February Bakes: the most amazing coconut and chocolate slice

I’m really excited about sharing this recipe with you because it’s a classic in my family. My grandma used to make it for us all the time and it’s quite the treat. It’s more-ish without being too sickly, it’s comforting and chocolatey and best enjoyed with a steaming, hot cup of Earl Grey.

When my grandmother passed away, we stopped having the slice because nobody really knew how to make it (despite grandma teaching us how to make them!). It didn’t help that the original recipe had disappeared from her recipe box either. One day, I decided I was going to find a way to emulate the recipe and then I was going to share it with the world so we can all enjoy grandma’s killer slices!

Guess what? That day has finally come!

It all started with me trawling through her recipe box to find something similar to the base of the slice; something that was made in the way that I remember them being made. I came across her coconut chocolate biscuit recipe and I thought ‘yeah this could work’. Look at how old school the look and feel of grandma’s recipes is!

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To finish off the base, I made a basic chocolate icing, spread it all over the top like a disease and then sprinkled lots of desiccated coconut and voila! It tastes exactly how I remembered it to taste. I’m pretty sure I’ve made this about four times in the last month and a bit… yes, counting the one I burnt.

Best of all, it’s so easy to make and (depending on your willpower) lasts quite a while! I hope you give it a go!

Ingredients

½ pound of butter (I calculated this to be approx. 226g of butter – it may be a bit off from ½ pound but it works!)

1 tbsp of cocoa powder

1 cup of sugar (I use brown sugar)

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 cup of desiccated coconut

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder (or ½ tsp baking soda)

Pinch of salt

50g of butter (for the icing)

1 ½ cup of icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder (for the icing)

2-3 tbsp of boiling water

 

Method

In a saucepan, mix ½ pound of butter, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, sugar and golden syrup and melt over a low heat.

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Once it’s melted, leave it for about 20 minutes to cool down. Aim to turn off the heat as soon as the butter is melted – you don’t want to overcook it as the mixture will split and it’s not very nice when that happens.

When the mixture has cooled, preheat your oven to 160 degree celcius (fan-forced). Add the flour, baking powder or soda, coconut and salt into the mixture and combine them all together.

 

Spray cooking oil or use straight butter/oil onto a thin baking tray. Spread the mixture evenly and then throw it into the oven for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

I just want to point out as well that it may seem uncooked and you’ll be tempted to keep it in the over for longer but don’t do that because it will burn. Get it out of the oven after about 20 minutes even if it’s still soft because when it’s sitting there cooling, it’ll harden.

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slice before

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slice after

Leave the slice out to cool for about 5-10 minutes.

To make the icing, mix 50g softened butter, 1 ½ cup of icing sugar, 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and 2-3 tbsp of boiling water in a bowl. If your icing is too thick, add more boiling water. Mix, mix, mix and you should end up with a glossy, semi-thick chocolate icing.

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Remove the slice from the tray. Spread the icing over the top and sprinkle lots of coconut over it. As you can see, no coconut gets left behind in my slice!

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Lastly, enjoy.

I love this slice so much and it somehow keeps me close to my grandma. It’s honestly the ultimate comfort food and the best kind of pick-me-up when you’re having a bad day. Although they’re not kind to the waistline, they’re definitely kind to the soul.

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I hope you give it a go. I’d love to see your recreations so please tag @michellerosewrites and let me know how it turns out!

 

 

 

Three things to do to get into the weekend spirit

Picture this: You wake up Monday morning, ready to start your week (well, sort of ready). Suddenly, you’re in a routine of waking up, getting ready, going to work, working hard, going home, feeling exhausted, evening routine, bedtime routine then bed. This continues and then BAM!

It’s finally Friday! Yay! You’re all geared up for the much deserved two mornings of sleep-ins and a chance to finally relax, not think about work and have a good time. But there’s one thing in the way: you can’t stop thinking about work.

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Source: Pinterest

I know exactly how you feel because I’m a victim of not being able to fully unwind and relax because I’m constantly thinking about work. ‘Did I do enough during the week to be able to relax this weekend and avoid a meltdown on Monday? Is there something I could do over the weekend to keep my stress levels down the following week at work? I keep getting emails from colleagues and internal customers over the weekend which means they’re working hard so I must work hard too’. It’s a never-ending cycle and I’ve learnt the hard way that you need to relax and spend some time just chilling and switching off from work.

If you’re a modern day workaholic, I completely understand it may be hard for you to switch off; it was so hard for me to do at first so I created my own foolproof way of mentally preparing myself for the weekend and making sure that I unwind and not think about work for the two days that I’m given. Hopefully you can pick up a thing or two to help make your weekend a pleasurable one where you can kick work in the back of your mind.

1. Have something to look forward to

I think it’s really important to have something to look forward to, especially when you’re having a really long week. It can be anything – Netflix and chilling, going to a show/movie, reading a book, going for a hike… heck, even having a cheeky wine after work on a Friday counts! When you have an enjoyable activity planned and you’re counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until you can do the activity, the last thing you’ll think of when doing said activity is think and worry about work.

2. Switch off

Mentally and technologically.

When I was in my previous role as a Communications and Engagement Advisor, I had my work emails synched to my phone so I never really ‘switched off’. Every time I got an email, I would read it immediately and think about the action points and how I was going to tackle it on Monday, or worst yet, tackle it over the weekend so it became less of a hassle for Monday. That’s why it’s so important to switch off your notifications so you don’t have it as a distraction. You don’t have to use your own personal, UNPAID time to worry about issues at work. It can wait until Monday… trust me, no one is going to die.

However, I understand that some people are in roles where they have to be ‘available’ at all times. If this is the case for you, perhaps set a time in the day where you spend an hour or half an hour if possible sorting through your emails. In fact, you can break it down and set this to two or three times during the day if you’re slammed. If you just straight up struggle with your workload during the week perhaps you need to consider delegating, reallocating or finding a better time management system.

Oh and another thing to add to this is don’t take work home. I’m serious. I was notorious for bringing work home. Leave it at work where it’ll be waiting for you on Monday. I promise you it’ll still be there.

3. Find something you’d like to do and do it

This can be anything – baking, knitting, boardgames, cosplay group, cooking class, yoga, gym, running, climbing mountains… I’m sure there are heaps of activities that you’ve told yourself you’d like to try but haven’t gotten round to it. Well, I tell you now, the weekends are a great time to start an activity. Even if you don’t like it, at least you’ve tried. If you do like it, well voila, a new hobby! And it’s a great distraction from looking through your emails or thinking about the stack of paperwork at your desk. You also get to meet new people and who knows, you might end up making new friends to do more weekend activities with. Plus, linking this to point number one, it gives you something to look forward to.

As you know, I’ve recently been doing a lot of baking and it’s such a great way to relax and keep my mind off the weekday shenanigans. Another thing I’ve been getting into is knitting. I learnt how to knit when I was younger but then I’d forgotten how to do it and I’ve always admired people who spend their time watching TV or commuting and knitting. Seems like a great way to be productive while doing something that’s considered nothing (eg Netflix). So, I’ve bought some knitting needles and wool and I’ve been teaching myself how to knit… with the help of YouTube of course. I’m hoping to make some sort of scarf by the end of next week… we’ll see how that goes lol.

So there you have it – my three foolproof ways of unwinding and enjoying the weekend. If you’re struggling to unwind, give one or all of these points a go and let me know how it goes!

What do you do to unwind for the weekend?

February Feats – What I’ve been reading #3

Happy Thursday! I can’t believe we’re already on episode three of this series. You know what that means? One more episode to go! I genuinely hope you’ve been enjoying the series and checking out the books I’ve been sharing.

I went through my kindle the other day and noticed that I’m a creature of habit when it comes to the books I read. Not only are most of them a particular genre, but if I come across an author that I absolute adore, I’ll read all their books. My top three authors, according to my kindle, are Val McDermid, John Boyne and Cecelia Ahern. It’s a pretty accurate representation of my top three authors.

Lately I’ve been trying to explore other authors and discover new favourites. I think this is reflected in the books I’ve been reading list. It’s definitely a good experiment because I find myself revisiting the author of the books I’ve enjoyed. A prime example would be Michael Robotham. I’ve now read another two of his books and yeah, I’d say they were hits.

Anyways, as usual, I’m digressing. Here’s this weeks what I’ve been reading lately…

  • ‘Lies’ by T M Logan

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This book appeared in a recommendations list that Amazon emails to me every week. I read the synopsis and it gripped me. I sampled the book and the next thing I knew, I bought it.

The book is based on the main character, Joe Lynch, who stumbles across his wife’s car heading into a hotel car park. He decides to follow her and sees her having an altercation with her best friends husband, Ben. She leaves and he follows Ben out and confronts him and there’s a bit of a scuffle and Ben gets knocked out. Joe’s son is with him and he has an asthma attack so they bail to go get his inhaler and leave Ben alone on the ground in the carpark but when Joe comes back later, Ben is gone. And that’s when weird stuff starts happening…

An obvious theme for this book is social media and how easy it is to deceive and hide secrets (and to an extent, discover them) from our loved ones. Technology is another big theme as well. It’s an interesting book and there is quite the plot twist at the end – one that I didn’t see coming at all. I was already convinced in my brain of how the story was going to end but it didn’t go the way I expected it to go. Personally, I felt like the ending in my head would’ve been more interesting than the actual ending BUT that’s just my personal opinion. I’d score this book a 7 out of 10.

  • ‘Ragdoll’ by Daniel Cole

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I remember seeing the cover of this book at Whitcoulls and thinking to myself, I must read it; a very similar scenario to Stephen King’s ‘Bazaar of Bad Dreams’. So I went home and I downloaded a sample on my kindle and started reading.

I think you may have guessed from the title and the cover that this book is an investigative crime/thriller. It’s centred on Detective William Fawkes aka The Wolf who comes across a gruesome, stitched together corpse made out of six different bodies. So he ends up in a race to try and uncover whom the twisted murderer is before he claims more victims. To top it off, Wolf has his own personal troubles given he’s only recently been reinstated to his role and there’s an ex-wife in the mix.

I was actually quite hooked by the sample so I bought the book. I think I spent like $15NZD? Anyways, after a few more chapters, I think my interest just slowly waned. The premise of it was good and it has a lot of potential but it sort of just dragged on. I wasn’t particularly a fan of Wolf and given he’s the main character and the book revolves around him, it made it difficult to really enjoy the book. It’s like hanging out with someone you don’t like and trying to find ways to like them but then realising and accepting that no matter what, you’re not gonna like them. Again, that’s just my personal opinion.

If you’re a fan of gore and crime thrillers then give this one a go. Don’t let my thoughts influence your decision because I know this book has done pretty well out in the world. It’s also Daniel Cole’s first book and fun fact, he’s an ex-paramedic! I was quite fascinated by that. I score this book a 5 out of 10.

  • ‘Flawed’ and ‘Perfect’ by Cecelia Ahern

I must admit I didn’t read these books recently. The first time I came across ‘Flawed’ was over a year ago and then I read the sequel, ‘Perfect’ mid-last year when it came out. When I finished ‘Flawed’, I was so pissed off to find out that I had to wait a few months for the sequel. But like the good person that I am, I bit my tongue, hit the ‘pre-order’ button, set the release date in my calendar and read other books to fill in the empty space while waiting patiently for ‘Perfect’s release. I think that write-up speaks volumes on what I thought of the book.

‘Flawed’ is a dystopian novel and tells the story of Celestine North, who lives in a society that demands perfection, no matter what. Those that aren’t perfect or considered morally flawed are branded like cattle with a large F in different areas of their body, depending on their crime of imperfection. Celestine lives the perfect life that’s demanded of her society; she’s well-liked by her peers and teachers and she’s dating a popular boy who’s father heads the guild that runs the Flawed system. One day, Celestine makes a decision that sees her getting branded. The first book is about her journey on discovering that the Flawed system is in fact flawed itself. The second book covers her journey to challenge the system and society’s ideas of perfection.

I wanted to bring it up because I thought it was an interesting genre for Cecelia Ahern given that she’s known for her romantic novels or light-hearted reads with sweet endings that teaches you a bit about life. While the book is targeted for younger adults, I think it’s actually quite enjoyable… this is coming from someone in their late-20s. Obviously there was a cliffhanger that kills in the first book so if you’re gonna read it, I suggest you mentally make a note to yourself that you will be shelling out for the second book. This isn’t one of those ‘just read the first one and leave it’ books. So if you like a bit of dystopia and want to escape to a world where you can’t tell if it’s in the past or future or if you should visualise the area as being Ireland (I did based on pictures I’ve seen of Ireland but it looked pretty strange in my brain), then I highly recommend these two books. I score these books a 9 out of 10.

So there you have it folks, this weeks ‘what I’ve been reading’ done and dusted. I hope you enjoy it. I know it’s coming across as a typical Michelle-Rose booklist but I am going outside my comfort zone and reading other genres. In fact, I’ve started reading ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern and I’m aiming to have it done by the time the next list goes up. I have no idea what the genre of this book is or what it’s even about but I’ve heard it’s a good book to read so I thought I’d give it a go. So far, I’m enjoying it.

What are you currently reading?

One month to go

 

Wow I can’t believe there’s about 28 days left until I’m off to London. I remember thinking that it’s so far away and I can’t possibly wait that long but it’s true what they say, time goes by fairly quick.

So how am I currently feeling about the big move? I’m still very excited but of course, the nerves are starting to set as the big day looms closer. I feel like I’m in limbo because there’s so much to do, like notifying Inland Revenue that I’m leaving the country because it’ll affect my student loan, sort out my doctor referral paperwork, get rid of more clothes, sort out exactly what I’m taking especially the unimportant stuff like toiletries, makeup and god forbid nail polish; but it feels like it’s still too early to do all these things. I don’t know if I feel like it’s too early to do these things because somewhere in my brain I just don’t want to because the scared part of me doesn’t want to accept that I’ll be leaving the comforts of home, a job, family and a stable income.

But then the other part of me is like “YO IT’S ADVENTURE TIME AND YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED TO BE LEAVING THE COMFORTS OF HOME BECAUSE THEN YOU’LL GET OUT AND EXPLORE AND SEE AND EXPERIENCE THINGS YOU OTHERWISE WOULDN’T HAVE IF YOU JUST STAYED WHERE YOU ARE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE”. I know that that voice is the right voice to be listening to.

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I’ll be landing in London on 21 March at like 6ish in the morning. I don’t know how my body is going to cope given it’ll probably think it’s NZ time so about 7ish in the evening. I’ll be heading over to my friend Suzie’s place and I’m treating myself to an Uber (scored a 50% off code. Can’t even deal). Perhaps I’ll have a wee nap before getting up and deciding to go on a little exploration adventure… I mean, I kinda do need to find the Asda that’s close by to her place so I can pick up necessities and groceries. I’ll also need to sort out an Oyster card, bank account, work out my bearings… so old I’m getting exhausted just thinking about it but not gonna lie, so excited to be wandering the streets of London AND catching the train and double decker buses.

Anyways, this is what I THINK I’ll be doing… for all I know, I’ll probably spend the day slothing out in her bedroom not wanting to deal with life given the 30+ hours of travel I’ve had to endure. But I’m being optimistic and I’d like to think that I’d be wide-awake and ready to tackle London. Heck, I might even treat myself to an evening at the theatre.

I’ve linked up with Global Career HQ, which is an agency that helps people migrate to various countries around the world. They’ve kindly helped me set up a limited liability company within the UK for if I do any contracting work; they’ve also helped me work my CV so it’s in a suitable format for the UK job market and they’ve introduced me to two recruitment agencies. They’ve organised my meetings with the agencies and with the bank so the following Monday and Tuesday is gonna be pretty jam-packed with meetings and interviews. I’m gonna have fun trying to work out where I need to be and how to get there. But honestly, I highly recommend using their services if you’re a Kiwi or Aussie wanting to move to the other side of the world. Their support and advice has been invaluable and I don’t think I’d know where to start if I didn’t have their help. No they’re not sponsoring this post (although I’m totally open to being a spokesperson haha).

What else, what else…

I’ve put together my own little ultimate packing list as well as a carry-on packing list, which I’ll share once I’m clearer on what exactly is coming with me. Researching how to survive long flights, what to pack, and what to wear and what to bring in your carry-on has been lots of fun. Pinterest has been my go-to and my packing, travel and London boards are filling up pretty quick. Honestly, it just adds to the excitement of the fact that I’m making my dreams a reality.

I’ve also got some upcoming events to look forward to – Flight of the Conchords at the O2, watching Ian McKellen as King Lear at the Duke of York Theatre, lots and lots of food festivals and of course, a weekend in Prague. No doubt once I’m there in London, there’ll be many more trips and activities to book and enjoy.

So yeah, with 28 days left to go, I thought I’d give you guys a quick update on where I’m at and how I’m feeling. I’ll put together a moving series/what I’ve learnt/survival guide once I’ve touched down and worked out what the heck I’m doing.

Do you have any tips on surviving long haul flights? Any must-haves you gotta bring? Have you moved away from home? How’d it go? I’d love to hear them all!

February Bakes: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’ve been on fire with this whole baking thing. I feel like it’s now such a huge part of my week that it’d be weird to just stop baking next month. Even though it started out being something I wanted to do (and needed to do for the February bakes series), I think I might actually continue to bake at least once a week.

I keep forgetting that baking is something I enjoy; I’d be reminded of it when I feel like making something so I would and then I’d wonder why I don’t do it often and then suddenly it’s months before I get my bake on again.

This week, I’ve been testing a few recipes – some came out good and some, well, needed a bit more work. I also found my grandmother’s box of recipes. It’s a cute wooden box where she keeps all her recipes and they’re all handwritten! Ingredients, methods and all! There’s a recipe that I’ll share with you in the next February Bakes because it’s a family fave and the first time I trialed it, it came out perfect but I didn’t take photos. The second attempt resulted in a burnt slice (lol) so I’ll try again next week.

So for this weeks recipe, I wanted to share something that I tried and it came out rather delicious. It’s not too sweet either which I absolutely love because it makes it less of an indulgence. It’s one you can also freeze and thaw out when you’re having a sweet craving or for when unexpected guests turn up. Not gonna lie, I’m having my second one for the day with a cup of coffee as I’m typing this out. So naughty.

I’m going to list the ingredients as it was on the recipe card but I had to tweak a couple of the ingredients because I didn’t have them. What I used as alternatives, I’ve placed beside the ingredient list. So yeah, let’s get into it!

Ingredients

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2 eggs

¼ cup of plain, vegetable or canola oil (I used coconut oil because I ran out of canola)

2 riped bananas (I used 3 because I figured I might as well use up all my bananas)

1 cup of milk

¾ cup of brown sugar (any sugar will do but I prefer brown)

2 ½ cup plain flour

4 tsp baking powder (I only had baking soda so I used 1 tspn)

1 cup chocolate chips

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius.

Lightly grease your muffin/loaf/cake tin with cooking spray, oil or butter.

In a large bowl, mash your bananas. Add the egg, oil, milk and sugar and mix lightly. You know you’re doing it right when it looks like mushy, yellow goop.

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Add the flour, baking powder/soda and chocolate chips. Mix them all together until just combined.

Add the mixture into your tin of choice. If you’re like me and you use an ice cream scoop, it works out to about 1 and a half scoops per muffin.

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Chuck them into the over for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the muffin comes out clean.

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Remove from tin and let cool. Next step, ENJOY.

These muffins are moist and so enjoyable. If you’re not a huge fan of bananas, fair enough, I can understand why you’d think this is gross. But did you know, if you use the same recipe without banana, you could actually make chocolate chip muffins? Amazing.

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If you give this recipe a go, let me know how it turns out. Better yet, share it with me @michellerosewrites or comment below. I’d love to hear to how it goes!

Being motivated to keep fit in the heat

Do you know what I’ve been finding rather challenging lately? Having the energy to keep moving and to be fit, especially after working long hours and coming home to a sweltering hot house. But as humans, we’re designed to keep moving although in this day and age, it’s hard to believe that’s the case since we spend most of our time sitting on our butts, playing games, reading books or binge-watching movies/tv shows.

I used to go on weekend hikes and evening/early morning runs and I’d walk long distances and it never phased me how far or how long it took. But then I stopped for a variety of reasons and then I felt myself getting fatter… and fatter… and lazier… and lazier… and the thought of walking anywhere got my stress and anxiety levels going.

Now I want to change that and get back into the zone and claim my enjoyment for long walks, short runs and weekend hikes because if you’ve read my posts from last year, you would know that I really enjoy these things. Maybe not at the time of doing them, but the satisfaction of reaching a destination or achieving a goal is a feeling you just can’t beat.

There’s also heaps of other benefits to moving and getting out and about – you improve your stamina, burn more calories and it positively affects your mood and mental wellbeing.

It can be extra hard to motivate yourself to move especially in the deep heat (yes I’m talking about you you awful average 23 degree muggy New Zealand heat) so I thought I’d share with you four things that I do to motivate myself to get out and about even though I would rather sit in front of a fan and read a book.

Go for a swim

I think this one is an obvious way to cool yourself down while also getting in some physical activity. I used to hate swimming in summer at the beach just because everyone else had the same idea so parking was a nightmare and finding a decent spot in the ocean within the flags was torture. But now, I just embrace it. And if you live in a place like New Plymouth, there’s more than one beach and the further out the beach is, the less people there’ll be. My favourite beach happens to be Oakura beach, where the waters are usually calm and there’s less people.

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If you’re not a fan of salt water and waves crashing into you, head down to your local pools. The ones in New Plymouth mark down their prices in the evening (I think an hour or two before they close?) which is pretty cool. I’ve never actually swam at our local pools but I know I definitely would if I wasn’t such a fan of the open-air ocean. Feels funny saying that because I’m actually deathly afraid of everything that lives in the ocean…

Evening/early morning strolls

This is my fool-proof way of motivating myself to keep moving. I’m a fan of early morning runs or evening runs because there’s no sun and usually the heat is not so bad. Sometimes it can still be a bit muggy but it’s way more manageable than going in the middle of the day when the heat is in full force. And if you do your exercise in the morning, at least it’s out of the way and you can spend your evenings just chilling and feeling super proud of how productive you’ve been with your time! thumbs up yo

And you also end up catching some incredible shots of the sunset/sunrise. Here’s one I snapped last week on an evening run:

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Go for a wander in the bush

lol that heading made me giggle a little. What I mean is going for a run/walk in a shaded area like a bushy walkway or an area in a park where there’s bound to be heaps of trees.

There’s a walk that I personally really enjoy in New Plymouth. It’s by the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and you can get a good 7km in just walking to Bell Block and back.

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But doing this walk in the scorching heat is a killer because it’s very open and there are no trees to shade you. So this walk is best done in the evenings or early in the morning. For other times of the day, a walk in a place like the Te Henui Walkway or Pukekura Park is ideal because of all the trees that shade you throughout the day. Of course if you’re not from New Zealand, I’ve linked the places above via Google Images so you get an idea of the type of trek those places are. I’m sure there are similar parks/walkways wherever you are 🙂

Get into your active wear

You know how in winter when it’s super cold and wet and you come home and get straight into your PJs because you’ve been miserable and you just want to be warm and comfy? In summer, I usually come home and tear my clothes off and get into shorts and a tee. When I know I need to get out and about, I’ll get into my active wear and let’s be honest, who doesn’t like being in their cosy, comfy active wear?

By being in it, it reminds me that I need to get out and about and get some exercise into my day (FACT: I’m wearing my active wear right now as I’m writing this). Even if I’m in it for a couple of hours before I actually leave the house, it’s one less excuse I’ll have (because apart from “it’s too hot”, there’s “i’m too hot to change into my active wear”).

And if you want to run/walk in the morning but you know you’ll wake up and tell yourself “i can’t be bothered changing into my active wear”, leave your workout gear and shoes somewhere close. Hell, if you need to tie your hair up, make sure you’ve got a hairband around your wrist and have your hairbrush close by. What excuse will you have now?

So there you have it – the top four things that I do to keep moving and motivated during the summer. I’m not saying you should follow these ideas but they’re what I do to make sure “it’s too hot” is not an excuse for not doing any form of exercise or to not fit in at least a 20 minute walk into my day.

There are also other things that you can do to keep moving, such as, joining a class or going to the gym. You can also indulge in the many free workout videos on Youtube and work out in the comfort of your own home (this is something I do as well but not often hence why it didn’t make the list). I’m a fan of being out and about and keeping things very cheap so these things work for me.

By the way, I don’t exercise every day. I do have my lazy days but I try to aim for at least five days a week of movement. Next challenge is definitely going to be making sure I continue to exercise in the winter without using the excuse “it’s too cold”.

What do you do to motivate yourself to exercise during the summer? I’d love to know!

February Feats – What I’ve been reading #2

I know, I know I’m a day late posting this and I’m sorry. There was a death in the family recently, which resulted in Mum having to leave for Malaysia earlier than expected. So I spent Wednesday in a car driving her up to Auckland and then driving back. Today I feel absolutely shattered and I’m ready to crawl into a hole and stay there for a while because I don’t have the energy to deal with life. But life has to go on!

I felt it was necessary to spend as much time with Mum as possible, seeing as there was only 24 hours left with her and with me leaving for London, it would be a couple of years before I saw her again. I was a quivering mess before we even took her up to Auckland but being reminded of the many ways I can keep in touch and the thought of her and Dad spending Christmas with me in the UK next year made me feel a lot better.

So, little life update aside, I hope you’re all doing wonderfully! Seriously, where has the week gone? Feels like only yesterday I was writing up my first ‘What I’ve been reading’ list and posting it.

Anyways, here we go folks, week two of what I’ve been reading…

  • ‘Turtles All the Way Down’ by John Green

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To be honest, I bought this book because it was everywhere. In book reviews, book recommendations, hell, even my kindle was recommending it to me. So I thought to myself, I should buy this book because the gods want me to, not because I had any interest in what it was about. In some way, it was like I was being subliminally peer pressured.

The book is based around Aza, a 16-year-old girl who I suppose is a bit troubled. She’s under pressure from her family and friends to be a good daughter, a good friend, and an all-round good person. The death of a prominent billionaire and a reward worth hundreds of thousands of dollars takes Aza and her best friend, Daisy on a wee adventure where they look to solve the mystery of the billionaire’s death. I think this sums up the book.

I downloaded a sample on my Kindle and I wasn’t really engaged in the story but because I had invested time and effort in reading the book, I hit the ‘Buy book’ button when the sample was over (this seems to be a terrible habit I have btw). I think I must’ve paid about $15NZD for the book… which is the most I’ve ever spent on a book on my Kindle. I continued to read it but I wasn’t fully engaged in the story. I wasn’t invested in the characters (and I usually am way too involved with them and have to remind myself that they’re not real people) and I found myself getting annoyed with them way too often. I know I’m probably gonna get a lot of “wtf” for this but I still don’t understand the turtles all the way down reference. I read the explanation about three times and still couldn’t wrap my head around it. I might have to go back and read the explanation again and see if we’re fourth time lucky.

I think if you’re a die-hard John Green fan then you’d probably enjoy the book. The only book that Green has written that I’ve actually enjoyed was ‘Paper Towns’. I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I did the book but yeah, hands down, fave John Green book. I’ve read ‘The Fault in our Stars’ a couple of years ago and I think I’m about a chapter away from finishing and I just never picked it up to complete it. I don’t know why. I like the idea for the story and the movie brought tears in my eyes but I remember thinking to myself that this could’ve been written better (I know I’m being a critical cow but it’s just my opinion and I’m not saying I’m the one to write it better!). I downloaded a sample of ‘Looking for Alaska’ and I think I read it a few months ago but I was still debating on whether or not to buy it because I’d be spending about $15NZD on it and I wasn’t sure if I actually enjoyed it. I might go back and reread the sample again.

So there you go, my honest thoughts on ‘Turtles All the Way Down’. I’d score this book 5 out of 10.

  • ‘The Missing Ones’ by Patricia Gibney

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This book was recommended to me by Amazon and I thought heck, it’s a crime thriller; it has murder, serious harm, mystery, a strong female lead who’s falling to pieces, gore, history, broken minds and it’s set in Ireland so I’d be silly not to sample it.

I read the sample in about ten minutes and didn’t hesitate to click the ‘Buy book’ button. It took me about a day and a half to finish reading the entire book. It’s one of those ‘But I have to know who did it!’ books and I just couldn’t put it down.

The book is the first of the Detective Lottie Parker series. There are two more after this and yes I’ve read them all. The fourth one is scheduled for release on 22 March and yes I’ve preordered it. The story opens with a dead woman found in a church. The woman seems to have no history and no friends and Detective Parker is already hitting brick walls with no clues and no leads. When the death of a man is reported soon after, the deaths seem to be linked but Detective Parker can’t seem to work out how… and that’s where the excitement begins.

It’s probably not the best description of what the story is about but it’s a mystery. If you google it, you’d probably get a better description… and hopefully no spoilers. If you’re a sucker for a good crime/mystery/thriller with a twist to die for, then look no further. Gibney has definitely outdone herself with her debut novel. Also, I think I spent about $2 NZD on this book? Incredible. I’d score it 10 out of 10.

  • ‘Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ by Stephen King

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I’m gonna put it out there – I’ve never been a fan of Stephen King’s writing. I’ve been a fan of his book ideas, the movies and reimagining’s and the synopsis of his books but I find it difficult to get through his writing. I’m still trying to work out why because I’m a fan of horror books and his book ideas are just marvellous so naturally you’d think I’d be his biggest fan.

When I saw this book in Whitcoulls, there was this feeling inside me that felt like I just had to have this book and read it. So I took a photo of it, rushed home and bought it.

The book is made up of 20 short stories, all with a different type of ‘scary’ theme. There’s monsters, ghosts and even psychological fears – the ones you don’t really think about. Before each story starts, King provides us with a commentary on how he came up with the idea behind the story. Normally I don’t care much for these blurbs but I found the ones King wrote to be fairly interesting.

Typical of short stories, there’s always going to be the ones that you love and the ones that you hate and just really want to skip but feel compelled to finish. My favourites in the collection are ‘Bad Little Kid’ and ‘A Death’. I think I enjoyed this book more than his novels because there was something to suit different tastes. With a novel, if you don’t enjoy the premise or the writing, you’re kind of just stuck with it. Overall, I’d score this book an 8 out of 10.

I really enjoy writing this list. I find that I’m more aware of what I’m reading and my feelings towards the content of what I’m reading and that’s because I know I’m going to be writing about them for this series.

Oh oh I’ve also been listening to an audiobook! Only reason I’m doing that is because I want to reread the Harry Potter series and I’ve ran out of enjoyable podcasts to listen to while I’m doing some mindless data entry at work so voila, solution! I’ve actually been enjoying it and the book is narrated by Stephen Fry and boy is he amazing. I get my audiobooks from Audible, just in case you’re wondering. No, this is not an ad lol. They offer a free one-month trial so if you’ve always been interested in trying out audiobooks, definitely take advantage of this opportunity!

I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I’ve enjoyed writing this. Until next weeks list!

What have you been reading lately? I’d also love to hear your thoughts on audiobooks!