45 // TOO MANY PASTEL DE NATA // PART 1

Jesus, it’s been a LONG time since I did a post. Not intentionally, I’ve just been burrowed away working my ass off for the whole year and have finally got some much much needed quiet time.

I’ve been meaning to do so many posts about work, life and a trip to Italy I took with my mum in May but here we are with Portugal. From the 4th to the 7th of October Mikee and I were in Setúbal and from the 7th to the 11th in Lisbon. I’ve split this into two posts to save you from scrolling through a million photos.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

We flew good ol’ Ryan Air out there and back – from Stansted to Lisbon. I think the flights cost about £80 per person with one piece of luggage between the two of us.

It was super easy to get to Stansted and back – tube to Liverpool Street and then a train out. They seem pretty frequent and I believe you can get a coach or a bus if your flight is at an awkward time.


HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – Wear good walking shoes. There is a lot to see, a lot to explore, lots of great views and LOTS of hills. It was almost like going to San Francisco again.

TRAIN – We got the train to Setúbal from Entrecampos in Lisbon. It cost €8 for a return ticket + 50c for the physical ticket too. The journey there took about an hour and half… It is a 40min drive but we don’t drive.

We also got the train out to Belém from Cais do Sodre which took ten mins, although we walked back and it took two hours!
And the train out from Rossio to Sintra and back which took 40mins, both journeys didn’t cost more than €4 I believe.

METRO – We used the metro a couple of times during our stay, it seemed to work pretty well and was a quick way to get around. Very easy to navigate the four lines as well. We did get an Aerobus which cost €8 the first journey from the airport, however we really could have just got the Metro from the airport to the station we needed. I think a single journey on the metro costs around €1.60 plus the cost of the card which you can top up. We ended up with about three cards – not sure how the loading of money works for different journeys as it didn’t seem like you could use one card for both the mainline trains plus the metro. That was confusing as they all look the same.

TUK TUK – They’re literally everywhere. We got one in Sintra to get to the top of a hill. I think the costs of these vary and you could probably haggle.

BOAT & CAR – We went on a boat trip to see Dolphins in Setúbal on our second day which cost €35 each. And Our Airbnb host picked us up in her car in Setúbal which we were really grateful for after a day of travel.


AIRBNB’S

We stayed in two Airbnb’s, one in Setúbal and one in Alfama in Lisbon. Both of the apartments we stayed in were in the older parts of each city, though Setúbal felt quite like a seaside town.

The Airbnb in Setúbal was amazing. We had the loveliest host, she was so on it with arranging things with us and as mentioned above she came and met us from the station which was great. The apartment itself was small but so well designed that it felt spacious, there was a good amount of stuff in the kitchen so we ended up cooking together a lot. The bathroom was compact but the shower had great pressure and it was well lit. Overall it just felt clean and calm. There was a restaurant literally outside the front door and dogs that were hanging out on their balconies along the road so it was a little noisy but we really had such a nice stay there. It was £35 a night so if we ever go back we’ll definitely look to stay here again.

In Lisbon we stayed in Alfama which is the historical district of Lisbon. Alfama was really nice, very hilly and small winding paths so it felt like a little labyrinth. The apartment was a bit basic – they only had one mug for example, but we mostly used it as a base for sleeping and then spent our time exploring. When we arrived we were shown the apartment and given some pastel de nata which was sweet. It was just above a Fado restaurant, so we had some people singing and playing traditional Portugese music until midnight all nights except Sunday, so this place wouldn’t be for early to bed people. The airbnb cost £50 a night which was good but bit steep as I’d seen some nice places for less, I just hadn’t booked them in time ’cause I was super busy.


 

DAY ONE : BEACH DAY

We had technically arrived the day before but only had enough time and energy to go and get food and cook before passing out. So let’s call this the first day. We made ourselves a breakfast and then had a little adventure to Pingo Doce the supermarket to get some supplies for our beach day. We’ve both been working quite hard (I had literally just delivered work for a big deadline the day before leaving) so a proper chill day was on the cards. We made our way to the closest beach. Setúbal actually has a beach that was voted the most beautiful in Europe this year, we absolutely would have loved to have gone there but unfortunately it was too far for us to walk to. Maybe one day we’ll be able to drive. We managed to walk to Praia de Alberquel. We took Polaroids, chatted, ate pastel de nata, and picnic food, watched people, boats and paddle boarders. We attempted to swim, collected tiny shells and soaked up some vitamin D – we were super lucky as they had a heatwave and it was about 30degrees every day… We also witnessed a man sunbathing behind a curtain but we were privvy to his bare back side – delightful. We walked back after the sun started going down, had a little shower and went to the restaurant in front of our airbnb for food. The food was good and affordable, there was a lot of it, our eyes when ordering were definitely too big for our stomachs!

DAY TWO : EXPLORING, SAILING & DOLPHIN WATCHING

I had seen that dolphin watching was something that you could do there as Setúbal is home to a pod of around 26 dolphins that live in the wild. We hadn’t managed to pre-book so we wandered down to the harbour and found a place that luckily had a service going out in the afternoon that wasn’t full (hooray for going in off season), we booked to go on it and went to find some breakfast. We stopped by Moscatel de Setúbal Experience, ordered some fresh pastel de nata (more Portugese egg custard tarts), Mikee got a coffee and I had a freshly made pear juice which was amazing. The staff were super friendly too. We wandered around the city centre, up little alleys and found a good viewpoint before walking back to the harbour where we managed to find a food truck next to a tall ships festival. We had a look around one of the ships, ordered some fresh chips which were the best chips we’ve both had in a long time. And went to our meeting point for the dolphin tour.

The dolphin tour was amazing. Highly recommended. We were on a catamaran which had nets to relax on at the front. They spent about 30mins watching the dolphins so as not to bother them or to overly pollute the water there, and then they sailed up the coast for about an hour before heading back. In the pod there was a 50 year old dolphin and three new dolphins – 2 were a couple of months old and the other one was only 7days old at the time. It was tiny. The guide told us there are only three pods like this in Europe living wild, the other two are in Scotland and Ireland, so we might have to go on an adventure closer to home. The journey up the coast was lovely and relaxing. I just sat and listened to music, while enjoy the sunshine, Mikee had a little nap on one of the nets. When we got back we went and got more chips – they were just too good, we wandered around the centre a little more before calling it a day.

DAY THREE : LISBON EXPLORING

We got up early again, sorted out our stuff, had some food and went to get the train from Setúbal back to Lisbon. We checked into our second apartment after walking up a lot of hills, and then set off to explore again. We decided to wander around Alfama as that’s where we were staying, we found some views. We then wandered to Fábrica Coffee Roasters as we’d heard good things, Mikee got to enjoy some coffee and I got some pastel de nata to take away. We then went to see the sunset from Park bar, it was quite busy so we left pretty soon after but it looked like it would have been a nice place to hang out. I really fancied a burger for dinner (so adventurous) so we found a place close by that had a veggie burger option. Weirdly some teenage girl who was dining in the restaurant came up to me and spoke to me in Portugese really quickly, before going and sitting down with her family again, and I have no idea what that was about.

So that’s that the first half of the trip! Read part two of our little guide to Lisbon here.

45 // TOO MANY PASTEL DE NATA // PART 2

Read Part 1 here if you have’t done so already for a breakdown of transport, airbnb’s, and things to do in Setúbal and Lisbon.

DAY FOUR : BELÉM, ART, TARTS & LX FACTORY

This was such a cool day. We got the train to Belém, a friend had told me to go there as this is where the custard tarts originated from – nuns used to starch their clothes with egg whites, they then made the tarts using the yolks. When we arrived we wandered to the Belém tower which was pretty, there was a long queue to get in so we skipped going inside. I got some frozen yoghurt, nom. We then went to the Museu Berardo (entry €5) which houses some contemporary art. It was a pretty nice gallery! Afterward we sat in Pastéis de Belém, there was a massive queue for both take away and sitting in and luckily we got a table in their nice courtyard. We ordered a cheese toastie and 6 custard tarts, 4 of which we could take away. I also got a hot chocolate while Mikee had a coffee. The place was really beautiful outside. The food was delicious. Inside you could see them making all these pastel de nata which was incredible. We left and walked for about an hour and found LX Factory which was a cool little trendy area where a lot of nice restaurants and artist studios seem to be based with a market. I bought myself some simple bracelets as my one from San Francisco broke after two years of non stop wear. We found ourselves a rug for our hallway and we went and sat on top of a rooftop bar and watched the sunset while drinking some cocktails. We then walked back to Alfama which took forever. It was late and a Sunday and we didn’t have any food at our airbnb for dinner so we decided to go get pizza (I know) after a recommendation from a girl at Fábrica. We went to Casanova Pizzeria and it was honestly one of the best pizzas ever. I got a mushroom one and it came with ALL the mushrooms. The atmosphere was really nice, modern and relaxed and super close to the airbnb so we could roll ourselves back after eating way too much.

DAY FIVE : SINTRA, QUINTA DA REGALEIRA & CASTELO DOS MOUROS

Everyone we had spoken to beforehand and all the guides on Pinterest and Google say to take a daytrip to Sintra, so we did! And it was totally worth it. I’m sure there’s more to explore in the area but essentially there are a lot of beautiful palaces, estates & a castle, all concentrated in this one small spot. You can’t fit it all in in one day but there are some really beautiful places to see. We decided to go to Quinta da Regaleira, which is a decorative 20th century residence and it’s got the most beautiful garden, some of it is structured and some of it is left wild – there are two wells which were used for Tarot initiation rites, with a bunch of underground tunnels to explore, a waterfall, grottos and a labryinth of caves that go around a small lake. The building itself is beautiful and it was just stunning to explore the whole area. I think entry in was about €6

After we grabbed some lunch nearby, and thought about going up to the castle next which was right on the top of a mountain. There was a bus we could have taken up but while waiting for the bus a tuk tuk driver stopped next to us and asked if we’d be interested in going up. It looked fun and it cost us €5 each which is expensive but what the hell – we were at the top ten minutes later. It was actually such a blast going up this massive hill in this tiny rickety vehicle. The driver pointed out a huge rock that was under the castle and said it was called the boulder of friendship, where people can go climbing.

The Castle of the Moors was really cool. Entry was about €8. It still had all of its surrounds and you could climb up to two of the turrets. It was originally built in in the 8th/9th centuries and had history of Muslim and Christian settlers. The view was amazing, you could see all the way out to sea, and it was just really fun to explore such a beautiful and historical place. Afterwards we found the pedestrian path back down the hill (we were so glad we got the tuk tuk up), and got the train back to Lisbon.

DAY SIX : ALL THE VIEWS

Our last full day in Lisbon was quite relaxed. Our feet really hurt from all the walking so we took the morning quite easy before walking more. When we did get moving we stopped by Fábrica Coffee Roasters again, we wandered over to the Elevador de Santa Justa, a beautiful lift which was built in the 19th century to transports people up the steep hill from the Baixa district to the Carmo Archaelogical Museum, which we explored and which was amazing (entry was €4). The museum is a former medieval convent that was ruined during 1755 Lisbon earthquake, it’s really quite impressive. Afterward we walked all the way up to Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte to watch the sunset. It was a small climb after literally walking up hills for days, but you could see views all over the city. Afterward we slowly walked back to Alfama – stalked some sausage dogs, found some presents, bought some more pastel de nata and went back to pack.

DAY SEVEN : OCEANÁRIO DE LISBOA & HOME

Our flight wasn’t till the late afternoon and we needed to check out of our airbnb by 11, so we decided to drop off our luggage at the airport before doing one final bit of exploring. We decided to go to the Oceanarium as it was only two stops away from the airport and we’d heard good things. When we arrived we checked out the waterfront and watched some seagulls fishing which was fun. We then headed in. There was a really beautiful aquarium designed by a Japanese photographer who had died not long after making it. It was designed to represent the tropical forest water habitats using design principles of wabi sabi, it was there in part to highlight the immense importance these waterways hold for us. It was truly stunning, very moving, they’d even created a special piece of music for the exhibition. You can watch a little video about it below.

We explored the rest of the aquarium which had a central aquarium housing all sorts of fish, sharks and rays, and this was connected to external aquariums where you could see puffins, penguins, otters, amphibians… all sorts. It was really awesome being able to see and explore such a cool building with such incredible inhabitants. They also made it abundantly clear how important it is to take care of and protect our oceans, to avoid polluting them. It was educational and fun and a really great way to spend the day before flying back to chilly London.

Both Setúbal and Lisbon were far cooler than we could have imagined. We went without any expectations really, ate far too many custard tarts which we were both very happy about, and had an amazing time walking around seeing all the sights, chatting to random people and just enjoying being in the sun knowing full well we probably won’t feel anything similar on our skin till April again. Sigh! I need to move somewhere with a warmer climate.

44 // Stargazing, Sand Dunes and Sunburn

Back in January Mikee and I went on a 4 night mini trip to escape the gloomy British winter and spend some time topping up our lack of vitamin D in the lovely and warm Gran Canaria. The end of last year was pretty tough to say the least and the quiet of Jan made for the perfect opportunity to make up for that. I booked it as a Christmas present, not really having considered visiting the Canary Islands before, but it was the only place that was around 20 degrees in January so figured why not. It was a really lovely break and the perfect time to go. If you’re planning on going I’ve added some info at the bottom of the post incase it might be helpful.

DAY ONE: SUNBURN AND STARGAZING

We’d arrived the day before and after we’d had breakfast and a wash we got changed and tried to find the secret pool. I found where it was in location, Mikee figured out the trick to get there #teamwork. We read there for a bit, Mikee tried to get in but it was extremely cold at that time of year despite it being a lovely warm day. A German couple were there already and the man just got in and swam around like it was nothing. Total Boss. We both really wanted to swim so we went and investigated the Sunset pool on the top floor, which was thankfully heated. Pure joy apart from being a bit nippy getting out of the water.

I’d read about someone going on an astrology tour on a blog while researching what to do, I thought it sounded neat so visited the AstroGC website and put in the dates we were there. They check the weather and decide if they’re going to go on the day and we got a text saying that we could go that day! It was absolutely the best thing we got to do on the entire trip and I would encourage anyone going to book. There was a good sized group of us who went and we were picked up from our hotel by the lovely Carmelo.

We were told to dress warm and were picked up at 5pm. We went to a local fruit shop to have prickly pear smoothies. They were bright pink and amazing. We were going to miss our dinner at the hotel so Carmelo called ahead and arranged sandwiches for us so we didn’t go hungry. We were so grateful for that because the room service food was obviously ludicrously priced.

After a quick stop for smoothies, we drove the tiny winding road up the side of the mountain. The views were incredible going up and we stopped at a lookout point on the way to the top to watch the sunset over the valley, sea and mountains before heading to the top.

We loved every moment. We were given a small presentation by Gauthier the main astronomer before using the telescopes. We learned the names of constellations, we saw planets and star clusters and galaxies. We were most amazed by seeing two nebula – one where stars were being born and one that had followed a supernova. Everytime I’ve spotted Orion in the sky since I’ve remembered seeing the cluster of gas and stars in the telescope. We were given a photo at the end which was a lovely touch and a genuinely wonderful keepsake to have from the experience. It got a bit chilly by the end and they had even considered to provide the group with fresh warm mint tea at the end before heading back to the hotel. I 100% recommend going if you visit. I took some really crap photos of the stars propping my camera on the top of the car but they give you an idea of just how clear the sky was.

 

DAY TWO: SAND DUNES AND SANGRIA

On our second day we decided to get the free shuttle that runs every hour from the hotel to Maspalomas, it stopped right where we needed it to for our adventure to the sand dunes. It felt like being in a mini desert next to the beach which was amazing. I loved it despite it being quite difficult to walk on when you’re really not used to it. Mikee ran up a couple of them which is a lot harder than you would imagine – I tried and failed getting about a quarter of the way up before sinking down to my knees. After about two hours of walking around we decided to walk along the beach and go and have a couple of drinks before heading back to the hotel and having dinner.

 

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DAY THREE: SPA TIME AND SLEEP

Our last full day we decided to go to the Spa. We had three hours of free use of the spa and we booked a couple of treatments. I’ve only had one spa day before last summer with a friend, which involved a really amazing Baobab massage and smelling really really lovely after. We swam in the spa’s pool – again it was a little cold but my Finnish skin made the most of it. There was a sauna which I loved, a steam room, this shower that turned hot and cold which was quite invigorating and a room with really clean air which was nicer than you’d imagine. I’d booked the Aloe Experience which involved a scrub, a massage and a facial followed by an aloe vera drink. It was really nice but I did feel a little uncomfortable as they provided these teenie tiny mesh pants for you to wear and it’s the only thing you wear. I didn’t know what way to wear them and totally put them on the wrong way round… Embarrassing. The scrub was amazing – it was a combo of salt, volcanic rock and aloe vera gel, it was a little painful because of my sunburn from the first day but I felt soft as pillow after. I had to have a quick shower to get rid of all the debris and then put on another pair of tiny pants – still the wrong way roundand then got the massage which was pretty standard. My lovely friend Ariana from Spirited Away Massage in London does excellent massages so my expectations were high. The facial was nice and soothing and the drink was nice. I’m not sure I’d recommend it wholeheartedly but it was a nice part of the trip. We were pretty happy and relaxed by the end of it. We got dressed, watched the sunset from the top of the hotel and then went to dinner before finishing our trip with some foreign TV and packing up our stuff ready for the morning.

HOW WE GOT THERE:

I booked the trip through Inspired Luxury Escapes as a package. I would usually go and do everything myself but due to the last minuteness of the booking it made sense to book it all in one go. I had initially found the deal on Conde Naste Traveller Secret Deals but it was cheaper to look on the booking agents website. We went in the low season which made it quite affordable. They booked the hotel with half board, transfers and flights for us.

We got the train to Gatwick, Easy Jet leave from the North Terminal. Once we arrived we found our transfer and they took us to the hotel.


HOW WE GOT AROUND:

WALKING – We didn’t venture that far but we walked to a mini supermarket at the entrance to the hotel. We also walked around Maspalomas beach.

TRANSFERS – As I mentioned before the booking agent arranged hotel transfers with a local company who also seemed to offer day trips around the Island.

HOTEL SHUTTLE – We used the hotel shuttle to get to Maspalomas for one of the days as the hotel was quite isolated (which was perfect).

CAR – One the first day we went stargazing and the company picked us up from the hotel and drove us up to the middle of the Island.

(Mikee’s sister has also been with her partner and they cycled around the island so that could be worth doing if you want a more active break.)


SHERATON GRAN CANARIA SALOBRE

We had booked the Sheraton which was close to Maspalomas but set back from the hustle and bustle in the hills. It seemed to be a very popular place for older Europeans who like to golf which meant the hotel was quiet which was perfect. There’s a big golf course, a spa, a few bars and resturants, 7 pools, a secret swimming pool (which we were very pleased to find) – if you’re going a hint is that it’s on the 4th floor. It’s quite small and pretty chilly but it’s nice and private. The infinity pool on the top is heated which is lovely until you want to get out. They have bali beds to rent which looked great to relax on but we just used the standard seats around the pool which were perfect. There’s also a gym and they run a daily schedule of exercise classes around the hotel – we tried aqua yoga which was pretty funny.

Half board gets you breakfast and dinner in the Gofio restaurant – there’s a giant buffet at both meals and you can stuff yourself to sleep if you so desire. I preferred breakfast and Mikee preferred dinner, most of the food was delicious – it was pretty rich though. You could stock up on breakfast and not need lunch so that worked out quite well.

Our room was a Deluxe on the 10th floor. It was perfect for the two of us, big enough to spend time in together. Lovely balcony overlooking the golf course. The rooms are staggered so it feels like you’re in your own little studio apartment rather than in a hotel. There was a bathroom with a big bath and shower (and a strange window from the bathroom to the bedroom just incase you want to go travelling with a friend – it might be a bit awkward).

43 // Concrete Jungle

Ahhhh plants. They’re so good. I wish I could decorate our place like a jungle (like this lady) but I’m not the most green fingered and plants don’t seem to like the lack of light in our flat… Apart from a spider plant that is just indestructible.

When I first read about the Barbican Conservatory I was very curious but it wasn’t open on the day I wanted to go and I promptly forgot about it until last week when I was looking for free things to do in London. I’m reading a book called The No Spend Year and I’m feeling quite inspired by it. I asked my lovely friend if she wanted to go and we saw that they do an Afternoon Tea using ingredients that they grow in the conservatory which I thought was pretty amazing. We booked and went today – it’s only open on Sundays and the odd bank holiday Monday.

The afternoon tea was lovely, you get four finger sandwiches each, with a scone with jam and cream each plus five little cakes/pastries each, a pot of tea and a glass of bubbles for the affordable price of £27.50 which is about half the price of a fancy one in London. The thing with afternoon tea is you usually end up feeling like you have a food baby and need a nap but after this one we felt perfectly full and happy to wander around.

Having been to Sky Garden which is also free I was expecting something similar but the conservatory was way better in my opinion. At Sky Garden the best bit is the view and the lovely cocktails, the plants are cool but I expected more from it… This was on another level. They have over 2000 varieties of plants and as soon as you walk in the air actually does feel a lot cleaner. I saw big grown up versions of the fiddle fig plant I bought last year at Columbia Road, (now I really want my little fig to grow into a big old tree through our roof) but my favourite room was probably the cactus room which is just full to the brim with cacti and succulents – so much so I kept hitting my head and getting my hair caught on the hanging plants. It was amazing. If you’re looking for something free to do in London, I would deffo recommend it. Next time I’ll be going back with a mini picnic, a sketchbook and some pencils.

42 // Choosing Adventure


Another 31st and another year ends… And so it’s time to get introspective and take a look over 2016… This year has been an odd one and absolutely full of change and I think that is what has defined this year to be honest. This year I’ve made life changing decisions, I questioned the hell out of my choices and I’m still considering a lot of things but when I look at what I want from my future I believe I’m making the right choices for me. I hope at least.

I think the world in general has made some terrible, terrible decisions (hello Brexit & Trump) because of fear and greed which aren’t really the best foundations for decisions imho. However, I am choosing to see these disappointing majorities as an opportunity: for us who believe in cultivating a more open and inclusive future for everyone to build and educate, while even more importantly doing good things to benefit all… An opportunity to create things that add to culture. Because as Dumbledore said ‘While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one’.

I watched this video last year in 2015 called The Thousand Year Journey: Oregon to Patagonia where a chap called Jedidiah Jenkins goes cycling for a year and a half with the aim of extending how he remembered time and to experience more of it, shaking up his daily living because ‘routine is the enemy of time’. That’s pretty much how this year has been for me in a way and I’m finding it really hard to look back because I feel like so much has happened but it feels like no time has passed at all since I stopped my routine clock. Which I think is a good thing because I’ve loved almost every moment of it, so instead of the usual overview I’ve found some questions which I’m just going to answer.

2016:

What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
The single best thing and most terrifying thing was quitting my job and starting freelancing. It’s changed everything. It’s not gone as imagined as anything but it’s working differently and better than I anticipated.

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Seeing loved ones and people I care about struggle with work and unexpected life problems and not being able to do anything to help them other than to talk and listen.

What was an unexpected joy this past year?
Making connections with more people than I expected to because I finally had time to spend with them. Over the last few years I’ve been working so hard with day job work and freelancing in the evening I have lost out on doing things I like with people I like just because I knew this was where I wanted to be so I needed to put the work in. This year I’ve made such an effort to be there more for friends, to meet up, talk and hang out because I’ve given myself time now that my side hustle has become my main hustle.

What was an unexpected obstacle?
Time management has been a funny one. I am very committed to doing what I do and I can work from home very easily, the trouble I have is telling myself to start and stop at reasonable hours. Some days I have done nothing because I didn’t feel like doing anything, others I’ve worked from 9:30am till 4am the following morning. It’s great having the luxury but it should be more balanced.

Pick three words to describe this past year.
Independent. Bright. Gamble.

What was the best thing you read this year?
It’s not a book, or an article. I love Beau Taplin’s Instagram. There are such beautifully written words: It’s like reading Conor Oberst’s lysrics that speak unlimited truths just they’re not lyrics.

Who were your most valuable relationships with?
All my standard relationships and friendships all stood strong but the ones that stand out are…

  • Juliette, who has consistently been there when I’ve needed someone to talk to and who would just be supportive and interested.
  • Sabine, who has been a pleasure to work with again and who has helped keep me sane when I’ve had no one to talk to all week. It’s been and will continue to be such an adventure and I feel I have more to bring to the table this around.
  • And lastly working with Audrey and Olly-Fleur, who I was only blessed with the presence of for two months, but the process was a bit like going through hardcore boot-camp and it felt like having allies and felt like making genuine friends who have your back.

What were your favourite moments spent with your friends & family?
There are so, so many. Walks home along the river, weekend wandering and late night walks in the heat of summer with Mikee and Piggy – getting to see bats in the park and beautiful sunsets over the docks and walks over the downs with the dogs at home. Wandering around Barcelona with mum and walking our legs into oblivion then watching the classic film Sharknado… Airbourne, sitting on the beach getting sunburned firstly with my family then with my friends, and watching fireworks freezing on the top of Beachy Head with mum. Seeing my dad in the UK for the first time in four years and having walks around Friston forest with Sarah. Midnight & midday phone calls with Dan having the most interesting conversations about anything and everything. Multiple late evenings at work with Audrey – listening to Britney Spears, chatting about shared points of view and interests that then led to evening hang outs and a day wondering around Highgate cemetery. A picnic with bubbles and puppies with Aoife, as well as a few other catch ups that involved attempting to infiltrate the Ogilvy bar… Late night merry conversations with wonderful, interesting people. Watching films, being a bit bitchy, talking about love and crying with laughter with Aaron. Special hangouts with my fellow girl boss Antonia that have included too much wine, M&S cocktails in the park and signing a million pieces of paper for her so she could legally change her name. Conversations and meet ups with Fleur, talking about ideas and about beliefs, shared aspirations, dreams and figuring out life and how to deal with it. I had two spectacular weeks spent with Christina: we saw my grandad’s 90th and had a spa day and did our favourite London things including gigs, milkshakes and one time pamper time. A one night get together with four of my closest friends that live too far away, that somehow resulted in free dessert. Fridays making things with Cathy and talking about life. Lunches & dinners and craft days with Juliette. Skyping with Sabine righting the wrongs of the world. Hanging out with Hussain sitting in a cafe on a Tuesday afternoon and realising I’m doing the right thing. Welcoming Will back to London and seeing friends from St Martins and meeting their cute little babies. Meeting up with Megan and Sara and talking about life and creativity. And lastly being trusted by the loveliest of friends to work on their precious ventures, helping to bring them to life.

What was your favourite compliment that you received this year?
‘I trust you’ from a few people this year. It’s been my favourite thing to hear.

In what ways did you grow emotionally and physically?
Emotionally I’m more steady and confident than before although I feel I am in the process of questioning, analysing and assessing every single thing in my life. Far more than before.  Physically I’m taking care of myself more, again I have more time. I take Piggy for walks, and I will frequently walk the hour and a half journey home from central London. I’ve also started doing pilates again and I really like having that hour every week to focus on breathing and moving. I’m eating better because I eat at home and I only eat when I want/need: I’ve lost a stone in weight since leaving full time which is mad.

What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
I have loved the relationships I’ve built with people over the last year. I’ve loved having the opportunity to work on new things and learn about lots of different topics and I’ve really enjoyed boosting my confidence on some aspects that were lacking. I also love that I no longer need a managers validation: I’ve realised it makes me hold myself back, waiting until someone recognises I’ve done something good but now I give that to myself while working as part a team with my clients.

What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
My work is my passion and so it becomes a massive part of my life – knowing when to stop is the hardest thing and finding things to do that are equally as interesting is actually really difficult.

What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Worrying. Worrying about stuff. Worrying about how it would go. Worrying solves nothing.

What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Changing my job and simply spending time with people I care about.

What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
Trust yourself.

2017:

What do you want the overarching theme for your 2017 to be?
Learning & Success.

What are you looking forward to next year?
A last minute trip to Gran Canaria in two weeks time – I have no idea what to expect. Sleeping Beauty the ballet with Aaron. Going to see Bonobo and hopefully seeing Glass Animals again. Christina & Dorian visiting in April. Visiting Verona & Lake Garda with mum in May. Spending time with amazing people. Starting Kireli (I’ll tell you later).

Who do you want to spend more time with in 2017?
Everyone I spent time with in 2016.

Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?
I would love to develop the ability to talk confidently and articulately in person around people I don’t know. I can’t do it very well and it’s the one thing I’ve felt most frustrated with and that I have never been given the chance to cultivate.

What do you want your everyday life to be like?
An adventure. Full of ups and downs, sunlight and fog (not much rain though), music and dancing, reading and sleeping… Full of conversations of the deep and silly varieties with people who make me smile alongside quiet moments just spent swimming in my soup brain while sitting in a nice smelling bath in a dark room… Like it is now mostly… With maybe a little more structure.

Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?
Flossing & a healthy bed time (I write at 3:51am – oops).

What do you want to achieve career-wise?
I’ve spent this last year just seeing how things go without much intention. This year I want to bring in the intention and see what can be achieved.

How do you want to remember the year 2017 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?
I’ll remember it however it’s meant to be remembered. However I have a feeling it’s going to be a year full of unknowns, contemplation and changes and I have no idea where that will lead.

What is your number one goal for 2017?
My number one goal all the time, keeping positive and always seeing the bright side.

And so to end on another quote… ‘What a year this day has been. What a day this year has been’. Happy New Year my sweet peas.

41 // SIX MONTHS DOING

How is it the middle of October already? I guess time flies when you’re having fun and I feel like I’ve been having the best time. It’s been more than six months since I left the security of full time and somehow – very luckily – I’ve been making it work. Go me!

I’ve slowly been adding things to my portfolio but I still have so many projects to add. I’m feel a little edit will be in order though because how much work is too much work, what work is actually relevant to show? I guess it depends on the work I want to do – does anyone have any tips?

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The last time I did a life update I had just left full time land and I was in the midst of doing my freelance stint at Ogilvy working in the content studio filling in as an art director. It was really nice working on the creative side of things as well – I love working on design but my University course and my career leading up to my last role set me up to think conceptually. And while I always work conceptually in my freelance work I realised it’s something I really missed and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the different demands of working as a hands on art director finally able to sink my teeth into something.

While I was there I had to work as part of a creative team with a copywriter who was also filling in. I’m used to working pretty independently so I was really surprised by how easy it was to work with someone I barely knew and how well we actually worked together despite being opposites in pretty much every aspect. It was pretty full on but I had a lot of fun working with the team and got to know them pretty well. It was an odd feeling leaving Ogilvy a second time around as although I was excited to experience this crazy freedom of not knowing what’s in the future I was pretty sad to be leaving the people behind so I’ve made sure to keep in touch with them.

Since getting back from Finland I’ve been helping out with a health and medical business called Sagitta – more about that in a separate post. I’ve was commissioned by Thames Hudson to create 45 illustrations for a colouring book which was a pretty full on project – I’ll share more on this when the book is out in spring next year. I’ve branded a lady who works as an independent consultant in Adolescent Health and HIV, which is such a crazy amazing job. I have nothing but respect and admiration for people who work in fields like that. I have also been commissioned to photograph team press shots of the management team at The Culture Trip – such an interesting start up and the people working there are lovely. I’ve Illustrated a book cover for an Anthology by First Story. In relation to Sagitta I’ve designed an underground ad and some packaging for Nordstern apothecary in Germany. I’ve been working away on the videos, the EP artwork and photos for Catherine Okada which you can read about here and I’ve designed a blog for a developer friend. The last project I’ve been working on is art directing and designing a brochure and other promotional assets for a high end fragrance brand called Cath Collins. Next up I have a branding project to do for a vegan fast food restaurant which should be super fun.

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I’ve been really loving the variety of work and I’ve found it quite weird that I am still trying to find time to update my portfolio. I was expecting everything to be quiet and to be worrying about having no money and nothing to do and I expected myself to be chasing people to get work but so far I’ve been really surprised by it all. The majority of work I’ve had has been through people I’ve worked with in the past which has been wonderful. I know we’re getting into the weird time of year where everything is supposed to get busy and then get really quiet so we’ll see if my tune changes at all with the pace of things.

Outside of work it’s been a bit weird getting used to not having to be somewhere all day for specific days and during specific times. I feel like I’ve gained so much more time and I no longer feel like I’m racing toward the weekend every week which is amazing and I’ve been trying to make the most of it. I just generally feel better off, healthier, more content and like I’m able to give myself the time to take better care of myself now. I also make sure I pay more attention to my friends and family because while I was working so hard to get to this point right here my relationships are something that took a bit of a hit. So far the experience has been really cool and I’m interested to see what happens over the next few months. Touch wood hah. It really doesn’t feel like it’s been six months already, it literally only feels like I left yesterday.

40 // A TRIP TO TAMPERE, FINLAND

Back in June just after I finished my freelance stint at Ogilvy I took a trip to Tampere in Finland with my mum to visit my grandparents for a week. The last time I went was in 2014 when we took Mikee there for his birthday in January so this one was a different trip right in the middle of midsummer when the sun doesn’t set.

My family would always go for most of the summer holiday when I was a kid. I’d spend time hanging out with my cousins, going fishing, eating ice cream and frying sausages, having saunas, riding bikes in the giant garden, playing darts and funny croquet with my grandpa and sewing a lot. It was a very unplugged way of life and as an adult visiting is vastly different. It was a very chilled holiday to say the least and I didn’t really know what to do with myself while we were there. I’d been running at the speed of light for work up until a few days before we went.

My grandparents live in the middle of nowhere on a really long road where their closest neighbour is about 100ft away from their house. My mum and I spent a few evenings walking down that road and if you walk for half an hour in either direction you don’t come to anything other than still being on that road with nothing in sight. I tried to access roaming data on my phone and all it would come up with was E so no internet & no one to talk English to I ended up reading a lot and spending a lot of time in my brain until I picked up my camera and started making the little film you see above.

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The day after we arrived my grandparents took us to the summer cottage. We did a very brief stint of fishing with my grandpa, had a sauna which was great, basically ate the equivalent of an entire cake in baked goods, got bitten by tonnes of mosquitos and went for a walk in the forest to see if we could visit my mums friend. I think it was while we were fishing I decided to start filming bits and pieces. It was a pretty fun learning process and it was fun thinking about the images moving rather than static shots.

My grandma has dementia and she spends a lot of her time colouring in colouring books, when we got back to the house she showed us what she’d done and I remembered she used to make glasswork, and I wondered if she had any of her old patterns around and if they could be turned into designs for a colouring book. We had a look at those and she also showed us a book she’d made when she was 13 and learning how to be a dressmaker. She told us she remembered always having things in her pockets, things to sew and make textiles with and I’d always have pens and paper in mine.

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The second day I read a lot – I was reading Quiet by Susan Cain which I still haven’t finished. It’s super interesting I just haven’t had much time to read since being on holiday. It’s all about her research into being introverted and how it can be beneficial to be the thoughtful quiet type. I’d highly recommend checking out her TED talk. About halfway through the day my mum asked if I wanted to go and visit a graveyard that was situated in a forest so off we went with my grandparents. We laid some flowers at the grave of my mums relatives and had a wander around. It was incredibly beautiful, all the spots had so much space around them and the light coming through the trees made it feel quite magical.

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On the third day we took a trip into Tampere to do a little bit of shopping and we took a little detour when my mum remembered you could get a ferry to a small island called Viikinsaari. She’d visited when she was little and wanted to see what it would be like. After a short wait and a little trip on the ferry we ended up walking around the whole island having a heart to heart. We had some ice cream – standard. Finland consumes the most amount of ice cream and coffee in the world per head, not being a coffee drinker I need to join in somehow so ice cream is my claim. We got the ferry back and had a wander around the shops getting a few bits and pieces before heading back for more reading and eating far too much and one of those half hour walks up the road.

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Probably the most chilled out day and one of the nicest, I spent a lot of time sitting in the swing my grandparents own trying to facebook message my best friend in Canada while reading my book and editing my little film. My mum and I wandered around the garden and picked some wildflowers and tried to make a midsummer flower crown which provided some amusing moments with my grandparents. I might not be able to really talk to them because my Finnish is awful, but laughing is a universal language.

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On the last full day we went back to the summer cottage and had another sauna and a my grandad had a bonfire. The weather was pretty awful so I just sat outside in the porch and listened to the rain while I read and filmed a bit more. Once we’d had the sauna we got ready and mum and I went to visit her friend. I didn’t understand a word that was being said so I mostly played with her friends two pugs as doggy friendship is another universal language. We headed back to the house for one last night just before the weather took another turn.

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It was a super chilled, quiet trip. It made me realise I don’t know how to do being bored. I don’t know how to not be doing something, I don’t know how to exist in just my head with no distractions and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing because I feel being busy all the time means life keeps speeding by despite having loads of fun. I probably need to learn how to switch off and make some time to just exist sometimes but I don’t know how to do that – has anyone got any tips?

39 // Catherine Okada ‘An Honest Tune’

Six months after leaving my job I’m slowly starting to update my portfolio. I’ve been so busy I just haven’t had time. I’ll do an update soon because I’ve had some pretty cool projects. Anyway I recently added this live video I worked on for the lovely Catherine Okada to the site! I’ve never really worked on video so it was a learning experience to say the least. Prior to this I’d never edited or used premier pro and somehow I managed to put this together and not have it look half bad. We filmed the footage back at the start of the year at Goldsmiths Music Studios in New Cross in London. It was a really fun day and I roped in a few friends to help with the process. Many thanks to Steve especially as it wouldn’t look half as good without his camera skills.

Anyway, Cathy is a very talented musician who has a brilliant sound and some very interesting stories behind her writing. She’s releasing an EP next month and I’ve been busy working away on the artwork (below) for the release which has been great. We worked on the design together and used pieces of origami to create shapes you can see. Inspired by the shapes of hourglasses and Japanese mountains. We’re also working on a creative music video for her track Hourglass which we should be filming soon, I’m pretty excited to be getting this done.

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Below are some shots I took from in the studio with Shuta Shinoda while recording half of the EP. I hope you enjoy the music video and if you want to listen to some more check her out on Soundcloud and Facebook and definitely have a listen to this wonderful track:

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38 // PIGGY DOODLES

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Inspired by our little Pig the sausage dog, I did some doodles of her just for fun on a whim of motivation. I still need to do ‘the meercat’ but I’ll keep going when she gets into other cute positions that are easy to turn into doodles. Happy Monday! Enjoy for now.

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