Opinion: On Deciding Not To Have a Wedding Yet

Thursday, May 5, 2016

So, in case you missed it, when we were in the middle of Ha Long Bay back in April, Tom asked me to marry him. And I said yes. I won't be sharing any more of our engagement than that, or certainly not for now. He designed a beautiful ring and by the time we got home from out Vietnam adventures, it was a bit strange, having had 2 weeks to get used to the idea (and the new tan line from my ring), to be plunged into a chaos of congratulatory family gatherings and the inevitable, oft asked question- have you set a date?

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Short answer, no.

Long answer: well....

Let's start with the most obvious thing for us, we have absolutely no idea how we want to do this. Tom and I have a lot of ideas on how we don't want to get married, but we haven't really gotten as far as how we would like to seal the deal. And quite frankly, the busiest part of my year business-wise and an especially hectic few months after an extended holiday for Tom, not really the best time to be stressing that kind of thing. So, no date, and no idea what kind of a wedding, with whom or where... yet.

We have done so much adulting this week now we've well and truly re-entered reality, it's my first night without Faceache in over a month- eagerly awaiting Friday already.

Then there's the boring adulting thing. Tom and I live in London, and that's expensive. I'm as ok with that as one ever gets with the cost of living, we choose to live where do, doing what we do and there's a cost attached to that. But it also means that we have to prioritise our finances carefully, and one of our major priorities, like lots of people, is saving for a deposit on a house purchase. We're getting there, slowly, but reaching our goal will not be possible if we have to dilute our savings plan to factor in a wedding. Buying a house is important to us and life is too short to give up wine to fund a wedding. See below...

Almost Friday. That means almost time to be reunited with one of my favourite boozy humans.

And weddings are expensive. I wince every time I read about cakes that cost as much as our rent, or realise that tabbing wedding onto the front of anything seems to treble the price. This is all the more frustrating, if like me, you've never really had an idea of your own wedding- I don't have a dream venue or style or image in my head.

And then there's the politics. My family is complicated, like a lot of families. I don't even want to think about the joy that will be a guestlist, high blood pressure might actually get to me before we get to the 'I do' bit.

So, no we haven't set a date. And it's not something that we'll be doing for a while, because it's not the right thing for us at this time.

Chloe Likes To Eat: Hot Smoked Salmon Burgers

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Recently I've been experimenting with different kinds of burger, because they can be a great protein component to a weekday lunch, especially if they're sitting in the freezer ready cooked. Don't get me wrong, I love a loaded beef burger with cheese, jalapenos and barbecue sauce and onion rings on a weekend, but it's not a great everyday choice.

These ones came about after my Dad left some hot smoked salmon in the fridge before disappearing off on holiday, and it was nearing its use by date.

Weekday lunch treat- smoked salmon burger. Recipe coming on my blog next week.


Salmon Burgers Recipe Chickpeas

Salmon Burger Recipe Mix

Salmon Burger Recipe Cooking

Hot Smoked Salmon Burger




print recipe

Hot Smoked Salmon Burger
Ingredients
  • 125g pack Hot Smoked Salmon
  • 200g Chickpeas
  • 1 Whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other Chilli sauce/paste
  • to taste Black Pepper
Instructions
1. Roast chickpeas in a half teaspoon of coconut oil for approx 20-25 mins (until crisp) and leave to cool2. Skin the smoked salmon and shred into a bowl chilli sauce, and pepper, mix well.
3. When chickpeas are cooled, pulse in a blender until they resemble crumbs (little and often here, you don't want hummus...)
4. Add chickpeas and egg to salmon mix, and combine
5. Shape into burgers and either griddle or fry in a half teaspoon of coconut oil on each side until cooked.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 large burgers

Vietnam Adventures: Hoi An

Saturday, April 30, 2016

So far, I've chatted about my first impressions of our trip, Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Click the locations to read the post.

Hoi An was our final destination. We booked 12 nights in this coastal town known for it's beach style resorts and also for its tailoring. I'll be doing a separate post about tailoring and what we bought next week, FYI.

From the people we spoke to, it turned out that staying longer than 5-7 days in Hoi An is unusual. We opted for longer because as part of our trip we desperately needed some R&R down time, and this seemed the best location to do it. But aside from laying around the pool drinking iced coffee and catching up on my reading list, here's a few other things we enjoyed:


Still trying to decide how much I like Hoi An. We're having a great holiday but I find the constant hard sell and being badgered on the streets hard work and off putting. Vietnam is certainly an experience.

Lanterns in Hoi An. I loved the idea of bringing one home but know full well it'll look at best off and at worst tacky back in our London flat.

Walking the Old Quarter, a bit like Hanoi, is lovely. I couldn't have done it every day without being a bit bored, but there's plenty of great looking shops and cafes and in the evenings, part of the town comes alive with a night market selling tourist souvenirs, clothes, toys and lanterns. Beware- everything happens quite early in Hoi An (especially if you're used to living in a larger city in the UK). Restaurants tend to shut at around 2130 and the 'night market' seems to kick off at around 1800, finishing by around 2200.

A recommendation for dinner this evening. Excited for jellyfish salad and squid and stingray and all the good stuff!

Had the best time doing a 4 course cookery class at Vy's Market today. My attempts were mediocre but I still had a blast.

We ate at Vy's Market after being recommended by some people we met on our Ha Long Bay cruise. The concept is very similar to a restaurant we ate at in Hanoi- it brings together street food style dishes (and more) onto a single menu to be enjoyed at your leisure. The biggest difference is that the service here is incredible, the restaurant itself is lovely and big and open, and the various speciality stands around the seating area give it a sense of what the food is all about. We ate here twice, and decided that the tours and classes on offer were definitely up our street which brings me to our next Hoi An Highlight...

Had the absolute best day cycling into the countryside, exploring Vietnamese salads, rice, markets and bean sprouts follows by cooking classes. So. Much. Fun.

I like to ride my bicycle, I love to ride my bike...

We opted for a Countryside Cycling Tour & Cookery Class. It cost $42 per person (including all food and drink, guides, bike hire etc) and was scheduled to run from 0830 to around 1300.

We started at around 0830 in the end, and we set off as a group of 6 cycling out to the central market for a nosey around, followed by rides to local rice fields, plots where herbs and salads are grown and a visit to a beansprout farmer. All at a very leisurely place with drinks stops.

After our little jaunt on the bikes, we headed to a dedicated space about Vy's Market restaurant which was set up for our group to prepare 4 different central Vietnamese dishes (including 2 that are specific to Hoi An) with a chef doing the demos and assisting, and time to eat each course as it came ready. We didn't leave until well after 1400 that afternoon, feeling very full and having had a total blast. This tour was definitely not the cheapest in town, but I think 100% good value. We really enjoyed seeing a bit more of what is produced locally and the cooking side of things was a well organised, professional set up that I enjoyed every second of, as a lover of the kitchen. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, and it was simple to book with a quick email.

Ms Vy has several restaurants as well as a hotel and the additional cooking classes in Hoi An, and we ate some great food at Morning Glory before heading for a tailoring appointment one evening too. The dishes are more single serving courses than small street food plates, and thoroughly enjoyable. These guys are super popular though, so be prepared to wait or book in advance. This Vietnamese prawn curry served in a whole coconut is worth booking for, and that's without the pork stuff squid we also shared.

Wish I was eating this for lunch today. Vietnamese shrimp curry served in a coconut. My spinach & broccoli peanut noodles with poached eggs is nowhere near as photogenic.

Another restaurant that was on my hit list for this trip was The Secret Garden. It's tucked away on a side alley of Le Loi in the Old Town and although there is a small sign, you really have to want to find it unless you're hyper observant. The setting is a beautiful walled in garden with the restaurant tables set throughout. This is a more 'high end' dining experience, but definitely not over formal. The service was impeccable and it was the perfect place to treat ourselves for our final night before flying home (and the penultimate night, to make sure it was finale appropriate...).

Dinner at the Secret Garden again for our last night in Vietnam was beautiful. The setting is just lovely.

We ate some incredible satay fish, the most beautiful 'Five Colour Salad', and a beef dish flavoured with orange, amongst other things. AS restaurants in Hoi An go, this is at the upper scale of the price range (outside of hotel dining), but we felt it was worth every penny, with both meals we ate there coming in at $50-$60 including wine.


Short and sweaty Vietnamese run ending on the beach. Running in the humidity is hard going!

I managed a minimal amount of running whilst away, there's certainly plenty of places to run if that's your thing. I found the heat and humidity crushing, and because I already find hydration a difficult balance, I opted not to do too much outdoor training. That and having put my shoulder out just before we left, I took the opportunity to rest and recover a bit.

For those interested, we stayed at the Victoria Hoi An resort, booked for us by the independent agent I used for the entire trip. The rooms were surprisingly large, which was awesome, the whole set-up seems popular with families (which was less awesome if you're not keen on children). We found the service was reasonable, bar one guy on reception who was clearly on the take, giving misleading information and trying to charge for things left, right and centre- it appears to be the Vietnamese way.

All the tiny lights

We had a joyously relaxing couple of weeks in Hoi An, and the things we did choose to do, we really enjoyed. What we found was hard work though, was the hard sell. It's difficult to take in much of the old town without someone trying to sell you something every 5 seconds, and it can be difficult not to feel ripped off when purchasing certain things- especially in corner shops which have no pricing. Would we go back? I'm not sure we would. We had a blast, but I don't think there was enough to hold our personal interest to make me want to return. It's a very long flight to get some sunshine and enjoy eating out I suppose.

Spring Running: How Do I Know If I Need New Trainers?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

This post contains link placement. 

I'll be honest and say I kind of hate spring. It's changeable so I'm never the right temperature, there's tree pollen and flowers and plants everywhere, most of which invoke hayfever/allergies and it seems to mark an influx of companies trying to tell me I need to lose weight in order to wear a bikini in August.

On the plus side, it means more daylight, and for me that means more outdoor training. Great, except just before we disappeared off on holiday in March, my trainers started to rub, giving my blisters on the arch of my foot. Disaster.


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I wouldn't say I'm emotionally attached, but I have considered framing them since I trained for and ran a marathon in them. No, but seriously, I was properly fitted as a freebie at a race in June of last year. my feet and my running gait were analysed and my Mizuno Wave Inspire trainers were recommended to help stabilise my ankles (which roll outwards a bit when I run, known as over-pronation). And it was life changing. Going from Nike Free trainers (which FYI I love indoor training thanks to their lightness and flexibility, there's almost always a NikeID UK discount code too) where my knees were slamming together with every step, to cushions strides of joy was a huge step forward in my running journey. Between June and February of this year, my trainers and I have covered around 380 miles. I was confused- why suddenly were they causing painful blisters on the arch of my foot? Why would they betray me?

Well, common guidance is that you should replace running shoes every 300-500 miles. And then I thought, hang on, I'm only just getting 300ish out of mine, maybe it's not that.... It was, here's a few things to consider if your like to run but you suddenly find yourself with blisters or unexplained aches and pains...

1. Get fitted. If you're wearing a pair of trainer that you picked because they were pretty colours and might also look nice with jeans, chances are, you're going to struggle, your trainers are your most important companions if you run, so go find a running shop like SweatShop offer a fitting service which costs around £30 (or free if you buy trainers from them afterwards). They should be able to tell you what type of cushioning and support you need. If you're experiencing joint pain (commonly, knees, lower back & ankles), you probably need new running shoes, the same applies to unexplained blisters.

2. Be colourblind- I had this problem when I bought my bike a couple of years ago. The best one for the job did not come in the colour I wanted. I got lucky with my trainers- I love green and that colour happened to be last season's so they were discounted. Be prepared that they probably won't match all of your favourite fitness kit but they will save you from injuries and increase the chances of you enjoying running.

3. Replace trainers regularly- did all of the above? Great, now take stock on just how much of a thrashing you've been giving them. And here's where I was confused until someone pointed out a very important factor... Terrain. I run predominantly on the road. Good old faithful concrete. Smooth, even, predictable, and just as hard on your trainers as it is on your elbows if you land on it. Proper running shoes have cushioning in the soles and if you run on hard surfaces like pavements or roads, you're wearing that out with every hard, compacting step you take. If you run on the road, expect to replace your trainers every 300 miles. Trail runners- not only are you a breed of your own, but you'll probably get closer to 500 miles out of your shoes thanks to softer/more varied terrain.

Joy is shiny new @mizunorunning trainers ready for hill training and more this week. #girlswhorun #thisgirlcan

4. Think carefully about replacements- Have you been injured since your last pair? Are you still running on the same kinds of surface? If you've been injured, it may have affected your gait, and it would be wise to be refitted. If you have suddenly take up running on the beach after 12 months of running on pavements, it's unlikely the same style is going to work for you.

5. Check sizing- this might sound really obvious, but I was fitted for my usual shoe size, a UK 5. And I thought they were just fine in a 5, until I tried a 5.5 by accident. Even if you have a recommendation, make sure you try a couple of sizes, just to make sure. Keep in mind your feet also swell with heat and exercise, and therefore trying on trainers with cold feet after sitting on a train or in the car may be misleading in terms of sizing.

Be careful of lacing up too tightly as well, it will begin to cause numbness in your feet very rapidly.

Another pair of @mizunorunning trainers whilst wait for my others to dry out. Keep the green hues coming please!

And if all else fails, and you see the trainers you love and know work for you, and they're on sale in an awesome colourway, use your birthday gift voucher to buy them anyway- there's some great valid SportsDirect.com discount codes including up to 50% off at the moment and . I now alternate between two pairs of trainers, so although they'll still only last the same amount of miles, it should take longer before I next need to shell on new kicks.



Vietnam Adventures: Ha Long Bay

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Click the location to read about our first impressions of the trip and about Hanoi

Ha Long bay is a World Heritage site off the coast of North West Vietnam. It's well known for huge limestone islands rising up out of the green water and I have to say, it's incredible. Taking a junk boat cruise (overnight or for 2-3 nights) is especially popular for tourists, and it's approximately 4 hours from Hanoi, so not too much of a stretch. We ended up doing an overnight which included from lunch time of the day before through to around lunchtime the day after.


Hoping the haze will clear as we cruise out into Ha Long
Home for the night...

Unfortunately for us, it was super hazy whilst we were there, but although there were no blazing sunshine and blue skies to enjoy, the setting is still incredible. Our trip included a visit to a floating fishing village and caves, and a visit to one of the small islands with a beach and a stepped pathwasy for walking to the top.

Ha Long was a an experience.

Little blue boats on the strange green sea.

For me, the experience of visiting an almost deserted fishing village and caves that had been purchased by the tour company were an ethical challenge. Whilst it was mentioned many times how much better off residents of the village are through living on the mainland, I find myself wondering how willingly they relocated and how much better off they are if they are not able to fish as they would have done whilst living out here. The ownership of so many of the islands also leaves me wondering for just how long this wonder of the world will be there to see and how it will be protected both in its existence and its ecology.

The tour of the village was our first trip on day one. We returned to the boat afterwards and had some down time to enjoy the balcony on our cabin before dinner (a seafood barbecue, included in the package). It turned out to be quite an eventful trip as Tom had a question involving diamonds to ask me...

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I still can't believe that this is 4 whole weeks ago today- I said yes. Almost 6 years after we got together over a bottle of vodka, I'm now engaged to the man who makes me believe that anything is possible and has supported me endlessly to do all kinds of crazy things.

The following morning was an early-ish visit to another island owned by the tour company, with a man made beach for swimming and a stepped path up to the top of the island to take in the view. We opted to talk to the top and enjoy the views as we didn't think it was *quite* warm enough for a dip!

Ha Long through the haze.

Almost a week since we climbed to the top of one of the many little islands of Ha Long Bay.

After returning to the boat, we 'checked out'- otherwise known as paying the bar bill as meals were included in the package, but drinks were not, and then headed out onto the deck for breakfast whilst the boat made its way back to the harbour.

For reasons aside the obvious, we did enjoy the cruise. The boat was far better equipped, and the cabins much better than expected. The food service was great, especially considering the confines of working on a boat, but the ethics issues were a concern for me, and the volume of boats leaving the harbour and out on the bay Tom compared to the D Day Landings, which I didn't feel really detracted from out trip, but again, leaves me wondering about the future of Ha Long Bay.