For the sake of this blog post I'm going to call him A. It was the first letter that popped into my head that wasn't his actual initial. I put a big cross in the NO column by A's name tonight. Here's why.

When A sat down opposite me, he already seemed to be glaring at me. I decided to go with the assumption that a glare is his resting facial expression, since I couldn't imagine how I might already have offended him. I'm not sure I was right about that. This is how the conversation started.

  • A: Hi, Vicky [we were wearing name tags], I'm A.
  • Me: Hi A, how are you? Are you enjoying the evening?
  • A (grumpily): It's ok.
  • A (quite aggressively): Have you been married?
  • Me (shocked): Um. No, I haven't.
  • Me(a little cross): Have you been married?
  • A: Um. Well. That's complicated. It would take too long to explain.
  • Me: ?! [stunned silence]
  • A (quite aggressively): Do you have children?
  • Me (quite cross now): No, I don't. Do you have children?
  • A (uncomfortably): [mumble mumble] just one [mumble mumble]…
  • A (aggressively): How old are you?
  • Me (still cross): 32.
  • A: You're 32 and you've never been married?! What's wrong with you?!

I kid you not. These may not be his exact words, but they're not exaggerated for comic effect. There was no need to exaggerate. He actually, literally, in real life, asked me to my face what is wrong with me that I've made it to the ripe old age of 32 without having managed to get married even once!

I didn't do a very good job of defending myself, I hadn't realised I'd need to. Instead I went on the offensive. So he had an uncomfortable few minutes avoiding answering my questions (demands for information, really) about why his marriage failed.

Even without an answer from him, I can hazard a guess…

 

I had a fantastic evening meeting some lovely guys, but of course the outlier makes for the best story. Always the way. Did I ever write about the first date I went on where the guy blew his nose in his sleeve halfway through a sentence? His sentence, not mine, and he completed the sentence as if nothing untoward had happened ;)

 

 

Posted by: Vicky | February 22, 2015

Confused in New York

As I write this, I'm 8.5 hours into a 14 hour layover at Dublin airport. I landed here at 5am Irish time, which was midnight as far as my body was concerned. My flight leaves at 6.55pm. So if this post is a bit disjointed, it's because I keep falling asleep over my iPad.

 

I had a fantastic time in New York. I fit in a lot of the usual touristy agenda in my 8 night stay.

 

The weather was horrendously cold, apparently record breakingly cold. I managed to catch a horrible cold from wandering around with my coat open for the first three days. What was I thinking?!

 

It was suggested that maybe I should have been willing to spend more money and go at a warmer time of year. But while I might not have caught the cold, and the parks might have shown themselves in their full green splendour, there were benefits to visiting New York in winter.

 

It seemed extremely busy to me anyway, but I imagine there are a lot more tourists in warmer months. And less tourists meant less people entering the Broadway ticket lotteries. I entered the ticket lotteries four times and won three times! So I got to go see three Broadway shows for the grand total of $102. So basically three fantastic shows for the price of one. And they were all good seats :)

 

Of course, there were some confused moments. My favourite was when I was asked to pinpoint my exact location while wandering around MoMA. My friends Julie and Lisa joined me in New York for a few days. When we went to MoMA, Julie and I got to the museum first. By the time Lisa got there, we'd split up and were wandering around separately. This is the communication as we tried to meet up:

 

(Of course I meant “on the wall,” not “in the wall.” That would have been a slightly different installation.)

Lisa captured the wall in question in this Instagram picture :-D

 

Posted by: Vicky | September 18, 2014

My holiday allowance

Since I joined my current company I've started each year joyfully aware of how lucky I am with the generous holiday allowance of 27 working days per annum. Then I've reached the middle of the year wondering where it's all gone. I book random days off willy nilly early in the year until there's barely enough left to take one proper holiday.

For 2015 I think I've found a solution. Ok, it's accidentally happened as I've booked next year's holidays willy nilly (sorry, I don't know why I'm overusing that particular expression today. It is a fun one though, isn't it? Willy nilly :) ). As of today, I've booked three separate full length holidays of at least a week each for 2015 using up 20 of my days. Plus half a day for a weekend trip to Copenhagen in January.

I'm really pleased with this. Yes, it still means I can't just decide to take a week's holiday on the spur of the moment (3 or 4 of the remaining 6.5 days will be designated by the company for the time between Christmas and New Years) but I get 3 full holidays next year!

And most importantly, I'M GOING TO NEW YORK!!!!!!!!

I'm so excited! I can't wait! There was a sale on flights from Bristol airport to New York. Exactly 30 minutes after the email hit my inbox I was looking at my booking confirmation :) When am I ever going to get to New York for £500 return otherwise? :)

So next February, that's where I'm going. *happy dance*

Of course, this year has been and continues to be fabulous as well. My Scandi-Baltic holiday, particularly my time travelling alone in Lithuania, improved my travelling confidence by miles. I don't think I'd have booked such a huge trip as the Big Apple if not for that holiday :)

Also, a week tomorrow I'm off to Paris for a weekend! It'll be my first trip to Paris, but hopefully not the last :) The one thing I've got booked in for absolutely definite is a “Paris chocolates and pastries walking tour.” It pays to go with an experienced traveller who is also a food blogger. They find the best ways to enjoy a place! :)

 

Posted by: Vicky | July 3, 2014

Baking mad

I’ve been back from my Scandi-Baltic adventure (which was fabulous, but more on that another time, or knowing me, never) for less than two weeks. In that time I’ve managed to resist baking most days (it’s been a struggle) and so have only baked the following:

  • one batch of brownies (I have the yummiest brownie recipe!)
  • flapjacks (I got distracted and poured in too much golden syrup so ended up making 2.5x quantities)
  • a strawberry & sour cream cake (it got really positive feedback from workmates, but I like it better with blueberries or raspberries. A bit boring and sweet with strawberries)
My plan for tonight is to try the recipe on one of my Stockholm souvenirs <picture>. I just have to make up my own instructions to go with the ingredients, so it’s going to be a bit of an experiment. But I’m hoping not to poison my colleagues with the result tomorrow.

lime coconut cake ingredients

Then tomorrow I want to make the slightly bonkers pink zebra cheesecake with marshmallow pops from my new no-bake baking book.

 

I LOVE HAVING A KITCHEN ALL TO MYSELF!!!

 

Did I mention that I moved house less than a week before I went on holiday? I’m now living all on my own for the first time in my life.

 

IT’s FANTASTIC!!!

 

Near constant baking, interspersed with a little bit of cooking and lots of Guitar Hero :D
Posted by: Vicky | January 31, 2014

So much for no spending before the month starts…

It was a nice idea ;)

Regarding the “no spending February’s money before February’s even started” resolution that I made on payday, today has been one of my more spectacular fails. I’ve spent almost £300 on non-refundable flights, hostels, and tour deposits, with another £550 due closer to the time. But, as far as my 2014 budget goes, that’s well within the allowance I made for holidays. So overall, it’s fine. I’m still on track for saving up this year. And I even saved £85 off the trip that I was going to take anyway by booking it now at the early bird rate :)

I’m so excited! I’m going on Busabout.com‘s Scandinavia and Baltics tour. It’s going to be FABULOUS! I haven’t been to either Scandinavia or the Baltics before, so this is completely new territory for me :)

Of course, getting to and from Vilnius (Lithuania) and Tallinn (Estonia) isn’t as straightforward as flying to Edinburgh and back. Wouldn’t that be nice!

I’ve ended up with Bristol-Kaunas (Lithuania) and Tallinn-Gatwick flights. So I have to get from Kaunas to Vilnius, which is apparently an hour or so by train, and looks like it will cost me less than £5. Much worse, albeit without the issue of the language barrier, is the trek from Gatwick home to Bristol. I love National Express, they’re great and have never let me down. But 5 hours from Gatwick to Bristol?! Holy cow! Not going to happen. I’ve booked a coach ticket from Victoria Station and am hoping I can make it there on time…

I’ve had to start a spreadsheet to keep track of all the different parts of the journeys and which ones I’ve booked already. It’s kind of making my head spin.

But it’s going to be SO MUCH FUN!!! I’ve been on two trips with Busabout’s sister company Haggis Adventures, and they’ve been spectacular. I’m hoping Busabout can continue the good work! :)

If you want to travel for a reasonable backpacker price in Europe this year, you should totally have a look at the Busabout website. The early bird deal is still on till the end of February. Go on, you know you want to!

DISCLAIMER: I am completely unaffiliated with Busabout and have received no incentive for this post (why would they give me anything, I’ve been a completely rubbish blogger and am unlikely to get anyone to buy anything!) I’m just super excited about my holiday!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT!!! :-D

 

Posted by: Vicky | January 30, 2014

2014 is still going to be fun…

The first five months of this being-frugal-in-2014 malarkey are actually looking pretty good, because I bought and paid for all kinds of concerts and fun days out before I decided to stop spending money. And not going, when I’ve already paid good money, would be a waste :) 

I’m off to London for two nights on Saturday, with a ticket to see Jeeves and Wooster one evening, and Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall the next. WOOOOT! And it’s all already paid for, including the coach to get there, which cost me £11 for a return ticket! I love National Express! The only thing not included is food, so I’m going to have to be a little careful about that. But I’ve got a budget for “misc” for each month, so I can dip into that…

February is looking particularly spectacular, with this weekend to be followed by Jack Whitehall, The 1975, Russel Howard and another day spent learning cake decorating skills at the wonderful Blue Door Bakery.

That reminds me, I got to go to Maki Searle’s Temari Spheres cake class there on Friday. It was fantastic! Here, have a picture of some cakes that I decorated! 

*so proud of myself* :-D

Temari Spheres

Posted by: Vicky | January 29, 2014

Payday vs willpower

It’s payday today. I’ve shuffled the money around as I do every payday. Paid off credit cards, moved some into savings accounts. And now my bank account has lots of lovely money just sitting there.

Ooh, look, shiny, pretty things for sale! Geeky toys! That film I loved so much that I went to see it twice and now NEED to own on DVD! Books! Both paper and electronic! Clothes! Shoes! Ooh, the Merlin Pass is on sale, I’ve always wanted one of those!!!

It’s so much harder to resist spending money this side of payday. It looks like I’ve got got lots of money to spare, because none of the bills have gone out yet. And I’ve been good for the pre-payday slog, so don’t I deserve a treat? No. I’ve got lots of lovely new things that I haven’t even got around to enjoying yet, I don’t need a treat!

I’ve made a mini saving resolution for the next few days: not to buy anything unnecessary before February has even begun!

It sounds like such a small thing, but shopping has become a habit for me. ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ was an uncomfortable watch for me, because it hit a little close to home. Okay, on a different scale with regards to the prices of the things I buy. But the basic issue is there.

I didn’t feel uncomfortable reading the book. What made the difference (I think) was that I went to see the film with two lovely, but quite straight laced Christian friends, who spent a lot of the time tutting and shaking their heads. The discussion afterwards went something like this:

Friend 1: I don’t understand why she kept on buying stuff! She didn’t need any more shoes!

Friend 2: I agree, it made no sense! How can you waste your money like that? I didn’t like the film, how about you, Vicky?

Vicky: Um, hem-hem, the book was much bett- oh look, there’s our tram! Quick, run!

I’m going to retrain myself. No more shopaholism. And since it fits right in with the concept, this is the year that I do Frugal February properly :)

Wish me luck…

Posted by: Vicky | January 23, 2014

And I was doing so well…

I haven’t been perfect with regards to not buying stuff I don’t need this month, but I’ve been really good compared with non-saving Vicky. I even managed to resist the Firefly USB Thumb Drive, even though no-one could have blamed me for succumbing to that! Who could find fault with a model of the Serenity at all, let alone a useful USB drive version?! Nobody, that’s who!

I admit, I slipped up a few times, but not too badly. I failed to resist season 3 of Sherlock Holmes, but again, who can blame me for that?! :)

But then World Book Night popped up on my Twitter feed and wrecked it all!

I have to admit, I’m not actually going to get involved with World Book Night, as I can’t see how I can reach people who don’t regularly read (and I’m too lazy to spend much time thinking of a way).

But I’ve had a look at the list and decided they look fun, so I’m going to try to read at least one of them a month this year. So I should have read 12 or more of the 20 on the list by the end of the year.

It’s not that I need an incentive to read, but since the dawn of my kindle I’ve kind of got stuck in a rut of reading lots of cheap, trashy romance ebooks. So maybe I can kick start my non-romance reading again.

Having said that, when I went on my spending spree, buying all 20 books at once, Amazon reminded me that I bought the Nora Roberts book back in 2011. Of course I did :)

I’ll try to keep you posted on the books, but no promises :)

And now I’m either going to start re-watching Firefly (that box set turned out to be one of the best birthday presents ever, although I was initially very sceptical about it!) or I might watch Dark Fury, as I’ve got the new Riddick film arriving on Monday. I think it’s going to take me a while to get into the habit of this saving money malarkey… ;)

Posted by: Vicky | January 21, 2014

If this is the answer…

… what is the question?

A: My iPod played Bruce Springsteen's “Fire,” followed by Chris de Burgh's “Fire on the Water,” then Cher's “Fires of Eden”.

The first question that it's the answer to is the following:

Q1: How did I realise that shuffle wasn't set?

But the second, more relevant question is:

Q2: How did I realise that my taste in music is totally uncool?

Ah, well…

 

Posted by: Vicky | January 16, 2014

Quantity over quality

I’ve finally got around to sorting through some of the photos I took in 2013. On the one hand I’m very proud of myself, having reduced at least 3 folders from five hundred or so pictures each to one to two hundred each. That’s a thousand pictures I’ve deleted tonight! Of course, I’ve backed them all up in sub-folders called “originals,” after all I might change my mind and realise that blurry shot of who knows what is actually a masterpiece in disguise…

On the other hand, I’ve been smacked in the face once again with the fact that I’ll happily take twenty photos of the same thing from the same angle, in the hope that one or two might turn out all right. But then I can’t bear to delete any because there isn’t an obvious best one…

My next photo sorting challenge is to pick a manageable number of photos for a best of 2013 blog post. And maybe a slightly larger number for a best of 2013 photo album. After all, it’s been on my todo list for years (see item 20 on my 2011 list!) and I still haven’t started that photo album…

Here’s a random picture that will probably make my best of 2013 list. It’s not the best picture ever, it’s impossible to get close enough and get the whole of the minarets in. But I’m standing in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul grinning my foolish head off, so it absolutely makes the list. ISTANBUL!!! :-D

Me in front of Blue Mosque

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