Tag Archives: gratitude

2016 :: A Year in Review

2016 Year in Review - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

It is not, it appears, the fashionable thing to admit that 2016 has been a rather good year for “one”. But disastrous referendums and potential WWIII aside, it was a year of much joy for me personally, and one that I will no doubt look back on fondly.

2016 was the year in which I ceased to be a newlywed, and became just a ‘wed’, and I feel I truly embraced the role of a wife. Y’all, I wifed my damn butt off this year, and in return, Mr H husbanded me even better. Admittedly, that makes me seem like some kind of farmyard animal, but it remains nevertheless true. After the initial honeymoon phase of marriage began to dissolve, I was left with the most wonderful life partner who actively cares for me each day.  What a boon.

Allotment 2016 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

It has also been the year where I have developed a taste, if not skill for gardening, and seen my beloved allotment go from strength to strength. It was our tentative first year, with many mistakes made, but I can’t help but feel incredibly proud that I stuck to something for so long. I have no plans to give up the sacred plot in the foreseeable future, rather the opposite, I heartily plan for years of dragging reluctant future children over to do a spot of weeding.

Portugal with T - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

In the summer I went on holiday to Portugal, with my wonderful sister T. It made me remember what a privilege it is to have your family close, and that there are very few people in this world who know and tolerate me as well as she does. It also made me realise I am not, and never was a party animal, and that one should not book an AirBnB in Biarro Alto if one values their sleep.

My Career 2016 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Professionally this year proved my most challenging to date, and although there were many days where I woke up thinking that I couldn’t possibly continue to do this for another day, let alone for the rest of my life, there were also many days where my heart sang for the joy of watching young people learn something, or at the least run around the playground pretending to be a horse. Teaching is a bloody hard job, for want of a more eloquent way of describing it, but I am a long time from throwing in the proverbial towel, just yet.

Teaching also gave me the opportunity to realise a long dream of mine, to direct my own play. It’s not something I think I’ve mentioned on the blog actually, but my school was a part of the 2016 Shakespeare for Schools Festival, and I was the Teacher-Director of a 20 minute production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a huge undertaking, with 22 primary school students taking part, most of whom had never performed before such a large audience before. It reaffirmed for me the realisation that seeing others perform under my guidance gives just as much of a thrill as performing myself once did.

 

But what of 2017?

What indeed. I have the somewhat expected goals of getting fit, losing the extra heft I’ve carried for the last three years, but what else?

To tell you the absolute truth, I’m not exactly sure. I have some abstract goals that I don’t feel ready to share just yet, but also I’d quite like to continue in much the same manner as 2016.

I would, however, like to focus more on 2017 being the year of friendships. My dear friends have taken a rather paltry 3rd place after Mr H and my job this year, and so during the next I’d like to perhaps place maintaining and developing friendships slightly higher on the list of priorities. One tends to miss one’s friends, even more so when one is almost entirely to blame for not seeing them.

And so, to you my dear (possibly imaginary) readers. How has your year been? What goals or dreams do you have for the next? I raise a glass of mediocre but cost-effective champagne to you all.

This Week I am Grateful For #9

Gratitude Series No 9 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Some weeks gratitude is a little bit harder to come by than others. There appears to be no reason for me to feel like this at the moment…and yet….

I’m really pleased to say I’ve been offered a permanent contract at work, which really is wonderful, and is also something I know I am very grateful for. It has just also coincided with a spectacularly busy and changeable period at work, which has left me on the back foot, big time.

As a teacher, you’re constantly assessing. Assessing your students’ understanding, their work, your displays, your colleagues’ work and displays, your class’s behaviour. You assess so much, and so frequently that it’s virtually impossible to not be constantly comparing yourself.

And I currently am in a ‘compare thyself’ frame of mind, and frankly, I feel I’m coming up a bit short.

When I was in Primary school, my Mum, for one reason or another, was given a silver necklace with a silver circle pendant. Engraved on it was the saying ‘This too shall pass’.

“Even the good stuff, Mum? But what if you don’t want it to pass?”

Even the good stuff passes, it seems.  But if the good stuff passes, then so does the bad. So I can take comfort in knowing that a spell of time at work where I’m not particularly enjoying myself will pass. And for that, I am very grateful indeed.

This Week I am Grateful For #8

Loki Gratitude - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

Well my Gratitude Series has undoubtedly proven itself to be a huge success, with a grand total of 7 posts so far. Still, I remain determined to continue on, despite the growing sensation that no one actually remotely cares. Never stopped me before!

This week has verged slightly on the ‘Oh my god, HOW is it only TUESDAY’ side of things. Work has been insane, with a variety of disruptions that have cause my class to become shouty and unfocussed. Myself even more so.

And yet. This week I have become even more grateful for my relatively tranquil home life. Mr Hello and I have managed to carve out a delightfully hum-drum routine of quiet Friday nights and long days at our allotment. We’re clearing the wood from our garden and having the odd bonfire.

Quiet home life seems to be just what I need right now. And I am thankful for it.

This Week I am Grateful For #7 – My Husband

I recently realised my Gratitude series has been left fallow for far too long, and thought it was high time to reinstate it.

January Gratitude - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

At the risk of totally embarrassing Mr Hello, (who is incidentally a rather private person), this week I am getting all emotional and publicly stating how chuffing grateful I am for him.

We’ll have been married for 6 months in a couple of weeks (the photo is from our first day on honeymoon in Warsaw), and in the true style of our relationship, have lived each of those months leaping from one point of high stress to another. It’s amazing how much you can bear when you know that someone has your back.

He’s gone and left me on my own this week (work), and therefore is not around to tell me to pull myself together – so I’ll do what I damn well want and take this moment to say: Thank You J.

Dryathlon 2016 – 1 Woman, 30 Days, 0 Drinks

Yes, it’s true pals, I’m doing it. During what was a rather spectacular festive blow-out, I seemed to see adverts for the 2016 Dryathlon everywhere. It was the universe making itself known to me – it was time to get my social drinking in hand, hopefully shed some kgs and do a good deed in the meantime.

Sam's Doing Dryathlon 2016 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

A few days after signing up, a friend of ours revealed some terrible news – her partner has cancer and the prognosis isn’t looking good. It’s brought a whole new level of meaning to the Dry January challenge, and if the meagre funds I manage to raise have any hand in preventing one more family from going through the hell of a Cancer diagnosis, then 30 days is the least I can do.

So far? So good. Three days in and I haven’t yet been tempted, although I don’t return to work until tomorrow, and one never knows what’s around the corner! As a rule I don’t drink during the week, unless I’ve got an event, but I have to admit that I am probably a binge drinker on the weekends, polishing off a bottle or two on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Wine? Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha Says Yes

Drinkaware states that binge drinking is drinking more than 8 units of alcohol for men (about 3 pints of strong beer), and 6 for women (only 2 large glasses of wine!!!), in one sitting. Needless to say I could probably drink all of that in one night if I’m in the right mood.

It’s not been good for my waistline, as the wine makes me hungry and even a slight hangover even more so! It hasn’t been great for my productivity either – in my job I regularly have to do a couple of hours work each weekend, and it seems like such a drudgery when I’m tired, and snuggling down on the sofa seems like a necessity.

I’m happy to report that I’ve been merrily beavering away at my planning this weekend, and secretly I’ve actually quite enjoyed myself. Going back to work tomorrow doesn’t seem nearly as depressing when I’m organised, and I really do feel like being alcohol-free this weekend has played a part in that.

Having said all this, if you could be compelled to part with any of your hard-earned dosh this month, I would be forever grateful if you’d consider sponsoring me.

Although it’s been smooth sailing so far, I fully expect the first weekend back at work to be a major challenge! I’ll be sure to check in here and let you all see me in my misery!

Chrimbo At Home – 2015

Merry Christmas 2015 - Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

I singularly failed to take any photos of our family Christmas celebration this year, which happened on December 19th. As penance, I offer you a picture of my front door, which I think looks rather festive, if I do say so myself.

In my post about Christmas rituals, I may have mentioned that I love this time of year. I am pleased to report that our celebration lived up to all my hopes and expectations.

Despite the fact that we had offered to host everyone this year, on the day after I finished school (yikes), it all happened rather smoothly. As with many bloggers, the Nigella Christmas Cookbook became my bible.

Here is our intended menu:

  • Salmon and cream cheese blinis
  • John’s famous sausage rolls*
  • Pumpkin & Goats Cheese Lasagne
  • Nut Roast Pie
  • Beef Wellington*
  • Roast Vegetables
  • Bread sauce*
  • Cranberry sauce*
  • Christmas Coleslaw
  • Chocolate Christmas Pudding
  • Christmas Cake
  • Cheese platter
  • Yule Log

All served with copious amounts of prosecco, wine, beer and cider. My delightful sisters in law provided the cheese and yule log. Delegating people. Delegating.

A couple of things got scratched (marked with an *) – 1) because I ran out of time, 2) because people were stuffed to the gills and couldn’t face another bite and 3) because my stove was obviously unaccustomed to such a heavy workload and threw a tantrum.

The Beef Wellington turned into a roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, as it proved to be impossible to find a beef fillet anywhere. I don’t think anyone was particularly disappointed!

It’s been ages, really, since I’ve done any amount of ‘fun’ cooking, and being so exhausted during the week has meant I have relied on my dwindling repertoire of recipes, and shamefully, even more so on justeat.co.uk. Dreadful. As a result, despite the limited time, I really enjoyed whipping up the feast.

I can’t wait until next year!

 

Wedding Roundup – Party Time!

Once we arrived at Sun Pier House, it was straight into our ‘cocktail hour’. I use the term ‘cocktail’ incredibly loosely, in fact I shouldn’t really use it at all, because no cocktails were in fact, served. There was an abundance of champagne, wine and beer, which I expect more than made up for it.

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Full credit where credit is due – our wonderful wedding party showed up on Friday to help us decorate Sun Pier. For the most part the venue is exactly to our taste, but there was some extreme pom-pom action we wanted to incorporate, and the odd vintage doily never really goes astray, now does it?

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My sister and I had run up the white bunting ourselves. You may remember in my former life I had a little bunting business. So the skills were there to be used. I had been tempted to go for a very cutesy bunting wedding early on, but as the big day approached I realised my tastes had changed, so in the end I went for (lots of) plain white bunting – festive but not chintzy.

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The pom-poms were sourced from various places, the fan shapes and the pom-pom wreaths from Tiger, but the vast majority were brand new from Ebay.

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My sister picked up our plain card guestbook from Paperchase in the days before the wedding. My Mama, also known as the calligrapher-extraordinaire, illustrated the front and also was the muscle behind our seating plan, which was a limited edition print from IKEA, of all places!

We also caved in to our inner hipsters and bought a Fujifilm Instax Polaroid camera, for a visual guestbook. I am not going to lie here, that darn thing was expensive. Like £90 or something stupid like that. But it was  a hell of a lot of fun, and if we never use it again, we both feel like we got our monies worth. We passed the camera around for our guests to take photos, and then peg them to our ribbon wall.

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This ribbon wall was an inspired idea by Mr H. I had bought these reels of 2cm wide ribbon for the tops of the ribbon sticks, but hadn’t ended up using it all. On our prep day, Mr Hello used the hooks that Sun Pier House already had to display their menus, and wound each spool of ribbon around them, forming a great backdrop and, bonus, somewhere to hang our polaroids!

I read quite a bit of advice on A Practical Wedding that said if you want to include an impromptu element in your wedding, it’s really helpful to ask someone in your party to take responsibility for it. That way, you can forget all about it while you’re talking to everyone, because you know you have someone trusted going around. It was invaluable to have my wonderful bridesmaid N in charge of the Polaroids. She flew all the way over from Australia for the wedding, and I could not be more grateful. I like to think the Polaroid duty also helped her to meet people, but perhaps that’s wishful thinking!

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Luckily, due to the shape of the venue, we were quite easily able to include a little ‘kids zone’, where we put down some astro turf (left over from our Mr H-designed centrepieces), added some puzzles, wooden blocks, crayons and colouring books and let the kids run wild. Sort of.

I had bookmarked the idea ever since I read something similar on Franky’s wedding round-up on Love My Dress. I thought it would be a great way to keep the kids entertained when the grown-up side of things got too boring, and would give their parents a bit of peace so they could enjoy a drink! I’m pleased to say I got excellent feedback…

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Before too long we were sitting down for our main meal. We went for a Middle Eastern style buffet, catered by our great local restaurant Café Moroc. Partly because we knew we had a lot of vegetarians and vegans in attendance, and we all know that Middle Eastern cuisine is big on the ol’ chickpeas, but also because we really like that kind of food and have had some great meals there before.

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It was delicious and I ate so much at that point that I didn’t manage to have any of my wedding cakes. Dis. A. Pointed.

I have two little regrets about the food. Well, little niggles at least. Firstly, we ran out of time to make signs for the food, and I wish we had made the extra effort because my veggie pals had to faff around and ask people to taste things before they ate them. Not very hospitable of me! Oh well…lesson learned.

The second niggle is that there was heaps of food left over and I forgot to tell the caterers that we wanted to keep it. Mr H and I would have loved to have binged on hummus for the next few days, but it was cleared away before we had the chance. Again, lesson learned, and in the grand scheme of things, not a big deal.

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We then moved on to the speeches. We never wanted endless speeches or toasts, and I am so delighted to report that the speeches by both of our families were everything we could have wished for at the start of our marriage.

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Mr Hello blubbed delightfully throughout the whole thing. He was the focal point of this part of the day, for sure. As discussed in my ceremony roundup, I am evidently an Ice Queen because I remained composed throughout. It’s a strange thing. Definitely a combination of trying to remember it all, not being able to believe that it’s actually your wedding, and the slightest amount of unexpected stage fright. Anyhow, just call me Elsa.

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My Dad sang some wonderful songs, one was a version of Waltzing Matilda with amazing references to Rochester within it, and a couple of others. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, let’s just say that.

My sister’s speech was the one that almost tipped me over the edge into Emotionville. She’s bloody great and I am so lucky. She did however, bring up an ear biting incident that happed A LONG TIME AGO SO JUST GET OVER IT ALREADY.

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Mr H’s lovely sister K had then organised a game to get us all in the party mood, complete with papier mâche representations of our goodselves. I am pleased to report these remain in our household. So hilarious, and strangely, so anatomically correct.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0133

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Then we boogied! Our first dance (which is a completely weird experience, let me tell you) was to Come and Get Your Love by Redbone, because every time we heard that song, we couldn’t help but dance.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0137

I am a very earnest dancer. And singer-alonger, it seems.150801_Sam+John_Slideshow_weheartpictures0138

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I cut some serious shapes, believe you me. We chose to hook up our laptop and used our own curated playlists for the evening. It was great, it was cheap and we had exactly the music we wanted, although if I did it again, I think I might have put a ‘no touchy’ sign on the laptop to stop people from skipping songs. Hey ho, again, a minor detail which had no real impact on the day.

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I’m not sure if you can tell by my face (note: you totally can), that I was so delighted to have so much of my family there. We are all scattered all over the world, and it meant so much to have people who have known me for much longer than the five years I’ve been in England with me as I start this next phase of my life. I love my family.

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We snuck off at a couple of moments for some quality husband/wife time, which I truly recommend, and we also got some more formal shots done, which I will share with you in the next couple of days.

My biggest take-away from the wedding reception was that Mr Hello and I are so totally loved. We’re loved by each other, by our families and by our deliciously wide circle of friends. What a better way to start a marriage.

The Honeymoon: Warsaw #2

Grab a hot beverage, sit back and hope for the best of your bandwidth. I’ve got a cracking photo-heavy post for you today!

Ladies and gents, I present the final round-up of our Warsaw Honeymoon.

Warsaw 1 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

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I hope that these photos give you some indication of the weather we experienced. Barely a cloud in the sky, the entire time we were there. Now normally this would be something to celebrate, but on this occasion, relentless heat in combination with a scaredy-cat disposition did not work so well. We were too chicken to try to find somewhere to swim.

I think for the most part this was because we didn’t really just want to go to a rec centre for an indoor swim, we either wanted to go somewhere we could swim outside (which we couldn’t find in Warsaw) or in a hotel pool. There’s where we got too chicken – we weren’t sure whether you had to be staying at the hotel to swim, or if, not unlike some other countries, you can just pay to use the facilities and then leave. This is where some prior research would have been handy. Oh well! Onwards we went, in all our sweaty glory.

Warsaw 3 Hello Sam Goodbye Samantha

These sandals deserve a special commendation. I wore them for about 8 out of the 10 days, and I can’t see any sign on wear on them! Hooray for great quality sandals! I did, however, have to wash three black stripes off my feet each evening. Just a tad dusty…

Warsaw 5 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaMr H and I did a little family history while we were out – this street is where my Polish Grandfather lived in the late 1930s. We now have reason to believe he was Jewish or his extended family was Jewish, so he was cutting it damn fine staying in Warsaw so late. A very lucky man!

On the Saturday, we hopped on the tram (yay, courage!) and ventured out to what we would describe as a Polish Boot Fair. This is right up our street, we love nothing more than a good rummage around other peoples’ belongings.

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You’re not allowed to take anything out of Poland that was made before 1945 without special permission, so this time we walked away empty-handed, not having seen anything we loved enough to go to extra effort for. Now that we’ve been once though, I think we’d have the confidence to go back again, for sure!

Warsaw 7 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaIn our second week we visited the Museum of Modern Art, which was currently showing an exhibition regarding the emancipation of African Nations. This display, which I find totally engaging and wonderfully delivered, was of the postage stamps created for African countries after Independence. It was very though provoking, especially for a couple of design nerds like us.

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While many of the meals we enjoyed were in the touristy Old Town, the meal that has really stayed with me was this sharing platter from Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant in the New Town. Ethopian in Warsaw – strange, huh? Strangely delicious, you mean.

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It was served on a giant pancake, which you tore off, filled with some beef, lamb, chicken, beetroot or dhal, and then ceremoniously shovelled into your face! What’s not to like?

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Just looking at these photos makes me crave it again. We were served with some honey wine, which was spicy and delicious even though I’m usually a little reserved when it comes to unusual drinks. Evidently the wasps thought it was delicious too, and about 4 of them put my I’m-Australian-bugs-don’t-scare-me street cred to the test.

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Elephant Belgian Beer Pub was, without a doubt, our favourite bar in Warsaw. Generally, Mr Hello and I aren’t huge beer drinkers, that is to say we both like beer, but are not particularly snobbish about it. However we were very tempted by the craft beers on offer at Elephant, in fact over the ten days we visited about four or five times, sampling probably two varieties at least each time!

It didn’t hurt that the owner looked like he could be my Uncle, and when we accidentally left some shopping there, they held onto it for us. That sort of customer care when you’re in a foreign city really makes a huge difference!

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So many beers, so little time.

A couple of days later we ventured over the river to Praga, the former industrial district, which is now home to Hipsterland. This part of Warsaw survived the Nazis to a large extent, and so much of the architecture is representative of a pre-WWII Warsaw.

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From walking around, we could definitely see there was more of a creative twist to this part of Praga, compared to what we’d already seen in the main part of Warsaw.

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Excellent architecture, but even more excellent signage:

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Unfortunately the hipsters of Praga evidently don’t rise before nightfall, as most of the bars  looked to me a night-time thing only. Next time we head to Warsaw (and there will definitely be a next time), we’re going to make a night out in Praga the order of the…day.

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Before we knew it, our time in Warsaw was coming to an end, and we capped off our last two nights with fabulous food and some delicious cocktails. I had a Muay Thai first, which was a little underwhelming (too much lime) but my Mojito was probably the best I’ve ever had (just enough lime!). For 20 złoty as well (about £4), I really couldn’t complain!

For those of you looking for an interesting city break, or a honeymoon where culture and relaxation are the order of the day, I really recommend Warsaw. Ten days was more than enough time to see what we wanted to see, but having said that, a little extra time there meant we were ready to come home, but felt refreshed and relaxed after the wedding.

What more could you ask of a Honeymoon?

The Honeymoon: The Apartment & Our First Meal

I wanted to write down my memories of the last ten days as soon as possible after returning, to share here on the blog. When I first started travelling I was a dedicated journal keeper, which means I have some great memories squirrelled away in my book cases! Many of them I have forgotten, so having an analogue version to read from time to time is a real treat.

When we first began thinking of our honeymoon, we were almost immediately sure that we wanted to leave shortly after the wedding. I wanted to preserve the ‘wedding bubble’ for as long as possible, and an immediate honeymoon seemed just the ticket.

Mr H had dreams of Greek beaches, or to be honest any beaches! He was happy with anything that wasn’t a city break. I think he’s forgotten that he said that, because we ended up going for a city break after all, and he was as happy as Larry!

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Warsaw 6 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaWe rented an apartment through AirBnB right in the Old Town in Warsaw. It was a studio, with a basic kitchen (although the only sink was in the bathroom – odd). It was really everything we needed, and was literally on the doorstep of the most beautiful part of the Polish capital city.

We arrived late on Monday afternoon, and caught a taxi from the airport’s official taxi rank (don’t go for the slightly sweaty men that approach you in the Arrivals terminal), we found our little love nest on Ulica Piwna. A beer and some food were in order, so we wandered out to the the bustling square, and braced ourselves to be brave and go to a restaurant.

A word here regarding our choices of restaurants – Warsaw Old Town is very touristy, and I daresay that the vast majority of the restaurants we went to were as well. This bothered us approximately 0%, because we always had excellent service, and they were very happy to speak English. Mr H and I both have the guilts about travelling and not speaking another language fluently, so we do tend to have to screw up our courage to venture out. I say, do what makes you happy. Don’t beat yourself up about not finding a tiny little restaurant where the locals eat – too stressful!

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We settled on Restaurant Bazylisek – it takes up nearly one whole side of the square, and was both very busy and very spacious.

Warsaw 2 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaOften at the start of a meal in Warsaw, we’d be given break, cream cheese that was often flavoured with dill, and some kind of meat pâte. Sometimes it was just lard, though, which I cannot in good faith claim to be a fan of. This was a kind of minced pork.

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We had a litre each (sue me, it was my honeymoon!) of Pilsner Urquell, a pilsner I am a fan of back home. These were about 18 złoty each, which is about £3.60. Occasionally they would be half price on special, so it was £1.80 for a litre of beer! Winning…

Warsaw 5 Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaMr Hello made his way through a huge plate of sauerkraut and chicken livers (not remotely my thing) and I had schnitzel, sauerkraut and fries. Nothing groundbreaking, although Mr H was in bliss, as livers are among his favourite foods. Not for me, thanks…

For the rest of the evening we wandered around the Old Town, before heading back to the apartment with some beers from the Deli, snuggling up and reminiscing about the wonderful day that was our wedding!

More to come, so stay tuned!

 

(Don’t) Get a Life

(Don't) Get a Life - Hello Sam Goodbye SamanthaToday I found myself hanging out some washing, and doing a tiny happy dance that a stain had come out of my Orla Kiely linen. I mean, it is Orla Kiely and it cost me a pretty penny, but come on girl. It violates my street cred to get excited about stain removal.

What followed was an engaging debate between two voices inside my head about the relative merits and disadvantages of taking pleasure in such a small, mundane thing. I won’t bore you with the intricate details of the discussion, but I am unashamed to admit that the ‘enjoy the little things’ voice won, and resoundingly so.

This morning I read A Rosie Outlook’s new post about happiness sometimes being difficult, and it set me off on a spot of reflection. I think happiness is spontaneous and often easy, but contentment is harder to come by.

Taking stock of the mundane pleasures in life is a step on the road to contentment in my book, whether that’s a load of laundry done well, an omelette perfectly cooked, a new coin design in your change or the sun on your face as you walk to work. It’s these little things that when appreciated, make the humdrum of life less….well, humdrum. Don’t you think?

I’ve changed my ways. Don’t ‘get a life’. Enjoy these little things.