31 December 2014

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

As you read this, New Zealand is already embracing the new year of 2015. We've watched the sunset on an incredible 2014 and have (probably) watched the sunrise over the horizon of 2015.

Each year I like to finish with a little roundup of the year that was. I think we'll play with the top 14 posts of 2014 (I did 13 last year, and 12 the year before... see where I'm going with this?) The first seven are chosen by you, my lovely readers, and always include a few surprises...

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015 - Adventures of a London Kiwi








Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015 - Adventures of a London Kiwi

...and the posts I enjoyed writing the most...









Here's to 2014 - may it be wonderful for you!

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015 - Adventures of a London Kiwi

27 December 2014

How to do your blog housekeeping

Pretending to be a good blogger over the Christmas/New Year break I try and do a few of those nagging blog chores that get overlooked during the year. You know the ones I mean, those nagging bits and piece that you keep meaning to do, but don't quite get around to (Hello Twitter and Bloglovin' procrastination, but not now!).

I thought it might help to share a few of the things that I like to try and do over one of those quiet Winter afternoons... (it'll also hopefully inspire me to do all of these that I've been meaning to!)

25 December 2014

Merry Happy Christmas!!

I hope you're spending today in your favorite way - whether it's with your family, excitedly waiting for the Doctor Who Christmas episode, spoiling yourself with a feast, hiding from your family, laughing at awful-ly good Christmas Cracker jokes, unwrapping presents, online shopping or just hanging out in your PJs.


My Christmas gift to you? A sleigh-full of Christmas Carol suggestions. Just remember, you won't get to play them for a whole 'nother year...
Christmas Carol playlist recommendation - Adventures of a London Kiwi

I've shortlisted a few below. I'll see you tomorrow!

23 December 2014

10 reasons Jet Lag is awesome

Let's face it, jetlag mostly sucks. Long-haul flights aren't easy, and juggling the after effects of exhaustion, a lack of adrenalin (all used up transferring between countries) and a decided case of dehydration can be really tough. But there is always a silver lining to every cloud and weird as it sounds and even a severe case of Jet Lag has perks.
10 reasons Jet Lag is awesome - Adventures of a London Kiwi

1. Hugging the stuffing out of the happy faces of your friends and family.
2.Waking up early in the morning to set off on adventures instead of the usual Saturday morning slumber.
3. New adventures await at your destination.

20 December 2014

My social media addictions...

Where would we be without social media? Ok, so some people would possibly be conversing IRL with their friends without the possibility of Twittering said conversation (moderation is definitely key) but for me it's been a London ice breaker that has put me in contact with a bevy of wonderful people, meals, bloggers, occasions, fascinating events, news updates and many videos of cats. Many.

Twitter - londonkiwiemma 

* Twitter
This is an addiction I can't seem to shake off. There is something great about being able to pick up the random world at the touch of the finger tips, though it's a definitely a time suck.

The land of the Long White Cloud

Much to my amazement I survived 28 hours of flying, 3 airport transfers through 4 hemispheres, one dash through Dubai airport, being stuck in one seat for more than a whole day, an emotional reunion at the airport, 4 hours sleep in 48, read 3 books and watched 2.5 movies.


And now I've awoken to birdsong, warm rain on my pale Brit-influenced skin, the sun shining off a nearby pohutukawa tree and a stash of kiwi goodies. Win!

18 December 2014

Thoughts of home as an expat

I'm about to board a 30-hour flight home, and it scares and thrills me in equal measures. In all the time I've lived in the UK, I've never been back home for the festive holidays and an upside-down Southern Hemisphere Christmas is thrilling.

As last minute decision booking the flight, telling my family and packing the essentials (ie. enough Jaffa cakes to last a fortnight) has been a whirlwind of emotion. Excitement at going home, sadness at leaving my boy & cat to get up to mischief without me, nervousness of flying to the other side of the world on my own, the fun of buying presents for my first baby Nephew, glee of booking a tour around a Matamata farm (ie. MiddleEarth), the anticipation of several mini-Christmasses and sand between my toes, the heavy-heartedness of not seeing my British family and overall gratitude that it's possible to spend Christmas with my nearest and dearest.

I still can't really believe it.

Thoughts of home as an expat - Adventures of a London Kiwi

It's also been too long since I hugged my Dad, drank coffee with my brother and harassed my poor sister the only way a sister can. It's been much too long since I tasted my aunt's baking, ate Toastie Pies with my best friend and bridesmaid, and shook my head with my brother's girlfriend at the antics of their pet menagerie (and my brother is definitely included in that). It will also be too long apart from my crazy husband, nutso cat, watching my but lovely diminutive mother-in-law keep her mischevious boys in line, toast the Queen with my brother- and sister-ine-law and listen to Big Ben chime.

Thoughts of home as an expat - Adventures of a London Kiwi

(Ps. I blame Kaelene for this post - she wrote such a fantastic gif-laden description of the emotions of home!)

I think it's safe to say that once I land I'll be a cheerful, knackered ball of emotion ready for a real bed and the hugs of my family.

My good friend and fellow expat Yannick asked me how I thought I'd feel as the new me, compared to the old me who used to live in New Zealand and it's a actually really difficult question to answer and played on my mine for days. Leaving aside the fact that I'm not entirely sure who me is anyway (though I'm rather proud of my Ode to Toast blogpost, possibly the pinnacle of my career) once you leave the bosom of your home country it's inevitable that you're going to change in a million ways. You learn about your own character, you form opinions, experiences change your character and even the way you see your own country changes. What's more I've lived most of my adult life in the UK - how can I be the same naïve Kiwi girl who jumped in an airplane, ready for life to happen?

Thoughts of home as an expat - Adventures of a London Kiwi

That, in a waffly nutshell, are the bittersweet joys of being an expat. But, it is worth every single second.
 
“Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”
Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

17 December 2014

Unctious Baked Brie - a Christmas table canape

There is something magical about a communal dish - Spanish Tapas nestled in the middle of a table, a warming pot of goulash, a selection of spiced Indian curries or tearing the end off a piping hot loaf of freshly baked bread that unites us in an almost neanderthal manner.


This year I have discovered something from the kitchen tables of yesteryear that will blow your mind (and possibly the size of your hips but it is worth every single extra flight of stairs). A warm, indulgently oozy Brie (or Camembert) baked in the oven with a sprinkling of delicious flavour, served alongside a selection of freshly toasted bread and dipping crudite. What more could you want to start a luscious Christmas feast alongside the people that you love?

16 December 2014

Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare

For this particular book addiction, I blame Bailie. Set in Victorian London, the Infernal Devices series is a prequel to the best-selling Mortal Instruments' series. A surprising subterranean world with supernatural twists holds many secrets for Tessa, an American girl who travels to England to meet up with her brother after losing her aunt - her nearest family.

Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

The novels feature Tessa (who on being kidnapped fresh off her boat from the US) finds out that she has supernatural powers. It's a Young Adult series - feeding our seemingly insatiable appetite for Vampires, Demons, Shadowhunters, and the inevitable love triangle with angsty angry Will and seemingly perfect Jem.
 

Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

It's always interesting to look back at a series once you've finished the first book, at how the characters develop - Tessa seems to get out of the way a lot of the time when the action hits, but I have to keep in mind that it's set in Victorian England where women and kids were seen and not heard for the most part. My interest is most definitely piqued though, and I'm awaiting to get the second in the series. 

15 December 2014

The Barbican Conservatory, a tropical wander amongst concrete.

Sometimes Christmas festivities can get a little too much. Goodness knows I adore it, but a couple of weekends ago when meeting with a couple of the usual brunch suspects to scope a new coffee hotspot, the lovely Alana was planning to escape the festive London chaos by visiting the Barbican Conservatory, so I pottered along with her.

Who knew that such Brutalist architecture hid a multi-level tropical forest?

The Barbican Conservatory - Adventures of a London Kiwi

Free to enter, the large conservatory is allegedly the second biggest in London and is home to exotic fish and over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. The residential estate itself was originally built to replace housing destroyed in the Second World War and also houses a labyrinthine layout of an arts building “art, music, theatre, dance, film and creative learning events”.

13 December 2014

Experiencing the Northern Lights over Tromso, Norway


Gathered around a Norwegian campfire, 350km into the Arctic Circle, huddled from head to toe in exploration overalls and snow boots we had one of those life-affirming moments. Occasions when you really feel alive.

We only had to stare into the clear pinpricks of the Milky Way, spread across the night sky in a haze of primordial luminescence, whilst our tour mates clanked about with torches and cameras attempting to capture the faint Aurora Borealis in rolling hazy streams over our heads. You know, those moments.


The snap crackle and pop of flame licking autumn-dried brushwood, baked by a long windy summer. Sliding hotdogs onto claimed sticks in a barbaric echo of cavemen eons ago, all the while our homemade vegetable soup was shaken vigorously from a thermos, bringing us back to earth with a modern thump.

A shout went up near the end of our temporary campsite, another possible spotting of one of the worlds greatest natural phenomenon; the magnetic effect sunspots have on our Earth's atmosphere, creating surreal plays of light and colour across Scandanavian skies.

The Aurora Borealis.


After hours of fruitless navigating through tumultuous rain clouds and pregnant winds, the only clear window of the evening finally braved our eager eyes. We had travelled for miles, not just that evening but from nations all over the world, hoping, praying for a glimpse of the nebulous Northern Lights.

To the east, a faint green glow began to spread across the sky. Our guides shouting to us in their hungry excitement as the heavens began to shift in a shimmery glaze. There we were, stood in the middle of an Arctic pasture, heads agog, necks protesting, as one of the Earth's greatest spectacles unfolded before us. As the native Saami people phrase it, we witnessed "the fire lit by a bird, the Siberian Jay".

Demure, but incredible nonetheless, we stood amidst the clicking, clanking and whirring of electrical equipment photographing the dancing colour, content to simply appreciate these astonishing moments. Not wishing to be kidnapped by the Lights, we kept our handkerchiefs safely stowed in pockets and whistling to a bare minimum - to avoid spoiling the Norwegians' childhood ghost stories for future generations if nothing else.

Before we knew it, they retired back to their celestial homes. 


We shuffled through the pitch black darkness to a Saami site where trade camps are pitched all summer long, to lay that fire and talk nonsense. No-one really spoke of the Lights, as if it was almost taboo. Our grinning hosts, one a gregarious Glaswegian, the other a no-nonsense Norwegian Mama whose brood seemed to include these ethereal flickerings, broke open a celebratory tin of Shortbread and Jaffa Cakes ("Aurora Jaffa Cakes" I was assured with a theatrical wink) and a wee dram of Whiskey to warm us from the tops of our heads, to the tips of our toes.

And that, that was how we experienced the Northern Lights in Tromso.

12 December 2014

Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon

It's beginning to look a lot like #SinterThanksgiving... no wait, what? It's just the best ever meal and table full of laughter you'll get this side of the continent.

Simply combine 3 Kiwis, a Minnesotan native, a lovely Dutch lady and two bemused Brits, and you've invented Sinter/Thanksgiving, a hybrid holiday of all the best bits of American and Dutch festive holidays. Bubbly, an incredible Turkey, pepernoten, kruidnootjes, mashed potato, stuffing, taai-taai poppen, chocolate coins, marzipan potatoes, a lot of cheek about lack of kettle ownership and a gorgeous living room. That's what you need.

Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon
A delectably laden table
Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon
Golden Turkey perfection
Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon
Pumpkin Pie
Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon
...and Pecan Pie. Perfection, huh?
I was also lucky enough to accidentally find myself on one of the routes of SantaCon - a terrific pub crawl of epic proportions and thousands of merry makers dressed as Santa.

Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon

Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon 
Ah, London.

Friday figments & photos: #SinterThanksgiving & SantaCon

11 December 2014

A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition

Blogger gift guides seem to be a thing now, so I thought I would join on the jolly festive bandwagon. As with most things, I can never do anything the normal way, and the idea of a charity gift guide for those friends and family who have absolutely everything, tickled my fancy.

The basic idea is instead of buying one of those sickly smelling bath sets where half the products are thrown away, and ugly tie that is only trotted out on special occasions, how about you buy a chicken for a suffering family and share the feel-good donation afterglow? Plus there's usually an informative wee reminder card to give the receiver. A gift that keeps on giving - share the love & do a good deed.

A few quick ideas could be;

Christmas e-cards are a quick, easy and environmentally friendly way to send your festive wishes to friends and family – while helping young people escape homelessness at the same time. - See more at: http://www.centrepointgifts.org.uk/?AppealID=RWA1314GO&PackageID=SA&xtor=SEC-43-GOO-[Generic]-[]-S-[charity%20gifts%20for%20xmas]&gclid=CjwKEAiA-5-kBRDylPG5096R8mASJABqEdm4ehrucKP_ZMJFYwJra8SCLJezCIOlz9KKaRTP3EuZeRoCjPXw_wcB#sthash.GAcf4Gxv.dpuf
Christmas e-cards are a quick, easy and environmentally friendly way to send your festive wishes to friends and family – while helping young people escape homelessness at the same time. - See more at: http://www.centrepointgifts.org.uk/?AppealID=RWA1314GO&PackageID=SA&xtor=SEC-43-GOO-[Generic]-[]-S-[charity%20gifts%20for%20xmas]&gclid=CjwKEAiA-5-kBRDylPG5096R8mASJABqEdm4ehrucKP_ZMJFYwJra8SCLJezCIOlz9KKaRTP3EuZeRoCjPXw_wcB#sthash.GAcf4Gxv.dpuf
Christmas e-cards are a quick, easy and environmentally friendly way to send your festive wishes to friends and family – while helping young people escape homelessness at the same time. - See more at: http://www.centrepointgifts.org.uk/?AppealID=RWA1314GO&PackageID=SA&xtor=SEC-43-GOO-[Generic]-[]-S-[charity%20gifts%20for%20xmas]&gclid=CjwKEAiA-5-kBRDylPG5096R8mASJABqEdm4ehrucKP_ZMJFYwJra8SCLJezCIOlz9KKaRTP3EuZeRoCjPXw_wcB#sthash.GAcf4Gxv.dpuf
Centrepoint's mission is tackling youth homelessness and providing young people with a real opportunity to achieve independence. You can donate a meal, a gift box or Christmas e-cards, all quick, easy and environmentally friendly ways to send your festive wishes to friends and family – while helping young people escape homelessness at the same time.

 A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition

Whatever you can afford to give - non-perishables are usually best as the food banks can hold onto them as long as needed without having to refrigerate.

A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition

Buy a family a schooldesk, a goat or antibiotics for a sick child - Present Aid
Each Present Aid gift bought will help Christian Aid transform the lives of people in poor communities around the world - helping families in countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Bangladesh and many more places in need of support.

A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition
providing young people with a real opportunity to achieve independence through Centrepoint's proven approach to tackling youth homelessness. - See more at: http://www.centrepointgifts.org.uk/?AppealID=RWA1314GO&PackageID=SA&xtor=SEC-43-GOO-[Generic]-[]-S-[charity%20gifts%20for%20xmas]&gclid=CjwKEAiA-5-kBRDylPG5096R8mASJABqEdm4ehrucKP_ZMJFYwJra8SCLJezCIOlz9KKaRTP3EuZeRoCjPXw_wcB#sthash.q6ssycSQ.dpuf
providing young people with a real opportunity to achieve independence through Centrepoint's proven approach to tackling youth homelessness. - See more at: http://www.centrepointgifts.org.uk/?AppealID=RWA1314GO&PackageID=SA&xtor=SEC-43-GOO-[Generic]-[]-S-[charity%20gifts%20for%20xmas]&gclid=CjwKEAiA-5-kBRDylPG5096R8mASJABqEdm4ehrucKP_ZMJFYwJra8SCLJezCIOlz9KKaRTP3EuZeRoCjPXw_wcB#sthash.q6ssycSQ.dpuf


Buy a family a Chicken, or perhaps a Yak - Save the Children
"Between 1 October and 31 December, whenever you purchase a Wishlist item, the UK government will match your donation pound for pound up to £5 million. That means your gift will have double the value and enableGiftAid to do twice as much for children."

A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition


Adopt a an endangered animal - WWF
They're insanely cute, gentle giants (unless you happen to be a bamboo plant) and incredibly under threat. Not only do all profits go to fund the care and protection of your chosen wild animal, your giftee gets their own 'adoption' papers AND a cuddly plush toy version too.

A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition 


A gift guide that keeps on giving - the charity edition

£5, £10, £50 anything that you can spare can go a long way in a small charity, or to a struggling family with barely enough to eat, let alone gifts to give their children during the most gluttonous season of the year.

Just think of Charles Dicken's poor little matchgirl.

Have you any extra ideas as well? Is there a charity or cause close to your heart?

** None of these charities know I'm touting them about!

10 December 2014

108 Brasserie, Marylebone Hotel - Restaurant Review

Tucked away from the Christmas chaos that permeates Oxford Street, is a beautiful brasserie just a moment from the hidden oasis of Marylebone High Street. One of my favorite villages in the centre of London, Marylebone has a quirky, old-fashioned charm that epitomises genteel London. With beautiful gingerbread mansion buildings, a cozy community feel and a gathering of boutique shops you forget that the hubbub of Oxford Street is just a 10 minute walk away.

108 Marylebone Brasserie - Restaurant Review

Starting the evening with a pre-meal aperitif in the beautifully appointed 1920s-feel bar my dinner date (the infamous Mr Kiwi) and I caught up on the events of each others day and enjoyed the gentle hubbub of our fellow imbibers. An intriguing mix of business people and small groups, it was pleasantly busy even on a Tuesday evening. We chose a delicious New Zealand Sauvingnon Blanc which took us through to the end of the meal (and a cheekily refreshing Meantime beer).


9 December 2014

Rivers of London, a supernatural London series by Ben Aaronovitch

One of the delights of reading is the ability to re-visit old favourites. Books that envelope you like an old friend; vaguely familiar but with the excitement of forgotten memories. I've found myself lately turning to a few old comforts, such as the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. A beguiling mix of the supernatural, crime-fighting and unusual personifications of London, the series is now onto the fifth installment - safe in my hot little hands.

Peter Grant is your average Central London PC; street-wise, loves his curries, beer and football but not so great at concentrating on the finer detail. It just so happens that one day he takes a statement "from a man who was already dead but still disturbingly voluble." Little does he realise the chain of fate that will lead him to join a very special until of the Met Police, specialising in the unexplainable and are called to cases that can't solved with ordinary policing.
 Rivers of London, a supernatural London series by Ben Aaronovitch

I really enjoyed the clever mix of life in London with a supernatural twist. The characters are flawed and funny - narrated by Peter Grant, it feels that as a character he begins to find himself, instead of being banished the drudgery of the paperwork based 'Case Progression Unit' and finds a niche in which to use his unique perspective on the world. As a result of this 'awareness' he is approached by a fairly secretive branch of the Met Police, and he begins to train as a magician because as the character says "I want in Sir, I've got to know." I think I would do the same.

Rivers of London (Rivers of London 1) Ben Aaronovitch

As he begins the process of discovering there is much more to London than thought, we begin to know the secondary characters of Lesley (a fellow copper) and Nightingale (arcane teacher). London itself is almost a character in the novel, and as a card-carrying antipodean, this was one of my favourite aspects of the book - not to mention the personifications of the London Rivers. It took me a couple of chapters to get into it, much like Terry Pratchett when I was younger, but once I was hooked, that was it.

 Rivers of London, a supernatural London series by Ben Aaronovitch

Moon Over Soho (Rivers of London 2) Ben Aaronovitch 
 
 Another installment of The Rivers of London series, we follow London Bobby Constable Grant as he gets futher into his education, and tackles cases - or rather ends up stumbling upon them. He is called to the city morgue, where a body contains an imprint of a jazz song - something isn't right.


Rivers of London, a supernatural London series by Ben Aaronovitch

Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London 3): Ben Aaronovitch

You know when you're standing on the Bakerloo Line, it's late at night and you hear that weird noise that you can't work out what it is? Well, it's not the right time or situation to be reading this book whilst you are there, not once you begin the book. (Oh, yeah and personal safety as well kids.)


Rivers of London, a supernatural London series by Ben Aaronovitch

Broken Homes (Rivers of London 4): Ben Aaronovitch

The fourth installation of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London Series, Broken Homes is set South of the Thames, was a much awaited book in my household and had a clanger of a cliffhanger that has left me wanting more.

Rivers of London, a supernatural London series by Ben Aaronovitch

Definately a great commuting and travel read, and nice for something out of the ordinary (even compared to usual Fantasy books). The researching seems to be spot on, but doesn't overwelm and dry out the plotlines; and the many insights to the world of London Bobbies are very quick witted.

8 December 2014

10 things you must do in London this Christmas

London is one of my favorite cities to spend Christmas in. Whether it snows or dawns a clear blue sky there is something magical in December days spent under strings of fairy lights. After years living in England's capital city, I've realised we've unintentionally created a host of traditions. These apply any where in the world, but they always say 'write about what you know...'

As an early Christmas present, the image for this post magically became a printable list for your wallet. Happy Merry Christmas.


1. Sing to live Christmas Carols in an achingly beautiful setting.
Every year we like to catch a carol performance, but one of the most memorable were the angelic carols in St Pauls Cathedral. Completely free, listening to the complex harmonies echo throughout the incredible building, it's an experience that is totally worth lining up at least an hour early.

10 things you must do in London this Christmas 

2. Take part, or watch the annual Christmas Pudding Race.
Raising funds for Cancer Research UK, the annual Christmas Pudding Race pits eager groups of costumed Christmas dinners/reindeer/monsters/elves/shepherds/trees against each other for a prize presented by the *ahem* Queen.

10 things you must do in London this Christmas

3. Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Hang up as many fairy light strings and Christmas decorations as you heart desires/wallets stretches/you can fit. Celebrate with festive nibbles and carols in a cozy home. Preferably not a strangers, they may not appreciate it.

4. Spend time with people you love
A pretty simple premise really, my favourite way is usually via the medium of a DIY afternoon tea, a glass of mulled drink - or a recent addition - Thanksgiving feasts full of laughter.

10 things you must do in London this Christmas

5. Admire Christmas lights & ornate windows
Spend at least an evening seeing all of the Christmas lights and beautiful shop windows; the usual suspects of Oxford Street, Fortnum and Mason, Regent Street, Selfridges, but find a few quirky ones - Carnaby Street, Peter Jones, Marylebone High Street, small shops... A glass of mulled wine or cider is optional, but a Mince Pie isn't, sorry.

10 things you must do in London this Christmas

6. Go to a Pantomime
It doesn't matter what age you are, promise me you'll see one this year. Shouting "it's behind you!"  whilst howling with laughter at the smutty but very tongue-in-cheek jokes are obligatory.

7. Have a least 3 wrapping paper roll sword fights
...and shouting pirate terms at your opponent are essential. 

10 things you must do in London this Christmas

8. Wear Christmas Jumpers and exchange Secret Santa gifts
Especially important if you work in an office, take a moment to seize some hilarious irrelevant woolen outerwear. Participating in a secret santa present exchange is always good value, and can iron out a few day to day tensions... or just buy something wildly inappropriate.

9. Toast the Queen's speech
Early on Christmas Day afternoon, the dulcet tones of the reigning British monarch will spread throughout the land. Take 15 minutes out of cooking and eating your meal to salute her longevity. Then hurriedly YouTube the alternative Christmas speech.

10 things you must do in London this Christmas 

10. Show selfless kindness
We seem to focus on this more often at this time of year, but stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something you won't be thanked for but gives you a warm fuzzy feeling is imperative.

Do you do 'must do' activities or make a list at this time of year?