“You know that you are close to the meaning of life when you are full of enthusiasm, when you do things with love.” -Paulo Coelho
Little Observationist has been a place for me to share and appreciate the little luxuries in life. When I say luxuries I don’t necessarily mean luxury in the traditional sense of extravagance. It’s about the little things. I mean luxuries in terms of noticing and appreciating the beauty in everyday life. Luxury in ability to travel and explore new places. Luxury in having the space and time to do what you love. Luxury in friends and family and food and wine.
Every year, I like to look back and reflect on some of my favourite moments, so I’ve chosen some of the little things from each month of 2014 that stood out for me. It was definitely a year to remember – full of great food, lots of travel, family time and our wedding!
JANUARY. Wedding dress shopping with Mom.
It was cold and wet in London. My mom was over from New York for a long weekend to go wedding dress and shoe shopping with me. It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and it meant a lot that she could come over. We bounced from shop to shop, stopping to duck out of the rain for dessert in Liberty, a lunch at Elk in the Woods in Islington and dinner at Maggie Jones with Jorge and his parents who were over from Spain to meet my mom. We walked through the streets of Chinatown decorated for the coming New Year celebrations too. Also in January, I made some delicious chocolate beetroot brownies; interviewed Bosnian photographer Sanja Hurem and caught up on some posts about trips to Spain and Denmark.
FEBRUARY. Exploring snowy Boston with Jorge.
I extended a work trip to Boston and Jorge came over to spend a weekend with me in this historical city. We dodged our way around Beacon Hill’s “Caution: Falling Ice” signs, kicked through fluffy snow along the harbour and explored the shops of Newbury Street. We warmed our hands on hot drinks, watched steam rise out of the streets vents and shared a delicious Italian meal that neither of us could finish. I headed up to New York as well for some family time. Also in February, I interviewed writer and traveler Robert White-Harvey, wrote about eating ants in Colombia, reflected on life as an expat and thoughtfulness and enjoyed some rare blue skies in London.
MARCH. A successful surgery.
I’ve never really had surgery before March when I had to go to the emergency eye hospital with a detached retina. I could have lost my vision if it wasn’t operated on in time so it was a pretty intense experience. It also meant I couldn’t do much for the next six weeks. Flowers flooded in and Jorge took to doing all the shopping, cooking and cleaning for over a month. I took a break from work and blogging and took to listening to Spanish podcasts and radio shows. It reminded me how lucky I am for so many reasons. I’d like to somehow get involved with a charity for the blind in 2015, whether that’s volunteering or donating a percentage of print sales. Later in March, when I could look at a screen, I did manage to interview traveler Paul Fowler and share a few photos and stories from Boston.
APRIL. Getting a kitten.
In April, we adopted “Lupita” who we were told was a female and found out a few weeks later was a male who was re-named “Oakley” (it was actually impossible to tell at first). It’s been a lot of fun watching him grow from being able to fit in one of my hands to stretching out the length of my leg and develop a personality. Also in April, in the midst of wedding and honeymoon planning, Spring arrived in London and I went out to enjoy it with a visit to South Bank’s Eat the World Street Food Festival, a wander along Westbourne Grove and a day in the east for The Book Club, Lola’s Cupcakes and street art.
MAY. Cooking and eating experiences.
May was all about food. There was a very memorable Spanish tasting menu lunch at Ametsa (part of which is in the photo below), a fun night at The Cookery School where we learned to make our own pasta and tiramisu and then sat down as a group of bloggers and writers to enjoy the meal we prepared, and an afternoon tea at The Ampersand. I also made Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. In non food related news, I interviewed American painter Kevin Sloan and Australian photographer Madeleine Waller. One of my favourite memories from May was a quiet morning walk along the river Thames through a fog-filled Battersea Park.
JUNE. The 28th of June.
All the hard work that went into organizing our wedding paid off on June 28. It was a beautiful day in every way. Family and friends traveled from all over the world to be there, some of whom had never traveled outside of their own country before. Having everyone in one place – from both families – isn’t likely to happen again any time soon and it was a time I think we all cherished. Earlier in June, the girls took me out for afternoon tea at The Chesterfield, Jorge and I chose our menu at Bumpkin and enjoyed a Korean dinner at Bibimbap in Soho. We spent a sunny afternoon in Mayfair too. On top of all that, I found time to interview two inspiring women: Rose Hipwood from the Luxury Safari Company and Elle Santos who makes some pretty fabulous fascinators.
JULY. Lazy days with no obligations.
After a year of wedding planning and suddenly no more cutting of London map heart confetti to fill my days off, July came as a bit of a shock: I had time to do nothing! These days with no obligations are the best, like the day in July that Jorge and I went to Notting Hill simply to find a yellow door I’d seen in photographs halfway down St. Luke’s Mews. There was nothing particularly special about it but we spent the whole day just wandering around, exploring. Or the day I had off by myself and I found myself in the beautiful Chelsea Physic Garden. I had some time for baking – Zucchini Bread and Cheddar Chive Popovers – and some interviews too, with street artists Irony and Boe and painter Sam Peacock.
AUGUST. Trying something new.
August was absolutely packed full of new experiences for me. It started with my first trip to Sweden where Jorge and I found the stunning garden, Rosendals Trädgård. I went to the Royal Opera House for the first time to see a double bill ballet in Covent Garden. I discovered for the first time London’s fabulous little Maltby Street Market with a great community vibe and fantastic food. Jorge and I had a little staycation at The Zetter Townhouse – our first time there and first time in their famous cocktail lounge too. I went on my first Foto Ruta adventure in Shoreditch which I’ll definitely do again this year. And, I baked homemade bread for the first time and homemade scones for the first time. How’s that for a month of trying something new? Amongst all of that, I managed to interview photographer Jacintha Verdegaal and Roy Tyson of Roy’s People fame.
SEPTEMBER. How the other half eat.
September was a bit more laid back and I spent some time posting about all of my August adventures. I also spent a week in Boston for work and got to be home in New York for my mom’s birthday – a trip that was short but special. I got to know Boston a lot better this time around. I also spent a night at my brother’s camp, kayaking, making s’mores and eating steak. One of the highlights of the month was a double Michelin star dinner at Hibiscus in Mayfair where Jorge and I enjoyed a 4-hour dinner with a decadent 8-course tasting menu that left us so full we couldn’t even have the tea and coffee at the end. We even got to meet the chef. Definitely an experience to remember. I also managed a trip to the London Wetland Center on the hottest day of the summer, cooked Chicken, Cheese and Spinach Quesadillas and interviewed street artist Roadsworth.
OCTOBER. Honeymoon in St. Lucia and TBEX in Athens.
October went by in a whirlwind. Having been in Boston and New York mid-September, I jumped on a plane at the end of the month and spent the first two weeks of October on honeymoon with Jorge in St. Lucia. What a beautiful, lush island. It was eye opening as well in terms of the effects of tourism and the degree of poverty. We stayed in an amazing Airbnb at the southern tip of the island, explored a lot with our rented car, and topped off the trip with some beach time in a little villa hotel in the north. A favourite memory was when Marina, a local, taught us how to cook breadfruit pie. A week after returning to London, I headed the other way to the travel blogger conference, TBEX in Athens. For a week, I explored this city much more than I had on previous trips. I met a ton of inspiring people and came back refreshed and with a ton of cat photos. I also blogged about the cool Airbnb place I stayed at in Boston with Gerald and his dog Skye.
NOVEMBER. A date night in.
I was happy to keep my feet on the ground in November and make it a month with no big plans. I put together a bunch of gift guides for Little Observationist, finished all of my Christmas shopping early and caught up on St. Lucia and Athens posts. One of the best memories was a date night in spent making Spanish tapas and setting up a nice table with a table cloth, candles and a good bottle of wine. Relaxing was key this month! I shared a few observations from life at the top of London’s number 19 bus, made some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies and interviewed the prolific Brighton-based Londoner Etsy artist Kelly Stevens who is currently working on shop number five.
DECEMBER. Being home.
I was lucky enough to spend the last two weeks of December in New York. I hadn’t been home for Christmas or my birthday in six years nor had I seen my aunt, uncle or cousins who I was able to catch up with this time. I took the time off from the blog so I could fully enjoy my time with family and friends. My dad and I did some Greek cooking, my brother and I decorated Christmas cookies, my mom took Jorge and I to Elmwood in Buffalo for some shopping and coffee, a bunch of us went to an amazing hockey game, I had friends over for pizza and wings, Jorge and I built a snowman and my dad took us down to Niagara Falls to see it covered in ice. I played Scrabble with my grandma and had a nice birthday dinner out with everyone. I also did a huge clean out and got about 10 boxes of stuff I still had at home ready for charity. Before I left London, I took a few long walks as the weater changed from Autumn to Winter. I interviewed traveller Ed Hewitt and baked some festive almond biscotti.
What were some of your favorite little things from 2014?