So you’ve decided to move to the UK…

Congratulations! Making the decision to move is the first big step I reckon. Yes it’s scary and yes it’s a big deal but rest assured, it’s going to be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And you’re going to love it, even when you have days where you absolutely hate it!

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While my decision to move was a long time coming, I really did just pick a date, bought a one-way ticket and then did the countdown. Of course, there were bits and pieces in between but I did it the way I did because I knew if I didn’t, then I’d waste more time talking myself out of it.

The key to success I think is to be prepared. I know it sounds like a total cliché but if you want to do well, you will need to do your research. And lots of it. There are plenty of guides online and blogs by people who have been in your shoes and I really think they helped me with my planning. In saying that, I also felt like there needed to be more people blogging about their experiences because it’s always so fascinating to read! Everyone experiences moving to a new country differently so getting a variety of perspectives is always handy.

In saying this, here are some of my tips and experiences to add to the mix to help you prepare for your big adventure. While my advice would be more relatable to a fellow Kiwi, I’m sure there are still some bits and pieces non-Kiwis will find helpful.

The important things before the trip

This is the kind of boring part of the whole process but it’s also the most important. If you don’t get these things sorted, honey, you ain’t going anywhere!

Make sure your passport is up-to-date! Or if you’re like me, make sure you get your passport! Cause guess what… if you don’t have your passport, you’re not leaving the country!

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetBefore I bought my ticket, I applied for my passport. In New Zealand, it costs $180 to get a passport. This is the standard fee but if you need to get one urgently, it’ll cost about $360. Mine took about a week to arrive and I was so happy when I finally got it in my hot little hands!

You can find all the information you need about getting your New Zealand passport here.

Now that you’ve got your important little booklet with your swanky, ‘just got out of prison’ photo (or is that just me?), it’s time to think visa. As a New Zealand citizen, if you’re between the ages of 18 to 30, you can apply for a Tier 5 Youth Mobility visa, which entitles you to live and work in the UK for two years. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents that were born in the UK, you can apply for an Ancestry visa, which entitles you to live and work in the UK for five years, after which you could probably apply to be a resident.

It’s important to note that you can only apply for your visa six months before you intend to travel. So if you’ve chosen a date that’s far, far into the future, make sure you note down in your calendar when it’s time to apply for your visa.

For a Tier 5 visa, there are fees you need to pay:

  • £244 application fee
  • £300 healthcare surcharge
  • £1,890 in savings – I’ve included this as an expense because you need to be able to show that you’ve got equivalent to this amount in your bank account as part of your application

It doesn’t take long for your application to get processed… well, I didn’t think it did anyways. Once you’ve applied, a decision will be made and you’ll get a letter in the post confirming the outcome. My memory is a bit fuzzy but after my application had been approved, I had to go down to Wellington for an appointment to get my photo taken and to get my fingerprints into the system for my biometric residence permit (BRP). A BRP is a little card you get when you arrive in the UK and it’s a form of ID that confirms your right to live and work in the UK.

Once that’s done, you’ve got your visa sorted! All the boring, legal stuff is now done and you get to move on to the more exciting parts!

If you want to check your eligibility or want to apply for a visa, check out this page.

Money honey!

I think it’s important to stress that the UK is not a cheap country. While groceries tend to be cheaper here, everything else is relatively expensive and I can’t stress enough that you should save, save, save and bring as much money as you can possibly can.

Based on my research, people have said a comfortable amount to save and bring with you is around £5000 so you’ve got enough for a deposit to move into your own place and enough to tie you over if you’re stuck without a job for months. I think it’s sound advice having now been here but I have to admit, I didn’t listen to this advice… only because I’m absolutely RUBBISH with saving.

So I came here with about £1500 in my bank account. I honestly thought that I’d probably have to move back to New Zealand in a week because there was no way I could’ve survived on that, especially if I was paying for my own accommodation.

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I was EXTREMELY lucky in two ways: I got a full-time job within two days and I had the luxury of staying with a friend for free while I settled. After I got my job though, I immediately went out to find a place of my own just because I’m the type of person that likes having her own space. So, I found a place in East London in the thriving metropolis that is Bow. I paid £1270 for the deposit and moved in the following day. The rest of my money went towards groceries and pillows, blankets, sheets, etc.

So yes, while I was very lucky and managed to get a job and a home in a couple of days of arriving, I could’ve also been extremely unlucky and not gotten either and would probably be back in New Zealand right now drowning myself in sorrow. I am a stickler for preparation… however, I’m also a useless saver and a damn good spender. So my advice to you, dear reader, is save as much as you can and unless you have a free home to go to and a job lined up (or know you’ve got a high chance of getting a job within a month), definitely bring more than £1500. I think the safest thing to do is to bring AT LEAST a month’s worth of living cost.

Bank accounts and transferring monies

When you get here, you’re going to want a bank account and a bankcard so you have access to your monies. It’s true what they say – it can be quite challenging to open a bank account. You’ll need to provide proof of address so the logical thing to do is to get your bank to send a copy of your latest bank statement to your new address in the UK. If you don’t have a home in the UK, then you’re screwed (but not really).

If you have friends or family in the UK and they are happy for you to use their address, have your bank send your statement there. Bear in mind though, they want proper hard copies of the statement, not a printout.

While I had my bank send my statements to my friend’s address, both Barclays and Lloyds wouldn’t accept my statements as it looked to them like a printout. It baffled me to be honest but oh well.

I was introduced to an online bank called Monese where you could open an account without having to provide copies of your bank statement. All you need to do is send them a copy of your identification and then bam, they give you an account and send you a contactless debit card. Easy! Monese has been great.

There’s also another online bank called Monzo which is quite popular in the UK actually. They have these insanely bright coral debit cards which I must say, gets a lot of attention every time I whip it out to use it. They also offer overdrafts which is great if you’ve got a credit record but as I don’t have one (and it’s likely you won’t either if you’re an expat), you won’t be eligible.

So if you’re struggling to apply for an account with ‘traditional’ banks, definitely give these ones a go, even if it’s just for a start.

With regards to transferring your monies from your current account to your UK account, I highly recommend Transferwise. I’ve used them religiously since arriving to transfer money to and from my New Zealand bank account. They’ve also got great exchange rates and best of all, no bank fees. They do charge a transfer fee but it’s quite nominal compared to what you’d pay at a bank or at an exchange counter. They also provide a calculator so you know exactly how much you’re going to get. Another bonus is that you usually get your money within a couple of hours!

BTW, I’m not sponsored by any of these companies (as much as I’d love to be!). I’ve tried them and highly rate them for the service they provide and just want to share the love!

Finding a flat 

Finding a new home is quite similar to finding one in New Zealand. There are flat sharing websites available, such as, Rightmove, Spareroom, Zoopla and you can also use Gumtree (though I’ve never actually used it).

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Most places are advertised via an agency. Move in costs are usually a month’s rent in advance, a bond (which is typically equivalent to one month’s rent) and sometimes, agency fees, which can be up to £200. As the rental market is a competitive one, if you find a place that you’re really keen on, some agencies require you to pay a ‘holding fee’ which comes off the move in costs when you sign the paperwork. This just tells them that you’re definitely serious about moving in and secures you as the tenant. Some agencies ask to do a reference check (so definitely ask your landlord back home if it’s okay for you to use them as a referee) and if you fail it, or if for some reason you lose out on the room/flat, you can lose the holding fee as well. So just be mindful of this…

Another thing to be mindful of is that you can actually secure a room before you’ve even arrived in the UK. So if you’re very keen, like I was, you can do your research, talk to agencies and if you like the look of a place, pay the holding fee and it’s yours when you arrive. I didn’t do this but I did book a few viewings before I arrived. Agencies also tend to want to work with you so if you tell them what you’re after, they’ll give you a list of places they have available that fits your requirements and that saves you having to do more searching.

In my experience, I never did the whole holding fee or had to do reference checks. When I got my place, I gave them £100 to hold my spot, signed the contract and then paid the remainder of the move in cost later that day once my money came through (thanks Transferwise!). I then picked up the keys the next day and moved in. As for the place that I’m in right now in Exmouth, it’s owned by a friend’s employer and I just paid a week rent in advance plus four weeks for bond and moved in immediately.

So again, it’s one of those things where everyone’s situation is different.

It’s also true what they say, you do come across some shocking places in London. Rental properties are EXTREMELY expensive and you get bugger all for what you pay. I was paying £585 a month including expenses for a room in a flat in Zone 2 where there was no lounge, no dining room and no garden area. There were six of us in the flat with one bathroom, one toilet and the tiniest of tiny kitchens. If you want to live in a decent place in either Zone 1 or 2, you’re gonna have to be prepared to shell out a lot of money.

The place I’m in now is a HUGE improvement and I pay £400 a month including expenses to live in the heart of Exmouth. It has a lounge and two bathrooms and there’s five of us that live here. The kitchen is open plan and it smells nice most of the time. Plus it’s clean and carpeted. I guess you expect to pay so much less and get so much more when you move outside of London.

Oh, and another thing that’s quite common here is, you don’t tend to meet the flatmates as most places are advertised through agencies. Some places are advertised privately so you do get to meet them before you move in. But most cases, you don’t, which can make it tricky when moving in and realising you’re going to be spending months with a bunch of awful people. If possible, try to meet them when you go for your viewing or try to get into a short-term contract where you can extend should you choose to stay longer.

Packing light and packing right

It’s a bit tricky to ascertain what you’ll need when you move over. I did a lot of trawling on Pinterest for some inspiration on what basic items I may need. I knew that I had to make sacrifices seeing as my baggage allowance was 32kg and I also knew that I’d end up accumulating a bunch of stuff once I was there anyways (cough, Primark, cough).

I did a lot of research on the season and what the typical weather would be like for March when I arrived. It was the end of winter so I knew it was going to be cold but as it was going into spring and summer, it was going to warm up. So using common sense and being inspired by Pinterest, I made sure to bring a coat, raincoat, clothes that could be used in both summer and winter (for example a pinafore that I could wear as a dress on it’s own in the warmer weather but I could also wear layers underneath when it’s colder).

Again, remember, if you forgot something or need something, you can always go shopping. After all, you’re not moving to the middle of nowhere!

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Okay I know I’ve basically made your eyes bleed with the amount of information I’ve put up but hopefully you’ve found the whole thing or at least aspects of it useful. Please don’t feel overwhelmed and end up putting off your trip! It’s a lot of information to take in but it’ll make so much more sense once you’re here.

There’s still heaps more to talk about like finding a job which I thought I’d save for the next post otherwise this would get WAAAAAAAY too long and there’s lots to talk about with that topic.

Let me know if you have any questions and if you’d like me to cover something in particular… I’m always open to new content! Until next time 🙂

UPDATE: It’s been six months and I’m sorry!

Before you bite my head off for abandoning you despite promises of showcasing all the wonderful things my life had in store for you, let me just say that there are no words, rhyme or reason to explain why I’ve slacked off. Aside from the fact that I’ve been quite busy getting my shit sorted and enjoying life at the other end of the world.

To be honest, I don’t really think I’ve sorted my shit out very much. There’s still a lot of shit to be thought of but I’m getting there. So enough of me digressing and let’s get to the good stuff: how in the heck am I doing?!

Coming to London

I’m going to be very honest with you.

It wasn’t scary at all. I guess it helps when your good friend is a GC and goes all the way to bloody Heathrow to pick you up so your stubborn ass doesn’t give up on working out the public transport system and spending a fortune and a half on an Uber… or worst, a black cab. I’ve heard about how manic rush hour can be when catching the tube but nothing prepared me for what I witnessed. With my massive suitcase (it’s nearly as tall as me, no kidding), my backpack and a tote filled with unnecessary items, we caught about three different tubes and then the DLR and then finally made it back to Canary Wharf where I was crashing for a few days.

Despite how manic everything was, I was really, really excited to be here in this city that I had dreamed of coming to. So, despite my friend telling me I should have a nap, I got ready, went to Oxford Street and shopped til I dropped at Primark. At 5pm, I crashed SO hard I had to haul my ass back to her place and practically crashed out within seconds of lying on her bed. I then woke up at about 6.30pm when she’d been trying to contact me to let her in since I had her key… and then by 7pm I was out of it again.

I remember waking up at 3am, feeling absolutely shattered and wanting to go back to sleep. But alas, I had an interview to prepare for so I stayed up and did some life admin stuff, caught up with family and friends and did some interview prep.

The interview I had was with a university in a communications role and I’m telling you, I’ve never done an interview jetlagged before and I don’t recommend it. I remember trying to explain something but it just wasn’t coming to me so we sat in silence for like 5 seconds… that feels like a lifetime when people are waiting for you to say something. Needless to say, I got the job! Fittingly, I was told on Friday I got the job so I got completely shitfaced in Borough Markets with my friends and on Saturday, I experienced my first London hangover. It was awful but so, so worth it.

To top off my weekend, I managed to secure a room in a flat on the Saturday and then moved in on Sunday and I started my new job the following Monday so life moved very, very quickly for me.

I guess you could say it was somewhat smooth sailing and I was very fortunate to be able to get a job within a day of arriving. I kind of needed to anyways because I only came here with £1500 in my bank account (highly recommend you come here with more!). But miraculously, it all worked out and I was settled and very, very happy.

Here are some of my very own London #tourist images…

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Right here, right now…

 My UK journey has been one that I well and truly do not regret. I’ve learnt so much in the last six month about myself, I’ve travelled a bit, I’ve met so many people, drank lots, slept less, tried heaps of things and made memories to last me a lifetime.

England (London in particular) is a whimsical, magical place. I was quite surprised by how easy it was for me to settle and call this place home. Despite the hustle and bustle (and occasional stress!) of being surrounded by 9 million people, I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else in the world.

My contract at my previous role ended so I’ve actually moved to the South West of England for a job and for a different experience. I’m currently based in beautiful Exmouth, which reminds me a lot of New Plymouth because the beach and estuary is close by and the views are absolutely stunning. I’m working in Exeter and I absolutely adore the city! I think I might move to the city in a couple of months just because I have so much love for it.

IMG_5637A view of the Exmouth Estuary, where I was sitting on the grass with a bottle of wine, great company and The Foo Fighters.

While I miss London like crazy, I figured I should spread my wings and experience the rest of England especially since I’ve got 18 months left on my visa. If I could stay longer, I’d totally still be in London.

So yeah, that’s my mini update!

I’m not going to overwhelm you with lots of information because six months is a long time and I’ve got HEAPS to share so I’ve broken up the content over a few different posts.  They range from tips/tricks/advice/what I’ve learnt, life stories/experiences and just general blogging of my travels.

If there is anything at all that you’d like me to write about, please comment below! I’m always on the look out for new content ideas.

I’ve really missed you. I promise I won’t leave you for too long again. Til next time!

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 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 Bakes: Carrot Cake Muffins

Baking is one of the activities that I enjoy a lot. It’s relaxing, fun (especially when everything turns out the way it should) and the end result, be it good or bad, always gives me a sense of satisfaction and leaves me with a smile on my face.

As part of February self-love, I wanted to do more baking and I’m aiming to bake at least once a week. I thought I’d share with you, dear reader, a simple baking recipe a week.

This week, I made carrot cake muffins. You can actually make a cake version instead of a muffin version but our house lacks a cake tin so I thought I’d be creative and create muffins instead.

The first time I made this carrot cake was for my sister’s 20th birthday. She absolutely loves carrot cake and I’d never made it in my life so I thought I’d give it a shot. The verdict was 10 out of 10, which is awesome. And if memory serves me right, I baked it in a loaf tin because we didn’t have a cake tin. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever baked this cake in a cake tin. But at least you know that no matter what you put it in that’s oven proof, you’re going to get the same results!

What I love about this carrot cake recipe is the flavours and textures you get. It’s not just a plain and simple cake; it’s got walnuts and sultanas in it and for the icing, I tend to use vanilla flavoured. Plus, it’s incredibly moist and doesn’t seem to dry out even after a few days.

It sounds very more-ish and that’s exactly the point. It’s not something you’d want to eat everyday, but something you’d want to enjoy every once in a while. If you’re not a fan of sultanas, walnuts, raisins, feel free to either omit these from the recipe or replace them with your dry fruit and/or nuts of choice. I’m sure it’ll come out just as spectacular. With the icing, you can also go plain or even use a lemon flavouring which I’ve tried and loved. If you don’t want icing, that’s completely fine as well as it still tastes delicious (yes I’ve tried it without icing). You do what works best for you.

 The best more-ish carrot cake ever

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

baking ingredients

¾ cup self-raising flour

¾ cup wholemeal flour

1 tsp mixed spice

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

1 tsp baking soda

I cup raw sugar or coconut sugar

¾ cup chopped walnuts

2 cups grated carrots (approx.2 large carrots or 3 medium carrots)

½ cup sultanas or raisins

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

3 large eggs

1 cup rice bran oil or canola oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

Cream cheese icing ingredients

50g butter, softened

125g cream cheese, softened and chopped

1½ cup icing sugar

Method

Preheat your oven to about 180 degrees celcius (160 if your oven is fan-forced). Grease your muffin/cake/loaf/whatever tin with spray oil or butter. You can also use muffin cups if you’d like or add baking paper.

Sift the self-rising flour, spices and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the wholemeal flour and sugar on top.

Add the walnuts, carrots, raisins/sultanas and coconut and stir all the ingredients until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil and vanilla. If it comes out all gloopy and gross like this, don’t panic; it means you’re doing it right.

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Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into your tin of choice. Bake for about 40-50 minutes or until cooked (you can tell it’s ready when a skewer/chopstick inserted into the center comes out clean). Remove the muffin/cake from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

To make the icing, beat the butter and cream cheese together until combined. You then want to stir in the icing sugar, then beat the mixture on high speed until it comes out light and fluffy.

 

When your cake/muffins have cooled, swirl the icing over the cake. I like to add pumpkin seeds and any remaining walnuts and grated carrot over the top to make it look really pretty. In this instance though, I didn’t have anything left except pumpkin seeds.

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I must admit, I’m not the best when it comes to icing anything but I try. I’ve always believed in the saying, it’s not how it looks but how it tastes.

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… and trust me this bad boy is effing delicious (lol my hand looks funny).

I hope you give it a try! I’d love it if you’d share your recreations with me by tagging me on instagram (@michellerosewrites).

Do you bake? What’s your favourite thing to bake?