practices going on. People seem to think they're invisible on a plane and that no one is paying attention, but we are. I've been on a plane with a woman who was so nervous about flying that she took loads of pills and legit ended up being Kristen Wigg from Bridesmaids. That was amusing. But I've also been on a plane where we've had to return to our terminal and have someone escorting off the plane for swearing at the stewards. 
I think I mainly just love the experience of being on a plane with so many different personalities and people.


 Flying into Italy was breath taking.

I really enjoyed doing this tag and I encourage you to do it too. It was a great opportunity to go over old photos and remember the good times I've had on my travels.
 

10 Jan 2015

GINGERNUT COCKTAIL

Oh it's summer and it's definitely cocktail season my friends.
Now I have to admit that I have one weakness when it comes to treats. I love gingernut biscuits dunked in milk until they're soft but don't snap off. And when it's cocktail season, you take something you love and you turn it into a cocktail.

PlanetBakeLife Gingernut Cocktail

I started off by making a simple ginger syrup. It's now sitting in my fridge and will go towards making cordials and more cocktails. And if you're super clever you can add this syrup to lemon or ginger drizzle cake and crown yourself king or queen of the culinary world.

PlanetBakeLife Gingernut Cocktail

Simple Ginger Syrup

1C White Sugar
1C Water
100g Fresh Ginger

1// I use a spoon to peel my ginger root and then I cut it into big chunks, cutting off any woody pieces left from the peeling.
2// Pop the sugar and water into a saucepan over medium heat and add the ginger chunks.
3// Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves. Then allow the mixture to simmer for around 10 minutes.
4// Turn the heat off and cover the saucepan with a lid. Allow it to steep until the mixture is cool. In all honesty I have to say that I went for a nap while this happened but you can also do something active or even just watch it if you're really into that sort of thing.
5// Decant the syrup into a bottle, removing the chunks of ginger and store in the fridge to keep cool.

PlanetBakeLife Gingernut Cocktail

Gingernut Cocktail

3 Gingernut biscuits
Vodka
Tonic Water
Ginger Syrup

1// Crush your gingernut biscuits either by hand or in a food processor until fine crumbs. Pop them onto a plate.
2// Fill a bowl or plate with a lip with water. Dip the rim of your glass into the water and then into the gingernut biscuit crumbs.
3// Fill the glass with ice cubes.
4// Add a shot of vodka, a shot of ginger syrup and top up with tonic water.
5// You may want to stir the drink to mix everything together and serve cold to your guests or just yourself.

PlanetBakeLife Gingernut Cocktail
PlanetBakeLife Gingernut Cocktail

I served these before we went out to dinner and they were a lovely pre-dinner drink because they're not too strong and they don't leave a nasty after taste in your mouth.
If you want to make bigger or smaller batches of the ginger syrup then just keep the proportions the same and you're good to go. Eg 2C water and 2C sugar etc.

PlanetBakeLife Gingernut Cocktail

Do you like gingernut biscuits or ginger cocktails?

6 Jan 2015

5 Steps to Attending an Event Like a Pro

Welcome to 2015 everyone!
I hope you all had a fantastic festive season with far too much food, a little too much to drink and more family time than you can shake a stick at. I know I thoroughly enjoyed my two week break from work and some time up in the beautiful Bay of Islands with my family.

Coming back from my holiday, I decided that this year I'm going to make some New Years Blogging Resolutions and try my best to stick to them. I was a little slack last year with all the interruptions to my schedule (I moved 3 times in 6 months, started a new job and found a boyfriend) but this year I've promised to be better.
So I thought that maybe I'm not the only one who feels this way.
If you're interested in turning over a new bloggy leaf, then you might be interested in this series where I'm going to talk about resolutions that will help you enjoy blogging more and help you get more out of the whole experience.


Now let's get cracking with my 5 Step Guide to Attending Events like a Pro.

1// Do a bit of prep
Once you've been invited to an event (a networking event like #brunchclub, a product launch organised by a PR company or even a coffee date with the people over at Zomato) it's time to do a little research. You don't want to be under prepared!
If the event has a Facebook group then it's a good idea to check out who else is going. Have a look at their blogs or their Twitter profiles. You want to have a vague idea of who is who when you arrive. There is a good chance that at event launches there will be a mix of bloggers and industry movers and shakers so if you can identify the bloggers in the room you at least have a starting point and won't feel so alone.
Make sure you prep some business cards for your blog. Whether you order them through a printing site or make them by hand, you want to be able to give people something to remember you by. Your blog URL, your name, your email address and your Twitter handle are essentials to include but if you have something special to add then feel free to do so.

2// Dress appropriately
This does not mean that you have to get super dressy!
If it's a relaxed event like #brunchclub then you're good in a nice pair of jeans and a T-shirt but if it's a jazzy event then maybe think about a pretty skirt with some good accessories. You want to feel comfortable but also appropriate. This is not only for you to feel comfortable at the event, it's so that people find you approachable and you get the maximum amount of networking out of your time there.

3// Bring your A Game
Once the event has started, you're going to be expected to have brought your A Game. What does that mean? You'll need to be yourself.
That is literally all that is required of you at these events.
Be open and friendly, chat to new people and make new connections. Make sure you use that prep you did! Talk to people about their speciality, hand out your blog cards and just have fun.

4// Follow up!
Don't leave the event and never re-visit anything from that time.
Take the time to go through the blog cards you've been given and to get in touch with those people again. Whether it's following them on Twitter with a quick message to say "Awesome to meet you!" or leaving a constructive comment on their blogs, you want these people to know that you haven't just forgotten them in an instant.
If you've never read their blog before then it might pay to read a few archive posts and see if you might fit in as a guest blogger too. These are fantastic ways to expand on the networking you established at the event itself.

5// Blog about the event
I prefer micro-blogging to a whole post about events but you can choose whatever suits you best. Personally I try to keep micro-blogging to a minimum during the actual event because I feel it's disrespectful to the organisers to be on your phone the whole night and because I want to be in the moment as much as possible. But I do like to tag organisers or sponsors in Instagram photos from the night or tweet them a quick thank you.
However you choose to do, make sure you don't forget to thank organisers and sponsors for the opportunity. After all, it's good manners.

I hope these have helped and that you keep them in mind this year as you attend events.
If there are any suggestions you have for events then I'd love to hear them in the comments below.

This is part of my New Years Blogging Resolutions Series. You can follow the series with the tag New Years Blogging Resolutions.

16 Dec 2014

Top 5 Books to Read This Christmas

The nice thing about Christmas is that the vast majority of us get a little bit of time off to celebrate the festive season with our families. Personally, I cannot wait to go back up to Paihia and have someone else cook for me and look after me. Man, being a grown up can be so freaking tiring sometimes.
Our house in Paihia has the nicest deck to lie on. It overlooks the water and it's quiet and private. We totally lucked out when we moved in there!
So this summer I am going to get myself a tan while I sip on lemonade and read. I've put together my top 5 books to read this Christmas so that if you're lucky enough to be in the same situation, you might have a read of these too!

1// Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Knope for President people!
The awesome Amy Poehler from SNL and Parks and Rec fame has gone and written a book. I personally love her cooky style and think she's an all around badass. I haven't read this particular one yet as I've heard it's quite an easy read so I'll be saving it for the beach (or deck) this summer but if it's anything like Tina Fey's Bossy Pants then I think we're in for a good laugh.


2// The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I read this for my PlanetBakeLife Book Club and thoroughly enjoyed it. While this can be a bit of a heavy fiction read, when you get into the storyline and invest in the characters, it becomes crystal clear that it's worth your time. There are quite a few twists and turns and it will keep you guessing as to how characters fit in with each other. Not a bad turn out for a book written for Nanowrimo!


3// Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Reese Witherspoon is being tipped as being back on top form with the cinematic version of this autobiography. I imagine this to be the female version of Into The Wild (the movie based on a book with Emile Hirsch) but without the stupidly disappointing ending. I can see myself becoming emotionally invested in this book and the movie when I get a chance to see it.


4// Mermaids in Paradise
This book looks totally awesome and harmless. It's something to pick up and put down when you need some light relief during your holiday. I love mermaids and if someone suggested to me that there were any in the area, I'd be totally down to go look for them. And how beautiful is that 50's style cover?


5// Stuff You Should Know About Stuff by Tripp and Tyler
So this is one of those books that comes as a stocking filler and then ends up making your belly ache with all the laughter. These two are hilarious! Think of this as one of those books you take with you on a boring road trip and then read aloud to everyone in the car the whole way.


What are you looking forward to reading this Christmas time?